How I spent the rest of my summer

As we’re heading into Labor Day weekend, I’m just baffled by just how quickly the summer went by. Next thing I knew, six weeks passed without making a post. Family-wise, we took a trip to Durango and spent a lot of time playing outside. However, when I wasn’t working, every time I was in front of the computer, I was consumed by making lots of other things besides blog posts.

New Amy and the Peace Pipes single

My band was excited to release a new single, “Piano In My Head”, and I did some artwork for the cover, having little fun compositing the images in Photoshop.

The single is available on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, Google Play, and just about anywhere you can stream music.

Bethany’s Counseling Video

After winning Colorado School Counselor of the Year in 2018, Bethany needed to submit a video to the national association for their award. She came up with a really great idea of doing a parody of “We Will Rock You” and story-boarded the whole video. We got the footage last spring, but we had to get it edited and submitted. While it turned out a little differently than we originally envisioned, we were really happy with the result.

Design, design, design

I’ve gotten some opportunity to do some poster and promo designs for a lot of band events I’ve been involved with. As a band, we had some pretty big shows, including getting to play Old Town Square.

I guess after creating all those things, I can see why it feels like summer zoomed by. Here’s to a fun fall!

Photographing FoCoMX – Night 2

On the heels of my Night 1 post, here is the second night of bands that I saw and photos that I took. This night featured such talented bands such as: Attack on Venus, King Cardinal, Sick Trick, Shark Dreams, Graham Good & the Painters, AJ Fullerton, The Silent Disco, The Bardots, and Wolfer.

I have some more pictures available on my FlickR album, which can be downloaded from there (especially if you’re in one of those talented bands).


Photographing FoCoMX – Night 1

Here in Fort Collins, we just wrapped up FoCoMX, which is basically Christmas for the local music scene. Over the course of two nights, there were nearly 400 bands that played across 2 dozen venues in Fort Collins. Amy and the Peace Pipes were lucky enough to be selected, but in addition to playing I also had the chance to go out and do some shooting for the FoCoMA.

I ended up covering a lot of ground over the course of the night but still didn’t get to see many of the bands as I hoped. Rather than park myself at a single venue, I roamed throughout downtown and captured bands in venues of all sizes and lighting. Some made for some interesting challenges, but I’m overall pretty happy with how the images turned out.

Below are but some of the images of Night 1, which included great bands such as The Trujillo Company, Mojomama, CITRA, Def Knock, Johnny & the Mongrels, The Sickly Hecks, I Am The Owl and The Kity Project.

I have some more pictures available on my FlickR album, which can be downloaded from there (especially if you’re in one of those talented bands).

Band Booking – how to contact a venue

Booking gigs can be one of the most daunting tasks for your band, but I’ve found that once I get started with contacting a few venues and get the ball rolling, it becomes easy to build momentum.

When I first started booking for Greenfoot back in the mid-2000’s, I would often build physical press kits that included a bio sheet, photo, and CD, then hand deliver it to bars and venues. Now that I’m booking for Amy and the Peace Pipes, that technique has gone by the wayside but luckily todays requires a lot less (and cheaper) effort, as long as you’re willing to stay on top of follow-ups.

Here are some of the booking scripts that I use. I’ve tended to get better responses when I do two things with the emails: keep them very short and direct, frame in the context that I’m helping them fill a date. A lot of times we assume that bars and venues are giving us exclusive attention and are thoroughly listening to our demo to see if we’re a good fit, but the reality is that they’re just quickly trying to fill dates before they can move onto the other 50 things they need to do to run their business.

One last note: none of these ideas are particularly my own or original, but are a conglomerate of many articles and techniques I’ve read at some great DIY musician blogs, like DIY Musician Blog, HypeBot, and Music Think Tank to name a few.

Prework

  • Make sure you have a website that includes all the basics about your band but specifically has direct access to your music/videos. The more professional your site, the better, but make sure you have an attractive homepage (with a great professional picture of your band) that is intuitive for a booking manager to hear what you sound like.
  • Go to the venue’s web site and try to find the email address for the booking manager/coordinator. If they don’t make that clear, you can use the general email address. If all else fails, contact them through Facebook Messenger, but you just change your email a bit. I’ll give two templates below.
  • Come up with a 1-sentence “elevator pitch” about your band. It doesn’t have to change the world, but it does need to describe you’re niche (for Amy and the Peace Pipes I say, “We’re a woman-fronted piano rock band out of Fort Collins.”
  • If they have a calendar, go double check your wanted to date to see if it’s open, and better yet if you’re planning 2-3 months ahead and the calendar happens to look blank, they may have more openings and be more apt to give you the date that you requested. Also check to see if there’s a pattern for dates they have live music (whether they typically have them on a Friday or Saturday, or if there’s a specific night of the week)
  • Pick 1-4 dates that you would like to request. I typically give them 3. Don’t be afraid to ask for the ideal date, but also give them some options as well (e.g. if they book music on Thursday, Fridays or Saturdays, ask for 2 Saturdays then throw in a Thursday).

Sending the email

Subject: Booking Inquiry: Amy and the Peace Pipes for <Month Name>

If you know the name of the booking contact:

Hi <Booking Contact>,

I hope you are doing well. I was wondering if you are actively booking bands for <Season or Month Name> at the <Venue Name>? If so, my band, <Band Name>, would love to help you out. We're a <1 sentence "elevator pitch" description about your band>.

Could we help you fill any of the following dates:
- <Date Option 1>
- <Date Option 2>
- <Date Option 3>

If you have another date where you'd need some help, just let us know.

