Battle of The Bands: Just Say No

Q: My band wants to play a battle of the bands where we can win 10 grand and a spot at the Slamdance Fest sponsored by Trojan Ecstasy Condoms!. Do you think we should play?

A: No.

A few years ago I was put in charge of running a battle of the bands for a major northeast area festival. I was excited for the opportunity, as it was my first real chance to prove my booking skills. Now I’m sure your thinking booking a battle of the bands is a rather unglamorous job and it is. It’s not nearly as sexy as booking headliners; however it’s a very important job because battle of the band shows bring in boatloads of cash if you run them correctly.  Let’s get into some of the reasons why you should avoid playing in a BOTB at all costs.


Ticket Quotas

On all of the BOTB I have been involved with as either an organizer or band manager you are given a packet with the prizes, the rules, and tickets to sell.  To qualify for the BOTB you had to sell at least half of the tickets, normally 25. However in reality they want you to sell out your first batch of tickets which is more like 50. I’ve actually seen bands bring in bus loads of people, like they actually rented a bus and filled it with 100 friends who aren’t doing anything at 1:35 on a Sunday afternoon to watch them play a 20 minute set.


There are a lot of ways one can judge a BOTB, voting, crowd applause, judging panel  etc. None are very accurate all have major flaws and can be easily exploited.  Crowd applause can be bought, no matter how great your band is, you are not going to be able to compete with a band who brings a bus load of people. Voting: much like crowd applause can be bought, voting also can fall victim to user error. In the battles I ran when you showed your ticket you were given a blank voting slip and told where the ballot box was. It was almost always right next to the box office where someone could keep an eye on it from tampering and you had to walk right past it to leave. Didn’t matter, people still screwed up. Some put their own name, some left it blank, one person famously wrote “ALL THESE BANDS ARE SUCK.” Plus if you sell 50 tickets and only 30 people show up you’re out 20 votes.  If it’s judged by a panel of music industry “experts” it can simply come down to personal taste. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been a judge at one of these things and have just seen a band I thought was just awful only to see the other judges at the table give them perfect scores. “Dude the metal band that played Britney Spears covers was fucking amazing” ugh.


The Prizes

Winning 10 grand, a main stage spot at a major festival, or a record contract sounds great but all of these prizes come with strings. I have never met a band that has won a cash prize from a BOTB. I’m not saying that they don’t exist, I’m just saying that out of all the bands I’ve talked to, none have taken down 10 grand in prize money.  Even if you do win, after splitting it between the group members and taxes (yes you have to pay those) the amount you get is more than likely not nearly worth the effort you put in. BOTB that revolve winning a record contract are just a bad idea. You need to look no further then American Idol, sure they had a few artists do well, but mostly the people who won are total misses. The BOTB label contests that I always see are generally from labels who I don’t think would be worth being on. Lastly we get to the BOTB that promises the winner a main stage spot on a major festival. Now I’ve been involved with BOTB that offered this as a prize and the winner did get to play the main stage, they got to play it at 11:30am, when doors opened. So you battle weeks, cannibalize your fans by making them to come out to show after show, just so you get to play as doors are opening. You’re the sound check band, and while I’m sure it’s really cool to rock out on a huge stage like that, I highly doubt it’s going to be the big break you are looking for.

So there are 3 reasons not to play a BOTB, I have a horror story of my own that I’ll share in the coming weeks. Let us know about your BOTB experiences send us your thoughts to

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Street Marketing: A Competitive Advantage

I realize that not everyone who reads this blog is in a band. I’ve gotten plenty of e-mails from people who own businesses who are looking for more information and help in social media and street marketing. So to help, I’ve decided to post some stuff I’ve written for my job. This particular article is meant to be an introduction to street marketing and how it can help your business. Enjoy!

Street Marketing: A Competitive Advantage

Consumers are smart, they can see a super slick sales pitch from a mile away. Today’s consumer doesn’t want to buy products from soulless, faceless company’s they want to buy products from people they know and trust. That is where I feel street marketing can make the strongest difference for your brand. Whether your company is nationwide or just one single storefront, word of mouth is such a strong marketing tool. Adding a street marketing element to your marketing plan can give you a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

When a lot of people hear the word street marketing people tend to picture flyers haphazardly placed on car windshields.  While that may have been at one point a form of street marketing, it’s an ineffective use of time and money. I use the term street marketing as a broad term to cover a lot of different marketing tactics. A lot of people use the term “Guerilla Marketing” also, for whatever reason we always used the term “Street Marketing” and it’s engraved in my lexicon. When I talk about street marketing I’m talking about everything from well targeted collateral campaigns, event marketing, and social media campaigns just to name a few.

I first started doing street marketing when I was 16 years old. I did flyer runs for an independent record label on my bike. I’ve used street marketing in almost every job I’ve had since then. I’ve created a small local campaign for a pizzeria and have done large scale national campaigns for record labels and music festivals. No matter what your brand or your budget you can start a street marketing team that will begin to deliver results right away.

