11/14/09

Vol 3, Issue 20: Touring Riders & Paying Your Dues: But I Don’t Wanna Play Just for Beer

I’m sure all of you are familiar with the frequently expounded three word expression, “paying your dues”. Though the phrase found its origins in the Industrial Revolution, in reference to the fees one had to pay in order to remain a member of his/her trade union (and therefore receive protections from employer exploitation), in modern times, it is most commonly used to describe the situation in which rookies find themselves, upon entering the job market for the first time. In the industry of music, specifically, it is typically expressed as a piece of advice to aspiring amateurs, from vets and industry professionals alike, who are all too eager to see their names in lights without having done any of the leg-work to get there. As we learned just a few short weeks back, in our discussion with three label reps, although talent and marketability are essential qualities for any band to get noticed, so too is work ethic, and without it, you won’t get very far. It is with this notion, in mind, that I will be writing on this week’s topic; that being, touring riders.


Long before you are in the position to be making any demands from promoters and/or club owners, you have to, as you may have guessed from my intro, “pay your dues”. What exactly this constitutes will vary slightly from band to band dependent upon your territory and/or genre, however, all band start-up stories involve playing countless shows, at dives, to crowds of ten people (if you’re lucky) for which you do not get paid, and are not appreciated. If your home-base is located in a big city such as Toronto, or Los Angeles, because such places are already oversaturated with wannabes and has-beens, this poor treatment is taken to the extreme; something you’ll get a brief taste of, when you tour these metropolises.


For instance, many clubs, in booming cities, actually expect indie bands to rent tour buses, and fill them with their hometown fans in order to bring a crowd to their out-of-town gigs. Further, rather than providing newcomers with opening spots so that they can work on expanding their followings, several major venues expect said bands to rent out their spaces in order to put on their own shows.


It is of my personal opinion, that both of these practises are absolutely ludicrous, as, typically, indies don’t have that kind of money to spare, and neither method will help a band in improving their attendance rates for future shows. However, this just scratches the tip of the iceberg in terms of the kind of b.s. a band must endure in order to establish themselves, and gain respect among industry professionals – all of which must be done, need I remind you, while maintaining a smile on your face! Perhaps a personal story, at this point, will be illuminative.

Aside from having countless promoters rip us off by leaving mid-way through our sets to avoid fronting our bills, not to mention being electrocuted by our microphones each time we attempted to play and sing simultaneously due to improper grounding, when my band ANTI-HERO first emerged on the scene, our rise through the ranks was anything, but easy.


Upon the release of our album Unpretty, we were invited to play out in Northern Ontario (about a 10 hour drive) at what was supposed to be a massive sporting event. As we were promised to play to 10,000 people, we agreed to cover all of our own expenses (which included renting an additional vehicle) because we were under the impression that we’d be able to break even through merch sales. When we arrived however, we were led to the stage which we learned was completely separated from the sporting event, and charged an additional admission price. Not surprisingly, the crowd wasn’t very keen on this; thus our audience ended up consisting of the other bands who were given the same line, and our significant others.


So in telling you all of this, what is the point I’m trying to get at?

Well, as much as it will suck and cause you endless frustration, realistically speaking, it will be AT LEAST a year before you have established yourself and your following, to a point where you can play semi-regular gigs to decent sized crowds. Usually to get to this stage, you will have had to have released an album.
For the sake of your own career, DO NOT even think (and I mean it) about creating a touring rider until you’re at this point as it will not be honoured, and may potentially prevent club owners from offering you future shows.

Okay, but once I get there, what should I include in my rider? Because it’s no surprise that most musicians have a penchant for booze, club owners often try to pawn off beer tickets, to bands, in lieu of payment. While this may satisfy the tastes of some, it fails to assist you in profiting from your gigging enterprises. You need to ensure, above and beyond your booze requirements (if any) that your gas expenses, parking costs, and accommodations (if required) first and foremost are covered. Anything extra on top of that is “just gravy”, as they say, and that way, all earnings you obtain from merch sales or cover charges will be straight profit that can assist you in making it to your next destination.

Should I make any other special requests along the lines of Ozzy Osbourne and his bowl of 2000 brown M&Ms? Clearly, this is something that is up to your personal discretion, but keep in mind, your demands will only be met if you’ve got the star power to back ‘em up. Beyond payment concerns, if you are touring to unfamiliar territory, I do strongly suggest that you include in your touring rider that popular local acts are to open your show. Your ability to do promotions in new areas will be limited as you will not be knowledgeable of the scenes, and quite simply, you cannot rely on the clubs, themselves, to make your special appearances known. With this in mind, you may also wish to include in your rider that venues, upon confirmation of booking, are to provide you with lists of their local media for your publicist.

As your career develops more and more and you prove yourself worthy of the rockstar designation, it will result in bigger stages, better sound, more rawkin’ audiences, and, of course, “celebrity treatment”.

With that being said however, I hazard you to remember two things:
1) never forget where you came from and
2) don’t convince yourself, for a second, that it’ll be an easy climb.

You’ll undoubtedly have to deal with a lot (and I mean A LOT) of shit, at first, but don’t let it turn you into a pushover, or cause you to bend your standards, once you’ve attained some bragging rights of your own. Most importantly, you must remember, in the music industry, there are certainly no second chances, and to protect your own career, you most definitely should never concede on territory you’ve already conquered.

Catch Rose Perry appearing as a special guest speaker at this year’s Jack Richardson Music Awards’ Seminar Series this Sat April 4th! www.jrma.ca for more details. Youtube link available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRwAH8Gx_Qg



About the Author:

Rose Cora Perry is the frontwoman for Canadian hard rock band ANTI-HERO known as “The 21st Century Answer to Nirvana”, as well as the sole owner and operator of HER Records, a management company in which she offers marketing, promotion, publicity, tour booking, and artist development services.

Her band ANTI-HERO has toured extensively across North America playing notable festivals such as Warped Tour, Canadian Music Week, NorthbyNorthEast, Wakefest, and MEANYFest.

Voted “Best Rock Act of the Year” by numerous industry publications, their critically acclaimed debut album, "Unpretty" is available worldwide for purchase. Rose Cora Perry is a dedicated promoter of D.I.Y. ethics, and an avid supporter of independent musicians.


9/7/09

Vol 3, Issue 19: EcoArtists, 10 Quick Steps to Make Your Music More Green

In any profession, with the good comes the bad. While music has the potential to be inspirational, even life-changing in some circumstances, part of what goes along with one’s artistic professionalization is an emphasis on touring (which involves travelling great distances in gas-guzzling vans) and shifting units (ie: the selling of mass manufactured non-biodegradable materials that may or may not end up in the trash). From an environmental perspective, it’s pretty easy to see how neither of these practises are sustainable nor eco-friendly. But, it’s NOT exactly like we can give them up either, if we are intent on making it in this business. So, in the spirit of going green, though I can’t provide you with any definitive way to eradicate these “necessary evils”, below I’ve compiled a list of suggestions from eco-aware artists on how you, as an aspiring rocker, can reduce your own footprint on this great planet we call home. Starting with the most obvious…


1) Go Strictly Digital

Though still being affected by illegal P2P programs like Limewire, legitimate online sales are growing slowly but surely, and industry experts predict that the cd, as a media format, will likely go the way of the cassette, eight-track and so many of its earlier predecessors. So why not get yourself out of the manufacturing game now? You’ll save yourself the unnecessary hassle of trying to shift physical product in a time where retail is open less and less to indie artists, not to mention you’ll cut down expenses enormously. Plus which, there are the trees, whose lives will be spared, to think about as well.


2) Say Yes to Recycled Materials & Green Technology
If you are really still set on having a physical product for consumption, there’s no need to despair - more and more companies including: St. Thomas’ Second Records and Toronto’s Indiepool are going green with their manufacturing technology. Offering disc booklets printed on recycled materials with soy-based inks are just the tip of the iceberg. Other companies, primarily in the US, are in the works of revolutionizing their screen printing technology to make it more eco-friendly. There are options out there (though a bit more pricy), you just have to dig a little deeper, but it’s definitely worth it.


3) Paper Press Kits – Make Em a Thing of the Past
In congruence with the previous suggestions, go online with your promotions and publicity – it’s easier, more convenient and will save you money (not to mention the world!) in the long run. There are great sites like Sonicbids which can help you design flashy online professional portfolios, but really it’s as easy as simply building a press page right on your official website. If again you really can’t tear yourself away from the hard copy real deal, then use recycled paper, at the very least.


4) Employ Online Media Solicitation Though the dinosaur model of the music industry is admittedly outdated and in desperate need of a massive overhaul, efforts are being made to stay in tune with the issues of our day. One of these winning solutions is a little known (to indie artists) piece of technology called the Digital Media Delivery System (DMDS for short). To summarize quickly – essentially it’s a digital file transfer system that allows artists to send their high quality music and video files to various media broadcasters without having to deal with messy (and expensive) mail outs. While still in its formative years, its popularity among broadcasters is exponentially increasing. I recommend getting on board!


