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The Biz

Published: 2007/04/08
by Allen Ostroy

A Jammy at the Grammys?/ Balancing Band Resources

A Jammy at the Grammys?

I recently picked up two new bands to manage (if I don’t give them a shout out here what message would I be sending to you about taking advantage of all opportunities?), Nate Wilson Group and The Brew. Instead of me spending the next two paragraphs talking up these bands let me just say, check them out for yourselves at and respectively, and you’ll be hearing more about both of them.

As you may or may not know I like to ask questions for some reader participation. There are 108 Grammy categories including: Best Classical Album, Best Polka Album, Best Contemporary World Music Album, Best Traditional World Music Album, Best Reggae Album, Best Hawaiian Music Album, Best Native American Music Album, Best Banda Album, Best Tejano Album, Best Mexican/Mexican-American Album, Best Tropical Latin Album, Best New Age Album, Best Alternative Music Album, Best Metal Performance, and Best Hard Rock Performance and six or seven different Gospel categories.

Why isn’t there a category for Best Jam Album, Best Jamband Album, or Best Jamband Performance?

Please send your thoughts and answers to me at .

Balancing Band Resources and Having a Demo is A Must

For this addition I’m going to tell you about a conversation I had with a band called Roost out of Maine. The conversation started with this email.


Hello Allen – I sent a message to the guys of strangefolk via myspace, and they pointed me to your direction. They also had me look at your "biz" articles on The articles were a big help, but I still seem to find myself overwhelmed by all of the different aspects of the music industry.

We have played under the name "Roost" for a couple of years and we have had a great local following supporting us thus far. To date we have played over 100 shows in and around the state of Maine. At the moment we are a mere college band, but we have much larger aspirations. After graduating from the University this May, our goal is to focus 100%.on the band. We have no friends in high places, and we have no knowledge of the business side of the industry. We have had some press through the local newspapers and radio stations, and we even graced to cover of the "good times" magazine, who covered one of our shows in Portland. We have shared the stage with some touring acts such as Raq and the Assembly of Dust, but apart from these minor breakthroughs, we are starting from the bottom and trying to work our way up. We have no press kit, no studio recordings and soon we will relinquish our local following as we relocate our home base to Portland in hopes of opening up some more opportunities.

Though we are relatively inexperienced, we do know that we are not really a "bar band." We write and perform our own music and it is usually well received by our audiences. We have found that most of the people in a bar setting are looking for covers of songs that they know. While we are more than able, that is simply not our forte.

I write to you because I know that we need to be pointed in some direction. I know that we are going to have to record a demo if we ever hope to get some decent gig’s. However, we are all broke and there is no way we can ante up the money that it would take to record a decent album. Are there any options for us, or will we be forced to sell our souls? All kidding aside, this is something that I am starting to lose sleep over. I know that given the right medium, our band is very marketable; we just need to get our foot into a few doors. The money that we do make performing has gone back into our live shows. We take whatever profits we make and purchase better sound equipment and lighting. We feel that because not every gig is played on a large stage, we are able to turn any gig into a "Show." We know that we need to be playing venues that take care of this issue, but while we are paying our dues as bottom feeders, we are trying to make for a good experience for us and the audience.

Realizing that resources can only be spread so thin, is there a general rule of thumb that you use in prioritizing your expenditures? Should we be placing our time and money elsewhere?

From your articles, I have been trying to come up with some sort of plan for the band. Looking at the list below, is there anything I am missing?

  • get a manager
  • record
  • produce a press kit
  • talk to booking agents
  • set up shows

This looks pretty sparse, and I am not completely sure that this is all there is to it. Without looking too far ahead, what comes next?

Any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated. I’m sure you have heard this a million times, but we are dedicated and willing to do what it takes. We are just trying to avoid as many mistakes as possible.

Thank you for taking the time to read my questions, I look forward to your reply.

Bert Macdonald


Sound familiar? I know there are 10,000 bands out there going through a similar scenario. When you have limited resources you need to use them extra carefully and balanced. The greatest musicians in the world are probably the ones who are practicing non-stop in their basements and never getting out. However, it doesn’t do us any good because we’ll never here them. This is fine if music is something you want to do only for yourself. However, if you want to make a living at it you have to balance all aspects of being a musician. You have to spend as much time promoting yourself as you do rehearsing and practicing.

Having a great live show is important but so is having a band photo and demo. You can’t just spend everything on the live show. Nor should you spend everything on a photo and demo and have a crappy gear. All aspects of the organization need to be balanced from the gear on stage to the look of your website.

You’ve heard the expression “Let your money work for you.” The same goes for having recorded material to sell at your shows. The recorded material will work for you. Even if you aren’t playing someone who picked up your disc might throw it on at a party. If you are band playing out and don’t at least have a five song demo on a merch table then you are blowing opportunities to let your music work for you.

It is essential that you put something together. It doesn’t need to be a ten thousand dollar, ten song album but you should make it look and sound as pro as possible. Today’s technology allows for high quality, low cost, albums. Duplicating them is extremely inexpensive. You can produce something for a few hundred dollars that is worth selling for $5 on a merchandise table. The music will work to spread the music for you.

I’ll post part 2 of my conversation with Roost which was about trying to build a scene locally when the area you live in is lame. Also, we chatted about creative ways to market the band to the right demographic.

Until next time keep sending me your questions about The Biz.


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