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Quick Triple Post: Science!

A shotgun blast of science.

Lab results confirm what a smart musician already knows: dressing inappropriately for your genre hurts people's opinions of your music (consciously and subconsciously). Hence why I don't play metal in hot pink spandex.

Ha ha! So the singer isn't the king of the band! Sadly, that still means diddly squat for bassists.

Finally, be kind to your fans. Even insincere flattery works.


Case Study: Doomtree

I love hip hop.

Although I've only recently discovered the genre, the wealth of talent and surprisingly, business savvy, has drawn me in. What struck me most was how many of the artists regularly performed as part of a collective, even the solo acts. Groups like the Wu-Tang Clan  allowed its members to create an unorthodox structure by releasing albums as both a group and as solo artists.

One of the best recent examples of a group embracing the harmony between art and business is the Minnesota collective Doomtree. Formed in the early 2000s by high school friends Cecil Otter, P.O.S., and producer MK Larada, Doomtree began as a loose collective and eventually developed into a group of musicians forming an indie record label.

All of the members of the group work under the Doomtree name and on under the name of their solo projects. Each member of the group contributes something different; Dessa is a spoken word poet, Paper Tiger does graphic design, Lazerbeak produces the artists. It's half a label and half a performing collective.

I love all of the artists on Doomtree. And their do it yourself style of running their group is fascinating and, I like, the direction many indie labels should be headed. (For a more in-depth discussion of the group, check their website. I'm not going to re-type interviews and such.)

Let's take a look at some of the ways that the Doomtree collective benefits every one of its members.

   -Label is run only by artists involved. No contract or conflict of interest issues.
   -The group periodically releases their False Hopes compilations featuring all their artists in between major releases to keep up momentum and build fan interest for all the artists.
   -Shared overhead expenses among artists reduces costs for everyone (website development, merch, recording, etc). Paper Tiger does the graphic design for everyone in the collective.
   -Cross promotion. The Doomtree crew promotes Doomtree. More voices promoting the same group = more and better promotion for everyone. Everyone benefits from the growth of the one brand instead of everyone pushing their own name.
   -Varied talents of each member allow the collective to build fan relations in unconvential, and effective ways. Dessa started a book club. Lazerbeak does weekly Tuesdays with Lazerbeak blog posts to consistantly connect with fans.
   -The selective nature of who Doomtree allows on their roster serves as both quality control and branding. What this means to fans is, if you see a Doomtree show, it'll be good. This cannot be stressed enough. With so many crappy bands in existence, going to a show is a gamble. With a consistent Doomtree brand, a music fan can reasonably trust that even if they don't know all the bands playing a show, it'll be worth it to go out to the show. They obviously understand this by holding a yearly Doomtree Blowout show in December.

However, there are some key points that must be in order for this collective to work.

   -The group has to be selective about who can enter for personality reasons. For a collective to work, the roster has to be carefully chosen to ensure there are no free riders or negative influences who would tarnish the entire group's reputation. Say for example the artist that runs merch decides to quit and takes all the passwords and merch with him. This could easily devastate the group.
   -The group also has to be selective about quality. If one of the artists isn't carrying their weight or is performing below the standards of the group, the entire collective suffers.
   -As with all organizations, the danger of group-think is always present. The group must maintain an atmosphere of being constructively critical of itself to ensure quality decisions.

I seriously hope these guys make infinity billion dollars. For a much more in-depth interview of how the group started, check this interview from way way back.

Now think about this:
How can you use the Doomtree model to help both your community and yourself?


Phantom Progress

The more time I spend working on the business side of Onward We March, the more I begin to see what all those entrepreneurship teachers were talking about in terms of the dizzying complexity of running a business. From constant spam emails offering "We'll Get Your Band Famous in One Month!" services, to getting our copyrights correct, to passing out promo CDs, the list is NEVER ENDING.

It's becoming more and more clear to me that it's nearly impossible to run out of things to do to run a band. There's only so much effort one can exert in one day before the cost of effort exceeds the productivity. We all know what it feels like at the end of a practice sessions where there's no point in playing anymore because our brain is gone.

So, with limited time and effort, I've noticed a bit of a problem. There's a million things you can "accomplish" that will have no impact on your business. I called this Phantom Progress.