5) Cut Your CarbonThough some bands in Europe have opted to tour entirely by bicycle (no joke), I realize that for you four piece rockers who employ extensive drum-kits and Marshall stacks, clearly this is not an option. While a van, in said situations, is clearly a necessity, there are ways to reduce its harmful emissions. Hardware shops, like Canadian Tire, carry special devices that help improve your vehicle’s mileage, and there’s always the option of using biofuels, if possible. More simply, keeping your tires inflated and carpooling as often as you can are easy solutions that anyone can do.


6) No More MapquestingEvery band at some point in their career will travel to foreign territories for which they require directions. Though by no means would I ever suggest simply winging it, instead of wasting all of the paper and ink that goes into printing countless pages of maps and city street routes, one simple investment can be the answer to all your directional problems: that being, a GPS system. Clearly an investment that one will have to save up for, but a good one nonetheless.


7) For the Ladies & the Emo Boys – Go Mineral & NaturalAs I said only a few weeks ago: image is everything and you’ve got to play the part. Accordingly, having a solid stock of makeup and hairdye (and other hair products) are undoubtedly important for many bands, particularly those of the goth or glam genres. But environment-wise not to mention heath-wise, it doesn’t really make a lot of sense to spend oodles of cash on products that are toxic and synthetic if you looking for longevity in regards to either of the aforementioned points. Lucky for you, mineral cosmetics and natural hairdyes are becoming more commonplace on the market. Go look for yourself!


8) Cool Finds for Cheap Along with the last point, wardrobe is clearly an investment, for any performer, that needs to be taken seriously. While wearing ripped jeans and flannel shirts worked for the grunge rockers, not every genre has created such a staple in terms of fashion. However, it’s important to realize that looking good means being noticed and resultingly, most professional artists have signature styles and unique attire that CANNOT be found at just any Old Navy. One of the best ways to find one-of-a-kind pieces, beyond having a personal fashion designer, is to visit vintage and second hand clothing stores. Not only will you get the best bang for your buck, but you can pretty much guarantee you’ll find at least one very out-there piece on every visit.


9) Purchase More PawnI often feel sorry for the countless guitars hanging in the windows of pawn shops longing for the day when someone will come in and allow them to wail once again. Though society has allotted terms like “used” and “pawned” with pejorative connotations, I can honestly say I've seen some of the most incredible objects hidden away in the corners of these so-called “hock shops”. Though it may take a bit of extra digging, I truly believe it is well worth the effort. The first step, however, is to change perceptions about these sorts of stores and the items they have for sale. Instead of thinking of pawn as someone else’s garbage or attempt to pay off a debt, I prefer to term them simply as “pre-loved”.


And finally…


10) A Charity of Your ChoiceWhen you get to the point at which you have begun to profit with your music sales, nothing demonstrates your appreciation to the public, for your successes, more than donating some of your proceeds to the charity of your choice. There are clearly tons of great eco nonforprofits out there including the WWF. Not only will supporting such agencies help heal the world, it will also be great for your public image and did I mention that you can claim it on your income taxes as a writeoff? Sounds to me like a win-win situation all around!





About the Author:
Rose Cora Perry is the frontwoman for Canadian hard rock band ANTI-HERO known as “The 21st Century Answer to Nirvana”, as well as the sole owner and operator of HER Records, a management company in which she offers marketing, promotion, publicity, tour booking, and artist development services.

Her band ANTI-HERO has toured extensively across North America playing notable festivals such as Warped Tour, Canadian Music Week, NorthbyNorthEast, Wakefest, and MEANYFest.

Voted “Best Rock Act of the Year” by numerous industry publications, their critically acclaimed debut album, "Unpretty" is available worldwide for purchase. Rose Cora Perry is a dedicated promoter of D.I.Y. ethics, and an avid supporter of independent musicians.

7/15/09

Vol 3, Issue 18: Entrepreneurial Artists: Three Canadian Rockers Who’ve Successfully Married Commerce with Craft

When it comes to art and the assignment of qualities such as “authentic”, “genuine”, “original”, and the like, Romantic ideologies are still largely responsible for informing the public’s sensibilities. There remains a wide-held belief, extending to all creative endeavours, that mainstream success necessitates corporate exploitation, and formulaic expression, while true art is obscure, and can only be produced by the marginalized and tormented. Put more simply, it is still chiefly the case that if one succeeds in this business, both in terms of achieving economic remuneration and popularity among the “unwashed" masses, they will be labelled a “sellout”, and almost invariably, as a result, their once loyal underground following will dissipate.

While this conviction maintains a certain degree of truth value, at least in regards to the increasingly limited realm of major labels, the same cannot be said of the independent sphere. As I hope to demonstrate through the following discussion, moreover dissection of today’s music industry, with three highly successful musician-cum-label owners, art and commerce do not have to be at odds. In fact, in the case of G7 Welcoming Committee Records, the independent label owned and operated by Manitoba-based politically charged punk rockers, Chris Hannah and Jord Samolesk, of Propagandi fame, promoting a subversive anti-capitalist agenda would actually work in one’s favour in terms of getting signed.

As the subject matter of the following discourse primarily revolves around the indie music scene, providing an overview of how each of my interview subjects got started, along with their definitions of what constitutes an indie label seems, to me, an appropriate point at which to begin.

Robert Calder, trumpet player for Vancouver pop band The Salteens, and co-founder of Boompa Records, which includes, Matt Sharp (Weezer), among other notable acts, on its roster, established his label in 2003. Driven by what he characterizes as both ambition and naivety, despite the fact that The Salteens had already successfully acquired label representation for their studio releases, Calder was interested in creating his own company that kept, at its forefront, practises that are sustainable from both a business and artistic point of view. In his own experiences as a professional touring musician, he remembers, all too often, moments, in the heat of business, in which it was forgotten what artists require to be generative.

With this in mind, it’s no surprise, that Calder defines a true indie label as one that is not founded solely on the premise of achieving profits. In fact, he goes so far as to state that if a project is proposed to one of his artists that is highly lucrative, but has the potential to be draining for them, it is this latter factor that will be afforded more weight when it ultimately comes to making the decision. In his own words, “the plight of the struggling artist should be about growth and development, not unmet expectations.”

Though, Tim Potocic, drummer of 90s-inspired Hamilton rock band Tristan Psionic, like Calder, had established a recognizable degree of acclaim within the indie scene, the impetus fuelling the development of his independent label and distributor, Sonic Unyon, was rooted more in necessity than aspiration. Contesting that both he and his bandmates perceived the music biz as a larger entity than it is in actual fact, Potocic, put rather simply, “didn’t really think that [any labels] would be interested in helping [him take his band to the next level].” As a musical group whose mentality very much centred around the D.I.Y. mantra, coupled with the fact that all of Tristan Psionic’s members were schooled in either business, economics, or admin, even though he openly admits that initially they didn’t really know what they were doing, Potocic always had faith that they’d be able to handle whatever came their way; Sonic Unyon’s near-20 year (and counting) stint is certainly a testament that this was true.

Like our next guest, Chris Hannah, Potocic is hesitant to designate a single business model as being definitively “indie”. In his view, what makes Sonic Unyon artist-friendly fundamentally comes down to having a good team, working with like-minded people, and splitting everything (both expenses and profits) 50/50 between his artists and the label. While Potocic strongly believes in giving his performers free reign when it comes to the creative process, he also appreciates the perseverance and drudgery that goes into making a band successful. For that very reason, when it comes to scouting new talent, it’s the acts that demonstrate the strongest work ethics that really grab his attention.

Chris Hannah and Jord Samolesk’s go at the business side of things, frankly, can be chalked up to artistic impulse. While the urge to create, among artists, goes without saying, so too does the appetite for experimentation, and in some cases, the desire for world domination. Identifying with the mid-80s underground zine, metal tape-trading, and punk rock scenes, Chris and Jord were, “encouraged [by and looked up to] the bands who got their hands dirty.” Not only seeing the act of creating their own label as a means through which they could stay productive and engaged in the industry while wearing different hats, but as well as an alternative platform where they could register and promote their complaints about the system, shortly after its launch, G7 became home to a smorgasbord of politically radical bands and speakers. American linguist and political activist, Noam Chomsky, is but one of the controversial figures who releases his material via Hannah and Samolesk’s collective.

While, as mentioned, Hannah does not subscribe to using the term “indie” to denote any organizational scheme within the music industry because, in actuality, “everyone releasing music – in the form of a physical/digital product to the public – is [in some way] dependent upon the infrastructure of the music-industrial-complex,”, he does feel that, “within that framework, organizations can act more or less ‘independently’ if they are not beholden to shareholders and/or if profit is not their prime directive.”

As illustrated by the above responses from all three of my interview subjects, whereas the form the business itself may take remains considerably up for grabs, there seems to be consensus, among indie label founders, that the creation of one’s own label should be conceived of as a labour of love, not a money-making machine. Credence to this fact comes in the form of Potocic’s own struggle for success.

