Monday, January 16, 2017

How To Promote Your Band

This is the second in a series of posts on starting a band. The first was How To Start A Band.

Having been in and out of bands through college and having blogged about the music world for the last 8 years, I’ve learned a lot about the ways of promoting a band, both proper and absolutely wrong. Once you’ve formed your band and have a few songs and performances under your belt, the next logical step is promoting your band. No one will know about your band if you don’t get the word out. People are not going to seek you out (at first). You have to seek them out and spread the word that the next greatest rock and roll band has arrived…and it’s yours!

The Proper Public Relations Company
First off, do not go it alone. So many bands make the mistake of wanting to be their own PR machine. There are endless reasons and arguments as to why they do this, but almost all of them are wrong. Yes, a PR company is going to cost some money, but the band will reap the rewards of that investment many times over. Beg, borrow, or steal the funds necessary to hire a PR company. It is a solid investment in your band, your dream, and your future. It also frees up your time to do what’s most important---create fantastic music that others want to listen to.

PR companies are important to the life blood of any band, but the finding the right PR company is the most important aspect of all. Vet your choices thoroughly. Has the company promoted bands similar to yours? Have they been in the industry for a while, or are they just starting out? Are you able to visit with them in person on a regular basis? Who do they promote to? How do they promote? All of these questions (and several more) are necessary asks prior to hiring a company. Ultimately, you don’t want to hire a PR company that is going to do a shotgun blast of your music to anyone that writes a blog or website. The Rock And Roll Guru gets several requests a week for MOVIE reviews. Have you ever read a movie review on The Rock And Roll Guru? Clearly that is a PR company that does not understand the market they are promoting to. Avoid these type of companies and make sure the company you do hire promotes your work to the proper outlets.

Sending Out Your Music
Even if you’ve taken on a PR company to promote your work, don’t be adverse to still doing some self-promotion. If you come across a website or a blog that you respect and want to submit your music to them, do so! I have become a huge promoter/fan of Watts because the band contacted me directly about reviewing their albums. And every band that reaches out to me directly gets pushed to the top of my review list. If a band takes the time to reach out to me directly, I give them higher consideration for a review.

Just don’t make the mistake of sending your music over and over and over again. If you send a request once and don’t hear back after a week or so, a follow up request is okay, but after that, leave it. The Rock And Roll Guru gets hundreds of requests per week, and I’m sure that larger sites/blogs get thousands. Someone has to sort through all of those requests, listen to the music, and determine if it is something worth reviewing for their medium. So be respectful and give the site some time to respond. And don’t be offended if you don’t hear back at all. It most likely means that your music wasn’t right for them.

Flyers, Advertising, and Social Media
When I was in bands (back when Aqua Net ruled the music scene), promotion was much more challenging than it is today. There was no internet. There was no social media. Word of mouth and paper flyers were all we had to go on. Free ads in the musician magazines helped as well, but our outlets were limited. That is just not the case in 2017. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Craigslist, Snapchat, the list goes on and on. There are several social media outlets where one can promote their band, and your band should have an account for all of them. And it should be active! Post your upcoming gigs. Post pictures of your latest shows, or of the band recording their latest song. Post any and all positive reviews of your concerts and/or recordings. Your goal should to be post something daily to all of your social media accounts. In this instant age, going a week without posting is the same as announcing your retirement. Fans have moved on. Don’t let them forget about you! And respond to their tweets and comments. Retweet a cool tweet about your band. Post a cool Instagram pic to your Facebook page. Cross market all platforms and direct fans to follow your band on all outlets. And always encourage them to share. The internet age makes word of mouth move like lightning.

Have A Website
Nothing annoys me more than when I am reviewing an album for a band and they don’t have a website. How am I supposed to know who is in the band (or how to properly spell their name)? How am I supposed to know when their upcoming gigs are? And just like social media, in this day and age, having a website is easy and free. If your PR company doesn’t set one up for you (and they should, they are your PR company after all), set one up for yourself. And don’t rely on your Facebook page to be your website. That’s just lazy and shows a lack of commitment. Have a website and keep it current! Add all your upcoming gigs to the website under the “tour” section. Is there new music being released soon? Add that to your “music” section. If possible, have a song or two featured on your website. If someone stumbles across your page it would be good to have music for them to check out. They might become your biggest fan.

Live Performances
Nothing helps a band succeed more than live performances. Live concerts are the best way to promote your band as potential fans can hear what you sound like in the live setting. It also provides an opportunity for immediate excitement and bonding --- associating feelings of joy with your band. Performing as many shows as possible, wherever possible, is the mindset that every member of your band must have. And when you are just starting out, there is no gig that is beneath you. Little Joey’s 8th birthday party? Play it! The local elks lodge annual member reunion? Play it! Open mic jams? Play them! Your band should strive to perform wherever and whenever they can.

