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Management Advice #1: New Music Projects

I’m putting together a mini-series of articles that are geared towards the working DIY band. Although many of the things that I refer to are for bands in the early stages and semi-pro level, they can be applied to musical projects at higher levels as well.

I have been managing bands for a decade now and I’ve noticed that new start-up projects seem to have the same roadblocks in the early stages. I’d like to shed some light on these common roadblocks and the solutions that have worked for me and the bands that I have worked with over the years.

1. Identity (or lack thereof)

The identity of your band is very important. Who is going to believe in you, if you, as a whole, don’t believe in yourselves? Start off with multiple band names that reflect the image and message that you want your band to be known for, or that reflect the thoughts and image of your band. Narrow the names down over the course of a few weeks in order to give each name submission some thought and consideration. You want to make sure that you are all happy with the selection before proceeding to officially start the project under the selected name.

You want the name to be memorable, easy to say, easy to read, and most of all, easily identified amongst other names. One of my biggest pet peeves are metal band names/logos that I can’t even read. I end up skipping over them completely and quite frankly, I might be missing out on some bands that I may have otherwise fallen in love with.

2. Ensure that everyone is on board

Now that you have decided on your project’s name, it’s time to make sure that the members are serious. Ensure that all members are on board with the project. Are there members that are more keen than others? Who is willing to drop everything at the confirmation of a national or international tour?

It is often a good idea to have each member sign a contract with the band so that they are each held accountable. This contract can also contain royalty shareholder figures and a termination clause if one member isn’t pulling their weight. In most cases, this step is overlooked because the band starts out as a group of friends creating music together. It’s always a good idea to treat the band as a business from the get-go, and avoid issues later on.

In order to receive royalties, all members of the project must first sign up and become a member of SOCAN. This is a free service and it takes 3-6 weeks to get set up. Go to the SOCAN website, sign up, and wait for the package in the mail. After signing and mailing the package back to SOCAN, you will receive your online login and password. This is how you will submit your songs for your catalogue, live performances, and eventually, your film and TV cue sheets. For more information, visit the SOCAN website.

3. Social media

Set up your band’s social media pages but hold off on adding people to them, for now.

Start off with some basic things such as: a video that introduces people to your band, band members, or the cause that you support, photos from a recent professional photo shoot, your  band logo/your band name, a show or contest that you have signed up for, a photo/video  from a band that you support, merchandise that you have available, etc.

My go-to social media pages for bands include: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Gmail, PayPal, TuneCore, Music Glue, SoundCloud, Flickr, and Reverbnation.

4. Share your content

Now you are ready to start inviting people to your social media pages. Ensure that the content that you have uploaded is visible to your followers and that the content represents who and what your band stands by.

If you have an older set of social media accounts, go through the content before inviting the public to your page and delete what doesn’t reflect your current band image.

Remember to stay active, stay current, and have fun when you connect with your fans.

5. Network, network, network

So many bands fail to stay connected in their local music network and they wonder why they feel unsupported by the community that they supported so strongly, prior to officially becoming a band themselves.

Continue to attend the local music events that you did prior to becoming a band. Open mics are great places to showcase your new songs and to play them in different arrangements. I have encouraged many heavier bands to play acoustically at some open mics and when it has been done, it has been extremely successful. Use these opportunities to gain feedback and to build your fanbase.

Reach out to bands that have a similar sound to your band, both locally and in other cities. If you are not ready to hit the road, encourage the out of town bands to come to your city and have you open or headline the show.

