Reasons Why Local Artists Don’t Get Signed

 By David Lowry

Dealing with the local music scene these days is very challenging for management, booking, promotion companies and record labels. To be able to get any artist to the next level requires being able to take the package and sell it to the public or other entertainment professionals or companies. Unfortunately, too often the product is rarely worth buying or even helping to promote further. Bands and artists tend to have this notion that, “Without the music you have nothing,” when dealing with industry professionals. While this is true to an extent, it’s not the whole story. In the industry, we can hire songwriters that have a proven track record, hire musicians to record it and make our own successful bands that we own completely and can control. We don’t need local artists with attitudes, little work ethic or strive not be productive in furthering their own careers. We all do what we love for a reason. It’s not always about being successful but for the satisfaction for seeing someone achieve their dreams so we keep diving into the murky waters of local musicians to find those that are worth partnering with.

The package, as we refer to the artist’s business plan or presentation, has to be ready to go and that is the artist’s responsibility to get there. It doesn’t fall on anyone’s shoulders to make this happen except for you. There is no excuse, what with all the free info out on the internet in books and magazines, that an artist can’t figure out the basics of the business, create a presentation and become attractive to the people that can help them get to the next level. Until that happens, it’s hard to get a manager, booking agent or anyone else to be excited about making 0% of 0% because the artist has created absolutely no demand for themselves. The money isn’t available in the industry for developmental deals as it was say 15-years ago. Thus the artist’s chances of getting signed on with professional representations are slimmer if they don’t present an attractive market value. Here are a few of the reasons that artists intentionally shoot themselves in the proverbial foot. This is by no means a comprehensive list, just some very obvious points.

  • Not Booking Enough Shows: Most bands/artists want others to do this for them but in truth and reality, the artist should be booking their own shows until they are gigging at least 80-dates a year regionally and making money doing it. Why would anyone in the industry want to waste time booking a band that isn’t willing to do it themselves, does not understand the basics of promotion and end up making a small percentage of absolutely nothing for their work? There are no short cuts here. Pick up the phone and dial for dollars.


  • Poor Promotion: Most artists spend very little time and effort promoting and usually post a gig once or twice on some form of social media expecting people to see it and show up on such short notice. This is absolutely pathetic. Especially in a band with several members, usually only one person promotes it. In no way shape or form is this acceptable, nor will anyone in the industry look kindly on an artist that does this. You don’t deserve to get paid at all if this is how you sell your band. Believe it or not, we all look at this and notice how well people promote themselves. Also, social media sites are not the only form or promotion needed. You still need flyers, advertisements and many other forms of creative promotion. It is not everyone else’s job to do all your promotion. When you are looking for opportunities with your gigs and no one shows up for your shows, you lose on many levels and miss out on opportunities.


  • Misuse Of Social Media: If all you do is complain about the venues, management or any other form of the music business, you are signing your death warrant. Again, people in the industry and your peers see this and who would want to book you back at a venue or assist your band if this is your level of professionalism. You are a business, act like it. Grow up and quit using your bands page to complain. If you want to do that, do it in private where we can’t see it. This is common sense that seems to have escaped many artists.


  • Wasting Time Goofing Off On Facebook: If you have time to post a million personal things on Facebook but don’t promote your show then you aren’t serious about this business. Stop spending time goofing off and start making things happen for your music. Facebook is a great networking tool when used right. The excuse, “I am so busy,” is quite weak when we can see your profile. This goes for both sides of the business, not just artists.


  • Not Getting Back To People: When you approach someone and ask for their advice, services or whatever else and say, “I’ll get back to you,” then do it.  The usual excuse again is, “Sorry, I was so sick” or “I have been so busy” but again we can see your social media so if you are well enough or have time to do that, you are well enough to practice a common courtesy and get back in touch with people, regardless of the outcome you decide on. This applies to getting back to people on booking a show, a meeting, or any other situation involving your band, music or related promotions. It is also basic good business manners.


  • Not Doing Your Research: Approaching people about services they don’t even offer. This happens all of the time. You see a business name and just assume at what they do but don’t even research the company. You are wasting everyone’s time and showing how lazy and unprofessional you are.


  • Not Accepting Gigs Because You Don’t Have The Money: “Sorry we don’t have the money to drive that far,” is a ridiculous excuse for a local or regional booking. You don’t have the money to drive to open a new market but you do have money to buy beer, party with your friends, buy drugs, go camping or visit someone three states away. Again, your Facebook page gives this all away. If you do not want to play a show for specific reasons, then politely decline, thus hopefully leaving the door open for future shows. If you aren’t able to be dedicated to your vision and dream by planning in advance and having a band fund for specific use: gear, travel, other expenses then don’t even bother approaching anyone. You can’t build a solid fan base if you aren’t playing out.
  • Not Having An Appropriate Press Kit: Everyone has been doing this long enough to know you need one. No matter if you are a band, solo artist or musician looking for extra work. Everyone should have an electronic press kit (EPK) and/or hard copy press kit. Sending someone to Facebook, Myspace, Reverbnation, YouTube or other social music site, while a plus, is not a replacement for a professional media kit. If you don’t have one, you do not show serious business regard for your own career so why should anyone in the industry.


  • Sending One Line Emails Saying You Need Representation: Again if you don’t have a press kit and you can’t take the time to compose proper business letter and introduction about yourself or your band, don’t even bother. All you are doing is showing how lazy you really are. Be professional, always.


  • Only Being Able To Play Weekends: We are all looking for bands than can tour, not just play every now and then. It’s hard to break a new market and build a fan base when you can only play one quarter of the year. Not only that, but you are competing with so many other bands for these bookings when weeknights are so much easier to get. This is why people with families often get passed by. It’s too hard to coordinate everything. We all make choices in life and once you decide to get married and have kids more often than not you aren’t able to be on the road enough. This does not apply to everyone, as many do have support systems in place to allow for travel. If you are serious about your career, have this support system in place. No one makes any money if you can’t play so they won’t sign you. It may not be fair but everyone involved has to pay their bills so why would anyone sign a band that can’t make them money? It’s not about the music when it comes to getting signed, it’s about people earning a living.


  • Expecting To Work Without A Contract: First of all, one of the main rules of the music business is…always get a contract, so why you would you even consider asking someone to work with you without one? Why would a smart business owner work relentlessly to help you further your career just so you can walk away with the success they brought you? If another agency comes along and offers you a deal and you choose to go with them, with out a contract featuring a ‘buy-out clause’ your former manager or agent is screwed and may be liable for future booking, promotions or business deals being worked for your project. The standard industry rap goes that the “industry and music business” people are the ones that screw over the artists but I know from experience that artists are fabulous about breaching contracts because they do not want to pay someone. Our courts are full of artists being sued by companies for breach of contract so it goes both ways. No one should EVER work without a contract, period. No one should risk his or her business on a promise or handshake agreement. You will get the short end of the stick every time.

After years of doing this and dealing with all types and genres of artists, the most common reason for artists not getting signed is that they are not focused on their end goal. They spend money on things they don’t need such as alcohol, drugs or video games instead of putting it into their careers and business package where it needs to go. To be successful means spending money on your career, missing friends because you are busting your butt working hard, and taking your act on the road into new markets. Don’t expect your team to do it for you, to be focused on you and your career when you can’t even do it for yourselves. This makes no sense what so ever. Again, no one in the industry will get involved with an artist that can’t and won’t work as hard as everyone else.

These are also many of the reasons most artists will be let go by a professional company. More often then not, these reasons make it very, very difficult to promote you and sell your package and product or in general, make anything happen for you. This is a business and the artist needs to treat it like one. Be professional at all times, work hard always and get focused. Quit blaming everyone else for what you are not doing for yourself.

Without having a great package to work with and sell, people just aren’t interested in not being able to make any money. It is the artist’s responsibility to build their business to an appropriate level before expecting or seeking help. Remember this is business and everyone needs to make money, not just the artist.

Good Luck!

184 thoughts on “Reasons Why Local Artists Don’t Get Signed

  1. Dear Mr. Lowry,

    My name is Larry “Fallout” Morris from the Saint Louis Hip Hop Fusion Band “iLLPHONiCS”. I stumbled upon this post via STLHipHop on my twitter feed. I must say that your post is simply put amazing. Everything you speak of we as a band have encountered or currently are encountering. Even though there aren’t any labels developing artist post like this help young and up coming artist such as myself do a more effective job of developing ourselves. I plan on printing out this post and doing everything I can to fine tune our band on all the points you have made. Again, wonderful post and hopefully one day I will be able to look back and say it was info like yours that helped get iLLPHONiCS to the next level!

    Thanks,
    Fall

    1. ” Not Doing Your Research: Approaching people about services they don’t even offer. This happens all of the time. You see a business name and just assume at what they do but don’t even research the company. You are wasting everyone’s time and showing how lazy and unprofessional you are.”

      look at the top of the page…

  2. Great article David, I am amazed at how little so many do for themselves while griping about how they “can’t get a break” — Thanks as always for setting it straight… T

  3. This was a good read, very nice to see others trying to put advice out there for the newer musicians. I would add another thought in there though. Supporting fellow musicians of all walks of life. You don’t have to like the music a person or band plays, however showing respect for the work they’ve done will at the very least keep your from being labeled a prima donna, rockstar. or what have you. Noone wants to deal with a musician who thinks they are better than everyone else, even if they are that good.

