music industry advice

Speaking in Sudbury: NOMFA Conference & Showcase Festival May 25-28

I’m flying out tonight to Sudbury, Ontario, to speak on two panels at the Northern Ontario Music and Film Awards from May 25-28. (I’ve never been to the big nickle!)

  1. May 26- 10:30 a.m. What’s the Deal: Contracts & Negotiations w/ Edwards Law
  2. May 27 – 10:30 a.m. Funding – with OMDC, OMF, Music Ontario, Factor and me! 

Musicians and entrepreneurs will also have the opportunity to sit down with all of the delegates, myself included, during some Speed Meetings on Friday beginning at 1:30 p.m.

I’m really looking forward to meeting with Northern Ontario musicians, delegates and re-connecting with friends over the next few days.

Plus, all Factor apps are in now, so time to celebrate!!

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 Thanks! Ottawa Musicians PACK first info session

Thank you so much to the 70 people who packed Bluesfest School of Music and Art’s new venue in Westboro last Thursday night for the first ever BSOMA presents. It was a fully-sold out house and it wouldn’t have been possible without the amazing organizing support and creative team from Bluesfest. It was a total pleasure being able to collaborate and make this whole thing happen and a little birdie has now said that the next one will be February 2015!

bsoma me talking

From l-r: Chris Wilson and Dan Hay from Amos the Transparent, Caroline Matt of City of Ottawa, Megan Jones of Factor and me!

Big thank you to Megan Jones from Factor for making the trip from Toronto to talk to the audience.  By the way, what a diverse audience- wow! All ages, ethnicities, and GENRES.  Metalheads to folk rockers to pop singers. I feel absolutely honoured that people held on to the panelists’ words like they did.

Seriously, it’s almost a week from the fact and I’m still gushing.  It was amazing to talk to all the artists afterwards eager to set up their special BSOMA-sponsored appointments with me as YouRockRed.  People had such positive comments including “That was the best $10 I’ve ever spent,” to just telling me how inspired they feel and how they can’t wait to meet with their band that week to talk about how to get THEIR group to the next level with all this new information.  This was a first of sorts for Ottawa.  The reason I pitched the info session series concept was because I go to sessions like these all the time at music conferences like NXNE and CMW and wanted people NOT in the music industry or music-specific training programs to be able to take advantage of education/networking opportunities.  I think the mission was accomplished.

bsoma mark

Mark Monahan thanking everyone for coming out and telling the audience how these sorts of sessions are exactly what BSOMA intended to do when founded. (I’m trying to hide how much I’m smiling at those kind words but the smirk is breaking through!)

Again, big thank you to Mark Monahan, Caroline Matt of City of Ottawa and my pals in Amos the Transparent.  Beaus- your beer was much appreciated by everyone afterwards in the swanky BSOMA lounge.

I’m meeting with BSOMA this week and can’t wait to read all of your feedback.  There’s a lot of subjects that can be future conferences- I’ve got about 25 already brainstormed with min. 3 people for each.  Stay tuned here and thank you again!

All these photos are from Ming Wu and Jackpine.  Thanks for the great shots!


Look at that crowd!

Look at that crowd!

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.


How to Not be a Dick at Showcases

  1. Show up on time.  If you are playing another show the same day the promoter should be made aware well in advance.  Don’t expect there to be a clear path for your load in if a band is already playing since you are late. Wait between sets or ask about an alternative load-in entrance.
  2. Don’t expect special treatment. To quote Sophia Amuruso, “You are not a special snowflake”.  Chances are there are hundreds of bands playing from all over the world. Urgent things like trying to sort out their visas, electrical adapters, or lost gear may take priority for the promoter.  You’re all good enough to get offered a spot on this showcase.  Rock it.
  3. Reply to emails in advance but more importantly READ all of them and make sure to communicate that info to the rest of your band. E.g. Set-time, load-in time. Don’t assume everyone knows what’s up unless you have management, in which case, that’s their role to communicate with you the important, non-mundane details.
  4. Don’t expect finding parking to be easy.  Ask about it instead of pissing off promoters.  Sports games (hello, world cup), summer street festivals can all come into play.
  5. Don’t play a 15 minute sound check if there is a no-sound check policy, or 4 other bands that want to do so an hour before doors open.
  6. Don’t ask for more than your allotted guestlist limit, if there is one. If there’s an important media person or photographer you’re expecting to show, the showcase folks probably already have been in touch.
  7. Don’t take over another band’s merch space unless asking. Same goes for touching other bands’ gear.
  8. Don’t say shitty things about the venue space.  There could be special event staff there to help that are not as familiar with the space.  Be patient, not condescending.
  9. Don’t criticize the festival or promoters that have booked you. Their reps are urrrywurrr with social media in their pocket.
  10. Don’t be rude.  Don’t let your band members be rude. Don’t let your management be rude. Don’t let anyone associated with you be a dick. This is a simple one, but damn, there’s horror stories I could tell you.  It reflects badly on the whole team.
  11. Don’t expect free drinks and for that matter, don’t drink too much if you are offered stuff on the house.
  12. Be prepared to play at your exact set-time. Don’t show up late. Don’t play an encore if that’s not allowed.
  13. Don’t try to change your place on the line-up to accommodate late friends.
  14. Set your expectations of being “discovered” aside and just play a damn good show for everyone there, be it 5 people or 5,000.
  15. Say thank you and mean it.

