Saturday, June 25, 2011

What Am I Waiting For?

Its a question that I've asked myself my whole life.
I nervously mumbled it before I signed up to play pee wee soccer. I asked it (in my tough guy voice) when my friends started talking about forming a rock band in the eighth grade. And today I'm still asking the same question.  What am I waiting for?  As a musician you live in a hurry up and wait world. You hurry up to travel to a gig and then you wait three hours to hit the stage. You hurry up and make contact with a booking agent and then you wait 3 months for them to get back to you. If your lucky you hurry up and record and then you wait for your label to release it six months later. Plain and simple, it sucks! One of the main reasons why artists don't have success is that they wait on others to do what only they can do.

Completely relying on others is a huge mistake!
Your manager or producer probably doesn't wake up thinking about how to make you successful in the morning. They wake up thinking about how to make themselves successful and that may or may not include you. No matter what level you get to, you have to be the one driving your career. I understand that you can't do everything and you shouldn't do everything yourself, but you should be the one in the drivers seat.

Here is what every artist should be doing!
Recently, Phil Vassar got on the phones and called radio station music directors all over the nation and he personally talked to them about his new upcoming single. How awesome is that? Every country radio music director gets the thrill of a lifetime by having Phil Vassar call and ask for them personally and chat for a few minutes. Phil gets a lot more plays on his new single and a lot more support from those core stations. Sounds like somewhere along the way Phil learned that if it was going to happen then he was going to have to do it. You may not be able to call radio stations, but you can call venues and you can make sure that your fans know that they are your priority. (Ever thought of sending out thank you cards to fans?)

Drive your career.
Always be brainstorming on how you can market yourself better. Are you communicating your vision to your team? (booking agents, managers, label, etc.) What if your not getting their best because there isn't any vision? If you don't set the vision, who will?
No vision equals no success! So, what exactly are you and I waiting for?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Preparing For The Studio

So you’ve finally saved up the money to record your masterpiece. You’ve found the perfect producer that “gets you” and you’ve set the date to start recording. Life is good! Now what?  You know there is more to it. But what is it that you should be doing from now until your project starts? Do the people who make amazing albums just get lucky? No they don’t.  Being prepared means everything. Football player and Super Bowl champion Ronde Barber has this to say, 

"There is no such thing as luck. Bounces go either way.  Every day you have to take advantage of those situations. You call it luck and I call it being prepared”.

Here is a quick list of things that you need to be doing.

Make sure that your band is rehearsing like crazy
It’s simple.  The more time you spend on your songs the more you will know your parts and the tighter they will be.  As a producer, if I have a band that knows their parts and can play their instruments I can move on to helping them make the song better instead of being bogged down by sorting through a jumbled mess.

Pre-production is key
Keeping in touch with your producer and making sure that all agree on the album game plan will be huge in helping you make the most of your time. Elements like song structure, tempo, song key and song selection can and should be worked out before hand.  Every album and every situation is different, but this should be kept as a general rule.

Keep writing songs
Just because you’ve set a recording date doesn’t mean you should stop writing. Matter of fact, it means just the opposite! Great albums have great songs, so try to beat out what you already have.

Attention guitar players
Change your strings a week before you come to the studio.  New strings stretch and can cause some serious tuning issues, plus the tone isn’t the greatest right out of the package. If you forget and its last minute yank on the strings (Within reason.  Don’t break anything) to stretch them out.  Wipe your hands up and down the strings (get some of the oil off your hands on it) and leave it out of the case overnight.This will help speed up the pace of wearing in your strings.  Drummers should also change their drum heads well before its time to record.

Do you have an “oh no bag”?
This is the bag that saves your life.  The contents should include a tuner, extra stings, cables, picks of all sizes, tools, and amp tubes. Drummers should have an extra snare, sticks, heads, etc.

Squeaks and squawks
There have been many a session delayed by a squeaky kick pedal or a rattle in the back of a guitar amp. Go through your gear and if you find something let the producer know ahead of time. That way if a new amp or pedal needs to be found there is time to beg, steal or borrow another one.

Girlfriends and friends are not invited
Be a professional. If your not serious about what you’re doing then nobody else will be either. Keep the hang outs outside of the studio. If people want to drop in with lunch and chat for a second then fine, but anything more than that is counter productive.

Sometimes what we all need to do is nothing! Give yourself some time to recharge before you hit the studio. Fresh ears and a clear head are priceless.
I know musicians and football players don’t usually mix but I think Ronde is right on with this one. It is all about being prepared!

Monday, June 13, 2011

The next blog is up to you!

I'm throwing it out to you. What would you like the next blog topic to be? What music business question has got you scratching your head?
Leave a comment on the blog or simply send me a message through facebook

Thank you for checking out Swiss Cheese And Toilet Paper!

~Blake Easter

Thursday, June 2, 2011

What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

So, there you are sitting in front of the TV watching old reruns of The Young And The Restless, (80’s version. Oh yeah!) not because you want to, but because you don’t have anything to do today. You read in blogs and articles all the time about staying active in your career, moving forward and doing the little things that add up to big things in the future. In the music business you are always operating six months out. It takes six months (or close to it) to book a solid tour and have your marketing prepared. When your working on a new album, very rarely do you write, line up a producer and finish the recording in less than six months. Even ASCAP pays out every four months. (So if you have your hit guess what.  You’re going to be waiting for that check!) 

The fact is what you do today directly effects your success in just a few months!

Here are some quick ideas.

  • Write a song– If you don’t have good songs you don’t have anything! Co-writing is a huge music career help. It helps create and facilitate relationships and after all each song is a lottery ticket and you never know you might just score big.
  • Practice your instrument– Private accomplishments turn into public victories
  • Get on the phone– Call up those clubs, identify a specific location (50 mile radius) and call every venue that you can. Even if they say no as long as you were friendly and informative about your band the odds of a possible future gig at that location just went up.
  • Work on your merch– Do your designs need work? Do you need to research a photographer? Do you need to reorder/restock? How about brainstorming new merch items?
  • Go through your phone and email– Who do you know that is a possible musical contact?  How about just sending them a hello text or email? A lot of times when people hear from you they think “Oh yeah I forgot about so and so. I could use them for my upcoming event.”
  • Ask your contact for other contacts– Be careful as you need to know the person your asking pretty well before you can ask them for other names. Club owners know other owners. Pastors know other Pastors etc. This is an awesome way to book more shows.
  • Buy some thank you cards– Send out Thank you cards to people who have recently booked you or even fans that keep coming out to your shows. You do this and you will create fans for life!
  • Update your Facebook, Twitter etc– Make sure the bio, pictures and tour schedule are all updated.
  • Do you Blog?-Write about your experiences. Even if no one reads it, just by writing down your thoughts you will help yourself think through your situation.  Personally I find writing brings a ton of ideas. 
  • Go hang out where musicians hang out– If you hang out and make friends its amazing what opportunities you can get by just being friendly with people.