Posts Tagged ‘Music Business’

I have lived in Boston for nearly three years now, and much of that time has been dedicated to enjoying and planning live shows. I’ve seen great bands play in amazing venues to create a transcendent experience, but I’ve also seen these same bands play in venues that leave everyone involved with a sour taste in their mouth. To assist in avoiding the ladder, I’ve compiled a list of Boston venues and ranked them out of ten. Although this is not a definitive list, as I haven’t been ambitious enough to have been to every venue the city has to offer, these venues are by and far the ones that I get invited to on Facebook the most (what other proof of legitimacy do you need?) That being said, the one venue I really wish I had a chance to check out is Church, so if anyone has any thoughts on it, please share in the comments. It’s a public service, really.

For this review, I’ll be judging venues based on ambiance, quality of music, and ease of booking.

My Guide To The Top 5 Venues Boston Bands Play

The Middle East

Ah this venue. Every band has a story of when they played here. Even my brief stint as a performer resulted in a (poorly-attended) corner show.

The Middle East refuses to be contained in one venue; it consists of two restaurant portions, both of which lead to a stage area, one called “the upstairs” and one “the downstairs.” Not satisfied with that amount of confusion, the owners added a restaurant in between the other two called Zuzu, which also hosts musical acts on occasion.

Ignoring the tiny restaurant performances, the upstairs and downstairs venues are actually pretty decent (once you find them.) Having attended many upstairs shows, the bands that play there are generally of at least decent quality, and a good portion are of great quality. The sound varies depending on the night (moody sound engineer perhaps?) but it’s never unbearable, and generally is above average. If you can stay in between the random pillars on either side of the room, the sight line is great and grants a visual of the entire band.

The downstairs is a venue I am more familiar with behind the scenes. I’ve managed a couple shows there and management has been very accommodating. It’s a larger capacity room, with two bars and a larger stage. It’s great for rock and punk bands, as it’s underground and has that grungy, dirty vibe to it. My main suggestion would be to bring your own sound guy, because at least one of the house engineers is kind of a dick.

There are two separate booking contacts for the upstairs and the downstairs, but both respond to emails and will give any band with decent pitching skills a chance.

Rating: 6/10

TT The Bear’s Place

I seriously love this place. Having only made it out there for the first time a few months ago, I was surprised to discover that it’s right behind the behemouth that is The Middle East. It definitely deserves a spot with higher visibility.

The venue is separated by a half wall (and some pillars) into two rooms. One hosts the stage area while the other contains the bar (there’s also an area to play pool, but that didn’t really appeal to me.) There’s something about this setup that is just perfect – when I’m in the stage area, it feels like the band and the audience have formed together to create their own little ecosphere, where the audience feeds off the music and the band feeds off their sweaty, dancing energy. The sound is great and, although I’ve only been there a few times, I thoroughly enjoy the music showcased.

The other side of this musical ecosphere, the bar area, is perfect for people who just want to take a step back during a set that isn’t really their style, or are tired of standing and jumping around, or just want to get wasted. It’s far enough away that the music isn’t overpowering to conversation, but close enough to feel the pulsing energy coming from the stage.

The one thing that brings this venue down is that management can be difficult to get ahold of. I have tried, and failed, a couple times to make contact with their booking agent, but in this industry, I might just not know the right people.

Rating: 8/10

The Red Room at Cafe 939

There may be a bias in the sample here, seeing as this venue is run by the very college I attend. But I can assure you it’s not just a “college venue,” they have many larger acts, such as The Civil Wars and The Lumineers, come in quite frequently – often right before they hit it big.

I have attended and managed shows at The Red Room, and the best thing about this venue is that it has high sound quality. Let’s be real though, as a Berklee-run venue, it would have to unless it wanted to hear every other sound engineer-in-training bitching about the room’s shitty acoustics or the apparent deafness of the sound guy.

It’s also a very unique atmosphere. It’s a small venue with a classy yet cool feel to it – the walls are decked in dark red and the stage area looks like a mix between a recital hall and a jazz club. The music is extremely varied, ranging from students singer/songwriters to jazz-funk ensembles to country bands and back.

A downfall is that working with The Red Room management can be frustrating…they are extremely busy and tend to take a while to respond – even sometimes double booking nights. That being said, they really are passionate about the music and try their best to be accommodating.

