Category Archives: Uncategorized

Releasing CDs in an increasingly non-CD climate…

[Originally blogged 11/29/08]
What’s funny about releasing music these days is it’s a massive crapshoot, and releasing a CD, even after extremely modest success like Caustic has had (people always think you’ve sold more than you actually have, or significantly less if they don’t “get” it:)), is even more stressful than ever. Personally, I *like* physical CDs, but I completely understand and have increasingly utilized the wonderful world of insta-satisfaction digital downloading, and while either sale is still a sale, as an artist and member of a label that actually still makes physical CDs, I see it as a priority to pimp the physical product more than the digital, primarily because I spend an irrationally large amount of time coming up with the packaging for the CD to suit the music inside, and I also don’t want the label stuck with boxes of CDs marked “Caustic” in the Crunch Pod distro megawarehouse (again, Ben’s office closet, most likely).

So yeah, all in all I don’t wanna be that guy. Moreso, I refuse to.

At the same time I know that CD sales in and of themselves, as a physical product, are a dwindling marketplace. Nothing can really change that. I’m as fine with that as I can be, as I trust people to actually buy the digital downloads and have come to a level of acceptance that getting pissed about every d-bag mp3 site or torrent out there is just dumb, even though it means not just me getting screwed out of some small amounts of money, but the label that believes in me enough to back their confidence up with cold, hard cash.

So where the hell do we all go from here? There’s got to be a new model out there– what it is I have no idea, but I’m doing what I can. Basically the only way to assure some recoupment of the cash Crunch Pod is putting out is to pimp preorders as much as possible. Why? Pretty obvious, really– we’re a small label and the more we can offset costs by presales the less debt the label has to deal with before the CDs hits the streets and, inevitably, the mp3 sites. This means the label can (hopefully) stick around to fight another day and keep releasing stuff.

This time around I’m trying to pad the deal with special incentives for preordering, as I KNOW it sucks having to wait (and for the label to inevitably have some dipshit email it asking “WHERE’S MY CD??!!?!?” a week after they preordered the fucking thing. READ, PEOPLE!:)), but to me it’s an extremely kind gesture from fans of the music to sacrifice some cash up front to know they’re keeping the wheels greased at the always lean times for the label.

The interwebs are an awesome equalizer, but at the same time it’s really hard to separate the wheat from the really fucking awful music out there, and even harder to get people’s ears tuned into your stuff. On the whole I think advertising by traditional means is a dumb way to go, as it’s really difficult (IMHO) to see the direct results. Word of mouth will always be massively beneficial, and in fact online is still the best advertising, so thanks to anyone who pimps ANY music you like because we appreciate the hell out of it.

So the trick, as I see it, is simply to be more creative, especially if you don’t have a “traditional” hook, ie you’re drop dead hot or drop dead talented. If I was 10 years younger, 50 lbs lighter, and wearing a fuckton more vinyl Caustic would probably be a lot more popular “with the kids,” but since I ain’t and rather enjoy not dressing like I’m 24 and clubbing to get laid anymore (Christ, how sad would that be?) I resort to trying to use my actual strengths instead, and that’s just smart thinking to me…plus it’s all I got. Mind you, I also think that a good Caustic show is measured by the amount of beer I’ve drank and/or spilled onstage and how much stuff got broken, so I’m not the best judge of anything, but it works for me.

Thanks to the wonderful world of technology we have a massive amount of opportunity at our disposal, but again so does everyone, so it’s putting out 150% to rise above all the others out there. If you or your label can’t do that you’ve got to accept that you’re probably not going to sell as well. If that doesn’t matter as much to you, fine. Fuck, I almost wish it didn’t to me, but my sense of responsibility, ridiculous drive to annoy people with my music, and hardcore compulsion to slowly ruin the entire goth and industrial scenes single-handedly completely overshadows my laziness.

Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight, and don’t bring half-assed promotion to the interwebs. Both are a waste of time and will result in the same kind of embarrassing death.

Wow, that was a heavy way to end a stupid rant, wasn’t it? Awesome.

Advertisements

weathering the storm in the underground

[Originally blogged 12/2/08 ]

Knowing how bad things are already and seeing how bad they’re gonna get with the world economy…well, I’m actually glad where I am right now in the scheme of things. In talking with several bands bigger and smaller than me in the realm of this genre it looks like there are really tough days ahead for artists, and truth be told it’s probably going to wipe out quite a few labels and even more artists who are either not going to have the time to work on music to make financial ends meet, or simply will stop doing it because they can’t make the money they need to keep going with CD sales.