There are countless bands that made their name, as well as a decent living, by constantly touring. When your band is just starting out, it is crucial to get your music in front of as many people as possible. The best way to do that is to play live. And don’t worry about the size of the audience to start. You never know who will become a fan, and that fan may tell two friends, who tell two friends, and so on. Before you know it, people will be lining up to see your shows.

Self-Promotion, Self-Promotion, Self-Promotion
There’s an old adage that states “no one cares about your money more than you.” That same adage needs to be true for your band. No one should care about your band more than you. Throw any and all humbleness out the window when it comes to self-promotion. That’s not to say you can be obnoxious, but you cannot be afraid to discuss your band – anywhere and with anyone. You never know who knows who and where a small conversation can take your career. And if you’re not comfortable and excited talking about your band, how do you expect others to be? You have to show your passion whenever the conversation of your band comes up. Anyone that is near you talking about music should know that you are in a band. If they don’t know at the start of the conversation, they definitely should know by the end of the conversation. And you should invite them to check out your next show as well. Friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, the mailman, the guy who sells you your morning coffee---they all should be aware of your band and your passion for your band.  

There is nothing as important as confidence. If you don’t believe in your band and your music, no one else will either. You have to be your toughest critic, but you also have to be your biggest believer. You must have the confidence to talk about your band in the hopes that people will want to hear your music. Believe in yourself and know that the hard work you have put in will pay off. Have the confidence that your music is spectacular and everyone should want to hear it. Just don’t be cocky. I know that’s easier said than done and it’s a fine line to walk, but the masters do it with ease. Have the confidence to know that you can perform in front of 20 people as well as you can perform in front of 20,000. That type of confidence will take you and your band very far.

With the right amount of confidence, belief, and promotion your band could take off in no time. If you don’t get the word out though, no one will know about your band and you may as well stick to playing your garage. Be outgoing, surround yourself with the appropriate people, and do whatever it takes to promote the music. You are in a band and it is going to be the next greatest thing. Be sure to shout it from the rooftops. Your talent and dedication will take care of the rest. And if you tell them, they will come…in droves.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Concert Review: Dave Matthews Band - November 30, 2012

Shortly after releasing their eight studio album, Away From The World, Dave Matthews Band announced and embarked on a winter tour of North America. Their first stop was two nights at the IZOD Center in New Jersey. As a huge fan of the band I was not missing a Friday and Saturday night with DMB at an arena that close to my home. Naturally I purchased a ticket for each night. I knew the concerts were going to be spectacular and filled with a lot of new music, but I had no idea just how special the first night was going to be.

Jimmy Cliff opened both nights and I was curious to see him live. I knew him mostly because of his amazing cover of “I Can See Clearly Now,” and I was obviously looking forward to hearing that song live. I was also interested in seeing the rest of his performance and hopeful that other songs would catch my ear.

And while I really didn’t know any of his other songs, Jimmy Cliff put on a good performance. As expected, “I Can See Clearly Now” was performed, about halfway through his set, and the crowd loved it (as did I). The rest of his performance was decent as well. I was impressed by the time he was done and was looking forward to seeing him open again the next night.

After a short break and stage set up, Dave Matthews Band walked out to the roar of the New Jersey crowd and began the night with “Broken Things” the opening track from Away From The World. It was the first time the band ever performed it live and it brings much joy to know that I am one of the few that got to witness its live debut. “Belly Belly Nice” followed much to my delight. At the time it was my favorite song from Away From The World and I was ecstatic to hear it live. It was nice to see the band open with two songs from the new album, but little did I know they were only getting started.

As the night went on, the band mixed in classics with new songs from the album. “Mercy,” “Out of my Hands,” “Gaucho,” and “Sweet” all got their time in the spotlight. “The Riff” was given an exceptional performance and I could tell the band was still working out the jam for that song. I knew it would progress as the tour went on, but it was fun to witness its infancy performance. After “The Riff” Dave broke out a ukulele and gave a solo performance of “Belly Full.” It was a quiet and intimate performance. And while “Belly Full” is not one of my favorite DMB songs, it was interesting seeing Dave with a ukulele.

“If Only,” “Rooftop,” and “Drunken Soldier” were all played before the end of the set, leaving just one song from the new album unperformed. “All Along The Watchtower” closed the main set and the band disappeared behind the stage to set up for the encore.

