Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Why Aren't The Weakend Signed?

In my daily troll of the digital rockosphere, I noticed this post at Absolutepunk. A user posed the question "why a band this good doesn't get signed?" This is my attempt to answer.

First, the criteria is different for music listeners and labels. While I've purchased quite a few recordings based on just hearing someone's music, I've personally signed only one band from a demo. The basic difference is this... buying a record costs about ten bucks. Indulging an impulse doesn't really hurt.

Signing bands requires a pretty significant investment. That investment needs to come back so the label can record more records. In the days where "bigness" is king and the chain stores rule the retail roost, getting something heard costs alot more money than it used to.

Here's a short list of criteria I ask myself when it comes to rock bands:
  1. Do they have good music? Yes. It's the first question but not the last. This is often followed by "will enough other people think so too?"
  2. Can they cut it live? Nothing worse than pieces of wood who can't play on the stage.
  3. Is the frontperson charismatic? I'm not talking incredibly handsome or sexy. It's that eye-magnet quality that makes people want to watch.
  4. What's the work ethic? If the band hasn't played any out of state shows before putting out a record, there's a huge signal that they're going to do more of the same. Waiting for a label to come in on their white horse and save the day with tour support before you hit the road is bad news. Get a van. Book and play some shows. It's an investment in making your band and if you can't do it, why should someone else?
  5. Are they in it for the right reasons? Third rate rockstars looking to "make it" before they hit their mid-20's are trouble. Those who don't couple their hunger to play Madison Square Garden with a genuine love for the lifestyle are going to wind up angry and embittered. If you don't find joy in sleeping in shitty kids houses, waking up with another unwashed band member spooning you, living on $5 a day, or driving all night to a gig with 10 attendees, then stay the fuck home and get a job.
  6. Do they have a business infrastructure? Can the band get to shows on time? Many small indies play manager and even booking agent for alot of their bands. In reality, having to do that detracts from the labels core mission of trying to convince Transworld to bring in more records to support a few Warped Tour dates.
  7. Do they make friends easily? Wallflowers don't really cut it. You gotta be in the mix to create relationships with other bands. Many big tours that "break" smaller acts happen becuase of friendships between bands not some back room powerplay.
Anyone have additions to this list?


Jerimi said...

Nice. I like #5.. I really dont think that many bands realize that they wont suddenly be filming episodes of cribs, and showing off their sweet tour bus the instant they get a deal. Bands that have already proven that they are good (and even like!) the realities of it will do wonderfully compared to the others.

Jeff F said...

If you check out their MySpace page, this particular band seems to be prone to #4. Good list, btw.

Joledo said...

given the fact i have invested a few thousand dollars into this band and know the full story...

#4 (to jeff) the band toured the west coast and back with forgive durden, this providence, gatsbys, and my american heart before we (silent movie) released the ep - all the bands were unsigned at this time.

i think its a great list. to add to the live show - the band has to be able to pull it off tight and accurate live. I hate seeing bands tell 3 minutes of jokes while they attempt to change out guitars or tune up again. - look at bands like def leppard, they play 50 feet away from each other and play tight as hell, my point? they dont need to look at each other to know their parts, they couldnt see each other if they tried

ps - the band has been courted by a few indie labels, long story.

i agree with this list though. a lot of kids think because they would spend 10 bucks on a cd or 5 bucks on an ep means the band should be signed when nobody wants to fathom what a full marketting plan for their favorite band would entail.