The Only Way To Save Your Music Scene As A Musician

Photo by Amanda René Photography

Photo by Amanda René Photography

Here in Nashville, I try to stay as connected as I can to the music scene. I go out to see as many shows of different genres as I can. Because of that, I meet a lot of different artists and bands. I do pay special attention to the hip hop scene and also the electronic music scene, since those are the pockets that I mostly easily fit into myself as an artist. Within these two scenes, I’m often asked my thoughts on what we can all do to make the music scene better.

I try to entertain these discussions as best I can. However, I have experienced a philosophical shift in my own music scene beliefs. Let me explain. Here’s how most of these conversations go.

  • “Man, we need to have more unity!”
  • “We need to come together!”
  • “Artists need to support each other!”
  • “Venues need to book different artists!”

Maybe some of this is true. However, I think we’re missing the point. We’re especially missing it as artists, musicians, & DJs. In addition to the music scene here in town, this blog attracts a lot of DJs, rappers, musicians, bands, and producers. They all have similar questions about what software to use or how to get started & mainly how to impact their music scene immediately.

I try to answer whatever I can, but I think this is a great chance to sum up what I think is the greatest thing that you as an artist can do for your music scene.

You ready? This is the secret!

(This probably can extend beyond music scenes and just apply to life as well.)

The #1 thing I think all musicians, DJs, producers, rappers can do to change their music scene is…

Be Awesome.

That’s it. Change lives. Create an experience. Blow people away with your awesome awesomeness. Be freaking awesome.

Only after you are awesome will your music scene change. Let’s examine the artists’ cry for unity. When I hear that “artists need to support each other” I hear “they need to support ME.” When I hear that “venues need to book different artists,” these artists just mean “they need to book ME.” But all the unity, support, & promo in the world won’t help if the music, bands, or artists aren’t awesome.

Or if they suck.

And I didn’t say “Be mediocre.” Mediocre is everywhere. Don’t waste your time or other people’s time by doing the same thing everyone else is doing. I understand that this is subjective, so…

6 Ways Musicians Can Be More Awesome

I’ve been thinking about how I can apply this very simple yet complicated principle for my own life and my own music career. That’s right, this advice is for me too. No one is safe. No one is exempt. So few musicians, bands, & DJs do this; the ones who do will stand out very quickly.

I have come up with these after considering my time in the music scene here in Nashville (Music City) plus my time studying music business, and additionally my time on the road touring with Mutemath.


Make Awesome Music.

Yes, those other things absolutely matter, but only when you make the music as good as it can possibly be. If you have great music, than great branding, design, &social can give you a huge advantage and push you to the next level. It can help you stand out from the crowd and make it easier for you to become popular. But without great music, the best marketing, branding, or even meetups won’t matter at all.

quiet entertainer music

P.S. all my music is here. Click the pic 😉

I’m not saying you should start out without thinking of marketing. If you have time and resources to make videos, get merch, & get all the other stuff right, then do it all. But if you only have time to do one thing really well, there’s no question you should be focusing on your music.

The same goes for promotion. Once you’ve created something epic, you need to make sure other people find out about it. But if you really write awesome music. It won’t take much effort on your part to get the word out. Your new fans will do most of the work.

I’ve seen it happen here locally with people like Wick-It or Cherub or Mike Floss. Every time I’m tempted to get down in the dumps about how I am not getting the gigs I should get, then I have to look in the mirror and ask if I’m making awesome music.


Perform Awesomely Live.

Don’t mistake length of your set or how much time you put into it for how awesome something truly is. I’m sure you’ve seen the way-too-long-and-completely-boring sets out there. Awesome doesn’t necessarily mean long. It also doesn’t mean how many people are on stage at once. I’ve fallen into this trap before. Every time I’ve been inspired at a show, it’s because the performer showcased their skill in a way that no one else can. Blow people’s minds. Look at this KDSML video below. No one else can do this. So he stays booked. What can you do that no other performer can do?

 


Throw Awesome Shows.

I’m not even talking about your set anymore. I mean the experience you create at your shows. Are you booking your own shows to build credibility? Great. Now who is doing the show with you? What’s the vibe you’ll create? What’s the venue? Can people really hear your music there? Can they see you? Is it well lit? Is it a raised stage? Is it all ages? 21+? Can people easily park there? Do people need to BYOB?