The encore opened with “The Space Between” and then the only song left to perform from Away From The World was played. A brilliant version of “Snow Outside” was given to the crowd and I was extremely happy. The band had just subtly performed their new album in its entirety for the opening night of the tour. To my knowledge, this is the only time Dave Matthews Band performed any album in its entirety at a concert. A thrashing “Two Step” would end the evening, but the real treat was already given to us.

Having seats somewhat close to the stage, I waited as the band took their bows and said their goodbyes, because I knew the infamous Carter Beauford drumstick toss was coming. I was hopeful that maybe I would get my hands on a drumstick this time around. As Carter made his way to our side of the stage, I was up, jumping, and waving my arms, as were a few other fans in front of me. Carter pointed at us with the stick and tossed it as far as it would go. I watched the drumstick sail through the air, heading toward me, and my heartbeat quickened. This was it! I was getting a drumstick! As the excitement and euphoria washed over me, I leaned forward with both arms outstretched anticipating my moment of the victorious catch only to watch the drumstick land two rows in front of me. It was promptly swept up by another fan. So close! I was once again forced to leave a show without a drumstick in my collection. Perhaps one day…

Broken Things
Belly Belly Nice
Seek Up
Don’t Drink The Water
Out Of My Hands
Dancing Nancies
The Riff
Belly Full
Grey Street
If Only
Drunken Soldier
All Along The Watchtower
The Space Between
Snow Outside
Two Step

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Concert Review: From Good Homes - December 17, 2016

From Good Homes returned for their annual December shows in Northern New Jersey on December 16th and 17th. I had the pleasure of attending the second night of their great performances. The venue for this year’s shows was once again the intimate Newton Theater in Newton, New Jersey. If you are a looking for a cozy place to see a live concert, I highly recommend checking out this venue. It was my second time there (both for From Good Homes concerts) and I like the quaint setting a lot.

One year removed from the last time I saw them, From Good Homes delivered a completely different concert that I was not prepared for. It was filled with music I’ve never seen them perform live, debuts, exceptional covers, and a song I didn’t even know was their original. And while I wanted to hear comfortable favorites like “Comin’ On Home,” “Maybe We Will,” and “Broken Road” I got to hear untapped classics like “Go Wild,” “Way Down Inside,” and “It’s Getting Dirty.” Hearing these songs instead of the beloved classics I wanted only made me love this band more as it showed me what a grand spectrum of songs they have in their musical arsenal.

The band came to the stage promptly just after 8pm for the first of their two sets and the sold out crowd gave a huge roar of approval. As the announcer stated in the introduction of the band, these are our hometown heroes. And every year when I see them live, I wish they could have stayed together and continued making new music. The band walked out and opened with “The Old Man & The Land” from Hick Pop Comin’ At Ya, their debut album. It was a nice mellow opener that eased the crowd into the evening. This was followed by “Suzanna Walker,” a song I always forget how much I love until I hear it. The night took off from there.

Three songs from the self titled album were played next. During “Butterfly & the Tree,” From Good Homes broke into a cover of “Little Red Corvette” paying their tribute to fallen superstar Prince. It was an exceptional cover of an amazing musician done in the proper From Good Homes style. The crowd loved it and the band was clearly having a great time playing it live.

The first set ended with a couple of big surprises. The first was a cover of a song from Brady Rymer’s other band, which has been nominated for a Grammy award for the third time (he has yet to win it, but they are hopeful that this is the year). From Good Homes covered “One Day by the Riverside” from Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could, much to the delight of the crowd. It was a country tinged, fun folk song that I liked hearing live. It was an unexpected surprise treat but it was nothing compared to what was about to follow.

The last song of set one was also the biggest surprise of the night. The band pulled out a song so rare and so classic that I didn’t even realize it was one of theirs. “It’s Getting Dirty” was the set one closer and it was a beauty! I had never heard the song before (it’s not on any of the band’s official releases) and I was just amazed. I thought the band broke out an awesome cover of a song I didn’t know, but learned later (after doing some home research) that it was a From Good Homes original. That left me scratching my head in wonder…why hadn’t the band ever released this song? It could be the best song they have. The jam at the end was spectacular and really left me thirsting for more. Fortunately for me, there was another set to sit through.

Set two started with the classic staple “Radio On,” and then was promptly followed with more surprises. “Parachute,” “Safer Ground,” and “Go Wild” were played next and all are songs that I have never heard the band perform live. They were all great songs, with “Go Wild” being my favorite of the bunch, if for no other reason than the quirkiness of the song. If From Good Homes were to go back into the studio and record all of these unreleased songs for a new disc, I guarantee it would sell well. They are all quality songs that are too good to not be recorded in a proper studio setting for fan consumption.

