indie band advice

Speaking at Kismet Thoughts – SAT APR 8 – FREE!

This Saturday, April 8 at 215 Spadina Street in Toronto I’ll be leading a FREE talk on Grant Writing & Planning for Kismet Thoughts from 12 p.m.- 2 p.m.

It’s not a panel so I’m solo on this thing but am going to be presenting a version of what I teach my students at Trebas in a condensed, casual style.

FB RSVP linked HERE 

With grant season just around the corner, don’t let this happen to you!

BSOMA and YouRockRed Presents: $how me the Money- Record Funding

I pitched an educational info session series to Bluesfest School of Music and Art in September after attending a ton of music conferences like NXNE and CMW.  I thought, why do Ottawa musicians need to go all the way outside their city for this sort of industry guidance and knowledge.

I’m thrilled to be presenting this first info session with BSOMA on Thursday, November 27, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Festival House (450 Churchill Ave) with panelists Amos the Transparent, Factor and City of Ottawa! It’s been an absolutely pleasure working with the Bluesfest team already on putting this together as the organizer and panelist myself.  They’re also going to be offering up individual band consultations with YouRockRed through BSOMA at a discounted rate so stay tuned for that.

Tickets are only $10/each or $20 for a band with up to 5 members… and it’s halfway sold out ALREADY. If that doesn’t say Ottawa wants this sort of info session, I don’t know what does!? Oh, and the Beau’s on tap. Musicians always like beer.

Anyways, please RSVP on FB HERE and I so look forward to seeing many of you there!


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Why you Need More than 1 Band Biography to Get Attention

Here’s an industry secret on band biographies:  the ones who get the most publicity have more than 1.

There’s three kinds of band biographies. A short 1-paragraph bio, a medium 2-3 length bio, and a full page bio.

1 paragraph approach is great because it’s the most direct line – people will follow up if they need more info but these are the basics that need to be included.  Think of this as your elevator pitch.  If you’ve cornered your favourite magazine or head of Universal THIS is how you would sell your band.

  1. Your band name and hometown
  2. Who you sound like (You’ve heard the whole, if Zepplin had a love child with Chromeo we’d be its illegitimate offspring before, right? No? Well, if you’re stuck this metaphor technique helps.)
  3. Who you’ve played with/notable successes
  4. Why anyone should give a shit about your band, rather, what makes you special

Plus, if you’re cold- emailing someone, this is the most professional approach as you’re not just copying and pasting a whole whack of content a promoter, agent or radio station didn’t ask for. If you’re clear and concise, you’ll stand apart from the rest. A 1 paragraph can easily be copied and pasted for live show bylines at clubs/venues web promo and filter through others like radio, blog and photographers. It really pays to have this prepared.

Now if you’ve just done something noteworthy like win a songwriting competition, achieved a landmark in crowd-funding or shot a music video that’s gone viral, that’s where background information in form of word length can help you. Tell the reader why the director of the music video is important to you or what relationship you have with them that’s going to make it an international hit.  Explain the meaning of the song in relation to the music video content. If you’ve had other music videos become popular mention the song names and if possible hit counts or where the video led to the song being placed or an artist of note that was a fan of the video.

A full page band bio is basically your EPK with a photo all web links and press highlights on top of artist history, discography, and notable successes.  Make sure you have a PDF of this in addition to high res band portrait photographs as it’s principally used for publicity/journalism.

One thing to hammer home here is making sure that your bio is CURRENT and free of spelling mistakes. And whatever you do, don’t fabricate any facts or quotes.

Conferences, festivals and media outlets all have different needs. These bios mean that you can adjust to them and are the perfect fit for them.

And if you’re not sure how to write a band bio, check out this post I wrote last year.


Band Apps: 4 Apps that will get your indie band more money

Instead of just texting the girlfriend you miss back home or playing Angry Birds, get together with your bandmates to be proactive about how you make money. These are 4 apps that can change your band’s financial career with the swipe of a thumb.

If you’re already addicted to your smart phone, these apps will become second nature. (If you’re just a freelancer in the arts, these apps come in real handy too.)


