Images from 2015 Warped Tour
Check out photos from this summer’s Vans Warped Tour!
Here’s your spot for all things Battle of the Bands!
Expect to find answers to frequently asked questions as well as tips and insight on how to improve your chances of playing this year's tour.
Check in often as you never know when we might decide to blog, providing you with valuable insight regarding the competition, sweepstakes, band features, video, contests, and more!
Check out photos from this summer’s Vans Warped Tour!
Summer is everyone’s favorite time to gig. The weather is hot, the crowds are larger, everyone is more relaxed. However, lurking in the shadows is the damage that summer weather can do to your instruments. Buckling joints, cracked necks, loosened bridges, and more. Here is a list of things you can do to minimize the damage done to your guitar so that you can enjoy your time in the sun.
1. The sun is your enemy. Do not put your guitar in direct sunlight if you can help it. Heat can make your guitar and strings expand at different rates which can result in damage to your instrument. It can also detune your guitar faster than it would naturally. When you are setting up on stage, make sure that you put your guitar stand in the shade.
2. Condition those frets. Preventative measures like using Ernie Ball Fretboard Conditioner Wonder Wipes on the fretboard of your guitar can work wonders. These wonder wipes have properties that prevent the wood from cracking or drying out. An inexpensive way to invest in the quality of your guitar.
3. Junk in the trunk. Never put your guitar in the trunk of your car! It can get up to 60 degrees hotter than the weather outside. Your guitar was not crafted with temperatures of 150 degrees fahrenheit in mind. You would never leave your kid or dog out in a car that hot, your guitar shouldn’t be an exception.
4. Humidity puts a damper on things. You don’t need to be a trained meteorologist to be aware of relative humidity levels. If you are travelling to a very dry area to a high humidity area (or vice versa), it WILL affect your guitar. If there will be an extreme humidity difference while you are traveling, consider buying a humidifier for your guitar case or fashioning your own.
5. Better safe than sorry. Use a hard shell case when touring, never a gig bag. Although a gig bag can hold more things than a hard shell case, they don’t protect against weather conditions in the least. The materials gig bags are made from oftentimes absorb heat rather than keep it out, essentially putting your guitar in a sweaty little coffin. Hard cases are a way better investment in the future of your guitar.
6. Choices, choices, choices. Consider which guitar you will take with you. You probably won’t want to take the most expensive guitar you own on tour, both for weather and theft related reasons. Buy a guitar that won’t mind taking a bit of a beating. Guitars weren’t meant to be played only in museum-like settings, but especially during summer it’s better to keep your valuable guitars safe and sound indoors.
7. Sugar coated. Consider using coated strings during gigs in outdoor venues. Not only do they minimize corrosion, but they also reduce finger drag on the guitar strings while playing in high humidity weather conditions. Check out Coated Electric Titanium RPS Electric Slink Strings. They repel unwanted moisture and oils that negatively impact your tone.
8. Hygiene is Queen. Be extra clean when handling your guitars in warm, humid weather. Wash your hands before you play or touch your guitar. The oils on your hands are especially damaging to your guitar in warm weather. Keep a few wonder wipes in your guitar case for cleaning your strings after you are done playing.
9. Bugging out. Be careful where you aim that bug spray. While you may love the protection of bug spray that shields you from those pesky mosquitos, your guitar does not. The bug repellant can ruin a guitar’s finish or significantly reduce the performance of your strings.
Enjoy those rays and keep you (and your guitar) cool!
Chances are that when you decided to start a band you thought about all of the creativity, passion, and time that it would take. You might not have thought about the organizational side of managing a band. While it doesn’t seem very "rock and roll" to worry about the details of a gig, you can very well never be invited back to a venue because of a lack of professionalism. You know what’s even less rock and roll than planning? Not playing any gigs because no venue wants to hire you again.
Let’s start with the basics. Advancing in the music industry means that you confirm in "advance" all of the details about your gig with the venue contact. You should be in communication with the venue about the gig one month from the day of the show to the moment your feet step on the stage. Know who your main point of contact is and store their first and last name, cell phone number, and email somewhere easy to access. This contact is usually the venue manager or promoter. Assign a member of the band to be in charge of all the phone calls, texts, and emails with this person to minimize confusion.
Read below for what your timeline of contact should look like:
1 month prior
A lot of people are quick to give advice on what to do during gigs when you are just starting out. But the things you shouldn’t do are just as (if not more) important. There are a lot of things that separate professional musicians from new bands. Here are some rookie mistakes to avoid while touring or on any live performance.
