Are you a musician? Is your group having issues? Ask Fan Landers! Critic Jessica Hopper has played in and managed bands, toured internationally, booked shows, produced records, worked as a publicist and is the author of The Girls' Guide to Rocking, a how-to for teen ladies. She is here to help you stop doing it wrong. Send your problems to her — confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame.
My band just embarked on our first three month tour, after being together only seven months. I know it sounds silly, but we must have angels because we've had a fair amount of success so far, and a lot of great press. Call it post-tour blues, but we just don't know what to do next. We have a lot of genuine fans who give us the “you will make it” speech, but I know how slim the chances are.
Our manager also happens to be our producer so we can record at any time. My questions: Do we record an album and distribute to stores? I'm the guitar player and composer, so do I get with the singer and write more? Do we need to work on our marketing or even try to get in touch with record labels? What about festivals? We just need some guidance because, as you can tell, I don't even know if I'm asking the right questions!
The most immediately striking thing about your letter is that you are asking for a road map… yet you have a manager. That your manager is also your producer makes me wonder: Is this person a producer first, someone who sees a rising star, and is eager to hitch their wagon to it? Or is this person your manager because they have been around forever and have made some introductions that panned out? Because the manager should have the road map, or at least help you map your route through Downtown Ambition City. Also, that you would think to ask me and not your manager says something. But, alas, that's for you decipher.
Writing an album or at least some songs for a proper release is what has to happen first, before you do the record making. In the meantime you can be reaching out to labels, or reaching out to people who can reach out to the labels for you (your manager, or lawyers, who are the new managers). While it's much more standard that people might shop a proper album for release these days, labels like the flexibility of nabbing someone before they have fully-formed the product. They like to give input. Maybe they want to have you work with another producer or demo some country tunes, only, like, the funky songs. Good to leave some room for that as well as have some demos that showcase what's next for your band in terms of sound and artistry.
Your healthy skepticism about “making it” will serve you well. Even if you make all the right steps and choices, it's a crap shoot. The enthusiasm of others can be a bit of a drug. Mind that.