You’re in a band. You’ve been bequeathed some cash from a member’s dad and another friend of the group. The money adds up to, oh, let’s say $15,000. They say, “Make an album, son.”
But should you?
I’ve Got Some Money In My Pocket…
What’s the point of an album these days? Is anyone, other than Kendrick Lamar or some deep-genre band that has a strong core of fans, putting out a concept album? Is somebody writing another Tommy or Quadrophenia? Is somebody writing The Wall or Pet Sounds? Probably not. Let’s face it. Most bands, probably yours, are writing individual songs that have no connection to any other songs that would appear on your “album.”
$15,000 is a lot of money for a band. What are some other options for that money?
- A secure trailer, and a hitch, for the van so you guys can have more room to spread out for your…
- Tour! How nice would it be to sleep in a bed instead of a 4-wheeled vehicle? 4 to a room with two queen or double beds and a working shower can keep the band from breaking up due to body odor, bad breath, and raw nerves due to lack of sleep (this is not unrealistic or petty – your body needs sleep, it needs rest; just because you’re 22 and “on the road” doesn’t mean your throat doesn’t get scratchy from a poor diet and lack of sleep, which affects the show and the group and your career).
- Merch – Now you can get creative with your merch and design/manufacture something your fans might use. Sure, CDs (your album) can be considered merch, but you’re also selling stickers and shirts and that On The Road With… picture book taken from your Instagram feed.
Now, I understand that you need something to show venue owners. You need something for people to stream so that the streaming numbers can go up and that venue owner can see that there’s something going on with you guys. But do you really need to spend that much to impress a venue owner? Do you really need to go back and record 12 new songs, only 3 of which are your best?
What if you took your last 4- or 5-song EP and combined that with another 4 or 5 songs. Now you have your album. And you don’t have to spend the money and the time and the energy recording 12 substandard songs with you can record your best 4 and combine them with something that, while it’s been out for a while, nobody knows about. Remember this from a while back?
Look at the circles. The little circle in the middle? That’s you (and we’re being generous here). Your EP is somewhere in that little circle. The area around your little circle that makes up the big circle? That’s the rest of the world. Let me translate:
Nobody knows your exist. Nobody knows your music exists.
You’re living in a band bubble in which everything is blown up. You think, ‘Man, that EP is old. It’s been out for like a year.’ It’s old to you. And maybe your core fans. Let’s say that’s 50 people. We can raise that to 500. Fine. But let’s stay realistic. Most people who see you live did so by accident. They went to see the other band. They may have liked you and thought you were great. But there’s a long distance between when your band is done performing, the other bands perform, that fan goes home, showers, sleeps, wakes up the next morning, drinks a cup of coffee, and remembers there was a really good band they saw last night. What was their name?
That’s what happens.
Which means that new album of 12 songs that’s TuneCore generously placed on Spotify for you sits with that < 1000.
Which means you need to play more shows to remind more people of what your name is so they can stream your stuff.
Which means you need the trailer and the beds and the energy to put on your amazing show.
Which means you need that money more for the road and for merch and for gas than for your 12-song album that isn’t generating any buzz or income.
You’ve got some money in your pocket. What do you think the band should do with it?
Written while streaming “Tonight Tonight Tonight” by Genesis in my head. (The title of this post comes from that song. Check it out.)
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Professor David Philp is Assistant Professor Music Management & Popular Music Studies at William Paterson University. He is the co-host of the only FREE advice college radio-based music & entertainment industry talk show in America, Music Biz 101 & More, which airs live most Wednesday nights and is available as a podcast HERE every night (days too). Your favorite professor is also co-author (with Dr. Steve Marcone) of Managing Your Band – 6th Edition. Reach him at PhilpD@wpunj.edu or find him on LinkedIn HERE.