I know the idea of starting your own street marketing program might be overwhelming at first. There are so many channels and directions that you can go in. My advice to you would be to start with a small group of five people. More than likely these people will be from your consumer base, which will help you figure out the best plan of action. They will be able to give you some great insight into your consumer base. This information will be vital to your street marketing plan and should give you the groundwork on where to start. If you have any questions about starting a street marketing program, or already have one and are looking for some fresh ideas, feel free to e-mail me at


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Where To Get College Radio Airplay

Before internet radio and podcasting if you wanted your music to get airplay you tried to get on college radio. I spent a fun filled year attending Kutztown University where I partied, played lacrosse, and occasionally went to class, pretty much in that order. Needless to say when my parents got a letter saying I was on academic probation, I didn’t return for a second year.

While at my alma mater, in between the drinking and lacrosse playing I was also a member of the college radio station. I had been a part of my high school radio station which had a broadcast range of about a mile. I was excited to actually get on the air and have people hear me and my amazing taste in music. However once I went to the first meeting at the station I learned the ugly truth, our little radio station wasn’t actually broadcasting anything. The plan was that the station was going to be moved to the new student union building and that repairs to the existing station weren’t going to happen. However there was one catch, we had to pretend that we were an active station so that labels would continue to keep sending us cd’s so that when we did make the move our music library was current. What the radio station became was a music club, a place where we could hang out, listen to music as loud as we wanted, and make up fake play lists to send to CMJ. Every time labels would send us a batch of new releases we were like kids on Christmas. To this day I still have a bunch of cd’s that I took from the Kutztown radio station.

A few years ago I was working on the release of a Southside Johnny record and we decided one the best paths was to try and get as much college radio airplay as we could. Our campaign was mildly successful, getting airplay on a few stations. While it’s not as powerful and open as it used to be I still think it’s a viable option for artists looking for more exposure. Here are two things I used on the Southside Johnny release that I found very useful


Indie Friendly Radio Database


College Radio List


With these you’re going to have to do some homework. The Indie Friendly Database is kind of dated, so I wouldn’t expect the contacts to still be at that school. College contacts are hard to keep track of because they could change every semester. These two lists should give you an excellent point to get started.

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How To Fund Your Record Without Selling Your Organs

It seems more and more I keep reading about another artist who is putting out a “fan funded” or “crowd funded” album. Recently, Public Enemy has raised $75,000 for their next album. I find the whole process of fan funded albums pretty interesting. While the gap between what you can record in your own home and what you can do in a studio is closing, there still is no substitute for a true studio recording.  Now I have to assume if you’re reading my blog you don’t have piles of cash laying around to just record in a studio where ever and when ever you want. If you do have giant piles of money lying around and you’re looking to record I would highly recommend the Barber Shop in Lake Hopatcong NJ -


If your broke and can’t afford to record what can you do? Here are 5 ideas you can try out to help raise funds for studio time.

1.       Bake Sale – I’m sure someone in your band has a mom who can make some sweet lemon bars. Put her to work and before you know it you’ll be recording away.

2.       Organ Harvesting – Does your drummer really need 2 kidneys? I don’t really think that he does and a quick Google search told me you can sell your Kidney for $91,400. With that kind of cash you could get into a really nice studio, pay for some great marketing and get a new drummer, one with two working kidneys.

3.        Gigolo – Old ladies need love too, have your bass player take one for the team, and lets be honest he plays bass so he might appreciate the action.

4.       Corporate Sponsorship – If your entire band is willing to tattoo on their foreheads I am sure they will be more than happy to write you a decent check. How about adding some background dancers sponsored by Gatorade? You can call them the Gatorretts or something.

5.  Become a Medical Guinea Pig – It’s not the hardest job in the world, mostly just taking a few pills to see how they work on you. You’re in a band, someone I’m sure likes to take random pills, so this should be no big deal.

Q: What is the worst that can happen?


 So maybe these things aren’t going to work for you lets take a look into a few of these fan funded sites.

 SellaBand  / /- Based in Europe and is where Public Enemy raised their funds.

“With SellaBand, artists retain complete ownership of the works created and have the flexibility to determine which incentives they will offer their fans who fund them. SellaBand’s fan funding engine also allows artists the freedom to enter into deals with any label, management company, or publisher and there are no advances to pay back. Artists maintain control over their career and have 100% freedom to create the music that they want to create. SellaBand can also be utilized by management companies, record labels, publishers, sponsors and media companies to fund projects for their own artists while also building the core fan base required to launch an artist or take them to the next stage of their career”.

Pledgemusic / / – Different then other pledge sites because a percentage of the projects proceeds donated to a charity of the artists choice.


“PledgeMusic is a music company offering you a new way to take control of your career. We’re not interested in being a rights owner – Pledge does not want ANY rights to your music, live income, merch etc. We just help you fund whatever type or format of record you want to release next.

To do this we simply help and encourage you to participate with your fans in an exciting and unique way. Pledge allows you to easily create an irresistible customized menu of exclusive content and experiences that integrates your database, MySpace friends, Facebook fans, Twitter followers and various other social networking sites. You decide how much money you’d like to raise and your fans pledge money for whichever item or experience they want. They will only be charged once the full target amount has been raised and there’s even the option to build a charitable donation into your campaign. We charge a flat 15% fee and we have no hidden fees or transaction costs whatsoever.