Although Sonic Unyon, today, is cited regularly as one of Canada’s most influential music makers, it wasn’t until Tim was in his seventh fiscal year that he was able to take home his very first paycheck. Calder, similarly, isn’t shy about Boompa’s humble beginnings. Long before he knew they got it right, he recalls numerous failures, poor decisions, hiatuses, and regroupings. But, rather than reflecting on these experiences unfavourably, Calder, like Potocic is able to recognize the wisdom he gained, as a result.

Naturally then, both founders concur that one of the biggest blunders any band can make is to set unrealistic expectations. Contrary to what the media would have you believe, nothing, in this business, happens overnight, and you certainly cannot expect to attain any sense of glory, without first being willing to display your guts. Accordingly, all three of my guests highly recommended that bands maintain other ventures, while pursuing their musical careers. For one thing, cash flow will likely become an issue if you are solely relying on your gigs to front your bills, and secondly, having other goals in life makes you well-rounded. Speaking from his own experiences, Potocic resolves that, “if you have many skills [in life], then you will always land on your feet.”

When it comes to illegal downloading, Calder, Potocic, and Hannah’s views are somewhat more lax than what one might assume of label owners. In Calder’s eyes, “a fan is a fan no matter how they get their music,” and Hannah is quick to point out that for every one person who illegally obtains your tunes, undoubtedly there are five others who get to hear something they would not have otherwise. Moreover, while Potocic accepts the fact that illegal downloading has affected everyone’s business on some level, he strongly contests that, it alone, cannot be blamed for the awful state of the music biz. Rather, he suggests, “people still love music and people still support artists. The traditional model [just] doesn't apply anymore. We are in the middle of more than just a format change – but a change in thinking of the consumer and a shift in consumer spending.” Taking it a step further, Hannah, like myself, cites the industry’s downfall in its foisting of terrible records, upon the public, for far too long: “if labels would stop trying to make money by pawning off garbage, maybe people wouldn’t be so quick to think that [music] didn’t hold any value.”

Despite his attribution of blame however, Hannah remains hopeful. While he agrees illegal downloading, “is not good for [big] businesses that have invested all of their money [into] shiny plastic discs,” he does believe, in all sincerity, that, “it could be good for music.” To this Calder adds that, “true fans support artists in many ways,” and he truly hopes that, “the whole concept of signing bands and throwing crap loads of money at them, to see if they [can] sell a ton of assets in the first week of release, goes the way of the dodo bird.” As made evident through the above discussion, whether or not the corporate structure fails is irrelevant – most indie artists, let alone indie labels, do not align themselves with the traditional music biz’s point of view.

As our three week long examination of what it takes to start your own label comes to a close, I’d like to share with you one final offering of advice. As I’ve attempted to impress on you in this piece, as in others, carving out a career for oneself in the music biz, whether as an artist or label owner, is not for the faint of heart, and it is for this reason that a love of art must supersede all other potential motivating rationales. To leave you with a quote that I feel aptly summarizes the indie label owner’s point of view, in the words of Hannah: “if you believe in the transformative potential of music, [I encourage you to] go for it, [but] if you're looking for anything else, just take the job at your dad's business that he's been offering you. Please.”


About the Author:

Rose Cora Perry is the frontwoman for Canadian hard rock band ANTI-HERO known as “The 21st Century Answer to Nirvana”, as well as the sole owner and operator of HER Records, a management company in which she offers marketing, promotion, publicity, tour booking, and artist development services.

Her band ANTI-HERO has toured extensively across North America playing notable festivals such as Warped Tour, Canadian Music Week, NorthbyNorthEast, Wakefest, and MEANYFest.

Voted “Best Rock Act of the Year” by numerous industry publications, their critically acclaimed debut album, "Unpretty" is available worldwide for purchase. Rose Cora Perry is a dedicated promoter of D.I.Y. ethics, and an avid supporter of independent musicians.

5/19/09

Vol 3, Issue 17: Starting up Your Own Label Pt #4: Designing Your Label’s Look & Branding Its Identity

To appropriate a successful marketing campaign, of Sprite’s, which could have as easily been applied to the record biz as it was to soft drinks, “image is everything”, and if you want your label taken seriously, you need to create an identity for it that speaks to your mission, audience, and potential roster list. Last time, we went over the importance of establishing one’s label infrastructure and maintaining business savvy communications from hereon out. Following along the same lines, this week, we’ll be discussing how to create the “right” image for your business.

You’ll notice that I put right in quotations because it is a qualifying word of a subjective nature meaning that there are a multitude of ways that you can approach your business, and its presentation, but, it will be up to you to uncover what you feel works best for your mandate.

For example, while both labels were born of the 1980s’ D.I.Y. grassroots mentality in order to support independent alternative, rock, and punk bands, Sympathy for the Record Industry, and Epitaph Records present vastly different images to the public and to their potential clientele – a quick look at both of their websites is demonstrative. While Sympathy’s online presence appears amateur, is difficult to navigate, and their official site’s frontpage sarcastically insults the label itself, its founder, as well as any supporters of its artists, Epitaph, maintains a sleek, and flashy appearance comparable to that of any major label. In fact, without knowledge of Epitaph’s founding history (it is the brainchild of Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz), one could easily mistake it for just that. Though Epitaph, undoubtedly, has the upper hand in terms of creating a professional look that would be well-respected in the business side of the music world, Sympathy’s homegrown anti-corporate ethos, evident in its self-presentation, is arguably responsible for attracting and subsequently launching the careers of many notable artists including Hole, The White Stripes, and The New York Dolls.

So which label has it “right”? Well, there really is no single answer. Both Epitaph and Sympathy have been extremely successful, as indies, carving out reputations for discovering hit acts, while maintaining artistic integrity, for all of the bands they sign, at the forefront of their operations.

As stated in my introduction, the choices you make in regards to the marketing of your label are ultimately a personal choice, but regardless of whether you decide to paint yourself as pro or foe, an arsenal of the following tools will assist you on your road to success:


Number One: A Slogan
Why did you form your label? What’s its purpose? What makes your label different from the thousands of others already in existence? - are all questions that you’ll need answers to. The easiest way to synopsize exactly what your company is about is by creating a memorable one-liner in the same fashion as those of the following labels: Sonic Unyon Records claims to “transcend mainstream mediocrity”, while G7 Welcoming Committee Records states proudly that they’ve been, “uncooperative since ‘97”. In order to expand on your label’s history, and mandate, devoting a page on your website detailing a mission statement and/or an about us section is also something worth considering as many bands, when debating to whom they will solicit their material, make their decisions purely on the nature of said things.


Number Two: A Logo
Sometimes as simple as just finding the right combination of font, and colour, your logo doesn’t have to induce psychedelic mind-trips, or have satanic affiliations, but it should be an artistic representation of your company that again, speaks to what you’re about and has memorable qualities. If you’re not skilled in the graphical arts, I highly recommend finding someone who is – even if only a student – to come up with an aesthetically pleasing design for you, as there is nothing worse than a makeshift cut and paste job if you’re trying to market yourself as a professional. Once designed, all promotional materials issued, including press releases, business cards, cds, websites, posters etc. should bear an invariable version of your logo (ie: don’t constantly change its colours) like a badge of honour to demonstrate to your affiliates and fans that your company is consistent in its image, as well as what it offers.


Number Three: Business Cards
Just as I noted last time, in regards to websites, there is nothing that I, as a music journalist, hate more than coming across something in which I’m interested for which there is no appropriate contact information. Similarly, considering that networking is such a crucial component of establishing business relations, and reputation building in the music biz, it is equally aggravating, for industry professionals, to come across bands and/or aspiring label owners who are not adequately stocked with handfuls of business cards at shows, and industry conferences. You need to be prepared for anything in this industry because you never know who you just might meet, and having business cards on you, at all times, is certainly a step in the right direction.

In terms of design, maintaining the same colours and fonts that you use for your website, and logo, on your cards will work to solidify your label’s image. Make sure that you include all necessary contact information (ie: postal address including country, phone, fax, email, website), your slogan, and where applicable, the roster list of the bands you represent and/or a list of your top five acts. Including all of this info is essential as at any given gig, an industry rep could meet upwards of a hundred people trying to get his/her attention, you need to ensure that they’ll remember exactly who you are, and what you’re about, come time for the follow up.

As a side note: A newer trend that I’ve witnessed on the band promotional front is the creation of “postcard” style business cards in which the band is presented in full colour photographic form on the front, while label contact information, and selected quotes about the act are depicted on the reverse side. If done properly, these can be quite eye catching, but it’s important to realize that they are much harder to carry around as they don’t easily fit into pockets, and the last thing that you want to do, with your promotional materials, is to inconvenience the very person to whom you are trying to sell up your business.

One last note on business cards: Please, I beg you, actually spend money on getting these things printed professionally. I know that they can be expensive, both to design, and to print, but trust me it’ll be worth while, and there are lots of services out there willing to give you good deals, if you make the effort to look. You will not fool anyone with cards produced from your at home laser printer or worse, those printed on Kodak photo paper. They look like shit, and make you, in turn, look like shit, and I’m sure that’s not the image you’re going for.


