Building Music From Scratch
Guard Your Trust

I’ve alluded to the issue of not being too trusting, but let me address it directly. Don’t trust ANYONE in the music industry outright. I’m not saying this because I’ve been recently burned or anything, but I do know what being burned by people you trust is like and it’s taught me to be a little slower to believe whatever is being said to me and a lot slower at agreeing to “great opportunities”.

People are full of crap in general. When you learn this, you will have learned one of the greatest lessons that life can teach. I NEVER do ANYTHING for ANYONE until I know I’m protected. Guard your trust, guard your assets, and protect them fiercely. You’ve poured your blood, sweat, and tears into your business and no fast-talking, money grubbing opportunist should be able to weasel their way into it with a few name-drops and promises.

Fight for what’s yours.

benunion:

UNIONITES! Here’s a great Kickstarter video to laugh at and share…ENJOY!

BU

It Can Be Done

Tonight was wonderful…I interviewed a new intern for my company, Setlist Management (www.SetlistManagement.com) and I’m thoroughly stoked for the future and what is ahead. But after my meeting I felt like I needed something more…I needed a challenge. I decided to go right to the top of a mountain I’ve been trying to climb for a long time rather than working my way up the chain.

Why do we see a challenge and begin over-thinking, doubting, and looking for a way to diplomatically work our way into good situations through political means and connections rather than hitting things head-on? I’m so tired of kissing up to people through other connections…don’t get me wrong; connectivity is VITAL to our existence and who you know is important. BUT, I think the value of simply asking has disappeared in our world.

"Ask, and you shall receive" is a lost value and I intend to revive it. DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR BIG THINGS!!! A famous saying goes, "You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take" and sadly, too many of us simply don’t take the big shots. Miss or not, I want to know that at the end of the day, I took the biggest shot possible. I took the shot everyone else was too scared or intimidated to take, and I’m the one who stands the greatest chance at glory. I may miss, but if I shoot straight, I get to live the dream that others chase for a lifetime.

Guts and the simplicity of asking can open doors that years of playing politics will never touch. I took a shot tonight…and I hit the game-winner. I will never be afraid to ask again.

DO NOT LEAVE YOUR DESTINY TO POLITICS. CHOOSE YOUR SHOTS, AND YOU CHOOSE YOUR DESTINY.

Going With Your Gut

You’ve heard the saying, and most of us have probably said it: “Go with your gut.” But in reality, how many times do we ignore the little guiding voice warning us to stay the course? I was reminded this week of how hard it can be at times to stay true to your own goals when pursuing your dreams if you see a shortcut or possible chance you don’t want to miss.

I was offered a show for one of my bands and from the very beginning I knew I didn’t want it and I didn’t feel right about it…but the “reward” at the end of the day was promising a lot, so I started to pursue the carrot at the end of the stick, like a mule being tricked into chasing something they’ll never reach. After deciding to do a little digging on the “opportunity” presented to me, I found that the prize was not as glamorous and the road to the prize much different than advertised, leaving me pissed that I had even wasted my time on any pursuit of what my gut told me was a waste to begin with.

We all want to achieve our dreams and we all want great opportunities, but DON’T EVER go against your conscience. You may miss out on a few things because your gut can be wrong sometimes, but I’d rather choose and be PUMPED and CONFIDENT in my choices because it strikes a chord of passion in me, rather than second-guessing my choices and doing things out of obligation or a desire to not miss out. Choose your own road, make your own choices…you may look back and realize you were wrong, but at least it’sYOUR road that you chose.

When you don’t know what to do, get counsel, and if you still don’t know what to do, do what you feel RIGHT about.

Family

Since my last post, life has been a whirlwind…San Diego Music Festival, great shows, killer panels and learning going on…but the thing I have taken most to heart is how the value of family continues to rise as I grow older…and I’m amazed at how music has played such a huge part in this.

Today is my birthday, and it’s one I’ll never forget. This week, my wife and I lost a baby; it would have been our 2nd child. After an emergency surgery, Melissa had a dangerous drop in blood pressure and we have been in the hospital with 911 calls, ambulance rides, and literal on-the-brink-of-death moments that have made me weep, lose hope, made me question all I do, and feel as alone as I could ever feel.