Don’t make the mistake of trying to throw awesome shows without outside inspiration. Get out there and go see some shows. Get inspired yourself, then infect your music scene with that inspiration. Locally, This is Art does this very well. I’m going to see his show tonight.

 


Use Awesome Professionalism.

You might not have to be professional if you are strictly booking your own shows and they are all house parties and you never have to deal with people who are doing business. But chances are, you’re going to have to work with other people. I’ve found that in my own music career; it’s been much better to be courteous & on time whenever possible. Not only that but also if you’re in charge of a show, you have to make sure everyone knows what they’re expectation is. Let people know how long your set will be. If you don’t know, ask. Is it a paying gig? If you don’t know, ask. If you know it’s not paying, tell them. Do you not have a huge draw? Be realistic about the show expectations. Or be honest if you don’t plan on promoting. (Psst… why aren’t you promoting?)


Have an Awesome Web Presence.

We can’t be everywhere at once. Having a web presence is the next best thing. Do you have your own site? Your own place to let people know about shows? Your own spot to host your music? Your own place to spread your ideas? You can’t just rely on Facebook. What about other social media? Where are you? Where does your music scene hang out? You should be there. But really, it’s not the one social media site you’re using. It’s everything you’re doing.


Have an Awesome Mindset.

This is the one I struggle with the most. Yet it’s the most important and it’s the one from which all these others will spring. Your mindset will absolutely determine your actions. Your belief in yourself and your music scene will inform and inspire all the moves you make and also informs what the rest of your scene will do. It’s hard to try and get everyone on the same page about what you want to do for your music scene but then when you get together, all you do is complain. I’ve done this and I have seen this especially in hip hop and electronic music. Guilty as charged. No one wants to get behind cynicism. People only will get behind awesomeness.


The next time you start wondering why you aren’t getting tons of fans or people at your shows, the next time you wonder why no one is sharing your stuff, don’t start looking to Twitter or Facebook for the answer. Instead, start by asking yourself one simple question:

Am I being awesome?

A big thanks to Corbett Barr who inspired this post many years ago with an epic post of his own.

Follow me on Twitter @qentertainer

  1. Make Awesome Music
  2. Perform Awesomely Live
  3. Throw Awesome Shows
  4. Use Awesome Professionalism
  5. Have an Awesome Web Presence
  6. Have an Awesome Mindset

 

 

Why Some Touring Artists Should Just Stay Home

She’s back!  Today, I have another guest post from Celeste AKA GalaxC Girl. Celeste performs as GalaxC Girl in Asheville, NC and the surrounding area where she combines her DJ set with live visuals. In her last post about why no one wants to book you, she just ranted about what she was seeing while getting booked. She attracted a lot of attention to this site, some of it hostile! Well, despite all the disagreements; I couldn’t really argue with her experience because it was her own experience and opinions based on that experience. I’ve always appreciated the DIY ethic and the take-responsibility attitude and have admired that in any artist. Additionally when it was time to post this next rant from her, I found that her experience in Asheville reminds me of why it’s hard for me to do show trades or book artists in my own city. 

Enjoy the guest post and leave your feedback and comments below. (top photo credit: Audible Imagery)


 

GalaxC Girl

photo credit: Visual Bliss Photography

To whom it may concern in the realm of booking electronic shows in small cities,

I rarely solicit artists to book in the small city I live in. Because it’s not really feasible. But I get hit up all the time by acts and agents about shows. Some totally understand and some seem to get a little offended when I try to explain, but usually don’t have the time to go in to great depth and detail, why I’d be happy to help put together a show but cannot promise L.A., San Fran or Atlanta prices for Asheville, population 83,000. So I’m just gonna try to spell it all out here (if population 83,000 isn’t enough for you, lol!). I think this will resonate with other small, artsy cities, maybe even larger cities with smaller scenes too.

After watching event after event of all kinds of promoters bringing in up and coming DJs and acts to headline Asheville, I just have to say STOP being so damn unrealistic with the fuckin guarantee, people! We are not NYC! We are tiny little Asheville!