“Way Down Inside” was next and it’s another song that I forget how great it is until I hear it live. “Way Down Inside” is definitely the darkest song From Good Homes has, but it is a brilliant tune. I was glad to have heard it live and it served as a reminder that I need to play Open Up The Sky in its entirety more often than I do.

After a great one-two punch of “I’m A Mess” and “Second Red Barn On The Right,” both with incredible jams, and a quick “Boulevard of Dreams,” another song I have never heard live, my favorite From Good Homes song was performed. It was an early Christmas present to me. “I Only Want” is the best song From Good Homes has ever recorded. I can listen to that song over and over and over again and not grow tired of it. There is so much going on in that song. I love the saxophone solo in the middle and the long, drawn out jam the song inspires. The live version at the Newton Theater was fantastic and it made the night for me.

The second set ended with “Charlie Hogan,” a fun song about a fan, and then it was time for the encore. The band made some odd choices for the encore. They did an unknown instrumental called “Jamie’s Song” and followed that with a cover of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released.” I was surprised by the encore choices, as I expected something more upbeat to end the evening. The last song of the night was a brilliant rendition of “Raindance” and then it was all over. Another show with From Good Homes had come to a close.

The show served as a great reminder of how magnificent a band From Good Homes is. I really wish they would go back into the studio and give us one last record. Even if it was just studio recordings of these unreleased tracks they play live, it would be well worth it to the fans. And of course if the band comes back again in 2018 I fully expect that I will be going to see them in concert once again.

Set One
Old Man & The Land
Suzanna Walker
The Giving Tree
House On A Hill
Butterfly & the Tree>>>Little Red Corvette>>>Butterfly & the Tree
I’m Your Man
The Decision Song
Dance a Hole
One Day by the Riverside (Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could cover)
It’s Getting Dirty
Set Two
Radio On
Safer Ground
Go Wild
Way Down Inside
I’m A Mess
Second Red Barn On The Right
Boulevard of Dreams
I Only Want
Charlie Hogan
Jamie’s Song
I Shall Be Released (Bob Dylan Cover)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Reflections On...Night Moves

My love affair with music began at a very early age---5 years old to be exact. It’s because of both my parents that I love music as much as I do. My father amassed a vinyl record collection of more than 1500 albums. As a teen, I would sit and stare at my father’s collection for hours, wondering how anyone could obtain such an enormous music collection. And I was envious. I wanted to hold a collection like that when I was older. I wanted to have a collection even larger than my Dad’s.

My mother played the radio constantly. She also had her favorite bands and performers that she exposed to me growing up. Paul Revere and the Raiders were Mom’s favorite band, so I learned a lot about 60s pop through her. She also loved Fleetwood Mac and Patsy Cline and through her I grew an appreciation for country music. And then there was one performer in particular that she exposed me to very early on in my life and that was Bob Seger.

When I was 5 years old, my mother started playing her copy of Night Moves on our old 8 track stereo. We would listen to it while she made dinner, or before bed, or whenever we were just sitting around. When I first heard this delicious melodic folk rock, I fell in love. Rock and Roll Never Forgets was an awesome rocker, and as a kid, I could run around “dancing” and being silly to this song and it was enjoyed by everyone. I was the life of the party and getting attention! And what kid doesn’t love getting attention?

I also determined in my youthful mind that there was something about these songs, the band, the singer, and the music. The way everything blended to create a feeling of euphoria was an amazing experience, especially to an impressionable young boy. The hard rock opening of “Rock and Roll Never Forgets.” The slow acoustic intro of “Night Moves.” The bopping folk rock of “Mary Lou.” It was all so fascinating and mesmerizing.

Night Moves became my new addiction. At first, I would ask Mom to play it if we were out in the car, or if we were home in the evening with no one watching television. Then I would ask her to play it in the afternoon before I went to school (PM kindergarten for me). Then I would ask her to play it in the morning when she woke up. Eventually, I would knock on her door and ask her to play it myself. I already knew how to use the 8-track player from watching Mom do it so many times.

When she requested I watch Sesame Street instead, I scoffed at the notion. I wanted to hear some good old rock and roll not a bird and a furry elephant singing kids songs. Bring me the rock! I would persist and my mother would usually lament. There’s something to be said for bothering your parents at 6 in the morning. I would pop Night Moves into the old 8-track stereo and let her rip. It was heavenly.