Rating: 7.5/10

PA’s Lounge

Consider this a PSA for the musicians of Boston. Please, for the love of everything great about music, never play here. I’ve only been once, but that experience was enough to put me off the place like it’s day old Chinese food. Not only is it a bit too far of a trek outside the city to easily draw a huge crowd, but the sound is horrible and the management is pretty much nonexistent. I was there to watch a friend’s band and ended up having to pester the sound guy for a different microphone cable, seeing as the one they were using was opposed to the idea of actually staying attached to the microphone. Unless they change their ways, I would highly recommend staying far, far away.

Rating: 2/10

Midway Cafe

Midway is an underrated venue, mostly because of its inconvenient location in Jamaica Plains, but it has a great vibe and deserves more credit. It’s a small venue with a low stage and dive bar attitude that allows for a feeling of closeness with the band. I’ve never noticed issues with the sound, although I’m sure you could bring your own engineer if desired, and the bartenders are always extremely friendly and accommodating. It feels more like a community than any other venue I’ve been to in Boston.

My suggestion with this is to maybe make a night of it and try to get an after party in the area. Or to focus promotion out there instead of primarily with friends in Boston. At the very least, check it out sometime – it re-inspired my passion for music and it could do the same for you.

Rating: 7/10

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Dear Spotify,

Lemme just get this out of the way right now so we can move on to what needs to be said: I love you. So very, very much. It’s a big step, I know, but hear me out.

A little less than two years ago I was stuck using iTunes, a service that I once used with amazement, but which was proving to have more and more pitfalls daily. Then I heard a rumor about a revolutionary start-up in Sweden – one that discarded the need to store mp3s and transfer them from device to device (which has caused me to lose not only my iTunes playlists, but entire chunks of my previous library,) and instead let them live in the cloud, jumping, nay sashaying, from laptop to iPhone to desktop with grace.

As you can imagine, my excitement could barely be contained when I heard they were planning to release in the U.S. in just a few months. My high expectations were well met. I was tempted into the free month of premium and was immediately hooked, taking Spotify with me wherever I went. iTunes is now as outdated to me as MySpace.

Me. Except I have contacts because I’m not hipster enough for glasses.

Now that my adoration has been establish, know that perfection is an elusive little shit, so there are a few things I’d like to request.

1. Automatically Updating Artist Playlists

I love the fact that I can make playlists that include anything I want. I also love that I can search any artist and find the entire catalog that’s currently on Spotify. You know what would be even better? Combining the two so that I can have a separate section of playlists that are for artists – playlists that automatically update when that artist releases a new song or album.

You got closer when you added the ability to “subscribe” to an artist…but it’s not quite enough to be notified of the artist’s activity, I want their songs to be in my library the day they’re released.

2. More Features in The Artist Profile

Discovering music is one of my favorite aspects of Spotify, whether that be through the radio or searching for a band whose catalog I really want to delve into. Being of the generation that demands immediate access to ALL of the knowledge, however, it irrationally irks me when I have to use multiple sources to learn about these bands. (I’m not proud of it, but that’s the world we live in. Or so I’ve heard)

So please please please provide a little more in depth bio/profile for each musician. Even just a link to their website or social media would satisfy my need to Google one less thing.

3. Start The Radio On The Selected Song

Spotify’s radio is like Pandora in that it never plays the song that it’s based off of first. I understand why Pandora has this inconvenient feature – they have a non-interactive license, so the listener can’t actually choose the songs they listen to. Spotify, however, is based on the very fact that the user CAN choose what to listen to, so I see no reason why the feature remains. Maybe there is a legitimate reason that I don’t see, but until someone proves to me it’s not possible, I will continue to preach from my soap box. Slash blog.

4. Etc.

  • Sort Playlists (alphabetically, by genre, most obscure indie name, etc)
  • Remove the requirement to choose whether I want to search a song, track, or album on mobile version. Sometimes I just don’t know.
  • Starting from a web browser, don’t ask for my login information if the application is already open. It confuses me.

All that being said, I believe in what you’re doing, forget the haters.


Fall in love for yourself: Download Spotify

Some Spotify news and opinion articles:

http://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2012/11/clearing-up-spotify-payment-confusion.html

http://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2013/03/spotify-eyes-video-streaming-unveils-first-ever-major-ad-campaign.html (please do this)

http://venturebeat.com/2013/03/12/spotify-6-million-paid-users/

I’m surrounded by musicians all day, every day. I see their struggles, I know their work habits, I understand their passions and beliefs. And we really need to clear some things up…

It’s not easy surviving as a musician. It never has been, it never will be. Most musicians have been told this their whole lives, but instead of accepting that it’s inherent in the career, they tend to look outside the lifestyle and toward those that listen to, sell, or provide services for music and musicians.

