Leave Your Drama At Home: More Rockin’ And Less Squawkin’!

No matter how we, as human beings, live our lives…drama happens. And the average musician has more drama than the crazy cat lady down the block has bags of used litter on her porch. At every turn, your average wannabe rockstar has a crazy squeeze, a crazier ex, a harem of would-be lovers, and a gaggle of insane stalkers. Then there’s the band drama, manager drama, club drama, fan drama, gear drama, and let’s not even get started on the online drama potential. Before you know it, your band makes "Desperate Housewives" look like 60 Minutes.

Certainly, no one ever said that music was going to be a safe, secure and solid profession to get into. Any industry that pays buckets of money to young, pretty people for jumping around and showing off is bound to inspire zaniness to some degree or another. And the creative process often brings with it a certain amount of tortured genius that fuels the seeds of drama like miracle grow on weeds. Plus, there are more than twenty million musicians around the world that are clamoring for maybe a thousand record deals like contestants on "Survivor" running obstacles courses for a single meager chicken wing. If there was a country built on drama, a musician would be its queen.

However, as much as the music biz is filled with glitz and glamour and the stuff that tabloid headlines are made of, it is also a business. And if there’s one thing you don’t want in the middle of your business, it’s drama. There’s a reason why doctors don’t fight over dying patients about their golf scores, pilots don’t announce to a plane full of passengers that they’ve been dating the stewardess, and the chef doesn’t come to tell you he forgot to wash his hands before he cooked your four-star meal…drama does not belong in business. Whether you’re aspiring to get a record deal or searching for a cure for cancer, leave your drama at home!

The following are a few tips that will help you to navigate the gossip and erratic turbulence of life in the music industry without becoming a slave to your own drama:

1.) Don’t Let The Internet Suck You In—Every since the invention of the internet, there’s been more drama in cyberspace than at a convention for bipolar drag queens. It’s easy to gossip and backbite while you can stay anonymous, so the internet has becoming a breeding ground for anyone and everyone with an agenda, an out-of-control jealousy problem, an axe to grind, or an unbelievable ego. Angry, upset, small-minded people with inferiority complexes like size of Shamu will use the internet to poke at your band with a cyber stick. As hard as it may be, you need to learn to let it all roll off your back. As long as they’re posting about you, it means they’re listening. Removing their inflammatory posts, or replying with similar negativity, feeds the drama until your entire message board is about the trouble-maker on your web site and not your music. What if a potential magazine reviewer or an interested label rep is perusing your page with interest only to find more info about your fight with some internet psycho than about your band? It’s not worth risking a loss of opportunity to engage in drama.

2.) Drama Doesn’t Belong At Your Gigs—When you’re at a show, your goal is to make music, engage the audience, sell CDs, and win the club over so that you can play there again and again. People make room in their schedules, pay for gas, and fork out cash for a cover charge and bar priced drinks, just to hear you play your songs for them. They want to be entertained; to get away from the pressures of their real lives and escape into the safety and excitement of your music and lyrics. What they don’t need is more drama at your gigs then they get from their office co-workers, their wacky neighbors, and bully at their kids’ school combined. Whatever problems you’re having in your personal and professional life, keep it away from your fans and your industry contacts or they’ll start to remember your shows more for the drama than for the music.

3.) Your Manager Is Not Your Therapist—Although a manager’s professional duties make them almost like the band’s parent, don’t cry to mommy every time the drummer calls you a name or your girlfriend decides she wants to play the field. There is too much music industry drama that your manager has to deal with every day, to add to his/her troubles by piling a heap of your personal woes on top of his/her already overburdened shoulders. If a club owner stiffs you at the door, tell your manager. If another band records one of your songs without permission, tell your manager. If your wife compulsively flashes her breasts at your shows, send her to a therapist, but leave your manager out of it.

4.) Take The Crazymakers Off Your Mailing List—A lot of damage control can be done simply by eliminating from your mailings the nuts that show up and bring their own boatload of drama. If you know that your ex has never gotten over you, that she’s off her meds and that she likes to show up and start swinging at every girl she thinks is catching your eye…why would you invite he to your shows? Comb your address book with a big, black sharpie pen and ink out the stalkers, crazies, attention-getters, and overblown drunkards that will turn each and every one of your gigs into a three-ring circus of drama that you’re forced to ringmaster from the stage during your set.

