Thursday, January 29, 2004

The Passing on of the Wisdom

In response to a question posted at Ask MetaFilter, I put together a quick compilation of stuff I've learned about getting somewhere in the Minneapolis music scene. Not that I've really gotten anywhere, but I've been around long enough to see what seems to work and what doesn't.

And here it is:

So, then, I tried to think of a (relatively) quick set of tips to manage a band in Mpls, and here's what I came up with (as I type all this, by the way, I'm starting to feel super-ass-pretentious, so I'm sorry if I'm coming off as a know-it-all-jackass):

1. Go to other bands' shows and mingle. From what I've seen, the best way by far to get shows is to make connections with other bands; it's amazingly common after you've established some links to get calls from other bands along the lines of "we need a third band to fill out a slate at the Terminal next month. You guys want it?" Conversely, some booking guys are more likely to let you in if you can present them with a complete show.

You can also rustle some of the other bands' fans if you play with them often enough.

2. Have a decent recording available; not everyone will want it, but most will, and it's good to have one to hand out. Doesn't have to be pro-quality- if you know someone with a digital 8-track, you're fine.

3. Approaching booking people varies from place to place. Some thoughts:
7th St. Entry: Your best shot here is New Band Night, which you apply for online. There's a big backlog to get in, but it's great to do. After you've played new band night, polite but firm calls to the First Ave booking office are required; and this is one where it really helps if you present them with a slate of bands.

Terminal Bar: Good bar to play; it's easy to find, so crowds are decent, and their sound system has gotten pretty good. They're also good about letting new acts in. Their booking guy is called "Iron Lung," and seems to like to work through email.

Fine Line: Call their booking number. After a few calls, they'll probably ask you to bring in a CD. You'll get in if you're persistent, and it's fun to play there- but it'll probably be a Monday night, and you need to bring in more than 70 people to get a better slot.

O'Gara's: used to be booked by the same people as the Fine Line; not sure if that's still the case.

Turf: You have to go to the Turf 1,000,000 times and pester Rob Rule (the bald guy at the sound board most nights). You'll need a CD, and even then it's tough. When you get in, odds are you'll get stuck with Tuesday at midnight, which suuuuuucks. It does feel cool to play the Turf, though.

Christensen's/Big V's: Your other Midway option. They do most of their booking by phone; I think they list the booking number on ads. Call 'em repeatedly and be firm but polite, and you should get in. Place used to be a holeā€¦ we were flashed onstage by hookers way bacjk in the day, but they've cleaned it up a lot.

4th St.: It should be easy to get in if you give them a call. I've had nothing but bad experiences playing there, but it always seems to boil down to the same sound guy causing problems, so it could just be me.

Eclipse Records: If they're back to having live music, just go in and talk to the owner, maybe give him a CD. You should get in.

Five Corners: Used to be really easy to get into, just by calling. They've changed bookers, so now I'm not sure. But they're not exactly a powerhouse of local music, so I don't think they'd be too exclusive.

400 Bar: The black hole of Mpls music. I have no idea how people get shows there.

In general, if you're persistent without being annoying (like, call maybe once a week, but probably not more), and have a decent CD, you'll get in. It'll help if you say you're managing the band, since any band with a manager is assumed to be a little more serious.

4. The music papers: Send a disc, brief description, and quick introduction to the music editors (Melissa Maerz for City Pages, Rob Van Alstyne for Pulse). You'll have to be really persistent here, especially with Maerz- she gets flooded with requests, and CP is steadily cutting back their music coverage.

5. Flyers: are fun to design, and give everyone a chance to feel like they're contributing when they go around and post them, but they don't bring people to shows. Although I suppose there's something to be said for getting the name out there. I've never seen Wookiefoot, and don't want to, but I know they exist because their crap is all over Lyn-Lake.

6. An email list is a very good idea to keep people up on shows.

7. Radio K: tough to do. You need a very good CD (and the folklore is that they won't take any disc that doesn't have a bar code; don't know if that's true, but that's the word), and you need to call them relentlessly. A few weeks ago, I profiled a band called Cloud Cult who were flat-out masters of infiltrating Radio K and college radio in general. You might want to contact Craig Minowa, their leader, about it- he could probably give you some really good tips there. He's an extremely nice guy, and my guess is that he wouldn't be averse to giving you some advice. His email should be available on their web site, which I think is just cloudcult.com.

8. Don't sweat it if you don't get a lot of shows. Until you have a pretty big group of fans, way bigger than just people you know directly, it's sort of tough to get people to turn out more often than every other month. It might be better to play to 90 people every 8 weeks than to play to 10 people every other week.
Chaos Basketball

The Timberwolves are beautiful this year, but I wonder if this (NY Times; free reg. required) isn't how basketball is really meant to be played.