Monthly Archives: February 2014

Compilations, Context, and Melbourne

I absolutely hate it when I receive playlists or mix CDs. Even when I received free CDs or demos on tour I barely ever listened to them, so I’m not the most open person when it comes to appreciating other’s musical recommendations. If you’re the kind of person that conducts conversations by asking if I’ve heard any number of obscure bands, then scram: you’ll get no pleasure from my company.

I’m the worst with playlists. People’s massive hundred band-long recommendations on music forums make me want to punch the screen. Magazine cover-mount CDs bore me to death, and somehow manage to make even the decent tracks on them sound dull. There may have been a time years ago when I extracted some enjoyment from them but these days cover mount CDs serve as beer coasters or musical liferafts when driving long distances. I know I’m in the minority here, but that’s cool. I’ve worked out why playlists and compilations so often get my goat.

For me, music is contextual. There are times when a song gets me through sheer brilliance alone, but mostly I love songs for vividly recalling feelings I had at the time I got into the songs. Slayer’s entire Reign in Blood album reminds me of feeling nervous before playing Australian Rules football matches as a kid. Kreator’s “When the Sun Burns Red” takes me back to my last few years of high school. Anything by Lamb makes me think of when I first moved to England, and Cartman’s rendition of Sailing Away takes me back to a particularly painful breakup ten years ago. It’s almost like there needs to be some residual emotion in my life to hang some music on. Do I need to explain how important time and place can be? I developed an infatuation for Kanye West’s track Flashing Lights during a week-long trip to Paris a few years ago and I swear to everything unholy that there was no way I would have enjoyed it if I had been anywhere else. The aspirational vibe to the song just fit with the insane wealth and beauty of Paris perfectly. If I had heard that track in Baltimore I probably would have written it off as Kanye’s usual talentless trash. I mean, the guy can’t rap for shit and has to whip out a vocoder when he ‘sings’. Come on. I can’t be the only one who has noticed this.

The Café Del Mar CD compilation series has to be one of the most successful and ubiquitous out there. It succeeds where other compilations fail in that it provides you with the entire context you need – a Mediterranean holiday location, warm Ibiza seaside locale populated with exotic hot Europeans gagging for it. The bar Café Del Mar is known for its sunset parties and one of the CD covers is a sunset painting. The opening track on that same CD is A R Rahman’s ‘Mumbai Theme Tune’, and between those elements you have the entire context you need for that brilliant piece of music to utterly shine. You can almost hear the sun setting over your mixed drink.

The Back to Mine compilation series works as well, if not quite as spectacularly, and again it’s due to setting the scene: what do you play in your flat after you’ve been out clubbing when you’re drunk, hanging in your lounge with chain-smoking strangers with the lighting on low, trying not to disturb too many neighbours, and feeling your eyeballs vibrate from partying hard? That’s an urban experience laden with an assortment of feelings that just about everyone can dip into, and it gives whatever music that appears on the compilation a setting familiar to the listener.

This is why almost every heavy metal compilation brings me no pleasure whatsoever – because they’re mostly picks du jour, or someone trying to display contextless personal preferences or eclecticism. There’s no life there to hang the music on.

I think I’ve probably made my point.

 

A song by Melbourne grindcore band The Kill is absolutely slaying me right now. Apart from being a total holocaust of a track, it is actually sending me back in time. I can remember the venue where I first saw the band play this song. I can vividly remember what I was drinking, what the venue smelled like, who I was talking to, how warm the air was outside the gig. Most importantly for a Melbourne expat in his thirties, it sends me back into the body of a younger me running around the amazing place that was Melbourne in the 1990s. There was so much I had forgotten and it shocks the life out of me how sharply it all returns, like a benign flashback. I took everything for granted; I thought at the time that was how growing up in a city was for everyone. It has taken me almost twenty years, a few continents, and a lot of living to look around and realise that I was witness to a time and place that was very, very special.

I have decided to make a compilation of metal bands from Melbourne from the nineties as a sort of time-travel machine for myself. It encapsulates everything that made the metal bands coming out of Melbourne special, and defines the era…for me at least. It can’t be summed up with a few neat adjectives, nouns, or experiences. And there is no way I can describe the bands, the music, and what it all means, without describing Melbourne as well.