Big Gigantic at Bele Chere in Asheville
Photo Credit: Visual Bliss Photography
The truth is, if I’m involved with organizing an official party, we could just headline me or get one of my awesome friends and probably get just as many people out making the event way more profitable for us locals than if we hosted someone. (In fact, most the sold out parties I’ve played here have been ones that I let someone book me as headliner so it feels kind of weird letting people headline me, have a killer show then I bust my ass to headline someone else to give them all of the profits instead of myself?) But whatever, it is fun to change it up and bring in more exotic fresh acts, of course, so I’m usually down to network and help cool acts get heard here.

But the thing about Asheville is that it’s a totally different economy when it comes to throwing parties…

It’s a really small city with A LOT going on ALL the time. There are other small cities where the risk isn’t so great because they don’t have as much going on. Asheville is saturated with events more than Hunter S Thompson’s brain was saturated with drugs. So it’s not realistic to make guarantees that other cities can make…unless one is willing to take the risk of paying out of pocket or has some money to blow, lol. Which I don’t, ha.

GalaxC Girl photo credit: Patrick Dove Photography
The show could pop off all crazy or a million other parties or a festival near by or whatever could harm turnout, you just never know in Asheville! I cannot afford to book myself in Asheville. I have to play other cities to get my “normal” rate. Usually to book myself in Asheville I have to give myself a really super great deal (it’s a good thing I live here and know myself so well, haha) and just do it for the love of this freaky lil city. If I stuck to my “normal” rates I would hardly ever get to play here. Sure you could possibly get booked at some crazy shit like Moogfest or Bele Chere and get your normal fee but those are special events, not a typical party.

Or you could let some little shit muffins who barely know what they’re doing book you, promise you your fee, throw you a shitty party then have to pay you out of pocket or go rob their grandma to honor your contract (or just totally not pay you at all!?) There are a lot of these shit muffins who give touring artists a false sense of reality for what is doable in our little city. They pop in with a party or two and fail, ruining themselves by paying acts way more than what is possible here and fade away real quick. We realistic people are the ones who stick around, steadily throwing realistic events and have to keep picking up their pieces of shitty failed party after they screw around flinging their small amount of shit on our scene. (But the shit muffins pop up like mushrooms so there’s usually always new ones to tool if you’re into that kind of thing and want to go shit muffin mushroom hunting.)

GalaxC Girlphoto credit: Patrick Dove Photography
Shady promoters with money to burn from shady business also give artists a false sense of what is possible for legit, non shady promoters. And they don’t last either. They often get arrested or geeked out on shit or chased out of town or whatever. Kudos to you if you know promoters with shady money to throw at artists, but it’s not so easy for people who throw legit parties in small cities.

You could possibly get someone to book you and put every cent towards your fee without being able to budget in fliers or a decent venue or a decent PA system or decent support. Which, if you think about it, is much less valuable for your career than opting for a bit of a lesser guarantee for a properly produced event where you can look, sound, feel great and get actually promoted to the whole city condoned by respected people in the scene, being exposed to all their friends and supporters, generating more fans for you which is a way bigger pay off in the long run than making a few hundred more dollars at a poorly produced event with 5 people standing around in the corners and shitty speakers that you want to shoot to death with a double barrel shotgun.

Bass Center - Bassnectar at Asheville Civic Centerphoto credit: David Oppenheimer – Performance Impressions Concert Photography

Throwing successful events in a small scene that is bursting with parties like a fertile new mothers torpedo tits burst with milk every time her baby cries is fucking risky and hard and takes a lot of work. Just how hard is it to wisely budget a good party in a little scene without ruining yourself? Is it a coincidence that a promoter in our little scene left this life (rip, dude.) after his parties failed and he could not pay everyone what they were promised and he kept trying to invest in more parties to make it up but just kept falling further in the hole? I don’t know…but I don’t think so. Luckily, that is an extreme situation but still part of the nitty gritty reality of how harsh shit can be.

There is a possibility you could get a venue to just book you directly themselves who can supplement failed shows with other successful shows and bar sales. Good luck with that and have fun not having the great support of a real classic freakville lineup! A lot of venues won’t take on gambles either though. And many end up closing due to our overrun, crazy scene. I watch show after show with out of town acts fail because the numbers cannot add up to pay what these acts are asking for in Asheville. Most likely, only shit muffins, idiots, highrollers, shadyasses, naive or way too optimistic types are going to guarantee you an amount that is too much of a gamble to pay you unless you’re a really big deal or touring with a really big deal, sorry! And even if you are a big deal somewhere else, you might not be a big deal here yet.


