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 Brian David Collins and Rae McAlister

On Saturday, July 6, my band Amy and the Peace Pipes had the opportunity to play with Rae McAlister and Brian David Collins at Avogadro’s Number in Fort Collins. I took the opportunity to capture some photos during their sets, on Avo’s beautiful backyard patio. It made for some great natural lighting, mixed in with some of the colored lighting they were using for the show.

Rae McAlister

Brian David Collins

It’s always a bit of a double-edged sword when it comes to taking pictures bands I’m playing with. On one hand, it’s a great opportunity to refine my photography and hopefully capture some images that the artist can use. On the other hand, I’m also focused on getting ready to perform and ultimately need to take some time (especially in the band right before ours) to get everything in order to take the stage. I do wish I had more time to get some different angles and use my wide lens.

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.

How to suck at back line sharing

Last week I played a gig with a three-band bill on a small stage, so the conditions were ripe for the “backline sharing” suggestion. You may know my stance on backline sharing, but just to refresh: I absolutely hate it and avoid it at all costs. At the same time drummer get put into situations where you’ll look like a pretty big jerk if you don’t backline share. This typically comes when you don’t have a good staging area for gear, a tight stage, and finally a tight schedule that doesn’t allot much time for transition.  Even with this all being the case, I wasn’t planning on backline sharing when a last-minute mix-up forced the issue.

What makes backline sharing awful are all of the unknowns associated with it.  You don’t know what kind of setup each drummer has, what gear they’re planning on supplying on their own, the differences in quality and tone between kits, as well as how they set up and position all of the equipment. After setting up and tearing down my kit countless times, I’ve come to master the position of every element in my drum set. This is in large part enabled by having memory locks and various heights/lengths pre-set from your usage.  All of that goes out the window when you backline share. Rather than focus on moving your kit on and off the stage, you’re stuck having to re-adjust everything that was there before, which is not often corrected until a few songs into your performance.

This leads me into how to suck at backline sharing:

Don’t over-adjust someone else’s kit just because you have some crazy posture.  Look, I know we’re all not the same height and build. I know we all approach things differently, but do you seriously need to raise my throne 8 inches (as well as all of the subsequent drums and cymbals) to enable your technique?  You’re not eight inches taller than me.  If you know your approach is that different and will need to adjust every piece of equipment: don’t backline share.

I liken playing someone else’s drum set to driving someone else’s car: while you’re not familiar with all of the intricacies of the car, every car roughly drives the same and thus you should be able to get from point A to B without much resistance.  You’re not going to win any races driving someone else’s car for the first time, but at that point, you need to adjust your expectations.  This is the same with drum sets: you might not be able to do any crazy-ass solo on someone else’s kit, but for the most part you should be able to hold the pocket and drive a short set on without heavy drum adjustment.

Don’t treat the drumset owner like your drum tech. Granted, there are parts in drum setup and teardown where you want to be personally responsible (basically any point that something could break, or you’ve got a mental checklist that ensures you’re not forgetting anything), but if the drummer has cases then the least you should do is help load in and load out.  I didn’t let you play my drum set just so that you can have a night off from schlepping gear.

But most importantly…

Treat their gear with respect!

2017-03-03 00.20.28

I mean come on.

Look, I know drum heads are meant to wear out and be changed. I know that they’re relatively not expensive (although $12-15 per head still isn’t chump change).  I know there are drummers go through heads in 1-2 weeks – but that’s not me, AND IT’S MY DRUM SET.  Others may disagree with me, but over 25 years of drumming has taught me that you can get a great, loud sound out of your drums without pounding the shit out of it. If you are that drummer, then how the hell do you not notice this after playing on someone else’s kit??  If there was an apology and an offer to help replace the head, I probably would have even let this slide, but now you’ve left me in an uncomfortable position of being a collection agent.

Moral of the story: don’t backline share, but if you do, don’t be a jerk about it.