Through all of my fear and moments of devastation, I have been filled with a deeper appreciation for family that makes all other things in this life insignificant and meaningless in comparison…and I don’t just mean “blood” family. 

If you know me at all, you’ll know that I put a value on family that I refuse to compromise on, and I don’t believe in a “blood is thicker than water” ideology. Family, to me, is made up of honest, deep, committed relationships where the members care about each other beyond function, are unselfish, and who will stand by and love each other through the hardest moments that include conflict with one another. I am willing to and have walked away from my own relatives at times to remain committed to my real relationships, and I hope this is my lasting legacy…that I will be remembered as a man that was genuine and always committed to relationships until the end or until the other individual chooses to walk away. I will never quit loving.

I cannot express how blessed I have been through this time by my family…all of you who have supported, prayed, and given of yourselves for Melissa, Jael, and I. I have been further convinced that music has given me yet more gifts in the form of loving and supportive friends and I am filled with the hope that whether this music thing goes as big as I think it will or not, I will have the family that I have met and connected with for the rest of my life, and that’s more important than the music or the business.

Love to all,

Gabe for Melissa and Jael

Touring Part 4 - Booking Through Other Bands

The alternative to booking through a venue when on tour is booking through bands in the cities where you’re trying to visit. 9 times out of 10, you’ll be able to offer a trade and other bands will take you up on it. I happen to heavily prefer this method for several reasons (keep in mind that this is assuming I’m booking for a developing independent act on tour):

1. The Band Has Local Ties To Venues - If a band from Portland attempts to book a show in their city as opposed to you, the venues automatically prefer the band who’s listed hometown online is local, and assume they have a draw of some sort.

2. The Band Usually Has A Relationship With Venues - Venues like working with bands they know and trust. They know what to expect from individuals, how many people they bring, how to build a bill around them, and they will generally allow certain bands leeway to bring in other quality acts that they vouch for. I have also found that bookers give me more leeway simply because of my reputation with them, especially if I commit to covering the draw for an out-of-town band.

3. It Expands Your Network - I’m a FIRM believer in the philosophy that you NEED other bands in your musical journey, and you MUST be connected in a community of bands to have any success. Bands support you, they plug you, you get their crossover, and you gain ALLIES and FRIENDS FOR LIFE (which is the best part of this whole music dream!). 

4. It Gives You A Place To Stay - I don’t know about you, but I like beds better than van floors. Hosting bands almost always love to have guest bands in their pad/shack/basement, etc….it saves your back and your money, and it’s generally a safer place to park your van with all your gear for the night. 

5. You Get To Play In Front Of People - Nothing sucks worse than playing in an empty room on tour. It’s a complete waste of your time. No people = No payout, no merch sales, and no new fans. Take advantage of other bands’ fan bases!

After this little series on touring, I’ll cover the art of show trades in-depth…there are some crazy stories and certain ways to do things that will save you some serious pain.

Feel free to ask questions!

Gabe

Touring Part 3 (cont.)- Getting Shows Through Bookers/Venues

Alright I’ll just continue right where I left off on getting shows through bookers:

4. Don’t Ask Stupid Questions - Venues have websites and calendars for a reason (well, decent venues do anyway). Make sure to check the place out, research where they’re located, find out whether shows are 21+, and LOOK AT THE CALENDAR! It is booking suicide to write a venue asking if a night is free when right there on the calendar it has a bill listed…if it’s already booked, ask to be added as an opener…If it’s not, ask to be a part and then jockey for a decent slot without getting greedy.

5. Use Your Relationships - This world is all about who you know, and what you do with what you know to use who you know to influence others. Use every relational resource you have to get the ear of a booker…they’ll do their friend’s friends favors often.

6. Don’t Be Too Narrow In Your Vision - I wouldn’t say to aim low, but I also wouldn’t advise you to shoot only for the biggest venue in the money-slot for a single date. I’d cast a net to several venues for a 2 or 3-day window of when you need a show and see who bites. You may not get the venue you want, but a show is better than no show at all and you might even get more than one show. You just may have to play the crap place at first…but if your product is the best on the stage that night, word will spread and you’ll be playing the big place in no time! 

