You Don't Have to Move Your Band to L.A. or New York to Make It

Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Phoenix and help keep the future of New Times free.

Are you a musician? Is your group having issues? Critic Jessica Hopper has played in and managed bands, toured internationally, booked shows, produced records, worked as a publicist, and is the author of The Girls' Guide to Rocking, a how-to for teen ladies. She is here to help you stop doing it wrong. Send your problems to her; confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame.

Dear Fan, I'm in a young band from Reno, Nevada, called Memory Motel. We just released our debut 7-inch, and we're getting to the point where we need some form of management. It's becoming increasingly difficult to deal with everything on our own, and as a result it feels like we're swimming in circles. The only problem is that Reno is a town that's not exactly filled with many good band managers/ booking agents/industry contacts, and cold-emailing people doesn't seem to be working that well. Do you have advice for an indie band coming from a small market like Reno, trying to find more contacts? Should we just pack it up and try to make it in a big pond like L.A. or New York? Huge fan of the column. Memory Motel

Dear Memory Motel, I perused your band's online presence and looked over what you have been up to, and, given where your band is -- a debut single -- you are ahead of the game. You are pretty good at tweeting, you promote your shows in a not-overbearing way, you get good opening slots for the bands that actually come to Reno, you are networking with other bands regionally. You are building your own studio. Your 7-inch looks pretty cool; your graphics aren't bad. Judging by your songs on Bandcamp, your sound is evolving, becoming less Radiohead-y. While this may not look like a path to you, it does from the outside.

For a baby band, you have your shit together. And as you well know, even for a newish band in a tertiary market, that takes a lot of work. Looking for management at this juncture is premature, though. You don't have an album. You have only 571 fans on Facebook. You want to tour but haven't yet. A 15 percent cut of your monthly earnings as a band would be what? $35? You gotta finish preschool before you can start thinking about college.

While being a self-sufficient, hard-working band certainly makes you a more attractive package to a manager or anyone who you might hire to help you, what you probably need is just some help, an extra set of hands. Can someone else in the band step up a little in the band dad department? Could you procure a friend-tern for that $35?

So, Reno is a bit of a backwater and you want this band to be your way out. That's only natural. L.A. and NY are a real all-or-nothing jump, though. How about touring for a while and developing as a band? Reno situates you well to go up and down the West Coast easily -- do weekend runs to Sacto and the Bay Area and see what you can make happen regionally. Start putting in that work and you will figure out pretty quickly if this is the band to make a big move with. Best, Fan

Dear Fan, Is it possible to be a full-time cover band and build a successful following playing our own songs? Our cover band pays the bills and we don't have to work day jobs. We've done a few college radio / "hot AC" campaigns and had some success with that. We've even been placed in a few TV shows, but it feels impossible to promote ourselves as both the perfect band for your bar-mitzvah and national tour-worthy. Is it? Has anyone been successful at it?

Of course, we realize there are issues of legitimacy here. Most people don't take cover bands seriously, we know, but does it completely undermine what we're trying to do with our originals? Someone suggested we re-establish ourselves as two separate bands: one for the covers, one for originals; but we couldn't figure out which version should keep the current band name and just eventually dropped the idea. Thanks, X Dear X, Plenty of bands have launched themselves into very successful careers after getting their start as a cover band. Perhaps you have heard of The Beatles. Do not be disheartened by the chasm between your bills-paying music and what is in your heart, but before you mix business and pleasure, you need to consider what is really at stake.

Your band has managed to attain an enviable trifecta of paydays -- you do events, street fairs, and you have licensed music to TV and ads -- do not do anything to sully your brand. You are in a band that supports the active lifestyles of five people. The only original bands I know of who are doing that right now sell upwards of 100,000 records and tour internationally and have a retinue of folks they are cutting a percentage to. Sure, you'd probably get all manner of tail in that band, but one day, that band's career will die, while you can be pulling checks in a wedding band until you're nearly geriatric. A bird in the hand, etc.

Resist the temptation to make it your originals band, essentially jump-starting yourself into something simulating popularity. Being a wedding/events band with a good rep is some buy-you-a-condo, put-your-kid-through-college ish. Do not trifle with those mitzvah bucks! Seriously. BUT! If you absolutely must mingle some original work in, limit yourself to your two very best songs, and only if they are truly in the style of your existing band. And only when you are playing public events; Becky's nana and bubby don't need to hear your ballad of sexual yearning at the reception.

It's a hassle, but do two bands. Then you can slough off this little bit of embarrassment you have about the covers band, play whatever you want and not wonder how your new song is going to work alongside your Kool & The Gang/Gnarls Barkley medley or what have you. And no, your originals band is not likely to be as lucrative as your covers gig, but there is no reason you can't use your connections to get TV and ad license work for your "new" band as well. Good luck, Fan

Send your problems to Fan Landers

Follow us on Twitter and friend us on Facebook

Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.