101 Secrets to Indie Rock Success

01/18/2012 4:00 AM |

“Be polite to your coworkers.”

Hunter Giles
Founder of Infinite Best Recordings, manager of Twin Sister and Ava Luna

81. BE POLITE TO YOUR COWORKERS. That is, while you’re in band-mode, be courteous and respectful to everyone you encounter, from industry macher to dorky fanboy. Sounds simple, right? Prove it! Bands are forced to interact with so many different kinds of people, often in loud, dark rooms, many times under the influence of various substances (or a post-show ego-high). It can be easy to lose your head, talk shit, mouth off. Sound guys, bookers, bouncers, promoters, lawyers, managers, publicists, label folks, fans, photographers and (especially) other bands… they all look the same in the crowd, they all are your current or potential coworkers, and if you just got off the stage (or are currently on it), they are all secretly watching you to see how you interact, whether you’re a nice person or a total dickwad. I can’t tell you how fast word gets around when a band or artist is less than kind, and I’m continually amazed at how many people remember you if you make a little extra effort to be nice.

Nicolas Vernhes
Producer/engineer, Rare Book Room

82.Try to work with an engineer or producer who clearly understands your sonic vision. If you can, take them out for a beer beforehand (who doesn’t like free booze?) and talk about what you want to do. If said vision is still verbally murky prior to crossing the studio doors (hopefully not due to the beer), make sure the engineer gives you a strong sense that they will at least pay very close attention to your particular needs and requests for a certain aesthetic/type of sounds. It’s your music, not theirs.

Michelle Cable
Founder and Agent, Panache Booking

How to draft a booking email that will actually be read:

83. In the subject line, make sure you state the name of your band and the date you are inquiring about. If you are on a recognizable label, you could also mention that in the subject line.

84. Keep the email as concise and to the point as possible. Whoever you are emailing is most likely at their office reading your e-mail and has no time to read a novel.

85. Make sure your band name and the date you are looking for is visible within the first half of the message. [Editor’s note: see number 79.]

86. Include two to five noteworthy web links that pertain to your band. These could be your artist site, Bandcamp, Facebook, media press links, record review links, etc.

87. Do not attach files or mp3s! This is extremely annoying and clutters one’s inbox.

88. If your band is on a label, touring around a release, or has a publicist working a campaign, include that info. Keep it to a couple of sentences.

89. If your band has shared the stage/toured with other recognizable artists or played noteworthy festivals, you can mention these here. Again, keep it to a couple of sentences.

90. Make sure that in one quick glance or perusal of your email, the key information stands out and is easily spotted.

91. If you have a short, decent press quote or two, you can insert these at the end. The publication or entity you are quoting has more influence then the strength of the quote. Keep that in mind; quotes from entities like Pitchfork, SPIN, NPR, NY Times, Village Voice, L Magazine [Editor’s note: aw, shucks] will probably pique some interest and possibly a response.

92. And one more thing! A last reminder to keep it concise while still being as informative as possible. Probably no longer than this tutorial.


15 Comment

  • This is so awesome I’m linking to it from my venue’s booking info page. Thank you.

  • I was expecting a list filled with snark and ironic posturing, but this was a fantastic surprise. Thank you, L Magazine.

  • I think this article is very helpful. I’ve actually had the pleasure to book with Andy and I can say as an artist that I def appreciate when both parties respect each others hard work. The music world is tough.

  • @Natural: Whoa, whoa, whoa, there’s certainly *some* snark and ironic posturing in there! Thanks for the nice words, and for reading, obviously.

    You too, M. Romeo.

  • my kids are in a (fucking awesome) band in nyc and their manager posted this on facebook. i’m a magazine writer and editor, and the piece makes me wanna hire you guys. nice work.

  • some things never really change though eh? How about T-shirts are they in or out now? Or how about postering?…I did a bunch of that as well..in crapy weather once upon a time..

  • @Ninths: As per #57, yes, t-shirts are still a-ok by us. And postering! A total oversight on our part — postering would definitely be nice touch, like a reenactment of a scene from Singles or something.

    @Clint Willis: Oh, that’s really very nice of you to say. Glad you like your kids’ music. Though to be safe, I feel I should refer you (and them) to #38.

    Thanks for reading, everyone.

  • It seems like the “advice” from Captured Tracks really only applies to them.