The only thing that really gives me hope is that, as part of a small niche genre, we’re used to struggling. We don’t do this for sales– we do this because it’s our passion. Most artists in this genre are working in their own studios on their own dime and even in the best economic situation can’t invest the money major labels and artists do on a daily basis, so in effect major labels are gonna get fucked a LOT worse than us as most labels in this scene can only afford 1-2 staff people at most, and the vast majority is done on a volunteer basis because it’s a labor of love.

I have faith in our crowds, too. People like this music on the whole not because it’s been forcefed down their throats by crap top 40 radio (I mean seriously, how much radioplay do ANY of us really get?), but instead because they somehow found us, whether it be from seeing us live, word of mouth over the interwebs, or through sheer luck. I tend to think we’re a lot more accessible to communicate with to the people that listen to this music, at least I am, so there’s a closer connection with the crowd, at least in that they know where all the big bucks they shell out for downloads and sales go.

In short, and I’ve said it before, it’s not as much that I see “fans” of what we do, but friends of the artists– hell, you’re our patrons. While that sounds cheesy, the main reason I do what I do is to entertain a relatively small crowd of lovable dipshits who enjoy my little blend of noisy douchebaggery and heavy drinking. Hell, it’s more fun than seeing some fully programmed $80-a-ticket arena rock show…okay, at least better than fucking Hinder.

Hopefully.:)

The world will always need mindless entertainment, especially in times like these. There’s a lot to be said for blowing off steam and just forgetting about all the stupid for a few hours, and to me music’s been there to help me with that all my life. I make no apologies for what I do and think what I do is just as “legitimate” as any other artist out there– if I wanted to make “Important Music” I’d most likely be sounding a lot different– but it’s more fun playing to a bar full of drunks with smiles on their faces screaming along with whatever inanities I spout off than sitting around loading a gun because your 401k is in the tank or you or one of your parents just lost their job.

So, in short- hang in there, fuckers. We’ll ride this bitch out, and in the meantime let’s try and lose our shit in a positive way as much as possible. Another nice thing about this scene is that on the whole the shows aren’t terribly expensive, so support them when you can. There’s going to be some great artists touring next year (I hope to be one of them, actually) so know that while gas prices are down, tour expenses still suck. Make sure to spread the word on upcoming shows so people know to come out, and if you enjoy the show grab a shirt or a CD so the bands can eat and buy gas the next day. Snag a few tracks you like off legal digital download sites and let DJs know what new music you’re listening to– hell, burn them mix CDs to introduce them, as I have a feeling it’s going to be harder and harder for DJs to get into promo pools with all the strings tightening at labels. Mind you this doesn’t mean a WHOLE CD, but a selection of awesome you’ve been into. As a DJ I know I appreciate that, and it gives what you’re listening to a little bit more of a chance of getting pumped over a sound system for you to stomp around to.

Everything helps, so know that it’s appreciated on all levels.

Stick with us and we’ll stick with you. Never forget that.

Mega-Rant on Downloading and ACTUAL Costs for Small Labels

[Originally blogged 9/28/06- NOTE: THIS IS FROM NEARLY 3 YEARS AGO AND I’LL PROBABLY UPDATE IT SOON.]

Someone asked me for a copy of this and since I haven’t read it in a while (I think I wrote it before my debut came out) I thought I’d post it for anyone interested in reading it.  It certainly provoked a response at the time.

Thanks.

-Matt

______________________________________

Okay, first off, I doubt this is going to change anyone’s minds on downloading. In all honesty I’m giving this info out for both informative AND selfish reasons too, but it doesn’t make the data any less correct.

Now, second off, an admission– I’ve downloaded a shit-ton of songs. When Napster and Audiogalaxy hit I was downloading track after track to fill in gaps in my “collection,” get hard to find/rare remixes, and find new bands I’d heard about through friends. I don’t download anymore, basically because I like owning copies of the discs as well as knowing I’m supporting the artists. A second, smaller admission– yup, I get “advance” copies of CDs occassionally from friends, but I always also buy them when they come out or toss the freebie if I’m not into it.

So there, full disclosure.