    1. That is sooo true vince!!!! I can relate to this! I currently play in a local band and people are contstantly complaining about how the CT music scene is supposedly “dying”, well part of it is because band members get so wrapped up in immature drama or they create “cliques” and don’t reach out to other acts of different genre’s or they disrespect other bands because they don’t like their sounds. I don’t understand it myself why bands hate on each other rather than pulling together and help each other out by booking more gigs. People don’t wanna go to a show and get punched in the face because they’re not “hardcore”

  4. David,

    It appears to me that you hit the nail right on the head, with not only one , but all points! Thank you for taking your time to help others understand some of the main points of the business. I enjoyed reading!

  5. I work with bands to teach them how to use social media to maximum effect (and minimum distraction) and many points you posted are consistent in what i see unsuccessful bands doing or not doing. A basic press kit so industry people can see, hear and watch a band is just a given but many don’t have one. I really think many bands are not lazy but just really dont know how to go that next step and are perhaps embarrassed to ask. Your blog hits all the spots with no bs. Loved reading it.

  6. Great article Dave,it seems like common sense but it’s surprising how many bands just don’t understand the principles of building a small business.

  7. Thank You, I have been looking for a way to let the users of my facebook and website know what they need to do, to get farther in their careers. This is very well put !. The website is for local live bands across the United States.

  8. I like your article here and agree with most of it. I have 2 things to comment on. #1. You state that bands need to play as often as possible in the region but I have found that the opposite is true. As soon as we cut our playing by 2/3rds, our attendance rose around 60 to 70% and we started making a lot more money VS expenses which is important in these days and times. In this day of fast paced multimedia, the fans get burned out quick. Either you change your whole stage show every time you play or you reduce the times you play. When you play so much, your giving your fans too many opportunities to see you thus cutting your show attendance down each time you play. We look at it like this… give them a taste. Don’t burn them out. Make it to where they either come to your show now or they won’t get an opportunity to see you for a while. If I was looking to sign a band… I’d be looking for business thoughts and strategies like that.

    Second… no offense but again, in these days in times… is there really that big of an advantage in getting signed? Personally, I have completely stopped listening to the radio because I think the major labels are completely out of touch of what fans want, like or what is even good music. Everything coming out these days sounds like everyone else or something already done. The only originality I hear are from bands that aren’t signed and not tainted by major label producing. Nothing is cutting edge. Everything is limited with no depth and really… I see indie labels and unsigned bands being the ones that are on the cutting edge these days. You don’t need terrestrial radio anymore… there are some great and growing internet radio out there now that are glad to play you without major label influence or payoffs. The labels and radio stations over play all the major acts and cuts the bands life in half… making it seem like none of the major acts have staying power. There are no Metallicas, Madonas or NINs anymore because of this. It seems the major labels squeeze all they can out of bands and then move on to the next… not good in my opinion. No room for the growing the artist into an epic one.

    Don’t take this wrong…. I think what you have written here is good info and important whether you get signed or not.

    Thank You
    Sean Mooer
    CYBERTRYBE

    1. Sean,

      Thanks for reading the article! On your first point, A region is a huge space and their is no way you can over saturated with so many locations to play. Plus as bigger industry people are looking for bands that can make it happen this is the #1 that it can. I have toured this country for years and would completely 100% disagree with your point. This is the #1 rule in making it period. Play as much as possible. You won’t find another professional or musician who has made it disagree. If you only play around your area then yes over saturation can happen.

      On your 2nd point, the article isn’t just about a label and while those deals are few and far between, a label is your best way for most bands for tour support assuming the label has the capital to do that. The article reads getting signed by anyone be it management, labels, booking agents (that are any good) and so on.

      I appreciate your comments but I have 30 years in the business and list of professionals that have done it longer and better that don’t disagree with me at all. I stand by what I say and what I write.

      I am glad you are finding success and wish you much more!

      1. …but if the band has been touring around the country for years and has a fanbase and is making a little money, then why does said band need tour support? or even a label? don’t you see the catch 22 the industry has created? not every band has the ability to leave their state/jobs/families to tour nonstop while making no money doing so. also most people cant spend all hard earned cash on their band either (you did say to never turn down gigs due to money? so how do we fill the gas tank? with cds & tshirts?). With this logic, how am i even supposed to work a job? and even if one member is able to, doesnt mean all 4 or 5 can. You also say to save up/grow up and put aside money or you’re not serious about your career…but if i’m doing all that…then why the hell would i invest into a band? so i can be on the road all the time, have labels breathing down my neck, and barely make a living from it? you’re pretty much saying to work a fulltime job….save it all so you can pay for your band to be working nonstop on the road and then spend it all so MAYBE you can make someone else (label, manager) money while you’re living the “dream” of being broke on the road? i dunno, just seems like the industry is asking A LOT out of the artist nonadays because THEY dont want to take any of the risk. they know that bands are a dime a dozen nowadays while most dream of getting signed. honestly, i agree with the guy above in that you really don’t need a label, you just need a lot money, hard work (you’re working hard anyway, arent you?), and a little bit of know-how…and i think labels are scared about this. honestly, im fine with just working with bands in my studio and playing locally while just having fun and creating/recording music im into…but i guess i lost the will to get “signed” years ago….

        my advice to young bands….don’t worry about getting signed. just have fun, create good music, and if you’re able to make some money on the side…awesome! if you are worried about being signed…then have fun with all that!

        also, if labels can just make manufacted music so much easier and cheaper, then why dont they? because it sucks! its fake and most people can see through that. plus…. they wont get the free “slave” labor that comes with a band wanting to go out of the road and eating shit for $10-$15 a day. real hired musicans would never do that, they would want atleast a salary paycheck, which labels would never pay. i just love how you make it seem like its not about that and its about “watching someone achieve their dream” haha ya right. i thought it was about the music? nope, its about the money. you said it yourself.

        1. 100% agree Jeff. To many avenues to push you band or music today. The only thing missing is the dream, only thing is even the artists who were signed, never made money, except for the superstars. The labels wanna get back in the game and are desperately trying to re-plant that big dream in kids heads….way to tell it like it is.

  9. David I read your article and couldn’t agree more.For thirty years as a working musician I followed these principles to the point where when my new partner and I decided to have children I gave up the business for the first five years of the children’s lives simply because the act of touring and gigging really does take all you have to give if you wish to make money in this business.Now the time has come to go back to the road and again I will be applying all of the principles you espoused and again My working partner and I (Glenn Dunkling) will make a good living doing what we love.For older musicians the thought of getting a “deal” with anyone isn’t that realistic(though still possible) therefor making a solid living from your craft becomes even more important.For us this is achieved simply by putting all our time, energies and resources into being our own booking agents,advertisers,record producers and printers etc and by making sure all of the product we produce is as professional as our budget can handle at the time.You mentioned being professional in all your dealings with anyone in the industry but I would extend that ideal to being professional and courteous to everyone you meet as a working musician.Far too many times I have seen great young acts destroy their own chances at success by being rude/drunk/stoned or just plain arrogant to someone they don’t know who later turns out to have been important who might have helped them along the way to success.Coming back into the business can be as daunting as just starting out yet the same principles apply to both situations.Conduct yourself at all times as though you were an employee representing your company which in essence you are,in fact doing.being a capable,courteous and professional person is the ONLY way to get ahead in this business no matter what level or function you may perform within it.Because as you say ..Business is business no matter what you do and why do it all if you cannot do it well?
    Thank you very much for your concise and accurate assessments and I will be eagerly following your post from here on in.
    David Jeffree

    1. David,

      Thanks for your enthusiasm for this article! I am glad you digging back into the deep waters of the business and wish you the best of luck with that! Please follow the blog on here or on Facebook through networked blogs and thank you for your positive comments!

      David

  10. “Not Getting Back To People.” Very Interesting here. I think this goes both way and is terribly abused by those in the “Industry.” There is no excuse for taking more than 48 hours to respond to an artist…..no matter how high or low the profile. As a business owner, I would fire my salesmen if I found out they did not respond to a customer the same day. The response of venues, booking agents and promoters is the most unprofessional I have seen in any profession. There is no coincidence why bars close, agents are fired and music row is crumbling. Return a phone call, be polite and tell the truth. Respect goes both ways and is earned, not given.

    1. I have to disagree a bit here. I won’t reply to bands/artists that don’t take the time to write a proper cover letter/email explaining who they are, what they are looking for and attaching a professional press kit. I don’t have the time to reply everyone who sends an email or tweet.

