We’d like to welcome back Justin Gosnell, guitarist, keyboardist and producer of Vestascension, to the site, in what will become a regular column on the music business, being in band, and the general process of becoming a super-famous rockstar.

So far:

April 2011

Yesterday saw the release of their fifth track of the year, “L’Arrive”. Vestascension are releasing one new track on the first day of every month throughout 2011, for FREE, and it’s all part of a bigger scheme which sees the band trying something different, rather than trying to get signed and make pittance. They recently posted a video which expanded on last month’s column (see below), but this month Justin rounds on the attitude and quality some bands seem to lack – read on!

Try Harder Next Time

Hello and welcome back!

First off: WOW. I cannot believe all of the positive feedback I’ve received from last month’s column!  I’m flattered/shocked people found it THAT interesting!  My email and FB inboxes definitely took a beating!  Huge thanks if you’re one of the people that took the time to write to me. I actually just released a video a couple days ago that really explains some of the things I was talking about in the last column if anyone wants to check it out!  I definitely suggest taking a look if you’re in a band that’s trying to think of some different marketing approaches. Check it out here:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1Dj55JvDDQ&feature=player_embedded]

Once I started thinking of what I’d write next it occurred to me that I’d started out with marketing and I realized I jumped WAY ahead of where I probably should have started – we didn’t even discuss how to really get a product that’s worth marketing! I’m getting requests more and more from bands that would like me to help them by doing consulting work and/or being hired to market them. I always turn down offers that involve pay and try to do all I can for free because I believe sharing knowledge and contacts is far better than the approach most bands take of hoarding their contacts for themselves. Five bands working together can accomplish WAY more than one band can on their own. Unfortunately it’s got to the point where I’m trying to help so many bands at the same time it’s consuming more time than I have and I essentially keep retyping the same answers/suggestions/advice over and over, so I thought it’d be a great idea to start using these columns so I can just provide whatever help I can offer to any band world-wide that’s interested! If that’s you, then read on! If not, well, you might just find it interesting anyway.

So over the next few months I’m going to share my opinion on how I think bands should go about “getting their shit together,” so to speak. I’m gonna start from the absolute starting point of the process and continue to the end. Everything I’ll be discussing is of course just my opinion and while some of you will agree, some will definitely disagree as well (probably the people in denial j/k j/k). I’m a very honest and straightforward person – there’s no room for bullshit, so don’t take it personally and realize I’m only doing it in an effort to help. Hopefully you will be able to take something useful away from these writings, even if it’s just one small idea and/or concept.

First off, my main belief is that you MUST get your band to the level where you appear 100% professional and “ready” on ALL fronts. This includes your website, merchandise, image, photography, etc, etc, but MOST IMPORTANTLY – YOUR MUSIC!!!  My advice to you is this—if you’re not willing to take it to a professional level ON YOUR OWN (i.e. sans the huge pile of money and contacts you’re waiting for a record label to provide for you), then do yourself and all of us a favor and quit now.  Seriously.  Put your Squier guitar and Peavey Bandit 1×12 on Craigslist NOW and save yourself the disappointment that I promise you you are going to face should you keep pursing music as a career.  I’m not joking.  At all.

Last month I discussed ways the internet is benefiting me (as well as just bands in general) so this month I’m going to discuss how it’s not…

When people talk about the negative effects the internet has had on the music industry there is one thing that is never mentioned and this one thing happens to be what irritates me the most. While the internet is a wonderful tool and one that I love to death and one that is also absolutely necessary for the way I do what I do, the flip side is that it’s equally accessible to every other band/musician in the world.

Even the ones that totally suck.

Due to how easy it is to access free sites for bands/artists such as MySpace (this was the first major disaster), Facebook, ReverbNation, Soundcloud, Soundclick, Purevolume, etc., this has provided an easy outlet for every shitty artist to post their horrendous recordings online for all the world to hear (and promptly vomit to).  Prior to the internet you had to be pretty serious to get your music out there. It took effort, money, hard work, practice, etc., to get your album professionally pressed and into a music store. Before the advent of home recording you had to fork over some major dough to get into a good studio; it just wasn’t easy.  Now you can go and pick up some low end recording software (or steal it via torrents) and that – combined with the internet – becomes a quick and easy way to ruin the lives of bands that ARE serious and that ARE working hard to make a career out of music.

