The other day I wrote about stuff that bands spend money on that they shouldn’t. Today I want to talk about things bands don’t spend money on but should. This is a big issue that I think keeps me awake at night more than it should. Every band complains about finances, and it’s true, it sucks and it’s a lot of work to keep them in line. That is just how things are. I don’t know any other way to slice it. Still, aside from the money being wasted, there are a lot of crucial investments that just aren’t getting made these days that I think only serve to get people in the industry frustrated. I know it sucks, it happens, but you need to spend money to make money. No one is coming to your house to help you for shits and giggles, at least not past high school. There are a lot of questionable aspects to keep in mind with this and quite a bit to pick apart as we delve forward – so here we go.
The big thing for me that gets me is people who don’t want to invest in quality production and a great studio. This is a huge issue for bands trying to grow. So many people think that they can save money in order to get more into PR because they think journalists won’t be able to tell the difference. Guess what. They will. They listen to records all day. They are musical nerds. They are constantly trying to find different sides to a record. Same with A&R people. Why would they want to invest in a band who can’t even be bothered to properly invest in themselves? Investing in a quality product is key if you’re going to try and invest a ton of money in marketing it. Sure there are workarounds and it’s always good to do what you can to save a buck. But realize that a demo is never anything more than a demo, unless you own your own studio and added a bunch of layers. Just think these things through before you start assuming you know it all.
Simultaneously – I see a lot of bands who might invest oodles into PR but don’t bother with any other forms of marketing. This can be as simple as making sure that you’re paying for a top quality photoshoot and logo. It doesn’t matter if you got covered in Rolling Stone if you look like a bunch of meth addled losers with a generic logo. I know that these things can be hard to want to invest in, but trust me, if you don’t you just look like an ass and have a serious risk of embarrassing yourself in front of your peers. Your girlfriend who ‘knows photoshoot’ is no competition for a real artist and that’s going to make or break people checking out your record. This isn’t because they are flipping through vinyls at a record store, but just because people process images a lot faster than they process words so if they see your picture or art online and it sucks they won’t go any further. This is just an unfortunate reality of how the human brain works, so be ready to get in there and invest. There is no other way.
Tied into this is gear. I get that your mom bought you a Line 6 when you were 16 and you learned so much on it but stop embarrassing yourself. Get yourself adult gear. Not only do bands with better gear usually get more respect from sound guys when on tour but they also tend to be viewed as better by the other bands. This of course is all on top of the fact that having professional gear makes you sound like…well… a professional. This is a huge issue I see with a lot of bands who try to cut corners thinking no one will notice. Maybe your stoner friends don’t notice because they don’t care and are listening through earbuds. Those of us who are listening on for realsies sound systems though will always be able to tell and will be judging you against our favorite records. If you can’t hold a candle to whatever else we happen to be listening too then why do you think we would want to invest time and money in your music?
Last but not least, and this can be a weird one for some people, but a trailer is pretty much always worth it, especially when you have a larger touring party. I know that it can suck for those of you who are concerned about safety or gas mileage, but nothing is safer than being able to knock out a few good hours because you can lie the fuck down. Nothing is safer than being able to take shifts much more easily and having more space in the van so people get less on top of each other so everyone can stay alert. Judging safety on tour is a matter of tradeoffs. When it comes down to it it’s up to the individual, but I have found that trailers and other ways to trick out your touring rig with things like bunks, in-vehicle wi-fi and all of that good stuff is generally worth it if you plan on touring and playing out consistently. If not – then all good, those are just luxuries. But you want to be able to preserve your sanity if you are going for it on the road.
Long story short – if you’re going into this thing to make a buck realize that you are going to need to invest a lot into a variety of scenarios if you want to have a mechanism that can routinely profit. This is not straightforward nor is it easy. There are some things which are undoubtedly rip offs and which people like me will make fun of you for. There are other things that are really cool and which will definitely be worth spending time creating. Some people can get by with less – I’m just talking about how the bands who seem to succeed generally do it. So break out that credit card, it’s time to get to spending!