Now let’s talk numbers for putting out a CD in the electro/industrial/goth/jizzcore genre, shall we?:


To put out 500 copies (which is fairly standard, unless you’re getting into the VNV/Covenant/A23 world of things), a label has to put up around this kind of money just to get the CD out, and this is the LOW END:

~$900-1200 for replication, ie making a “real” CD.
~$250-500 for mastering of the CD, so it doesn’t sound like ass.
~$100-200 for promo handbills/fliers/stickers
~$100 for promo/distro postage (radios, DJs, release parties, sending
discs to Metro/DSBP)
~$300 for a ONE TIME 1/4 page ad in Side-Line (optional, of course, but ads get the word out)

Add that all up and your label is looking at a minimal investment of around $1700 for a mere 500 CDs, and that isn’t including, for an established band, a possible small advance, website creation/support, etc. Add a remix by a “big” name (the VNVs, A23s, CombiChrists of the world) and you’re talking another 300-1500 or higher. Let’s say A23 does one for you for $300 (Tom’s going rate if I recall, and an extremely fair one let it be known), just to put us at a cool 2 grand.

Now let’s break down how the CDs will go, as you aren’t selling all of them for the full price off your website (and if you are, that’s a TON more promo money you’ll need to put forth. Let’s be realistic, you’re not THAT known yet):

500 CDs base:
-50-75 for promo/release parties
-25-50 for Metropolis @ $5-7 a pop (wholesale)
-5-10 (if lucky) @ DSBP/ADD @ $5-7
-10 or so at CDBABY @ 5-7
-2-5 @ Amazon @ 5-7

So let’s say Metro likes you and thinks your disc will sell and not end up on the “sale” page of their site within a month, so they take 50 (some of which, if not sold, could be returned). All the other sources totalled up take another 30, so technically you’ve taken care of (and hope people will actually BUY) approx 80 cds. That 80 PLUS the 75 put you at ~150 cds gone, and the promos you’ll get zero return on except for POSSIBLE club and radio play.

Let’s also say you sell EVERY ONE of those 80 CDs at $6 a pop (which is lucky), so there’s $480 in you or your label’s coffer. Hey, you’re 1/4 of the way there, right? Not bad, considering there’s 350 more CDs you can sell at shows, to your pals, and soforth, right?

So let’s do the local release party. All your friends show up and even though you give away 5 CDs to the DJs and pals that helped you put together the art for the disc you also sold 25 more at $10 a pop (why “rip off” your like pals at $14 like the online retailers, right?) So there’s another $250. You also sell another 20 or so off your website and MySpace to people all over the place for another $250 or so.

The label is now roughly at $1000 recouped in their investment with another $1000 to make up and 300 discs left. You decide to play out live and do a regional tour. You do a week and a half of shows at pretty much any goff/industrial club that’ll take you, as most “real” venues could give a crap about 3 ninnies in Hot Topic gear playing backing tracks and synths. Plus, you’ve got connections in some cities cuz of LJ and MySpace and your dad’s station wagon so you’re ready to rock.

So you’re doing this bare bones– crashing on floors, playing with local “supastars”. You sell 50 CDs on a total of 7 dates (the few off days are spent travelling and kicking it in hotel rooms), which is actually pretty good considering since nobody’s really heard of you and turnouts were low. So there’s another $600– but you had to buy the 100 CDs from the label at $5 a pop so you ACTUALLY only made $100. And the off-day hotels cost an extra $150 and the small guarantees you got (and were lucky to get, as you aren’t a draw like Icon of Coil yet, are you?) covered gas and tolls, plus, to be generous, all of your food on off days.

Note: this is also considered by most to be a successful tour.

So now you as a BAND are down $50 and the label, which you paid $500 for 100 CDs, is at 3/4 of the cash he/she/they put out. You’re stuck with 50 CDs, they’re stuck with 200, and although you got some good reviews and some play, the webrings have gotten ahold of your CD (probably through one of the DJs you trusted who fucked you) and it’s all over p2p servers both private and public, so people are downloading it, especially that hot A23 mix which is getting clubplay.

This costs the label 50-100 sales conservatively, as many people ONLY wanted a track or two, mainly the hot remix and the original version and that other one they heard on Cyberage Radio. Sure, they would have bought it 7-8 years ago just for those tracks, but fuck it, why bother when it’s ONLY those tracks, right?