1. Start the show wrong. Never spend the first 10 minutes on stage tuning your instruments. There are few things more boring than watching a band tune up when you are expecting a high energy show. Save the tuning for home and the shredding for the stage.
2. Perform your songs exactly how you would record. What sounds great on a CD most of the time doesn’t make for the best show. Be creative with your arrangement, don’t be lazy and only play your songs one way. There is a reason that people still go to live shows instead of just buying digital music. Play into that.
3. Abuse the power of the microphone. This goes for any band member that has access to a microphone; Don’t talk more than you perform. And NEVER shout into the microphone, singing lyrics or otherwise. People are at the venue to hear live music, not a poor comedian (see last week’s blog on tips for onstage banter). And shouting can be offputting, no matter how good the music sounds.
4. Dwell on mistakes made on stage. If you play the wrong note or temporarily blank during a gig, just keep playing. The worst thing you can do is freeze and stop playing for the whole song. The audience will DEFINITELY notice that. They may not notice your mistake though, so don’t freak.
5. Tour unprepared. At the very least, look into musician’s insurance. If you are touring with your own instruments, they can easily get taken in a crowded bar or from the back of your van or trailer. It is better to pay the relatively low annual fee than lose out on $10,000 worth of equipment.
6. Fight about the venue staff. It’s one thing to want to make sure you sound the best you can, but venting about how annoying the sound technician was on stage is not something the audience wants to hear. They are there to be entertained and listen to music, not be bored by your own personal grievances.
7. Traveling with too little merchandise. Merch can be the difference between having enough gas money to make it to the next stop and breaking down in the middle of the road because you couldn’t afford gasoline prices. If you run out of t-shirts or CDs, you aren’t even giving your potential fans the opportunity to browse your stuff and you could be missing out on hundreds of dollars.
What mistakes have you learned from being on the road?
While no one expects you to be Bob Hope during transitions between songs, onstage banter done right can make you a memorable band that people want to hear more from. On the other hand, a disastrous front-man's onstage banter can make people cringe and walk away. Being a professional musician, especially one that represents the whole band on stage, requires a charisma and natural ease while performing.
Any time you need to set up a song, introduce your band name, transition while your band member needs to adjust or set up for a new song, gain audience participation, sell merchandise, etc. is a chance for you to improve your banter skills. Here are some tips to get you acting like a natural in no time.
1. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. There is a fine line between humor that is edgy and fun, and humor that is in bad taste and will alienate potential future fans. A good rule of thumb is to play 2-3 songs in a row and then have some on-stage banter/appropriate jokes between the front man and the audience.
2. Say your name, say your name. Don’t be that guy that announces your band name after every single song. But definitely make sure that the audience knows who you are. Introduce your band name when you get on stage, midway through the show and that at the end of your gig. Also, introduce your band members at the end when the audience has come to know your music.
3. A face in the crowd. Meet some of the early birds to your show before you get on stage. Remember their name and something about them and then call them out sometime during the show. Playfully make fun of them and you will have the audience eating out of your hand.
4. "How you doing, Los Angeles!!!"Saying something like that only sounds cool when you are doing a world tour and already have hundreds of thousands of adoring fans. That being said, if you really are playing somewhere outside of your hometown, give that town a little love. Mention something unique that you noticed about the town while driving to the venue.
5. The power of a story.Giving the audience every last detail about how you wrote each song will backfire, but if there is one special song that you want to give the audience some background on in under a minute, go for it! This allows the audience members to get to know you on a more personal level.
6. Banter with the bandmates. You don’t need to be the only one talking on stage. Have some fun with your bandmates. Tease them about something that happened at the last show or about their bad haircut. Show the audience that you actually like hanging out with them and that you have some sort of bond.
7. Win over the servers. Encourage everyone to tip their waitresses and bartenders. Although this sounds cliched, it will make the staff’s day if they get more tips and the venue will be more likely to hire you back. Any way you can thank a club or venue for having you (on- AND off-stage) is the best way to ensure that you will be invited back.
8. Hype up the other bands. It’s just good form to say something nice about the upcoming band and thank the band before you for introducing you. You want to keep the excitement high for the other bands coming on stage. And getting on another band’s good side could potentially lead to other gigs.
What’s your go-to banter line?
Even if you write and perform the most original, technically challenging, and ear-pleasing music out there, it will mean nothing if you don’t have fans. Promotion is a huge part of being in a band, especially when you are taking part in a competition like Battle of the Bands. To increase your odds of winning Battle of the Bands, take a look at our previous blog post called "Top 10 Ways to Increase Your Buzz Rating."
