Local Music, Sound Advice

by Mike Corrigan, Leah Sottile and Clint Burgess

Sure, it's the name of The Inlander's newsy music bits section, but here, in this context, "Sound Advice" represents your key to success in the music business. For as much time and effort as you musicians put into your craft, you should be putting as much thought into how to give your act the exposure necessary to lift it above the fray and into the light of recognition. And if you're too artsy to be bothered with all that, get a manager. One can be easily found -- usually within your circle of friends -- and managers often work for free as long as you promise to cut them in on a piece of all that fame and fortune you're bound to receive very soon. -- Mike Corrigan

Some musings on the Band Name

In a cage match between the Dave Matthews Band and Architecture in Helsinki, who's going to come out on top? My vote's with Helsinki. Anyone who can be that creative with their band name is clearly smarter -- not to mention cooler -- than a band who strokes only one member's ego.

There's no science to picking a cool moniker, but there sure as hell are a lot of bad band names out there. A sampling: the Bassholes, the Hermaphrodaddies, Pabst Smear. While they get points for creativity in the grossest way, we like it when bands get creative. My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, Iron & amp; Wine or the Crystal Method, for instance. Or one-worders like Jucifer or Metric. Or simple noun names like Stars or Doves. Personally, we're sort of spent on the The thing -- you know, the Decemberists, the Peels, the Strokes, the Lashes, the Shins -- enough is enough, people!

But without any real formula to offer you, we can only refer you to a comprehensive list of bad names. Check out the Canonical List of Weird Band Names at http://sam.hochberg.com/bandname.html, and see what not to name your band. -- Leah Sottile

A few words about Press Kits

Welcome to Press Kit 101, your introduction to the creation of a complete and effective press kit for the purpose of promoting your musical act to newspapers, magazines, booking agents, club owners and recording labels. As the senior music writer at this newspaper, I feel I'm uniquely positioned to help you put this kind of package together. Believe me, in my five and a half years at this, I've seen it all -- from the incomprehensible to the outstanding to the press kits crammed with all manner of bribes. Yet it really all comes down to just two main ingredients...

THE BIO This may seem really obvious, but it's vital that your press kit supplies useful information about your act. Keep it as brief and to the point as possible, but make sure it's complete. Here are some of the main questions you should be answering: What's the name of the group? Who's in the group and what instruments do they play? Where are they from? When did they first get together? When and where do they perform? And most important of all, how do I get in touch with them?

THE PIC I cannot overstate the importance of this item -- or how many bad, unusable band photos we get here all the time. I'm not going to get into concepts or composition here -- just the basics. First of all, avoid computer prints and Xeroxed copies like the plague. Instead, go with nice B & amp;W or color film-based prints or medium-to-large digital files (six inches at 300 dpi is a good rule of thumb). Also, no matter how much you love your band logo, do not plaster it all over your photo. Doing so renders it virtually useless for print.

There are a couple of other items you might want to include as well. First among these is a recording of your work (the preferred format these days is CD), particularly if you are using it to convince a club owner or booking agent that you are worthy of a gig. Most will not even consider you for show if they've never heard you before. And having something recorded to give them is a lot easier (and less obnoxious) than bringing your entire band along with you.

Include copies of any press clippings you might have. It might not seal the deal, but at least it shows that someone out there thought you were worthy of a write-up. And swag is always fun (stickers, buttons, etc.). But don't worry too much about packaging your press kit in fancy folders or special bindings like a teacher's pet term paper. Just the facts, m'am. Seriously. -- Mike Corrigan

How to Find a Venue

Right. So now that you've got your act together and all the necessary exploitation down cold, what next? Well, to play, of course. Because no matter how great you think you might sound in the safety of your own practice space, until you actually get out and do that thing in front of an audience, it's all just singing in the shower. Playing live will provide you with invaluable feedback and experience. But if you've never played out before, where do you start? First of all, consult The Inlander's venue listing in the music section for names and phone numbers (another good resource is www.spokanebands.com). The clubs, coffee houses, restaurants and other venues listed there all support live music and most of them showcase local talent. Second, check out the weekly nightlife listings to see which clubs sponsor open-mic nights, which are a good way to go, especially if you're not sure where to go or are still working on your act.

Sending your press kit to the venue directly isn't a bad idea (if you don't have a contact, just direct it to the "Booking Agent"). Many of the clubs around town have Web sites with links to booking information (again, www.spokanebands.com is a good resource). But you might have just as much luck -- if not more -- dropping by in person and asking to speak with the club's booking agent. It's also a good idea to drop by early, before things get too noisy. -- Mike Corrigan

Some thoughts on Recording a Demo

Now that you've finally locked in a drummer and everyone is consistently showing up for band practice, it's time to make a demo. The local music scene is rife with underground engineers who can make a good budget-conscious demo. One studio currently getting a lot of use by local musicians is the Black Lab. Helmed by engineer/producer Joe Varela, musicians can get a good-quality demo here in two to four days for a few hundred dollars, depending on the project.

There are a few need-to-knows before going to a studio.

"Coming in focused and goal-oriented is always a plus," says Varela. "It's easy to get sidetracked if there are too many distractions."

Varela says a few simple measures can help bands get the most out of their studio time.

"Get your instruments ready to record. Make sure everything is working correctly, you have everything you need and the drums are tuned. I hate tuning drums in the studio."

Bands should already have discussed the vision for the project, where everyone wants to see the recording end up. Time is wasted when there are conflicting views about these issues. Finally, bands should have a plan of attack. Know what you want to accomplish in the time you have available and how to make the best use of your time.

There is also a list of what not to do in the studio.

"Don't expect a producer or engineer to fix all your mistakes," says Varela. "Make sure you are practiced and polished when going in to record. Don't get drunk in the studio. While it may be fun, it's not conducive to getting much work done. And don't panic -- a lot of times people lose all confidence when they are plugged in to a recording device. Just go with the moment and have your skills fine-tuned and ready." -- Clint Burgess

Local Studios: The Black Lab Studio, 218-2250; Black Coffee Recording, 535-2783; College Road Recording, 465-9146

Merchandising: Human Billboards

Bottom line: Guys stare at girls' boobs. You know, I know it -- so what better place to get your band's name out there than right across the chests of your female (OK, and male) fans? It's a place you can guarantee people will look.

Making shirts is hardly as expensive as you might think. You can screen-print professional-looking shirts all on your own using a little ink, some glue, nylons and an embroidery hoop -- just Google "easy screen printing" and you'll find tons of tips online. Jumbo packs of Fruit of the Loom tees are cheap, or set up an account with a local screen-print shop.

And before you take all of your friends out for a round of Jaeger shots on the money you made off tickets, blow a sliver of one show's earnings on a hundred one-inch buttons off www.oneinchbuttons.com. Hipsters love nothing more than their one-inch buttons -- well, besides their white belts. Or try making your own stickers. Pick up sticky paper at Office Depot, crank out your own design and then, in order to be totally punk rock, print 'em out on your bosses' printer. Stick it to the man. No pun intended. -- Leah Sottile

Publication date: 05/19/05

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