5 Big Tips That Will Save Your Band’s Tour | Music Think Tank | Hypebot.com

BY: SIMON TAM

There’s a lot of great advice out there about how to book a tour but I haven’t found many things about how to survive on tour. Going out on the road can sometimes be a dangerous affair: long hours on the road with little sleep, many late nights, financial risks, etc. Here are 5 easy tips to remember that can save your band’s tour:

  1. Set a Driving Schedule: For most of my touring career, driving consisted of having whoever felt the least tired drive for as long as possible, then switching off to someone else when they got too tired. There was no set order and sometimes people would make irresponsible decisions (drink after a show so they couldn’t drive or not getting the rest needed, etc). I had too many friends get in horrible accidents in tour and knew something needed to change.

    With my current band, The Slants, that changed. We now have a specific driving order set before the tour begins and everyone is responsible for a 3 hour driving shift in the day or 2 hour shift at night. The schedule is posted in the bus so people can see who is next and prepare accordingly. This way, we get a 1-2 day break between shifts and people give up beds for those about to take the wheel next. The driver also gets privileges like deciding what’s on the radio. We also have a co-pilot to make sure the driver is alert and can help them stay awake as well.

    One other thing: plan your route carefully. I know our band’s limits so I make sure the route doesn’t exceed a safe, reasonable driving schedule each day.

  2. Secure Your Gear: We all know stories about bands who get their gear ripped off during tour – people break into trailers, steal vans, or sometimes steal gear from the back of the venue. Luckily, my bands have never had that problem. It’s probably because we are paranoid about our gear. Here’s what we do:

    1. Add Deterrents: A wheel lock like the club is good. A wheel lock, like this one, with a 125 db alarm and flashing strobe is better. If you have some extra money to spend, this list has even better ones. The harder you make it for someone to break in, the better. Another easy trick to protect your bus/van is to unhook the distributor cap at night.

    2. Get Better Locks: If you have a trailer, you better be using the “puck” style lock. It’s much stronger and can’t be cut off. You should also get a locking hitch and locking hitch pin as well.

    3. Park Smart: When staying the night somewhere, back up the vehicle/park against walls so that it is harder to open large doors. If you have another car, have it block the vehicle in.

    4. “Night Guard:” If we are unsure about a place, 1-2 people will sleep in the vehicle overnight. In the past, I’ve also created a dummy using a sleeping bag and mannequin head, to feign someone sleeping inside.

    5. Cover the Windows: It seems simple, but if people can’t see what’s inside, they can’t tell if expensive equipment is inside.

    6. When in doubt, unload: I can’t tell you how many times we’ve unloaded gear into hotels and motel rooms, just to be safe. It’s better than getting your stuff stolen!

  3. Get Healthy Habits: Make sure everyone stays hydrated and eats well. A case of water and bottle vitamins is a small investment. Try to avoid fast food if you can. Get to know some remedies for the times that someone gets sick.

  4. Deposit Large Bills and Checks: It’s better to not have large amounts of cash on you at all times, even if you have a locked cash box. Make regular deposits and pay for gas/other expenses using a debit/credit card instead. Speaking of cash boxes, lock it up during the show. This is the one I recommend.

  5. Have an Inter-Band Agreement Before You Tour: It’s good to set realistic expectations over each other’s duties as well as having a plan on how money, responsibilities, debts, and things will be divided. What if some band members believe that merch should only be sold to get gas money but others believe some things should be given out to promote the band? What if someone has a lot of friends and takes up all of the guest list spots? Who will handle social media and promotion? Some simple communication, especially things in writing, can save a lot of heartache on the road.

Touring can be great for a band if it’s done right. Investing some time and money ahead of time can keep you and your gear safe so that you’ll be ready for another round of hitting the road!

—————

Simon Tam is the President and Founder of Last Stop Booking, author of How to Get Sponsorships and Endorsements, and performs in dance rock band The Slants. Simon’s writing on music and marketing can be found at http://www.laststopbooking.com. He is on Twitter @SimonTheTam

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Improve Your Live Music Show – Get Visually Creative! | Disc Makers

by TOM JACKSON

 

Your songs don’t sound the same, they shouldn’t look the same when you perform your live music show

Be visually creative in your live music show

If you watched a video of your live music show with the sound muted, would it be hard to tell which song you’re playing? Does every one of your songs look the same when you’re performing?

I ask this question everywhere I teach, and usually I can hear a pin drop in the room. The most common response I get is, “What are we supposed to do?”

First of all, I believe your live music show should be as creative as your music. One of the keys to a great visual show is to keep the integrity of the song. The music will tell you what the song should look like. There should never be movement just for the sake of movement! The song, in a sense, is the script.