Business Checklist

  • Have all current band members sign a contract with the band
  • Have all band members sign up with SOCAN
  • Register the band name as a company
  • Set up a band bank account using the company information and encourage band members to contribute to the band fund on a regular basis
  • Connect the PayPal account to the band bank account
  • Record demo tracks that can be used to direct listeners ears to. If you are already in the studio, create teaser clips so that potential fans, bookings agents, and media representatives can get an idea of what to expect from the full tracks, once they have been mixed and mastered. Make sure that you get your tracks mastered after the mixing process is complete.
  • Design and stock merchandise
  • Book shows and market your merchandise
  • Attend conferences and seminars to promote growth within your band and to gain more knowledge about the music industry. These are also great places to network and promote your band to industry folks

Final Thought

Your band’s image is what the public sees and what they fall in love with. Make sure that your band and the message that you are sending, is the one that you yourself, would follow. Don’t be afraid to compare your band to other bands in terms of sound, image, or beliefs, just be mindful that this may cause some initial tension, disinterest, or even some lofty expectations, so don’t get too far ahead of yourselves.

As a DIY band, you have the power to bring in, on contract, professionals who can help your band out. You can appoint someone to operate your band’s social media, book shows, market/promote your band, manage your band, and assist you in securing radio, film, and TV placements. With the industry in the state that it’s in and with the technology that is available, you don’t necessarily need a record label to succeed, just the desire to succeed, the work ethic to get things accomplished, a dedicated team to assist you, and a product that people enjoy listening to.

Best of luck to you.

The Advantage Of Attending Music Showcases

With a growing music community and the ability to network and connect to virtually anywhere in the world, it’s easy to get locked into the digital communication world. Social media and video conferencing are great tools when used properly, but nothing measures up to a good old face-to-face conversation, especially when it comes to networking in the music industry.

Events such as: North By… and South By… festivals, Canadian Music Week,  and Indie Week, allow for musicians to not only travel and learn from industry professionals, but they also provide the opportunity to showcase their music to a large audience of industry professionals, other musicians, and most importantly, to music lovers. With most of the events lasting a few days, and others lasting up to a week, musicians should always take in as much as they can when attending these festivals and conferences.

©Michael Valenzuela 2013 @Mickey_Valenz
©Michael Valenzuela 2013 @Mickey_Valenz

Indie403 caught up with 2 musicians and a magazine editor, all based in Calgary, who attended the 2013 Canadian Music Week in Toronto.

Curtis Butala – Vocalist for Kingdom of Few

Michael Valenzuela – Drummer for Septembryo

Shannon Ambrose – Chief Managing Editor and Founder of The Portal Magazine

Here are some comments from the musicians side of attending Canadian Music Week:

Curtis: “This trip marked the 2nd time Kingdom of Few has made the trip to Toronto, the first time being for Toronto Indie Week.  The connections that we made [during] our first trip lent well to our experience at CMW, allowing us to book more shows and network more effectively…and drink for free!

What you see right away at CMW is that a vibrant and passionate music community resides in Toronto, with all styles of music well represented.  Original music venues litter Queen Street, with line ups of passionate music fans out the door.  Bands support one another, bouncing from showcase to showcase.  You get the feeling Toronto is the mecca for independent artists.  The Marriot was packed daily with people from all walks of the music and entertainment business, with eager bands and artists trying to make their mark on the scene.”

Michael:Septembryo‘s trip to Toronto was very worthwhile and insightful. [CMW] is a massive event in which musicians and industry professionals all gather in Toronto to perform, learn, network and enlighten. We were invited to showcase and perform a set at one of the many venues that were delegated for the event. We got the gig by applying through Sonicbids.com which was followed up by many emails and a detailed registration process. Septembryo got to reach a new crowd and get our music and circle of influence spreading out to a new city.

I know the trip might not seem like a worthwhile thing from an outside perspective, but it was very worthwhile for us. It was an educational experience and the more my band and I are present at events like this, the more we can have a relevant impact on the important people in the industry.”

“The summit [portion of the festival] was based on vital information sessions going on all week with industry professionals. One of the perks of getting invited to showcase at CMW is that you get to attend the summit for free. To put things into perspective, the summit costs around $600-$900 to attend if you don’t have a free pass. We were able to sit in on these summit sessions and absorb advice and experienced outlooks on various elements regarding the music industry. We were also occasionally able to talk and network with these important people who were all gathered at the Marriot Hotel.