(QE’s note: How do we get to be a “big deal”? Click here for the Definitive DJ Mindset. )


While I can and will organize the most kickass event possible, I cannot (normally, lol;) take significant gambles for an out of town act. But if an artist is worth what they are asking then it shouldn’t be a problem to take just a bit of the gamble *with* me for a smaller guarantee plus sliding scale/profits of the door, right? You could even make more than your asking price if you are that hot shit enough, right? If you have that kind of pull and can get people to come even if a freaky local burner queen just happens to throw a free sexybunnyhop birthday party at a communal housing project that night or if you are so awesome that people will still come in the rain, then sweet, no worries, right? I know I will do my part of proper promo but if you don’t have that kind of pull to get people there no matter what, even with great promo, why the hell should I work my ass off, invest in fliers, promote the hell out of you, tell all my fans to like you, etc, etc just to throw myself under the bus?

Typically, there’s no money to be made with parties in a little artsy fartsy city like Asheville. Usually a successful event with an out of town headliner involved means you covered venue costs, covered fliers and then gave most of the profits to the person you just hyped as the most awesome thing ever to everyone you know without paying yourself barely a few peanuts, if anything at all, much less covering all the time you spent on the internet hyping it or the gas and time and shit it took to plaster posters all over town to advertise that artist… and sometimes the only thanks for all that free work and handing over all the profits is for the artist to take that money out of our tiny city’s economy with little appreciation for making them totally known in the area and able to move up in the game here, yay.

Bassnectar and Pretty Lights both came through Asheville several times, first playing the smallest venues, working hard to get known and pack out the small venues…then moved up. They moved up *after* they had not just *played* the smaller venues but *packed* the smaller venues.

It’s a unique situation here. Some people totally get it. Some people don’t. And I’m cool either way with their decision whether they are like “hell yeah, awesome, let’s do it” or if they respectfully choose to pass on joining in on the gamble *on themselves*. But don’t get mad at me for being straight up and honest when others are just ignoring you, pawning you off or making stupid guarantees!

And if I do throw you a party and tell everyone I know about you, give my fans to you, bust my ass making sure you play the best venue available, put quality color posters all over town, make sure there’s a quality PA system, dope visuals, solid support, sexy performers and a great vibe even though I cannot promise your regular price that big cities, high-rollers, delusional people, shit muffins or liars can; it is a privilege and an honor if I hook it up for you. Because whether you make more or less than your regular fee, playing a quality event in a little mystical, magical mecca like Asheville and gaining even just a few mystical, magical, freaky Ashevillian supporters is totally effin priceless on a cosmically glorious level.

If you don’t have a gambler or bigwig booking you here or you’re not yet a super bigwig yourself and don’t want to share the gamble of your pull in a small but immeasurably awesome city, you could by pass Asheville and only stop to graze in the money green shit muffin pastures of bigger cities…

None of this was directed at anyone in particular at all. It is an overall viewpoint almost 10 years in the making.

No offense to anyone. Just raw truth tangent. Dig it.


Thanks to Celeste for adding her thoughts here. You can find Celeste aka GalaxC Girl at GalaxCgirl.com or connect on her Facebook page

I also want to add. The absolute best thing I have ever read on this topic is over at Audible Hype. Go read Is Touring Really Necessary? Part One, Part Two, & Part Three

 Additionally, if you want even more insight about taking your DJ or EDM career to the next level, learn about The Definitive DJ Mindset

The Real Reasons That No One Wants To Book You


Today I have a guest post from Celeste AKA GalaxCgirl. Celeste performs as GalaxCgirl in Asheville, NC and the surrounding area where she combines her DJ set with live visuals. Celeste was actually sent to my post about booking your own live shows after she made a similar rant on her facebook page. (Thanks J-Mo!) She came to my site and left and comment. After talking with her a bit, I thought it’d be great if she could share her thoughts here. Below, Celeste shares her thoughts about how to make it easier to get booked by adding value to your music scene. Check it out here.

Enjoy the guest post and leave your feedback and comments below.