Continue reading this blog for even more ways to get your band’s name out there. There are hundreds (probably even thousands) of ways to promote your band that didn’t even exist 10 years ago. Taking advantage of these new digital marketing techniques and old-school methods can have the power to make or break your band.
If you haven’t already, create basic social media pages to promote your band. This means creating, at the minimum, a Facebook, Twitter, and probably an Instagram page. This is a free way to connect with fans, let them know where your next show will be, letting them in on backstage shenanigans, and whatever else you want to share with them. Post consistently on this page (at the bare minimum once a week, should be multiple times per week) to keep your page active and fresh.
Give your most creative band member control of the page and make them responsible for taking pictures, sharing information like release dates and gig locations, and whatever else they deem interesting enough for fan’s eyes. Posting about gigs makes venues love you that much more.
Coordinating with social media channels of the venue can get even more eyeballs on your band’s whereabouts and hopefully more ears listening to your music. Plus, if you can show a venue that if you have a big social media following you can prove that you in fact have a big fanbase and get more people in the door.
Obviously, for the majority of the time that you are on stage you will have your hands full, you know, playing your music well. But in between sets there is an opportunity to get your band’s name out there. Your lead singer has a microphone, and he or she can use it to make sure that your band’s name is known by the audience. There is no need to announce it after EVERY song, but saying your name multiple times during the night can help make it stick in the audience’s mind.
There are some fun opportunities to get your fans involved in the performance as well. Taking crowd panoramas from on stage and then posting them on your social media pages after shows can be a way to encourage people to "like" or "follow" your band’s page. Or take a selfie with a lucky front row fan. Any way to engage the audience while you are on stage can only help people’s perception of your band.
Take the time to listen to other band’s sets as well. If you really liked their music or working with them, give them a shout out on social media. They might just return the favor. Gaining goodwill in the music industry from other bands can only help, and you might gain new fans.
First, bring merchandise to sell. You should have at least a few CDs to sell as well as maybe a t-shirt with your band’s logo on it, etc. It is also a great way to gain emails of new fans that liked what they heard at your show. You can keep them in the loop by sending out a monthly newsletter of what your band is up to.
Always station one of your band member’s at the merchandise table at all times throughout the night. People want to talk to the musicians and are more likely to buy your stuff if they have a personal interaction with one of you.
Carry some freebies on you in case there is someone important in the audience that wants to hear more or even handing out a free CD to a fan that forgot their cash can make a fan for a lifetime, well worth the small cost of burning a CD.Happy promoting, musicians!
Guitar? Check. Bass? Check. Drum Kit? Check. Set list? Check. So, you have the absolute bare essentials needed to play a gig, but what else do you need to make sure that you can fix any last minute problems? Here is our list of absolute must-haves for any live performance. Think of this list as your musical tool kit. You can thank us later.
1. Gaffers tape. Kind of a weird name, but this stuff is worth its weight in gold. It’s like duct tape, but better because it doesn’t leave any residue. Use it to tape down cables, tape up set lists, etc.
2. Writing utensil. Sharpie, pen, pencil, whatever you have. This is incredibly useful for writing a set list, labeling gear, or even signing autographs for adoring fans.
3. Flashlight. Seeing backstage can be a challenge. Bring a flashlight or download a flashlight app on your smartphone to cut through the darkness and avoid stubbed toes or damage to your instruments.
4. Extra cables. Bringing extra cables ensures that you don’t have a panic attack when one your cables has a loose connection right before your band goes on. Make sure you have mic, instrument, and speaker cables.
5. Spare picks, strings, amp tubes, drum sticks, etc. Always bring extra instrument accessories, especially things that break easily or get lost in the shuffle. Always keep extra picks, strings, etc. in your instrument’s case so that you always have them.
6. Ear plugs. Constantly being on or next to a stage can really wear on your hearing. As hearing is one of your most valuable assets as a musician, you don’t want to lose it. So pop in those ear plugs when things get a little too loud.
7. Guitar tools. Basic tools like a Phillips screwdriver or pliers and multi-tools like the Leatherman can be very useful for instrument care and can be used for thousands of purposes.
8. Extension/power cords. Your band might require more power outlets then what your band needs. Or a cable you brought might be a little too short. Make sure you are covered with extra power cords.
