Are you a wanna-be?
The guidelines to attracting national interest.
I can count on one hand the number of musicians who at sometime in their life attempted to get a recording contract with a record label, and actually had the slightest clue as to what it takes to make it happen. But if you are between the ages of 18 and 26, and you or your group are seeking stardom, and you have some great songs, you still have a chance of getting your wish. However, there are many steps you must follow in order to accomplish your goals.
Contrary to what most believe, you don’t need a big or even small time music manager. Rather, you need someone who knows how to go about informing those folks in the industry that you exist. Labels rarely deal directly with artists. Nor do you have many business dealings with them, except on a music or performance level, and that usually follows any interest in your project anyway.
Success in this business is extremely time demanding
To put it simply, you should be writing and rehearsing at least five to six hours a day, no less than five days a week. Furthermore, you should be playing live gigs no more than twice a month, that is unless you are in a showcase mode and there should be no exceptions, NONE!
The Live Show
How much you get paid for a gig is of no importance, because if you have your shit together with good material, you will develop a following. Followings create cash for clubs and if the club owner isn’t a fool, they will pay you your worth if you put money in their pocket — if they don’t, go to those who will.
Whenever you play your own material live, be sure to have a “Stage Tech” to tune guitars, and do not ever perform without a sound engineer, either yours or the house’s. Doing otherwise has been the downfall of numerous groups who were unaware that Joe Putz from Schmuck Records was there to see them, or someone else. This very thing happened a couple of weeks ago when I went to see a band that a major label asked me to check out. Much to my surprise, it was the opener and the closer that kicked my ass. They were great. The group I was there to see had some good tunes, but they were far from being ready for a deal, and had an attitude that their Ka Ka didn’t need toilet paper. I expressed my views to the label; needless to say they were disappointed. IMPORTANT TIP: pay your roadies, not yourself!
Have a Plan — Work the Plan
Well, now it’s time to review your goals and plans to make it to the top. So let’s go to the basics and check out just how well prepared you are to work your plan.
Everyone in this business is an expert except the gullible novice. But sadly, even novices, after his or her first time recording, believe they are really hot stuff, you know, “I can do this myself, nothing to it”. However nothing is further from reality.
Most bands, not all but most, go into their rehearsal caves and pound away with a full PA blaring with up front monitors, drums and vocals kicking ass, and in this environment they birth a new tune that is God’s gift to music fans. So they think anyway. Unfortunately, they will pound away, drink a few suds, and stand tall with their accomplishment of completing a new song for their gig at Melvin Belnap’s Pub. IMPORTANT TIP: A full PA is not the right environment for writing and reworking songs.
Here is what I recommend instead. Sit back with simple acoustic guitars, and do a basic fundamental live track recording. Then, go sit in the corner of the room, close your eyes and listen to what you just wrote and start chopping and fixing its failures.
Know thy song
I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve seen bands getting ready to record, and watched them discover that the parts that other members are playing are ‘alien’ parts that don’t fit the song. IMPORTANT TIP: All members should know what the other members are playing! LISTEN, turn the amp down or grab an acoustic. LISTEN to each other!
Unless you have lots of extra cash, the recording studio is not the place to re-work a tune. Unless the studio is in your living room and contrary to the belief of many, you usually don’t get a good recording from the living room. You can get a fairly good format, but not one good enough to shop. The smart bands will hire a producer/engineer who knows his shit, and not just how to get your hard earned cash, but one who knows how to bring out the best in you. Every producer has his/her own style and sound, so make it a point to carefully listen to their work, for a name means nothing if you fail to get your sound.
Generally speaking, most recordings follow a routine that is pretty standard such as drums, bass, rhythm, keys, lead, and last the vocal and background vocals. Lead vocalists are the ones who usually get screwed the most in low budget recording situations. This happens because by the time those members who were not totally prepared to record their parts actually finish recording, the cash has just about run out, leaving the most important ingredient of the project (the lead vocalist) rushed and ultimately dumped on.
All of the above can be avoided if bands would just realize the importance of proper rehearsals and spending quality time constructing their material, so that when they hit the studio they are prepared. One of my favorite bands was so well rehearsed they recorded and mixed 11 songs, which were very complicated in nature, in just 3 days with plenty of time left over for trinkets and additions. I was not in love with their music, however their hard work earned my deepest respect and my drive to get them a deal. They got lots of showcases, but unfortunately a deal never came about. Some bands make it, most don’t.
Building your Band
A & R label representatives are a dime a dozen, here today, gone tomorrow. Some hang on, but most of them hit the road, just like many of you will. You too have to know when to bail from a project that is going nowhere.
Auditions are a very critical part of forming and shaping your group. Just because someone plays killer does not mean they have the right chemistry for your situation, even to the point of smelly feet or underarms, so don’t just jump onto any given artist’s credits, there may be huge baggage and hazards that come with it. Look for the chemistry that accomplishes the vibe you are looking for.
Sacramento is a bustling music community, and in my opinion, will soon be known for it’s sound just as Seattle was for grunge. Our community was and still is known as the home of Tesla, multi-platinum many times over, and none of it’s members have ever forgotten their roots. They, right here in our fine city worked with the clubs owners, promoters, radio, and other valuable individuals who gave them their chance at stardom. Tesla reached that plateau of dreams most of you are seeking through a lot of hard work. You can too. Just remember my little phrase “ Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan”. So let’s get it on Homies!
Steve “clausie” Clausman has quietly signed or participated in the signing of 14 groups in the Northern California Region such as Tesla, Sweet Vine, King Kobra, 58 Fury, Northrup, Heathen, Big Trouble, Ian Shelter and Dissadent Aggressor as well as guiding many other up and coming artists under the Clausie banner.