So you wanna get booked to play? While I have never wanted to call myself a promoter, ok, I admit…I do make some bangin parties happen sometimes, lol. And I get A LOT of people hitting me up wanting me to book them so I can only imagine how many inquiries people who do call themselves promoters get.

So some things to consider as a random DJ asking to get booked:

Talent aside, there are a million other acts with extreme talent lining up to be booked so it only makes sense for someone who busts their ass with the blood, sweat, and tears of countless hours of real back breaking, hair splitting, finger numbing work to organize and promote a party, to book someone who appreciates the hard work and dedication it takes and will help the party go off beyond just dropping in for their scheduled set. Unless you are way huger than you think and attracting gobs of fanatics who can’t get enough of you by the mere whisper of your name, what can you do to enhance the party? What else do you bring to the table?

Do you have an online presence? Are you even promotable? If you have NOTHING online and don’t even promote yourself how can anyone else promote you? But if you’ve made it past that genius step and do have some kind of even tiny presence to be promoted, why should they promote you and tell all their people about you when they have a ton of friends who also want to be booked but who actually return the favor and do the same for them? Have you shown support? Display excitement for their events? Do you like their facebook pages? Follow them somewhere, anything?

Do you promote yourself and the events you are doing? Do you tell and invite all your friends, post the page, post the flyer, make comments like a professional hype man to get everyone and their mother going out of their minds with anticipation for the best party ever even if they have to drive from Alaska? Will you help hand out flyers at every show to every person despite the mean people who act like you are scum for trying to invite them to a party and put up posters in the freezing cold with your nose about to fall off while your fingers are frozen numb and almost bleeding from not being able to wear gloves as you slap up posters in every possible spot? Then will you go check on these posters and put them back up the next day after they’ve been covered up or the haters have torn them down? If you don’t do that you should at least post it on facebook thirty gazillion times. (QE’s note: Be careful not to burn out your fans & friends on Facebook.)

Do you have anything to add to the party besides your set? Gear, deco, lights, tents, graphics, anything? Will you come help set up speakers and subs that weigh more than an elephant before the party and will you be there at 6 in the morning or the next day to help pack them up even though you are more dead tired than a zombie with it’s head shot off?

Do you also throw parties so you can return the favor of the booking if said promoter is also a performer and would also like bookings? Or will you encourage other promoters you know to book them? Or do you write a blog that you could help out by doing a little write up? Or own a cake shop and could bring a cake? Or a print shop and could print some posters? What else do you have or do that you could apply to enhance the party rather than just using and riding along on others efforts?

Do you come and make the party more hype by sticking around for the other acts, starting up the dance floor early in the night, exuding a vibe of uber awesomeness to inspire everyone to have the time of their lives? Or do you just show up for your set like you’re the only one that matters and possibly play the same tracks the DJ right before you just dropped rather than immersing yourself and becoming one with the party?

Also in initial contact, it helps to be somewhat articulate and include enough info on yourself and what you do – don’t make them go searching for you. Provide links, clickable links -don’t make it hard to check you out when they’ve got a billion other DJs with way more hype and professionalism hoping to get booked.

If you are past the point of “paying your dues” (aka playing for free and doing opening slots over and over til you have a real fan base because you are beyond awesome)(which you might think that you are but you’re actually still not and the harsh reality is that it can take a few eternities sometimes despite how amazing you are), is your price reasonable and flexible? In a lot of cases the DJ should really be paying the promoter for promoting them not the other way around, lol. If you are not bringing a million tons of gear that takes a million hours to rig up and can just mosey in and just plug in like a billion other DJs, you can’t expect an over inflated amount or maybe even anything at all when there is a trillion other expenses to be met until you are someone who is actually attracting the numbers to pull in the amount you want. If you’re not doing something extra or you’re not super famous and someone is paying anything at all, consider yourself very lucky.