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!



10 Ways a Working in Music is not what you may expect

So it’s been 9 hours now that I’ve been sitting at my desk.  Just like you I had to get up, make my breakfast, get dressed and down a few cups of caffeine to be pleasant for anyone around me.  Yeah there were some “Monster” speakers blasting in my office, but that’s all good day’s work.

Be your job as a promoter, journalist, tour manager, or musician here’s some myths I can quickly dispell:

1. Rock and Roll all night and party everyday. If you’re hung over every day you won’t be able to get anything done.  Your health will suffer.  You won’t be organized and quite frankly for any career longevity, you have to look after your body and mind first… by a healthy dose of music in your earbuds at your desk.


2.  You go out to shows all the time.  Yeah, it comes with part of the territory but you also skip out on them often because you have music deadlines or you’d rather relax at home with Netflix even though you’re on the guestlist.


3.  Musicians are super sexy.  Yes, they can be but going 3 days without showering and sweating up a storm on stage does not one hygienic-artist make.  They can be just as awkward as the rest of us; they just have a stage and guitar to hide behind.


4.  Interviewing rock stars for major publications is super cool.  What’s not cool is getting up for a 6:30 a.m. interview with them while they’re on tour in Australia before they board a flight leaving you only 2 hours to file your story with your editor.  It’s stressful and at that point feels can be a bit of a drag.


5.  You get to hang out with super cool artists.  Yes, but they are your co-workers.  You treat them with respect and encouragement the same way that you would if the divey bar you’re meeting in was a board room.  They can annoy you just as much as Bill in accounting. (Also, if you’re behind the scenes, you spend most of your time solo on your laptop emailing them.)


6.  You need to go to school for this.  While I never attended any artist management training program, so much of what I’ve learned has been from real-world experiences over the last 11 years.  Aside from the audio engineers, the people I know that are the most successful have unrelated degrees. Their training instead came through internships, volunteering, artist conferences and just generally making themselves available to any music industry avenue.  Resilience and DIY spirit are probably the best qualities someone pursuing a career in music can possess.


7.  You get paid.  There are dodgy people out there that will always try to take advantage of those in the arts. People don’t read the fine print.  The best way to make sure everything runs smoothly is to make sure you’re involved when it comes to finances and legal stuff. Unless you’re a CEO, you’re working in music because you love it, not because you think you’re going to get rich off it.


8.  You can plan for anything.  There really are few guarantees you can bank on as an emerging artist, promoter or even journalist.  Shows get cancelled last minute, a flash freeze causes pipes to explode at the venue you’ve booked meaning you need to refund all the ticket sales, or a scheduled interview with a band gets dropped because the band breaks up the night before.  Shit happens.


9.  People in music get laid all the time.  Puh-leeze.  Why do you think Morrissey and Rivers Cuomo have careers?


10.  It’s always glamorous. Being at award shows and amazing concerts is awesome but truthfully everything that leads to those experiences you and your friends road trip for can be super stressful.  Festivals, tours, and album launches take endless months of planning to pull off successfully.  The reality is that you don’t see the people close to tears in their cubicles because a tour contract hasn’t come in on time or a cheque for a music video got lost in the mail.


… but why do we do it all then?  Because above all we love music and couldn’t imagine a life any different!