Thanks,
<Your Name> from <Your Band Name>
<Your Band's Web Site>

If you don’t know the name of the booking contact, I include all of the information in there as there’s a good chance they’ll just forward this email to the booking manager:

Hi <Venue Name>,

Could you help me get in touch with the person responsible for band bookings? If you're looking to fill any dates this <season or month>, my band, <Band Name> would be a great fit. We're a <1 sentence "elevator pitch" description about your band>.

Could we help you fill any of the following dates:
- <Date Option 1>
- <Date Option 2>
- <Date Option 3>

If you have another date where you'd need some help, just let us know.

Thanks,
<Your Name> from <Your Band Name>
<Your Band's Web Site>

Email Tips

  • Adding the web site at the bottom of the page is crucial. I also always add the “from <My band name>” at the bottom too, making it easy if they end up searching their email later.
  • I typically send the emails on Tuesday through Thursday during the day. I try to avoid sending emails at night, as those will be part of the pileup they get when they come into work the next day. I want that email to come in either mid-morning or early afternoon when they’ll hopefully want to react to it quickly and get it out of their inbox. I stay away from weekends (when they’re busy doing bar/venue stuff, and Sundays and Mondays are likely the days off for most of them).
  • I’ll still work on them the night before and write the email, just store it in my drafts, then go in and just send the email when the time is right

The Most Important Step: Following Up

Chances are you won’t hear back from that original message. Venues tend to get a lot of emails from various vendors and often will treat your original email like spam or white noise. After sending the message, I’ll go snooze the message in Gmail (if you use Gmail, this is an awesome tool for reminders and follow-ups) from 7-9 days later, then when it pops up, I send a quick follow-up email:

Hi <Booking Agent Name>,

I just wanted to follow up on my email from last week, wondering if we can help you fill any of the following dates:
- <Date Option 1>
- <Date Option 2>
- <Date Option 3>
Please let us know if we can be of any help. Thanks so much!

-<Your Name> from <Your Band Name>
<Band Web Site Address>

If you’re lucky, you’ll get a response, but I often follow up 1-2 more times, again 7-9 days apart. I’ve never had anyone yell at me for spamming them, sometimes you’ll get the “thanks, but no thanks”, but at least you got a response.

I’ve had a lot of success with this technique, but the key is staying on top of your follow-ups. If you don’t get the answer you want, remain respectful and offer to help them in pinch. You’re trying to help venue owners and booking managers realize that you’re eager to partner with them to make everyone successful. I’d love to hear booking tips others may have.

This podcast blew my 16-year-old mind

You may know that I’m an avid Podcast listener, going on for ten years and am currently subscribed to 105 different shows. With as much as I listen, few episodes stick with me, but this one from The Slate’s Hit Parade went back in time and blew my formative teenage mind, leaving me to question whether the formation of my pop music appreciation is a complete sham.

I read somewhere that the music you’re exposed to from the time you’re a teen into early twenties has the biggest impact towards your appreciation. In your mind, that is the most iconic period of music and since then has likely gotten worse.  As I’m 36 now, my middle school and high school years occurred during this period that was covered in the podcast. I was lucky enough to have parents that gave me a pretty wide berth in what I could listen to and buy, and I ended spending a sizable amount of money on albums throughout the 90’s.

Listening to this Podcast made some really deep cuts against my music psyche. If you went to high school the same time I did, I’d really suggest you listen to this, but the gist of the podcast is that the record industry severely ratcheted down the selling of single cassettes and CD’s of band hits to force consumers to buy the entire album if they wanted to own the song.  As the podcast went through example after example of these albums, I realized that I ended up owning many albums by these one-hit wonders.

To a teenager, $15 was a sizable amount of money, often representing a couple hours of work.  When I shelled out money for those albums, I had a strong incentive to not feel like I flushed my cash down the drain – and as a result not only did I listen to those entire albums, but I convinced myself that it was a good album, conditioning myself to appreciate all of the album’s tracks.  The problem is that repressed, deep in the recesses of my mind, I secretly knew the album wasn’t good, and come to find out that in many cases the record companies felt the same way – but they just wanted to take my money.

That’s not to say that there weren’t iconic albums in the 90’s – Pearl Jam’s Ten and Vs., Alanis’ Jagged Little PIll, Smashing Pumpkins Mellon Collie and Infinite Sadness come to mind for me, but for every one of those, I also had the misfortune of owning Chumbawumba’s Tubthumping, Primitive Radio Gods Rocket, and Shawn Mullins’ Soul’s Core. Nothing against those artists, and being in a band myself I know that your music can’t appeal to everyone – but the point is that during the 90’s consumers who wanted to own your one hit song was forced to buy the entire album, with the record industry laughing their way to the bank.

I was on the ground level when Mp3’s starting propagating the landscape and giving way to Napster and iTunes, making the single once again accessible to everyone.  This podcast goes to show that downloading wasn’t simply about stealing music, but was as much about disrupting a very corrupt business model.  It’s crazy to think just how different things are today, with most songs available on a whim to be streamed on our phones.  In today’s age, the value of the album has been questioned by many musicians, including myself. Artists are coming to grip with the fact that recordings have been reduced to a commodity, from once being the product to now being a tool to help market your product (your live shows and relationships with fans).  People still put a lot of care into the constructing of albums, but many artists are now more concerned with churning out new music at a regular pace.

I don’t often wear my tinfoil hat, but it is mind-blowing just how much of our formative appreciation of art is decided by rich white guys in boardrooms. Give the podcast a listen and let me know which of those songs and albums resonate with you.