Monday, March 21, 2011

Big Math Bad Numbers #2

You have music, you want people to know your name, you want people to follow your tweets/ tumblr/ online word vomit- ok, let’s go. Here’s what I’ll do: I’m going to burn off several hundred copies of your EP, graphic design a poster of your mug w/your name on it and all the info for the show I’m about to book for you and then hand out those burned EPs to every attending audience member so they have a name with the face with the sound. I’m going to print fliers and posters, and sweep the cities with the lot of them. I’m also going to have people attend your show that’ve never ever ever seen you before, let alone heard of your name. I’m going to charge these folks 8 bones to get in, and we’re going to throw this shindig at the 7th St. Entry. Does it get any better than that? No, because the 7th St. Entry is so dark, you wouldn’t be able to tell if it was at capacity or 20 in attendance. It’s dark enough to film the next Sin City in the damn place, it’s relevant enough to be revered as a historical landmark, and it has sound that’ll put a venue in business for decades above the average Mpls downtown shelf-life of 2 years. We coo? Great, I’m on it… Oh, oh, and don’t let me forget: money. You were thinking about it- weren’t you?- of course you were- don’t lie- you have a job, you have a car nicer than my mother’s, your rent ain’t holdin’ you back, you graduated from an Midwest-average university, but you’ll be damned if you’re gonna let your aspirations and talent go to fiscal waste! Of course not, well- here, let me introduce myself-  I work with kids with EBD (emotional behavior disorder, autism, and an array of other medical brands) for 3 hours a day,  4 days a week. I then work at the Old Spaghetti Factory on Sundays- meh, kinda sorta every other week… when I feel like it. So, “No”, I don’t have a day job. I do music, music does me, we like it, we’re goin’ steady, and I’m sure as shit not lettin’ a cubicle come between me and my mistress. Morning, afternoon, and deep-deep evening, I’m either writing, photoshopping, booking, or marketing something in the vein of music, sound, and tour. Gah, here I am ranting about myself, let’s get back to this show money, right? Ok, so here’s the plan: The 7th St. Entry does a 75/25 split, in the artist’s favor. Don’t let anyone get you below 70/30 (unless they’re the Varsity, special venue, special people, love ya’ll). If someone tries to 50/50 your ass, you tell’em “Then let me rent it, cos you’ll basically be making more than enough off liquor sales”. Anyways, back to this money thing (notice how I keep going off on tangents?). Ok, end deal: I take the first 100 people that walk through the door, you take everything else after. In short, I take the first 600 bucks, and you take the next 1500 split between you and the other 2 artists (500). Coo? Great- can’t be any worse than the past shows you’ve been playing (empty, 20 people in the audience, menial exposure for even driving to the venue). Or, perhaps your past few shows have been totally fuggin’ awesome and you’ve been kickin’ ass and takin’ names, either way take it or leave it: the opportunity to put your music into the hands of people that’ve never seen you before, potentially make 500 bucks, and not have to worry about any aspect of the event except showing up- grabbing the mic- and doin’ what you do.

That is the long winded version of what I had planned for 3 artists' triple album release at the 7th St. Entry. Again, I still went flabbergasted at the number of paying audience members that walked through the door (97). The 3 artists that performed that March 3rd night are extremely talented and have been for some time. However, at the sight of 97 people showing up to a Thursday night of free music, a music vid premiere, and a damn good time (which is a total given)... it looked damn accomplished, just not on paper. Either way, the DJ & I were the only ones who walked away with cash that night. Again, the agreement: I take the first 100 paying folks that walk through the door, you take the next 250 (7th St. Entry capacity 300-350).

These kinds of circumstances can boil a man’s blood, let alone drive the long known fact of not mixing business with your friends, into your social coffin.

We’ll call him Kid. Kid, who had performed that night at the Entry… was pissed. I had booked him for the past four shows with Toki, Maria Isa & Cecil Otter, the Prof show, and the first show we did back in July at The Varsity with Cecil Otter- and with each show, he’d hint at how much money I was making off him Which we should be clear. The amount of money I’ve made off of Kid is a whopping big fat 0. Kid has draw, Kid deserves to be paid, BUT you cannot (I repeat) absolutely cannot address one without the other. Lastly in this sidenote, please never ever ever f’ng ever marginalize the work of a promoter. It’s classless, a cheap shot, and a quick way to cut your legs out from under you. It’s easy to point the finger at the guy who’s making money from a show he never had to step on stage for, but it sure as shit isn’t easy to fill every waking day with a new means of promoting that one singular night of music to draw as large an audience as possible. We orchestrate graphic design, dates, & bargaining with venue owners… for one night of music. If you’re in this, please appreciate the time & energy it takes to build these fragile foundations that rarely bear cash.

In the realm of music & show, it is almost imperative to act a higher fiscal worth than what you actually are… but when it comes to negotiating a show artist to artist, as they say “don’t try and bullshit a bullshitter”. I respect Kid, love Kid, but when it comes to working with Kid… shit is tough. He’s extremely driven, talented, and on point, but simply doesn’t have a draw large enough to spit in a promoter’s face. Sadly, we’ve arrived at the fork in the road where Kid is unsigned and Flo Rida sells out international tours. Talent will only get you so far in a capitalist community where money seems to talk more than the mic.