Some examples:
   -Cleaning your practice space
   -Sending myspace messages (Yeah, I said it. The website is spam.)
   -Promoting your band through craigslist ads (I see people do this all the time and it makes me nauseous)
   -Signing up for yet another "Hey, we'll promote your band for free!" website
   -Applying for royalties (at least in our current stage of development)
   -Reading music strategy blogs but NOT APPLYING what you learn

The reason phantom progress is so insidious is because it gives you all the warm fuzzy feelings of "I accomplished somthing!" while not contributing anything to your business and, more importantly, wasting your time and effort. Filling out a checklist doesn't mean anything if the items on the list aren't important.

I will admit I'm quite guilty at times of procrastinating on more important issues by crossing off "easy" items on my to-do list. It's an easy emotional payoff. But take the easy route too often and you'll end up burn out with nothing to show for all your work.


Interview with Brothers Highhorse

A few months back we were kicking promotional ideas for the album. One of the more involved ideas was to create a short-form metal 'zine, but after realizing how much additional work that would be, the idea was scrapped.

That being said, it would be a waste not to post this interview with my homie Dan of The Brothers Highhorse, a Dallas-based metal band we play with all the time. The odd formatting and phrasing on my part was supposed to be a part of the 'zine's flavor and I didn't want to change that for this repost.

Q: WHO the hell are you and what’s a High Horse, Brother?

We are a 5 but soon to be 6 piece deathcore band from Denton, Texas. We like black metal and breakdowns and we have a chick keyboardist, whose our second guitarist sister. Thats who we are.

The name came from an inside joke from years ago and we decided to use it instead of having a generic sounding metal name. We felt it had a job for a cowboy like feel in that it doesnt obviously sound like the name for a metal band.

Q: WHERE are y’all going with your music? 

We are currently writing a full album and it has a theme. The theme is based on the concept that the ancient gods of now lost civilations were actually aliens and now they have come back to reenslave our civilization. They attempt to do this through turning humans into cyborgs and implanting mind control mechanisms into our brains, but fortunately their is a sole survivor who the mechanism fails and he leads a rebellion to take back the planet.

Each song on our album is going to be a part of the story.

As far as our sound progressing, we recently went through a significant line up change in which our old singer and drummer left because of musical and creative differences. So we added a new singer and new drummer and our bassist switched to second guitar and we added keyboards. (We have been looking for a bassist and we think we have one but we arent solidifing his position in the band untill after he has played several shows with us.)

I suppose if you had to label us we would be a deathcore band but unlike most deathcore bands around the area no one can seem to pinpoint any one band we sound exactly like, which we are fine with. The adding of keyboards has pushed us further our black metal elements which we all love. We still have breakdowns but we have keyboard melodies in our songs because sarah (our keyboardist) can actually play and doesnt just hold ond handed chords like most other bands weve seen around that have keyboards, lol. We are influneced but a variety of bands and we feel we take parts of all of them and fuse them together to sound unique.

Q: YOU just got sponsored by Uproar! Apparel. HOW did that happen?

The sponsorship with them happened by luck actually, they messages us and saw that we were friends with another band they sponsored and they said they were always looking for new bands if we were interested. So we started talking to them and gave them our gameplan so to speak and now we have a sponsorship deal with them.

Q: TELL us a story.

A: We played with Upon a burning body in may and they were amazing and because we were so impressed we gave their vocalist one of our shirts for free. We played with them again in September and they actually remembered us and we never mentioned what band we were and they remembered that we gave them a shirt and they like our design. That was pretty awesome that a signed band remembered us after only playing with us twice.

Another awesome story is, Mark (Second Guitarist), John (Vocalist) and I went to see Depised Icon's last US Tour at the Prophet bar. They started playing their set and one of their singers started handing out the mic to people in the crowd to sing the words and mark and I looked up and we see John on stage screaming the words of their song with them. It was pretty badass and I believe there are some videos of it out there so hopefully whoever has them will post them pretty soon.

Q: WHO is your fav local to play with? Why?

A: Our favorite band to hangout and know their on a bill is Onward We March because weve known those guys forever and their just really cool fun dudes. Whenever we know theyre going to be on a bill with us, we know its going to be a party.

Our favorite band to watch is Descendant, if you dont know who they are you need to check them out at a show. They are one of the very best bands in DFW. Their lead guitarisr/ vocalist Richard Dale is a beast and will solo circles around you. Everytime weve played shows with them they are as solid as can be and if you like melodic metal you owe it to yourself to check them out.