Can guitar-driven bands still make money?

Categories: Ask Fan Landers

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Still a viable business model?
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.

Dear Fan,
I am a fantastic and versatile songwriter, an accomplished guitarist and the best male vocalist I know. I'm not bashful enough to downplay the fact that I've worked, focused and sacrificed my ass off to be able to say that. So it would probably come as no surprise to you when I say that yeah, I want to be THE MAN. I want to play festivals. I want to cut pro-sounding albums and tour. I want to play talk shows, SNL, and the motherfucking Super Bowl. Not because I think I deserve it, or because I think I'm currently ready, but because I know that I at least have the tools and work habit to get great at it.

However, the steps in order to attain said goals (while never having been easy) seem almost impossible now. Is aiming for such heights even possible at all in this day and age? Particularly for music that mostly guitar-driven?
--The Rave

Dearest Raver,
Yes, it is possible to aim for such heights -- anything is possible. Aiming is easy enough, and certainly you have the confidence needed to make you impervious to the slings and arrows that come with such ambitions. The real question is the latter.

Guitar-driven music that is on that level these days (Black Keys, Foo Fighters, Coldplay) is a really far cry from what you are doing. I listened to your record, and it's true, you can sing your ass off, you could absolutely be on the radio with a voice like yours, or at the very least be decimating Usher's "Climax" at karaoke. You may be playing a guitar, but you are not a rock band. My guesstimation is that you need to stop dicking around at pay-for-play nights in Long Island, indie showcases in Brooklyn and just grind on getting a decent manager, getting on A&R showcases, getting Ariel Reichstad to listen to your demo.

And a word about your album. You have one great song, one decent song, two-ish confusing songs (note: going from late-era Maxwell-sensual to metal is jarring!) and FOR FUCK'S SAKE 8 or 10 ambient interludes?! Skits?! Answering machine verite?! This is not Lil' Kim's Hard Core, dude! Whatever these pieces are, they deflate the momentum and make me think you do not have any ideas, or perhaps just bad ones about what is interesting to other people. Trim this business to, for real, a two or three song demo of songs that are the same progressive ambient R&B genre. Delete the rest, present it to the world as an EP. Start with that and then use that for your mainstream music business hustle. Also, seek out producers who know what to do with people who can sing, maybe they can throw you on a track. You are not some beardo Brooklynlectro band -- so abandon that model and those artful methods, because you are the guy people will sign when they are looking for the next Bruno Mars.
Good luck,
Fan

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5 comments
Scott Raile
Scott Raile

Don't forget that Decca Records turned down the Beatles in 1962 because "guitar bands are on the way out." I think we'll be fine.

Esteban Mainzer
Esteban Mainzer

yes. they can. but you still need good songs. the next "smells like teen spirit" is out there. in someone's pro-tools right now. but if you don't spend a few dollars to promote your band's gig at the dive bar, you're just not going to get to the arena.

Peace Will Win
Peace Will Win

laptop make me happy...there is no other...parise laptop

Matt Pierce
Matt Pierce

Very few bands now can do that. But the market has been inundated with pre-manufactured fame, and clear channel plays the same loop of top 40 constantly. So, any bands with real talent are never heard anymore.

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