One thing I’ve noticed change and continues to change is how music is distributed from the musician to the world. When we first started the band, distribution was simple; toss CDs at everyone who came to your show. That was in 2008, and even though it wasn’t that long ago, the means of distribution have changed rapidly.
Think about how you receive your music. Is it from iTunes? Stream it off Spotify? Or is simply using YouTube? All of these are probably some of the top answers when it comes to how people do find music. The physical album has been put on the back burner as websites like SoundCloud and BandCamp have emerged, making the downloading era of music a part of our culture.
Now, taking all of that into perspective for a small DIY band and you have a double edged sword. I first think it helps out due to the many possible outlets you can spread your music through. The more websites your music is on, the more possibilities you have to gain more potential fans. What’s wrong with that? Well, here is the other edge. Unfortunately, streaming our album off of websites like Spotify gain us a revenue of maybe .50 cents a month. This doesn’t get a band back on the road or back into the studio. We need to continue selling physical albums as shows and online due to the fact that is where our primary revenue continues to be. Even iTunes doesn’t pan out for a small band. After Apple takes their share on your .99 cent download you are left with little to nothing. So it is clear we cannot make it on the digital world alone.
Looking into the future, I am very interested to see if CDs or any form of physical music will turn around and become more tangible. The main point I am trying to make is when it boils down to a band trying to survive in this competitive market, we need to hold onto those physical sales. There is an obvious generational split between people who still find these physical albums meaningful and the new generation who find music more… disposable. It will be an interesting next few years watching everything unfold before our eyes.
If there is one thing I would want people to know, it is that I never started the band to become a big “rock star.” I started the band in hopes to better connect with both myself and others who share the same passion. Music takes on the form of a person, and I can definitely say that making sacrifices becomes a huge part of your life to keep it around.
When I look back at everything, I see myself having these exalted experiences which I can only see happening through making music. But why do I continue doing it? I guess the best way to answer that question is to ask, what are your aspirations? Many people will live their whole lives to achieve an aspiration or write it down on their “bucket list.” I started to realize that my life aspiration was happening right before my eyes. Making music and expressing my passion to others is something I can’t see myself not doing anytime in the near future. I want to express my emotions and my passions through this aspiration.
Being 21 now I wouldn’t say I have “role models” in my life, but someone I look up to is Jeremy Bolm from Touche Amore. The band has gained a lot of respect through being a DIY band (Do it yourself). I’ll spend hours watching interviews with him and hearing his stories really inspire me not only as a musician, but how to be a good person. He takes the time to explain things in his life, and his lyrics show these experiences. Jeremy’s lyrics talk to the listener on a personal level, which makes you feel that other people view life in the same perspective.
I guess what this post is getting at is, you have to be making music to achieve your aspirations, but rather find things in life now that make you happy. As I continue to meet people who share the same love in things that I do, I’ve realized many people wait on their aspirations until they get older to accomplish them. If you can do things now that make you think, “I’m happy with what I’m doing in life,” then you’re on the right path to true happiness.
People sometimes ask me what made me get into metal or why I chose metal as the focus of my music career. Let us take a time machine back to fifth grade when I was starting to learn the alto saxophone. It was that year when music started becoming very important to me.
Through my middle school years I listened to bands such as Blink 182, Green Day, AFI, and Taking Back Sunday. It was the “alternative” years for me, and I was searching for something more. Eighth grade came around and I began listening to “heavier” music such as Trivium, Lamb of God, and As I Lay Dying.
Let’s skip through high school, because I could name off about a thousand bands that helped me gain an infatuation with the metal genre. When eleventh grade rolled around it was time to start taking the passion I had for music to the next level.
When I started Fail to Decay with my brother and a few friends I never saw it as a big deal, but more of simply something to do with my time. As we continue forward college brought on another huge responsibility and in my last blog you can read about how that affects me.
In college I started listening to completely different genres such as, folk, indie, and instrumental. Bands such as Iron & Wine, Foals, Russian Circles, and so many more. This was a time where finding other genres helped me better myself as a musician and lyricist.
So today I can skip between singer/songwriter to death metal and everything in between. Having that many variety of genres makes me more accepting to other genres and seeing multiple points of view. Even though metal sometimes sounds dark, there are plenty of folk artists that can really write a depressing song.
What kinds of music have affected your life? If so was there a specific artist?
I started to talked about this in an earlier post, but just didn’t get in depth enough with it. The balance between being in a band and going to school is something I’ve been doing since this whole thing started. High school was easy to balance since it is simply that; high school. With minimal homework and studying involved it was easy to put the band first in my life and school second.
Once I started going to college though, it became tug-o-war game between my school work and working with the band.
It may sound simple, take time during the week to focus on school, and on the weekend focus on the band. Although I have made this work, it has been hard to put a full effort into both when you have to focus on one more than the other. For example, during the week you’ll have your typical agenda; go to class, receive assignment, finish assignment, repeat process. But having time to sit down and talk with other band members and continue to forward the band also has to be put in there. And yes, I know this sounds like a simple task, but somehow it really isn’t. Keeping up with the band’s social media pages, emails, and phone calls with band members takes time. This is the tug-o-war factor I was speaking about, and there is always a pull in the back of your mind when you find yourself focusing more on one than the other.