9. Guitar strap. Unless you are playing in a coffee shop while sitting on a stool, a guitar strap is absolutely necessary for any other performance. It gives you the freedom to shred, don’t forget it. Check out Ernie Ball’s strap selection, including the number one selling strap in the world, the Black Polypro strap.
10. Tuner. While you should have already tuned your instruments before you get to the venue, a tuner can come in handy in a pinch or when you need to fix a detail.
11. Batteries. Make sure to have charged AA and AAAs on hand. You might need them for tools, accessories, or that trusty flashlight.
12. Water bottle. Stay hydrated during your gig, make sure you are drinking water throughout the night to keep your energy up and to take keep your throat from sounding scratchy.
13. Guitar stand. You need somewhere to put your guitar when you aren’t playing, unless you want to hold it the whole night. Guitar stands are easy to forget but can make your life much easier.
14. First aid kit. Whether you cut yourself trying to change your guitar strings or you need an aspirin from standing next to a speaker for a little too long, first aid kits are a necessity.
15. Extra "emergency" money. When all else fails and you don’t have the the needed emergency part or your tour bus is running on fumes, money is the solution. You can buy what you need to keep the show on the road.
What do you keep in your personal emergency gig survival kit?
Sound checks are a necessary evil. Unfortunately, unless you are the headlining band, you probably won’t get one. In festival settings, supporting bands typically get a line check. A line check is where the sound engineer quickly goes through each input with the artist to verify that the line is working properly and that the monitor is at the correct level. This process typically takes place in the presence of the audience and is worked through separately with each individual band member.
While making every band member 100% happy with the way they sound in time for the show might be impossible, here are a few tips to make your check go a lot smoother.
1. Early bird gets the worm. Get to the venue early so that you don’t have to rush your setup and sound/line check. It will stress everyone out if you don’t have enough time to problem solve and get everything right. If there are multiple bands playing that day/night, make sure to stay close to the stage. If the band before you finishes early, your band can step up and keep the ball rolling.
2. Befriend the sound guy. Rule number one, don’t call him “the sound guy.” Get his name and use it; he’s not your servant and he can make your life easier or a lot more difficult. Making some small talk before you start setting up can help you get some valuable background information about the stage setup and PA system. He is a resource that you don’t want to abuse.
3. Double check that you have all your gear. If you are missing an instrument or piece of equipment during your soundcheck that you will be using when playing live, then you risk messing up the entire mix. Make sure you have everything before you get to the venue.
4. Play like it’s the real deal. A line check is NOT the time to tune your instrument; that should have been done already. Play your instrument at full volume (imagine an audience there cheering you on). When checking electronic instruments like keyboards, samplers, tracks, etc., always send your loudest patch to the sound engineer. You do not want to line check with a soft patch and then start playing a much louder patch during your show. This will wreak havoc on your mix and could potentially damage the sound system.
5. Play together. If you do have time for a proper soundcheck, have the whole band play together after each individual band member has had their time in the “soundcheck spotlight.” What sounded good on its own might not sound as good mixed in with everyone else’s noise.
6. Don’t freak out. An empty room sounds completely different than a room packed with bodies. There’s a reason that you might sound flat or echoey when you are performing for just the sound engineer. The audience covers the large reflective surface of the floor and will absorb a lot of this sound. The sound engineer knows this and will be adjusting to compensate for the empty room during soundcheck.
7. It’s about the audience. It will always sound different to you onstage then it will to the audience. Sound from the monitors will contribute to onstage spill (meaning sound that is picked up by a microphone from an unintended source). High levels of sound on stage will make it very hard for the sound engineer to control the sound that the audience hears. Making everything very loud on stage will not improve the quality of the show for the audience. It will make it worse.
When all else fails, trust the sound engineer’s judgement. He has the experience and knows both the venue and the sound system better than you.
Remember when your kindergarten teacher told you that you had to share the toys with the other kids during recess? Sharing backline at a music festival with other bands is a little bit like that, but it doesn’t have to be a distressing experience. Here you will find the proper etiquette behind sharing backline so that your and other band’s experiences will be more enjoyable.
What exactly is backline? Backline includes drums, cymbals, guitar amps, guitar cabinets, bass amps, keyboards, stands, etc. that a band would need to perform on stage. Most music festivals require all bands to pick and choose from the backline equipment they have rented for the headliners.
Why can’t we just use our own stuff? While many bands might not like having to use unfamiliar gear, it makes sense in a large music festival environment. In this scenario there are multiple bands playing on one stage throughout the day. Sharing backline makes setup and teardown easier for band and crew, shortens the change-over time between bands, and lessens the wait time for the audience. In some cases it can save your band time and money. No more lugging your equipment across the state, nation, or even across borders/oceans for a one-off music festival.