This is my new favourite thing. Take a photo of a receipt once you receive it and select whether or not it is deductable, reimburseable or “not sure.” It then gets filed into an online secure database according to category. It allows you to make notes on it, e.g. Subway restaurant March 23 for 4 band members = deductable expense as artist per diem (If you’re a Factor-funded artist, this little gem will SAVE your life when you’re partially or fully-audited).  It’s not just for bands though; you can use it as an individual say if you purchase a new Korg keyboard and you deduct a taxes from your job as a musician- your writeoffs are there for you super easy! The best thing is that if you make a habit of using it whenever you purchase something, you’re done.  You can even send email invoices directly to them to file into the same account (so eco-folks, no paper is necessary.) BONUS:  You make more money because you have everything accounted for!


At the bar people want to spend their cash impressing their friends or last $10 on a cab ride home. Don’t lose out on potential gas money because you don’t have a credit card swiper tool called Square. They charge 2.75 % a swipe but the App AND device are FREE when you sign up and there’s no contract.  Everything gets deposited into your account in 1-2 business days. Come on.  If you’re traveling internationally without reliable wifi or don’t want to use the Square brand you can find others under $15 on Ebay and very easy to use (like Roam Pay).

Fresh Books

Ever forget when you have a bill coming up?  Need to build a budget for the band? Fresh Books sends reminders and lets you know how much money you have left to go towards gas or an automatic withdrawal for your jam space so not to spend that extra $20 in your pocket (so go beg for more extra beer tickets).  BONUS:  If you’re self-representing you can send invoices in seconds from your phone to get paid from promoters or agents.

Mail Chimp

If you don’t already have a newsletter sign-up, get thee to Mail Chimp! All major publicity firms and promoters use this free service because you can send out thousands of emails in gorgeous and easy to format set ups that allow you to embed photos, music videos, links AND be able to tell who has opened your emails. It might seem like an out of date way to reaching bands but unlike Facebook or Twitter, if a cool band’s newsletter pops up in someone’s personal account, chances are they’ll be opened. People are bored on the train ride home or killing time between meetings. Give them an excuse to care about your band. You can get them to sign up at your merch table through their mobile app or get them to scribble down their contact info the old fashioned way and input it on the long drive between Quebec City and Ottawa.


Please note: this post is geared towards people who use Iphone and Android mobiles. If you still have a flip-phone, get the band member who DOES have a smart phone to download them.  If unlimited wifi is too expensive for you as a band, select one member’s phone to use and chip in to cover that mobile phone package when he’s on tour.

Your Band’s New BFF – How to Use Hootsuite

The value of pre-scheduling your online content
It’s Sunday night as I sit and write this- the only non-work night I reserve for just relaxing… most of the time. But here I am preparing for a press conference for tomorrow’s Ottawa Rock Lottery media launch and writing a million media info sheets, proofing commercials last minute, Boomeranging press release emails so that I can pick up newly revised concert posters from the printer early a.m. before yoga.
Yeah. I’m sure many of you can relate to the feeling that there’s not enough time in the day. The trick is for musicians, promoters, and their team is to use the online tools to make sure you don’t turn into a crazy person.
Enter Hootsuite. I’m shocked that more creatives don’t use this actually. You can schedule your WordPress, Twitter, FB, Youtube, Instagram, Tumblr, Flickr, Vimeo, Reddit- basically any social network is on there to make your life easier.
This way you can:
1. Share the workload with your band – one person kicks ass at blogging whereas another one always checks in on Foursqaure when you’re on tour.

2. Measure the success of your posts/interactions through analytics. Sometimes a post about your cats digging the new vinyl will be more popular than you talking about a dream producer… always good to know what the audience wants!

3. Save time! How many times have you been on the road, distracted creatively, or just not able to compose your thoughts? This allows you to plan super far in advance so that you can be that crazy effective night owl and still look like you’re up interacting with your fans at 10 a.m. when you’re posting about the coffee that inspired your album. Strategic, right? You connect according to timing and open yourself up to a new audience.
Have a real job? You can tell your employers you aren’t tweeting/fb’ing/soundclouding while at work because, hey! You actually DID set everything up in advance. Your band can live and breed online even while you’re not around. Sexy huh?
… So why are you not on there yet?!
Next week I’ll discuss how to apply these tools if you do your own PR.


Here’s a song about a friend from Atmosphere…

8 Reasons Why Being Late/Unprepared Screws your Band

Artists can be flakes.  Any one working in the creative community is aware of this. Here’s why you SHOULD always make an effort to be on time if you want to last in the music industry. This goes for recording albums, shooting music videos, media requests and making important meetings. If you want to make it you have to put this aside any personal issues from your career and just show up on time no matter what.  I mean, at the end of the day, why would you skip out on your dream by being late for someone that could help it become a reality?