Melbourne is an amazing place and like all things truly cool, does not let you in on how fantastic it is at first. Sydney is all upfront with the bridge, the beaches, and the opera house. Perth is the epitome of Remote Australia. Even Adelaide and Brisbane are accessible to tourists, their charms evident upon arrival. But Melbourne plays hard to get. You’ve got to hang out there for a while to get to know it and love it, and you’ve got either be lucky or have a local show you around to fall for it. It doesn’t care if you like it or not. It’s a bay side town, but the beaches aren’t as stunning as Sydney. The weather – quite famously – isn’t as nice as Brisbane or Perth. The wineries are further from town than Adelaide.

But once you become familiar with the place, you’re hooked. There are gorgeous bars hidden in every nook and cranny. There are cinemas on rooftops, in lush botanical gardens, in old restored theatres with leather seats. There are alleyways exploding with amazing graffiti – not tags, but full multicoloured stencilled explosions. There are fantastic restaurants doing every cuisine under the sun. There are stores selling crafts with soul, second-hand rags, artisanal cheeses, cassette tapes. I found a side street in the centre of Melbourne where all signs had been replaced by Zen sayings. Instead of “no standing” there’d be something like “embrace nothingness”. I had walked past the place for over a decade until I realised it was there.

And the music venues are the best of all. A nonstop 24/7 place like Revolver – where it’s possible to go in for a drink Friday night and subsist on Thai cooking and alcohol without leaving until Sunday night – can have a pop band followed by a grind band in one room, while a house DJ follows a hip-hop DJ in another room. The Esplanade Hotel in seedy St.Kilda has three rooms booked with bands most nights of the week. Over the road from that was the Palace for larger bands, and the Prince around the corner would also have a different major act on every night of the week, all music styles. If the band was boring you, you could step outside and avail yourself to sushi, hookers, kebabs, lentils, or roller coasters at Luna Park. When I was older and learned that so many towns had their live music venues miles away from any sort of life, I’d think back to the venues of St.Kilda as a gleaming Valhalla.

I’ve barely scratched the surface. There was Bennett’s Lane, a tiny hidden jazz bar where you could luck in on travelling superstars playing shows under pseudonyms. The Arthouse would have punk, metal, or grind bands almost every night of the week. It had a big patterned duvet attached to the roof for soundproofing. There was the Corner Hotel, the Metro, the Tote, Punters Club, Edward’s Tavern, the Greyhound, Festival Hall, the list goes on, but the point is this – on any night of the week, whatever kind of music you were into, there was a gig happening somewhere in Melbourne that would be right up your alley. Melbournians often boast that the city is the live music capital of the world. That’s a claim I’d agree with.

Why this is so, I don’t know. I mean, the place is miles away from anywhere. Whether you’re visiting from New York or London, you’re going to spend a day on a plane getting to the place and that doesn’t make it easy or profitable for internationals to travel to – unless they’re getting paid a truckload by the promoter. Thinking about it now, a lot of the performers and acts are home-grown, and fair enough. The city hums with creativity. I get more inspiration walking down the street in Melbourne than anywhere else. You are witness to so much creative genius that you can’t help but get inspired yourself. Until the last decade, it was easier for your broke artistic type to find their feet in Melbourne as well. The cost of living was low, but the standard of living was high. Work of all types was plentiful and it was perfectly possible to eat well, own a car, and live close to the city centre on a small wage. You could actually spend your time perfecting your art instead of endlessly struggling to find ways to pay the bills. Instead of a subsistence existence in an ugly environment it was possible to have a decent quality of life. This may be less so now, but this is definitely what it was like in the nineties.

I moved to Melbourne in 1993 from Geelong at the age of seventeen. Geelong was a smaller boring town of no variety, where the people  generally had no ambition and came adorned in blue jeans, blundstone boots, trucker cap, with an appreciation for beer, rum, and Australian rock. Well I say this, but bumped into my next door neighbour from Geelong in London a few years ago, a wildly successful banker living near Warwick Avenue and of impeccable taste in all things. Whatever. The point is, I didn’t really fit into the place. I was one of five or six guys in a school of seven hundred who listened to metal and didn’t drive a utility truck, so I was glad to get out of there.

