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So you wanna be in a rock band?: Ready to record

Rose Cora Perry | Interrobang | Lifestyles | March 5th, 2007

With the surge of indie artists, and the decline in label wealth due to illegal downloading, the competition for getting signed has reached an all-time plateau. No longer can record execs wage a band's talent and marketability based upon a mere three to five track demo. Instead, the demand for strong full-length albums (ranging from 10 - 15 tracks on average) and/or E.P.s (extra-play) has been resurrected forcing artists to spend more time polishing their material and defining their sound prior to getting into a studio.

In my humble opinion, this movement is for the better as the one-hit wonder groups of the 80s and 90s continue to leave a bad aftertaste in my mouth. Although the idea of shelling out extra cash is definitely not “music to the ears” of any artist, there are several benefits that go along with releasing a full-length.

For starters, there's the much-hyped CD release party. These are not only a great way to garner press and develop a fan-base, but if planned and executed successfully, a CD release party can generate huge bragging rights. Additionally, label reps generally prefer to attend special events over just any given gig. So, if you, as an act, feel ready to play to the movers and shakers in the industry, you'll be more likely to receive a response from a special event invite as opposed to the generic “hey come see my band play at our local club” type message.

Along the same lines, tours (which can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few years) are generally booked in support of the release of an album. You'll find you will have a significantly higher success rate of clubs willing to book your band when your appearances at their venues are affiliated with a tour. To state it blatantly, it just sounds more professional: like you've got your shit together and you know what you are doing. If you can continue to ride the success of an album's release for two or more years all the power to you. Touring will only help you establish a reputation and a long list of contacts.

On a similar note, just as venues will be more likely to book your act, the press will be more likely to provide you with coverage when in conjunction with an album's release and tour to support it. Again, it comes back to professionalism. The media does not have the time or energy to waste on acts that do not know how to solicit their material properly.

If that didn't convince you investing into a full-length album is an investment in your band's future, perhaps this will: by having full-length discs available at shows for purchase, a band can start to regenerate an income thereby minimizing the time-frame of their debts.

Even with retail and online distribution, my band continues to earn the majority of its funds through selling merchandise directly after our live performances, which is quite a common phenomenon for indie artists. Fans are able to relive their concert experiences by listening to a band's album whereas a demo cannot reproduce the full effect because it's incomplete and therefore, leaves you feeling unsatisfied. Having cads available for purchase at shows is a fantastic way to be able to spread the word about your act (all it takes is one person to buy it and share it with all of their friends), and if you can make a little extra money to keep your act on the road (god knows the venues won't pay well), I say go for it. You never know when your van is going to break down in the middle of nowhere at 3am, and that money is going to come in handy for a tow-truck or hotel room.

In order to survive in this cutthroat industry, one of the most important things a band must do is stay with the times. Though popular in the past (primarily because of their cost effectiveness), demo CDs have become passť. Giving record execs demos when they want full-lengths will get you nowhere fast. Even if your primary motivation is not to get signed right away. I'd still say that going with a full length is a safer bet as you never know who you might meet or what opportunities may come your way. Being prepared for everything (and I mean everything) is what being a musician is all about. On top of the countless benefits that I mentioned, full-length albums also make bands eligible for government grants and awards. Full-lengths act as great sales tools for bands, and above all, they prove that you can rock a record from start to finish, which these days seems to be a rare thing indeed.
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