So, to average that number, the label loses $500-1000 or so thanks to downloading. Probably more, as you’ve gained a lot of new “friends” on MySpace who may have just heard the snippet of your “clubhit” and dled it from a p2p after that.

This also doesn’t include all the people who simply copied the whole CD for their pals. Or copied it and sold it on eBay, or the DJs who sold their FREE copies online for $5 and someone snagged it off half.com.

Eventually the label sells another 50 copies of the disc off of the website by good word of mouth and you kicking ass playing backing tracks live, but that means the label has broken even at BEST. To put out your SECOND CD, if they can be convinced, having essentially no return on their investment and OTHER band’s CDs they wanna put out, they’ll have to use that SAME money or get it from somewhere ELSE.

The rest of the CDs, by the way, sit in the label’s “warehouse.” This is also known as their bedroom closet.

The highest echelon of artists sell between 10-25000. However, MOST bands in this scene, if lucky, sell between 500-1000 CDs. 500-1000 is considered a success story these days. Is that sad or what?

So there, in a nutshell, is why so many small labels go under. Sure, some do better and actually SELL all the non-promo CDs, but even by selling all of those CDs you’re talking about a TOTAL profit of a grand or MAYBE two grand…and some of that goes to the artist or makes you lucky enough to put out another CD. Now you may think “wow, a few GRAND!” then please take into consideration the stress of putting out the CD and countless unappreciated and unpaid hours both the label and the band put into getting the CD together, distributing, and promoting it. That amount ends up being minimum wage earnings at best.

Many successful and amazing artists on reputable labels do not see ANY royalties EVER, or some years after the fact when all recoupments for the label are made.

Sure, most labels and artists do this for love, but love kinda sucks when people are asking you to sign CDRs of your release at shows because they’re cheap asshats.

Worse still, take a label like Metropolis, where some CDs have more PROMOS distributed than actual SALES, plus actual employees (and it’s a small staff, people), plus an actual WAREHOUSE, and on top of that people download and copy Metro CDs many times more that small labels, as since they’re “top gun” they’re rolling in cash, right?

Sorry kids. Total. Fucking. Bullshit.

Considering what I know about Metropolis and their promo distribution to a few hundred radio stations and DJs, I’d say their POSTAGE for a month’s worth of releases equals around what a single 500 cd release would be for a small label. That may include 3-5 CDs in each pack, but that’s a lot of money to flush down the toilet when everything ends up on p2p sites and people copy the full CDs for friends. It’s a wonder they are now mainly doing digital distro of singles to DJs now– it saves them hundreds, if not in the low thousands, a month. Plus they have additional control over what gets to DJs and, sadly, distributed immediately online to the rest of the world.

So there you have it. These numbers of course fluctuate a bit and some bands are better promo whores than others, but it isn’t cheap OR easy to put out any CDs. Downloading fucks labels left and right, so if you have an excuse as to justify why you’re downloading all the great new CDs coming out in this scene, stuff it. If you think you can justify hundreds upon hundreds of hours of work from artists and their labels then I’d like to effectively ask you to shove it up your ass, as that’s the respect you’re giving people who work on a razor-thin profit margin if one at all. You think you don’t have any money? Try investing a few grand in a CD and getting dick for return on it because people feel justified in taking it because they can’t put off buying the new Grand Theft Auto…just because it CAN’T be stolen online yet.

Buy the CDs. If you’re a fan of an artist BE a fan and don’t STEAL from them. I consider Caustic fans friends more often than not, and I wouldn’t steal from a friend if my life depended on it. This isn’t a guilt trip measure, it’s the truth, and I think most bands would rather you NOT buy the CD right away than download it after it comes out. I completely understand people’s excitement over getting an early copy online, but if you like it BUY IT. You’re HURTING hard working people, many of which put this out on their OWN credit cards and using minimal help. Would YOU want someone to do that to you? I highly doubt it.

I know some scene labels (and I’m not even talking Metro here) which invest nearly $5000 an ALBUM to get the word out effectively, and 100-200 people stealing the music HEAVILY affects the bottom line, EVEN if it’s an established artist.

Listen, I’m only ranting here because, in some small way, I don’t think people realize exactly how much it costs someone to put out a CD, let alone a bunch of CDs on a label. MANY labels put out one CD and hope to recoup enough to put out the NEXT one, so if one does much less business than expected– bye bye label. And I know some of you swipe music left and right and I still love y’all and all that, but you’re helping destroy the scene and hard-working bands/projects by stealing what is not yours.

