Blog Video Shirts Contact Facebook YouTube

The Run Down

Brian Toye
October 24, 2011

It all begins when you hear that first song and pick up that first used guitar at the local pawn shop. Years of hacking and dozens of bands later you find yourself with a talent to communicate stories through song. You’ve recorded some home demos and are gaining a following at your local shows. The bands YouTube and Facebook music pages are gaining fans daily. What lies ahead for someone like you?

Step One – The record label (usually an Indi owned by a record producer)

You email your demo mp3’s to the label and the producer likes what he hears…potential. You begin to work closely with him and re visit your songs in depth, re work, re arrange, re-write until you are both happy that they are the best they can be. You hit the studio and give a great performance. The mixes sound great. The artwork looks good and the boxes of pressed cd’s and merchandise arrive at the label headquarters. Freebies are sent to radio stations with bio's/photos and follow up phone calls.

Step one has been completed…The label provided:

Artwork/press CD’s
Manufacture Merchandise
Radio Promotion

Q: Why does the label do all of this?
A: You have agreed that the label will get a % of sales from the merchandise, CD’s, radio play royalties and anything else inked in the artist-label agreement.

What does an Indi label or record producer not do? That’s the next step.

Step Two – Booking the Tour

The label passes the buck off to the band to book shows and hit the road to sell those cd’s and T-shirts. Without help however, it is usually a failure. Bands like to get drunk, party and have fun before, during and after their shows each night….so who will be the unlucky band member stuck selling merch at each venue? Probably none of you! You know what that equals? No sales by the end of the tour. So there are people and business’ in place that provide assistance for new bands in this situation. This assistance is in the form of a road manager. The road manager will make sure all necessary equipment and transportation is arranged and that all venues pay up the agreed upon price for your performances each night. The road manager will take turns driving the van and most importantly set up and sell at every show while the band parties hard with the crowd.
The road manager gets a % of the sales for his or her services. The label gets a % of the sales based on the artist-label agreement. What does the band get? A growing fan base and the remaining % of revenue.

Step Three – Radio Promo and Interviews

While you are out on the road the label or record producer should be calling every radio station in range of your tour. The stations should be provided band bio’s, tour dates and 2-3 possible singles. It’s the labels job to get these stations to play your songs so that people know who you are and where you are playing. This hopefully means more people come to your shows and more merch and cd’s are sold. If your songs are accepted on radio, the stations will request you stop in when passing through and have an on air interview. So be prepared to perform a few of your songs acoustically, be prepared for an early morning after a late gig and be prepared to come across smart, artistic and humble even if u are a grumpy morning person. Remember, you’re at work.

Step Four – Coming Home

So you made it, you almost sold out of merch and cd’s, you had a great time and your fan base has grown from 400 people to 5000 people on Facebook. What’s next? Your record producer calls and says great job guys you recouped the costs for recording the album, so we are going to use our option for a 2nd cd, so get writing and be ready to meet up to show us your new material in a month. Oh, and this time we are going to shoot a video for one of the songs since there is momentum with your band at the moment. Then, you guessed it, right out on the road with the new cd and merch to do it all over again.

Step Five – Video

If the second tour goes as well as the first and your manager has not ripped you off, your gear hasn’t been stolen, your singer hasn’t overdosed or the drummer hasn’t left to get married…then there is a good chance your video will be spinning on much music. This means video interviews and appearances as well as all those early morning radio interviews. The shows your playing are now getting bigger. You’re getting on the bill at some pretty cool festivals and an established band just asked you to open for the first leg of their tour. This is awesome; you guys are really doing it.

Let’s pause for a moment. This happens to about 3% of the bands out there. 2% of which get no further when their 3rd album does not sell. You find yourself back in your old supermarket part time job wondering why the music industry did not realize how amazing you were. The reality is, the music industry from a bands perspective is so small, so impossible to catch and maintain that it almost does not exist at all. Music is ever changing, but the producers and labels and road managers and venues will always be there for that 3% who do catch it. The machine churns out band after band with short average careers of 2-3 years. Why am I saying all this? Not to get you down, but to educate you so you know what you are getting into.

Is this frustrating? Not if you are a true artist. You do this because you love it. You will play to 5 people or 5000 people. You are so thankful that a producer cares enough to give you his honest opinion on how to make your songs the best they can be…spend time recording and editing and mixing your art so that more people will have an opportunity to experience it. You are so humbled that someone would go out on tour with you and night after night set up merchandise and sell your cd. You are so humbled that people, fans, come out to see you perform. This is how you must feel. This outlook, with the right team around you, with your talent and openness to allow others ideas lead at times, will be the ticket to getting yourself in that top 3%....after that its really up to whether or not it’s the right “time” in music for what you are offering.

I know there is a lot more to this, I did not discuss agency groups, how to book tours, SOCAN forms and performance royalties as well as a handful of other subjects. This was simply a heads up for new bands that have not gone through the process, so that they have an idea of what to expect and whether or not it is for them.

- Brian Toye -
We Make Records