Knowing what is funding is available to you as an artist

I met with a new client yesterday to talk about potential grant opportunities and got to thinking that this would be a great blog post.  As an artist, you want to focus on your music, not the business side, but if you do not treat it as a business you will only limit your opportunities, and if you know where to look, there’s plenty of them that will no doubt inspire your music.

With the new Ontario Music Fund announcement of $45 million dollars available to those in the music industry (not artists but those who support their work) I’ve been combing over the fine detailed print.  But for everyone not in industry here’s a bit of insight into what is available to you as an artist through government granting system.

Artists take note- grants are not just there to help fund your album recording

-          Apartments overseas from Paris to Germany for months at a time for song writing development

-          Informal recordings to try out new songs/styles

-          Showcase costs (e.g. getting to Great Escape Festival, SXSW)

-          Specific tour merchandise (yellow vinyl, branded toothbrushes!?)

-          Hiring your team of publicists, booking agents

-          Performing on trains across North America

-          Album art and manufacturing

-          Training with mentors

-          Viral video

-          Media development

-          Website and apps

-          Songwriting workshops, professional training opportunities

-          Music commissioning for public exhibitions (want to try your hand at a rock opera or scoring a silent film?)

There’s also the standard

-          Touring

-          Marketing

-          Music video

-          Electronic press kits

-          Travel opportunities

Want to find out where to apply?  Drop me a line at and we can talk about how you can find the right grant for you.

This is an artist I first booked over 10 years ago in rural Quebec that I was able to catch a few weeks back when he returned from his world tour.  Rob Moir just released this music video for his newest single “Cold” today and it’s perfect for the Eastern Canadian winter that’s headed our way…

How to Send out Songs- Just Do It

*this post is best applied for people you’ve met IN PERSON, not mass cold-call emails


When it comes to putting art into the world artists are their own worst critics.  You want to make that song perfect to send to the area promoter or radio DJ to flip out over even though they’ve already expressed interest in your band.  You pour yourself into it and write and re-write it until it’s perfect then once you finally record it at home from your bedroom you’re dissatisfied and scrap it altogether to be hidden on your computer for another year until you’ve amassed 20 of the same version.  Don’t.  Good promoters, radio DJs and managers are busy people.  If they weren’t interested in your live music, they wouldn’t have said to contact them.

Your bandmates and you already know the best 1 or 2 songs from live show reactions You have to trust your instincts to lead you.  In your email to them you can mention this is demo-form until you find a producer for your full professionally recorded album when you shop it around.  Remind them of where you met.  Obviously it’s nice to have a polished website but you don’t have to have a perfect band bio in the interim, just a solid contact page with a few basic bio details like where you’re from, influences, who you’ve played with, etc. 

I just interviewed a young band that signed a multi-album major record label based on a 2-song digital-only EP that found its way to a popular audio blog.  He wasn’t ready, but that wasn’t a bad thing.  He believed in those 2 songs but just as I learned from Chris Guillebeau, there’s never a more perfect time than now.  He found an audience of supporters.  You can too if you act now.

The worst that can happen is they can say no.  Even if they do say no, it could open another window of opportunity with the promoter or blogger or whatever saying, “Hey this isn’t for us right now, but I really think my friend X would be interested.” When you email that person, you’ve now started a dialogue based on a colleague of theirs they respect.  They’re going to at least click to listen to your music now.  (If you’re concerned about your music leaking, there’s plenty of ways to make private streaming and downloads possible.) Follow up with them a week after.

Making solid music for yourself over those you’re trying to impress (promoters, labels, etc.) is the first step towards reaching those important contacts.  When you believe in the sound, others will follow.  You can amass a strong and experienced team behind you to bring the best sound forward by doing this but before that happens it means you can’t just sit around in your underwear writing songs 24/7 waiting for someone to buy your song for a Gap commercial.  You have to take the risk of asking, emailing, and just doing it.  It takes some practice, but eventually becomes second nature until you have a publicity or booking agent doing all of this for you.

Obviously there’s a bunch of “don’ts” when it comes to sending out music (just ask!) but the most important thing to take away from this is that if someone with power of influence asks you to send some music, do not sit on it.   And hey! If you want an industry professional to go over the song and email BEFORE you send it off for our professional feedback asap, don’t hesitate to send us an email.