We would bring Night Moves on road trips with us and listen to it in the car. I just couldn’t get enough of that album. One weekend we took a road trip to my Grandparents house where I was dropped off along with my sister to stay for a couple of days. Somehow, Night Moves got left in the back seat of the car in the hot, hot sun. When I climbed back into the car that Sunday for the ride home I asked to listen to Night Moves once again. I was informed that we couldn’t. The 8-track had warped and we were no longer able to listen to that album. Warped? How did this happen? How could this be allowed? Where was my Night Moves?

That ended 5 year old Ryo Vie’s intense affair with Night Moves. It would only be a matter of time before my new obsession would strike, which ended up being Billy Joel’s The Stranger, but that is a reflection for another day. On that particular Sunday, I was mourning the loss of Night Moves being laid to rest. But like Bob sang, rock and roll never forgets.

As the years rolled by, Bob Seger would fall off my radar for a while as I explored other avenues of music from bubble gum pop to death metal. I tried all types of music across the spectrum and eventually Night Moves crept back into my life. I was a teenager reconnecting with some lost classics while learning classic artists for the first time in my life. Born To Run, Bat Out Of Hell, and Rumors, were being discovered and/or rediscovered and really picked apart.

As a teenager, I spent a lot of time in my room, sitting in the dark, sneaking cigarettes out the window, and listening to music. I would find a particular album and play it over and over again, analyzing the songs, dissecting the lyrics, and looking for deeper meaning in the art as well as my life. I was a dreamer as a teenager, always pondering my plight and wondering where everything was going to lead me. I used music a lot as my guide and my muse.

Night Moves got a lot of play during this teenage journey of discovery. I used Bob Seger’s stories through songs to analyze my life and understand the bigger picture of the world that was out there. Particularly the title song. Seger’s portrayal of himself and his beautiful love to open the song caught my teenage ears in a way that 5 year old me did not understand. Two restless souls just using each other for sexual gratitude and passing the time was something that I related to at 15 years old. I certainly didn’t understand the opposite sex well and I didn’t know how to have a serious relationship, but I could imagine a “Night Moves” scenario. And I was able to meet girls who could imagine the same.

“Sunspot Baby” was another fun song that I enjoyed as a teenager. This was a blues rocking song that I just loved because of the piano riffs and the lyrics. Heartache and love lost while trying to chase down the woman who left you just to figure out why was a captivating story to a teenage boy who had yet to live that sort of thing. And as a bonus, whenever I could listen to this song with my dad, he would crank it to ten and we would rock out together. “Sunspot baby! I’m gonna catch up somtime!”

Deep down that is the biggest reason that Night Moves will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s one of the few albums that I would listen to with both my mother and father and enjoy it with them on a deeper level. With my mother, I just wore out as a kid, and we still joke about the warped 8-track to this day. With my father, we would just rock out to several songs on the album and be amazed at how great the record is. There are very few albums that share a link between me and both of my parents, but Night Moves is one of them.

When I was in my first marriage and going through a tough time deciding on what I wanted to do, I rediscovered Night Moves for the third time. I was in my early 20s by then and the songs on Night Moves presented an even deeper meaning in my life. Like Springsteen’s Born To Run, Night Moves is filled with stories of dreamers longing to get away or reflecting on their past. The protagonists in the songs are asking themselves, “Did I do everything that I could? Was my life better in the past than it is now?” Those reflections and search of self were very relevant to me in my early 20s. I had gotten married way too young and I was at a point in my life where I was wondering constantly if this was all that life had to offer. If it was, I wasn’t too fond of it and I knew that things had to change. I spent many nights listening to Night Moves over and over again, contemplating my life and wondering what had to be done. Night Moves was a comfort because it was my link to the past, my link to both my parents, and my link to understanding and self-discovery at three major points in my life. 

The album was there to bring me joy through the initial phase of my life when I was hearing music for the first time. It was there to bring me comfort as a teenager while I tried to learn my place in the world. And it was there to center me in my 20s as I tried to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I would always have Night Moves to fall back on and it was nice to know that the album was never going away.

Regretfully, I’ve never seen Bob Seger in concert. I wish that I had. I can only imagine that he puts on one heck of a show. And any songs played from Night Moves would give me fits of euphoria and glee because that album meant so much to me growing up. I still pull it out every once in a while and play it a couple of times through. And every time I hear the opening notes of “Rock and Roll Never Forgets” a big smile comes across my face. The sweet memories of music from another time in my life. Music that shaped me. Music that changed me. Music that meant the world to me. I’ll never forget either, Mr. Seger. Night Moves will always hold a special place in my heart.