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Q.� Fair enough, I'll settle for the longer answer then.
A.� Right. Let's assume you've got a strong image, some excellent original songs, you've played, and been warmly received, on your local gig circuit, and you're looking to move on to the next stage. If you're missing any of that list of components, you're not ready yet, but read on and store away the information for the future.
Q.� We have got the image and the songs, and we are getting local gigs, but we need some advice on what to do next.
A.� Mick Jagger once said that there is no such thing as bad publicity, and looking at the length of time he's been fronting a major-league rock band, you may be inclined to believe him. That said, they are The Rolling Stones, and there is only one Rolling Stones. You're looking for something a little more modest at this stage, but the concept of publicity is vital, so get a publicity pack sorted.
Q.� What's a 'publicity pack'
A.� It's a package of information that's going to tell interested parties all they need to know about your band, starting with how you sound. Step one is a good demo tape, and the accent is on 'good'. Get professional studio time and tape your three best songs. No, not an entire concept album, or your two-hour live show, just three songs that show off your style and material to the best advantage.
Concert promoters, managers and record company A & R (it's a rather quaint throwback to the early days, it stands for 'Artistes and Repertoire') people rarely listen beyond half of the first song, so don't waste their time, or yours. Add a biography and a couple of good black and white publicity photos, again if you can get these done professionally, it's money well spent. Get you bio. typed properly, and use black and white shots because colour can run the risk of putting strangers off your appearance, bizarre, but true. Keep the bio. short and snappy, and give proper contact details�- not your mum who'll take messages while you're at work or school, get an answering machine, and put a sensible message on it if you want sensible messages to be left.
Q.� This all sounds very serious and formal!
A.� It is. You are entering a cutthroat world where professionalism is a vital ingredient, not an option. Send out a few scribbled lines on a page from an exercise book and a shot of you all gurning in the local photo-both and you'll end up in the bin, literally and musically, and probably deservedly as well. If you want to be taken seriously, look and sound professional all the time.
Q.� How can we get a record deal
A.� There's the age-old tried and trusted method of sending hundreds of demo cassettes to hundreds of record companies. It can work, but so can finding a needle in a haystack, but who wants to run their career like that
If you are hitting record companies, stick to the ones that include bands like yours�- if you are an acoustic band playing traditional folk music, it's not much use sending your tape to a label�such as Earache in the Midlands who specialise in extreme heavy metal bands. Pitch your band at the right section of the market�- yes it sounds like a great idea to send your package to Richard Branson at Virgin Records, marked 'Personal but it's also a waste of time, Mr Branson doesn't own the label any more, and he hasn't spent his days listening to unsigned bands for a very very long time!
Q.� So how do we get noticed
A.� The best way to get your band heard by the right people�- the A&R men (and they're most often, though not always, men) who's job it is to find the 'next big thing'.�It would help if you could�get a gig in London�- it's a sad but true fact that the music industry is still based largely in the capital. You'll need to find a venue that will put your band on for a night. You probably won't make any money, but you shouldn't have to pay for a slot.�If you're at all good enough, you can pull an audience in, and a genuine venue manager will see that and stick you on the tail end of a quiet night's bill.�The A&R people are out looking, and someone will spot you eventually.
Q.� Sounds exciting!
A.� It's not,�in fact it can be deeply soul-destroying. Interest from an A&R person may sound like your dream come true, but remember, you may be one of five or six bands he's checking out that night, and he may make soothing noises about how great you are, that's to keep you focused on him, and away from the competition. Don't kid yourself, if he hears what he thinks is the new Oasis in a pub down the road, he'll be saying the same sort of things to them. A sense of realism, combined with the hide of a rhino will assist you in your climb to the top.
Q.� What's next
A.� Just keep at it. If you have genuine talent, and you really are good enough to become a world-class recording and gigging band, you just have to hope that the large dose of luck you need to be in the right place at the right time will arrive. Talent is essential, but not as essential as luck.�Plenty of superb bands slog round the toilets that pass for live venues in this island of ours, and never make more than beer money, simply because they never got the break they were looking for. Alex McGhee happened to drop in on the fledgling Oasis by a pure fluke, and he signed them on the spot. Tales like that encourage bands to keep on hoping it will be their turn, but those circumstances happen extremely rarely, so don't wait for it to happen to you, it probably won't.
Q.� Is it worth trying to get noticed at all
A.� Of course it is! If you are good, and you believe in what you do, you'll have an occasionally dispiriting, but eventful and educational time trying to get a foothold in the music industry. It's not easy, but it's rarely dull, and if you avoid the most obvious pitfalls, you should have some fun out of the whole experience.
Q.� Any final advice
A.� The best usually comes last - don't sign anything! At least not until you've spent several weeks' beer money� hiring a specialist music contract lawyer to check over what you are going to sign, before you sign it. It will be money well spent. If someone thinks you are worth signing, someone else will think you are worth ripping off, so look before you leap, and read before you sign, then get someone who makes a good living by reading and explaining to you what you are signing, to read it as well. That's the best advice of all.
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����������������������������������������������������������������������������������By:� by Andy Hughes.