Kid, with two other artists on a damn good Thursday night of free music and special occasion pulls 97 in paying attendance. What does this say? It says it’s damn tough to be an artist that can draw 100. Kid isn’t there yet, but will be if he continues to push his music and name… basically, he needs to be marketed. With marketing comes a price, and in music that price is sometimes not making a dime at a show and relishing the fact that 50 more people know your name and sound. Speaking with Rocky Diamonds manager about booking an upcoming show with him April 30th at The Cabooze, I parlayed our plan to promote the show. Rocky’s manager, Rico, replies, “Coo, just make sure you hit the campus, cos’ we’ll be fliering there in the next two weeks with 10,000 book marks with Rocky’s name on’em”. I resisted from dropping my jaw through the table, but almost came to the happy-ending that tangibles are no longer dead. Yes, online marketing has turned most us traveling musicians into Youtube-Fame lusting lazies, but I’ll be damned if it’s become a lost art to put a flier or demo into someone’s hand anymore. 10,000 book marks will come with a cost, but clearly Rocky’s manager sees the payback in consumer interest and name recognition as a higher worth than his cost of business.

The payment isn’t always in cash, but comes in recognition, longevity, and the currency to step into the next show with a larger crowd than last. I’ve paid dues… nasty, grueling, southern-tour-sweat-through-the-shirt-no-shower-for-5-days-sleep-in-a-short-bus dues. This isn’t to say that I’ve endured more than Kid, but it goes so far to say I can truly appreciate someone attending a show, allowing us to perform at their venue, willing to work with me… than a buck in my hand. In the end, money is expendable, not people. It takes cash to run the damn thang, but it takes people as well. Finding that balance is excruciatingly painful, testing, and dangerous. I’ve lost friends, relationships, time, energy, and ass-loads of cash in the process… would I do it all over again?… you bet your fuckin’ ass I would.

Another stick in the spokes between Kid and I, is the fact I’ve totally failed to pay him in full for the past few shows. The bickering of being worth more than what we’d worked out in the beginning, kinda got to me. I’m only half-Irish, and can easily be guilted into damn near anything (also voted Most Gullible by my senior class in high school). I decided to start paying Kid for these larger shows with Maria Isa & Cecil Otter, and Toki Wright… in short, the cost was not worth the turnout. My mantra had unofficially become “ The more I spend on talent, the bigger the turnout… right?”. “Absolutely fucking not”, replied the universe. I bit it hard, and luckily Kid was the only one that suffered… financially. He’s still alive, living well in his apartment, up to date on car payments, and far from starving… however, I am still at fault for failing to pay him in full (officially 312 bones in the gutter), but have setup a date to have it all hemmed up and paid out by mid-April.

I understand how not-classy it may be to discuss numbers in a blog, but I feel it’s damn important for any on-lookers, outsiders, and those in the game that they learn from the mistakes & success I’ve accrued in the process. For me, the payoff is sometimes in cash (which usually goes to more cost of business, savings, and groceries), but more so towards the fact I love doing this. I love reaching out to other artists (for a change) and making connects across the globe to plot out tour after tour, and promotional scheme after print.

Since then, I’ve put together something called the “Tuesday Surprise”. We release a new video and free music upload every Tuesday. Keeps the pulse of things going lively, and folks get the opportunity to see what we’re up to every week. Ricky TV, you ask? Aww shucks, I’ll explain that later (if the show isn’t already self explanatory). You can check out the Tuesday Surprise Video, every Tuesday 12am at and download a new free track of music at by clicking on the “Music” section.

Aight, upcoming dates you should flash your fangs for:

The Blend, Lazlo Supreme, and Me… on tour:

Thursday, March 31st - The Hub – Cedar Falls, IA
I’m spending the week prior in Cedar Falls, passing out fliers and demos for 3 days leading up to the show. Should be interesting to see what the turnout is.
Saturday, April 9th – The Varsity  - Mpls, MN
Bight Club, DJ Fundo, Larva Ink, The Blend, Phonetic One, and a break dance show case by New Heist Crew. Adv. Tix available here
Thursday, April 14th – Project 20/20 – Ames, IA
The Blend & Lazlo Supreme will be plugging into the old Bali Satay for a VEISHEA invasion and putting on a dance party.
Friday, April 15th – Project 20/20 – Ames, IA
Just me, doin’ a solo set during a huge dance party at Project 20/20 for another night of VEISHEA insanity.
Saturday, April 16th – Pub Crawl – Oshkosh, WI
Not really a musical performance as much as it is simply an appearance at the Oshkosh pub crawl, where we’ll be taking to the streets as Team Shut Up & Swallow. The town triples in population for this one, you should bring your cousins and help it quadruple.
Friday, April 29th – Spring Jam– Mpls, MN
Yeah yeah yeah, so we’re playin’ at a house party- what of it!? We’ll be throwin’ down at Delta Chi and handing out free music.
Saturday, April 30th – The Cabooze – Mpls, MN
This is the big one. In another attempt to sell out the Cabooze, we have ROCKY DIAMONDS (aka YOUNG ROCKY), DON ROYAL, CRUNCHY KIDS, and MORE for my final MIXTAPE RELEASE PERFORMANCE. At this one, we’ll be giving out t-shirts, the mixtape with 6+ bonus tracks, and potentially a new Blend single. A m-----f-----ng must-see.

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