  • #23. Go ahead and ask. I’ve been to dozens of shows where there vocals vanish. I felt sorry for a band from Scotland who had good 3 & 4-part harmonies and the venue messed up the vocals. Sometimes there’s too much riding on making a good impression. Feedback is good. More is better. Don’t be afraid.

  • As someone who does PR work for one of the venues in town (as well as freelance for a lot of musicians) I can not tell you how dead on this article is. Heck, I even learned a new thing or two. Thank you for this!

  • @Doug Kresse: I am willing to bet that asking the crowd how it sounds will not in 90% of shows make the sound any better. If the sound-person hasn’t figured the bands’ sound out on their own, they probably won’t and just aren’t that good at their job and/or are having technical problems. If they happen to be missing something crucial about the sound of the band, go tell them discreetly. It’s insulting to call them out from the stage and won’t yield the results you hoped for.

  • This is a bunch of bullshit:


    Check that guy, ask him if MySpace didn’t help.

    MySpace is still in the top 10 Social networking sites, beating out Google+, according to Nielsen:
    (Scroll down to the chart were MySpace is mentioned.)

    MySpace is #16 on Seomoz:

    And is in the Top 7 trending brands on Twitter:

    According to Google’s own stats, MySpace is still in the top 100 sites worldwide, ahead of Tumblr & HuffPo. Surprisingly, Reddit is nowhere in sight:
    Just looking at that list and counting Social networking sites, MySpace comes in at number 5.

    And it’s still beating out Tumblr & Google+ according to CommScore:

    MySpace TV is also mentioned postively in these articles:

  • Tom, is that you?

  • Most of the tips in here are pretty spot on, and should be pretty obvious to any musician who lives in the city and has played at least a handful of gigs.

    With that said, there are a couple of tips that contradict other tips you make.

    1 – “play as many shows as possible every day of the week.” The fact is unless you’re on a decent bill with bands that are in a “scene” you are trying to get in, and there’s actually going to be people there, most likely you’re not going to get any real “exposure.” In other words, Mike and other buzz bloggers will most likely not be at Trash Bar on a Tuesday, let alone a more DIY spot like Death By Audio or Party Expo, and especially won’t come if it’s a bunch of bands who they’ve never heard of (or been tipped off to), and more-so the case when all of the bands are completely different, did little to no promo, and the bands have little musicianship, fanbase, etc.

    On top of that, as many venue bookers and promoters will tell you, if you don’t bring people to your shows, they’re not going to want to book you again, even at the DIY venues these days (esp the Todd P associated ones). There are so many bands and venues in the city, shows to see, let alone things to do, and on top of that, most people (who are not avid live-music attendees), don’t see more than 2-4 shows (even small ones) a month. So if you send your friends invites 10 times a month for them to see you play your exact same set on a Monday night at 11pm, most likely they will not come (and thus venues will not be as likely to book you as much).

    2 – “license your music.” So at one point you say that you should license your music, which you neglect to mention means enabling large corporations to play your music when selling their product or during their tv shows, in order for them to either associate your sound with their product (i.e. indie cred with cars). While you do in fact make money from this (although you most likely won’t be able to do this without some prior relative success), your art will forever be associated with something that either has nothing to do with it, or worse, is against your/your artistic ethos and values.

    At the same time, you write that you are sick of vague tongue-in-cheek lyrics, and songs about bland sunny days (or something like that), and that you’re more interested in bands taking a tougher tone, which I think you meant to say, “talking about actual emotions, events, society, politics, the world, your experiences,” as opposed to fluff.

    So are you looking for bands to write songs about the juxtaposition of the relative misfortunes and economic outlook of 20-somethings with college degrees against, the misfortunes of the people whose neighborhood’s are being gentrified and are actually living at below poverty levels, to then go ahead and license their song off to Bank of America for their new commercial, while this very same institution’s actions were clearly responsible for a lot of the economic and social injustice that their song is supposed to highlight?

    Please clarify.

    My personal opinion is do what Steve Albini says and don’t look at music as a way to make money, because it will diminish your message, artistic creativity, your ability to go against the grain, and more importantly, put money in the hands of organizations whose interests are completely against yours.

  • Ooh wee. good advice I plan to use. Not all of it but some of it. Thank you contributors.