7. Treat Opportunities Like Gold - Regardless of venue, it’s that booker’s WORLD. It’s what they work for, try to improve, think about, and find their identity in. Don’t EVER, for any reason, treat a venue like it’s worth less than another. I think your booking strategy has to change for each place, but you never know who you’re dealing with, what doors they can open for you, or how they could tarnish your name if pissed-off.

Take Care my friends! Pass on the blog if you like. More soon.

Gabe

Touring Part 3 - Getting Shows Through Bookers/Venues

 You’ve narrowed down your target area and selected key cities to play. Now you need some shows locked in. Obviously, you’re going have to take cash into account, but money is going to be dealt with throughout the entire touring process and I’ll be cover that later.

There are 2 ways that I book shows: Through bookers/venues, and through other bands. When attempting to book shows directly through the venues, there are some key points to keep in mind when making contact:

1. Professional Contact = More (and better) Responses - DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT send some half-assed 3-sentence email with misspellings and bad grammar saying, “we are on tour and want to play your venue” or anything of that sort. I have had bands ask me for help with this pathetic effort and I won’t even respond. If I have to ask everything I need to know about your band, you have wasted my time. When asking a favor of someone, it’s a good idea to make it as easy as possible for them to say yes. When you write, include as much valuable information as possible: who you are and who you represent, where you’re from, the dates you are looking for, the kind of draw you have in the area, and where I can hear and see (YouTube) your music. Most clubs care about one thing with bands: THE MONEY FANS MAKE THEIR CLUB…do whatever you can to quickly direct their focus to you and off of the night’s take and this means making it easy. Include a signature at the bottom of your email…I’d even go so far as to suggest using the same basic email and just adjust it to each venue you contact.

2. Proper Representation  - I have tripled the amount of responses and doubled the actual bookings per tour by approaching clubs as a manager/booker/representative rather than as a band member. Clubs are inundated with requests from touring bands and the majority are flaky, unresponsive, late, unorganized, and lazy. Whether you like it or not, you’ve already been judged by the person receiving your email simply because of your position. Bookers think they’re above you when you’re in a band, but for some reason they respond better to their “peers” in the booking business, even if they have to turn you down. This may be due to the fact that they know bookers/managers deal with setting up tours and know when they’re getting screwed/toyed with. I’m may be biased, but I think this is another reason management is vital to artist success.

3. A Good Resume’ Does Help - The artist’s version of a resume’ is called a "1-sheet". Thomas Starks (www.facebook.com/thomasstarksmusic and www.thomasstarks.tumblr.com) lovingly chewed me out for not having a 1-sheet for my bands and I IMMEDIATELY went and made one. I have found a 1-sheet to be INVALUABLE to booking shows. Your 1-sheet should be short, sweet, and to the point while packing as much information about your project into one sheet of paper. I attach my 1-sheet as a pdf to all booking emails and make the online links clickable. 

This is getting long and it’s past midnight…I’ll continue this part tomorrow. Talk soon!

Touring Part 2 - Where?

In part 1, I covered the reasons to tour (as I see them) and although it seems rather simplistic in nature, I hope that it helps your mindset become a little more pointed in regard to touring. After aligning the reasons for a tour, the next obvious question needing answered is “Where do we go?” 

The “where” is nearly as important as the “why” when considering touring, and unfortunately, I (like many bands) have had to learn the hard way where to tour and when to tour those areas. STEPS FOR WHERE TO TOUR: 1. Choose a key region. 2. Choose key cities/towns within your chosen region.

1. Choosing Your Region

Before you even choose a region, adjust your mindset to seeing certain significant areas as regions rather than regions as determined by mapmakers. When touring, you don’t have to tour the ENTIRE NorthWest or the ENTIRE West Coast. If I could do it over again, I would probably choose a smaller area closer to home to conquer first rather than trying to invade the entire coast on the first trip. I think it’s always good to be bold and reach out of your comfort zone, but even the greatest warlords of history have failed in conquest when straying too far from the supply lines. Having said this, I also am blessed enough to live in a place rich with places to play…some are not so lucky and will have to choose a region that may even require relocation.

Make sure to choose a region where there are numerous key locations of impact inside that area. If you’re going on a “tour”, then your tour should place you in locations close enough in proximity to one another for word to spread, but far enough away from each other where you know you’re hitting almost an entirely different crowd. Your “region” may be small like a single town, or it could be a huge area. This can mean a venue on one side of a town or an entirely different city a state away. Either way, plan to have multiple points of strategic attack and product placement for maximum accessibility.

