Is Your Band Doomed to Always Just Be a Local Act?
Are you a musician? Is your group having issues? Ask Fan Landers! Critic Jessica Hopper has played in and managed bands, toured internationally, booked shows, produced records, worked as a publicist and is the author of The Girls' Guide to Rocking, a how-to for teen ladies. She is here to help you stop doing it wrong. Send your problems to her -- confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame.
Dear Fan, My band Close To Modern has been together for six years; we are based out of Las Vegas, NV. 2012 was a great year for us. We played shows in L.A., SF and Phoenix, our SXSW set got us a tweet from Carson Daly, and we released our EP in September. When the EP came out we were feeling on top of our game and hustle, and the EP got good reviews from the local weekly magazines and from our fans. Now we're stuck. Las Vegas isn't an easy city for bands, and we're overshadowed by The Strip. Playing casinos is impossible for local acts outside of cover bands.
We've sent our EP and links to indie record labels nationally and internationally, and we've opened for a lot of touring bands in town. Now though, it seems things have slowed down for us. We're having trouble booking different venues in the cities we already played. I know we're not big enough for managers or booking agencies, but we want the opportunity to book more out of town shows. We don't know what direction to pursue.
Thanks for your time, Daniel
Dear Daniel, It sounds like you have made a valiant effort despite the downfall of being from a town with a nominal rock scene and not much in the way of infrastructure. There haven't been a lot of bands coming up and out of Vegas, building the ladder for other bands to climb up. That's hard because you basically have to pave your own way, whatever you choose to do, and there are probably like, two managers in town, and they only do cover bands.
With all that in mind, you are doing pretty well for a local band in (no shots) a secondary market. Self-releasing an EP, making that slog to SXSW, promoting it all --the good news is that you guys know how to do that stuff --which is important because at least for now, you are just going to have to keep doing what has worked, even though it feels like treading water, professionally. There is always a natural ebb and flow to work and to your career. Before you go forward with trying to get someone to wrangle on your behalf, here is something to consider --this might just be it. Even if you do get signed to a label, hook up with an agent of some sort, you might be life locals. If you feel like you have reached the end of your capabilities as a band, yes, go ahead and hit people up for representation, but do everyone involved a favor and let go of the expectation that someone else is going to magically lift you up to the next echelon of band stardom.
As far as kicking something into gear --it's been a year, why not make an album on the real-cheap and throw it up on Bandcamp and use the money you save on it towards promoting the tour you book around it? Let press/blogs and radio in your town know now that you're going in to the studio (cough, cough bassist's garage) and have a big tour planned to support it; prime the pump a little. It might boost your morale a little too. Don't play any shows for a little bit and then be like "HOORAY! WE ARE BACK! BACK FROM MAKING OUR RECORD!"--even though nothing has changed, it'll feel like the ball is rolling at least. It's all about the up-sell. Best of luck, Fan
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