When I arrived in Melbourne I moved into the suburb of Prahran and started university. Prahran contains Chapel Street, a shopping precinct laden with bars, record stores, skate pipes, and food. It was the perfect place for a broke student. The Astor Cinema ran double features for $10 that changed daily. If I had $20 on me, I’d visit a nearby store and buy a second-hand novel and a second-hand tape and that’d be my entertainment for a week. I remember picking up Alice in Chains “Jar of Flies/Sap” and “The Untouchables” by Eliot Ness and happily surviving off them for a month. Even if I had no money, things were great. The people watching down there is outrageous, and I could always pick up free copies of the ubiquitous street press papers – Inpress and Beat. These two weekly papers ended up forming the backbone of my university social life.

Inpress and Beat covered absolutely everything going on in Melbourne. There was so much in them that reading them from cover to cover would keep me going for a couple of days. Apart from regular appearances from the obscene cartoonist Fred Negro or columns by the entertaining drunk James ‘Jim Bob’ Young, there were listings and reviews for absolutely everything happening in Melbourne – store openings, fashion shows, festivals, and gigs. Especially gigs.

It didn’t take long for me to realise that a lot of the metal gigs were happening half an hour’s walk from where I lived, for very little money, at a venue called the Great Britain Hotel in  Richmond. I ended up going to a lot of gigs at this place. The interior was dark and had paintings of ghosts and nonsense all over the interior walls.  There was always a certain smell in the air, a mixture of patchouli, cheap detergent available from coin laundrettes, and hemp soap. In other words, it smelled of hippies. As far as I can recall the room fit about a hundred punters in and was packed quite often. There was some lank-haired druggie running the place and I believe that on a couple of occasions if I was short of the door charge they’d let me in for whatever change I had at the time. If  you looked the place up online – it turned into a fashionable wine bar over ten years ago now – its history is described as a “less-than-desirable metal joint”.  The place finally went under when the owner got busted for dealing coke, or so the rumours went. When I moved to Melbourne, the Great Britain was ground zero for metal in the city. The baton had been passed from another venue, the noble Sarah Sands Hotel.

The gigs I saw in this place! I saw Christbait rock out plenty of times before members went onto bigger and better things. I saw Necrotomy play their indecipherable brutal noise which even my ears of iron still cannot make sense of. I saw Magnacite play sets where every song the band would swap instruments. I saw Blood Duster play and try and break records for how many dildos they could adorn a drum kit with. I saw the singer of Undinisim  smash a bottle and stab himself in the head with it during the first song of their set. I witnessed Damaged, a band of savants, junkies, and savages who despite being truly and certifiably insane managed to stay focused long enough to play the most amazing sets of music I’ve witnessed, before inevitably falling apart. I’ve got to stop here. I could really go on forever. But the essence of what I’m saying is that every venue, every band and every show had an extra volt of electricity running through them and these cultural Frankensteins ran around being shockingly amazing.

***

I wrote everything above four years ago while living in England, on a late-night nostalgia trip. It might have been even longer ago than that, I’m not sure. It’s now 2014 and I returned to Australia over two years ago. Since those amazing days in the nineties, I joined a few bands and have lived in Japan and the UK, and travelled to countless other places, met legendary metal bands I’ve read about in magazines, and lived a variety of lives. Nothing comes close to being a metalhead in Melbourne in the nineties.

Australia is now more expensive. Melbourne isn’t the bohemian hangout it once was. Living there is as costly as living in London. Some of the venues have disappeared and some have changed hands. The Esplanade Hotel is currently for sale. Everyone’s expecting it to be turned into apartment blocks. The developers have been hovering like vultures around the site for over a decade now. The Palace burned down some years ago. Nearby venue The Prince looks like it will be turned into a luxury hotel, with bucketloads of apartments attached. Inner city venues are currently under siege from people moving to nearby residential properties and then complaining about the noise. You can’t be a bum anymore and get by. That time is gone.

There’s one small spark of optimism out there. The Great Britain went from fashionable wine bar back to a live music venue. I remember when some of my house-music friends suggested we catch up for drinks there a few years back and I thought Christ, you wouldn’t have been seen dead here a decade and a half ago.  The management for the Great Britain decided to leave this year. Everyone feared for its future but I read in an article recently that a large venue management company has picked it up, and the live music is staying.

So there’s that.

 

My compilation of Melbourne nineties metal, spanning the full decade. Many legends have been omitted. Don’t like my list? Post your own in the comments.