From a musical perspective, the reason you sing different melodies and lyrics, have different rhythms, change tones on a guitar, and switch instruments is to capture the essence of a song. Musically, it’s a no-brainer. But visually, it’s a huge problem for almost every artist I see.

I always wrestle with how (in a short article) to give you things you can take away and start using, but here are five things you can work on to get started with being more visually creative on stage.

1. Intentionally move to different places on stage. Own the area you’ve moved to and don’t be in a hurry to leave it. In other words, don’t wander. When you wander, you lose authority.

2. Singers, use the right mic stand and learn how to use it. If you’re a front man/vocalist who isn’t playing an instrument, there is no reason to use a boom stand.

3. Singer/songwriters, when playing your instrument and not singing, take a step to the side of the mic stand and engage your instrument. This will direct the audience’s attention to what you’re playing and set up anticipation for your vocals.

4. When asking an audience to clap along with you, put pressure on them. For example, say “help me out” or “put your hands together,” step forward, and look them in the eye. And if you’re in a band, everyone who is not playing should be clapping, too – otherwise you’re telling your audience it’s OK not to clap.

5. Guitarists, do your solos from different spots onstage. Don’t stand behind your pedals to play the entire night; don’t even go to the same spot when you move. Find another spot or two to play your solo on the other side of the stage. Not only will this change pressure on the audience, but the people on the other side of the venue will feel connected to you, too.

I hope these ideas help a little. I’m really just scratching the surface with ideas and fundamentals that need to be a part of your live music show. Let me know how they work for you!

 

The Art of the Set List: Choosing the Right Songs in the Right Order | CDBaby.com

Screen shot 2013 08 19 at 8.32.42 AM 300x300 The Art of the Set List: Choosing the Right Songs in the Right Order

A well-crafted set list can mean the difference between a superb, decent, pedestrian, or down-right awful performance. Hand-in-hand with talent and presentation (attire, lighting, segues, etc.), a well-crafted set list can help a novice come across as professional, and a professional come across as remarkable.

When crafting a set list, the following elements are essential to keep in mind:

* Audience

* Key

* Tempo

* Feel

* Transitions

*Timbres/Voice(s)

Audience

Who are you performing for? What do they expect? Will the audience be listening, or will they be dancing? Your material should be chosen appropriately. A listening audience need not be exhorted to “Get up out of your chairs!” In fact, if the venue is not dance-appropriate, getting people up out of their chairs to dance might get you 86-ed from that venue forever. Be aware of what the venue expects and design your set list accordingly.

Keep in mind that a dancing audience is more likely to respond best to songs with simple lyrics and anthemic, sing-along choruses. (“I wanna be sedated!” “I fight authority!”) Conversely, story songs, or songs with pithy lyrics and/or complex arrangements, might be difficult to sell to a dancing audience. Yet the same songs should work quite well with a listening audience. Regardless, be appropriate to what the venue proprietors and the audience that frequents that venue are expecting.

Key

The key of a song is its tonic chord: E, C#, Am, etc. The rule of thumb for a song’s key center is do not play more than two songs in the same key in a row. Although an audience might not be able to put into words why a band “kind of sounds all the same,” the foundation for that response is having too many songs in the same key played in a row.

Importantly, note that every key has a subtle but quite real sound quality. This is a function of sound waves and how they fit within the scope of equal temperament, the tuning concept that was adapted by Western music a few hundred years ago. Equal temperament is a tuning compromise that allows fixed-pitched instruments (piano, harpsichords, etc.) to sound “in tune” across many keys. The physics behind this concept have to do with harmonic overtones that sound when a note is played. For instance, take the fundamental A sounding at 440 hertz (Hz). The overtone series that sounds above 440 include 880Hz and 1760Hz. Play a Bb, however, and both the fundamental frequency and overtone series are, as you would expect, different than those sounding with A.

To get an insight into the veracity behind this concept, try this exercise espoused by the ear training professionals at perfectpitch.com: sit at a piano with a box of crayons and a sheet of paper with a grid that includes all twelve keys (C natural through B natural). Close your eyes and play each note in turn, in any order. Listen closely, think in terms of color, then literally find that color in your box of crayons and use it to fill in the grid next to the key center. When you have finished all twelve keys, you might be surprised by the heat (red or orange) or coolness (blue or green) that seem to emanate from each key center.

A good set list, then, mixes up the tonal centers. Moreover, it keeps track of minor keys, regardless of tonal center.Too many songs in minor keys in a row can also have a detrimental effect on an audience. If when you create your next set list you incorporate only this one concept of separating keys, your audience’s ears should remain alert and engaged throughout the performance.