Once you remove the drama from your musical career, you’ll find that your gigs go smoother, your website is a more positive place for fans to hang in cyber space, and the industry is less wary about getting behind what you’re doing. It may seem silly, but too much drama can often be a warning sign that something is really wrong with a band and you may find that industry types will become gun shy around your band if they’re worried that your reputation as drama queen will be more trouble than it’s worth. Working in the music business is hard enough. Don’t give anybody any reason not to work with you. Be smart. Leave your drama at home and show the industry that your music is what’s most important to you and your band.

 

Sheena Metal is a radio host, producer, promoter, music supervisor, consultant, columnist, journalist and musician. Her syndicated radio program, Music Highway Radio, airs on over 2,400 affiliates to more than 126 million listeners. Her musicians’ assistance program, Music Highway, boasts over 10,000 members. She currently promotes numerous live shows weekly in the Los Angeles Area, where she resides. For more info: http://www.sheena-metal.com.

Get Up, Get On And Get Off: The Early Bird Catches The Record Deal!

Imagine this…you’re in the local hospital’s pre-op ward waiting for the removal of your pesky rupturing appendix. You wait and wait in side splitting agony while your doctor chats it up with the nurses, gathering phone numbers from the hot ones. After what seems forever, he gets you prepped and begins the surgery. What should have been a 20-minute procedure turns into two hours. He cracks jokes and talks about his cherry red Ferrari, while you’re lying unconscious with your abdomen split open. Finally, you’re sewn up and ready for recovery but super surgeon and his crack anesthesiologist are having a heated discussion about the science of their golf games and have seeming forgotten you’re passed out underneath them with tubes stuck in every orifice. If this were your surgery experience, you’d freak out, sue the hospital and your hot-shot doc would wind up cleaning bedpans at the state convalescent hospital.

 

Sadly, like our skirt-chasing doctor, many musicians think that the consequences of their actions are immaterial and treat their audience with the same lackadaisical disregard that the before-mentioned doctor treated his poor patient with. These selfish creative types show up to gigs late, set up at their own leisure (roughly the same pace that a 100 year-old tortoise would run the Boston marathon), play as long of a set as they please (regardless of their designated set time) and break down/clear the stage at their own whim with little or no regard to the club’s schedule.

 

However, if you asked any of these artists, they would say that they consider music to be their career…and shouldn’t a career be treated with the same importance and professionalism whether you’re a budding rockstar or an established surgeon? It should, but often it’s not and bands then find their reputations are tarnished with labels like: slow, lazy, and irresponsible simply because they seem unable to get their show on (and off) in a timely manner. Get branded as a slovenly flake and watch the music industry folks jump ship faster than the rich ladies on the Titanic.

 

The following are a few tips that will help you to get up, get on and get off in a timely, professional manner that will impress the powers-that-be and leave you fans wanting more:

 

1.) Have Everything Set Up Before You Set Up—It’s not like you just found out you were playing five minutes before. Gigs are booked days, weeks or months in advance so there’s no reason not to be well informed and well equipped prior to your arrival and set up. Guitars and drums should be tuned, drum kits and guitar pedals set up and dialed in, and song lists printed and distributed so that set up time is minimal. Once the stage is free, a professional band will simply haul their gear onstage, plug it in, and do a few last minute tweaks before they’re ready to rock and roll. The ancient tortoise rockers, however, will plunk the road cases down on the stage and then force friends, fans and industry alike twiddle their musical thumbs in anticipation while each piece of gear is pulled out, unwrapped, wiped off, place into position and screwed in slowly but surely. Truthfully, it’s about as interesting as watching paint dry without the guilty pleasure of getting high off the fumes.

2.) Sound Check/Line Check Is Not A Mini Concert—You may view your sound check as the concert before the concert but you’re not making any friends dragging out your sound check to an hour and a half while bands are lined up out the door waiting to set up their own gear and check their sound. Same goes for the line check. You may be surprised to know that audiences aren’t all that excited to sit and listen to you work out your live sound in front of their eyes and on their time. Save the lengthy tune-up and checking for the Making Of The Band video. Get your levels quick and get to rockin’!