©Michael Valenzuela 2013 @Mickey_Valenz
©Michael Valenzuela 2013 @Mickey_Valenz

Some of the summit sessions we attended included: Keynote with Arthur Fogel, Chairman, Global Music and CEO, Global Touring, Live Nation, Celebrity Interview – A Conversation with METRIC, Featured Speaker Tom Jackson, Live Music Producer, OnstageSuccess.com, USA, Panel Discussion on Licensing Issues Worldwide: Where Do We Stand?, Music For The Screen – Putting Your Music In Film & TV, and Presentation – The Elements of a Hit Song.”

And here are some comments from the industry side of attending Canadian Music Week:

Shannon: “This being my third time to Canadian Music Week, I went prepared for what I was about to experience, or so I thought.

The fact that its five long days and very late nights hadn’t changed but there were some other obvious changes.  First off, the hub of all things CMW moved from the Royal York as host hotel, to the Marriott Downtown Eaton Centre and that wasn’t the only change this year.

Another major change this year was moving two of the four award shows from afternoon luncheons to evening events, as well as the dates they were held on. The Indies (Independent Music Awards) moved from Saturday night to Friday, the Canadian Radio Music Awards, formally a Friday afternoon luncheon, was now held on Wednesday evening, and the Canadian Music and Broadcast Industry Awards were open to the media for the first time. Attending awards shows is always fun and exciting, though at times a little frustrating as media. It’s a great opportunity to get audio or video content with winners and guests backstage, as well as experiencing the excitement as award recipients are brought backstage.

©Michael Valenzuela 2013 @Mickey_Valenz
©Michael Valenzuela 2013 @Mickey_Valenz

Canadian Music Fest – a crazy six nights, with 1000 artists performing in any one of 60 venues is an original Indie music lovers delight. It’s virtually impossible to take every show in, but the best way to experience CMF is to hop from venue to venue, catching as much as possible. Most of the venues are a short walk apart, so it isn’t that difficult to hit 3 or 4 venues in one night.  I’ve “discovered” several original bands I’ve never heard of before during CMF, and usually come home with a handful of CDs to review.

All that said, each year I attend Canadian Music Week, I see it as a great networking opportunity, meeting industry professionals, spreading the word of The PORTAL Magazine, attending conferences to advance my knowledge of the industry and basically being seen in the rich, creative environment.”

Michael: “Not only was I there to represent my band, I also was well represented as a graphic designer while I was there. Other than my band Septembryo, 2 other Alberta based bands (Rend and Maddison Krebs) were also showcasing at Canadian Music Week. I have done design work for these artists, so it is good to know the albums and business cards and posters I created for them were being handed out to industry professionals. These bands are both really talented and were getting a lot of attention during the week, so this could be very good if people appreciate my design work.”

©Michael Valenzuela 2013 @Mickey_Valenz
©Michael Valenzuela 2013 @Mickey_Valenz

 

In closing, here are some words of wisdom from our 3 attendees of Canadian Music Week:

“It takes a while to build dreams and to have them mature from ideas to reality, but we are on our way. Slowly but surely.”

~Michael Valenzuela | Drummer, Septembryo

“Overall the trip experience is what you make of it.  Get your face seen, get your voice heard and meet some like minded artists.
It also looks great on your resume. Alberta was well represented at CMW with great acts like Oldbury, Double Fuzz and Septembryo.
I came away with the feeling that success is just around the corner for many of us here in Alberta, and that we are part of
something special here.”

~Curtis Butala | Vocalist, Kingdom of Few

“For anyone serious about a career in the music industry I recommend attending Canadian Music Week at least once. The conferences are extremely valuable, and the networking opportunities are priceless.”