How so, you ask?

Because millions of bands have cropped up online from all over the world in the last 10 years.  HORRIBLE ones! And I’m not talking about horrible ones in the sense of genres I don’t like; I’m talking about horrible ones whose recordings are of the shittiest quality, whose design work was done in MS Paint, and whose photography was done by the drummers little sister using her Kodak Cool Pix camera she got for Christmas.  This completely smothers the ‘real’ bands out there and makes it harder for them to be heard. For every ‘worthy’ band there has to be at least 10,000 ‘unworthy’ ones – and I’d even venture to say that is a low estimate. I really wish there was some sort of approval board on these music sites that could filter out what should be allowed and what should be trashed (a few top end internet radio sites DO do this as well as any reputable licensing company). I also wish there would have been a fee to have a MySpace band page (as well as any other ‘free’ musician site). Just charging ten bucks a month would have weeded out a huge percentage of shitastic recordings from hitting the web (because ten bucks would have been WAY too much for these ‘serious’ musicians to pay).

It’s not just bad enough that these people post this shit up; these are also the same people that spam the fuck out of others. They realize that nobody’s responding to their shitty music (and they absolutely don’t believe it has anything to do with the music quality itself) so they think the solution is to just bombard people with it.

When people discuss the downfall of MySpace and how much spam came from porn stars and shit, they don’t mention one thing I think truly fucked MySpace and made people bail – the bands!  If you had/have a MySpace page, let me ask you this; how many messages/friend requests/comments would you regularly get from bands?  Hilarious ones too, that were obviously spam. The best was if you had some characters in your MySpace name; for example instead of ‘Justin,’ it typed, “~>Justin<~”.  I loved getting comments that started, “Hey there ~>Justin<~,  long time no talk! Just wanted to let you know a piece of software wrote this message in hopes you’d buy our atrocious album”.  It became utterly ridiculous! When MySpace first started up, people used to check out bands if they got a message because it meant that band had to personally write to them.

After the software boom hit, people checked out one or two of these bands and after ultimately being disappointed, they became jaded and started ignoring ALL bands on MySpace and have just become set in that attitude regardless of whether they’re now on Facebook or even when you approach someone on the street with a CD. People won’t hear it; they believe all of it will sound like shit, so the fools have just fucked it up for themselves and everyone else. And the band SPAM flood just got worse and worse. I’m in a band and it pissed me off to no end so I can only imagine how regular people felt.

With the play boosters people are using, do you really think anyone at a label is stupid enough to fall for it?  You really think that they’re going to hit your page and see 2,000,000 plays but not one comment from a real person in the last six months?!  As time has moved on, the software has spread to YouTube, Soundclick, Twitter, and yes, even Facebook. Absolute LAZINESS!  I mean, I swear if I get one more event invite on Facebook from a band that is 3,000 miles away from me and is inviting me to their show at “Old Tavern Bar” featuring $1 Bud Lights that night, I’m gonna start massacring people.  How lazy can you possibly get?!  You can’t take two seconds to filter out people that don’t even live remotely close to you?!  PATHETIC!

Here’s how to spot frauds instantly:

  • MySpace – RIDICULOUS amount of plays/profile views on a bands page that just has the shittiest sound and appearance to their page.  But to be more specific on what you can spot, a HUGE amount of friends in addition to those plays and no REAL activity on the page.  Come on; you have 5 million plays but you’re playing the local pub this weekend and hitting spots just like that on tour?  You’re not fucking kidding anyone but yourselves and maybe your clueless buddies. DEAD GIVEAWAY: huge “stats” but no human interaction or very minimal interaction at all.
  • Twitter – Amount of followers vs. amount of people the band is following. It’s software or “follow trades” with other fake whores.  Hey dumb-dumb, you can tell if there’s GENUINE interest in your band by just checking the trending or mentions your bands is getting. DEAD GIVEAWAY: a band has 5,000 followers and following 4,500 people and when you search for mentions/trending their name has been mentioned once in the last month.
  • YouTube – Same as above basically. DEAD GIVEAWAY: your video of you playing the local pub has 10,000 plays and just one comment on it from six months ago – and it’s from the band’s bass player or the drummer’s mom.
  • Facebook – Again, same deal.  The wonderful thing about FB though is they realize where MySpace fucked up.  They police that shit hardcore and rightfully so you’ll eventually get your page fucking deleted, and I pray that it happens to you.