2. Choosing key locations/cities:

The key to choosing locations within a region is by simply seeing all aspects of touring through the lens of fan-base growth. I am a firm believer in playing as many shows as possible while touring, but I’m also realizing that if you don’t plan on touring those locations on a regular basis to develop a consistent and dedicated fan base, you’re wasting your time. What good does it do, especially as an independent DIY band, to play a city once and not return any time soon? You may grab a few ears, but how do you continue to keep those new fans interested/involved if you’re not going to give them more opportunities to see you? 

I learned the hard way on my first tour. I found a region that was huge, chose a large list of cities, and then blasted an innumerable amount of venues with booking requests and tried to put the stops in some sort of practical order for travel planning. THIS IS NOT A GOOD PLAN. It’s always good to remain flexible when planning a tour, but some things you cannot compromise on, and location is one of them. Have a pointed set of goals that includes places that are important for you to OWN, and then make sure you intend to rise to the top of the list of bands known in that location by keeping a presence there.

Check back soon for more and PLEASE comment or make suggestions! I want to know if this is helping in any way or if I can try to answer things I may be missing.

Back soon,

Gabe

Touring Part 1 - Why?

As one of my bands recently just finished another full west-coast tour, I think it would be good to put down some of the lessons learned, tips for booking, how to travel, etc. Please keep in mind that this is not necessarily a handbook for touring or a set of rules that work for everyone, but rather my self-taught-through-trial-and-error set of findings as a manager for an unsigned band. I’m sure that signed bands have a completely different experience. Next tour, I’ll probably throw a few of my current findings out, but that’s just part of the process.

THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION YOU NEED TO ANSWER BEFORE TOURING IS “WHY AM I GOING ON TOUR?” Everyone wants to tour. I don’t think I’ve ever run into a single musician that just wants to perform in the same town his/her entire career. The whole dream of “going big” is synonymous with performing all over the world, playing the biggest and best venues. BUT!…if you’re touring just to tour, see the sights, and don’t have a clear set of goals and resources, you’re wasting a lot of time and A LOT OF MONEY.

There are 2 terms that completely define if and when my bands tour: “Fan-base Growth" and "Product Distribution”.

1. Fan-base Growth:

Fan-base growth is the single most important reason and essentially the only ultimate reason for touring. When you tour, you are playing in cities and towns where you are an unknown. Fresh sounds on fresh ears in fresh venues is VITAL to band development. If you could live the rockstar life, make millions of dollars, and be all over the radio by simply playing locally, U2 wouldn’t be coming to your city every few years. Playing in front of new ears means making new fans, and making new fans means more people to tell others about you, and in the end, people equal resource…YES, I’M TALKING ABOUT MONEY.

The bottom line is that bands make MUCH more on shows than they do on albums. This trend will continue to shift as bands become more independently successful (see my post http://gabrielmira.tumblr.com/post/7432420053/independents-day ) but until then, this is still how it works, ESPECIALLY for smaller bands without huge distribution deals to get music out there for the masses to buy.

To put it simply, you need to have the goal of fan contact at the top of your list of reasons why you are touring. Not only will this help you develop better ways to reach fans on the go, but it will also force you to tighten your budget, maximize resources, prioritize where you play and how you book, decide how often you tour, and track your success.

2. Product Distribution:

If you don’t have a product (at least your music. If you have other merchandise, that’s even better) that is a GOOD-TO-GREAT representation of you, DO NOT TOUR. PERIOD. If fans can’t get access to your music to listen to and show to others, why do you play any shows at all? I understand that recording costs money, but Garage Band on a friend’s laptop is better than nothing at all…and once you develop a local fan base and get some cash, spend it on a product that represents you well, and then you consider touring.

Long story short, a vision without a plan is a fantasy, and unless the plan is going to grow you toward financial independence, you’re just losing work hours and paying for a really expensive and stressful vacation where you haul around a lot of heavy gear to a bunch of crappy bars and perform short sets on garbage sound systems for a group of people who couldn’t give a crap less about your music. Touring is strategic and needs to be planned.

More soon.

Gabe