making it happen: assembly line gods
by Tamara Styer
It takes more than great music to draw a crowd. It’s the entire environment you are offering to people that will draw them. People having a good time, drinking, listening to music, making friends… It all adds up to the memorable experiences that make lasting fans. And lots of them. Deitra Mag sits down with David Samples, Bronson Cox and Carson Underwood of Assembly Lines Gods, who are about to start their tour with Austin, Texas band Squint. Find out how to bump your crowd from five to 500 and beyond.
DM: What are common mistakes bands make when trying to break into larger venues like festivals?
Bronson - Not being friendly or professional. If you aren’t prepared or flexible, it’s probably going to bite you in the ass. Not dealing well with the first couple rejections. Failure to turn a negative experience into an opportunity or by burning bridges.
Carson - One mistake that a lot of local bands make is over-saturating the market they’re in. No one is going to want to the see the same band play every weekend. Make each show you a play an event that people want to come to.
David - You are trying to grow your art and your performance. I’m working on that building process as we speak and always will be. I think balancing humility and pride is important for an artist that is seriously trying to contribute to the community.
DM: I saw that you opened for Sevendust. How did you get the gig? What’s your advice for bands who want to land these kinds of gigs?
Bronson - Networking and luck (but the saying goes, the harder we worked, the luckier we got). It comes back to being friendly and professional and creating a paper trail of hard work that lands you on people’s radars.
Carson - Networking. Getting know people. A little bit of luck even. Every person you talk to could potentially open bigger doors for you.
David - Be active in your local and regional scene. Get to know people in your musical community. Appreciate them and learn from them. Never assume you know everything. The people that make up your community are already "the right people." Avoid the people that have to make excuses for the success of others and have a consistently snobbish attitude toward the performances of others. In my experience, the real decision makers in your art community often exhibit positive, open attitudes.
DM: What did you do different than all the other bands from your region who aren't seeing the same results you are?
Bronson - I don’t know that we’re doing things vastly different than other bands in the area, we are still learning things about marketing and stage presence from other bands and adding it to the repertoire. We try to be as visible and approachable as we can at all times, having gatherings, being at other bands' shows, analog promotions.
Carson - We haven’t really done anything particularly special. Constant hard work, marketing, making a presence for the band, building up hype, etc.
David - I think results are a simple science of hard work and honestly loving your work... And then also factoring in the fact that a "result" could be a lot of different things. You may play a gig and not get much money from that gig, and that’s frustrating when your art lives on the road and you are trying to keep it alive. If you can convert a genuine fan of what you do, then you didn’t need the money that night anyway.
DM: Facebook and ReverbNation are invaluable tools for musicians. But what kinds of other things did you do to generate fans and venue interest?
Bronson - This sort of ties in again with the previous answer, analog promotions. Digital networking is great as long as you don’t just add another ‘number’ to your stats, building relationships is what keeps people listening to your stories. Taking initiative, no flyer for the show? Make one. Show up at the venue and hang out to talk to people. Out of town/state show? Send them flyers and promotional materials or if you can head up and mingle, make friends with radio stations and the newsweeklies/papers, etc.
Carson - Passing out flyers for shows, business cards, and even free CDs. Attending other shows and supporting the scene. Hanging out with the fans before and after shows.
David - Love what you do and show that to people. Be humble enough to be friendly and always be proud of your work.
DM: How do you get such large crowds at your shows? And keep them applauding?
Bronson - Spacing out shows in a region has helped us tremendously, but it felt like we had to saturate the area first just to get the name out. So we were playing all the time anywhere we could. It sucks having to turn down shows, but from a business standpoint it makes visible sense. Crowd interaction during and before/after shows is a key to making friends and relationships with people. Getting them in contact with your music helps them to know what it’s about so when they come to the next show, they are singing along with whatever song(s) speak to them the most.
Carson - Spacing shows out is the best way to increase your show attendance once you have some following. You're not going to be able to get good crowds if you play the same bar every week. People will just assume you will be there next week and won't have any incentive to come to one particular show. Interacting with the crowd helps keep them entertained, crowds love feeling like they are a part of the show. If the guitar player has to tune or change guitars make sure there is still something going on, dead air is a sure way to kill the mood at a rock concert.
David - Those instances occur when you focus on becoming the music you're performing and loving the sound you're creating. It doesn’t matter what you say to your audience as long as it is genuine. People sense that. That’s what people are after. People go out to a venue to escape. That's a big part of what music is and you must show people that they may escape in your music with you.
DM: One of the biggest questions bands have is how do they get into better venues, and how do they draw great crowds?
Bronson - Probably a combination of all the above. Even still, it’s hit or miss. Sometimes you have a great crowd, sometimes it’s a handful. But five people deserve the same show as 500 people, no matter how hard it is to keep up that energy. Those five people will tell their friends and next time it will be 25 and so on. When the bigger venues know you can get people in the door and drinking, you are a more likely target for booking.