1. Record Labels Are Evil, Greedy Bastards

This is the most commonly spouted belief, and it makes sense why. The labels take a massive percentage of sales, leaving you with little. Not only that, but they have screwed over thousands of hopeful artists!

The Realistic View:

Record labels (generally) aren’t non-profit organizations. They need money to stay afloat. To make money, they need highly marketable artists with huge sales profits. Unfortunately, most of the artists they pick up are NOT cash cows, so the ones who are end up making up for the less successful investments.

Reevaluate:

Think of it as a loan. The record label gives you money to make a record, go on tour, etc. which YOU have to earn back. They aren’t there to hand you free money. You’re an investment. Remember that.

2. Pirating Caused The Industry To Collapse (and must be stopped)

That damn Napster had to start the whole file sharing craze and cause no one to ever want to pay for music again. Anyone who downloads music illegally should be fined thousands of dollars to stand as an example to the others.

Slowpoke: enemy of musicians everywhere

The Realistic View:

This is a huge, tangled ball of finger-pointing, advancing technology, human nature, and old-fashioned beliefs that is really impossible to fully evaluate in a short, 4-point blog post. Pirating isn’t the insanely horrible act that (most) everyone in the industry makes it out to be.

I understand that it seems to have led to a steep decline in CD sales (although, for the record, that is highly debated and there are many other reasons that contributed to the decline,) but the fact of the matter is it comes with the territory. People want accessibility. That’s obvious by how technology is always moving toward ease of use, instant connection with anyone all over the world, and access to information. Facebook, Google, Spotify, they all have different services, but they provide one thing that people want – access.

Reevaluate:

Use (most) people’s natural inclination to pirate (because it’s easier) to your advantage. Find ways to extract valuable information, such as an email address, whenever someone downloads your song (on your site, for free) or make it easy to pay for your music. Downloads for donations are a great way to do this. As Amanda Palmer recently brought to media attention, it’s better to “let” fans pay you than to ask them to pay you. Spotify is another great example, because all it takes is one time to sign up and there are millions of songs at the user’s fingertips. Speaking of Spotify…

3. Spotify (or Pandora, iTunes, etc…) Is The Enemy

A newer cliche, this rant came about when the Internet started to find ways to monetize the digital music revolution. Similar to the record label argument, it claims that Internet streaming and MP3 download companies hog all the profits and only pay artists a pittance for their work. You may see where this is going…

The Realistic View:

Spotify is NOT a bottomless pit of money. In fact, right now they are struggling to find a way to turn a profit and stay afloat (although the situation is constantly improving. Perhaps more on that later.) If we focus on Spotify, we can look at how insanely difficult it is to get labels (and their repertoire) on board for a “fair” royalty rate, which leads to a struggle to get advertisement revenue, which means a smaller amount of money to pay labels, which leads to fewer songs…it’s a pretty vicious cycle.

Another thing to keep in mind is that, each play may earn a VERY small amount of money, but artists do get paid for EACH PLAY. If your songs merit many listens, eventually it will add up.

Reevaluate:

The vicious cycle I brought up earlier can easily be reversed. It just takes a little bit of faith and cooperation from labels. If labels trust Spotify and their ability to attract users and advertisement, then Spotify will have a larger collection to work with, which will lead to more people being interested in the service, which will lead to more advertising revenue (and paid subscribers,) which will lead to more label confidence, more songs, more listeners, etc. It can be reversed, and I believe we’re slowly coming around to the right track.

You, the artist, need to focus on using Spotify as a fantastic marketing tool, and get those listens up as much as possible. Do you put your music on Bandcamp or Soundcloud? Spotify is free for possible fans, and it will automatically pay you. Bandcamp and Soundcloud won’t. There is a small fee for getting your songs up there, but with a big enough fan base, it can easily be worth it.

4. I Create Music, I Deserve Compensation

Musicians say that they should be paid because they make music. They spent time and creative energy to put out a piece of work and now they deserve their reward, dammit! People don’t steal coffee right? Why is it ok to steal music?

Let’s really think about this for a minute

The Realistic View:

That statement is unrealistic. Yes, you put time and effort into your music. Yes, it’s shitty when you don’t get paid for all of that effort. But listen, it’s not about how much work you put in – It’s about supply and demand. If people don’t feel that your music is worth paying for, sorry, it’s not. As for the coffee thing…coffee is a tangible object, it is far more difficult to steal a cup of coffee from Starbucks than it is to download a file. It’s apples and oranges really.

