Tag Archives: Touring

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this notion that 3 months is an expected amount of time to make things happen), they have no new music, no tour dates, outdated photos and websites.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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Stryper Concert Review With Black Water James The Wildhorse Saloon Nashville, TN March 18th, 2011


Stryper Concert Review With Black Water James The Wildhorse Saloon Nashville, TN March 18th, 2011

By David Lowry

I was anticipating a good show on this night, as I have never seen a “bad” Stryper concert, so I was excited to be there from the beginning. What I left the show feeling was a shock even to me. I came as a fan; I left as an even bigger one. Let’s start with the opening act Black Water James.

I have seen Black Water James once previously about six weeks ago, so I knew what I was in for when they came on. I was looking forward to seeing them again as I was hoping to see improvement because they were in a much better venue.

Black Water James has a lot of energy and a lot of potential as a rock band. They were pretty good for about the first four songs but then I noticed that all the songs started to sound the same. Both times I have seen them now, about three quarters of the way through their set, everything does sound a bit the same.

Greater dynamics are needed and catchier hooks to keep the audience in it the whole time. The band brings a decent image and are decent musicians, but the song writing is still a little weak for such a long set. I also question the order of the songs. It seems their best material is all in the front of the set closing it out with weaker, less “hooky” songs.

They attempt dual guitar solos, which is great, but would be better if they were in harmony, not just an octave apart or in unison. Also the guitar solos themselves are a bit weak in stating anything. They aren’t a story within the song. It comes off as mainly pentatonic noodling. Both players are capable and have great potential for doing more with this.

For a band of only 2 1/2 years, they are still one of the top five rock bands in Nashville and do portray a great energy on stage. The drummer is worth watching alone. He’s got great groove, stays in the pocket very well and puts on a great show. This band will do great things if they keep improving and don’t lose focus. They were certainly up to the challenge of opening for Stryper and aren’t afraid to let it all hang out.

When Stryper took the stage, the bar was raised tenfold. Not only do they look great, but also everything looks pristine. The stage is clean and uncluttered, the guitars are polished, the clothes are clean and pressed and they look like they belong in a band together. Their image is always good and their show is impeccable.

The songs were flawlessly played and crystal clear and they burst with energy. The band met the crowd with respect and humor. They really know how to connect with their audience and bring them in. During the whole show, the crowd was singing along word for word with every song. The band threw out many Bibles and picks to the fans who were all to eager to get one.

Michael Sweet’s voice was as amazing as ever. He hasn’t lost a thing vocally and in many ways is probably stronger. His guitar playing is on par with most of the great guitarists we think of. How often do you get to see a performer who is a world class vocalist and guitar player? Oz Fox has always been a top tier guitar player as well and successfully backs up Michael vocally on a few parts, giving Michael the rest his voice needed, showing again how incredibly talented this band truly is. Timothy Gaines, who is an amazing bass player in any style of music, drove the bus with Robert Sweet, keeping the rhythm section tight and thundering. His bass tone was perfect and really filled out the sound. Whether using his finger or a pick, the bass cut through and gave a serious foundation to the heavy guitars. Robert “The Visual Time Keeper” Sweet was as solid as he has ever been and always puts on an amazing drum workshop each concert. Easily one of the most underrated rock drummers of all time and he proves it every time I see him.

The one thing Stryper does better than anyone else I have ever seen is sing in harmony. Their harmonies were awesome! This band should be teaching younger bands what it takes to put on an incredible live show. They are so well rehearsed and professional that they are able to put it all on the line for a show that puts most bands I have ever seen to shame.

Stryper did three cover songs as well as the usual classics. They did “Over The Mountain” by Ozzy Osbourne, “Heaven and Hell” by Black Sabbath and “Shout It Out Loud” by Kiss. Their performance was flawless and on par with any of the performances I have seen of the original artists.

On a scale of 1 to 10 this concert gets a 9.5. The only deduction being it wasn’t long enough. The fans are having so much fun singing along at the show, the times flies by and it’s over in an instant. After doing the encore, Michael Sweet closed out in prayer, praying for everyone in the building and in Japan — again showing the heart this band has for its fans and the world.

In a nutshell, Stryper put on a better live show then 95% of any bands I have ever seen and they do it consistently. They are a text book band for younger generations to follow to learn from and understand why practice, talent, songwriting, vocal harmonies, solos, set preparation, stage presence and connecting with their audience are so critically important to the success of their career.

If you are on the fence about seeing Stryper on tour this year or have never seen them, go! Spend the money; it is so well worth it. You’ll get so much more than just a good show or performance. You’ll get a band that cares about its fans, the world and doing something greater than themselves. To find out more about Stryper and their tour dates, check out their website www.stryper.com.

Note: The Lowry Agency has no affiliation with anyone mentioned in this review.