If you’re gonna be a musician in LA, here are 18 steps that outline how do promote and play a show and what to expect.
1. You put together a music group, rent a rehearsal space and rehearse until you are sounding tight.
2. Put together 45 min of original music.
3. Book a show at a venue.
4. You promote said show by purchasing blank CD’s to burn 3 of your best songs onto, burn them all one at a time on your CD drive in your mac, sharpie all the info on the suckers and then design a poster for the show (because you’re a highly skilled graphic artist right?), take the bus to your former employers place because he is still cool enough to let you use his fast-as-hell computer to do personal projects on…even tho he laid you off 2 months ago…so really how long is that gonna last?
Print the posters out as 11x 17 full color posters…but not too many as they cost $2 each, and a butt-load of black and white handbills to litter all over Los Angeles. Once you’ve spent $137.89 on promotion materials…get your lazy musician ass onto the street, preferably other music venues and events and start giving your music away…just give it out to whoever seems remotely interested and try to make a connection with someone who might possibly be willing to take a chance on a group that they have NEVER HEARD OF. You know how salmon swim upstream? Its a lot like that.
You seriously have to hit every show in town that has bands playing that match your genre and prostitute yourself to their fans…Always ask their name, give them an exciting description of your group…be friendly, smile and encourage them to listen to your music and if they like it, consider coming to the show. Its thankless, even more so in January. Also, do this all by taking public trans and riding a bike with a warped back tire that ultimately belongs to the closest thing you have to a girlfriend. You’re riding said bike because you totaled your touring van last year in the slow lane on the 101.
When your not out on the thankless boulevard of broken dreams hustling new fans, you had better be on your borrowed mac, you know, the one your ex employer is still letting you use…the one he kinda wants back. You had better be updating your myspace page (because you just happen to have a friend in SF who is a web guru and does all your website work for free right?) and facebooking all your friends over and over in all kinds of creative ways just enough to keep them interested without making them sick of hearing about your gig.
Don’t forget to send a press release 2 weeks before you perform, because you are a brilliant publicist in addition to an excellent promoter, band leader, web designer and graphic artist.
5. Stage clothes. Decide what the group is gonna look like for this show…email them with your decision of ‘all black tonight’ or whatever you decide.
6. Turn your phone off the day of your gig because your battered ego cannot take another phone call from friends saying, “Sorry we can’t make it tonight because there is a new episode of The Office on and like, that’s such a funny show.”
7. Get all your gear and all your merch together, your CD’s, your tee shirts, your glossy photos of the band, your mailing list and get a 26 year old female fan (somehow they are always between 24 and 26) to drive you to the gig, or carry all your gear on the bus and meet your drummer at your rehearsal space and catch a ride to the venue.
8. Once there, get the stink eye from the door person, the bartender, the sound guy, the club promoter (who didn’t raise a finger to promote the show by the way) and the club owner.
9. Beg for drink tickets.
10. Set up your merch…if you’re lucky, the 26 year old will work the merch table and hustle CD sales and get people to sign the mailing list.
11. Sit thru the opening bands set. This could go a number of ways. a. Opening band is beyond terrible and is driving your fans out of the room. b. The opening band is an American Idol reject and has 200 fans in the room that leave immediately after the set…meanwhile your fans decided not to wait in the long line to get in and your numbers are cut in half for your set.
12. Set up your gear and ROCK your set. This is the part of the night that actually feels good. Enjoy it, it only lasts a quick 45 minutes.
13. You have 15 fleeting minutes of post gig afterglow after your set…use it wisely. This is your CD selling magic time. If you have a roadie, use them to pack your shit up and get down to the floor to work the room. Usually that 15 minutes of “you guys are awesome” is wasted packing gear off the stage and loading it back into the cars.
14. Use your drink tickets and a. drink the set away if you sucked or b. everyone will be buying you drinks if you rocked. Try to encourage people to buy your CD instead of another drink for you as you can get drinks for free with your drink tickets…Your liver will thank me and you will make more CD sales.
15. Get paid. Meet with the doorman and give him the stinkeye when he tells you that only 20 people came to see you play. You get 1/2 of the $6 door which comes out to $60…oh, but wait, there is $25 deducted for some bullshit ‘recession fee’ that was enacted Jan 1st 2009, so you get $35 whole US dollars to split between 4 people….as you watch all your friends spend a small fortune at the bar you add a little more stink to that stinkeye your giving him as you wonder how the club owner can sleep at night exploiting bands this way. At the same time be thankful you were not the opening band who drove all the way from San Diego and only got 18 people in the door who got paid NOTHING.
16. Find the drunk 26 year old and convince her that she needs to get her tounge out of that strangers mouth and get into the car…once in the car, attempt to drive home, stopping every 5 to 10 minutes for um..evacuation purposes.
17. Get home at 3:45 am completely shattered. Physically, emotionally and financially DRAINED. Wonder why you would ever do it do it all over again…in a few days, you somehow convince yourself that those 45 minutes on stage were worth it.
18. Book another show and repeat.