Number Four: Press Kit(s)
Press kits are your means of getting “the good word” out about the bands you represent to venues, bookers, media reps, and other industry professionals. While their look will vary from label to label, standard components, all of which should be tucked neatly into a crisp folder, include: the band’s biography, a “stat” sheet (which lists, in point form, notable accomplishments, and/or awards) an 8 by 10 photo (often black and white, with 1 – 1 ½ inch white framing) that depicts the entire band with their logo overlaid, upcoming tour dates, press quotes (about the band in general, their live performances, or their latest release), a copy of their latest disc, and of course, your label’s business card. Just as your website, business card, and slogan work to “brand” your label, your bands’ press kits should follow suit.

Each one of your bands will, of course, have their own distinctive look, but the packaging (ie: the style of photography, the kind of folders used, the general layout of materials etc.) in which they are presented should work to draw an association back to your label, and ensure continued business dealings, even if one of your bands decides to jump ship. A simple means by which to accomplish this is by including your label’s logo as the header, and contact information as the footer on every page included in the kit. Not only will this establish part of the standard format in which you represent your bands, but it also makes your contact information easily accessible should someone accidentally misplace your business card.

In conclusion to my series on starting your own label, I would like to leave you with a final bit of advice derived from my own experiences. People often get caught up in the excitement of their own ideas, and convince themselves that they have superhuman capabilities. They take on more and more and more, but eventually they reach their breaking point, and had they just set out a sensible plan of attack from the beginning, they never would have found themselves in that situation. Take it from someone who once attempted (successfully, if you don’t count my consequent mental breakdown and physical fatigue) to book all of her own shows, do all of her own publicity, negotiate all of her own business deals, while performing several times a week, working part time, and attending school- you cannot do it all of your own, and even if you can, it will eventually catch up to you. Creating a successful business not only takes time, and perseverance, as well as band of reliable associates willing and able to help you with everything that it entails. Do not underestimate how hard it will be (hundreds of indie labels go defunct every year), and do not overestimate your own abilities. Do your homework, start out slow, and do not rush success. After all, everything that is worth fighting for is always a challenge.


About the Author:

Rose Cora Perry is the frontwoman for Canadian hard rock band ANTI-HERO known as “The 21st Century Answer to Nirvana”, as well as the sole owner and operator of HER Records, a management company in which she offers marketing, promotion, publicity, tour booking, and artist development services.

Her band ANTI-HERO has toured extensively across North America playing notable festivals such as Warped Tour, Canadian Music Week, NorthbyNorthEast, Wakefest, and MEANYFest.

Voted “Best Rock Act of the Year” by numerous industry publications, their critically acclaimed debut album, "Unpretty" is available worldwide for purchase. Rose Cora Perry is a dedicated promoter of D.I.Y. ethics, and an avid supporter of independent musicians.

5/6/09

Vol 3, Issue 16: Starting up Your Own Label Pt #3: Getting Your Infrastructure in Order

Upon making the initial decision to create your own indie label, there will be a ton of subsequent choices you’ll need to make right from the get-go. For instance, do you want your label to represent your act solely, or in the future (once established), do you plan on reaching out to other indie artists and creating a label family of your own? Do you want to cover all of your own services such as booking, and publicity or do you want to make alliances with pre-established firms to whom you will outsource these jobs and establish a commission agreement per booking? Will your label be territory specific, and make arrangements with other indies to cover international waters, or will you claim authority over all jurisdictions? These are just a few examples of the kind of questions that you will need answers to.

As with everything, there will be advantages and disadvantages to each arrangement you consider, but what’s important is knowing your own capabilities, and setting realistic standards. So, with that in mind, even if your eventual aspiration is to create an artist-run family of your own, similar to that of Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Babe Records, you need to take it one step at a time (don’t bite off more than you can chew). Aboveall, to ensure that you maintain a strong positive reputation, and don’t burn a lot of bridges along the way, before you decide to take on the responsibility of anyone else’s career, you absolutely, 100%, need to ensure that your own shit is in order.


Selecting a Name
So, at this point, I’m sure you’re wondering, where do I begin? Well, after you’ve established your network, got your funding in order, and have drawn up a working business plan, your first order of action is to start reputation building. You need to first name your label, and then, more importantly, work on establishing your presence. For me, the name of my label was obvious - it came directly from my band’s name, and it represented the fact that if I should ever expand my enterprise to assist other artists with various management and label services, I wanted it to be clear that my goal was to work solely with women in music; hence, HER Records. For some of you, it may not be that cut and dry. But, just like with naming your band, you need to put a lot of thought into what kind of message you want to elicit, and you also need to make certain, ESPECIALLY in this case because you’re establishing an actual registered business, that you are NOT infringing on copyrighted territory. In three words, do your research!


Business Basics
Once you’ve reached consensus on your label’s name, I highly recommend applying for a GST vendor’s permit through Revenue Canada, registering your business through your lawyer and/or accountant, and opening up a business bank account at your local financial institution. Running a band sloppily is one thing, but once you’ve got a working record label, you need to make sure your files, expenses, and profits are in tip top shape for three main reasons:

1) you will have monetary obligations to others, and need to keep record of all transactions in the event of a dispute

2) it is quite possible that your business could get audited and

3) if a major label decides to pick up you or one of your other artists, they will require a record of past sales, and successes for marketing purposes.

Suffice it to say you will start feeling a bit like a baglady every time you insist on getting receipts for each purchase, but you’ll need them to be able to deduce when your business has started to profit (ie: when you will actually be able to pay back loans and/or pay yourself as an employee), and it’ll also come in handy, for tax purposes, to keep track of all of your expenses because if your bills far exceed your income, you will be taxed at a lower rate.

It is also recommended to apply for a low interest credit card as many services you may require in the future (such as reserving hotel rooms in different provinces/states for cross-country tours) can ONLY be done through valid credit card accounts.

Additionally, it will be essential to make sure that you are in good standing with the necessary Canadian artist associations, as well as royalty and sales tracking services that you will require regular use of throughout your endeavours including SOCAN, CMRRA, SAC, AFM, and Soundscan (membership, in most cases, cost money).

Finally, before you are ready to release any albums, it’s a good idea to already have working versions of your online stores in order so that all you’ll have to do is put up the product at your desired time of release, and you won’t face any potential delays with distribution. Literally, everyday the amount of places online where you can sell your music for a nominal fee are expanding, and I recommend making your label and its artists’ releases visible on as many as possible, but if your budget is limited (which I’m sure it is) the online and in store indie friendly distribution services that you’ll definitely want to take advantage of include: Indiepool, CdBaby, Tunecore, Mxyer Ringtones, & Songcast. Creating accounts with Youlicense and Pumpaudio may also be something to consider if you are interested in potentially licensing your tunes for tv, internet, and movie projects in the future.


Working the Rep
At this point forward, any communications from your band to bookers, distributors, photographers etc. should be coming from your record label NOT a member of your band. From my own experience, I’ve found that it’s best to choose a gender neutral name that is fairly unassuming such as Sam, or Vic because, as much as I hate to admit it, the vast majority of bookers, and promoters with whom you’ll be interacting are men, and they’ll naturally assume you’re a guy too; thus leading them to treat you in a more respectful manner. You should give your so called label rep a last name as well (obviously not the same as any of your band members), and you should issue “him” a title such as Head of Promotions or Lead A&R representative depending on the purpose of your communications.

To cut down on costs (long distance bills are a killer), and simply to increase efficiency, I personally recommend doing as much as possible over email/the internet - whether that’s researching potential clubs for tours, setting up appointments, booking gigs, issuing press releases, or paying for services. If you decide to pursue this route, you’ll need to set up a label email address which can easily be accomplished through one of the several different free hosting services, that are at your disposal, including hotmail, yahoo, or gmail. Make sure when you are filling out the details for your email service that you do NOT put your personal name or birthday etc. under the information section because that is something that people can check, and you want to keep everything consistent with the name of your label rep.

Along the same lines, you’ll want to change your answering machine so that it informs callers that they are reaching your label’s headquarters, as some promoters and media outlets still prefer conducting business over the phone. If you want an example of what a professional answering service should sound like, call any reputable business after hours. Generally, it will be laid out as follows:

“You’ve reached ____ Records, home of (list your artist names). None of our agents are currently available to take your call, but if you’d like to leave a message after the tone specifying your reason for calling, the appropriate department would be happy to get back to you at their earliest convenience. If you’d prefer to reach us by email, you can do so at (email address). If you require more information on ____ Records and/or one of our artists, please feel free to visit our official website located at (url).” Thanks.”

For those of you who are perceptive I’m sure you noticed the above message made mention of having an official website for your label. When you first get started, and have yet to establish an extensive roster and/or list of services, a simple Myspace or Facebook business page (if done tastefully) will suffice. Once things start heading down a more professional route, you may want to consider buying your label’s domain name and actually launching a full scale website.