3.) Plan Out Your Set Time Well Before Your Set—The key to a tight set is the prep work that goes on before the night of the gig. Many artists believe that the longer they’re onstage the more the audience gets revved up, but there is something to be said about "too much of a good thing." Plan out your set, time it and then time it again and make sure that it comes in a few minutes under your designated set list time. Little passive aggressive tricks like cramming in two or three extra songs at the end of the set or coaxing your friends into screaming for an encore only serves to enrage your sound man and confuse your crowd and extensive tuning and chatting amongst yourselves and audience members in between songs is just plain tedious. The tighter your set is the more professional it sounds to the ears of your audience and the happier you’ll make your bookers, promoters and club owners.

4.) Tear Down Should Be The Quickest Of All—If you thought your set up was quick, your band’s tear down should be lightning fast in comparison. So much time is wasted every night at a music venue as musicians dawdle after their sets, drinking and chatting with friends, while their gear lies piled up onstage, preventing the next artists from getting set up. Pick up your instruments, haul them of stage, and take them outside or into the green room. There you can wrap your gear up, clean it off, and pack it away into cases and into your cars. Then, it’s time to toss back a few beers and gab with the masses until closing time, without interrupting the flow of the evening.

 

Imagine this…you’re in a local club waiting to check out an act your label has sent you to scout. You wait and wait, growing more bored and more drunk while the band you’ve been sent to see chats it up with the women in the room, giving t-shirts and CDs to the really hot ones. After what seems like forever, the band takes the stage and begins their set. What should have been a 30-minute showcase turns into an hour or more as the band plays a loose set, stopping often to tune, complain about the sound, yell to the bartender for drinks and crack jokes with select audience members; while you sit unimpressed trying to get a feel for the band’s style. Finally, their set ends and you wait to approach the band on behalf of your label but these super rockstars are still onstage wrapping up endless cords and wiping down each piece of gear while they chat with each other about how much their set rocked. If this were your A&R experience, you’d give up waiting to speak with these lazy musicians, go back to your label and tell them to forget about this particular band and these hot-shot rockstars will wind up working at Starbuck’s until they go on Social Security. This doesn’t have to happen to you. Learn to get up, get on and get off. You’ll soon have the reputation as an easy-to-work-with, professional, reliable band. After all, you never know who might be in the audience to see you on any given night.

 

 

Sheena Metal is a radio host, producer, promoter, music supervisor, consultant, columnist, journalist and musician. Her syndicated radio program, Music Highway Radio, airs on over 2,400 affiliates to more than 126 million listeners. Her musicians’ assistance program, Music Highway, boasts over 10,000 members. She currently promotes numerous live shows weekly in the Los Angeles Area, where she resides. For more info: http://www.sheena-metal.com.

Managers: Can’t Live With Them…But Can You Live Without Them?

You can’t throw a rock in any metropolis on Earth without hitting someone claiming to be a manager. Where musicians go, managers follow. It’s as accepted and expected in the entertainment industry as an out-of-control cocaine habit or a failure to pay taxes. When you tell people you’re a musician, one of the first things they’re going to ask you is: Do you have a manager? However, those in the throws of the music business know to ask an even more accurate question: Do you have a good manager?

"What’s the difference?" you may ask. Isn’t any manager better than no manager at all? While it would seem that the answer to that question is unequivocally, "Yes", in reality it’s a bit like asking, "Isn’t having a herpes-ridden prostitute for a girlfriend better than being single?" In truth, bad representation is far worse than a lack of representation. While, it’s a fact, that there are things your band will probably never achieve without the aid of a manager, agent, entertainment attorney, etc., bad representation can stagnate a career…stop it dead in its hurling climb to the ranks of superstardom or even worse…undo some of the hard work the band has already done.

Sad but true, a bad manager can take a perfectly good band and turn them into a thing so foul that old gypsy women covering their faces with rags will spit and give your band the evil eye as you pass. Ok, that may be a bit dramatic, but seriously…all your band really has is its name and its reputation, so why would take a chance on either of those by putting the whole of your band into the hands of someone that you’re not 100% sure has your best interests at stake?

