Here at Third Bar Belfast Artist Development we get queries from young bands from across Northern Ireland seeking practical advice on such things as getting gigs, making recordings or getting their newest pop gem played on the radio. We are delighted bands contact us with these queries but we have been finding it difficult to find the time to answer them all.
Third Bar contacted a musician from a local band who have toured and continue to tour Ireland, the UK and Europe. We outlined the most common queries we get and they agreed to write this piece offering some practical advice. This is not the gospel according to Davy Matchett (perish the thought) but practical advice from someone who once asked the same questions we still get sent.
A massive thank you from everyone at Third Bar to the anonymous writer and we hope the piece is valuable to some of you.
So, do you like music? Do you fancy a career in the music business? Well, before you set out for world domination why not have a read over the finer points of what it is to be in the business some call ‘show’.
Bands write songs, so write some songs. Every new song you write is a progression, so try not to be too precious. Write them in bedrooms, kitchens, garage, rehearsal rooms. Iron Maiden’s only UK number one was written by Bruce Dickinson while he was on the toilet. You never know, so just write.
Once your songs are written they’ll need to be rehearsed, by a band or on your own. So find somewhere to do this. Garages, bedrooms or rehearsal rooms. Pick a time that suits every member of your band or project and rehearse on a weekly basis or, if you can, more often. Rehearsal time is when bands come to life. Practice your vocals through a PA, try out new ideas for songs, play your setlist and time it. See what works. Nobody can hear you in a practice room so try anything.
Go to gigs, go to the Oh Yeah Centre, talk to people, chat with bands, ask, tell, be polite, give out numbers, email addresses and websites. Make friends, not enemies.
Oh Yeah Centre – 028 9031 0845
Try to have regular band meetings. That way, everybody knows what is expected of them and it will be easier for all of you to pull in the same direction. Any grievances or ideas can be aired here. Whilst it would be nice if all businesses were democratic, it is not always possible so be prepared to discuss everything and always be prepared to compromise. Set deadlines, make plans. Remember – if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
In order to get your sound, you will need amps, guitars, drums, keyboards, samplers, whatever it is that makes your sound. It is imperative that musicians have their own instruments and equipment. It is also imperative that musicians look after their equipment so get a guitar case, get drum cases, buy guitar strings (or, if you can’t afford strings then simply put your old strings in a pot of water and boil them, they’re stainless steel, they’ll be fine and will sound as good as new). Never, ever underestimate the importance of good jack leads. The single most important piece of equipment any musician can have is a tuner. Get one or live to regret it. And make sure the batteries are up to scratch too.Check for bargains on Ebay, ask around. A good band needs good equipment, nobody wants their amp to burst into flames in the middle of a gig….
Everybody has to start somewhere. Go to gigs, meet people, ask bands if you can play wih them, ask venues if you can play there, ask the person behind the bar, ask the person selling merch. Some venues can be hired for free (Auntie Annies do this regularly). Sign up for a ‘Battle of the bands’. Sign up for showcases. All ages gigs. Gigs in your local pub. House parties. Give out your email address or a contact number. Get to know other bands and artists, advice is everywhere if you ask. Email venues, promoters and other bands to ask if you can play. Be wise about it though, if you play in a metal band then asking to support a pop band would be a waste of everyone’s time. Know your limits also, some things may be out of reach but that’s ok. ALWAYS BE POLITE – the people you meet on the way up are the same people you’ll meet on the way down.
This is a long one so I’ll put these in point form. Is that ok? Of course it is.
-Be on time. In fact, be earlier than that.
-Bring your own gear (Never, ever assume that you can use the other bands equipment unless you have arranged this prior to the gig).
-Be polite to the crew , they were there before you and will be there long after you finish.
-Be polite to the soundperson, they can make you sound awful if they decide to.
-Be polite to the other bands. Yes, even if you don’t like their music. It’s called ‘networking’.
-Stick to your stage time.
-If you are told to play for 30 minutes then play for 30 minutes, not 35. Playing for too long makes everybody’s job more difficult.
-Always thank the promoter, the audience, the crew and the soundperson from the stage. Keep it short and sweet though.
-Most people don’t care about the stories behind your songs, forget the story, just play the song.
-Don’t take too long between songs, it’s your own time you’re wasting. Say thanks, tune up, carry on.
