Blog: Scott Hamilton

If you're looking for the same 'ol song and dance, keep movin'. Detroit music producer Scott Stone of Small Stone Records will be dishing on the good, the bad, and the ugly: overpriced concert tickets, the death of the record store, and the new record business rising from the ashes of the old guard that killed it in the first place.

Scott Hamilton - Post 2: The Mating Call of the Indie Rock Poser

I was sitting in a smoky, somewhat overpriced hipster bar that will remain nameless when I happened to overhear what I can only describe as the mating call of the forever doomed "indie rock" act (read as just another local band).  It’s the same woe is me story about how great some idiot thinks his band is but how he can't quit his day job at Kinko's because Warner Brothers or Sony won't realize his genius and swoop in on their private jets and woo him.  

The fact of the matter is that the music business is about business first, and music is a very close second.  The folks at Atlantic and Stax or even Sub Pop didn't start out huge with top named acts, they built themselves up with the tools they had at their disposal.  Now it's true that with the death of the record store and radio it's gotten a bit tougher to get new and non-pop related artists out to the public ... but there are still ways to do it.  All you have to do is get a little more creative.

Let's face facts, commercial radio does not sell albums or break bands anymore, but video games can sure help you reach the ears of teenagers and 20 somethings that do not listen to the radio.  This means synch licensing (TV shows, video games, movies, commercials).  Learn the terminology and learn to love it.  This will pay for gas in your van, merch for your tours, new gear, hotel rooms (when a floor is not available). There is no such things as selling out anymore, there never really was.  Just as Massive Attack if they feel guilty every time an episode of House airs on the USA network. Chances are all they hear is a new studio getting built.

Marketing is not a dirty word. You no longer need a giant record label to over-hype your wares to the press and radio. Chances are you're not the next Jimmy Hendrix, so who would believe it just because some marketing group puts it in a press release. Just skip all the middlemen and take it directly to the fans. Thank you, Internet!  

You'll have to do it right, though.  You can't just throw up a MySpace page and call it a day.  MySpace, Facebook and Twitter are great and I still recommend using them to your advantage, but your band will still need its own web domain, updated as often as you do the former sites and make sure that you have a digital mailing list, and that you send out weekly or monthly updates.

Now, none of this matters if you don't have the chops or the tunes to back up your hard work.  A major label quality release can be made for as little as $3,000-$5,000 with today's technology.  Do your homework, find the right studio, the right engineer, and find out if you can book off hours at a discount.  Don't sell yourself short and don't over pay.  

But most importantly, learn to play your instrument with the proficiency of Jimmy Hendrix or Eddie Van Halen. The last thing that the world needs is one more poser who can look the part, but cannot play. And more importantly, write good songs.  People remember the songs long after they've gotten over the guitar burning or the biting off of the bats heads.

Which brings us to the live show.  The best way to sell music is to perform live in front of people. The public still wants music; they just don't want it shoved down their throats.  

Take the music to the people, offer it to them at a reasonable price, and let them come to you. In other words, keep your ticket prices low, and your show high.  If you can entertain, thrill, impress, and/or awe them, the people will remember it and support the band in the future.  You increase your market one fan at a time, whether you're selling 100 albums or 1,000,000.  

And don't forget to bring the music with you to those shows.  When you have a great night (or even a good night) people will buy things from you.  Because they liked you, because they want to show that they were there. Hell, some will buy another copy of the album just to talk to you for five minutes.  Bring some discs, have t-shirts made, and if you can afford it press up some vinyl, it's making a comeback.

In short, don't be that guy sitting in the bar on a Saturday night complaining about how misunderstood he is.  Be the guy playing three states away.  It's hard work, and sitting in front of a computer writing a better bio or uploading photos of a killer gig is not glamorous but it is the means to the end.  And be creative, no one wants the same old stuff rehashed.  Look how well that plan worked for the major labels.  R.I.P.