The KillMetal Spastic
BeanflipperRemove Skin Before Use
DamagedPassive Backseat Demon Engines
Necrotomy
Doors of Perception
ChristbaitSphagnum
Corpse Molestation – At The Graveyard of God
Blood DusterKill Kill Kill
The Wolves – Kill It (not sure if this is the correct song title – corrections welcome!)
AbramelinStargazer
SuperheistRetarded Barbie
FrankenbokLinguistics

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recording the vocals for ‘Pain’

A lot of the stories I write for this blog are funny. This isn’t one of them.

Back in 2000 or so I was recording on the debut Berzerker album. I did guitar and bass. For those who know the story, Ed and Jay were brought in while I was off on holidays to re-record one side of the guitar because Luke wanted two different guitar tones on the album. I was also doing vocals for the debut, the deep vocals. I had absolutely no technique whatsoever. I’d simply try to go as mental as possible. It was all about doing a passionate performance, trying to tap a bunch of savagery and pain, and blurting it out into the microphone with as much evil as I could muster. These days everyone has a good grasp of phrasing, pitching, and so on, but there were no Melissa Cross training videos back then so we just went for it.

One of the songs on the debut album was called ‘Pain’. The lyrics were about a news story Luke had read where a woman working on a farm got her hair caught in some machinery. The machine didn’t simply rip her hair out, scalp her, or pull her into the machinery. The machine pulled off her face AND her scalp AND her hair, almost like an obstinate glove being yanked off. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she was conscious throughout the ordeal. This blew our minds. We couldn’t comprehend that much pain, what it would be like.

I think sometimes about the fascination I have for dark and terrible events. I know such a fascination is weird to a lot of people. To me, it always seemed astonishing that we have life and sentience but also these frail bodies that can have the most terrible things inflicted on them, and that there’s no-one to step in and make those terrible things stop – to hit rewind, to make pain go away, to say “sorry, you get another go, don’t worry”. People are fragile and life is fragile, and to me and others it’s really clear how close these terrible events are…a twist of the steering wheel, the wrong bottle from the laundry, just walking along without even not really looking, and suddenly either your life is gone or you are crippled with pain. I’d explore these outcomes in my mind, or read about ones that had happened, and I’d keep turning it over and over like a puzzle I couldn’t quite work out: how did people experience these things, how would I handle it, how could such things happen. Normal people who don’t think on these things seem to get along in a happy little bubble oblivious to everything, and I wondered how they did that as well.

I always worked a corporate job while doing Berzerker. On the days I had to record, I would be in Melbourne’s city center in my suit and tie with a work bag and a guitar case. At the end of the day I would walk to the train station in Spencer Street and get a train out to Nunawading, then walk a few kilometres to Luke’s place. Then we’d record guitar, or vocals, or sometimes I’d even just fall asleep while Luke played with his various application plug-ins or screamed at Windows to start working.

I forget which year this was in, I suspect it was back in 2000. Australia had some qualifying match to play for the World Cup and the match itself was in Melbourne so there were quite a few people about in town. We were playing Iraq, I think. I’m not sure. I walked down Flinders Lane to Spencer Street and then headed up the street to the station. When I was almost at the station, I noticed some strange things.

The first thing I saw was vomit on the pavement. There were various patches of it. It seemed that a few different people had been vomiting, because the patches were different colours. These patches stretched up the footpath a bit. I saw a few people sitting down crying. Then I realized that a few people were hugging. I mention these things and it takes a few seconds to read, but it felt like I was blundering around for a minute or so, being slow on the uptake. The last thing I noticed was that most of the people were looking out at the road. I turned around and looked at the road.

What struck me was how normal everything was trying to be. The sun was shining, people were walking around on the other pavements, the traffic lights were changing. There was a tram that had parked in the middle of the road however. That wasn’t normal. A car was parked jaggedly across the tracks in front of it, that wasn’t normal either. Each detail I saw, my brain tried framing it as something explainable – maybe there is a tram stop at that point, maybe that car is meant to be there. I saw the tram driver sitting down on the steps of his tram with his head in his hands. Then I saw police cars parked on the road. Finally, I saw the body on the road with the blanket over it.

That wasn’t the worst part. There was a pool of blood underneath the body and one hand was out from underneath the blanket. It was a woman, and the bit of visible dress meant that she was probably elderly. That wasn’t the worst part either. That all kind of made sense. The part which really stuck with me was when I noticed another blanket about ten metres away and it was over a much smaller shape, something long and thin. The blanket didn’t cover all of it. I saw a leg in a stocking with a shoe on the end of it, and more blood.