And, frankly, I’m gonna be selfish here: I don’t really give a shit if you download the new Nelly or Gwen Stefani. I don’t necessarily agree with it but those label’s bankrolls are much bigger than the little family I like to think our scene is and they can handle their own shit by bullying people with the RIAA. We can’t. By stealing from artists in this scene you steal from your own family and from, I would hope, a collective passion we all enjoy that brings us together. Think about that for a bit, and thanks for indulging me in a mega-rant. X-post if you like. And be defensive if you like as well– it means you were listening.:)

Note: This was inspired by people I mostly don’t know’s stupid comments, as well as Steve Albini’s amazing rant here: http://www.negativland.com/albini.html

How to “Make It”

[Originally blogged 2/13/07 ]

Okay, so it’s come to my attention that some people think I’ve “made it”.  What “it” actually is could be debated, but I get more than a fair share of emails asking how the hell I got into Infest or Black Sun or Billy’s Drive-a-rama Park-n-Bowl for shows, how I got signed, why anyone actually reads the shit I post, etc.

I’ll preface this by saying that I in no way think I’ve really “made” all that much, as it’s always an uphill battle to be heard, pimped, and supported in not only a fucked up industry (music) but in a fucked up NICHE industry (industrial).  I’ve sold out of a very limited run of CDs (for which I’m grateful, as it paid my label back and people on the whole seemed to enjoy it and I’m putting another one out) and get to play to, on the whole, enthusiastic crowds, so please don’t take what I say as ego-driven.  I’m just responding to what people have asked.

So, in short, ways to help you “make it”.

1)  Pay Your Dues.
I’m saying this first because, in many ways, it’s the most important.  Very few people or successful/”successful” projects get anywhere fast.  Look to the most successful and you’ll see a lot of really hard work, from touring to marketing of the music to interviews to whatever.  Your music may kick ass but it’s going to take some time for people to recognize that.  Stefan Herwig (of Dependent Records) mentioned in his demo FAQ that Seabound submitted demos to them something like 4 times before they were signed.

Be patient and appreciative of every new fan and every play a song gets.  It ideally will build.

2) Networking.
A big part of where I’ve gotten I attribute to the fact that years before I started doing Caustic I was (and still am) a DJ and promoter.  Before doing my own music was even a real thought in my head I was working with labels and artists setting up release parties and shows and becoming pals with bands.  Luckily, I remained friends with most all of them and that allowed me the “in” to pass along CDs of my early (and way shitty) music for feedback and to help get the word out.  Eventually, this also helped me beg for favors and remixes off them.   My relationships with the labels themselves helped me get tips on everything from how to package my demos to what types of tracks people were looking for, and even though those labels didn’t pick me up the label that eventually did actually mentioned that they were impressed with what was put together.

Note that there’s a big difference between networking and kissing someone’s ass for a favor.  Sucking up is sometimes necessary, but being cool and developing actual friendships helps more.  If you want to be treated like an equal act like it.  Passing a CD along with a “Hey, if you have a second could you check this out?” rather than a “Pleeeeeeaaase listen to thisIhopeyalikeitI’mamassivefan!!!!” shows that you’ve got some confidence.  Personally, I try to help pals out more than someone sucking up to me (which I also find funny– you’re sucking up to ME?!?) and always pimp those who I think can impress people.

Second note– get rid of any ego or attitude you might have right off the fucking bat.  The last thing any band/project, especially an established one, needs is a new kid on the block acting like a jagoff.  Do your thing and be cool and let the doors open.  Believe me, it helps.

3) You’re Most Likely Not As Good Yet As You Think You Are.
This may prompt some defensiveness in people, but if you’ve got a new project, even if you’ve got some music theory training and played the trumpet since age 7, your shit may still suck.  Sure, it’s the best you can do now, but developing not only a good sense of style but also an identity or “voice” for your project takes time.  I wanted Caustic to originally be some hardcore evil shit, but then I realized after some time that, well, nobody takes me seriously when I try and get all heavy.  Then I came up with MMM Papscraper I Love You and realized where my talents at the time were– stupid titles, weird sampling, and stompstompstomp.  In other words, I found I was pretty decent at making FUN powernoise.

It’s kinda strange to say, but when I finished that track what is now known as Caustic became solidified.