How do we prepare beforehand? Sit down with all of your band members and come up with wish list of gear that you need. Remember that you will have to be flexible and that the provided backline list might not have everything you initially had hoped for. The best rule of thumb is to choose brands and models that are popular and well-liked because rental companies tend to have these in their inventory.
What SHOULD we bring? Just because you aren’t going to be bringing your own drums or amps doesn’t mean that you can’t be prepared with other pieces of gear that you are accustomed to. You can bring your own guitars, pedals, cables, vocal microphones, guitar heads, snare drums, cymbals, kick pedals, etc. It’s always a good to bring extra power strips, cables, drumsticks, guitar strings, and some basic tools.
How can we make setup go as smooth as possible? Get to the venue early. Even though sharing backline does make setup go faster, there are always last minute issues that crop up. Getting there early gives you more time to problem solve. It also doesn’t hurt to get acclimated to the space and organization of the stage so that you know where things are located. You can always help other bands unload and set up as well. You’ll get kudos from other bands and they just might help you out later on.
Keeping all of these things in mind can help you avoid a nightmare setup experience!
There’s more to being prepared for a gig than simply rehearsing with your band until you can play all your songs with your eyes closed. Communicating with the venue before you get there can make the difference between a very stressful setup and a great sounding show. You will make the lives of your band, the sound technician, and the venue much easier if you advance your show with a stage plot and input list.
What needs to be included and how much detail should you provide?
In basic terms, a stage plot is a diagram of the placement of each band member/instrument that outlines where microphones and monitors should be placed as well as any other helpful information. The input list is a detailed list of all instruments, microphones, and DI boxes that your band requires and where they should be patched into the sound mixing board.
For now, let’s start with the stage plot. The stage plot should be simple and uncluttered, yet provide enough information for the sound tech to be able to set the stage up just like your own band would. It’s important that your stage plot is updated and current at all times. You never want to circulate an outdated document.
These are the essentials that are necessary to fill in: The band name and contact information of the band member who knows the most about your audio needs. The relative position of each member on stage along with their instrument and/or amplifier. The number of mics, DIs, and monitors, that you will need from the venue What sound gear (if any) you’ll bring to the venue yourself To create your plot, you can use software made for this specific purporse such as stageplot.com or you could even use a word processing program to create a diagram. You simply need to know the universal symbols for stage plots, listed below.
|Microphones||An “X” inside of a circle|
|DI Box||Box labeled with “DI”|
|Drums||A series of circles|
So, you have signed up for Battle of the Bands to *fingers crossed* cash in on the opportunity to play in front of thousands. Now what? You can do more to catapult your band to the top of the rankings than just counting on luck. Here are the top ten ways you can get your band noticed and on to the big stage.
1. Express yourself. Write up a description of your band including the band member names, the type of music you play, information about how you came together, shows you have played, etc. The more people know, the more they can connect to you and your music.
2. Say cheese. Add band photos to your profile to give your fans and curious spectators an idea of what your band stands for. Uploading photos of your band playing gigs, group photos, etc. all help your audience engage with your band more.
3. Youtube. Upload videos of your band’s latest single or your favorite song to your profile to round out your band profile. It could be a professionally produced music video or a simple video with album art, anything to get people listening to your music.
4. What’s your type? List the genre(s) of your music on your profile. Battle of the Bands fans can search for new bands to support based on a genre filter built into the website. You just may gain a few new followers that way alone.
5. Link in. Make sure that your BOTB profile page is correctly linked to your band’s Facebook page. That link is just one more way to engage with old fans and create new ones.
6. Share those sound waves. Share at least one MP3 on your band page to give your fans a listen to some of your most popular material. The more songs you upload, the more listens you will likely get!
7. Drive traffic. Encourage your fans to share your BOTB profile page with their friends and followers on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and Instagram (basically any social media site they are active on.)
8. Become a Facebook fiend. Post regularly on your band’s Facebook page to collect more Facebook fans. Post about gigs, recording albums, pictures from your daily life, updates about Battle of the Bands; just be creative!
9. ReverbNation station. Link your Vans Warped Tour BOTB profile page with your band’s ReverbNation account and pocket an extra boost on your buzz rating. And if you don’t already have an account, get one here for free.
10. Give and you shall receive. Give a little love to your fans that took the time to comment on your BOTB band profile page. Responding back to some comments encourages fans to continue sharing your music and page with their friends.