      If you want to be treated as professional and get response, you need to ACT professional no matter what level you are at. Barring that then yes I would say everyone deserves a response in a timely manner. 48 may not be the amount of time as there is so much work to do but within 2 weeks depending on the request is an adequate amount of time. No self respecting business man is going to put not making money ahead of making money nor is any manager gonna spend time on clients he doesn’t represent to answer emails or phone calls for those that he doesn’t. Clients come first then they can respond to all the other requests. The sheer volume of requests make it impossible for a 48 hour turn around. But point well taken!

      Thanks for reading the blog and all the best to you!

      1. Sorry David.. but I think this person makes a good point. I can’t tell you how many labels/management companies and such have never replied after basically BEGGING us to sign with them. Many labels have been very interested in us.. and then somehow fail to respond after a while. Industry pros need to learn this too…

        If they lose interest in a band or something, they need to be straightforward. Ignoring is simply immature..

        1. Andy,

          Again it you read it I referred it needs to be both sides of the business. I don’t know your band so I can’t be sure about anything as it pertains to you, but if you can’t get 40 people to a show then the labels or companies asking your probably aren’t worth signing with anyway. They haven’t done their due diligence to make sure you were at the level needed to have professional representation. Maybe they found out later I don’t know. It’s a common thing in every business where no one gets back to you but my blog isn’t for other professionals, it’s for independent musicians.

          Keep plugging away and hopefully one day someone will pull the trigger!

          Good luck!

          David

  11. David, I think you put a lot of good strong content in this blog. I enjoyed reading and look forward to looking through the rest of your blog. I can only say keep making things happen, seeing people make their dreams come true and thank you so much for all the guidance you gave to people with this incite.

    Peace in harmony, until again…
    ~ Thomas J Bellezza

  12. I wish it was easier to do all of this. My band “Abide By Me” are all pretty much in high school still never have money for things. Nobody takes us seriously, because we don’t have any merch. Some people need to realize that most of these bands are high school students with unrealistic dreams and insufficient funds. I know I personally am under this category. Once we have something to brag about, I will try my hardest to follow these steps. Hopefully something good will come out of it. I don’t want to put my absolute everything into it, if nothing comes out of it at all. I am honestly risking doing school work at home, because all I want to do is play music. My dream (as a band) is to travel the world and share something new. Start something new.

    1. Mitch,

      Thanks for reading the article and you have so much time ahead of you so don’t worry about it yet. If you are in high school you can’t really go on the road anyway unless your parents support you in it. Work hard, study hard and then when you are out of school you will be ready to take on the world!

      Much luck!

      David

    2. they don’t care tho. they just want to work super hard for free because its your “passion” and then they can reap the benefits by making money off of a established band already..this way they have to put very little into it. the industry doesnt want to build artists or bands anymore…they want you to pay for & do it all first and then they’ll come in when you’re doing alright. uh oh, i guess im “misusing my social media”…. seems like the industry wants the artist to be working 25 hours/8 days a eight a day (somehow?) while spending all their money on the band and STILL create great art. and they wonder why the industry is failing….that and also nobody buys music anymore. too available online for free….

  13. Enjoyed the read immensely. I fully espouse a lot of what you wrote but I find myself being cautious because I’m scared about what some of my members might say. They might not have the same commitment as I and then from there: where do we take it? The answer becomes obvious. It’s just a shame to put so much time and effort into a project and then it’s a shame when they don’t want to push it further. Still, I understand that if they’re not willing to move the music forward, you should leave. I just have a tough time grappling with this idea since I’m friends with the guys after years of playing and writing.

    Anyway, thanks for the read. Bookmarked and emailed to some of my members.

    1. Marc,

      We always come to this point it seems with a band and really all bands struggle with that. Ultimately you have to do what is best for your dreams and sometimes that may mean finding a new group that has the same drive, desire and intensity to make it happen. Thanks for reading the article!

      Good Luck!

      David

  14. Hi David, I really enjoyed the article, very good points. The issue that my band Headboard Jockeys are having is that many venues have a clause stating that the band cannot play in same area (some even quantify it as a 30 or more mile radius) for a certain duration before & after the scheduled show. Thus making the point of constantly playing shows to be impossible. I’m assuming that by region, you mean an area greater than this size. We’re going to expand our region after the holidays for more shows in a larger area.
    I’m having a similar issue to Sean Moer where oversaturation occurs and it’s hard to get our friends to come out to every single show we put on since we have them nearly every weekend. On top of this, most venues have a policy that the band must sell their own tickets, which can be hard asking the same people over & over again to come to shows. I understand that it’s a business and venues need to know that the bands are working as hard as they are to promote shows. Should we avoid places with this policy & instead do only those that have cover charges? I followed your advice to not turn down any shows, but I think an intelligent filter is sometimes necessary if you expect to draw and acquire new fans. Any advice here would be much appreciated, thank you for your time.

    1. Brian,

      A region is usually at least 3 states. With all the bars or other type of venues it would be really hard to over saturate your band with such a radius. If you constantly play in the same area then you do run that risk plus you never grow your fan base. Try to play the same place never more than once every three months.

      Best of luck!

      David

      1. The title of this blog is LOCAL bands not getting signed, not regional bands, which you keep referring to. These are 2 TOTALLY different animals. Most local bands nowadays play for practically nothing, because there are few clubs, and tons of bands, so the bands cut each others throats to get gigs. In this area, over the last 5 years, the going rate has gone from $100/musician/4 hour gig, to $50 or sometimes as low as $25/person. The clubs let the bands vie for who will play for the least money, or even go so far as to have bands sell admission tickets, and all the money goes to the club. One local club was doing this every 2 weeks, with up to 7 bands playing each night. A radio station just did the same thing. As musicians, we don’t mind advertising, calling friends, posting blogs & social media announcements, & printing flyers, etc., but we pay all the expenses, pay for the fuel to get there, bring in a crowd where the club is making several hundred dollars, and the band gets next to nothing, and also has to buy their own sodas.
        Regional bands have usually advanced to the stage where they are making a living as musicians (rather than playing on the weekends, which most local clubs want to pay even less for because that’s their “slow” nights). Major catch 22 here, as even those of us that have cd/dvd demos, business plans, etc, have to vie with other musicians that will play for next to nothing. You don’t get many gigs unless you’re willing to compromise and match price. If you do that, you can’t make enough to advance to the next level of regional musician, because you’re stuck working a 9-5 job so you can eat.
        Then an agent or manager or “label” comes along and says they want to help “nurture” the talent so that they can “realize their dreams” …bullshit! They do it because they can make money off the artist…bottom line.

  15. Pretty solid points.. but I gotta take the band’s sides for one of them. If a show is requesting you sell like 40+ tickets and you can’t get that many (if it’s too far, for example) and tickets are 10 bucks each.. some bands simply can’t afford to spend that at times.

    1. Andy,

      If you can’t get 40 people to a show then you don’t need management or any other professional service in first place. You don’t have that many venues that require that so I would avoid the venues that do if you can’t make that happen.

      David

  16. David,

    I appluad your article and regard it heavily. I belive every artist needs to read this, before they even get started. This is very insightful and true to logic. I’ll be taking your advice and thinking about my future promotion, with a optimized outlook. Thanks again.

    Joe

  17. Fantastic Article. I do agree with a majority of it, especially those comments in regards to the reputation a band or individual sets for themselves via social networking versus their professional motives.

    I will say that I have a different level of experience, and have only been involved for 12 years, but also notice a number of changes that come into play. Most of my work has been freelance marketing and design, as well as art direction and label management. My minor discrepancies are as follows:

    1. Press Kits. Every label i’ve worked with has scoffed and laughed at any and every press kit that has come into the office, if they even bothered to open them and read through. I’ve seen several professionally handled ones, and even then, they’re still laughed at for the “wasted effort.” I know you have some experience under your belt, and people still have an interest in these, but I’ve also seen labels fire and hire representatives left and right, and regardless of experience, everyone seems to consider the traditional press kit as a laughable waste of time. They seem to care more about the public impact made in terms of how broad and vocal a musician’s audience seems to be (which you already pointed out as well with touring prospect and efforts for artists to market themselves). Not challenging the idea of press kits here, just saying that they have increasingly become in effective and shallow to the nature of a band’s success since the age of the internet formality has come into fruition.

    2. Bands being expected to play frequently, and not just weekends. In this economy, it is difficult to expect an unsigned band to drop everything and play a show whenever it is convenient for someone else. Most bands that have developed success for themselves without outside support have done so with money they have saved and earned, and often times from jobs that require members in a band to work week days regularly. Some are lucky otherwise to have jobs that allow them to be flexible and bend a bit, but most career fields will often fire someone in a band to have someone work for them that is more dedicated to being a growing / permanent part of that company. The flexible jobs are generally part time and have a low pay-grade, and can only supply a band member with so much money to live his life. If a band has an opportunity to tour full time and make a living doing it, it’s a different story, but until then, I, nor anyone else, can expect them to quit their jobs for a show that may or may not help advance their musical careers.