So take criticism and, again, keep your ego in check.  You will undoubtably eventually be your own worst critic, and take every victory and trick you learn as an accomplishment, but also know that in the realm of ALL bands it still may not be too great.  Keep working on it, as it’ll get better.

4) The Power of Self-Promotion
To me this is different than networking, as I consider networking more on the business end of things.  I’ll say this once as I truly believe it:  If you can’t even mildly pimp yourself you really aren’t going to get anywhere.  There are exceptions to this rule of course, but YOU need to be the most proactive voice for getting your music out there.  It’s not a matter of your “style” or “shyness” or whatever.  Get over it.  Even if you’re already signed on a small label– YOU are in charge.

So add people on MySpace.  Post shit all over Vampirefreaks.  Annoy people on rec.music.industrial.  Plug it up on Side-Line.  It all helps.   I probably pimp harder than 95% of the bands in this lil’ scene, as it’s fun to me and I enjoy it, so if anyone asks how I “made it” I generally list that and the above as the reasons.  Personally musically I feel I have a long way to go, but I’m enjoying what I’m doing and getting the word out, to me, accounts for the reason I get to do shows all over the place.

If people don’t know you exist how the hell are they gonna know about your music?  We aren’t all Fallout Boy, with massive word of mouth and a marketing budget of even $100.  Legwork is necessary to get signed (and even more is necessary to push an actual CD).  Don’t be lazy.  The work you put in, if you focus it correctly and the quality in your music is there (See #3 for a reminder on that) then there will be a payoff.  A lot of labels big and small look for hardworking bands that are relentless in their passion for pushing their music and doing tons of shows (TERRORFAKT, anyone?).

5) Get Lucky As Fuck
Being somewhere at the right place and time could mean a world of difference.  Nothing you can do about this one, but by pushing your music and getting the word out it definitely ups the chances of that luck happening.  Keep your fingers crossed continuously and hope that someone somewhere will take enough interest in your sound to tell someone else or, if really lucky, offer to pay to put your music out.  Remember though, you can pay and do it yourself too.
So there you go– put the time and effort in on both sides of the musical vs promotion fence and you’ll have “made it,” or at least fool some people into thinking you’re cool.;)

Hey Kids, START BOOKING SHOWS NOW!!!!

[Originally blogged 11/14/07 ]
So yesterday I was reminiscing about my underage days and remembered how much it friggin’ SUCKED that all the shows I wanted to go to were either 18 and up (when I was 16) or 21 and up (when I wasn’t 21). It led me to thinking about one of my absolute favorite shows this year in Green Bay, WI. It was supposed to be in a club but the place got shut down so the promoter was kind enough to move it to another venue. Where?

An Eagles Club– which is essentially a VFW/Kiwanis Club/Place Where Old Lame-Asses Hang Out and Drink Cheap Beer.  It’s a club club, not a nightclub.

There were drawbacks to the show (or what some would consider drawbacks):

-No “real” PA to speak of. We pretty much played off the few guitar amps that were there and a few monitors.

-No sound guy. We set levels and hoped for the best.

-No stage. We were in front of an ELECTRONIC BINGO BOARD.

-No lighting. We turned off the back half of the lights for “effect”.

Not to mention no “back stage,” the regulars thought we were serial killers, and, well, it was in a fuckin’ EAGLES CLUB.

But it was also ALL AGES, and it was a SHOW. And people that came weren’t there to pose or be lame-ass scenesters– they were there to party and have a good time. And it was a fucking blast.

I get emailed from bands and people who are underage all the time asking how to get gigs. Here’s my only advice, and this won’t come as a surprise to anyone:

DO IT YOURSELF.

I’m taking a page out of the Ian MacKaye/Fugazi/punk-hardcore handbook here, but if you want to see bands in your area SET IT UP. Places like your local Eagles/Kiwanis/Jaycees club…hell, local CHURCHES, are generally extremely inexpensive to rent. So is your friggin’ BASEMENT or GARAGE on a Saturday afternoon. Rent a PA (“public address”, aka a sound system) to blast the music through, get someone who knows sound (track down some of the drama kids) and will work cheap (or learn it yourself– the basics aren’t rocket science), get some bands together, draw names out of a hat for the line-up so nobody’s playing favorites, and GO.

After the first few shows see who gets the best reaction from the crowd or brings in the most people and have them play last so everyone comes early and sticks around.