As for what should be included on your website, make sure you’ve got an overview of the label’s inception, the services it provides, its affiliates, its artists (with links to their official sites), and any sponsors it may have accrued. As well, it is absolutely necessary to include visible contact information detailing your full postal address, email, phone, and fax number (where possible) as, from my experiences as a journalist I can tell you that, there is nothing more frustrating then coming across a website on a subject in which you’re really interested which fails to list the appropriate channels to initiate contact.

One final note on communications: If you can get a fax machine and/or scanner, it will be truly advantageous because some items, such as contracts need to be issued and completed within short time periods and/or are of a confidential or delicate nature for which you cannot depend on postal services. Plus which, it’ll greatly reduce the amount of money you spend on mailing, which will likely already be a large expense of yours on account of the fact that, despite services such as Sonicbids, a great deal of venues refuse to consider bands for booking and media outlets refuse to consider acts for coverage, unless they receive hard copies of your press kit.


About the Author:

Rose Cora Perry is the frontwoman for Canadian hard rock band ANTI-HERO known as “The 21st Century Answer to Nirvana”, as well as the sole owner and operator of HER Records, a management company in which she offers marketing, promotion, publicity, tour booking, and artist development services.

Her band ANTI-HERO has toured extensively across North America playing notable festivals such as Warped Tour, Canadian Music Week, NorthbyNorthEast, Wakefest, and MEANYFest.

Voted “Best Rock Act of the Year” by numerous industry publications, their critically acclaimed debut album, "Unpretty" is available worldwide for purchase. Rose Cora Perry is a dedicated promoter of D.I.Y. ethics, and an avid supporter of independent musicians.

4/11/09

Vol 3, Issue 15: Starting up Your Own Label Pt #2: It’s All About the Money

After you’ve assembled your army of professional business alliances (which you should endeavour to continue growing throughout your career), the next step is to get your money in order. With any business, start up capital is an absolute must as there will be many expenses, both planned and unexpected, that will pop up along the way. Considering that, aspiring musicians, rarely come fully endowed with thousands of dollars in inheritance money bestowed upon them by deceased relatives (in other words, we’re usually just barely scrapping by), learning how to budget and save up all of your pennies for rainy days, early on, is definitely a smart move. Under NO circumstances do you want to resort to taking out a loan from a financial institution as there are no guarantees in this industry (ie: though many will travel the path, few will succeed), and the interest rates alone are enough to solicit heart palpitations. Plus which, in all fairness, it’s fairly likely that you haven’t really established that great of a credit record at this point anyhow, so getting approved for a monetary advance from a bank is probably not going to happen. So, where are you gonna get the goods?

Well, whether you’re in a collective, or you’re a solo performer, instead of boozing it up after gigs, I highly recommend reinvesting, at least some, if not all of the money you earn from your appearances, both performance fees and merch sales. If you’re not quite at the level at which you are getting paid for professional gigs, no problem, instead, to get things moving, each of you can contribute a nominal amount (say $10 - $20) into your startup fund on a weekly basis from the salaries you earn at your current menial jobs, and honestly, you’ll be surprised how fast it’ll add up. If you don’t currently have a job, go out and get one, even if just at a fast food joint, you’ll need a steady source of income coming in.

A third option you have is to, as we did, find an investor for your company, but be warned, this is not an easy venture. Just as when you approach a company for a potential sponsorship, you need to have something to offer them in return, and as much as I support your dreams of being a revolutionary rockstar, that sort of pitch doesn’t fly with business people. Investors are interested in one thing, and one thing only: that being, to maximize their returns. Sometimes, they will have a soft spot for helping out artists, however, you will still need to have a professional pitch, a profit-sharing contract worked out, as well as a contingency plan for the worst case scenario. You also need to keep in mind that if you do choose to involve an investor with your company, that it is only fair that after profits have been attained (ie: you are no longer trying to break even on your expenses), they get paid first. Afterall, they were willing to sink funds into your dream when you had nothing, and if it weren’t for them, you wouldn’t have been able to bring your baby to life.

One last note on investors: please, if you take anything away from this piece, let it be this: do NOT, and I truly mean it, do NOT involve family members. As much as they love you now (and I’m sure they do), money changes people, and relationships. Though sex has been said to be the quickest way to ruin a friendship, I’d argue that disputes over money wreak havoc way worst than anything you’ve ever seen.

The final option you have for getting together the necessary start up monies for your business is to apply, through the provincial government, for a young entrepreneur’s business loan (see http://www.cybf.ca/ for more details), however, be aware that if your loan is approved, the government, until you have paid back the loan in full, will have authority as the primary shareholder (ie: they will own a larger percentage of your company). Additionally, similar to a bank loan, you would be expected to pay back the loaned funds, plus an agreed upon interest rate, within three to five years depending on the arrangement.

So I’m sure at this point you’re wondering, well what do I need all of this money for? Though I previously explained that there will be many expenses along the way, I agree, a more specific overview of what these expenses may entail, is necessary. Tune in next week for just that!


About the Author:

Rose Cora Perry is the frontwoman for Canadian hard rock band ANTI-HERO known as “The 21st Century Answer to Nirvana”, as well as the sole owner and operator of HER Records, a management company in which she offers marketing, promotion, publicity, tour booking, and artist development services.

Her band ANTI-HERO has toured extensively across North America playing notable festivals such as Warped Tour, Canadian Music Week, NorthbyNorthEast, Wakefest, and MEANYFest.

Voted “Best Rock Act of the Year” by numerous industry publications, their critically acclaimed debut album, "Unpretty" is available worldwide for purchase. Rose Cora Perry is a dedicated promoter of D.I.Y. ethics, and an avid supporter of independent musicians.

3/29/09

Vol 3, Issue 14: Key Steps to Starting Your Own Successful Indie Label Pt #1

Back in 2003, when I was still a teenager, and when I was convinced that being in an all girl band was a good idea (how we learn as we age), I devised the plan to create my own indie label, HER Records, in order to release our debut album in a more professional manner, in hopes of attaining major label attention. Taking note of the fact that competition in the indie world (well the music industry, in general) is ridiculously steep, I wanted to create a package - something to sell the record labels that would stand out from the rest of the pack. Several years later (but with a different band mind you), after a great deal of learning, growing, and touring, this dream of mine finally became a reality.

But after years of enduring abuse, and a lack of support from our so-called record label, it is clear to me now, more than ever, that self-representation is really where it’s at (and I’m sure you’re aware that I’m not the only artist who states this case). But you learn through experience right? And had it not been for our “getting signed” (and “selling out” as they call it), I wouldn’t be where I am now, and I certainly wouldn’t be able to offer you the insights that I’ve learned.

Taking into account the current climate of what many foresee as the very crumbling of the music industry’s infrastructure, it only makes sense to consider the viability of going indie. At this point in time, because of the widespread accessibility to artist-friendly services, it is more feasible (and cost effective, and beneficial in so many ways - I could go on and on) than it’s ever been in the past. But, before you decide to go out and choose a name, logo design, and a MySpace url for your new cutting edge independent label, if you want to be taken seriously and as a professional, there are a few essential steps that must come first.


Step Number One: Network, network, network
As an indie artist, funds, as we know, are limited, and so it is essential, right from the beginning to establish loyal and mutually beneficial relationships with various providers of services (ie: photographers, publicists, producers, distributors, web site designers, instrument repairmen, entertainment lawyers etc) which you will require at different times in your career. If you are able to learn any of these crafts yourself, all the power to you - it’ll save big time on expenses, and is one last thing that you’ll have to worry about.

Now approaching a high end service provider that typically works for major label artists won’t get you anywhere, BUT that does not necessarily mean that you’ll be forced to sacrifice on quality. There are tons of extremely talented people out there that are working to establish a name for themselves just as you are, and if you can create long-standing alliances with these people, it’ll be one of the best things you’ll have going for you.

For example, when my band ANTI-HERO first got going, we, obviously, didn’t have a lot of cash on hand, but desperately needed professional photos for our website and for promotional purposes. We hooked up with an aspiring photographer (fresh out of Fanshawe’s photography program, in fact) that was willing to work with us for a reasonable price, and to this day, I can honestly say that he produced some of our favourite images of ourselves. After establishing his portfolio by working with bands such as ours, he has gone on to become the head photographer and editorial designer for Loreal.

In this relationship, we each helped each other: he gave us fantastic photos at a low cost, and we helped him build his portfolio and get other jobs through referrals. But taking advantage of the very talented student community at Fanshawe isn’t the only way to work the connections, attending concerts, and talking up established bands, as well as, building a rapport with local venues is also strongly recommended. In fact, if it weren’t for my long standing relationship with Call the Office, we wouldn’t have been offered so many jealousy-inducing opening spots throughout our career, nor would we have been able to shoot our music video, on location, with a full staff at our disposal (free of charge, I might add!).

The most important key to establishing these networks of individuals is 100% sincerity. If they scratch your back, you better make damn sure that you scratch theirs back. It’s all about creating a relationship, much like a romantic one, that serves both partners, and fulfills some sort of need. To put it bluntly: keep the promises that you make, and make absolutely sure that you always (and I mean ALWAYS) thank those who help you, especially when you reach a certain degree of fame. Put in other words, never forgot those who helped you get your start, you never know what those relationships may do for you in the future.

