The 1st Music Video: Commission to Completion

What’s up friends. Thanks for giving me a few minutes of your time yet again. Today I want to talk about music videos. Aside from an album, they’re probably the most anticipated part of being in a band. Unfortunately, they’re also one of the harder things to pull off well. However, if you and your band are willing to work your ass off, you can create a nice product that doesn’t cost too much. Let’s start by talking about what you need to make one.

You’ve got a band, so we’ll skip that. Next you’ll need someone who can shoot (maybe more than one), someone to direct, someone to light the shoot and someone to edit. That’s the bare essentials. That list can be way bigger but if you’ve got at least that, you can pull this off. If you’re lucky, you might be able to find someone who can do all 4 of those, but you need someone who can do all 4 of those well. Lighting makes the difference between a good idea and a good idea that looks great, and in my opinion, there is no person more important than the editor. A good editor can work wonders on even the poorest film.

If you don’t know any of these people there are several ways to find them. First, look at other bands in your area who have music videos and ask them who shot theirs. If there are none (or they all look like crap) try posting an add in a classified. You’d be surprised how many young filmmakers will be interested in working cheap to build their portfolio. Lastly, find your local film school and reach out to the students there. You may find people there who are just learning but they will have access to all the equipment they need and will need to film projects for their class and future.

If you’re fortunate enough to have multiple options (who will work for the money you have) you can ask them to write treatments. You and your band will then be able to choose which story line you like best and of course work with that director to modify the idea if needed. It’s important to research the directors past work though. Many times directors will write a treatment for a video they’d like to make, but that doesn’t mean they can make it. If you have your own idea, or only one director to work with, you can develop the treatment together. It’s important to note that a music video is a work of art created with another artist so make sure that the directors ideas are part of the end product. If they are not excited about it, you won’t get the best product possible.

One important note about treatments. It is extremely important to make sure that any actors you want to hire for the video can actually act. Bad acting in a narrative scene will ruin an entire video. This also means that if none of the members of your band are also actors, then none of you should be acting in the video. You don’t have to make a movie. A well shot band performance makes a great video as well and in general, you’d rather have the end product look great than try to do too much and have it all look cheap. A good director will have ideas that can add to it as well. Ethereal film work can be done anywhere so it doesn’t have to cost much and it can add a lot to the finished product.

Once you have your treatment picked you and your band will likely need to do quite a bit of work helping find a location and of course getting gear to it. Be sure to be early and ready to work hard. The filming process will take longer than you expect and when you’re exchanging money for sweat, there is no such thing as being a rockstar. Get ready to work.

Of course, none of this matters if you don’t perform well, and this is going to be unlike any performance you’ve ever done. To begin with, you’re going to be acting like you’re playing while also trying to listen to a recording of your music being played back from the other side of a room. I can’t stress enough the importance of a playback system loud enough for all to hear. If you don’t have professional dead cymbals, you can double stack your cymbals which will deaden them considerably. You will probably still need to hide a monitor somewhere close to the drummer either way though. If you’re the singer, get ready for a hard day. Your mouth needs to match the lyrics perfectly and I’m betting you don’t sing along to your own album often. You don’t have to fake it if you’re not comfortable either. You can sing at full volume just be prepared that it’s going to make it that much harder for you to her playback.

The most important thing to tell your band is that every member needs to perform like the camera is on them 100% of the time. Chances are even if they’re not directly on camera, they’re in the background and if they’re just standing there, they’re ruining the shot. Bring it like it’s your last performance ever, and yes, you’ll need to film the whole song a bunch of times. It’s not unusual to do as many as 20 full passes plus closeups of individual members.

If you do all of that and have a good editor, you’ll be happy with the final product. One last piece of advice, if you have to make a choice between spending money on a location or props and spending money on a good camera and lights – choose the camera and lights. Best of luck and post your videos here! I’d love to see them!