Getting back to “color,” if you are one of those people especially sensitive to tonal centers, also keep in mind that an audience is only going to respond so many times to “heat,” so many times to “coolness.” If you play too many consecutive “hot” or “cool” songs the impact of either lessens. A truly well-crafted set list balances heat and coolness and all the key “colors” in between.

And finally, especially helpful to a good set list are songs in non-guitar keys like F-sharp, B-flat, E-flat minor, etc. One or two scattered about the set can really help a good set list’s tonal balance. (Conversely, for a horn band already playing in non-guitar keys, a few songs in guitar-friendly keys will help add tonal balance.)

Tempo

Tempo is literally a song’s metronomic setting. Most rock and pop music falls into one of three general tempo categories: slow (between 60 to 80 beats per minute), mid (between 80 and 112 beats per minute), and fast (everything above 112 beats per minute). Obviously, a good set list mixes up the tempos in the same way it considers key. Play too many mid tempo songs in a row and your audience will grow restless, sensing something is “off,” but not quite knowing why. This is a performer’s death knell. If your audience finds itself questioning, not responding, to your music, you lose them.

Especially off-putting to an audience is the double combo whammy of playing too many same tempo songs in the same key. If you want to witness an audience go brain numb right in front of your eyes, play three mid-tempo songs in the key of B-minor in a row. Regardless of the lyric content, which may be wildly diverse, your audience, while not being able to put their finger on why, will be undoubtedly be convinced that everything you play sounds the same.

Note that an argument could be made for a fourth tempo category: very fast, or tempos over 140 beats per minute. For an average folk, rock or pop act, this is probably an unnecessary extra step to consider, but for a band that plays a lot of fast songs, it does become important. A punk band, for instance, might not have any material that falls into the slow or mid tempo ranges, or maybe just one or two. In this case a finer honing of the tempos is important. If 90 percent of the songs in an act’s repertoire are above 112 beats per minutes, then mix the tempos into fast, faster, and fastest. And if one mid tempo song does exist, that one can be very effective in setting off the others. If key centers are also kept in mind, then an engaging, professional set list is still easily within reach.

Feel

Closely related to tempo is feel, the rhythmic nuance of a song. Is it a shuffle? Straight rock? Reggae? Sixites pop? A song with a given tempo could have any one of these feels. Played back-to-back, a song with a tempo of 112 beats per minute with a disco feel could sound entirely different from a song with the same beats per minute but played as a shuffle. This is especially true if the two songs are in different keys. But don’t push your luck. You might get away with sequencing three songs with the same tempo but with different feels and keys one after the other, but any more than that would start pushing the “why does this band sound all the same?” envelop too far.

(Note: regardless of Feel or Tempo, when it comes to Key two songs in a row should be a hard and fast rule. Just don’t do it.)

Transitions

A transition is the method and/or methods a band uses to get from one song to the next. Maybe it’s the drummer counting with his sticks, maybe it’s the front person shouting out the count Bruce Springsteen style. Maybe it’s funny/poignant story told from the stage about the origins of the next song. Hopefully it isn’t the band members looking around at each other saying, “What’s next?” or “How does this one start?” That kind of dead air can kill a performance. You don’t have to blitz from one song to the next. Especially if you are getting a good response, a lot of applause and whooping, both you and your audience want to bask in the communal glory for a few seconds. But as soon as that excitement starts to wane, to quote Ren Hoek, “Get on with it, man!”

Closely akin to Transitions are segues, which are pre-arranged, usually clever, transitions from one song to the next. Similar to medleys, which are transitions between snippets of songs, segues are song-to-song transitions. For instance, my band segues between two cover songs we play. We end “Times like These” by the Foo Fighters (Key of D) on a C chord. After an appropriate number seconds (different every time based on audience reaction) I play the opening riff to “Peace Train” by Cat Stevens, whose tonal center is C. Besides the different tonal centers, the songs have different feels, different tempos. We certainly don’t have our entire set segued, but we do have a few clever moments like this, which just add to the professionalism to which we strive.

Unless your group is playing Las Vegas-type shows, which are usually segued from top to bottom, a couple of two- or three-song transition clusters scattered about a set are handy for helping create a set’s sense of flow and excitement.

Timbres/Voice(s)

Timbre is the quality of a sound. A middle C, for instance, played on different instruments (piano, trumpet, harmonica, etc.) will be easily distinguishable from one another based wholly on the instrument’s timbre. This is equally true for the human voice—which non-coincidentally voice coaches refer to as a singer’s instrument. Each voice has a distinct timbre, just as non-voice instruments do. Yet singers can also modify their singing styles, switching from growl to croon to shout, etc. When it comes to your set list, this issue also needs to be considered. Just as with the previous concerns of key and tempo, too many shouting songs in a row can cause your audience to tune out.