Case in point: to make a long story short, if it weren’t for my befriending of a small indie band when I was 15, I would have never gotten certain touring spots for my later band ANTI-HERO, nor would have I been introduced to our awarding winning producer who in turn hooked us up with the talented man responsible for our mastering. When ANTI-HERO first came out, and had yet to establish a rep and fanbase, it was strictly by “name dropping” our producer that we got our first major gigs.



About the Author:

Rose Cora Perry is the frontwoman for Canadian hard rock band ANTI-HERO known as “The 21st Century Answer to Nirvana”, as well as the sole owner and operator of HER Records, a management company in which she offers marketing, promotion, publicity, tour booking, and artist development services.

Her band ANTI-HERO has toured extensively across North America playing notable festivals such as Warped Tour, Canadian Music Week, NorthbyNorthEast, Wakefest, and MEANYFest.

Voted “Best Rock Act of the Year” by numerous industry publications, their critically acclaimed debut album, "Unpretty" is available worldwide for purchase. Rose Cora Perry is a dedicated promoter of D.I.Y. ethics, and an avid supporter of independent musicians.

3/18/09

Vol 3, Issue 13: The Booking Monopoly & Its Consequences for Concert Goers

As we learned over the past few weeks, the industry’s growing power, in the arena of booking, has major consequences for the indie musician. However, the effects of this latest attempt at monopoly do not just end there. Because booking agencies are able to limit and dictate the kinds of venues at which indie artists can play, as well as the level of bands with whom they can get booked, this also means that, from a crowd perspective, bookers, very much, have a direct role in informing our musical tastes and allowing access to the musical trends that we may or may not chose to consume.

Suffice it to say that this relatively small group of people are, resultantly, able to wield an unsettling amount of power within pop culture itself. Of course, one could rebut that the internet has broken down a great deal of the traditional barriers faced by the indie musician (ie: it’s no longer necessary to tour in order to form a following that spans continents) and in doing so, has allowed fans more autonomy in terms of developing their own music preferences (ie: by providing easy access to the obscure and the underground. It’s important to realize that, at one point, “out there” music could only be found at UK import shops).

However, despite this newfound access to original tunes and innovative acts, fandom, any musician will contest, still remains largely solidified through the concert going experience, and since booking agencies ultimately determine which concerts we are able to attend at convenient locations for reasonable prices, booking agencies are therefore directly involved with either condemning indies to become “flashes in the pan” that are only popular at their hometown venues, or accelerating their careers into super rockstardom. All of this, of course, from a music consumer point of view, greatly affects the concert going experience.

Result #1: Higher Ticket Prices
Money, just as in every other aspect of this industry, plays a huge role. Bookers want to make money, as do the venues at which the acts perform, but touring costs, especially if one’s show consists of elaborate pyrotechnics and multiple stage backdrops, are ridiculously high. How to solve this problem? Charge more for tickets, of course (ie: make the fans pay). But, as we saw with The Police and The Spice Girls’ latest reunion tours, this plan of attack can sometimes backfire. If ticket costs skyrocket, no one can afford to go, nor should anyone be expected to pay hundreds of dollars to see an act perform from the nosebleed section when you could get a better view from your tv set at home.

Result #2: Last Minute Cancellations Due to Poor Ticket Sales
Directly related to point number one, some folks simply cannot afford to pay triple digit figures for concert tickets, and well, some are just too damn smart to pay that much because they know, as well as you and I do, that a good chunk of that money doesn’t even go to the bands themselves. To be perfectly honest (and I’m sure I’m not alone on this), I’d rather see a band perform solidly without all of those bells and whistles that hike up their concert production costs. It’s of my humble opinion that if a band’s got to rely on serious special effects to make their show entertaining and action packed, then they likely aren’t that great at performing in the first place, and that’s not an act that I want to check out live. Technology, for better or for worse, has allowed far too many subpar musicians the ability to put out critically acclaimed music that said musicians cannot even come close to pulling off live.

Result #3 Mismatched Musical Pairings
This phenomenon, as I’m sure you’ve figured out already, relates to how bookers construct their concert bills based on the acts available on their roster and/or that of the label who has hired them to put together the show. As already mentioned, even if you’re a member of a great local act and your biggest influence comes to town to play at the JLC and you know that your music would be incredibly complementary to theirs, there’s little to no likelihood that you’ll be the ones warming up the crowd. Case in point: My Guns’N’Roses concert experience. Considering that London’s a mecca for truly talented hardcore, punk, and metal acts, it’s beyond my comprehension that I had to be subjected to a full 30 minutes of Mix Master Mike prior to seeing Axel in the flesh. But, on a rather sardonic note, it was somewhat amusing to see the poor D.J. get booed off the stage by a bunch of jacked up bikers sporting mullets. Though I’m sure, in a different setting, with a different crowd, the Mix Master could have “rock it like a hurricane”, but just as the above points have illustrated, the bookers really got what they deserved. They may be in the business of making our pop culture, but, as the saying goes, you’ve gotta give the people what they want, and rap at a hard rock concert just ain’t cutting it.

And Finally, Result #4: A Lack of Fresh Faces
Ever wonder why bands like The Stones, Aerosmith, & ACDC haven’t just accepted retirement already? Hey, don’t get me wrong, they are all still going strong, and in my experience, have put on some of the best concerts that I’ve ever had the privilege of attending, but I think, at a certain point in one’s career (well life in general), you gotta know when to quit, especially considering that there’s such an enormous new crop of artists who are dying for their 15 minutes of fame. I know our parents, especially, are thrilled to see their favourite teen idols living out their golden years still up on stage in the same leather pants they wore 20 years ago, but it kinda reminds me of how I felt when I heard about Ontario’s mandatory retirement law being eradicated. If we continue to allow the geezers of r’n’r to entertain audiences until, quite literally, they drop dead, when it finally comes to the time for the next generation to take over, they will be ill-prepared, inexperienced, and unable to live up to the same standard. Personally, I’d rather see a gracious passing of the torch.

As our discussion of booking agencies has revealed, not only are indie musicians victims, but as well, music lovers, in general, are increasingly suffering from the blow. If you, as music consumers, want to continue to be able to have choice and not have your preferences dictated to you, do us all a favour - show your local indie musicians some support, and that my friends, consists of more than just sleeping with them.

About the Author:

Rose Cora Perry is the frontwoman for Canadian hard rock band ANTI-HERO known as “The 21st Century Answer to Nirvana”, as well as the sole owner and operator of HER Records, a management company in which she offers marketing, promotion, publicity, tour booking, and artist development services.

Her band ANTI-HERO has toured extensively across North America playing notable festivals such as Warped Tour, Canadian Music Week, NorthbyNorthEast, Wakefest, and MEANYFest.

Voted “Best Rock Act of the Year” by numerous industry publications, their critically acclaimed debut album, "Unpretty" is available worldwide for purchase. Rose Cora Perry is a dedicated promoter of D.I.Y. ethics, and an avid supporter of independent musicians.

2/27/09

Vol 3, Issue 12: How Booking Companies Work to Keep Indie Artists Off the Main Stage

As established in our discussion last time, the latest tactic that the industry has adopted in order to maintain its hegemony within the biz’s changing climate has its roots in booking practises, and derives its strength, just as previous music business practises have, through the creation of a system based on exclusivity. As much as I, a proud DIY advocate who singlehandedly managed to book two successful North American tours for my own band, hate to admit it, in reality, because of the structure of the industry, truly, there is only so far an indie act can go on their own. In today’s economy of corporate conglomeration, if you’re looking for that super rockstardom, whether your band is composed of ladies or gents, it is inevitable that, without an inside connection, you will eventually collide, face-to-face with the music biz’s “glass ceiling”.

Aside from the enforcement of the “no unsolicited materials” policy which is held by most of the world’s predominant booking agencies, the internal politics of these companies dictate that the support slots for any major bill are to be granted to lesser known acts from the same label and/or booking agency family, therefore disallowing the consideration of any outside indie bands (even if their genre would be more complementary to that of the major act’s and, even if they’ve established a strong local following in the concert area). Likewise, when you see listings of obscure bands of which you’ve never heard on major festival circuits, like that of, The Taste of Chaos concert series, you can bet on pretty good odds that again, they were already somehow associated with the headliners.

If you think that you can supercede the powers that be (aka these booking companies), think again, as unfortunately, a vast majority of the large concert halls responsible for bringing acts like ACDC to crowds of 72,000 are actually directly affiliated, if not owned by the booking companies themselves. LiveNation, for example, after their acquisition of the House of Blues in 2006, is now the proud owner of over 160 venues worldwide.
For the few companies, such as Canada’s Agency Group and SL Feldman & Associates, which are willing to consider reviewing material from an act with whom they have not yet established a business acquaintanceship, this does not mean that getting picked up on their roster is as easy as just sending in a professional press kit (and, well, crossing your fingers).