~Shannon Ambrose |  Chief Managing Editor, The Portal Magazine

Raising The Funk Level In Western Canada

Fur Eel

4-Piece Funk, Soul & Rock | Regina, Saskatchewan

Highlights:

  • Debut album released in 2011 & currently recording and mixing a new album for a 2012 release
  • Various mini-tours throughout Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta
  • Chosen to perform at 2012 Canadian Music Fest in Toronto (March 21-25)

“Fur Eel”: A play on words that might suggest a hairy sea creature or a response you’d hear from a young adult engaged in a conversation involving something unbelievable. “For Real?”

This funk band from Regina will definitely leave you thinking, “For Real?” as you bob your head and tap your feet along to their music. After the show, it will take you days to get the catchy lyrics, “Who am I writing 4 for…for?” out of your head.

Fur Eel

The band Fur Eel formed in the summer of 2010 after Justin and Thomas wrote the song “I See”. Taking from each band member’s eclectic music tastes, Fur Eel delivers a sexy stage presence reminiscent of the biggest 80’s pop stars combined with the classic rock guitar riffs and solos comparable to your favorite hits, layered over top of grooving drums and bass that will get your feet tapping and your hips swaying.

Justin, the lead singer, is strongly influenced and inspired by Prince and it shows in his on-stage dancing swagger and deliverance of lyrics. Each word is punctuated, accentuated, and delivered with specific tone and pitch and followed up with precise and melodic finger-picked solos.

Indie403 had a chance to sit down with the lads in Fur Eel and talk all things furry prior to their set at The Ironwood on January 3rd, 2012.

Thomas St. Onge: “There are not a lot of people doing what we’re doing in Regina. Most people our age are doing the Indie rock stuff and the generation ahead of us is playing a lot of country music. Most of the venues in Regina are well attended though, so you get a lot of support throughout the scene.”

Fur Eel

Currently working on their second album with an anticipated release in the spring of 2012, Fur Eel prides itself as a fully functional DIY Band. The albums are self-produced with the help of Thomas’s father, who primarily takes on the mixing aspect of the album production.

“We’ve been doing it all ourselves. We’ve never tried to tour before, put out an album…it’s been a learning process and we’re having a lot of fun with it”.
~Justin Sheppard – Fur Eel

Justin Sheppard: “We honestly have super supportive families. It makes all the difference to have their support. Thomas’s dad helps us with the mixes amongst other stuff, James’s parents lent us their van to drive out on our last mini-tour, Travis’s dad is at pretty much any show he can make it to, including a few shows in Winnipeg and Saskatoon, and my mom helps us out with the business side of being a working band. A lot of bands don’t get that kind of support base in their family.”

Fur Eel

“Fur Eel is not just about performance and entertainment…they are musical magicians. They own their instruments as well as the stage”.
~Indie403

Fur Eel just returned home from a mini-tour that saw them play in Calgary, Regina, Brandon and Winnipeg, with a video and interview session in Saskatoon for an episode of Stripped Down. They hit the road again in February for a week and will be returning to Calgary to funk up The Distillery on February 18th, followed up by a month long cross-Canada tour in May.

Be sure to watch for Fur Eel at this year’s Canadian Music Fest in Toronto from March 21st-25th. Music fans at the Toronto festival will soon know who funk’d up The Prairies.

Fun Fur-ry Fact:
The Leader Post, Regina’s most subscribed newspaper, recently had an article that featured top choices in music from 2011 and Fur Eel was one of Mike Shiplack‘s selections. The rest of the selections are listed here.

History, Mythology, Astrology & LORE

Today I Caught The Plague

6-Piece Progressive Metal | Ottawa, Ontario

Highlights:

  • 2 CDs released since 2008 (EP) & Full length 2011
  • 7 independently booked tours (including 2 across Canada)
  • Protest The Hero (Direct Support Tour)
  • NXNE Music Festival, Scene Music Festival

Today I Caught The Plague

When a word like “plague” is included in a band name, a perception is immediately created and the band is almost always placed in the death metal category. Such is not the case for Today I Caught The Plague, a 6-piece progressive metal band from Ottawa, Ontario. Taking inspiration from various historical events, mythology, and even astrological constellations, the lyrical content of TICTP’s songs is equally matched with beautiful vocal melodies with occasional screams that send chills down your spine. A direction many metal bands aspire to move in, with only a few achieving it. Moving on from the band’s front man, two guitarists blister solos while the rhythm section rocks with a bass guitarist, keyboardist, and drummer. Regardless of what instrument a band member plays, their presence is made known by being seen and heard as they thrash on stage, while cans of light flash from behind them.