Basically what I’m trying to get at is, there are hundreds, probably thousands of guys (and gals) who are doing the same thing I am doing and I’m sure they feel the same way. For me, I love getting off campus during the weekend to head back to the jam space, pack up the gear, and play shows. It feels as if there are two different worlds and you are constantly jumping between them.
So if you are one of those musicians who balances school with your band, tell me about it. I’d love to hear how you balance the two and make the time for both to work.
The last two years or so I have seen something change in the music scene. Ego’s have been on the rise by 200% and it is quite pathetic. When I first started playing with the band back in late 2008, everybody who went to a show was your friend, because everyone was able to relate through the same thing; music. Now the scene has changed to where no one even wants to take the time to meet someone new.
As a musician, meeting new people is one of my favorite things to do other than getting on stage and playing a great show. Taking the time to get to know another band or even just someone who really enjoyed your music means so much more to the ones who do love music. Both of these things will make connections that may help you later down the road.
When it comes to talking to fans or new listeners let them do the talking. By nature, we as humans love to talk. So simply take ten minutes to let them just say what’s on their mind and acknowledge that you are listening. Without people like them, you’d be playing for no one and personally I love meeting new fans. Hearing their stories helps me build memories and hearing they have a passion as strong as you do for music simply puts a smile on my face.
Talking to other bands or musicians comes with a little more dedication. This dedication has to come in the sense that we are all in the same musical boat trying to get our names out there. SO TAKE THE TIME TO MEET NEW BANDS. Sometimes you will run into plain out assholes who simply don’t care about you, because they have the ego the size of the statue of liberty. You need to be able to at least try and meet them even if they forget about you. One thing I’ve learned is never burn bridges with anyone. When it comes to bands who enjoy meeting other bands, it makes playing with them again that much more fun. I personally love playing shows with other bands that I’ve taken the time to get to know and have a personal friendship with them.
Basically what I’m trying to get at is if you are a musician or an artist of any sort, networking and making connections with others is so important. I love meeting new people and hearing their stories. So if you are an artist of any sort post a comment and I’ll check you out. If you’re in the hardcore/metal scene and post a comment with your band I’d love to get to know you and play a show with you!
Fail to Decay and We Paint the Sky (2012)
Let us take a trip back to the past, about a year ago today. We were asked to play a show outside the small town of Plainview, MN for a benefit concert. The promoter who set up the show said it will be a big turn out, and although we hadn’t heard of the place, we were optimistic and hoped for the best.
The day of the show came, so we packed up our gear and headed out into the rural countryside that is southern Minnesota. After our GPS lost satellite reception and we ended up at a church in the middle of nowhere we began to ponder on if this was going to actually be a show. So after the brief stop we pulled out the iPhone’s and finally figured out the address.
When we pulled into the driveway we saw our stage. The floor of a garage with nothing more than a few carpets to set the drum set on. As we began unloading our gear through the pouring rain we started losing faith in how this show was going to turn out.
The line-up had us playing second to the last, so while we waited we decided on if this was even going to be worth our time. The clock slowly ticked away until it was time to set up our gear and hope for the best.
There were no monitors and the system used for vocals had more compression than a WWII fighter pilot talk back system. As we played through our set, we found ourselves not caring what people thought and just had fun. Even though there was one drunk lady constantly jumping around and touching us, overall… It was a blast!
I guess what I’ve been trying to get at is don’t judge a moment by the surroundings. When we first rolled into that driveway I thought it was going to be nothing more than a lame excuse of a show. Now, looking back at that moment, I can reminisce with the other guys and get a good laugh in. I would definitely play there again simply to just look back and have one hell of a time.
So I pose another question. What is your craziest moment at a show?
Being a small local band from Rochester, MN your opportunities for playing shows in the area are few and far between. Usually the closest venue we play at is the Warehouse in La Crosse, WI. So needless to say, after five years of playing within six hours from home, I am ready to hit the road and see what other states have to offer.
Booking a tour isn’t as easy as I expected.. Yeah you can read online about how to properly do it, but I’d rather learn on my own. So the first tour I am in the works on is heading out to Grand Rapids, MI. It’s only a four day mini tour, but I think it’ll be worth seeing other parts and if kids like what we are creating.
After this tour, I am looking into a week long one. This would hit places like Fort Wayne, IN, Columbus, OH, St. Louis, MO, and several others. I enjoy traveling around in a van with three other guys, creating what we call art. As long as we continue making music that we enjoy, that’s all that will ever matter to me.
So back to the booking part.. What I’ve been doing is contacting venues in the area seeing if it’s possible to play at their establishment and could set up a show around the time we will be in their area. Another approach that I’ve tried is contacting band around the area to see if they could help us out. One problem with this is getting a guarantee or simply getting paid. Something I’ve noticed with the music industry today is that promoters let the word “guarantee” mean something more along the lines of, “well if we get that much through the door, then I’ll get it to you.” It isn’t free to get from venue to venue, so as long as we are making enough to pay for gas money, that’s all that matters to us.
With that I ask a question, if you’ve ever booked a tour, how did you set it up? I’d love to hear what others do, because it’s networking that keeps small bands alive.