Here is the music video for the song ‘… And Hell Followed With Him’. This is the 1st music video created for Jason’s band IKILLYA.


Time to Hit the Road: Undertaking the 1st international tour

The 2nd in a series of posts from our friend Jason Lekberg; frontman of metal band IKILLYA and VP of Digital Marketing and Strategy for the Eleven Seven Music group, where he tells us his experience of taking his band from New York to the United Kingdom.

Touring is probably the most complex part of being a musician. It’s simultaneously the most fun, most expensive, most effective and most difficult part of growing as a band. I think I can speak for all of you that the thought of your job being cruising from place to place with your friends to play music is one of the main reasons we started playing in the first place. It’s a blast and the feeling of working for yourself is really irreplaceable. You know your songs and how to execute them so you don’t wake up in the morning stressed about getting your job done or having to put up with some asshole boss who makes everyone else’s life hell because they hate their own. You get to play for people who (hopefully) dig your music and are looking forward to seeing you. You sell music and merch and begin to build a base of people who enjoy and maybe are even moved by your music. It’s the next step in your career and as a musician in heavy music, it’s the only real way to make yourself known. You can put out music and you might get some accolades for it, but if you have any hope of becoming more than a weekend warrior local band, you have to tour.

That’s all the good stuff. The bad is that it costs far more than you’ll ever make starting out and you’ve got to do all the work of booking the gigs and finding food and lodging on your own. For many people the intersection of “old enough to make money to support your band” and “too much responsibility to quit your job and hit the road” comes very early. When you’re young you’ve got no real money to support a tour and by the time you do, how you make that money doesn’t allow you to take time to go on tour. It’s a tough place to be and many bands never make it past the discussion stage at that age. I’ve been in bands on both sides of the coin and have learned a few things that may hopefully help you when it comes time to make that choice yourself.

It goes without saying that your band has to love to play more than they love money to survive but you still have to figure out how to eat. I’m sure most of you are already playing cities in your local area that you can get to by car or train on the weekends so we’ll jump right to touring somewhere you need time off to get to. When IKILLYA decided to go to the UK (we’re from NYC) to tour last year I booked the whole thing on my own. It’s just like booking your own city, kind of.

Once you’ve decided to tour, the first thing you need to figure out is how you’re going to get there and how you’re going to get around while you are there. Figure out flight costs, van costs, gear rental, gas, hotels/lodging and food in advance and then add 30% (cause there are going to be expenses you don’t expect) and if you can’t afford all of that, stop now. If you’re reading this you’re likely a band looking at one of their first tours so there probably won’t be a lot of money to be made from the door or merch. My advice would be to expect that you are going to make no money at all and if you do, view it as a bonus. If you’re going to another country, research the Musicians Visa process and prepare to file. Most countries won’t let you even file until you have a tour routing, but you’ll need to know that countries laws and be as prepared as possible so you can file quickly once you’re done. I think the show “locked up abroad” should convince you it’s not worth the risk of sneaking in. Once you’ve got all that done, you can start booking.

I started by using Facebook, Google, and ReverbNation to find other bands similar to my own in the UK and then looked at where they were playing. ReverbNation has an amazing tool called Gig Finder that lets you put in a location and shows you venues played by other RN members in that area. I began building an excel document of each venue, it’s address and booking contact information, and the same for any promoters I saw putting on heavy music shows there. I also began reaching out to bands to see if any of them would be interested in either helping us set up a show or introducing us to their local promoter or club. Most bands were not helpful, but a few were and we got some great shows from them. I was also fortunate enough to receive an old promoter and club contact list from a friend in the industry. It needed to be gone through as many of the clubs and promoters listed were no longer operational but after combining that list with mine I had a great starting point. I’ll be honest, we’re talking about a week+ of late nights putting this together.