And in one flash, everything that had happened came together in my mind. An elderly woman had been crossing the road and didn’t notice a tram turning into the street. The tram driver didn’t see her either. She was hit by the uncaring tram and dragged for around fifty metres. A motorist saw it, and thinking quickly sped in front of the tram and parked on the tracks. By the time they stopped the tram and fetched the woman out from underneath it, her leg had already come off and if she wasn’t dead then, she was dead shortly after. This had happened minutes before I turned up.

I spoke to some of the people there who had seen it, and it turns out it happened that way. I looked for a bit but didn’t want to idle around being a vulture at a scene like that, so I headed up to the station. That’s when I experienced a moment of real horror; as I approached the entrance tunnel, I heard a lot of children’s voices. I realized that school had been let out, and that school groups were probably on their way to the World Cup qualifier match right now. Very soon, lots of kids would come up the tunnel, turn the corner, and see a dismembered old lady on the road. I ran to the guards at the entrance to get them to close it and reroute people to the other exits.

I arrived out at Nunawading a little later than normal that night. I took my tie off, told Luke what I had seen, then did the vocals for ‘Pain’. There were lots of computer problems while recording that first album, and we actually lost a lot of the vocal takes at various stages. The vocals from that night weren’t lost however, and made it onto the album.

how I like to independently release material

A friend called Pip – hi Pip! – is just nigh on completing his new album with his freakcore band aAnd? This post started as a personal letter to Pip, but it has information which I get asked for a bit so I figured I’ll slap it up here for people to refer to.

For some strange reason Pip asked me for advice on how to independently release a metal CD. Why he asked me for advice, I’ll never know. I cocked up aspects of the release of ‘The Floating World’ as my previous post described and I’m far from the model of success as an independent artist. Nevertheless, I love giving advice and pretending that I know things so here we go.

aAnd? are at the following stage: they have an album’s worth of recorded material, a bucketload of promo shots, great artwork and logo, sexy skintight morph suits that they wear when they play live, and some top industry contacts. So all they need is to get their music out cheaply and professionally, make sure it’s promoted (with the aim of selling as much of their music as possible), and avoid getting torrented into nothingness. Simples.

Getting a CD made

Once the music and artwork is done, this tends to be the simplest part. I use a bunch of dudes out in Asia called Mobineko. They are cheap and horrifyingly efficient. Go to the quote machine on their page and check it out. I tend to go for the  12cm standard CDs with the 10mm jewel case, and my last CD had an 8pp stapled booklet with double-sided rear tray. But go with whatever floats your boat. It is entirely possible that there is a CD production place in your vicinity that can do you a better deal but if you can’t be arsed searching for them, Mobineko are pretty sweet.

If you’re wondering how to get your spunky fab artwork onto the CD and into the booklet, then you’ll find there’s a section of the website that has photoshop PSD templates that you can download. Most online CD manufacturers have templates on their website to use but if they don’t, the ones on the Mobineko website are perfect. May I suggest that you download the templates before creating your album artwork? Even though I thought my dimensions were perfect, I had to redo everything once I tried fitting stuff onto the template. I’ll assume Lewis (reader note: Metal Hammer art editor) is doing your artwork so I don’t have to remind him to do the work in CMYK. And if I can give one awesome bit of advice for the artwork then it’s this: once you’ve done it, take it to a local printer and get him to print proofs. Make sure that your fonts and colours actually work when they are printed out onto paper and cardboard. This may cost between 10-20 quid, but it’s the best insurance you’ll ever have. You don’t want to be getting a box of CDs from the factory after spending hundreds and be bricking yourself wondering how they’re going to look.

Something you need to be aware of: if you intend to actually distribute your CDs through retailers, a barcode needs to be on the artwork. Don’t ask me any more questions about this, because I totally skipped it. After the experience I had with retail on my first Senseless album, I’m happy never to do retail again. It’s an ego boost, but nothing more. You probably won’t get any retail distro as an independent anyway, unless you cosy up to one of your PHD guys. Once distributors and the outlet take their percentage of your sale, you get very little return back. And half the time, your stock doesn’t get displayed on the shelves. Then after a few months, the stock is returned to you and you are charged for it being returned thus obliterating any profit you made from retail in the first place. Having said that, Australia’s JB HIFI is a fair mainstream retailer to get stocked at if you can find who does their metal ordering and you want to shift some units. I can’t speak for any other country though.