You are your own A&R and Marketing Manager – you choose the studio, the producer, the artwork, the promotion – it’s all down to you! Let the fans be your label, while you keep the rights to your music.”


 Kickstarter / / – Not just for musicians, everything from films to comics can be funded here.


“Kickstarter is a new way to fund creative ideas and ambitious endeavors.

We believe that…

• A good idea, communicated well, can spread fast and wide.
• A large group of people can be a tremendous source of money and encouragement.

Kickstarter is powered by a unique all-or-nothing funding method where projects must be fully-funded or no money changes ha Kickstarter is a new way to fund creative ideas and ambitious endeavors.”

 I like the idea of fan funded records for a lot of reasons, but the main reason I like it is that I think it cuts down on piracy. I think a lot of fans would be willing to part with ten dollars up front to help fund the record, provided they get it back if your band breaks up or the recording never happens. Self funding your own recordings in this environment can be a huge financial risk. When you raise the money, or even worse, borrow the money to record and people illegally download your music you’re taking a huge loss. However if your fans are already invested in the project, they can’t steal what they already own. Plus they might be more inclined to help cut down on other people illegally downloading.

I personally haven’t talked to many bands that have been involved in this process. If you or your band has done the fan funded route send me and e-mail. I would love to hear more about the process and if it was a success for you or not @

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Making A DIY Muisc Video with an iPhone

A few weeks ago I wrote about DIY videos, it can be found here: (   Today I wanted to share with you a DIY video we created on the fly for a client. Our interns shot this with a iPhone and did some quick basic editing and this is what we came up with. If we can bang this out in an hour for a client proposal, just think what you can do with a little time and imagination. If you have done your own DIY video let us know and we will post the best ones.

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Rules To Live By

How to Tour in a Band or Whatever by Thor Harris

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Using Your Ticket Selling Abilities as Leverage

My question is this: Do you believe there’s another way? I don’t think we’d have any of the success we’ve had — however much that really is — if we had not been tenacious and desperate enough to consistently meet our ticket demands. Yes, we’ve had to hunt down friends and family, and yes, we’ve had to pay off batches of them in the past. But now we’re beginning to headline, attracting the blogosphere in bits and pieces, planning to tour, and other such Awesome-Almost a Real-Band stuff. Furthermore, at the same time we *do* treat our band like a business, albeit it is not currently a profitable one.

 I’ve been playing in this scene for almost seven years and it has revolved around locals selling tickets in a very significant way. I am wondering if you feel I’ve been duped, or taken advantage of… and I am also asking you if you think there’s a way we can capitalize on just how long we’ve been reliable ticket sellers.

 Thank you!



I think the more important question is do you feel like you have been taken advantage of? I think your a rare success story, a lot of bands would have given up long ago, let alone keep going on for 7 years. Your hard work has paid off and now you’re starting to generate buzz and getting some headlining gigs. You should wear that like a badge of honor.

You as a band/artist need to decide if selling loads of tickets to anyone you can find is really worth the effort. Is it really such a great trade off to meet all of these ticket demands if you’re big opening gig is for some washed up headlining act who can’t draw anymore. (Hence why you’re being asked to play and bring no less then 75 people with you.) Personally I would feel pretty ripped off if my big break was to open for the latest incarnation of Whitesnake (now with one original member!)

Darryl’s band has proven to be a reliable ticket seller can they capitalize on that? I think if you have been playing the same few venues and you’ve always drawn well you have some leverage. If opening for Whitesnake isn’t something you’re interested in doing, ask what other shows are available. More then likely they will have other dates that need openers and if you are reliable you should be able to come to some kind of agreement on a show that works for both of you.

Now while you have some leverage there are a few instances that no matter how many tickets you can sell you’re not going to play the show. If you know the show is sold out or going to sell out, chances are the venue isn’t going to need your band.  I’m sure it would be a huge break for your band to open for Blink 182 but the venue really doesn’t need the 75 people you can bring out. There also is the instance where you want to open for a touring act, the venue would love for you to open for the touring act, but the tour refuses to allow local openers. There is nothing wrong with asking to open for a band, but if the answer is no don’t keep trying to sell the idea to the venue, it’s really annoying. 

If you’re playing a new place it can be a little difficult to capitalize on your prior selling abilities. While some bookers may talk about local opening acts this is a very “what have you done for me lately” business. So pretty much when you play at a new venue you are going to be starting over from scratch. Don’t let that discourage you though, everyone has to start somewhere and hopefully your ability to bring people out to a show will follow you to new places.

Selling tickets for every show you play sucks, so what can you do about it? Thankfully there are plenty of places that don’t have a ticket requirement. Take advantage of playing those types of places when ever possible. You could also go old school and throw a backyard/basement show. Those types of gigs can really help build your fan base but also give you and your fans a break from having to buy tickets.

Sorry for the gap in between posts, I got a new job and I’ve been adjusting to getting up early and having to commute. Now that I’m getting used to my new schedule I should have posts up more regularly. If you have any questions feel free to e-mail me at







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