-Just because you’re ‘in the band’ doesn’t mean you can park outside the venue, nobody likes parking tickets.
-If you have merch, set it up early and make sure it is staffed at all times. People do still steal things y’know. Display your prices and HAVE A MAILING LIST.
-Soundperson permitting, it should take no more than 30 mins for each band to soundcheck. If it takes longer you’re doing it wrong.
Usually, someone will approach you after a gig to give you your money. If this doesn’t happen then you should speak (politely,of course) to the promoter or the manage of the venue. You won’t get paid for every gig but if you DO get paid then be sure to spend it wisely. Petrol, rehearsals,recording demos, merch, CDs, plectrums, guitar strings, vans and amps all need to be paid for. It is a business after all…. You should always make the most of these opportunities as well. Get some t shirts printed up, get some badges and above all else get some CD’s. While we’re on the subject….
So, you’ve written some songs, played some shows and saved some cash, what next? Record those songs, that’s what. But hold on, are you sure you’re ready? In a modern recording studio, time = money so make sure you are prepared, rehearsed and absolutely certain about what you want to achieve before you go start recording. Make sure your gear is up to scratch and make sure everybody knows the songs. Sounds simple doesn’t it?
That’s because it is. Preparation will make the entire experience far more enjoyable for everyone. Once you are prepared, rehearsed and have enough money to pay the people who will be recording you, you will be ready to record. But where? Try these -
Or if you can’t afford to go into a studio, why not record your songs yourself? Many bands record with Garageband, Logik, Pro Tools or even Cubase on a laptop or a PC for next to nothing.
Once you receive your master CD, it is strongly advised to do two things.
1. Copyright your work. “But how?!” I hear you cry. Simple. Get a copy of your recording (not the master copy, you want to keep that safe) and post it TO YOURSELF. I know, it sounds odd but it works as proof of legally copyrighting your work.
2. Keep your master CD safe. You’ll only originally need it for duplication as it is the best copy of your work.
THE OTHER STUFF
So you’ve got your recording. But whether it’s a single, an EP or an album, it will need the following things.
-Artwork – Do it yourself, hire a designer, give it a name.
-Photos – Hire a professional, the difference will be noticeable and it’s money well spent as your pictures can also be used for press packs, online and press articles. With regard to the actual shots themselves, be creative, nobody needs another ‘urban wasteland’ photo shoot….
-CDs – In order to sell your CD you’ll need to duplicate it. There are plenty of places to do this but prices vary so do your homework. Always remember to put your contact details and copyright info on the CD.
Again, there are more than listed above so ask around, see what works.
A press pack is essentially a description of your band and it’s history. It shouldn’t be too long, nor should it be too short. You don’t need to include your band’s entire history, just quickly explain what has bought you to where you are now. Mention your influences too, does’t hurt and it gives a reference point for whoever is seeing or hearing your music for the first time. Keep any press clippings to put in there too. First impressions are everything. If you give off the wrong impression (in your bio, your photos or at a gig) then you might turn potential customers or employers off your product before they have even heard a note. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Don’t write a joke book either. It’s a question of taste. Be tasteful.
If that doesn’t help, try this – http://www.indieguide.com/howto/view/462449/How_To_Make_A_Press_Kit_For_Your_Band
WHO SHOULD I SEND MY STUFF TO?
You want to be on the radio don’t you? If so I would suggest uploading your best track to te BBC Introducing Uploader. Here -
If that doesn’t satisfy your airplay needs, try posting your CD with your press pack to local radio stations and press companies. Here is some advice that may seem common sense – know your audience. This applies to all parts of marketing your work but particularly so when dealing with radio stations. If, for example, you play in a heavy metal band and you decide to send your stuff to BBC Radio Ulster, there would be little point in sending it to every show on the station as not all shows will play that type of music (Hugo Duncan won’t play it but Across the Line might), so find out which shows you would like to get played on and send your press packs and CDs accordingly. This goes for emailing press, radio and online as well of course.
There are far more places than that to send your work but it’s not a bad place to start.
Most business these days is conducted online. Emails, websites, social networking (there’s that ‘networking’ word again) are how we all consume information these days. Remember MySpace? It still exists but it probably isn’t the platform of choice for most musicians these days. Making your own website is quite easy if you use a site like WordPress but even at that, a website isn’t strictly necessary. Think of your favourite artists, how do they communicate with you and their other fans?
