Making It Happen: Squint's Dane Adrian
It’s happened again.
You heard about a band from nowhere that “caught the attention” of some Big Name in the music industry and you just played a gig where you wondered at times whether the people there were even conscious.
Your brow furrows, you scratch your head, you order a double.
You then go home for a nightcap of Conan, where you see yet another successful band that is, to say the least, under par. (Okay, they suck.)
How did this happen? Is everything about who you know? Or the luck of the draw? Or is it true that hard work, dedication, perseverance and sacrifice will inevitably bring you to the top?
“But I’m doing all of that,” you say.
“I HAVE WHAT IT TAKES!” you scream.
How do you define “success?” Record deals? Tours? Buses? Festivals? Opening for big acts? Or (Heaven forbid) money? Or are you just trying to break out of the rut (and a van will do just fine, thank you)? What makes those “successful” bands different from you?
When you’re doing everything you know to do… what gives?
“It’s about longevity,” says Sean King of SPiNRaD. “And geography. Bands that have been around a city for a long time get more people to their shows.”
Tom Petty was once asked in an interview what the Heartbreakers did different than all the other bands in their region. He answered, “We didn’t quit.”
No Doubt is said to have toured California for fifteen years before their breakout album Tragic Kingdom.
So does that mean you’ll be waiting fifteen years before you can give your notice to your boss? As an ongoing project, Deitra Mag will interview bands, venues and industry insiders to find out how you can quit your day job and start “making it.”
This month we enlisted Dane Adrian - lead vocalist of Austin, Texas band, Squint - to let us in on some of the tricks to the trade.
Squint has toured nationally, played with bands like the Toadies and Goo Goo Dolls, had an album produced by Ed Stasium (The Ramones, Soul Assylum and Rev. Horton Heat), been nominated for an American Music Award, charted on college and commercial radio, got sponsored by Jagermister and AKG microphones, had their songs featured on MTV and VH1 as well as other television stations, is endorsed by Atlas microphones, donates to Parkinson disease research through their annual charity festival (http://www.squintfest.com/), earned an ASCAP Plus award, and has an upcoming album produced by Dave Percefull (Bowling for Soup and David Cook).
All as an independent band.
Deitra Mag: I read on your Bio that you opened for the Goo Goo Dolls. How did you get the gig? What’s your advice for bands who want to land these kinds of gigs?
Dane Adrian: The quick answer to that question is persistence. The long answer…We were the biggest band in the region when the Goo Goo Dolls were coming through. We contacted the promoter and he knew that he could move a few more tickets if he put us on the bill. He passed us through their management and we were on the show. It all comes down to money – if you can demonstrate that having you on the bill will make them more money, chances are they are going to bite! We had to start this ball rolling though. We knew they were coming to town and we just kept bugging them until they listened to what we had to say, but more importantly, when we said what we had to say – it convinced them that we were correct.
DM: How did you get to open for the Toadies?
DA: The answer to this is pretty much the same, but with a slight difference. We contacted the club for this one. We asked if we could play with the Toadies when they came to town. This is a great way to book shows. Look at the calendar for bands you would like to play with and then contact the club and ask specifically about performing on that show. Bands do this with us all the time. They manage to land opening slots simply by taking the legwork of finding suitable bands to perform with us away from the booker. If they are looking for a band that fits to fill out a show, call and say you want that slot and explain to them all the promoting you are going to do for the show. They are probably going to put you on that show.
DM: How did your band make it?
DA: I don’t know what breaks up a band, we’ve never broken up. I’m in the only band I have ever been in. So, I cannot speak to that. I can just tell you what works for us: Friendship. We’ve had a few band member changes over the years. When someone came in to audition, we judged them more on how well we got along than how well of a player they were! This may not have been the best move musically for us, but if they don’t stick around long enough to make any impact career-wise – then did you really help yourself musically by taking the less-cool, more talented guy over the super-cool, pretty damn good guy? Don’t get me wrong, they have to be competent at their craft; but if you are going to travel all over the country with someone and spend every waking and sleeping moment with them – you better REALLY like that person!
DM: How did you go about your cross country tour? How did you get into those venues?
DA: College radio support. We toured to towns where we were already getting airplay and charting. Having something going on in a town at radio makes getting shows booked there much easier. Having a solid press kit (electronic or physical) helps a lot, having a good video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Fy0-xPMdlQ) is huge for booking – but far from necessary. There are clubs out there that need live music 7 days a week. If you are persistent and polite and good at what you do – they will book you. You just have to do the research and not just shot-gun a bunch of press kits out there. Go where your music belongs.
DA: We used a college radio promoter. There are tons of them out there. They cost money. You could probably do it yourself, but who has the time to find all the numbers and all the current program directors' names? They are always changing at college radio, people graduate and move on. It’s easier to hire someone who has an existing relationship with the PD already. If you are good, they will play you.
DM: How did you get the attention of a producer?
DA: We sought out our producers. We found someone we felt could capture our sound well, and we contacted that person. We don’t sit around waiting for people to find us – we go and find them. If a producer likes what they hear and can hear potential – they are going to want to work with you.
DM: How did you get the attention of your sponsors?
DA: This is a question I get asked a lot. It’s really simple really – you have to give them a reason to want to work with you. Everybody wants a guitar sponsorship, string sponsorship, drums… whatever. So they get asked to sponsor bands all the time. They are businesses though – the only thing that matters to them is the bottom line. You need to give them a solid business reason to work with you. How are you going to sell more of their product by endorsing your band? National TV exposure? Magazine articles? Videos featuring their product? You have to pitch them something they cannot say “no” to. Don’t go for the big ones either – because they probably have their hands tied up with artists like Sting and Slash – go for the up and coming companies. They are more likely to be interested in what you have going on than the big ones. Or even go local! Get a beer distributor sponsorship or find the upcoming local vodka and get them to make co-branded posters or something. It’s all about building relationships.
DM: How did you get your songs featured on television?
DA: We have contracts with companies that shop songs to TV programs and movies. It’s their job. It’s a matter of relationships. They know the people who are looking for music. When something comes down the pipeline that we fit into, they pitch our song. If they like it – our shoppers negotiate out a license for them to use it. There are thousands of companies out there that do this. You will have to hunt though and look at their track record. Who have they worked with in the past? Look at the quality of their other artists… do you want to be associated with these artists?
DM: Aside from marketing on facebook and ReverbNation, what kinds of other things did you do to generate fans and industry interest?
DA: We really work our email list – it’s out at every show. We ask people to sign up from stage, in exchange we give them a little free gift for their address. Might just be a sticker or something random from Jagermeister (one of our sponsors). We try to make sure to send a personable update via email with all our tour dates and most recent developments about once per month. You don’t want to pester people too often or they will leave your list. Plus, if they aren’t interesting reads – they will leave your list. As far as industry interest goes – we network like bandits. LinkedIn is a valuable tool. So is Plaxo. We try to attend industry functions whenever we can. SXSW, CMJ, D-fest, whatever – they are out there. Talk to the panelist, swap business cards – actually follow up with them! It may be years before a relationship pans out, stick with them. People change jobs in this business quicker than most people change hair styles. One of my best contacts I met while she was an intern at a tiny publishing company in Nashville, she was running to get ice for an event and coffee (of course) – I went with her just for fun. Now she is president of A&R at a HUGE label. You never know. Be nice to EVERYBODY. Make friends with your fans, they will keep coming to your shows and buy your stuff. People like to feel important – and your fans are the MOST important part of being in a band. Let them know that they are important to you. That is the biggest thing you can do. DM
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