Realize this – you’re better off having 100 followers and 20 of them buzzing about you than 10,000 with 50 people buzzing about you.  Do I really need to explain the math to you in that equation?? You get percentages, right?

I’ll be totally honest with you all. I used software once.  It was about six years ago or so, I hit a weak spot in my code of honor; I ordered a MySpace campaign for 50,000 plays.  It ‘worked’ – but because of how I am, I felt hollow and like I’d cheated afterwards.  It brought me no joy and no feelings of success.  I felt like fucking shit when someone would be like “holy fuck dude your page is blowing up—congrats!!” (and people believed it. Remember, this was before it became so commonly known that bands were faking their shit). It’s not real. I felt like a fraud. I was a fraud. I have no problem admitting it.  Honestly the plays are STILL on our play counter and I wish to God I could remove them. I tried. The  band page had no music on it for over four years and once the site switched to the new layouts for artist pages, the play count was zero!!  I was thrilled, but then I uploaded our first track and sure enough they popped right back up. I’m not about to risk losing the ownership of our URL so I’m not gonna delete the page, but just know I STILL fucking hate it and actually lose sleep over it.

I’m proud of our numbers now; they’re fucking real!  We’re doing great on the sites that matter to me and that I’m actively trying to work with as they’re the ones I feel are relevant (since pretty much 90% of social networking sites for bands are just the same shit over and over with new ones cropping up weekly). On BandCamp we’ve had thousands and thousands of downloads and on Facebook we almost have 3,000 EARNED “likes”.  On YouTube our channel already passed 10,000 views.  We’re growing naturally on Soundcloud, Soundclick, LastFM, doing GREAT on Jango…so that’s awesome!  I’m VERY proud of that considering we’ve only existed for 4 months as of the date this has been posted, but on Twitter we have like 90 followers and our ReverbNation plays are hilarious! I think we’re like 150 on the rock charts for the city I live in, which is small and one that I can’t even name 5 bands from! Haha. Our Purevolume has like 3 plays!  Granted, we don’t do shit on those pages. I don’t fucking care though; I’m proud to share those numbers cause it’s REAL, baby!!

So here is my urging to all of you out there in bands. If you’re using play boosters, friend adders, auto commenters, and/or ANY other type of fraudulent software, STOP RIGHT NOW!  If your music recording sounds like utter shit, please TAKE IT DOWN RIGHT NOW!  YOU are the ones that have made it so hard for the real, hardworking, quality bands to be found.  YOU are the ones that have caused the general public to become extremely jaded towards new bands. I promise you, you will NOT benefit from the shady methods you’re using.

If you’re not willing to do this then PLEASE END YOURSELF!

I’ll stop there for this month. Sorry this month had a pretty negative vibe to it, but this shit just has to be said!  If you’re sitting there after just reading this column and realize I’m talking about YOU, then lets do this! How about we just start from scratch? I’ll help you in any way I can! Over the next few months I absolutely promise you, I will provide information that – if you follow it – you WILL come out with a great final product and you WILL have an infinitely better chance of catching some footing in the industry.

As always, feel free to discuss this in the comments section below or hit me up at the band e-mail. I’m glad to discuss any of this in more detail or debate any of it with anyone that’s interested!

Thanks for tuning in!  See you again on June 1st, where we’ll take the next step in our journey to make your band a kick-ass professional business.

– Justin

Keep up with Vestascension on Facebook and Twitter. You can also download all of their music for free on Bandcamp!


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