    Yes, i do acknowledge that many musicians like to waste money on selfish, needless interests (like drugs and alcohol and partying). However, there are many that don’t and still struggle financially. It is unfair to overlook talent that aren’t inherently wealthy and able to do nothing but play music and survive without outside help or parents money. As it stands, most popular bands lately are made up of youthful kids right out of high school, as they are still under their parents’ roof and have very few bills. With that also being said, these kids know very little about business etiquette, and those that do get signed are based of social awareness and internet fame, and not necessarily talent or performance.

    You could say that people who prefer to keep their jobs ought to keep music as a hobby and not look for it to be a career, but then we end up dealing with people who often times lack a level of maturity or understanding as far as their expectations go when it comes to treating their band as a business endeavor when they do want that to be their career success.

    3. The Contract. This one is depressing for me because I wish everything was still done by contract, but a lot of the industry has been moving away from that as competition and over saturation rises. Labels still obviously have signing contracts, but as for external needs, many in regards to marketing assets and materials, contracts have been thrown out the window. Mainly because bands and representation fear a heightened responsibility that comes with a legal bind in this growing, independent market. I know of many managers and booking agents that have dismissed contracts for the opportunity of work with a band, and many bands and labels who have dismissed contracts with designers for album art or merch designs in case of not wanting to pay for work they may not be fully happy with. There have been many instances in my past where I’ve been requested of work, and everything goes smoothly until a contract is presented, and the client (label, band, or manager) backs out. Contracts do still exist between booking agencies and venues as well, but I know of many venue’s who have ignored such contracts of young and upcoming bands because of the questionable turnout for that band or tour package’s event. It’s saddening.

    Nonetheless, all in all, you really nailed a lot of great points, and it’s good to have these sort of articles exist. Thanks for your effort put forth, I was definitely pleased to read it.

    1. Aaron,

      Thanks for your comments however press kits aren’t just for labels first off and second labels don’t scoff at them. They are required. What they scoff at are crappy ones.

      Playing frequently is the only option. It isn’t that hard to due and if you bring enough people to your shows, your door deal will pay the costs at minimum so money isn’t an issue.

      Being talented has very little to do with the industry. Hard work is way more desirable than talent. Talent has a tendency to make people lazy and that just the truth. Just because you are talented doesn’t mean you should have a better shot. You have to work just as hard to make it. Work 3 jobs if you have to get where you need to be financially and then focus on the performing etc…. Also it doesn’t matter the age. When you are in school you are taught to research and learn and with all the available info out there for free there is NO EXCUSE for not having some clue. It’s plain laziness and these are just excuses. The financial situation or age for bands today isn’t any different then 20 or 30 years ago. Hell at least you don’t have to pay to play anymore like I did when I was out doing this and we were all in high school looking to make it.

      Contracts are very necessary and the only way to protect your business. I know very few who have tossed them aside. It’s not worth it to do that.

      Thanks for your input though! Glad you found this at least somewhat accurate.

      David

      1. “Just because you are talented doesn’t mean you should have a better shot. You have to work just as hard to make it. Work 3 jobs if you have to get where you need to be financially and then focus on the performing etc…. Also it doesn’t matter the age.”

        ::face palm:: and you wonder why music sucks currently?

  18. This is sooo true. Every one thinks some label rep. Is just gonna happen to find them and sign them like that! They dont do more then half of this stuff. My band is about to release an EP and were currently gettin a press kit put together, promoting is so hard. This is great advice and im glad i stubled upon this, thank you! Great blog!

  19. David – I develop and manage indie Christian artists and bands. I’ve been in this business for over 20 years. Your post is spot on! Many artists and bands think all they need to provide is “talent” and we (the industry) are supposed to take all the risks and invest in their development. Very few are willing to invest in themselves, but they want all the gain. I spend much of my time educating artists on how the business model has changed (that proverbial “paradigm shift”) and how they better get with the program if they want to be successful. I will be sharing your post with my clients, both current and prospective.

  20. Excellent article! I’m a band/music photographer specializing in high-end promo images, press kits, and album covers. It amazes me how many bands out there subscribe to the notion that they should dump every penny of their hard-earned cash into recording an album and then completely skimp out on marketing & self-promotion. I mean, who flipping cares if your album sounds amazing if nobody’s even listening to it?

    It’s all about perception, and having professional photos in your press kit, on your website, and on your social media profiles is absolutely essential. You also need to have consistent branding, with unique, instantly recognizable logos and graphics. Your buddy down the street with a $500 Best Buy camera and a pirated copy of Photoshop is probably not going to be able to provide the level of quality you need to stand out in the ever-crowded music industry, so do yourself a favor and hire a professional. It’s like I tell all my prospective clients: Remember– people will hear your music with their EYES first!!

    Anyway, thanks again for your insights….I’ll be sharing this article in all of my social media streams.

    -Russ

    PS- There’s a fantastic (and free) step-by-step guide on finding and choosing the right band photographer here:

    http://tampabandphotos.com/how-to-choose-a-band-photographer

  21. Blown away by the accuracy, to put it simple wow. I myself as a artist in the making didnt look at it like that. I really do appreciate the insight, thank you.

  22. David,

    I hear you and agree on all points. Let me ask you a question about playing as much as possible: how do you recommend breaking into a market you have never played before? We have found it difficult to sell ourselves to venues who want us to play weekday nights out of town somewhere to prove ourselves, and we know we can’t deliver an audience. We’ve tried the gig swapping thing, but a lot of bands don’t want to “waste” a favor on a band they know won’t draw for them even in a gig swap situation.It seems like a big catch 22. I am sure many bands posting here have been in situations where you’ll drive 3 or 4 hours to do a show on a Wednesday, 6 or 8 of your local fans will come, and the club doesn’t have you back since you played to mostly chairs. It seems counterproductive.

    We all hear all kinds of different feedback on points like this. What say you?

    Thanks!

    Mike

  23. HEY ….. ,,,, U FORGOT Some VERY VERY IMPORTANT FACTS !!! 1 You’ve Got to Provide Music That’s Unique Enough To Be Seen ,,, 2 Stand Out In Front Of The Current Line Up Being Played On The Radio , 3 Reach A Wider Range oF Music Buying Listeners 2 insure Investors’ your Worth Their Money , And 4 Absolutely Never Do Anything In The recording Studio That You cant Take On the Road , And 100 % Accurately Reproduce ,,, INVENT The Wheel Again 🙂

  24. I agree 100%. true words man!
    I sometimes think that some bands/artists rely too much on the internet and not enough of what’s out there in the real world. They might have some success at promoting themselves online but it’s a different kind of beast when it’s done in the clubs, pubs, or venues. Simply because it’s live and people will see it for what it is oppose to doing it from the computer and online sites.
    So that can give artists/bands a false sense of security because they might be just perceiving it as just that and thinking they’re onto much bigger things. Then that’s when they might begin to think they’re much bigger than it really is.

    1. Thanks for reading my blog and the comment. Promotion is always a tricky animal and usually never done enough by anyone involved. Unfortunately, a band rarely does enough and no matter what a venue does or a promoter, a band is a business and it needs to promote as hard as possible in spite of the good or bad promotion done by anyone else. That is all they can control.

  25. Dave,

    I just wanna say that this article is pure genius and so well put. So much fantastic advice for my band In Your Words that we can use. I’m glad someone actually took the time to write this out and explain it. AWESOME!

    Thanks so much for this!

    Jake

  26. 100% agree in all what you say in this article. Hate when people say: I don’t have money…and then they spend hundreads of dollars in usefull things, parties, clothes…but then they don’t have money.
    A band is an investment, so don’t expect to be “the one” from day to night. Work yuor ass off on the rehersal room and when you have a good product try to sell it as best as you can and do whatever it needs to make your dream true.
    Thanks for this awesome article.
    Cheers from Spain.

    1. Marc,

      Thanks for reading the article and sharing your insights! Money is the key and something everyone will struggle with for sure. No matter if you are the band or the business, to get anywhere it usually takes money and we need to fund our own dreams!

  27. i loved this article, david. i run my own promotion company, & i’m still pretty new to the business side of things. in my area, not a whole lot of bands have places to play due to the bad rep of our local metal scene. right now, i’m tryin’ to make opportunities for local bands to play in my town. we don’t even have a music venue right now, but i’m workin’ on changin’ that so the local bands have a good reliablle place to play. this article has many great points for me to learn from as well to not only help my company strive, but also help the bands as well. yes, this may be my business, but i’m not tryin’ to rip off the bands i work with. i only take a small cut, & they get the rest. i’m more about the passion for music than the money.

    1. Bill,

      Thanks for taking the time to read my blog! And thanks for busing your but to give your local bands opportunities. This business is so hard that any opportunity can really help. To be honest, I rarely run into anyone who rips anyone off. It’s usually a lack of understanding on the bands part for the costs of doing promotion. Many promoters barely break even if at all when they put on their local shows. Best of luck in your endeavors and thank you for making it happen!

  28. A nice article for those interested in exploiting music for money rather than creating art purely out of love and devotion.

    1. Matt,

      Thanks for reading and adding your two cents. In case you didn’t know, people hire companies to “make money” when they have gotten to a level that they can actually demand it. We assume that all musicians are doing this for the love and passion, but for those that actually want to make a living at it, then well you have to run a business. What is the point of playing live if you don’t want to sell your CD, or why do you charge a cover? You are always exploiting your music for money.

