Are you a musician? Is your group having issues? Ask Fan Landers! Critic Jessica Hopper has played in and managed bands, toured internationally, booked shows, produced records, worked as a publicist and is the author of The Girls' Guide to Rocking, a how-to for teen ladies. She is here to help you stop doing it wrong. Send your problems to her -- confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame.
For this week's column, I followed up with some of the advice seekers from the last six months, to see what worked out for them -- or, rather, what didn't.
Marc, who was feeling surly about his band having to use social media to promote its work says that since he wrote in, his perspective has shifted: "Why not use it? Who really cares in the end? We are now on Facebook, Twitter and Soundcloud." Another moment of clarity came when his band was recording a new record with Bill Skibbe at his Key Club studios in Benton Harbor, Michigan. "[Bill] made a comment about lost hit tracks recorded at Key Club, and it led me to believe we owe it to him to promote this recording -- so we hired a publicist. The publicist has done a great job of getting the word out with the album. We use the social media to reiterate her work and focus on making the music we want the way we always have and will." Tony, who wrote in about the "bitch" in his band reports a lineup change after taking my advice: "I talked to our lead singer about being a bitch. She resolved to change her approach. Things were smooth for a week, then went south once again. It seemed to all start with the drummer though. He would constantly push us, stating he didn't like the way the drums were recorded and he was going to 'play it his way' because he 'was the drummer.' Our new album has caught the attention of some music-industry professionals, and things are starting to take off, and we decided sharing a bus with a Negative Nancy for six weeks would most likely tear us apart. So, we broke up with our drummer and the first audition with a new drummer was beautiful! He spews positivity as he plays the drums. The bass player is a totally different person now, and everyone's performance has improved because of the minty-fresh ball of happiness behind the drum kit!" Here's to posi-vibes in 2013!
Daniel Taylor from Surrogate, the band struggling with straddling the Christian and secular indie scenes, reports that it took some of the suggestions to heart but not others: "You were right: We're not an indie-blog band, but not on account of any sort of stigmatic taint from our former label association. Indie-blog hip is just not 'us.'" What about my advice about gunning for the mainstream? "But, the sort of old-fashioned ground and pound operation of touring, hiring a PR person and trying to finagle your way onto bigger bills didn't really sound like 'us' either. In April we released our fourth record, which we recorded, pressed and promoted ourselves. And the people who like it seem to really like it. Getting a realistic look at what it would take to break through to the broader music world made our current existence as the perennial underdog seem a lot more welcoming. So thank you, Fan, for helping us realize that sometimes the only thing you need to change is your perspective." Aw, shucks, guys -- you know just what to say to make me feel like your totally corny grandpa!
Our friendly readers in the black-metal band with the blood sacrifice issue clarified that their sacrifice did, in fact, involve the blood of a living thing and not their own blood, and that they appreciated the options, including the consulting Shaman's idea about the bonfire.
"Dieter," the dad who was ruthlessly mocked by Hairpin readers for filling his toddler's room with his musical equipment from his stagnant music career reports the good news: "My fans over at the Hairpin will be pleased to learn that my wife and I are expecting another baby in the fall, and we have decided to move to a bigger home. Preferably one with a basement or den that can be fashioned into a home studio. I pared down my studio to essentials, selling unnecessary items on eBay and loaning out pieces I cannot part with to friends. Consolidating my gear-sprawl has actually changed how I work significantly and refreshed my creative outlook."
Brandon, from the "inept band" of this letter writes that the band is in exactly the same place with the ineptness, but it is refocusing its efforts: "We decided to rethink everything and teamed up with some friends to form a new label. The biggest shift has been in expectations. I used to expect that talent and hard work would equal fame and fortune. Now the only thing I expect is the opportunity to do something I love, and hope that the end result might mean something to someone else along the way. It's not easy, but I tried giving up, and I can't. I'll keep on doing this, even if no one ever listens." Does this not warm your heart, readers?!
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