Charge $5 to get in and, for the first few shows at least, see if the bands that play will do so for free so you can use the money to pay for the venue/sound person and save up to buy a PA of your own. Once the PA is bought (check Craigs List for used ones in good condition) and hopefully a decent crowd of people are coming in regularly (hell, it may even build if the shows are fun– word of mouth spreads fast), start paying out the bands by splitting the door money and keeping a small percentage for making fliers and keeping the “back end” of the business rolling. It’s not about making money– it’s about keeping it going and giving a great party and not LOSING money. Luckily, with the wonderful world of the interwebs you can promote on everything from listservs to MySpace to Facebook to whatever and it’s all FREE.

People throw the term “support the scene” around a lot, but people won’t want to support a scene unless it’s WORTH supporting (hence why people get really pissed at the term), so don’t play politics. Keep strict ground rules for the band and crowd so the venue doesn’t boot you, and be professional and fair. Word spreads fast if there’s a fun place to play that actually gets a TURNOUT, so travelling bands who know that a crowd in a less-than-ideal venue is better than not having ANYPLACE to play at all.

With less and less venues that serve alcohol catering to small all-ages gigs (which bands see as some of the best ones, as kids have more disposable income and can be a lot more enthusiastic and fun during shows), as long as the bands know what they’re getting into (don’t promise tons of lights and a massive arena if you’ve got a few cans and a shitty makeshift plywood stage) there’s a decent chance that with enough work you can get them to play. No, you won’t be getting bands that are selling millions of albums, but the nice thing about the underground scenes is that they need YOU as much as you need THEM.

A band will forgive a shitty sound system or less-than-ideal stage if the crowd is having fun. Nothing’s more important to a band than connecting with an audience, so if you can pack a small room with crazy caffeine-tweaked kids and some boozed up adults and they sell some merch and make gas money to the next city then, well, that’s a good night on the road.

So get your ass in gear and start putting on shows. It beats driving around all night bored or dicking around on MySpace for 6 hours a night.  I know I play any all-ages shows I can and have been lucky enough to play a couple awesome ones in Milwaukee and a few other places, so help make opportunities for bands and crowds and start putting together shows NOW!

30 Reasons “Industrial” Music is in the Crapper

[Originally blogged 12/10/07]

NOTE- I’m guilty of many of these as well.  Much of this is also from an exclusively non-European standpoint.  Also, I expect this list to grow substantially.:)

1) Bands refuse to promote themselves properly and to markets outside of the niche.

2) Most bands don’t play enough shows to build a proper audience, and play to the same crowds every time allowing for zero growth.

3) Are more concerned with the latest software and equipment than making good music that will speak to listeners

4) Care more about getting signed to a label to get “validity” than making music that challenges listeners on any level.

5) Refuse to learn their hard/software outside of what sounds cool to them or sounds similar to what’s hot on the dancefloor.

6) Believing their own hype, when in the scheme of things even being a “top-selling” artist in this genre equates to what 50 Cent sells in a day.

7) Concerned more about image and $300 boots than putting on a stage show that is not only engaging, but personal, sincere, and fun.

8) An overriding silent shame that being “industrial” means you’re not good enough or unmarketable and thus need to incorporate other styles or become a “real” band to gain sales/validity from the mainstream press.

9) Giving a shit what “industrial” music even is, instead of just doing your thing and letting it be appreciated for what it is.

10) Whining about downloading being the death of the industry instead of giving people incentive to buy the release by offering special content that would be harder to get if it was illegally downloaded.

11) Not utilizing merchandise as a pivotal way of making most of the money for a band.  You can’t download a t-shirt.

12) Using grassroots advertising like the internet, street teams (be they virtual or physical) and word of mouth to get the message out about your music.

13) Not sucking live and actually putting on a show.

14) Staying out of needless online drama when you should realize you not only represent your you and your music, but also your label.

15) Blaming lack of advertising/promotional budget on lack of sales, when there are plenty of free, inexpensive, or economical methods of getting word out about your music.

16) Expecting promoters to come out of the woodwork to help your band when you could just as easily book your own shows and venues to kickstart the process.

17) Bickering, infighting, and taking cheap shots at more successful acts because you can’t be bothered to take responsibility for your own lack of promotion, skill, or ability to network.