But isn’t there management to look after this for me?  Chances are though, that if you’ve gotten there, you’ve successfully navigated your career up until that point and know the value of showing up fully-prepared and replying to important emails.

The age old saying of Time is Money rings truer each time I am left with a latte quickly going cold waiting  for my next meeting…

  1. If people are meeting with you they have already invested time into researching your band.
  2. They have developed strategies and/or possible marketing tactics to expose your band to a wider audience.
  3. They have at least given a good listen to the songs that you have sent them and visited your website or read your press release.
  4. They don’t need to meet with you.  If you need their help, influence, etc. there are probably another 100 bands that are in just as dire straights.
  5. By being reliable, honest and personable band that can work within deadlines set by these important career influencers, you are far more likely to go far than a band that always shows up hungover and loses documentation because it’s a “last minute” request.
  6. They have come prepared to meet with you.  Respect. Even if you’re paying them, they are professionals (or at least possess winning professional attitudes) so don’t waste their time.
  7. The early bird, you know, gets the worm.  Canadian Music Week’s Expert sessions is a great example of this.  You can sit down with the top industry experts in the world just by queuing up in advance.
  8. The music industry is dominated by strict calendars and deadlines. We only have so much time for you project, so even when we do first meet we could be over the moon, if you don’t follow up with our emails quickly to set the thing in motion, we could find the next big thing that’s the total opposite of your band which could lead them to the harsh reality of never working with you again.

… and at the end of the day if you are going to be late or unprepared, email, call, message and let that person know!  Inspiration comes at the most unexpected moments demanding something be written right then and there, living situations fluctuate between tours, shitty temp jobs need to be found shifts for and fights with girlfriends/partners upon return are inevitable.  They’re humans too and are usually pretty understanding.

Now go start putting dates into your Google calendar for your next band meetings!



How to Write a Band Biography

As a journalist I’ve received thousands of band biographies.  Some of my favourites have been done by fellow music journalists (the David Byrne St. Vincent one made me happy to sign their name signed at the end).  For the most part though, a band biography and subsequent press release are best left to the professionals or at least someone OUTSIDE the band to edit it.

Some basics that should be included:

-          When the band was founded

-          Full names of the members (or at least full stage names) and what they play

-          Hometown (I love seeing that a band is from Tweed, as it separates you from all the other Toronto bands)

-          Accomplishments (awards, who you’ve opened for)

-          Showcase highlights (SXSW, NXNE, Bluesfest)

-          Tour history- or where you’re headed

-          Short press quotes` (1-2 sentences)

-          list where you’ve been  featured (NPR, CBC, Le Voir)

-          Important people associated with you e.g. producer extraordinaire loves you – as a journalist we want to see what makes you different

-          What your songs and music are about in a very CONCISE manner

-          Influences or how you got into music e.g. “After stumbling Kurt Cobain was given a bootleg tape of The Doughboys he began to rethink melodies…” or “After singer X’s mother died of cancer, her songwriting took an introspective turn and she began to explore new themes of morality and fear in her lyric writing that is heard in the new urgency of singer X’s guitar playing.”

-          Links to all of your social media and websites with links to where we can hear your music

-          Link to a high resolution downloadable photo (do NOT mass email giant files like this as journalists and promoters won’t even open it)

-          Contact information!!

All of this should be contained in no more than 3 paragraphs unless you are The National, but even then, they definitely have a 1 paragraph go-to.

Your biography should be something that promoters can copy and paste to your event listing that tells your future audience exactly who you are, not who you’re trying to be.

What should NOT be included:

-          Cliches!

-          Lies (journalists are VERY good at Googling to find out that you haven’t won an award or played on Conan.)

-          Avoid grand statements, e.g. My band is breaking new ground, their sound is incomparable, well I need to know if you sound like the Stills or The Clash,

YouRockRed is happy to help you write YOUR band biography or edit your current one.  Pricing starts at just $50 for editing services and $150 for full band biographies.  YouRockRed bios have helped clients across North American and Europe- they’ve even been translated into Greek! 

Send us an email today and let’s talk about your kick-ass band bio that’ll break down doors for future gigs.

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