      Best of luck with what you are doing!

  29. Well said. This also goes for the non artists too. Dont watch your life pass you by and sit there wishing you had done something. I am guilty of that. Sieze the opportunity while you can! I couldve been out there being a “somebody”. Probly still…stage fright is a sonna na beach. Lol Get out there & do your thing!!! 😉

    1. Susie,

      Thanks for your comments! We are all guilty of that I think. It can be very hard to be motivated sometimes especially when overwhelmed with all that work that has to be done. The hardest part is usually the first step so like you say “Get out there and do your thing!”

  30. This article is stupid, negative and condescending.

    Why not put some effort into educating people about what they should do rather than ranting about what you perceive they aren’t doing? I mean, why bother? It’s natural selection. The bands that do the stuff you’ve pointed out will whither and die (maybe) and you won’t have to deal with them.

    To further prove my point, it looks to me like most of the people that have left positive comments about your blog are promoters, photographers, agents, venue owners etc. There are very few of the actual musicians you’re apparently trying to “help”. So, basically this post is a bunch of arrogant musician wannabes gossiping about artists being artists waiting for a band to do all the work so they can swoop in and get a percentage with most of the work already done.

    You people are lame, and as a “local musician” I’m glad I don’t strive to enter into this utterly self-serving “industry” you claim to know anything about.

    1. Marcus,

      Thank you for your opinion 🙂 Obviously you didn’t read any of the rest of the blogs that are “educating” people as is this one. Learning what not to do is just as important was what to do. And since you seem to think we should just be handing out free advice to musicians instead of charging for our services and advice like any other business on the planet then maybe you should just play for free and not get paid for it.

      You see, blogs like this come out because musicians constantly inundate people in the industry for “free” stuff all day long. Free advice, free products or whatever else they can get for free but have absolutely nothing to offer in return for the “free stuff they are asking for. No fan base, no real social media presence, not enough gigs etc…

      Maybe you are a musician that actually works like you say you do, but in most of the professionals experience, very few artists work hard enough to make it. They sit around expecting everyone else to do it for free. Here is a tip for you. It’s YOUR band so it’s YOUR business. It’s YOUR responsibility to get your business to a level that you need to actually hire someone for help. Obviously you aren’t at that level otherwise you would understand that bigger you are, the harder it is, the busier you are and the more you need professional help.

      Also note, that most of the “self-serving” industry are professional musicians who have made it or have worked the scene for decades.

      If you aren’t a “wannabe” please feel free to post your band link so we can see how good, how big and how hard you work to show all of the “self-serving” industry people who commented on here how it’s done right.

      I do appreciate your insight and welcome your comments. I just don’t agree with you on this one.

      Best of luck in your musical career!

  31. You know I’m not in the music scene, but since this sounds an awful lot like the same situation for writers, I can’t help but agree! A lot of it is common sense, but for some reason it’s just not all that common…

    I admit to being vaguely worried about the ‘press kit’, as I didn’t know what the writing equivalent was (and I figured there had to be one), but after you mentioned some of the thing in it, I figured it out. Writers have a ‘query package’, but it’s essentially the same thing – the key business package to promote the ‘creative’ product.

    I think it’s fair to say there’s quite a lot of overlap across most of the creative type industries.

    1. Ciara,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment as I know how busy you are 🙂 You are correct, all entertainment industries overlap and have the equivalent of a press kit. Unfortunately the musicians seem to think that you don’t need one. If you are an actor, model or writer and don’t have one, you have no shot of getting picked. It’s a much different level of professionalism and that is a good thing for those industries. I makes life so much easier for the people that musicians are shopping to be able to have all the relevant info in one place. Never make anyone have to google you. Those that do that will do it because they like to and have time. The rest and majority are way to busy for that. They will just pass on you.

  32. Many good points which I agree with! If you want something enough you’ll work for it, no questions, no excuses! I don’t bother doing anything unless I’m going to put everything into it. I work full-time, study part-time and play in two bands (but mainly just one). It’s not easy, but it’s possible because I love it.

    Every night after a long work day – if I’m not studying, performing or rehearsing – I am writing emails, replying to messages, working on band artwork or video clips, updating our gig calendar, contacting other band members to check availability for gigs so on.

    Sadly this means there is little time or energy left to be inspired, to be creative and work original material – so this does make me question my time spent on promoting. Providing the music itself doesn’t just take talent either, although that is certainly important, but it’s not just a matter of rolling out of bed and being talented. Providing the music also takes time and effort/hard work.

    All this aside, it wont stop me from working as hard as I can, it’s just a tricky balancing act for the artist, and perhaps this is also worth considering.

    Thanks for your interesting, honest and helpful blog!

    1. Smack,

      Thanks for your insights and you nailed it on the head. That is why it “IS” so much work. Finding that balance is very tricky and it’s different for everyone. Your talents, strengths and people around you determine all this. I am glad to hear you are going to bust it as hard as you can. Be that example!

      David

  33. Oh God, my band is doing ALL of these things. I’ve been telling my singer since day one that we needed to avoid this kind of thing, but she automatically tunes out anything resembling criticism so we ended up doing almost everything on this list! Ugh, if I loved my band’s music any less or weren’t leaving in a few years I’d quit now.

    1. Jaxender,

      Thanks for reading the article 🙂 Many times in a band it’s only one person doing most of the behind the scenes work. In this case it might be you. Keep the dream alive or find band members that believe enough in the dream to make it happen!

      Best of luck,

      David

  34. This one section contradicts the rest of the blog talking about gigging,and promoting…”Bands and artists tend to have this notion that, “Without the music you have nothing,” when dealing with industry professionals. While this is true to an extent, it’s not the whole story. In the industry, we can hire songwriters that have a proven track record, hire musicians to record it and make our own successful bands that we own completely and can control.”…. this is where I am at as an artist at this point. songs are wrote, published, I have a press kit, but I have no band. so 90% of your blog does not apply. I need as an artist, the first part of what you speaks of, A company to “LISTEN to my music demo’s no matter how rough they are. If you have an ear for music then you can hear past the imperfections., Then because there are a lot of musicians with attitudes unwilling to make sacrifices. Hire a “BAND” you /we can control and go forth.

    1. Billy,

      Thanks for the comment! I don’t agree that it contradicts itself at all but I appreciate your point of view.

      I would have to see all that you say you have as to know whether or not most of this blog doesn’t apply. Make sure what you have is top notch and give it everything you got. Not having a band is a detraction but if you can put a road band together that may help you get some looks 🙂

      Best of luck,

      David

  35. Very good article but you skipped one very important thing….bands have to have sufficient experience and good enough material to be signed. These days, it seems like everybody and their dead brother has a band, and everybody thinks they’re ready for the big time after being together under a year. They record demos and call them “albums” or “EPs”, they book a string of shows at bars and call it a “tour”. It’s beyond ridiculous.

    1. TIm,

      Wise words my friend lol. Every band thinks they are amazing and better than everyone else. Most of the time it’s really not true but you do have to have enough confidence and swagger to make it happen so that is a plus. Thanks for the comment and reading the article!

      David

  36. and this goes for acts who are signed and have been signed for a while. The artist still has to reinvest and continue their determination and focus even more once the wheels start turning.

    1. Steve,

      Thanks for the read! Most of what I write applies to any form of entertainment business but I’ll take that as a challenge to write an article just for photographers.

      Thanks for the thought and don’t let me forget!

      David

  37. I really wish bands would recognize that they can be successful without a label. Sure, you won’t be on the radio getting massive amounts of spins and you’ll probably never open for Coldplay (or be as big as Coldplay), but I toured and made over 6 figures. Easily enough to pay the bills. I have close friends that spent their advance and are now in debt to a label and I also have independent friends making a killing by touring with some nationally known artists. This article is really a common sense guide to running a business…it’s funny how many musicians fail at this.

    1. Jason,

      Thanks for reading the article and commenting! I am glad to hear about your success and appreciate the work you had to put into achieving that. Hopefully many of the people reading this can follow your example!

      David

  38. Excellent read David! I feel lucky that my band is not making most of these mistakes. It sure pays to have people in my band that have corporate communications and web marketing backgrounds. Phew. But we definitely don’t know everything there is to know so there are some good insights and reminders in here. Keep they great posts coming!

    1. Rich,

      Thanks for the comments and reading the article. I am thrilled to hear you and your band working it and keeping an open mind. One of the worst things we can do is think we know everything. This business changes daily and we have to keep up with it to stay ahead of the pack.

      Best of luck,

      David

  39. I really appreciated this article as an 18 year old accounting major who has also been gigging in bands since I was 14. I see it in every band I have played in, and left, throughtout the years. A lack of commitment and work ethic. I myself have been guilty on slacking in some bands, as well, but it wasn’t as if I didn’t know what I SHOULD be doing. Sometimes its just hard to actually execute.”