And if you have the luxury of more than one lead singer in your group, your set list should be mindful of this as well. You might, for instance, have a singer who belts and one that croons. Neither style is inherently better than the other, but using them as contrasts can vary a set list nicely. After a shouter of a song, changing the tempo and key, then bringing in your crooner not only creates variety, it also propels your set forward, keeping your audience engaged, their ears satisfied.

Contingencies

This final section could have been entitled “Shit Happens.” You break a string. An instrument gets unplugged. A drink is spilled. Any one of these or a million other occurrences can obviously effect your set. To keep things rolling, what do you do?

First and foremost, panic never solves problems, so take a deep breath. Then consider contingencies.

You break a string. Can the rhythm section vamp the beginning of the next song while you quickly replace that B string? I’ve seen guitar players do this while actually talking to the audience, making light of the situation. Importantly, if breaking strings is something that happens to you on even a semi-regular basis, you should have string singles and whatever tools you need readily at hand. Or simply have a back-up guitar, in a stand, pre-tuned and ready to plug in. (If you do keep a back-up guitar on hand, please also pay close attention to the next paragraph.)

An instrument gets unplugged. Similar to a vamp, can you comp a rhythm sans bass? The disco band Chic was famous for their no bass sections, the rhythm guitar, drums and percussion propelling the song forward. Most importantly, if you’re the bass player, please do turn down your amp before you start searching for the plug, thus avoiding the obnoxious electronic zap! when you finally do re-plug in the cord.

A drink gets spilled. If you’re a drinking band, have some bar towels, both damp and dry, scattered about the stage for such emergencies. Clean up quick, engage the audience with some clever banter about “party time,” etc., and then get on with it.

And sometimes, if the shit that’s happened is too much for a quick “during the set” fix, it’s also okay to let the audience know you’ve got an equipment malfunction and that you will be back just as soon as possible. And when you do return, it can be where you left off with your set, a melding of what’s left of set one and set two, or just starting up your second set from the top.

Three Keys to a Compelling Music Performance | Disc Makers

by TOM JACKSON

From the audience’s perspective, confidence, authority, and charisma are three ingredients to a memorable music performance

Three keys to improving your music performance

What does the audience really pay attention to when you’re standing onstage? Is it how great your music, your playing, your singing is? No, it’s not those things… it’s who you are.

Let me explain: Most of the people in your audience are not musicians, so when it comes to musical things, they’re ignorant. That doesn’t mean they’re stupid – they just don’t understand musical things.

That’s not an excuse to be bad musically! In fact, I want you to be as good as you can possibly be. But what an audience picks up on (especially when they see you for the first time) is how confident you are, how much authority you have, and how charismatic you are onstage.

Confidence, authority, and charisma aren’t about how much you move around onstage. I always say, “Who you are is more important than what you do.” Now, what you do onstage is important, and I’ll talk about that in my next blog. But this concept is so important I call it the foundation for your live show.

Artists who appear to be most confident from the stage are those who are prepared. They’ve developed a vision for their show and planned it out, their show is creative musically and visually, and they’ve developed the musical themes in their songs into “moments” for their audience. They’ve arranged their songs so they can pour their uniqueness into the show.

Authority comes from the inside out. Those with the most authority onstage have developed a belief system and wrestled with themselves, coming to the conclusion that this is their calling in life. It’s not just a way to become a star or make some money. And they’ve learned how to listen to and lead an audience.

Both you and I have been told many times that people just have “it” (charisma) or they don’t. I disagree. Charisma can be developed. I’ve worked with multiple artists over the years who are confident, learn to walk in authority, and develop charisma. Like many things, it’s a process.
One of the key components for developing charisma is taking risks, both in rehearsal and onstage.

Artists I’ve worked with who have confidence and authority also have a spontaneous instinct inside them – they sense when something should be done, even if they’re not sure what it is! But they will come up against a wall every artist I’ve worked with comes up to: fear. The fear to take risks. Artists with charisma have simply developed that sense of when they should take risks and they’re not afraid to act on it.

Make sure you’ve done the proper preparation for your show. Wrestle with yourself when you come up against your wall of fear – walk through it! I promise, you’ll see a better response from your audience when you’ve laid a good foundation.

Read more: Three Keys to a Compelling Music Performance -Disc Makers http://blog.discmakers.com/2013/08/three-keys-to-a-compelling-music-performance/#ixzz2cXUQQTIk