First off, the fine print on both of their sites explicitly outlines that they will not consider your act unless you’ve already established a substantial following, and have gigged around extensively. What this means in translation is that you likely would have already had to release at least one full length which has consistent sales, received a decent amount of radio, if not video play, and as well been around the block, for at least a few years, before they will even contemplate giving your materials a once over (ie: they don’t want to do the hard work for you).

Secondly, from my own experiences, I’ve noticed that booking agencies tend to shy away from signing punk, metal, and generally hardcore bands which may be deemed offensive because these forms of music tend to be “acquired” tastes, and therefore don’t have as strong of a profit-making potential. (Again, folks, I hate to reiterate, but it’s essential that you realize that everything in this industry ultimately comes down to dollars and cents.)

Thirdly, because although there are lots of companies out there “claiming” to be legit booking agencies, but realistically, there are really only a select few who control about 80% of the marketplace, having your material reviewed will inevitably be a lengthy process, and by that I mean, it may take several months to almost a year just for your package to arrive on the appropriate person’s desk, let alone be assessed. With that in mind, it’s important, that if you do wish to attempt, in the words of Jim Morrison, “to break on through to the other side” (of the glass ceiling, that is), that you specifically address your package to the agent who already works with artists who are comparable to your genre of music.

From all of the aforementioned details, as I’m sure you’ve deduced for yourself, if you thought achieving label representation was difficult, obtaining a booking agent is in a whole nother ball park; the reason being that control over all of the world’s major concert events in is in very few hands, and so, said companies can afford to be extremely picky with whom they chose to represent.

Booking agents typically get a flat fee for each show they book, and receive additional compensation derived from a percentage of ticket sales, and so, they are only going to be interested in working with you if your act is a guaranteed strong investment. Additionally, upon being signed, booking (promotional companies in general), often expect their newly sign artists to sink in funds into areas that they feel are a concern in order to up the band’s market appeal. These investments are expected to be made, irrespective of the fact that bookers offer no guarantee that they will be able to get the act touring opportunities.

With all of that being said, if you’re interesting in trying to reel a booker in, here are a few quick last pieces of advice:

1) Do you homework: Learn about the various companies and see which one best suits your needs in terms of both its booking capabilities as well as the genres it represents

2) Make a direct contact

3) Rather than sending out a press kit and waiting agonizingly for it to be reviewed, I suggest inviting your booker of interest out to an important live performance (cd release party, or a slot at a national conference) so that they can see you in action, and you have a chance to make an in person connection. However, if you are going to go down this route, make sure you are ready (and I mean REALLY ready) because you’ll only get one shot.


About the Author:

Rose Cora Perry is the frontwoman for Canadian hard rock band ANTI-HERO known as “The 21st Century Answer to Nirvana”, as well as the sole owner and operator of HER Records, a management company in which she offers marketing, promotion, publicity, tour booking, and artist development services.

Her band ANTI-HERO has toured extensively across North America playing notable festivals such as Warped Tour, Canadian Music Week, NorthbyNorthEast, Wakefest, and MEANYFest.

Voted “Best Rock Act of the Year” by numerous industry publications, their critically acclaimed debut album, "Unpretty" is available worldwide for purchase. Rose Cora Perry is a dedicated promoter of D.I.Y. ethics, and an avid supporter of independent musicians.

2/3/09

Vol 3, Issue 11: The Changing Face of Record Deals: An Inside Look at the Industry’s Emerging Strategy for Maintaining Monopoly

As alluded to by various comments made on behalf of both myself, and several of this year’s interview subjects including Alan Cross, and Carla DeSantis, the face of the industry, moreover, the face of the record deal is changing. The monopoly that major labels once held because of their exclusive ability to offer artists worldwide distribution, and unmatchable promotional opportunities simply cannot compete in the age of the internet in which artists, because of their newfound accessibility to unlimited online resources and opportunities for networking, are able to become self-sufficient. Put blatantly, what’s the point of signing with a label (which may necessitate giving up a substantial share of your profits, and quite possibly having to sacrifice your artistic integrity) when with the simple click of a mouse, one is able to access both exposure to a worldwide audience and dissemination of one’s products across the globe free of charge, or at the most, for a nominal fee, while maintaining complete songwriting ownership and control over one’s image?

Though some will argue that traditional record labels still provide superior retail distribution attesting that indies are unable to get shelf space without having a) a huge following in the area which will guarantee sales and b) a large promotional budget which will allow them to do store tie-in events, this argument fails to acknowledge that many majors, such as Koch for example, because they can’t afford the risk of taking up shelf space unless the product is guaranteed to move, have actually gone strictly to catalogs for their up and comers. Thus, they are once again unable to provide you with anything you cannot get on your own. And so, as can be expected, the music biz’s business model which has ruled the day since the 1890s, has had to change with the times.

In order to maintain relevance during this state of transition that is rattled with illegal downloading (and hence, fewer profits to be made off of disc sales), label scouts and business professionals alike, needed a new plan not only in order to stay in business, but also to ensure that “the suits” would not lose their position of privilege and power. The plan: to zero in all efforts towards the one domain in the biz within which artists can only go so far on their own; that being, booking, and the secret weapon: a little thing called, “no unsolicited materials” (ie: you cannot submit any promotional materials without prior request or without an inside connection to the firm in question). For those of you who’ve attempted to get on the bill as the opener for a major act such as The Foo Fighters, you’ll be all too familiar with those three heartbreaking words, and all of the bureaucratic b.s. that goes along with them. The leader of the pack in this venture is a little known company (note the sarcasm) that goes by the name of, LiveNation (originally a subsidiary of Clear Channel Communications, a highly influential U.S. media conglomerate), a brand that any regular concert goer will recognize as gaining increasing omnipresence on just about every advert for any major event. But, before we get into the nitty gritty of what exactly it means to be signed to one of these company’s rosters, such as that of LiveNation’s, a brief overview of how the traditional major label record deal works, is in order.

Generally speaking, traditional deals with major labels allow musicians to strictly focus on being performers (ie: publicity, management, and booking is all taken care of for you), however, these gratuities do not come without a hefty price. Though details vary from contract to contract, artists are conventionally signed for at least a few years in which they are required to release a specified amount of works, and the vast majority of profits (in some instances, upwards of 90%) earned off of all sales relating to their musical compositions are awarded solely to the label. The artist is expected to tour and attend promotional opportunities in order to market their works, and any profits earned from touring (which are, at best, only about 5 - 10% considering the high costs associated with funding transport, stage crew, special effects etc.) as well as any monies earned from the sales of merchandise belong wholly to the artist. Additionally, if licensing opportunities should be presented to the artist, the label’s commission on said negotiations is usually about 15 - 20%.

So up to this point, it may seem as though these deals are somewhat mutually beneficial - there is give and take on both ends of the bargain- however, there’s an all too often undisclosed catch that cannot be understated in terms of its importance: in these deals, if the artists’ musical compositions fail to achieve commercial success, any upfront resources that were granted to the artist in order for him/her to partake in recording, and/or marketing his/her products will be owed back to the label in full!

So how have deals changed due to the infiltration of companies like LiveNation? Well, as previously explained, traditional major labels primarily focused their energies on pushing units (ie: records, cassettes, compact discs) in order to generate profits. Because fewer and fewer music consumers are actually purchasing legitimate copies of musical works, profits in this area have, understandably, greatly subsided. Consequently, deals with companies like LiveNation not only demand a substantial chunk off of sales of musical works (however, in most cases, without the catch of loss of songwriter ownership), but as well, now infringe on territory that used to solely belong to the artist: that being, touring and merchandising because as noted by Fortune Magazine, the majority of earnings achieved (over 75%) by current major artists come strictly from these two domains. However, it’s important to realize that LiveNation’s cash flow margins on tours average a slight “4.3%”, and thus its not surprising that the company is continually seeking to expand its horizons in order to bolster its profit making potential.

In an effort to eliminate the need for record labels and/or just about any other external company that has traditionally been required to properly launch and manage a major artist, in its contracts, LiveNation has sought to gain control not only over its artists’ touring arrangements, and catalogs, but as well its artists’ web presence, publicity, merchandising, and videography. Further, there have been recent talks discussing LiveNation’s involvement in negotiating licensing and publishing deals on behalf of its artists in order to get a cut off of their royalties.

In order to seem as though the deals they are presenting are “fair”, those artists specially selected to be recruited for LiveNation’s roster are often offered obscene amounts of upfront money, like that of Madonna’s 10 year contract estimated at a cool 120 million. Despite all of the signs which indicate LiveNation’s totalitarian aspirations, the company’s President and CEO Michael Rapino, maintains that they merely fulfill the duties of a music promotional company and nothing more.

So what does this mean for the indie musician? Moreover for the music consumer? These are topics that I will tackle in the next few weeks.


About the Author:

Rose Cora Perry is the frontwoman for Canadian hard rock band ANTI-HERO known as “The 21st Century Answer to Nirvana”, as well as the sole owner and operator of HER Records, a management company in which she offers marketing, promotion, publicity, tour booking, and artist development services.

Her band ANTI-HERO has toured extensively across North America playing notable festivals such as Warped Tour, Canadian Music Week, NorthbyNorthEast, Wakefest, and MEANYFest.