    I really enjoyed how you took the business model approach to each band, because in the end, that’s what you are, a business. If you want to make a living out of your music, you need to put the capital, time, and effort in, just like any entrepreneur would do in starting up a small business.

    I’m about to take the semester off of music, and sadly leaving my current band because of it, but I hope to start anew in the coming year with a new set of guys and a new sound to keep pushing forward.

    Great article, thanks for the insight

    Brett

    1. Brett,

      Thanks for your honesty! You are right that sometimes it’s hard to execute, truth is there is very little about this business that is easy. It’s nothing but a ton of hard work, but so well worth the pay off when done right.

      The problem is bands don’t want to do the hard work and then point the finger at everyone else blaming them for what the band wasn’t willing to do themselves and certainly not wiling to pay for it.

      Best of luck with your future musical endeavors and thanks for reading!

      David

  40. Your blogs are always so spot on. A ‘must read and act on’ for any aspiring musician – in fact for most youngsters who want a career regardless of what area they are in. Too many think fame and fortune is owed to them while they sit back and do nothing. We promote acoustic music and constantly keep coming across those that believe they are musical gods just because their friends fawn over a poor rendition of a past great’s song and that is all they need to do to get to the top. To be fair, we do come across the odd gem who does work really hard at what they do, promote themselves and others and are a pure delight to work with. UK readers check out Stylusboy – a brilliant duo who do all these things and produce fine music (no £ gain for me – I just think their music and work ethic is spot on). Thanks David for another great blog 🙂

    1. Dawn,

      Thanks for the wonderful compliment 🙂 That makes me want to write more lol. Good luck with all the promotion and do your best to help those odd gems!

      David

  41. Great article as always David! I needed to read this and remind myself of the things I do right, and the things I need to work on.
    FYI – I used to be A&R for Malaco Gospel and Freedom Records in Nashville. We wouldn’t even look at an artist unles they were doing at least 120 shows a year and had sold at least 50,000 units of their own product.

  42. Thanks Johnny 🙂 Those numbers are very typical. Now the artist has very little options for labels and must plan on doing this themselves for the most part unless a Major sees the potential.

    There are things we all need to work on for sure!

    David

  43. You forgot… writing shitty songs or having a lead singer that can’t sing worth shit! LOL! That’s usually the “local” bands problem… IMHO

  44. Saw this linked from facebook.
    Great read. nice to see someone taking the time to write all this out!

    thank you

    i have fwd this to the rest of our members!

    1. Sean,

      Thanks for reading and sharing! I have many blogs on here so please read and share the ones you find useful.

      David

  45. read the artical. same tired crap i’ve read a thousand times.and most if not ALL A&R guys would NOT know a HIT band if they drove their gig van though the bar that most A&R hang out at.of course you want a band to do all the work its just to bad that real bands have managers and booking agents to handle the day to day buisiness. so as the band can WORK on their MUSIC. you know the stuff people PAY to listen to!great songs is what make a band. its what packs a club on a monday or tuesday night. and heres the real secret to a bands success be “ENTERTAINING” you make people, your fans, your customers forget about their world for 50 minutes and when they walk out of a club singing your song your a hit.and the labels will come looking for you.your music is you key to the golden ring. that comes first.the rest will fall into place.
    Sandrabee

    1. Sandra,

      Thanks for your comments. You are dead wrong but thanks anyway. If you had taken the time to see I talk heavily about entertaining but for you to say that business people should take a band when they have no business to manage and expect to be able to survive on it is just asinine. This has been and always will be the way it is. Very rarely are bands picked up with nothing. It’s a different scene to begin with and if an artist isn’t going to control their business and career when labels are almost irrelevant then it would be a poor business decision to help artists that don’t see themselves as a business and run it like one.

      Since you chose to not post your website, neither I or my readers can see whether or not you are as brilliant as you think you are so we will just assume that we are stupid and you are amazing even though you offered no proof of how much better you are at creating hit bands.

      Bands don’t need managers until they have a business to manage. Period.

      Please feel free to leave more comments but at least read what else we have to offer before just posting asinine comments. You are completely in the minority in your opinion but it is no less valid.

      David

  46. hey dave – sorry if this question and answer is already addressed in the comments above. i’m curious on a scale of 1-10, how important is it for a band to have video in their EPK? more specifically, either a music video or live recording of the band performing?

    1. Eric,

      Great question! The proof is in the live performance and especially for booking purposes, having a live video of how good the band performs and the size of crowd they draw rates no less then a 9 in my book. I think great quality live video is one of the most important things period.

  47. During the section that states the artists needs to work as hard as the combine, I feel like the topic of artists taking frequent hiatuses during a time period where that may
    Be inappropriate, should be touched up on. I’ve experienced times where we’ve gotten the
    Ball rolling and then someone in the group decides they want to take a week or two off simply to get away, or so it seems.

    1. David,

      There are so many blogs on here about things like that. But maybe that is a topic for a separate blog of it’s own. I’ll try and put that on my list 🙂

      Thanks for reading and your comment!

      David

  48. Dear David,

    As a sometimes-musician, I am most appreciative of the information in this article. However, as a part-time proofreader, I would ask you to be mindful of the difference between “who” and “that”. “Musicians WHO do” something, rather than “musicians THAT do” something.

    It is incumbent upon a leader in a community, as you are, to lead in all ways.

    Thank you.

    1. Seriously? That is your comment? Please try and leave something constructive to that blog next time lol. I’ll work on my grammar and chastise my editors. I am sure they will get a kick out of this 🙂

      Thanks for reading!

      David

  49. I think most of the points in this article should be a no-brainer for anyone in a band. When we say we don’t have money to travel it’s not because we spend it on beer or whatnot it’s because we really don’t have it. That’s not to say we don;t sell plenty of merch at local shows to later fund a long distance trip. I think one thing that was missing though, and this is just my opinion, is that too many bands sound the same these days or sound amateurish. Of course everyone thinks their band is the best thing ever and so do their friends. With that mind we try and see what we can do to be original and add a bit variety to an already homogenized music scene. I have seen a lot of great local acts, but for every great bands there’s 5 that sound like they could all be the same melodic, tech metal, death core pig squeel bands. I’ve seen some of the new bands that have gotten signed lately and I either think that scouts aren;t looking hard enough for original bands or they just sign the first band that has a decent recording regardless if they’re cookie cutter and typical.

    Thankfully I’m in a band that has the mindset to stand out and do things the right way. It’s gotten us distro deals and made us plenty of overhead above the initial gain we priced our merch at as well as having 3 labels currently interested in us. Sometimes we’ll do a giveaway and we always take feedback from fans. We only ever post things concerning the band as a business. Luckily I’m an artist as well and I know what sells and what’s marketable as far as album art and t-shirts go. At the same time I have family in the industry and they give me advice on what to send and what not to send to a label, what to say, how to say it, having a proper cover letter, legal representation, management and copyrights for all material. Because yes, music used to be about the music, but now it’s a business. If you don’t treat it like a business you might as well quit.

    Bands need to realize too that it’s good to be respectful and support other bands. You can;t go into a show complaining about being an opener or playing last or having an attitude. No one there is making a million dollars. No one there is signed to a major label and playing a local show as an opener doesn’t mean you’re undercutting yourself. Every show is experience. Take what you can. When bands and promoters see you’re easy to work with you will get more and better shows.

    I’m in Zombie Death Stench. Some great local bands we support, play shows with and have respect for are Cursed, Nothing But Losers, California Medication, Bombs Overhead, Steel Savior, Dire Peril and Warpath Assassins. We’re all on facebook and reverbnation. We support everyone who supports us.

    1. Sean,

      Great advice. Obviously this article was only a few points that I run into all the time and as it states it isn’t comprehensive. Glad to hear things are going well for you and you actually get it. Best of luck!

      David

  50. Hello there, this is Miguel Nunez, frontman / bassist for “Arsenal Gear”. I just want to thank you very, very much for putting this up. I’ve been having a very difficult time trying to get my partners to step up their game and getting serious. I’m gonna have them read and examine this thoroughly, and hopefully then, we might get somewhere. I’ll as well be sure to take all of this into account.
    Once again, many thanks for this!

  51. yeah book more shows! in Michigan if your not a washed up cover band you dont get paid for show usually you have to pay to play! and thats bull crap! I had a band that was sell-able but we got tired of having to pay to play shows after all we have to pay for equipment and gas or whatever else we needed! then have to pay a club to let us play there!

    1. Shawn,
      Thanks for your comments! I’d lack to ask you a question. Since there really isn’t any labels any more that will be of any benefit to you and since a band now essentially has to be it’s own business and learn how to run it like one. Why shouldn’t a band being a business have to pay to play (advertise it’s product basically) like any other business has to do. Any other business has to pay for rent, product, advertising, taxes, fees, employees, benefits etc…. so why shouldn’t a band? If your band is playing out and expecting to get paid to play, shouldn’t it have to go through the pains any other business does? Pay for everything itself until it develops it’s clientele?

      Just a basic point but hopefully food for thought. Paying to play isn’t anything new, but it’s not necessarily a negative either. It can separate the wheat from the chaff and for a band that is extremely good and knows how to capitalize on this, they can turn it into a positive.

