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Education » Literary
Indie Rock 101: Running, Recording, Promoting your Band (The Mastering Music Series)

[dead] Indie Rock 101 screenshot

Indie Rock 101 is a clear, concise, all-in-one primer for beginning to mid-level musicians looking for the essential fundamentals behind running, recording, and promoting their band. It contains all the basics that can take years to collate from more specialized or technical books, magazines, and websites–and it’s written by a real independent musician.

Part I, Running Your Band, covers the topics most relevant to forming and running the band: the people, practice, and songwriting.
Part II, Recording, covers pre-production considerations, gear, and how-to basics, and timeless fundamentals and techniques around recording, mixing, and mastering.
Part III, Promoting, covers what you need to know to establish and grow your fan base, including graphic design, your press kit, and website, sharing and selling your music, playing out, and making a video.
Whether you’re just starting out or looking for a 360-degree primer to help take your music to the next level, Indie Rock 101 is the one book that covers it all.

Written by a music industry insider, learn from someone who has been there and succeeded.
Get insight and need-to-know information on running, recording, and promoting your band that is usually gained through painful experience. Overcome the barriers facing your band.
Get on the runway to becoming pro, navigate the music world without a label, and get your music out to the world
Featuring photos and Q&As from:

CDBaby founder Derek Sivers
Juliana Hatfield
John Vanderslice
Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon
Spanish for 100
World Air Guitar Champion “Hot Lixx” Hulahan
And more
Amazon Exclusive: A Letter from Richard Turgeon on Indie Rock 101, “Why I Wrote Indie Rock 101 and What I Hope You’ll Get Out of It.”

Dear Amazon Readers,

I worked on this book over the course of about two-and-a-half years because I genuinely felt, and still do, that there’s a need for it. When I decided to start my own band many years ago, I had no idea what I was doing, and even less when I got into audio production at the advent of the digital revolution.

At both points in my music life I felt very much on my own. I learned everything by trial and error, and by asking others what they knew. On recording in particular, I bought a multitude of heavy, way-too-technical books and largely irrelevant (to me, anyway) magazines geared towards working pros–all for a single nugget or two about what the mastering process actually was, or the conventional roles of a record producer, EQ, or compression. Most of them simply assumed way too much knowledge and/or went way too deep for what I needed without providing any definitions or real-world context.

By the time I started writing Indie Rock 101, I’d independently produced and released five indie records and had managed or played in several live bands over the course of many years. I wanted to spare musicians the pain of learning everything the hard way, like I had to do, while dispelling a lot of the jargon and misconceptions that come with recording one’s own music. By that time I’d also made a lot of mistakes running my own live band while having a lot of very real, tangible successes.

Today there are tons of books and magazines available to the home or project studio recordist with new gear, tips, tutorials, and techniques, but Indie Rock 101 aggregates the most important topics and terminology and presents it all in one place. It’s designed to be a clear, concise, all-in-one primer for those musicians who might be in a band and recording already but want to go farther–without wading through a multitude of giant, technical books and magazines to glean the broad palette of important topics this single book covers.

You can always go deeper with different materials (and I encourage anyone to do so), but this book is still the first book I’d recommend to every person who’s asked me how they could get started, get better, or get more exposure in their indie rock endeavors. No matter what level you’re at, I sincerely hope you get as much out of Indie Rock 101 as I’ve put into it.

Richard Turgeon

Selected Images from the Indie Rock 101: Running, Recording, and Promoting Your Band

Playing new material live is one of the best ways to tell what songs are keepers (or not). Juliana Hatfield on this photo: “That night I played a brand new song that I had just written and no one had ever heard before. The crowd seemed to really like it and clapped just as loudly, if not more loudly, for that unknown song as they did for all their familiar favorites.” (Photo by Rick Marino)

The author’s previous (and very modest) digital audio workstation (recording remotely, inset). What’s important for beginners to remember is that it’s not how much you spend on gear, but rather knowing how to get the most out of what you have. When you start out it’s best to keep it as light, portable, and inexpensive as you can.