Anyways, honestly, just to be straight up, I much prefer to book people who first like my facebook page, have shown me support, love or have promoted me even if it’s only for their own selfish reasons of knowing that supporting me just enables me to support them better, acts who will promote their little hearts out with the understanding that the better the party does, the more fun they will have and better we all do…not people who only think of themselves but people who let the love flow both ways and are willing to put in actual work to party…and I’m sure this goes for most people who bust ass throwing quality events. People who bust ass like other ass busters who return the love as it gets tiring busting ass to carry other’s weight when there’s already so much to do…

Good luck and blessings to everyone and your endeavors. May we all be warriors of ultimate truth shining love and bringing nirvana to the world in everything we do…

Thanks to Celeste for adding her thoughts here. You can find Celeste aka GalaxC Girl at GalaxCgirl.com or connect on her Facebook page.
Pictures from Audible Imagery & SIC Images

How To Get a Write Up In The Local Music Scene

Recently I had a great show. We did a lot of promotion for it, including some Facebook ad campaigns. One thing that I didn’t expect was that we got a write-up in the Nashville Scene which is one of the weekly free magazines that goes out here. A lot of bands and other artists frequently ask me how I get all this attention from these types of publications.

Sometimes I will get booked for shows that don’t make sense just because they think I am going to bring us all press attention or something.

There really isn’t a formula; it’s not something I can control really. I do want to share some thoughts I have as to why this has been happening for me and what any artist or musician can do on their own.


BTW: Here’s a video clip from that show!


First, let’s look at your mindset.

Do you hate the media and the press? Do you think that they are purposefully ignoring you and all others with talent? Do you think the entire world is against you and your music? This is your first obstacle; maybe your biggest. I’ve never worked at one of these publications, but I did write for my high school newspaper back in the day. Let me break down how I think it works. These magazines have to write about interesting topics and bands, so that people in their target audience will pick it up and see all of the very cool ads that businesses have paid to place on each page. So the magazines actually NEED fresh interesting content. It’s in everyone’s best interest for them to keep up with what’s going on. And while there are probably volunteers but I imagine it’s mostly people who pay their rent every month based on how well they can make the weekly publication interesting enough to pick up so that businesses will have their ads seen every single week.

Still with me? So as far as the music section goes, they need all the different artists, bands, and DJs to write about. But you must be thinking to yourself “Well that makes logical sense but the local weekly in MY city only writes about the same couple of bands every single week.” Well, these are real people on the other end of that column. they are probably music fans too! They might even be in their own bands. These writers are going to have tastes of their own. You need to be able to accept that.

Ok, so what can you do? Here are some steps.

1. Submit to the website. Normally the publication will have it’s own website with it’s own calendar to which you can submit events. At the very least, it will have instructions on how to inform them of you and your event. Follow the directions. This is very easy. It’s an easily missed step though. People would rather do a really elaborate stunt to get attention. This actually works though. Beyond that, there is usually a contact page. That’s there for a reason. Go ahead and hit them up on email or twitter.

2. Submit to other places. Look for other publications, calendars, and blogs to submit your show. Your weekly might not want to be the only place that doesn’t list you. In my case, I got lucky. A venue I was going to play actually listed all of the local media outlets that they thought I should approach. See? They were trying to help. No one was trying to hold me down personally. People just don’t have time to do everything for you, so you have to get it done yourself. Beyond that, you can search for your city, plus “music blog” for some other ideas. You might even meet some other good people that you need to know.

3. Have your own site. Musicians should definitely have their own site. Have you ever noticed that those bands that you say are always getting promoted; they have their own site with its own news feed and it’s own blog? And all you have is your facebook fan page or your myspace page? Well, when you reach out to your weekly mag to tell them about you and your show. They need to verify your info. Where will they go to do that? Help them help you. You have a blog? Update it? You had a show? Post pictures. Post video. Give them content.

4. Be interesting. Maybe this should be first. If I put 100 DJs in a room, only one of them is the BEST. 99 out of 100 of them are not. So not everyone can just be the best. But everyone one of them is unique. So what makes you unique? Are you a guitarist? Great. Are you a guitarist in a Journey cover band? Ok. Are you the only Journey cover band that played 300 shows last year around the country AND you have a show in town in 2 weeks? Now you’re talking.

5. Check your attitude. Don’t forget. If you’re a bitter musician, the press and media can tell. They can FEEL it. It’s not interesting to read about a bitter dude who thinks everyone owes them something. No, not really. Think about it. You know those women who just HATE men, and then wonder why men don’t ask them out? Well who wants to deal with that? Same with the press. Who wants to write about a press-hating band? Unless you are the most awesome and amazing band ever? And remember if i put 100 bands in a room…okay I made that point already.

Do YOU have any tips and pointers on what has worked for you?