running A Band As A Small Business By Duane Denison Part I-ca1290

  Hello, my name’s Duane Denison, and for most of the last 20 years or so I’ve made my living as a guitarist and .poser in rock bands. I was a founding member of a band called "The Jesus Lizard", am currently a member of a band called "Tomahawk" and have performed and recorded with many others over the years (Bobby Bare Jr, Hank Williams III, The Silver Jews, Andrew Bird, Will Oldham, The Revolting Cocks, Pigface, Firewater, etc.). In spite of this, I still have most of my hair, most of my teeth, and most of my brain cells. I recently took an online IQ test which verifies this. But seriously, I’ve been involved in the music scene as an independent and major label artist for a good while now and am still actively performing, recording, and pursuing new projects.   Over the years I’ve acquired a good bit of information and knowledge regarding the operation of a band as a small business. All of this info .es from direct personal experience and observing the experiences of others around me. It is my purpose here to share this info with whoever might be interested, and hopefully provide some insights into getting started as a self-employed musician.   Let’s start from the beginning. I define a ‘band’ as a group of people working together to create original music. This includes laptop duos, hip hop collectives, improv ensembles, etc. and not just dudes with electric guitars. If you’re working with others in a performing or recording situation and creating music of original content, for our purposes here you’re in a band. Obviously, Top 40 cover bands, wedding and special event groups don’t count–they exist solely to play pre-existing popular music for audiences who don’t want anything unfamiliar.  I’m not knocking that world, it’s just not what we’re talking about here.   It’s important to define one’s goals as soon as possible, for yourself and the people you’re working with. There’s a basic question you must ask, which is “why am I doing this?” You need to be able to clearly define and articulate your artistic and financial considerations.   For some, being in a band is done simply for fun and artistic or financial considerations aren’t part of the equation. We might call these ‘hobbyists’ or ‘part timers’ but either way these are people for whom making music is simply a leisure activity that allows a creative outlet and often has a built-in social network. This is music at its most basic function—an enjoyable pastime with personal involvement and interaction within a small (or not so small) .munity.   Then there are the ones for whom artistic expression is seemingly the only reason for living, and making a statement is the primary objective. For ‘starving artists’ or ‘tortured souls’ such as these, the audience (if there is one) doesn’t matter, and unfettered self expression is the primary objective. Actually, it’s often not the only objective, as it seems that these types also seem to enjoy reading about themselves in fashionable papers and magazines and are often wrecked by bad reviews.   Finally, we have the ‘showbiz entertainer’ types for whom being a ‘crowd pleaser’ or a ‘chart buster’ is what matters, and they don’t care much about what kind of music they pursue to this end (if they even play or sing at all). For these ‘troopers’, getting a good response from the crowd is all that counts, and they’ll do anything their manager/agent/producer /imaginary friend tells them to do.   So where do you see yourself? None of the above? All of the above? Somewhere in between, say, artist and entertainer? The fact that you’re reading an article about ‘running a band as a business’ leads me to think the in-between answer (artist/entertainer) might be correct. Personally, I’ve always seen music as a form of .mercial art. It’s meant to be actively listened to, danced to, thought about, talked about, used in films, advertisements, etc. and not just put on a shelf and admired from a distance.  There will always be music of a more ‘folk art’ or ‘fine art’ nature, but these styles are not usually distributed at the same level as music of a more populist nature. To me, if someone goes to the trouble of recording and distributing their music, they want it to be heard by more than just their friends, and have in effect created ‘.mercial art’. This might seem a bit ‘utilitarian’ in nature, but like I said this is my personal view.   So now let’s go back to the original question of “why am I doing this”? When I was in The Jesus Lizard, we had one goal: to be.e self employed and self-sufficient off of our music. This meant making money performing live and from the sales of albums, t-shirts, stickers, etc.  We eventually began making money from radio play and from having our music used in films and on tv.  It was a gradual process, but after 2-3 years of almost non-stop touring and recording (and operating on a budget level that gave new meaning to the term “low overhead”) we achieved our goal and maintained it for the duration.  It can be done!  What must be factored in is that no matter what genre of music you’re in, you have to discover your own sound and style and present it with consistency in order to make a strong impression.  Music is increasingly being divided into a growing number of niche markets, with a place for almost every style, no matter how obscure.  There’s also a lot of it out there, and the newly emerging digital distribution systems make it easy to find virtually anything, anytime, anywhere. So now it’s not just a question of putting your music out there, but getting it noticed.   Years ago, I remember chatting with Corey Rusk (owner and operator of Chicago-based indie rock label Touch and Go) about what he looks for in bands. He told me 3 things:     I think this is still a pretty good set of guidelines, so let’s examine it a bit further. Regarding point #1, I think the keywords here are ‘in some way’ unique and original. If your music is so totally unfamiliar that most listeners remain unengaged, then don’t be surprised if your music is met with indifference or even outright hostility.   We’re still talking about .mercial art here, remember? On the other hand, being homogenous and bland may get you ‘hit’, but the streets of LA, NY, and Nashville are full of unemployed songwriters trying to do just that…and failing…..   As to point #2, the ‘personality’ usually refers to a colorful or unusual individual within the band, though it can also refer to a ‘collective vibe’ that a group gives off. Let’s face it folks, when a group or artist popular (or even noticeable) it’s not just the music that does it.  The way artists look and act, the things they say and do during interviews, their place of origin, etc. all add up to create an impression that some people call ‘image’.  Some artists find the whole image-making machinery false or distasteful– and their refusal to participate an image-making machine in itself!   And finally point #3, ‘being willing and able to tour’ means exactly that.  Live shows generate word of mouth like nothing else ever will, and it’s not just the audience that talks—it’s the other bands, the stage crew, the bartender, etc.  There will be people posting reviews of the gig online that very night in some cases.  Nowadays, most people involved in music realize that with the advances in digital recording technology almost anyone can record a professional sounding album—but you can’t fake it live, at least not for long.  .pelling performances do more than just entertain—they excite and inspire, as well as generate in.e, publicity, airplay and the demand for more performances.   So to recap, think about how these things apply to your situation. Keep in mind that no one owes you anything, and unless you’re born into a famous show biz family you’re going to have to do it yourself. It also requires patience, and no matter how good you are, it’s not gonna happen right away. Are you willing to make sacrifices? Are you willing to sleep rough, eat poorly, work a crummy job, etc. just in order to save money for music-related expenses?  What are your real reasons for putting a band together?  What sort of audience are you looking for, and what do you think they expect from you?  What sort of label /distributor (if any) are you looking for, and what do you think they see in you? How much time are you willing to invest, as well as money?  We’ll look into these things (as well as others) in future columns.   相关的主题文章: