Tag Archives: Progressive Rock

Stepping Over the Process…. is it Realistic?


First let me just say this blog is in response to what keeps coming across my email or phone conversations. This isn’t an attempt to come down on artists but an attempt at maybe setting some realistic expectations. I have been receiving a lot of phone calls from artists either out of frustration with other band members or from artists that think they can just step over the process of touring and building/rebuilding a fan base. I guess anything is possible but it’s not likely to happen even if you have had success in the past. This is not the same industry many of us grew up with and we can’t keep assuming that because 20 years ago the artists had a hit or toured the world with so and so band that people have any interest in us or care about our music at all. Artists call with no budget, no new music, no website or one that has been “in development” for years expecting that they can just go on the road and make thousands per show because 20 or more years ago they had a minor hit or two. It’s not going to happen. Current artists with hits on the radio are making $2,000 guarantees a lot of times and yet artists that haven’t had a hit since 1992 that want $8,000 or more a show. You better be a legacy act with huge hits from the past that are still played on the radio to demand that kind of money or more. I know how expensive touring is, but the money isn’t there for touring with artists with no active history or fan base that will support the necessary tour numbers for there to actually be a profit. This is when a band or artist has to suck it up and either rebuild for little money, try something completely different or maybe decide this isn’t for them anymore and do something in music that doesn’t require touring for small dollars.

For example, the first thing I am asked by anyone in a position of helping is “What do they have going on?” Many times the answer is nothing (note that when artists come to us or anyone else for help they have this notion that 3 months is an expected amount of time to make things happen), they have no new music, no tour dates, outdated photos and websites. How do you expect anyone to help you if this is your state of business and you don’t take the time to get it right before approaching anyone? The second thing is “Do they have a budget?” The answer is almost always no and people understand if times have been rough on the career but it’s amazing how many artists are not willing to put money into their own career but expect others to. If the artist doesn’t  have a budget then almost no one is willing to help and people can’t giving away their services for free. Video EPK’s cost money, photography costs money, etc… but artists are always hoping people will help them for free and then expect that things happen in a short time period. For the person that is connected like Irving Azoff and has his resources this is possible, for the rest of the “real” music world it probably isn’t. Music is a very speculative business to begin with and no one is looking to lose money on an artist no matter how much success he or she may have had in the past. As much as people love some of these artists, he or she needs to get paid as well and they can’t work for free or spend time with unrealistic artists that can’t or won’t rebuild career realistically if there is no interest in them at all.

Just because an artist may have had success in the past doesn’t mean they get a free pass of touring the bar circuit again and starting over. Yes that means rebuilding your fan base and getting paid very little most of the time. If you can’t do that then maybe playing isn’t for you anymore. I know we all have bills to pay but money is in short supply and investors want a return on investment. They don’t want to support an artist that hasn’t been on tour in 10 or more years and won’t draw 150+ people to a show. You as an artist are in the position you are in because you let yourself get there. You chose to not tour, you chose to not listen to your team or possibly choosing the wrong team. It could be a lot of different reasons for your situation and many of those may not be your fault, but it’s still your job to be realistic and make things happen with today’s current landscape, not what was possible 20 years ago when people were throwing money around like it was water.

Don’t pigeonhole yourself with unrealistic expectations. For example, if you think a major label is going to sign you, fund your tour and you’re a prog rock band, think again. No label is going to fund that tour unless you already have a huge fan base and more than likely you will just get shelved as prog rock probably isn’t there thing at this label. Most prog rock bands aren’t huge and most likely never will be. If you get a label interested in your music, at least entertain the idea and not shoot it down because you think a major is going to offer you something when you won’t even play shows because you don’t make any money on them. Do you know why you don’t make any money? Because you have absolutely NO FAN BASE at all. Who is going to fund a tour for a band with no fan base these days? Please tell me so I can call them up.

There are no shortcuts normally in this business. Take Mike Portnoy for example. One of the most popular and talented drummers in the world, who has a large fan base from his history as a musician and still he and his current project “Adrenaline Mob” are playing clubs to a couple hundred people a show. He knows he has to build this band no matter who he is and he is willing to put his money and time into it. Even someone as relevant as Mike has to work it the hard way sometimes.

If you are a musician reading this, please consider where you are at in your career. If you are in a band but won’t tour because your “cover gig” is paying more money, than back out of the band and let the band find someone hungry enough to make it happen. If you are an artist with a past but currently not where you were a long time ago, then ask yourself “how bad do I want this?” If you won’t play for smaller guarantees then you need to book yourself and stop making people’s lives difficult who are trying to help your career because you can’t be bothered with playing for smaller amounts of money. You are only as big as your last gig or chart success in the current times, not 20 years ago.

There is a process almost everyone has to go through. You are more than likely going to have to go through it as well. If you can’t or won’t, get out of the way for those that will and let your band move on with people who want it bad enough to put up with the crap of the road and bar tours.

Good luck!

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From a Different Point of View


 By David Lowry

Many times when we read about money in the entertainment business, it’s from the perspective of what the artist makes. Most articles center on how artists are taken advantage of and that the “business” people are just greedy jack asses who do nothing for their money. Well for this blog we are flipping this point of view to that of the business that is putting everything on the line for the small artists that have no money, no fan base, have been gone so long that you have to basically start over or not enough tour dates to pay anyone for their time.

When an artist brings on a team member such as a manager, booking agent or PR consultant the artists considers it “hiring” this particular team member or members. Well if you aren’t paying the team member what his or her hourly fee or retainer is and your average show guarantee is say less that $2,500 per, then you haven’t “hired” anyone. What has happened, is the team member believes that artist is worth the extra work and lesser amount of pay at least for a short while unless the artist isn’t building up their business. If the artist isn’t building their business, then the team member will look elsewhere for it’s cash flow so it can stay in business. Making a small percentage of a tiny door deal where the artist can’t get 30 people into a room let alone sell it out is not enough money for anyone to survive on. Now most of the time, an artist like this doesn’t need any team members, but let’s say that an artist was lucky enough to find someone to help them in spite of the lack of fan base, gigs or cash flow behind them.

First off, if the artist is tiny and not established, then the artist needs to be realistic and know they are not going to get the bulk of the team member’s time. If the team member is working as hard as they can with what they have, then they expect the artist to do the same. That means everyone who gets on that stage and plays is responsible to work as hard as they can. Not just one of the band members. I know with my business, we make it abundantly clear before anything is signed, that if the artist doesn’t work as hard as we do then we will let them go. There are no guarantees in this business and we don’t want to waste time with artists that don’t work every inch of their career to the max.

What does this mean for the artist? It means that the artist needs to promote every show as much as possible in every form of media possible as much as they can. It means that they need to make sure that they sell as many tickets as possible so that everyone is making more money for the amount of work the artist isn’t already paying them. That means texting if no shows up, it means emailing last minute, it means having a superior social media campaign etc… this especially important for your booking agent to make money but also to be more effective in getting you better gigs. It means making sure you sell more merchandise at every show by being proactive and manning your merch booth, walking the venue with your product to sell. Engaging the crowd the whole time you are there. It means that understanding your job isn’t done until the bar is closing down. Once you get off the stage, you don’t head to the bar and drink. You work the crowd the whole night. These are your working hours. This is your opportunity to make the money you are complaining about that you don’t make. Your team can’t do this for you but it is why they work so hard to get you in this position. This is your time to shine.

This also means making sure your merch is in good shape. No crappy stickers, no broken plexi-glass holders, no pens that don’t work. Your merch area should be professional, clean and able to showcase your products and band to it’s utmost. It means always having a cash box with cash for your shows after we have told you a million times. It means having a checklist for your shows so you don’t forget anything after we have told you a million times. This is common sense stuff that for some reason has to be repeated over and over again. Eventually, we just quit telling those artists that just don’t care enough to make it happen.

I can’t tell you how many times an artist hasn’t paid our commission or fees to us but still expect us to work on their career. Has asked us to take less then our fee so they could make more. Has complained that because they knew someone at the venue they shouldn’t have to pay us what the contract states even though we booked the gig and the artist had nothing to do with it. Have made us push dates back time after time so we work three times as hard to just get paid way down the road. Has demanded we pay them the day of the gig but is always late paying us. If you aren’t paying us what the contract states, if you haven’t busted your ass for every second trying to get as many tickets sold or sell as much merch as you can, then you we don’t work for you. You haven’t hired us, you lied to us about how hard you were going to work and that you were going to do whatever it takes. Do you go to your day job and let them tell you they don’t want to pay you as much because they can’t afford it? Do you go to work everyday expecting to not receive a check?  Do you go to work every day to work for free? Don’t you go to work every day expecting the company that “hired” you to be able to grow their revenue to pay you your salary? Well guess what, we expect the same from you.

We aren’t going to babysit artists anymore that can’t get their business together. This isn’t the old days when contracts were huge and everyone had money to throw at an artist so the team actually made good money. It’s a new day, a new age in the music business and it’s harder than ever for your team members to make things happen for you. They aren’t going to do it for free, they aren’t going to “just believe in you,” especially since we see how most artists don’t have the work ethic needed to make this happen today we aren’t going to do it for a discount and we aren’t going to spend vast amounts of time on an artist that can’t sell 10 tickets on average per show.

You see, businesses like ours project how much income they see coming based on what the artists have coming in from bookings, deals, retainers and the like. If the artist arbitrarily decides it doesn’t want to pay, wants to pay less (which happens all the time) or constantly cancels dates or pushes them back, then it puts the team members in a very bad position and they aren’t going to work as hard on you and it makes you unprofessional. You are now an untrustworthy client on which you can’t be relied on and so your team members will find clients that can. You are messing with peoples livelihoods.

If the artist can’t commit to bring the absolute best work ethic, product and show to the table to make sure they are making as much money for their team as possible, they should never expect it from the team that is getting paid nothing to almost nothing. If you don’t want it bad enough to work your ass off, pay the people you “hire” and make sure you have a fighting chance at making this career, then don’t ever “hire” a team member. You can’t afford it and you shouldn’t ever treat your team like that. They are expecting you to bring it every show so they can make as much money as possible just like you are trying to do for your career. Remember, this is a team. A team works together to make it happen, not just the team members making the artist more money. If you want your team to make you as much money as possible, you should be doing the same for them as well especially in your beginning stages.

I hope this helps you see it from our perspective a bit. It’s not meant to be an harsh blog, it’s meant to point out that this is a business and we all have bills to pay and we can’t work with people who won’t do everything possible to make the team they “hired” as much money as possible to survive just like they expect the team to do for them.

Best of luck!


Gretchen Menn “Hale Souls” CD Review


GMHaleSouls

By David Lowry

I came across Gretchen Menn from a fellow guitar players post on Facebook and was instantly intrigued by what I heard. The reason it caught my attention is the person who posted it is one of my favorite new players and I trust his judgment when it come to guitar players and music. In a world full of guitar shredders all putting out their own CD’s it is hard to find those that truly stand out with a sense of melody, strong arranging, great phrasing and most importantly their own unique sound. We have been inundated with Yngwie Malsteen clones over the last 25 years so the guitar players that have worked hard to have their own voice are extremely rare to find and very gratifying to listen to usually. Gretchen has accomplished that feat in spades. On her first debut CD “Hale Souls,” Gretchen has managed to do what many guitar instrumentalists fail too, she doesn’t sound like a clone of anyone else.

Gretchen has added a mix of different guitar instrumentations on “Hale Souls” as which is a nice change of pace. It’s not in your face guitar the whole time; there is a violin instrumental called “Walking Shadow,” and acoustic diddy “Fast Crowd,” and a classically inspired song “Fading.” Gretchen has thrown rock, fusion, jazz, flatpicking, world music and classical all into this CD to give us a very well rounded effort and a strong look at how incredibly talented this musician is. Strong rock cuts like “Scrap Metal,” “Oleo Strut,” and “Valentino’s Victory Lap” burst out the gate with great feel, phrasing and just enough technique to quench us guitar instrumental freaks loves need for speed.

Gretchen has her own signature sound that harkens back to the early prog greats and a modern edge that makes it hard to classify her. Gretchen arrives with a very strong debut CD and shows great promise to make a name for herself early in her career to achieve the household name status so many of her guitar peers have sought for many years. “Hale Souls” doesn’t hit on all marks like the legendary “Tones” by Eric Johnson or Michael Lee Firkins self-titled CD does on it’s first time out but it’s an amazing first effort and Gretchen has let the guitar world know she his here to stay and ready to take it over.  I find myself listening to it over and over again so I’ll rate it a solid 8 out of 10 stars and eagerly anticipate the next Gretchen Menn CD. This is a very brave and bold debut CD and it should be a part of every guitar enthusiast’s music collection.

Look for great things from this musician! You can find out more about Gretchen at http://www.gretchenmenn.com


Agent Cooper “From The Ashes” CD Review


By David Lowry

Agent Cooper is a prog rock band from Atlanta, GA that has a gentle throw back sound to some of the classic prog rock bands from the 60’s and 70’s in it’s heyday but at the same time has captured some of the modern sounds of today’s prog monsters with one exception. Agent Cooper understands how to write a hook and make a song radio friendly which many of today prog rockers don’t do either by design or not being able to step out of their own virtuosity and simplify things. Neither is bad, one way has a certain fan base just as the other does. I know when I listen to prog, I am not looking for three-minute songs that are just ear candy. Agent Cooper has done a great job of melding the two together and hopefully on their end being able to capture a much larger audience because of it.

“From The Ashes” is the bands third CD but first with this current line-up. It’s more of an EP really with six songs on it and “The Stand” being the strongest of the six in my personal opinion. It’s a happy song in its melodic structure but a very strong song lyrically in standing up for yourself. It’s an interesting contrast in the way the music is written and the way the lyrics provide a completely different feel. It is an acoustic based song with soaring vocals, an uplifting pre-chorus, a very strong chorus and the use of the B3 organ and keyboards are a nice thing to hear again in today’s music. It’s definitely something we don’t hear enough of with the younger musicians of today.

Agent Cooper have the ability to weave in and out of time changes, key changes and tempo’s with the best of them and it always provides an interesting ride through out the songs, which is really the point of a song. To take you on a journey, the great thing about Agent Cooper is it isn’t just a lyrical journey, it’s a sonic one as well. Singer Doug Busbee brings back a vocal styling sorely missed in today’s rock music. He does his predecessors proud and the band as a whole does a great job with harmony vocals. There are plenty of spots in the songs where this is a highlight and adds a rich color and depth to the music without it ever feeling like they are showing off. This can be said as a whole of all the music and the musicians. The musicianship was brilliant from everyone in the band and played so well that it never took anything away from the song.

I thoroughly enjoyed this EP and am really looking forward to hearing more from this exciting band. A truly stellar effort on their part to bring us a style of music we don’t get enough of. Thank you Agent Cooper for bringing back a style of music that harkens the greatness of the 70’s prog rockers but catapults it into the now.

You can find out more about Agent Cooper at www.agentcooper.com.

At the time of this writing The Lowry Agency and Agent Cooper have no affiliation.


Hannah Ford – Drums Renaissance Woman


By David Lowry

In our second installment of our “Musician Spotlight” blog we are showcasing an amazing young talent in drummer Hannah Ford. When I say amazing, I mean more than just her ability on her chosen instrument. Having met Hannah, her family, having attended one of her clinics and watching her use of her endorsements, opportunities and social media, this is one artist that has really learned what this business is about and what it takes to make it. More importantly is she hasn’t lost focus on why she does it. As important as the “business” sides of things are in music, Hannah has somehow avoided becoming jaded, negative and still has a childlike love for playing. Hannah attended the Chicago College of Performing Arts and still works with multiple Grammy award-winning drummer Paul Wertico to constantly refine her skills. Hannah has also worked with music legends like Jeff Berlin, Wynton Marsalis, Ignacio Berroa and Butch Miles.

From a technical perspective Hannah is road ready for any gig. She has the chops, creativity and energy to drive the bus for any artist or band. Her performances are always energetic, engaging and her smile when playing is just as attention capturing as her skills or performance. She really is the whole package. Being an attractive young female, it would be easy to dismiss her skills and say, “oh, it’s all because of her looks,” which would be an incredible disservice to Hannah. She has substance, skills, and a drive that just wont quit. She works harder than just about any musician I have ever met and leaves you feeling like you have known her all your life when you meet her. She is engaging and most importantly she is there to inspire others. Hannah makes sure she focuses completely on the person she is talking too and you can see her passion for passing on her love of the drums and encouraging others to follow their dreams. She completely understands how to relate to her fan base and how important they are to her.

Currently Hannah is a rock band called “Bellevue Suite,” has a tour she puts on for her “Peace, Love & Drums” multi-media show and recently did some shows with bassist Nik West. Hannah is also doing workshops for Guitar Center, a judge for the “Hit Like a Girl” 2012 contest and is regular a feature on the drumchannel.com. In the recent past she has played with the fusion trio “Pandorum,” played drums for the musical “White Noise” produced by Whoopi Goldberg that ran for two months at the Royal George Theater in Chicago and the Hannah Ford Band.

Hannah and her father/manager Dave Ford with PLAD Productions have done an absolutely incredible job of marketing her without the money that everyone says you need in today’s music industry. Both are dedicated and hard working individuals that strive to make great things happen for Hannah’s career. It also says a lot about their relationship and family dynamic to be able to pull this off without all the drama many entertainment families go through.

Hannah is endorsed by: Gretsch, Zildjian, Gibraltar, Toca, Vater, Kelly Shu Concepts, Shure microphones, Wornstar Clothing, ThunderEcho Drums, Prentice Practice Pads, Roland, MaxHeads Custom Bass Drum Heads, and Evans. Quite honestly, I have never seen an artist work as hard to promote her endorsements and utilizes them to the full potential they should be used. She is one of the few artists the get the power of her endorsements and what you can accomplish with them if you are creative, hard working and are marketing to the hilt.

Hannah is rare jewel in the music world. She understands what it takes, works hard to get there and does it happily. She has set her self up since childhood to be as well rounded a musician as she could be. The breadth of her skills as a drummer, a businessperson, a marketer and being a genuinely nice person to work with are her major strength. While other musicians are out trying to be a rock star, Hannah is a rock star and is also building a career that most will never have because they don’t get it like Hannah does.

For more information about Hannah Ford please check out the following links:

www.hannahforddrums.com

https://twitter.com/#!/hannahforddrums

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hannah-Ford-Fan-Page/111758348891232

At the time of this writing The Lowry Agency and Hannah Ford have no affiliation with each other.


Queensryche with Blackwater James at The Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville, TN November 2nd, 2011.


By David Lowry

Queensryche recently performed in Nashville, TN for their 30th Anniversary Tour at the Wildhorse Saloon. What impresses me is that after 30 years, Queensryche haven’t lost a step. It can be easy for a band to rest on their laurels after having major success – to just tour to make a living instead of always trying to raise the bar for themselves. In the case of Queensryche, they go out of their way to make sure each show is a flawless performance. Although 30 years into their career, fans can still expect a top notch live show from Queensryche.

Queensryche played a good mix of the new and old songs that defined their progressive metal sound. Geoff Tate, considered by many to be one of rock/metals greatest singers of all time, brought his theatrical showmanship and legendary vocals front and center like a great front man should do. His pitch was excellent as always and his distinctive vocal tone truly separates him from all the other vocalists out there. Geoff is always fresh sounding, inspiring and makes us wish we could all sing like him. He carried the audience through a journey of classics that brought back memories of better times and the days of our youth – cranking “Operation Mindcrime” on our stereos. Drummer Scott Rockenfield continues to impress as he has always been a great showman fueled by creativity, vitality and an uncanny sense of what to play and when to play it. His drumming has always been original and had it’s own voice within the songs. In a day when so many musicians over play and step all over the songs or vocalist, Scott brings a maturity to be admired and appreciated. Eddie Jackson was as solid as ever, bringing up the rhythm section with Scott. His playing is tight, vocal harmonies solid and he was able to interact with the crowd when able to get out from behind the microphone. Guitarist Michael Wilton played perfectly with that great “aunch” tone that Queensryche has always been known for. Watching Michael play those great chord voicings is a reminder to strive to not use power chords every second of a song. It was great to see Michael’s fingers flying around the fret board dialing in those solos we all love to hear. Parker Lundgren is a very under-rated and impressive guitar player. He plays effortlessly with great flair and filled the shoes of those before him very admirably. Parker is a great fit for the band with great harmony vocals; good stage presence and he nailed all the parts perfectly.

The Wildhorse Saloon was filled almost to capacity, which is a major achievement in Nashville for a rock band. It’s another feather in the cap for Queensryche as I have attended many shows where the venues isn’t even half full. The audience proved well versed in the new material as well as the old as they sang along with the words of every song proving that Queensryche fan base is as solid and rabid as ever. As I arrived early for the show, the line was already a block long going in both directions, another rarity in Nashville.

All in all, Queensryche is a band that has earned its reputation for being a completely unique, adventurously innovative and amazing live band. It’s well deserved and the amount of detail in their sets is something up and coming bands should aspire to. Queensryche’s sound is crystal clear, their performance and image are always top notch. The professionalism they project should be the rule for all bands and the level at which they perform should be the benchmark. Rarely will you find a band as well rehearsed as Queensryche nor as serious as bringing you a show you will never forget. They always leave you wanting more, which is a sign of an experienced band who have written a catalogue of songs that never get old.

Opening for Queensryche was the local band Blackwater James. Blackwater James came out on stage unfazed by the fact they were opening for such legends. They brought an energetic show and for the most part won over a crowd that was eager for Queensryche. As Blackwater James played, fists were pumping, heads were bobbing. From my point of view as I walked the room watching the band and the crowd, the audience really liked what they saw and heard in Blackwater James.

Singer Christopher James brings an energy and intensity that is refreshing. The twin pairing of guitar players Christopher James and Deanna Passarella are a lot of fun to watch. Both are capable guitarists with great stage presence.  Bass player Josh Burns helps drive the bus with steady grooves, passion and a great vibe on stage. Drummer Todd Schlosser is an in the pocket drummer with a sense of presence that makes him extremely fun to watch. This band has potential and is getting better every show they do.

At the time of this writing, The Lowry Agency has no affiliation with Queensryche or Blackwater James.