How many CDs and promos to print? Oh jeez, I don’t know. I’d suggest getting at least 50 promos done, and no more than 100 CDs at this point. This is on the assumption that you’ll be playing live monthly and running a merch desk at shows, as well as selling CDs online. If you don’t intend to play live and don’t want to set up a webstore, then make it 50 CDs and 50 promos. If you guys are actually going to go balls-and-all with the promos and foist them onto all the nobs that you know then print 100 of them.

Selling the music

What do you need if you’re going to sell music? You need an entity for people to give money to. In this day and age, this means PayPal. So open a PayPal account if you haven’t already. If you haven’t got a PayPal account open, then you have a decision to make: you can either register a business and open a business PayPal account which you can all access, or you can just nominate the most trustworthy bandmember and use their PayPal account. The problem here is that you’re all English which means that one of you will probably try and steal all the money, or ‘borrow’ large chunks of it with false promises of “I’ll pay you guys back, honest”. You all seriously need to invade another country and drop all your scum off there. NOT ‘STRAYA, WE’RE FULL (of bogans).

The pro’s of using a business account is that this is the most fair and transparent way of sharing and keeping band earnings. The problem with this method though is you’ll need to register a business, open a business bank account, declare earnings and submit tax. Knowing and loving England as I do, this will be difficult and expensive. The best halfway point is to create a PayPal account using a joint band email address you all have access to, and nominate the most trustworthy bandmember’s bank account. So if he rips you all off, at least you can log into PayPal and confirm that the money is indeed gone.

Selling music in an electronic format is easy: go to CDBaby, open an account, pay a small one-off fee, upload music and artwork, update profile, DONE </Gordon Ramsay>. This now puts you onto Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, Pandora, and all the millions of other online retailers selling music. You can also link your Facebook page to your CDBaby account so anyone visiting your Facebook page can click a button and buy your album.

CDBaby doesn’t put your music onto bandcamp however. I recommend you create a bandcamp profile and upload music there as well, because a lot of people actually buy their music from that site. I didn’t create a profile there when I released the last Senseless CD, and it was the first site a lot of Europeans and Scandinavians went to when they wanted to purchase an electronic copy. It sells high-quality files like wavs or flacs, and you can nominate your prices and even sell merch from there. You can also have your entire album stream from there, and I find it’s useful to have the one location that streams your music also making it available for purchase. There is no upfront fee, they will just keep the profits from 1 out of every 10 sales for themselves.

Selling physical CDs online is slightly harder, but you are capable chaps and I’m sure you can nut it out if you put your mind to it. What I did was this:  I created a website (domain name and hosting from fasthosts.co.uk ). Then I created paypal BUY buttons – you do this by heading to paypal, logging into your account, looking up how to create paypal BUY buttons, and following the instructions. This generates some HTML code for you. Then I created a sales page for my website and stuck the HTML code for those buttons in it. BOOM! People can now visit my website and order a CD just by pushing a button. I get an email (which I’ve linked to my phone alerts so I get a funky ‘ping’ whenever someone buys my shit), and the email has the name and the address of the person to send the CD to. At that point, the money is already in my paypal account.

The other way of selling CDs online is to use consignment services – I know CDBaby offer one. The problems here are quantity. You either have to get them to hold a LOT of stock, or (in the case of CDBaby) they can only hold around 5 CDs at a time maximum….again, until you start shifting big figures. CDBaby also have a service where they can print CDs for you and ship on your behalf….I’m not sure, but it might be a service where they print on request (in other words whenever they receive a CD sale). This keeps them from having to warehouse large amounts of stock. This may be worth looking into. It wasn’t an attractive option back when I released ‘The Floating World’ but they are updating their service all the time, so it might be a good option now.

Can’t work out how much to sell your CD for? Okay, work out maximum postage for a CD (I recommend sending it as a ‘gift’ on the customs form so that your customer never has to pay customs or import taxes when they receive it). Now get the number of CDs you printed, work out what 80% of that is. Get the total cost of CD printing, divide that 80% figure into it. The result plus the cost of maximum postage equals your minimum price. If you’re looking at adding more onto that, I recommend doubling the result of the CD printing cost divided by the 80% of CDs produced: this means that costs for your next production run are taken care of once you sell out of the current run. And if you’re wondering why I nominated 80% of CDs produced instead of 100%, it’s because you will lose, damage, or give away around 20% of your CDs.