Reevaluate:

Again, it’s all supply and demand. Give the fans a reason to pay you for your time – use human nature to your advantage. After the very base needs and safety, humans crave love and belonging. They want to feel like they are part of something and it’s your job to inspire those feelings. Music, at it’s core, isn’t a product for a base need like food or shelter. It is there because we need more than that. It elicits feelings of every kind – joy, sorrow, anger, frustration, understanding, remorse – and YOU are the ones that create it. The fans want you to know how your songs make them feel…but more importantly, they want you to live up to those feelings. To understand them like the songs do.

Make them feel understood and they will give you their last dollar without question.


Musicians do wonderful  and inspiring work. Music has led me through every chapter of my life and will be with me until the day I die. But the fact that you are part of that mystical community that creates art, doesn’t mean that you are exempt from the economy. There is a business behind music and, as much as it may pain your artistic nature, you’re going to have to deal with it if you want to make this your life’s work. Otherwise, maybe it’s better as a hobby.

I’m a month in to my last semester of college and all of my classes are beginning to feel more and more a hindrance to real life…Namely startup work, networking, job applications, and, most recently, graphic design.

Computer Meme

Me. 24/7.

I’ve found throughout college that, while classes can be useful, many of them condense knowledge that can be found with some creative Googling. I may be more proactive than some, but I’d still like to think I shouldn’t already know what I’m being forced to learn before I take the class. Therefore, life has become a waiting game. Waiting to to get out of class, waiting for positions to open up, waiting to hear back from the positions I’ve already applied for (the ones I found in between all the companies looking for programmers,) and waiting for the day when I don’t have that stressful but comforting title of “student” to fall back on.

Of course, waiting is a bit of a misnomer…

One Does Not Simply Meme

I’ve hardly had any time to myself since the beginning of the semester and everything I do is to try to actively gain experience, knowledge, and credibility. It’s fantastic, but there’s still an underlying feeling of it all just having to wait – and that when the wait is over, I still won’t be good enough.

Even so, I’m being patient – proactive but patient. Currently I have no idea where I’ll be living in the summer or the fall, but there are ideas floating around and opportunities to be grabbed. They create a template that I can work with and a plan to be looked at from all angles. If A happens, then my path is B. Fill in the blank. Planning for a few different options makes it easier to accept what I don’t know, which is so difficult for the human mind. For now though, it all comes down to waiting.

 

I should have been a computer programmer.

I don’t need to tell you that networking is one of the most important aspects of success in the music industry – I’m sure it’s been rammed down your throat sufficiently without my help. At Berklee, the first pieces of advice given to incoming students include the mantra “network, network, network,” and it comes back time and again in every panel and Q&A session available.

As a more introverted person, it’s difficult to keep up with the amount of networking I feel I should be doing. I’ve spent the past three years pushing myself out of my comfort zone and learning, through trial and error, what does and doesn’t work when networking as a non-extrovert. It’s been rough, but completely worth it. Now I bring to you, networking advice for the introvert:


Baby Steps

All the networking advice out there says to work a room, give out (and collect) cards out the wazoo, send follow up emails, and potentially meet with your new contacts.

I know that this was overwhelming for me. At functions, I’m the wallflower, the one standing near the food or drinks to have an excuse to not be talking to anyone, so striking up conversations with multiple people was incredibly daunting at first.

Instead of feeling like it’s all or nothing, find one person to talk to – you are building your network one person at a time after all. It could be a fellow wallflower, or someone who seems extremely friendly and easy to talk to. If the conversation is going well, definitely exchange information! BUT don’t feel like it’s a requirement. If you don’t find a natural opening, don’t stress about making one.

Also, choose events that interest you or that you feel will yield good results. Instead of attending EVERY event, which will cause networking burnout, you’ll only go to the amount you can handle, and will get much more out of each event.

Common Interests

I rarely strike up conversations with people I don’t feel I can connect with. Luckily, in this industry, if you’re at an event you automatically have something to talk about! Ask them what their involvement is or what they love to do (I find asking people what they do often leads to awkward answers – many people in this industry aren’t doing what they really love just yet). If you can get someone talking about their passion, most of the time you can just sit back and let them lead the conversation.

Utilize Social Media

Social media is a godsend for those with social aversion. A quick Tweet or message on Facebook is so much easier than approaching someone in person. It takes away the fear of stumbling over words and appearing confident. It’s much easier to craft a confident message than a confident demeanor.

Don’t be afraid to talk to people who are at a much higher level than you either! Social media has helped tremendously to level the playing field, and oftentimes musicians and industry professionals respond to every message they receive.

