What’s the best summer gig??

Working at festivals!  Last weekend was the first non-festival weekend since May. We’ve done CMW, NXNE, Field Trip, Bestival, and Pride. This week marks the beginning of RBC Bluesfest in my hometown of Ottawa, Ontario, a summer time tradition!

I’ll be repping CityFolk at the Folk Wagon wrapped with all the band names for the duration of the festival with a great team of volunteers so please come say hi!

Also you can follow my festival antics @urockred on Instagram.


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!

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 Ways to Write the Perfect Music Festival Application

Applying for festivals as an unsigned band is a lot like applying for the perfect job- you gotta tailor your resume, make sure it’s up to date, and basically tell the recruiter, they’d be crazy to hire anyone else!  While it’s too late to apply for SXSW, NXNE applications are open until January 31.

How to be successful:

-          Give yourself time to write it!  Promoters can tell when it’s rushed

-          Don’t just copy and paste your band bio from your last album

-          Recent band photos (if someone is no longer in the band, get new ones ASAP)

Include your most recent press

-          Be it pull-quotes or entire articles, make sure you can list all the outlets that have covered your band and good things they’ve said about you

Avoid clichés

-          No brooding band photos (looking down with hair covering your face is so ’03)- make sure the photo reflects YOUR band’s originality

-          Avoid extreme metaphors, “We’re the best band since Pink Floyd!” Calling yourself the best without press quotes or figures to back it is just a waste of time and good promoters/industry can see right through it by looking at your most recent tour dates

-          Be genuine but concise

Talk shop

-          Talk about how this festival or showcase appearance fits into your plan for 2014.  This could mean you’re already working with X booking agent or promoter for a 5+ tour date in promotion of X album/video/charitable cause.  There’s got to be some momentum behind you!  If you’re just applying to sound cool and list that showcase on your “resume,” it’s not got the same appeal.  Just like a resume show the steps you’re taking for your career growth.

Up your social media presence game

-          Keep your website up to date (I’m looking at all you bands that think that FB alone is good enough)

-          Don’t just tweet about yourselves- talk to your fans

-          Post photos of your rehearsals for consistent web content creation

-          Make a quick Vine or Instagram video of a sneak peek song and ask their POV

Choose your strongest songs

-          This could be the single that was on the radio last year or demo but instinctively from live shows you should know what is the strongest (the one that is most purchased on Itunes/Bandcamp is also a great indicator

-          If you’re writing a new album and have some demo’s you’re really happy with, include them but make notes on how they fit into the bigger structure

If you have a ton of friends and followers, include that number in the application

If it’s impressive, include the highest viewed Youtube link and/or number

All of this advice could be easily transferable to grant writing for your own band.  Now what are you waiting for?

Top 10 Albums and Concerts of 2013 – Year End Roundup!


Our top 10 Albums of 2013 a.k.a. albums that were played non-stop over ones that just sound cool to list (we’re lookin’ at you Pitchfork!):

  1. The National – Trouble will Find Me
  2. Savages- Silence Yourself
  3. Tegan and Sara – Hearthrob
  4. Daughter – If You Leave
  5. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
  6. Drake- Nothing was the Same
  7. M.I.A. – Matangi
  8. Shad – Flying Colours
  9. A Tribe Called Red- Nation to Nation
  10. Colin Stetson- New History Warfare Vol. 3

Best Concerts of 2013 – Lucky 13 

    1. Broken Social Scene Reunion – Field Trip Fest, Toronto
    2. Gaslight Anthem followed by 3 hours of the genius that is Robert Smith and The Cure, Osheaga Montreal
    3. David Byrne & St. Vincent – Ottawa Jazz Festival
    4. Charles Bradley and the Extraordinaires – he hugged me- Ritual, Ottawa
    5. Colin Stetson – The Rialto, Montreal
    6. Patrick Watson and Braids- Q, Montreal
    7. Alt J w/ Lord Huron– Echo Beach, Toronto
    8. Ottawa Rock Lottery, Mavericks, Ottawa
    9. New Order, Osheaga, Montreal
    10. Stars, Ottawa Bluesfest
    11. Tegan and Sara, Ottawa Bluesfest
    12. Shad – Ritual, Ottawa
    13. Trust w/ Diana – Lee’s Palace, Toronto

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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