The following are a few tips that will help you to decipher whether or not your manager can take you to the top or turn your band into a flop:

1.) The Drummer’s Girlfriend Is Not A Manager—Sure, she may get names for your mailing list, invite her girl’s beach volleyball team to all of your gigs and post your latest pictures on your website photo gallery, but she’s not really your manager. She’s a helper, she can be the president of your fan club, the head of your street team and the world’s sexiest roadie but she probably doesn’t know how to put together a press package and make the calls that will get you into an A&R rep’s office for a meeting. This also applies to: boyfriends, wives, husbands, booty calls, one night stands, moms, dads, cousins, aunts, uncles, neighbors, nieces, nephews, grandparents, grandchildren, pets and the homeless guy who roots through your trash at midnight. These people may all be well-meaning and you can accept their aid in dozens of ways (it takes a village to build a popular unsigned band) but don’t give them the label or the powers of a manager.

2.) Treasure Your Fans But Don’t Let Them Manage You—This should be a given but you’d be surprised how many over-eager, slightly-obsessed fans move from semi-stalker to mega-manager in a few simple weeks. I cannot stress how simply wrong this entire concept is for two dozen major reasons the most important of which is: fans need to be kept at a distance. There is a reason why that same person comes to all of your shows no matter how many you play, gets there early, sits up front seemingly paralyzed starring at you enraptured. Either they’re in love with someone in the band or they’re insane. These may be reasons to get a restraining order but certainly not reasons to make someone your manager. A band’s manager knows every secret of each musician, every person in each member’s personal life, where you keep your money, where you live, and who’s in your fan/contact database. This is not information that you want someone who has 450 cut-out pictures of you on their bedroom ceiling having at his/her disposal. Enough said?

3.) Don’t Sign A Contract Unless It’s Worth It—Manager’s like control. That why they choose to be managers and not people who macramé wall hangings with the mane hair of ponies. Thus, most managers will try and evoke you into signing a contract. In the entertainment industry, contracts are like marriage certificates…before you sign one be sure your band wants to be tied to the same person for long time (a year, two years, five years, etc.) because they’re much easier to get into than to get out of. For example, if you sign a contract with an efficient, but somewhat green manager, who is helping all he/she can to get you everything possible from what little resources he/she has and then Gwen Stefani’s management team approaches you after a big gig and wants to put you on tour with John Mayer. Do you think if you tell them, "We love to take your tour but we’re under contract with someone else for the next five years, can you hit us up then?" the offer will still stand? Not so much. So, if you must sign contracts, keep them short and make sure they give you room to act, think, play and communicate with others without getting clearance from your band warden (manager). And make it includes an exit clause. Read up on it.

4.) Sometimes Bigger Is Not Better—Although it’s a huge ego stroke to brag to all of the other musicians backstage at the Whiskey A Go-Go that your manager works with Grammy award-winners and stadium sell-outs, sometimes an unsigned band can get lost in a huge management firm. While Mr. Big Stud Manager is busy picking out Madonna’s dress for the American Music Awards, he may forget to ask Quincy Jones to attend your bass player’s birthday gig at Billy-Bob Wang’s Tofu BBQ Shack. The problem with huge managers is that their focus often goes the acts that are making them 15% of 100 million dollars a year. Your 15% of $45.75 a year after expenses is probably not his highest priority now or ever, and what good are his super amazing industry contacts if he never remembers to invite them to your gigs?

Having a manager is great but only if they provide more benefit to the band than the sum total of your band members and band helpers can do for yourselves. If you find someone who can open doors, take your music places it cannot go on its on and has your best intentions at heart, then grab that contract, sign it and enjoy the benefits. If not, you may find yourself: conned, stalked, ignored and/or legally bound to someone that puts their own agenda (well-meaning or otherwise) and their own ego above what’s right for you band. And whatever you do, don’t sit around waiting for Mr./Ms. Right to wisk your band off its feet and carry it off on his/her white horse to the Fairyland where everyone gets a record deal. You, as its members, know more than anyone, how to do what’s right for your band and nothing will attract the perfect manager faster than seeing musicians who are out there, doing their thing, and making headway in a very difficult business with a great attitude and terrific music.

 

Sheena Metal is a radio host, producer, promoter, music supervisor, consultant, columnist, journalist and musician. Her syndicated radio program, Music Highway Radio, airs on over 2,400 affiliates to more than 126 million listeners. Her musicians’ assistance program, Music Highway, boasts over 10,000 members. She currently promotes numerous live shows weekly in the Los Angeles Area, where she resides. For more info: http://www.sheena-metal.com.