Voted “Best Rock Act of the Year” by numerous industry publications, their critically acclaimed debut album, "Unpretty" is available worldwide for purchase. Rose Cora Perry is a dedicated promoter of D.I.Y. ethics, and an avid supporter of independent musicians.

1/27/09

Vol 3, Issue 10: Sexism in the Music Biz Conclusion: Working from the Inside Out, Spotlighting Three Female Forces Who’ve Made a Difference

When life throws opposition in your direction, you can either stand your ground or sulk in a corner, and though expelling angst has its proper time and place, I’m sure you’ll all agree that very little has ever been accomplished, in terms of progress, from the mere shedding of tears.

In choosing to pursue the former resolution, that being to challenge the barricades which are poised before you, there are two distinct methods one can undertake: 1) to bulldoze through the front gates with weapons a-blazing or 2) to unassumingly gain entry through the backdoor and to change things from the inside out. Of these two strategies, though I’m all for putting up a strong front, in the business world, it is the savvy and perceptive individual who is able to recognize that the latter plan of attack will bring into fruition the most desirable results.

Though the “sexism-fighting” contributions of popular artists such as Sarah Mclachlan and Shiragirl with their Lilith Fair and all girls Warped Tour stage respectively, are commendable and have worked to carve out niches for female artists in performance venues, neither endeavour did much in the way of shaking up the industry’s male-dominated infrastructure. At the end of the day, these artists were still left playing within a man’s game. Further, often times, in-your-face efforts, such as these, have perpetuated negative “man-hating” (and lesbian) feminist stereotypes, rather than actually addressing the real issues that feminists fight for: those being; equal access and rights for all, irrespective of race, gender, or any other minority difference. Consequently, over the years, as one can imagine, the fem rocker has garnered what Joan Jett refers to as a bit of a “bad reputation”.

Taking note of their own industry battles as former “rockstars-in-the-making” and learning from efforts such as those aforementioned, three fiery ladies from the US recognized that change needed to work with, not in obstruction of the prevailing music marketplace. Frowning upon cattiness, and instead, encouraging female friendly communities and collaboration, the real forces behind a move towards ending gender discrimination in the music biz are unsung business women: Tish Ciravolo, founder of DaisyRock Guitars, the first ever guitar manufacturer to specialize in creating lightweight and manoeuvrable instruments with female physiology in mind, Carla DeSantis, creator of RockRGrl Magazine, a national music rag strictly devoted to featuring female rockers as its name suggests, and in fact, the very first of its kind, and finally, Madalyn Sklar, the brains behind the online female artist community, GoGirlsMusic, which assists artists in establishing networks, generating exposure, and obtaining performance placements at some of the world’s top annual music conferences. Not only have these three women managed to gain greater respect and recognition for “chicks with picks”, but as well, they have empowered females not to be afraid to pick up an electric and rock it with the best of them. For my final instalment on sexism in the biz, I was lucky enough to catch up with all three of these inspiring women. Below is a compilation of some of our significant points of discussion:

When asked whether they still felt sexism was still a relevant issue facing contemporary female musicians, Tish, Carla, and Madalyn responded in unison with a resounding yes. Though they all agreed that the indie market allows for more freedoms, and acceptance, amongst the majors, the beliefs concerning how to market women artists, in their eyes, have remained relatively unchanged, and the ever increasing global conglomeration of these labels is only making the problem worst.

In Sklar’s view, the male label reps aren’t interested in taking on anyone that is over 21, and unwilling to market herself as a sex kitten. However, she believes, that the labels aren’t exclusively at fault. In fact, Sklar contends that female artists, often just as much as the male reps, buy into the “sex sells” mantra, and consequently, it’s proving more difficult to disrupt than one would have hoped. But, this is not to say that a woman shouldn’t embrace her sexuality and be proud to flaunt it like Madonna. All three ladies, admittedly, purport Ms. Ciccone as being highly influential, and groundbreaking in terms of her business skill and staying power. The difference, as DeSantis points out, “is that you know that Madonna is in charge – she’s not anyone’s puppet.” On that note, all three ladies chimed in that the most important thing for any artist, whether male, female, independent, or major, is to remain true to themselves, stay positive, and to listen to their inner critics.

As for the business side of things in the music biz, Carla and Tish offered their own personal examples as corroboration that sexism is still alive and kicking. When the first issues of RockRGrl were launched, DeSantis explained, that it was automatically assumed that the magazine was aimed at the gay community, and was anti-men. In fact, some female rockers outright refused to be interviewed because they didn’t want this sort of association hanging over their heads. Likewise, when DaisyRock introduced its product line, Ciravolo received a seemingly unending mountain of hate mail that blasted her for having the “ridiculous” idea that girls should have their own instruments. Seven years later (and after a great deal of success I might add), she quips that the very guitar companies that criticized and lauded her for conveying the myth of the pink guitar have now ripped off her ideas…Go figure. But enough of an introduction:

The point behind these stories that I want to emphasis is this: rather than dwelling on the adversity that each of them has had to overcome due to their visionary efforts, Tish, Carla, and Madalyn’s dialogues were full of hope, strength, sincerity, and compassion; skills that are praiseworthy for both rockstars and corporate suits alike.


Though eradicating sexism (and building a female-friendly music community in doing so) is clearly at the forefront of each of their enterprises, Tish, Carla and Madalyn’s efforts expand to encompass helping all independent artists by offering up the knowledge that they’ve acquired from their own experiences. As spokeswomen at several important music festivals, all three women are concerned additionally with the bigger issue at hand: that of the crumbling music industry. But, instead of evaluating the music biz’s current climate of illegal downloading and industry corruption as a downfall, Sklar believes that the “music industry has been headed down the independent, do‑it‑yourself route for sometime now, and [with the changes that are being forced to take place], the playing field is becoming increasingly levelled each day - you don’t [necessarily] need a label to get noticed anymore.” For Sklar, it’s an exciting time to be an indie artist, and though the future of the music industry’s infrastructure is uncertain, both Tish and Carla agree that music will always be around, with or without the bigwigs. To this, DeSantis adds, that essentially the record labels are getting their just desserts: “they pissed off their consumers by demanding that we buy expensive albums that only contain one or two tracks that we actually care about. The labels didn’t work with what the customers wanted and now there’s a karmic debt to be paid.”

As evident by this statement, DeSantis clearly feels that the major labels’ lust for capital has been the most detrimental force in deconstructing the industry. She went on to note that the fact that contracts in which artists are only entitled to a mere 2% of their albums’ takings, yet are required to entirely fund their own touring operations, can exist, acts as further evidence supporting this assertion.

For Ciravolo, the biggest sin ever committed against artists by the corporate music biz falls into related territory: that being, the lack of regard for artistic development and creative growth. In her view, we’ve gotten to a point where musical talent and/or merit are not considered prerequisites to superstardom. It’s become all about pre-packaged marketing ploys meant to play to the lowest common denominator, and generate a quick buck.

However, in saying all of this, DeSantis is quick to reiterate that, “the industry sucks, but it has always sucked, and the key to success is simply to find likeminded, trustworthy individuals, and to build your own community of support.” She was also adamant about explaining that due to the current predicament with which the music industry is entangled, “complaining about how bad things are for women is like trying to save the people on the 4th floor of a building that is on fire. The system is so broken and in flux that it is not necessarily any worse for women than men [in the grand scheme of things]. Everyone is facing a hard time [which can definitively] be routed to bad business practises.”

As some final offerings of advice for the aspiring artist, Sklar encourages to not be afraid to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, and Ciravolo endorses being proud and confident of your art, however “un-mainstream” it may be.

In closing, it’s interesting to consider that all three of my interview subjects were unable to name just one female in rock history whom they deemed as being the most influential which indicates to me that they are tons of great examples out there, you may just have to dig a little deeper. In my opinion, this makes perfect sense, because if life’s taught me anything, it’s that things that are the most rewarding, fulfilling, and worthwhile never are obtained without a challenge. In relaying the views of these three rather impressive ladies, I hope to leave you with the promising thought of a future in which musicianship is judged purely based on one’s talent, and nothing more. I know that this is a goal these women and others are working towards; and an admirable one at that.



About the Author:

Rose Cora Perry is the frontwoman for Canadian hard rock band ANTI-HERO known as “The 21st Century Answer to Nirvana”, as well as the sole owner and operator of HER Records, a management company in which she offers marketing, promotion, publicity, tour booking, and artist development services.

Her band ANTI-HERO has toured extensively across North America playing notable festivals such as Warped Tour, Canadian Music Week, NorthbyNorthEast, Wakefest, and MEANYFest.

Voted “Best Rock Act of the Year” by numerous industry publications, their critically acclaimed debut album, "Unpretty" is available worldwide for purchase. Rose Cora Perry is a dedicated promoter of D.I.Y. ethics, and an avid supporter of independent musicians.

For more information on Rose Cora Perry and her band's accomplishments, please visit
http://www.anti-hero.ca/ or http://www.rosecoraperry.com/