Just after I graduated college, I wound up working at a video production company in Somerville. The place was right behind a Holiday Inn that provided Tuesday evening Happy Hours which included free chicken wings! Chicken wings!! I hate chicken wings. But a buddy of mine and I managed to drink our share of free beer during the 90 minutes.
I don't bring this up as yet another example of my post graduate study into raging alcoholism. I bring it up, because this same friend of mine used to play drums in a band. He was good, too. One of the best drummers, or musicians for that matter, I've personally known. (Note: This is the same dude who once told me he was glad Buddy Rich and Jon Bonham were dead so they would 'stop inventing shit I can't do') He loved playing so much he was a member of 3 different bands. At one time. He would be playing every night, yet none of the many bands he played in ever made it big.
Another friend, who also happened to be a drummer, played in a band that had moderate local success. When they decided to call it quits, the lead guitarist said to him 'Hey, I'm starting my own band. You want in?'. He declined. Since he was in his late 20s, he figured it was time to get serious and find a real job. The guitarist went by the name Sully and his new band was called 'GodSmack'. My friend is still kicking himself for that one. Although he does take the positive route, 'In a way it's a good thing, because there is no doubt in my mind I'd be dead now if I got to enjoy that kind of success.'
Let's go back to the video production job. The company managed to get hired out to tape the WBCN Rock and Roll Rumble, which I was lucky to get picked for. I got to meet Iggy Pop, whose publicist told me in no uncertain terms that we were NOT to tape any of his performance. So be it. The runner up band that year was 'Talking To Animals' whose lead singer was so good I nearly fell off my stool. The band sounded like '10,000 Maniacs' with a better looking, better sounding lead singer. The term charismatic doesn't do her justice. The reason I remember that band was because I kept expecting to hear them again. Only on a national scale. But that was it. Turns out coming in second to a half assed Metallica ripoff band was their highlight.
I'm sure there are thousands of these stories. Talented musicians who just haven't caught a break, never to be discovered except for a scattered fan base. Local bands that just can't get over the hump.
Well, my musical friends, I know why. You don't have a gimmick. You need something so ridiculous and borderline asinine that people sit up and take notice. Perfect example: MiniKiss a Kiss tribute band composed entirely of little people. No, seriously. Go check out the link. They're HUGE!!! Get it? Huge? Little people? Alrighty then......
Here's a list of credits: Jimmy Kimmel Live, Inside the NFL (there's a clip on the site above), MTV's Damage Control, VH1's 100 Most Metal Moments, and Comedy Central's Insomniac. Not to mention articles about them in LA Times, Maxim, Hustler, NY Post and Guitar Hero and now the greatest blog in the world. Why? Not because they're super talented. Shit, they barely cover the Kiss songs halfway decently. They're popular because they're one of a kind. Simple as that.
Want another example? How about a band that's already made it - SlipKnot, whose members wear Halloween masks. How about Devo. Marilyn Manson. The original Kiss?
Point being you bands wanting to get noticed need to do something to get yourself noticed. Look at the Red Hot Chili Peppers who wore nothing but socks on their schlongs during performances. Even Elton John had his crazy outfits and sunglasses phase early on. The Beatles? Hair. The Rolling Stones? Attitude. Black Sabbath? Decapitated bats. AC/DC? Lead singer drowning in his own puke. Johnny Cash? Black clothes and prison concerts.
Of course, gimmicks will only get you so far. I hardly think we'll be hearing about MiniKiss in 10 years. You need the talent to back it up. It isn't an accident Devo and Marilyn Manson faded into the background while Elton John, Rolling Stones and AC/DC still thrive. The Beatles still sell more records today than most new artists will in their entire career.
Lucky for you, this blog is here to provide solutions, not just point out the obvious (although that is what I'm good at). Here are some attention getting techniques I'm putting out for bid. Good luck and I expect 10% of any royalties.
- All guy naked band. Get yourselves in shape and one up the Chili Peppers. Call yourselves the Nude Dudes or something not nearly as clever as that. Ladies, how about a topless band called The Free Swinging Titties. Please?
- Create an urban legend about one of your songs making some teenager do something stupid. Like a song called 'Kill Your Mama' made one of your fans kill his mother. Doesn't have to be true, just gets you in the news
- Write only songs about '24'. You can name them things like 'Jack's Back', 'China Prison Blues', and 'Chloe, Baby'. This can be applied to any show, really, but make sure you pick a cool one. Picking something like 'Wife Swap' or 'According to Jim' is just asking for trouble.
- Include a band member that has high suicide potential. Someone that can function, but may have some self destructive qualities. Getting this person to destroy a hotel room now and then can help, too. Key note: Make sure that band member isn't a crucial part of the song writing. If you're going to lose a member, make it the drummer, bassist or something equally replaceable.
- Set a trend with your band members. For example, MiniKiss has all small people. Get a band together that are all cancer survivors or vegetarians or Oprah Book Club members. You can figure it out.
- Perform controversial songs with psychotic titles. Examples: 'I Like Iraq, But I Like Your Rack Better', 'I'm In Love With Jenna's Bush', 'Dwight Rules', 'Wikipedophilia' or 'Rape Me'. Wait, think Nirvana used one of those. Probably the Iraq one.
I'm sure I'll come up with more and will post them later when the inspiration strikes.
Remember, 10%! I expect 10%. That includes signing bonuses.
Today's distraction: Pretend you're the drummer in MiniKiss. You can play on your knees if you want the full effect.