      Remember, this is a BUSINESS. If you want to play for the sake of creating art and the love of it, then be prepared to play for free at local garage band shows. If you want to make a living being a musician then you have to learn to run a business and expect to have all the same expenses a business does.

      Whether we like it or not, all of us pay out the nose to run a business. We do it because we love what we do. I hope it’s the same for you!

      David

    1. Shawn,

      That is basically the truth. Read my article called “Creating The “Buzz,” It’s Your Responsibility” and I hope you find it useful as well. Thanks for reading!

  52. this is bullshit. David Lowry is living in the past and not in the current. I would love to see him get out there and dial for dollars.

    1. Kray,

      Thanks for the comments. I respect your opinion although obviously you don’t realize what it is people like me do. Dialing for dollars is all we do. Good luck with your career or whatever your endeavors are but I’ll let the experts determine if I am living in the past or not. So far, they don’t think so, so I’ll keep up my head up high and keep on working my ass off

      David

  53. I’m 100% on board with everything you said. IF a local band wishes to get signed (and that’s a big IF these days for DIY is a real option) this article provides the outline for success. I’ve only got about 15 years of writing for and about bands in the Austin, Texas area under my belt, but I spent a year writing 52 blogs that you pretty much summed up in one (http://tinyurl.com/Claes52DIY if you care to look). Hope to buy you a beer (or beverage of choice) someday.

    1. Sean,

      Thanks for your comments. My use of the word “signed” isn’t reserved for labels at all. It’s being signed by anyone be it label, management, major booking agency etc… Anymore with the lack of cash flow being available to DIY artists today, in order for them to get the help they want they either have to pay for it or have all this other stuff in place so that the “team” that signed them has something to work with to have any hope of making any money.

      I will certainly read you blogs and hopefully take you up on that beer one day 🙂

      David

  54. Thank you for posting this article. There are some very enlightening points and in general this articulates many unspoken truths and rules of the workings of the industry.

    I would have to counter the industry bias that I feel is evident throughout this article and address some of the less explicit points evident throughout:

    *If bands and musicians are unsuccessful it is entirely their fault for not working hard.*

    While I am absolutely in favour of promoting personal responsibility, while I agree with the thrust of your point, it is also to a large extent a lottery. Many hard-working, talented bands fall by the wayside because they do not have the resources to sustain the intensity required to be around and active when the zeitgeist decides that their subcultural quirk is desirable.

    *Businesses within the music industry are on the whole run by honest, hard-working and professional individuals*

    If I do read this undertone correctly, it is profoundly risible. While there are many many counter-examples to this, the industry is RIDDLED with the most unprofessional, nepotistic, careless, unreliable, lazy individuals. Many wide-eyed youngsters who try to get into this end up jaded and lose interest as their talents and hard work are taken advantage of by labels, managers, promoters, venues, studios of all sizes who simply will not pay them.
    This majority of so-called professionals do not show bands respect. Do not return calls and emails – yes, even well-formulated, comprehensive, business-like emails and presskits. I’ve seen it many many many times, from both sides of the fence.

    *There are as many shows out there as bands are prepared to play.*

    Absolute guff. Getting shows is one of the trickiest Catch-22 aspects of the charade.
    Anyone involved in the industry with a modicum of experience knows that:
    > Shows are expensive. Resources are limited. Furthermore promoters expect bands to play for free.
    > There is a limited amount of shows in any given subculture. Those that are actually worth playing are a considerably smaller subset of this.
    > It pays to be clever when choosing shows. Some will actually be detrimental to a band’s standing.
    > It is not possible for a band with limited resources to meaningfully promote a show anywhere than their home city.

    *The inherently nepotistic aspect of the industry is ignored.*

    The label PR guy’s beer buddies get the real press. The A&R’s schoolmate gets the signing. The guy who does coke in the toilets with the right people in the right bars get to be the success story. The guy who bumps into the promoter at the restaurant get the gig with his favourite band.
    It’s part of the equation and anybody who has had any success knows this. Omitting this could be seen as dishonest.

    * The audience need labels to tell them what music is good. Bands need labels to be successful.*

    Again risible. The infrastructure is desperate and dying. Budgets are squeezed. Subsidiaries are being downsized. Studios have been closing by the dozen.
    As a previous poster mentioned, most music of any interest is either self-released or independent.
    People with a genuine interest already see through today’s glossy vapid plastic board meeting-approved pap and do not need to be told what to listen to – more so than at any time I have experienced.
    Bands do not need labels to thrive. Some artists are doing better than others, but the power balance is shifting. Music industry professionals will be there along the way (PR, promoters, management), but it seems apparent that labels will have to fundamentally change their business model or die.

    Having said all of this, I would like to reiterate that I think there are many excellent and useful points, many of which had not previously been so clearly articulated.

  55. It’s awesome that I have never heard of this company not its signed artists. Yet, I have listened to small/local bands from every country because the local music scenes do thrive and are exploding everywhere. Look into any pop punk/easycore/hardcore music scene and you’ll see a few hundred bands and several venues that have shows EVERY NIGHT of the week. I can honestly say that Indianapolis’ bands each play 30-80 shows each every year. They put together their own tours, they are known through out all of the local scenes throughout the country, and some are even known around world. It’s call EIY/DIY (Earn It Yourself and Do It Yourself). Most of these bands would rather end up with a record company like Hopleless Records who treats their bands with dignity and respect. Record companies who help the band meet their goal without the mainstream media chewing them up and spitting them out. REAL people in REAL bands who play for REAL fans who don’t care if the band is on the top or at the bottom. FANS just want to see a band be passionate and do what they want to do.

    1. Isaiah,

      Just because you haven’t heard of them doesn’t mean a thing. All of the artist on my page have or have had a label deal at some point in their career. I am sure you don’t know all bands from all era’s and again since you didn’t fill anything about yourself so we can see how much you perform and you are making widely general about a scene I hear is pretty much dead in Indy. I’ll have to ask the talent buyer’s again to be sure. You do make some interesting points which I agree with but here is what fans really want. To be entertained. That is was draws in the dollars, not a band that is passionate and doing what they want to do. That is important but that doesn’t mean a band is good or can capture a crowd. Just last night in Alabama, I was with one of my bands and one of the people came up to me and said, “we see a lot of bands come through here but not one, not one entertain us like this one.”

      That is what the fans are looking for. People go out to escape life, they listen to music to be taken away or relate to the lyrics.

      Good points!

      Thanks for the comment 🙂

  56. Hey David,

    This is a fantastic article and it delivered the ‘reality kick’ that I needed. Everything is spot on and honest and this is one of the most helpful and realistic articles I have read. I think the idea that someone from a record company will magically walk into the bar you’re playing at is still the dream, but you’ve definitely helped to put things into perspective.

    I was wondering as well, how important you think merch is?

    Thanks,
    Millie.

  57. Millie,

    Thanks for taking the time to read the article! I would venture to say this applies to a band or musician getting signed by anyone of merit to include management, major booking etc…. unless they are. willing to pay someone a retainer to work for them.

    With the music industry the way it is today, whether it be seeking label attention or going DIY, this article applies.

    Best of luck to you!

    David

  58. I first ran into this article back in February when a friend posted it up on his page. Since then myself and my band included have started to apply these principles to our work. We are kids, half of our band is 17 years old and the other half are 19,21, and 22 (me). Since following this, we have opened for a major festival, a major tour, and shared the stage with a band on a one-off show in our local area before they take off on a world tour with other major artists, released an EP and are currently working on a full length. We’ve only been around 9 months. On behalf of my band, we want to say thank you. Our personal mission is to write music that we love and music that will give a sound to itself, not to be a mimic of the big bands in our genre. With that passion, and these tools/words of advice we believe we will go far.

    Thank you again,
    Jason

    1. Jason,

      Wow! I am so glad to hear the good news! Congratulations for busting it and making it happen. I am humbled to think I had any part in your success. Best of luck and never, ever give up!

      David

  59. Great advice! I am a vocal tutor from South Africa and now living and working in Maputo. Last week a young girl came across my path wanting to be a student, and blew me away. Every vocal tutor wishes that once in a lifetime someone like this comes along. However, we are working together with a holistic approach, incorporating many of the points you have mentioned here already and bringing the entire family, music teacher etc on board as a team, leaving no stone unturned and nothing to chance. Give us 2 years and you will be knocking on OUR door. (tongue-in-cheek) Thanks again.

  60. As a theater owner I would suggest that any musician treats his/her career as a small business like the rest of us. That means a lot of investment UPFRONT from you in equipment and marketing. Many new artists think someone owes it to them to ‘give them a chance’. Not so. No one owes any of us a chance. You start a business with a dream, a plan and capital. Then you work your plan and you market and sell and work more. Some musicians have an amazing work ethic. They tour and play day after day and night after night. You want people to buy your music – then they have to hear you sing. There is just no other way. Neither is there for the rest of us in the industry. Day after day and night after night. At least we do what we love. Which is more than most can say.