Get your own personalised email account. From there, start working on the usual online standards – Twitter, Facebook pages, Youtube, Bandcamp, Soundcloud. All of these are perfect for building your online presence and best of all, they’re all free. Be sure to update regularly (not too regularly) and follow the usual online rules. BE POLITE, BE POSITIVE.
Having a few well recorded songs, a tight live set, a solid online presence and a good press pack is as good a place as any to start your musical career.
Here are a few handy websites that may also help -
A Plastic Rose and Wonder Villains hit the road in the UK this week to play the seventh annual Dot To Dot festival. Originating in Nottingham, the festival now also takes place in Bristol and Manchester and runs from 2nd – 4th June. This year’s line up includes The Drums, Pulled Apart By Horses, Wavves and many, many more.
A Plastic Rose shows -
Sat 2nd June- UK, Bristol Dot To Dot Festival – The Cooler – 1830
Sun 3rd June- UK, Nottingham Dot To Dot Festival – Rescue Rooms – 1530
Mon 4th June- UK, Manchester Dot To Dot Festival – Sound Control Live Lounge – 1800
Tue 5th June- UK, Kerrang Awards Show, Camden Barfly, London w/ Arcane Roots + Hawk Eyes
Wonder Villains shows -
Sat 2nd June – UK, Bristol Dot To Dot Festival – The Cooler – 1730
Sun 3rd June – UK, Nottingham Dot To Dot Festival – Rescue Rooms – 1430
Mon 4th June – UK, Manchester Dot To Dot Festival – Sound Control Live Lounge – 1700
Thurs 7th June – UK, Camden Barfly, London w/ Among Brothers
Click the link below for tickets -
‘Gifted Live’ is a special monthly showcase of local talent which features both live performances and pre-recorded sessions from local artists. The showcase is simultaneously streamed live and free online at www.giftedlive.com. Taking place on the 7th June, this month’s event will feature a live set from A Plastic Rose as well as specially pre-recorded sessions from Tom McShane and Elspeth and will be headlined by Duke Special.
A Plastic Rose – Build from the ground up
Elspeth – Think back
Tom McShane – The Ural Winter Recordings
Tickets for this event are £10, click the ‘Gifted Live’ logo for more information.
Elspeth are a 5-piece indie-rock band from Northern Ireland. They have just finished recording their debut album and have played a host of recent shows, including Gifted at the Empire Music Hall, a storming set at Glasgowbury and support for Cashier No.9 throughout their last Irish tour.
Elspeth’s music has been played on radio stations across the UK including Tom Robinson; Gideon Coe on BBC 6Music, Phantom FM, Cool FM and BBC Radio 1 Introducing who featured a live session with the band earlier this year. They plan to release the record with an independant label in 2012.
Below is an acoustic performance of ‘Starry’ recorded to promote the launch of thier video for ‘Think Back’ in October.
Tom McShane writes quiet, intricate songs that bore into your heart. 2010 saw him challenge convention with an innovative recording project. Inspired by those great recordings from the days before overdubs and multitracking, Tom assembled and rehearsed a 13 piece band and in two live sessions recorded his entire full length debut in the presence of a live audience; ‘The Ural Winter’ will be released in 2012.
Niall, Ethan and Ewan have been screaming and bashing their way round Europe this year touring the release of single ‘We Dine On Seeds’. Early in the year they were chosen by Rocksound Magazine to record a session in the legendary BBC Maida Vale studios aired on the Daniel P Carter Rock Show. The following UK tour was their most successful to date with Rocksound magazine labeling them “The most exciting band to come out of Northern Ireland, possibly ever”.
After a summer European tour Axis got stuck into recording their debut album with Barret Leahy and Rocky O’Reilly at Start Together Studios in the Oh Yeah Centre, which is finished and mixed and waiting to blow up in 2011.
Wonder Villains’ infectious anti-pop has been making serious waves across the water this year. They have just finished supporting General Fiasco on a full UK tour, and current single Zola has been racking up airplay on stations from Cool FM to Radio One. The next single Ferrari produced by Rocky O’Reilly at Start Together Studios will be released in February.