Carson - Bigger venues will ask you to play when they see you bringing in more people. More people = more money and the venue wants to make money. Obviously playing shows will help increase a band's draw. Promoting constantly for a show before it happens will raise awareness. Don’t be afraid to hand out a couple thousand flyers for a show. Hang up flyers at music and head shops, etc.
David - You have to be honest with yourself as well as practical. What sort of stage do you think you deserve? What sort of stage can you be comfortable on? In order to draw, a great band should be able to light up any venue and catch the minds of anyone in that venue at least for a moment... Its also nice to have a good soundman.
DM: The goal is music, but you guys do much more to bring your crowd.
Carson - Part of us going out and talking to the crowd, interacting and being personable is part of the music. Because a lot of the music has to do with not liking the way things are currently. Whether it be anything that’s going on in the world. We’re trying to do things differently, and going out and talking to the crowd is part of that too. It all ties into being in the long run, trying to make something that people are going to remember, whether it’s a song, a live performance, or whether it’s the way that we talked to them at a show… If you see an Assembly Line Gods show, you’re going to remember an Assembly Line Gods show. Any aspect of it, whether you’re a musician and you can appreciate some of the more technical stuff, whether you just want to sing along and there are some good hooks that you can sing back to us while we’re playing, or whether it’s the fact that after we’re done playing, we’re not going to go sit in our van and wait until everybody’s gone. We’re going to be out in the crowd watching the other bands that are playing, or hanging out, partying and drinking with us. All of it comes together. But it all comes back to the music because it’s great to make music you love. We write music that we think is good, and appeals to more mass market, but still keeping “us”.
DM: Without selling out?
Carson - I wouldn’t say “selling out.” Selling out is not in my vocabulary.
David - It’s a new era for art. The sentiments - selling out or not selling out, the plus or minus - is a sentiment. And it’s an old sentiment. And it’s something that people worried about when they wanted to get up there and say, “this is my art and this is what I have to say and fuck everybody else.” And that used to be a popular attitude. Well, I’m sorry, but the world has been indie for about ten years now. That attitude doesn’t work anymore. It’s about the community now.
Bronson - It’s a numbers game. It’s a percentage. If you throw your name out to a hundred people, maybe three of those people you're going to hit and connect with. People in general, not even at a show. Walking out and going across the street. Talk to somebody. Hand them a card. Put cards in the bathroom. You put out a hundred cards, you send out a hundred cds to a venue that you’re getting ready to go play at, the three people you get in return, that’s three people and their friends. That’s maybe ten people that are gonna show up to your show for the first time, never even heard of you, never seen you before ever. As long as you nurture that relationship and friendship with those people, next time it’s gonna be 25 people. And so on and so forth.
Carson - It comes down to marketing too. Street Teams. But when we played in September, we had a thousand quarter-sheet flyers printed off. We passed out a thousand of those, as well as all the flyers up, there was almost 300 people at the show. It’s about getting the name out as much as you can. Anybody that can know about it can know about it. And if you’re passing out flyers, make sure your Street Team members know: don’t just hand some random person a flyer. Say, "Hey this is a cool band playing, come check this out. Do you like to come out and drink and listen to music? Come check these guys out."
Bronson - Get out of your comfort zone to meet new friends.
DM: There are bands who do all these things, but how do you get people to actually go?
David - Yeah, it almost seems like an impossible task, it’s a matter of getting the interest of people that have never heard of you and on top of that, they’re already preoccupied by a thousand other things in their world, so are you helping these people? Or are you just trying to steal their fucking attention? What are you really providing them? I think that’s what makes a difference.
Bronson - People are enjoying the music. People are enjoying the people. People are enjoying the show. People are enjoying the experience. People are people. Let’s put it in a different perspective. You came to a show, there were around 250 people there. Population of Springfield is 90,000. And we’ve been banging at this market now for two years.
DM: So living in Springfield is a big deal?
Bronson - Living here is a big deal. Absolutely. If you can’t draw in your own hometown, you shouldn’t expect to be able to draw anywhere else.
David - It's a starting area.
Bronson - You build a musician's community.
DM: What would you say about other genres than rock? Does genre play a role in a musician community? Does genre matter?
Bronson - It shouldn’t. Music is music.
David - It’s about love. It’s a really simple thing, and I think that we lose sight of how simple it actually is. It’s a matter of loving what you do and sharing that.
The Assembly Line Gods tour will kick off on April 7 in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Check out the rest of their tour dates at http://www.reverbnation.com/artist/artist_shows/439419.
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Copyright 2011 all rights reserved
Copyright 2011 all rights reserved
All photos by Severed Shadows Photography
Copyright 2011 all rights reserved
Copyright 2011 all rights reserved