Critically acclaimed San Francisco indie rocker John Vanderslice started Tiny Telephone in 1997 to provide affordable hi-fi recording to San Francisco’s independent music community; the studio has a policy of setting recording rates under market price. (Photo by R. Turgeon)

Sometimes a practice space has as much effect on the music as a band’s gear, or more so. Boston’s Karate (left to right: Geoff Farina, Gavin Mcarthy, Jeff Goddard) recorded several sessions in a living room so cozy it helped inspire the “In My Living Room” compilation on which Karate appears. (Photo by Andy Hong)

Words of wisdom from 2008 World Air Guitar Champion, Craig Billmeier, aka Hot Lixx Hulahan: “I have found that the single most powerful weapon against [audience] indifference is putting on an energetic and impassioned live show—a spectacle. Give the audience something to remember; that is why you are up on stage and they are not.” (Photo by George Nitkin, courtesy of Jose Cuervo Black U.S. Air Guitar Championships)

Good advice from Sun Kil Moon’s Mark Kozelek: “Quit f——- around on MySpace and Facebook and all of that. Rent a room, play your guitar, write, rehearse a lot, play as much as you can.” (Photo by Nyree Watts)
Amazon Exclusive: Richard Turgeon’s Top Ten Tips for the Indie Rocker

As I mention in “Why I Wrote Indie Rock 101,” the book addresses a lot of things I had to figure out the hard way on my own journey as a musician, live band manager, and producer. The book also covers a lot of topics I’ve learned in other disciplines related to running, recording, and promoting your band and music, namely in my many years as a creative professional (those areas including but not limited to filmmaking, public relations, business organization and project management, social media, photography, web and graphic design, fiction and marketing writing.)

Most books about indie music and promotion specialize in specific topics like software instruction, production techniques, and promoting yourself, but they don’t necessarily address all of these related disciplines in one place–and typically not in a concise way. Most of the books I’ve pored over myself now and in my formative years also just don’t seem to address certain realities about the music business such as the Do’s and Don’t’s around crafting your image, how to run and structure your band, the role of a producer and their potential effect on your music, or how to conduct yourself when playing out, to name just a few.

You don’t need to know everything about these disciplines or areas of concern to succeed. In fact, it’s better to specialize in what you’re good at and like to do as opposed to spreading yourself thin trying to do everything. As I mention in the book, “divide and conquer” is an approach bands and solo artists alike should strive for. All that said, Indie Rock 101 covers the fundamental techniques and terminology behind audio production because it does help to have at least a working knowledge of the various disciplines associated with running your band, and producing and promoting your music. Only then can you effectively participate in and direct any efforts you’re driving on your music’s behalf, whether you’re a solo artist or part of a band.

What follows is a short list of what I consider to be ten things Indie Rock 101 covers that I previously didn’t see or glean from the books in your local bookstore’s Music section, but that do represent some of the hardest and/or most important lessons any indie rocker will eventually have to learn. Even though the bulk of Indie Rock 101 is dedicated to fundamental recording techniques and terminology, most of the following tips have to do with playing out and promotion. They are not ranked in priority order, and they are certainly not all-inclusive. Some defy conventional wisdom and may generate controversy. For expanded context behind the list, well . . . I recommend buying the book.

You don’t need to spend a lot of money to make music. There will always be gear that’s more expensive and supposedly better than what you have. But you don’t always need it to sound good.
Image matters. How you dress, the other bands you play with, your record covers, band photos, press kit and website are supposed to reflect your music. Like it or not, they define your brand.
No weak links. When choosing your bandmates, it’s important that everyone adds value and that there are no obvious weak links performance or business-wise. If there are, you need to make a change.
Every team needs a captain. Just because a group of musicians form a band doesn’t always mean that the band is a democracy, or that it should be. It’s often best when a band has a clear leader or two.
Don’t spend your music life on your computer. The internet has changed marketing and distribution but it’s not going to make your music sound any better, so as Sun Kil Moon’s Mark Kozelek puts it on page 101, “Quit f—— around on MySpace and Facebook and all of that. Rent a room, play your guitar, write rehearse a lot, play as much as you can.”
Be professional when playing out. That means showing up on time, introducing yourself to the other bands, watching their sets, making sure you run a soundcheck and more. You may not draw a lot of people when you start out but if you’re easy to get along with, there’s a much better chance the club and headlining band will ask you back anyway.
Promote yourself during the show. It’s amazing how many bands are too shy to plug their latest CD and website during their set, set out an email list, or even mention their own name. Some think they’re above it, others think it feels cheesy. And I personally usually forget who they were the next day.
Don’t be boring. From my Q&A with World Air Guitar Champion, Hot Lixx Hulahan on p. 115: “Give the audience something to remember. That is why you are on stage and they are not.”
Do it for the right reasons. If your main reason for getting into music is to be rich and famous, eventually you’ll quit (unless, of course, you actually get rich and famous).
Know when to take time off. If you’re getting tired, miserable, or bitter–or all three–it’s time to stop and shift your focus until you feel ready to get back into the game. It’s much wiser to pace yourself over the long haul than give up on your dreams.



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