Having toured multiple times throughout Ontario and to Eastern Canada, Today I Caught The Plague have only been to Western Canada twice. As a lead up to their Western Canadian leg of their Lore Tour, the band joined Protest The Hero for their Ontario swing as the direct support band.

“We’ve gotten a lot more interest since the release of the full length album but because we have a history of touring so much, it shows people that we are a serious working band.”
~Today I Caught The Plague

Indie403 caught the plague on their way through Calgary prior to their October 6th show at The New Black Centre For Arts.

Steve Rennie: “We’ve done the West Coast once before, but it’s just harder for us to get to. We’ve done the East Coast and Southern Ontario a bunch of times. It’s hard to get out of Ontario because there’s not a lot of places to play, and it’s a lot of long drives.”

For a band returning to the Canadian West Coast for only the second time, lead singer Dave Journeaux stresses the importance of travelling from coast to coast. “We want to hit every town that we can. We’d go up north if it was feasible. We like Western Canada and there are people out here who want to see us, so we work really hard to make it out here.”

As a touring band, it’s not always easy to ensure that promotion is happening before a show. TICTP hire promoters but they don’t always do the greatest job. Constantly following up with a promoter and the event pages on Facebook are two simple ways they use in order to stay in the loop while on the road.

Dave: “We want to hit every town that we can. We design the posters and send them off to promoters, but it’s not always well received. We do as much as we can from where we are. We can rely on a promoter to do their part, but we are always going to promote our shows and our product. It’s always nice to see promoters do a great job because it means that we will go back to them again and we will send other bands to them.

“We do work with some great promoters who post up posters at the venue and in the surrounding area, who push the Facebook event page and the band page, and ones who reach out to anyone that can help promote the show, and repost the event leading up to the show.”

Today I Caught The Plague

Steve: “When we go to a music store, we always look at the posters and even bring in a poster to put up, and we leave stickers and ad cards at the front cash.

“We find out where locals are going and we leave our stuff at those places in order to promote for the show.”

Dave: “Promoters today are doing extra promotional contests for the shows. They’ll have extra incentives for people if they invite a certain amount of people to the event or if the event page reaches a certain number they will give them a discount on ticket prices or a discount on tickets for another show to support the music scene in their area.

“The scene has been a little dead in the last little while but it seems to be revitalizing. Our last East Coast Tour was really scarce. We went out there and we were literally out there for 5 days and 3 of those days were shows. Other East Coast tours we would go for at least 2-3 weeks and we’d have like a day or two off. It’s been a lull in the scene, but we’ve heard that this happens pretty much every 3 years. From this tour, we’ve seen a stronger response in the West than we did in the East, which is the flip from what we experienced the last time we were out here.”

Today I Caught The Plague

With the music industry in its current state and more and more bands taking a do-it-yourself approach to self manage and operate for themselves, TICTP is one of the hardest and constant working bands that Canada has seen to date. Everything from the band website, show bookings, vehicle maintenance, graphic design, and video production, on top of the actual rehearsing, writing, and other daily band related items are all taken care of by the band members. Did we mention that they all have their own full time job as well?

Having just returned home from their Lore Tour, be sure to check out their website to keep up to date on the latest news and shows and visit their online store to purchase their music and very attractive clothing.

Alkatine Is Here To Stay

For the past year, the name Alkatine has been gaining strength around the Calgary music scene. And for good reason: the rock band has been taking the city by storm, playing high-energy shows and earning legions of fans with each turn. With the buzz they’ve already created and the exciting prospects for the near future, Alkatine doesn’t need a crystal ball to see that they’re on their way to huge success, something that just seems to follow them everywhere they go.