Promoting your music

I talked in my previous blog post about mistakes I made promoting my last release, so it might be worthwhile to check that out as an example of the “don’ts”. In a nutshell, you need to create the most amount of noise possible about your release in a short space of time and you need to create that noise for two months before and two months after your release. I can confirm that doing a ‘slow burn’ release where it is promoted in various ways spread out over a year does not work. And there are many traditional areas of media where you won’t be covered unless a good percentage of their peers are already talking about you.

Have you guys got a bio in PDF format that you can either send out, or print and mail? I believe I may have said one or two words on this topic previously. When you’re reviewed, people will want to know your label status and where they can buy your material so make sure that information is included.

Media needs to be courted. The old school radio and print media like news, and you will notice it’s called ‘news’ and not ‘olds’. If they don’t get the drop on all the blogs and websites then they tend not to give a fuck. By this point you should have your website up, your Facebook page and bio completed, and your CDs sitting in the house. It’s no use courting the press with jagermeister at the Crowbar and Big Red if you don’t have music and websites to immediately point them at. They tend not to wait for bands to get all their materials assembled.

I recommend getting online and putting together a list of at least 50 media outlets and high profile blogs, and mailing a physical promo and press sheet to each one. If you know anything about who you’re sending the press pack to then tailor it for them to increase the chances of them actually paying attention to it. Try and give the print media around three weeks advantage over online media. Once the press packs are sent, wait a fortnight and then start contacting the recipients to make sure they’ve received them. If they haven’t, keep hassling or resending promo until they either confirm they’ve received it, or tell you to go away. The majority of media – if left to their own devices – will not review the materials they receive unless given a nudge. And don’t fall into the trap of thinking that just because you know the person you’ve sent material to, or people at that company, that they’ll do you a favour and review you. Even friends will forget about the CD you’ve given them unless you give them a few gentle reminders. And I also recommend hand-numbering the CDs – again, so that it creates the impression that they’re special or limited, and also to imply that they’re watermarked to discourage uploading.

YouTube is the most popular place for people to hear new songs, so pick the top two or three tracks and get a YouTube vid up there. If you can actually do a music video, then ace! Otherwise just do what every other shmuck does and stick a band pic or album cover to the song and upload it. Don’t put the entire album there, for god’s sake. You want to get people interested enough to buy it.

For doing PR online, use Haulix. This is what all the big boys use: you create an online digital promo so that reviewers who want to listen to your album can listen but can’t download, or the download is watermarked so you can find out who leaked. Don’t provide your mp3s out of a dropbox willy-nilly, as you will get torrented into a living death and your sales will immediately stop. I’m totally not kidding. Once the eastern Europeans get a hold of your mp3s then it’s game over and your online sales will cease.

I’ve mentioned before, but I believe the quality of your press is better than the quantity when it comes to online sales. The temptation may be to scattergun press releases and mp3s to every single blog, facebook review page, and website in the hope that you get a large difficult-to-avoid online presence. I find however that small blogs and review pages usually offer crap reviews, don’t help sales, and offer a high torrent risk. Give me two or three large magazine or website reviews over ten small blogs any day.

I had an idea – or I heard or read it somewhere else, I forget – but that idea is to pirate your own stuff first. Upload your entire album, but tweak each mp3 file so that the music fades out halfway through each track for thirty seconds and there is a big voiceover sales pitch telling people where your website is and where they can buy the music. If you get at least five up with different naming conventions and spread them across file-sharing and torrent networks then this can make life inconvenient for the casual pirate looking to rip off your stuff. You may get whiney little pin-dicked nerds whinging about how stupid it is to ruin your own tracks that way, but fuck them – they’re not going to buy your album anyway. They’re just going to pirate your work, write about how it sucks, then give it away to everyone for free before getting back to being spanked by Luke Berzerker in GT6 online. Congratulations on making a style of music whose demographic perfectly matches that of the people who understand how torrents work!

I’m seriously all out of advice.

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A thanks to Leon Macey for some of the advice that appeared above. The Final Torrent Solution initially appeared during a conversation with Pip….except we discussed distributing a virus instead of sales pitch/music files.  Finally, if you wish to check out aAnd? then head on over to their facialbook page.

20 inches of aAnd

aAnd? : Destined for greatness

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