    1. Callie,

      Well said. Unfortunately many people today don’t have capital and have no way of getting any. That is why creating a buzz about your music is so critical. Hard work is pretty much the only answer and never giving up.

      Appreciate they time and the comments!

  61. I agree with your blog post. The only thing that rubs me wrong is that when other people have opposing views to your post, you quickly dismiss them in a condecending tone like you are the end all, be all in the industry. Don’t get me wrong, I like people who tell it like it is and are straightforward and honest, but I think that can be done with some tact.

    1. Annie,

      Point well taken. However, I think you if look at what I am replying too the people themselves are coming off that way. I maybe wrong but I don’t think so. I try to put in there “your point is valid, but..” and maybe I forget sometimes. Most of the people that seem to disagree seem to be the musicians that think people owe them something. To be honest I am so busy, even replying to these posts is almost impossible. Forgive me if I come off like a jerk, trying to do as much as possible in a very time constrained life.

      Thanks for reading!

  62. David, I agree with most of your points you addressed in your article however I feel that you bring to much emotion from personal experience and/or a jaded outlook on how things appear to be in the industry you work in. I am a happily married man with 2 kids and play in a band around NE. We average 8 shows p/month and have been running the circut for about 4 1/2 yrs now. We are continuing to make progress by headlining bigger venues, booking higher profile gigs and supporting Nationals. I also do not like your constant reference about musicians spending all their money of “alcohol, drugs and video games’. I think that is a very narrow minded view especially coming from someone like yourself who works in the “industry”. My band and I put money back into gear/van all the time. I do agree with you in that bands need to get a clear view of whats going on around them to be successful and can see how your article could be a great tool for musicians trying to become more professional. I just think your next article could do without the stereotypes and lack of faith in todays music scene. thanks for sharing

    1. Jason,

      Thank you very much for replying to the article!

      Let me address a couple of your points. First it is MY blog. It’s not an industry blog. This is what we and many others like me go through everyday. It is the norm. I get these stories from other managers, agents, publicists all day long. The blog is there to help but it’s also there to make the readers understand why they get rejected or ignored so often. It is of course going to come from my point of view. We get inundated with emails or posts all day everyday from musicians who do the very things this and many of my blogs or other industry blogs talk about and I am talking up hundreds of times a day. So yes it is what is happening. I have meetings with my bands or consult other bands and do you know what they say? Exactly what you say I talk to much about. The blog is coming from real life. I don’t write feel good blogs. I write real blogs. I have faith in hard work and dedication to the vision and to be honest very few bands truly adhere to that. They think they want it the big dream but more often than not, they don’t put forth the work needed.

      That being said, I am glad your band is doing well. It isn’t the norm to be married with two kids and perform that often. I would however like people like you to post your web links to prove what you are saying. I keep my blog on my page where people can see what is going on. It’s easy to talk about how good you are doing, but many of these posts remain completely anonymous and posts that claim things with no proofs are just words. To be honest at 8 gigs a month if they are decent paying gigs you are just starting to make something happen and that is a positive thing and you yourself said it. It has taken 4 1/2 years to make just that happen. Many bands are complaining about not getting paid or making any money after only 6 months.

      I do appreciate your honesty but I write from what I and many like me go through. If your band defies that situation than you are luckier than most. Go back and read all the responses from band members that are going through it. Most bands have one person doing all the work. It sounds like hopefully your band is on the same page and that my friend is awesome.

      Best of luck! I hope you get more gigs, more headlining shows and one day achieve what you are all looking for!

    2. Jason,

      Also please realize that many of these blogs are requested by other bands or professionals as the topics. I interview them and then write about it. It’s what they go through as well. It not all just me and my point of view.

      Again thanks for your honesty and reading the article.

      Best of luck.

  63. this article is trash, this dude is a kook. Anyone disagrees and he goes on about his experience in the industry. Newsflash, the industry is a joke, respectable people in the music industry are few & far between. Not anything anyone would want to get involved in, not to mention with the rise of technology the major labels have constantly been shrinking. If anyone’s actually chasing the rock star dream this article won’t help them. Promoting the hell out of your band won’t help you if your music sucks & doesn’t bring anything new to the table.

    1. James,

      Thanks for reading this. I agree with most of your points. If you had read any of the other blogs, you would see that especially the last line you wrote. However, I disagree with the kook thing. Again, please feel free to post the appropriate answers to share with the audience.

      Also realize, nowhere in the article did I say get signed by a label. I said get signed period. That could mean by anyone be it booking, management labels etc… Also realize the US is not the only ones reading this. The scene in Europe is much different and much stronger than here. This blog completely and totally applies but you are only considering your situation and the US.

      You assume to much and don’t take this for what it is. An article just covering the basics for any band.

      Best of luck!

  64. This is Paul Reyes from the band Fear Of None we really appreciate when industry people like yourself point out some of the more obvious things that we as bands and artists overlook when trying to get themselves out there I am going to recirculate the article in my scene and hopefully wake some bands up to the fact that fame and fortune are not expected they are earned by good old fashioned hard work. Thanks

  65. Excellent Blog. I have lived every aspect of it. I am now 60 yrs old , have performed for over 40 yrs and these rules still apply today. I now manufacture promotion material eg: backdrops (Anvil, Platinum Blonde, Frozen Ghost, Sherrif,) to name a few. I still perform occasionally and still apply this format to success even if only for one gig every two months as opposed to avg. 200 shows a year as in the past, while keeping a steady job and raising three children with my wife of 40 yrs. Simply put , it’s a Business, run it well it will succeed. Sit back and so will the Biz. Kudos to your blog.

  66. Our band just signed a management deal and touring is part of it. I admit as stated above it’s gonna be hard to go out on the road and pay the bills. An employer isnt gonna let ya leave for 6 weeks and come back…but then again I personally feel we can count on our music more than we can any employer. Companies do not care about people these days. i just lost my 3 rd day job in 4 years. lived on unemployment for 2 years and 7 mos so why not go for it? Got a better chance at making more than any factory job is gonna pay ya! I also believe it starts with a strong product..you can check us out david..as ya should.. http://www.arsonradio.com IT ALL STARTS WITH GOOD SONGWRITING. Good songs and a good show will put fuel in the tank and money in your pockets. It’s a definate risk…but if ya don’t how will ya ever know? How much do you believe in your product? and do you believe in God? cause he’s in control. Gotta have Faith.

  67. Thanks for this excellent article. My band Kronos Effect (www.kronoseffect.com and http://www.reverbnation.com/kronoseffect) has been pounding the pavement in NYC for years, playing gigs, promoting with flyers, social media, person-to-person networking, open mics etc. It is encouraging when industry professionals cut through all the industry noise/hype and give musicians the basic tools to pursue their dreams. Although most of what you have written about is not news to us, we appreciate another individual who tries to inform musicians about median requirements to have a professional career. We have been consulting with a manager in NYC and the things you suggest are indeed the very things she brought to us. One of the really important concepts that she suggested is cross-promoting. Using relevant and related interests to promote your band. Does your band skateboard? Like tattoos? Politically active? Then use venues and activities centered in other fields of interest to cross-promote and capitalize on already existent markets (ie. FANS!!). Thanks! We’ll be back to this blog for sure!!

  68. Me and my fiancee used to promote bands where we live, alot of the points in your article is alot of the points i used to tell the bands i promoted. Especially booking and playing shows, complaining about venues & how far for a show. I used to say word of mouth is the biggest seller any band could want. You may play a gig with 10 people but if you go back later those 10 people if they loved your music, enjoyed your show and you mingled with them afterward they would tell a friend or 2 and even bring more friends next time you play.

  69. TRUE ENOUGH YOU CANNOT SELL YOURSELF IF NO ONE HAS EVER HEARD OF YOU.THIS MEANS DOING ALOT OF SHOWS FOR FREE,AS WELL AS RELENTLESS SELF PROMOTION AS YOU HAVE MENTIONED.YOUR ARTICLE HAS BEEN VERY HELPFUL AND I HAVE GAINED MUCH INFO THAT WILL HELP ME IN MY GROUPS FUTURE!THANK YOU VERY MUCH ROD AND ALL INVOLVED IN THIS POSTING IT HAS,AS I SAID,BEEN VERY HELPFUL!AND TRAVEL;SHIT IM READY!THANK YOU,CARLIS ROBERT HARRIS/BAND APPARITION/INDIANAPOLIS,INDY!\,,/SEE YA ALL SOON!

  70. I appreciate this blog and it has opened my eyes on these issues as I am an independent artist myself. But I beg to differ on a few things. I do not write a long cover letter or send a press kit until I get a confirmation that I am talking to the correct contact. The contact on the website or facebook page may not necessarily handle booking and my emails get lost in the sauce. So I guess I will try it like you say and see if that helps . Overall, everything in those regards is poor (response time, honesty, and proper passing on of information.

  71. This is just amazing! Very well-thought out and very well spoken. As the vocalist for a newly formed band, I think I speak for all of them when I say I think we will definitely be using this blog to reference.

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