2011 has been an exciting year for Alkatine. Typically playing two shows per week to great crowds, the guys have been all over Calgary and beyond, reaching huge milestones and accomplishments for young guys barely out of high school.

By late June, Alkatine is already beaming over the success they’ve had this year. “We’ve already done a lot,” says drummer Doug Pocasangre. “Playing Beerfest was huge. That was amazing, getting to play there. … We’ve had shows outside of the city, Canmore, High River, [and] we’re doing Vancouver in the summer. … And we just got Penny, too, like eight days ago.”

“Penny” is the band’s new van, a white beast of a girl that seems more like a small apartment on wheels. It is in Penny that the boys are discussing music, the band, and the future on a warm Thursday evening, just hours before jumping onstage at Calgary’s Dickens Pub. The band’s energy is contagious, and the conversation is punctuated by laughter, flowing smoothly from one topic to the next. Taking turns throughout the banter are Doug, lead vocalist Brady (Ripper) Riplinger, guitarist Kurtis Lovas, and bass player Blair Lilley. These guys are fun, and they’re so open and inviting that it’s hard to not love them. Practically finishing each other’s sentences, they show incredible chemistry and a strong connection rarely found among four people.

On how they came together, the boys are thankful. “Me and Doug started playing together in grade nine … in guitar class,” reflects Kurtis. “And then it just built from there. We had a band, we had a few gigs. … It broke up, and then we recruited Blair on bass, took him away from sports and converted him to music.”

Brady adds, “Then by the grace of something Kurtis and I met each other and just formed something that I think is so hard to find anywhere else… It was too good to be true.”

“It was a solid fit,” agrees Kurtis. “We were all so comfortable with each other.”

The way they look at it, their relationship is like a big happy marriage, and as a thoughtful Brady suggests, the boys have been lucky to come together in such a fateful way.

Regarding their success, however, “lucky” might not be the word to use. Alkatine’s success is well-deserved, and has been earned over months of hard work. In the works now is their first album, to be released later this year. The album has been a labour of love for the group, and they are in no rush to force its completion. “We’d rather put out good quality than just something to listen to,” stresses Blair, and while the band knows that fans are excited, they are taking extra time to finish the process. As Doug emphasizes, “We want to be proud of it, not just produce something that’s half-assed.”

At the same time, fans have a reason to be excited for the release of Alkatine’s first album. They’ve enlisted the help of Calgary producer and recording engineer Brad Taylor, who has also worked with Alkatine’s friends and other well-known local band Black Phoenix Orchestra (BPO). Brad’s approach to recording fits right in with Alkatine’s style, and they have been working hard to perfect and polish the band’s first official release. “Brad’s a cool guy. … You can’t really work with somebody you can’t hang out with, but we can go to the bar and have drinks and it’s cool,” says Doug, adding that Brad’s efforts and patience have pushed Alkatine to create an album they’re proud of. The guys all agree that they have been lucky to connect with Brad, and look forward to the final product. “The wait is worth it,” promises Kurtis.

In the meantime, Alkatine has a lot going on. They’ve got shows booked throughout the summer, including a mud-wrestling show at The Blind Beggar during Stampede and a western road trip at the end of July. They’re also opening for Throne of Vengeance on August 5 when the metal band returns from their cross-country tour. Fans of Alkatine have a lot to look forward to this summer, and the band is ready to prove why they’re seen as the next big thing.

Despite this year’s accomplishments, the boys are still humble and modest, and are proud of their success, if not a bit surprised. But lead singer Brady is quick to point out that they’re not done yet: “We’re in this for life,” he says, a slow smile stretching across his face. “And we’re not going to stop.”

Check out Alkatine by visiting their Myspace page or Facebook, and stay tuned for more information regarding the release of their first album.