You Don’t Have To Use The Phone

Well, mostly. Luckily, the majority of people today view phone conversations as a time-consuming interruption instead of a necessary way to communicate. If given an option, always email. The only reason I ever use the phone is if the other person insists on a phone call, and that only happens very rarely.

Of course, if it does seem like the better course of action, definitely use the phone.

If I had advice for making it a better experience, I’d share it with you, but phone conversations still vex me.

Bring A Friend

Have an extroverted friend? Bring them to events! I’ve had friends that have essentially been networking wingmen, and it works extremely well. Have your friend start the conversation and chime in when you feel comfortable. If they’re good friends, you can share your trepidations and hopefully they’ll be willing to turn the conversation towards you and what you do in the industry.

Don’t forget that friends ARE your network. Ask them for favors (as long as you reciprocate) and find out if they know people who you may be interested in getting to know.

Push Yourself

Finally, the most difficult part – you have to push yourself. Create an atmosphere where you feel comfortable, and then use that support to push outside of your comfort zone.

The best way to do this is to REFUSE to think about how it could go wrong. People generally like meeting new contacts, and if you show a passion for the industry they’ll see that and appreciate it.


Your network is your way into the industry, whether you like it or not, but there are ways of growing that network with minimal stress.

Links:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/career-transitions/201010/networking-101-introverts

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/self-promotion-introverts/201007/networking-isnt-about-using-and-getting-used

http://www.inc.com/karl-and-bill/networking-for-introverts-3-tips-for-success.html

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-introverts-corner

I can definitely feel the end of my time in NYC coming up. I feel like I’m preparing, but in the wrong way. I should be pushing to do as much as possible before I leave, but I’ve started feeling like I’m already done instead. Not such a good thing with about a week left!

This week started off with some insanity and just got better from there:

Ariel Publicity had our 2012 Digital Press Conference and there were SO MANY awesome artists. Trew Music (above) was so much fun to talk to and see perform.

Helped a friend film a promotional video…on a rooftop in the upper East Side. Beautiful.

Brick + Mortar posted my review! I was pretty fucking pumped. You can read it here.

Checked out Alice’s Teacup with my friend Hannah. They have awesome “brookies” (brownie and cookie). Good way to celebrate an awesome week =]

If anyone knows of some awesome New York bands, I’m looking to get to know the scene more so let me know! I’ll totally bake you cookies (or mention you in a Tweet if you have an aversion to baked goods)

The majority of the posts on this blog are dedicated to sharing my advice from experience and from research, and to expose people to bands that I believe in that deserve to be acknowledged for their music. Today, however, I’m going to talk about my life the past couple weeks in a more personal way.

Although I love what I do, I’ve been struggling a little bit lately to keep my head above the stress of the industry, the difficulty in finding people that I can feel close to, and balancing the two without going crazy.

 

I’ve always been of the belief that I can do more, that I shouldn’t be satisfied with merely “good enough” – which is motivating, but it’s also disheartening and overwhelming sometimes.  The past two weeks have been non-stop for me, with managing a band for the first time, working 4 days a week, and writing for this blog as well as The Berklee Groove. I love everything that I do, but there have been times when I’ve thought to myself “What have I gotten into? What if it’s too much?” all while planning the next step.

 

It was especially difficult because, for nearly a year, whenever I was a little too stressed for my own good, I could turn to my significant other for support and perspective. However, things ended badly just before I came to New York and we’re no longer on speaking terms. I lost a best friend and that’s not an easy thing, especially living in a new city.

 

It’s not just affecting me, either. I haven’t been going out with friends nearly as much – and not at all during the week. It’s really been isolating and, without some serious support, makes the stress even worse. I can tell my friends are getting tired of inviting me out and always getting declined. I know it’s a learning process, but fuck if I know what I’m doing.

 

So what am I going to do about it?

 

Well, this past weekend I basically took a complete break – I didn’t work, or stress about something that needed to get done; I went out both nights and helped my friend shop for a birthday gift on Sunday. I danced and flirted and met some amazing people. It was a godsend really.

 

I’ve decided not to commit as many articles to The Berklee Groove, and luckily, because I’ve been working with the band for a couple weeks, the most time-consuming work for them is finished. Now it’s a matter of maintaining and keeping up with their current activities. I’m taking my own advice and learning to take time for myself and to have the ability to say no.

 

There’s no other industry I’d rather be in. I’m constantly amazed with where my life is headed – sometimes I just need a little perspective.