18) A lack of professionality as how to deal with promoters, labels, distributors, i.e. the “business end” of the business.

19) Inability to embrace new technologies for allowing people to find and pay for your music successfully.  Odd, especially since an overriding theme in this genre is the future.

20) Few credible, accessible sources that write about the bands outside of grassroots webzines or Side-Line.

21) Very little Soundscan coverage for a majority of the labels, demonstrating to bigger labels the selling power of certain bands…or lack thereof.

22) Basing a band’s image on theatrics that were played out 20 years ago and refusing/being unable to update those theatrics to engage a new audience.  Marilyn Manson wasn’t first, but he took Alice Cooper’s crazy to a whole new level.

23) Dismissing the audience’s desire and need to hear and see new things on stage and in a club.

24) Sending demos only to labels that traditionally sign industrial acts, when many labels sign a variety of hard electronic projects.

25) Unrealistic expectations of promoters that are, at best, only part time and at worst completely inexperienced (yet have their hearts in the right place) and not working professionally at the business.

26) Unrealistic expectations of small labels to provide not only promotion, but tour support and the trappings of what screws both labels and artists in the “real” record industry.

27) Zero payola to pay off radio stations for proper airtime.

28) Bands unwilling/unable to tour enough to develop a strong grassroots following or improve their stage shows.

29) Few bands exploiting promotional/sponsorship deals with different equipment or software manufacturers.

30) Defeatist attitude about the music industry when music itself is alive and kicking– it’s just that the major labels aren’t because of massive overspending and their inability to put out music that interests listeners enough to go out and buy it.

In Defense of Low Budget Productions–

[Originally blogged 1/10/08 ]

As a major user of Fruity Loops and other inexpensive software for several years, I get kinda sick and tired of hearing other artists (or, better yet, non-artists who have never used ANY software) disparage it like it’s the worst thing on earth and beneath a “real” artist. It suits my personal needs just fine, and considering the mediocre to mildly interesting, but in no way groundbreaking work that some of these people put out I’m glad I don’t use Logic or Cubase because in SOME cases it gives people an overloaded sense of worth in their music that seems to come JUST because they have high-end equipment and programs.

Good/interesting music is good/interesting music. A stick hitting a paint can may be exactly what an artist wants their sound to be like and that’s perfectly valid. Everyone’s dream isn’t to be an orchestra or sound like a perfectly polished band, and why the hell should everyone want that? Wouldn’t that be as boring…as all the bands that often do sound like that but are devoid of any decent ideas, concepts, or hooks?

I’ve been forced by my budget and system limitations over time to keep my shit simple. If I had all the control that other programs provide Caustic wouldn’t sound like Caustic. It wouldn’t hold the same creativity or insights, whatever they may be (and that’s debatable:)). Hell, even basic MULTI-TRACKING would have completely changed the sound I use now, as it would have cut the frequency distortion I enjoy tinkering with so much.

Mind you, I’m definitely not putting my music on a pedestal over other music simply BECAUSE I use the software I do, as it is what it is, but there’s a validity in both artistic statements that should not go ignored if the music is truly worth its salt.

In other words, I’m saying that in any artist’s case the final work is what should be evaluated, not the means of production.

Less is more to me.  It’s unfortunate that so many others can’t grasp that simple concept and have to slag on people for not investing tens of thousands of dollars into a high-tech studio.

No. Just having Logic or Cubase doesn’t make your shit sound good. YOU make it sound good. Limitations breed inventiveness, necessity is the mother of invention, and lack of budget offers more inspiration sometimes than being given carte blanche in terms of control. Billy Corgan’s distinct guitar feedback was created by the fact that he originally used a shitty cheap guitar, and that became a celebrated part of Smashing Pumpkins sound (and whether you like that or not is irrelevant).

By the same token if *I* grabbed the best guitar on earth I couldn’t make it sound nearly as good as an established guitarist using a horrid piece of shit.

What’s funny is that there are SO many good artists out there that use Floops on a regular basis and all I hear is that it’s shit. The amount of times I’ve heard people who asked what I use say to me “YOU DO ALL THAT IN FRUITY LOOPS?!” is pretty funny.

Yep, I do. I assume it’ll only get better with whatever new tricks I learn. And it’ll always, hopefully, sound distinct and valid to me, whether any of the elitist sound wangs out there agree or not.

Having no budget or using what’s available is never a reason to apologize for your art.