Once I had my list, I began personally emailing each contact with a short letter I put together that gave an overview of my band, our achievements (specifically those that would show we had the possibility to attract fans in the UK) and links to our music, video, EPK, how much $ we were looking for and what dates we were looking at. I thanked them all for their time in advance and worked hard to be very honest about the level my band was at. At this early stage you are building relationships and the last thing you want to do is have a promoter/club book you on false pretenses and then be pissed after your show. The industry is very small and if you want to come back (which you need to and should be planning to if you’re going this far) you’ll need friends and professionals who speak highly of you. If they’re not interested in taking a chance on you, you don’t want them to anyway so don’t get upset when you don’t hear back.

I haven’t counted exactly but I estimate I got responses to about 5% of the emails I sent. Some of the responses were people being kind enough to let me know that they were not interested, some were people kind enough to give the contact of those who could help me and a very few were actually interested in booking us. I logged the dates when I emailed each contact in my excel sheet and also their responses. I then took the new contacts sent to me and emailed each of them as well. As I began confirming dates I built a google map marking the locations of potential and confirmed shows so that I could schedule the dates in the best way possible. I’ll be honest though, the end result did have us doing a bit more traveling than I would have liked, but at least we had shows.

Once I had the semblance of a tour together I sent one more email to those on the list who never responded letting them know which dates were still open and asking if they could help fill those. This actually got some responses as I’m sure many people read the first note and thought “these guys are never going to get themselves over here so I’m not going to waste my time”. As soon as it was apparent we were coming either way I’m sure they saw less risk. Eventually I had a whole routing together, but I’ll be honest – it took nearly 4 months. By the time I was done I had been passed on to someone else so many times that my excel was almost 3 times as long as when I started, and we had to move the whole tour 2 months to make it work.

Once your dates are solid you can submit for your Visa, buy your flights, rent your van and gear and start promoting. If you don’t already have them, make up posters and ship them to each venue at least 3 weeks before each show. I also bought super targeted facebook ads through ReverbNation for each show. They cost $25 each and just ran to the people in each specific town targeted to those who like the magazines we had gotten features in. Of course you’re going to promote it on your sites and if you have a publicist have them release a press release and begin reaching out to local press in each city for interviews and show reviews. If you don’t have a publicist, hit up google and make yourself a new excel. Put together a list of the local press and reach out to set up coverage.

Simple right? Now all you have to do is get your ass there and play the shows. haha. I have a few last tips for you though. Before you leave, make a tour book that lists each show, it’s address, the address of where you’re staying, the location of hospitals close to both, the promoter/venues phone number name and any other info you may need about it. You have no idea how good your cell service will be and who knows if your laptop battery will survive so print that stuff out and give everyone in the band a copy. If you have confirmed press, put that in there for each day too along with what time you need to leave each city and arrive at each venue. Next, remember that most countries will charge you tax for bringing merch to sell into the country. You can either find a local merch distributor to print stuff for you in that country or pack it in your suitcase. If you’re the size of my band you likely won’t have enough merch to arouse suspicion or really be worth taxing so I think this is an acceptable risk.

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, be a professional to the clubs, promoters and other venues. Show up when they ask, thank them for their time and effort and roll with the fucking punches. There are going to be lots of them. If the venue doesn’t have a good PA, make the best of it. If they don’t want to let you soundcheck, deal with it. If the other bands play too long, roll with it and cut your set a song or two short. You want to leave there with everyone wanting you to come back as soon as possible. Hopefully, you won’t have to deal with any promoters that try and screw you out of money they promised, but if they do, remember that you don’t want to go to jail in a country you’re not a citizen of. If you properly budgeted as I described above then you don’t need the money anyway so go about your business and when you get home, make sure everyone knows never to deal with them again. We were very fortunate to not have any of those issues and in general found everyone we dealt with to be pleasant and willing to go out of their way to help us. I expect you’ll find the same 99% of the time.

After all that, it’s all about the music. If people dig it, next time you’ll be able to ask for more money and eventually, you might not be losing money on the tour and that’s really all we can ask for isn’t it?


Jason Lekberg

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Bands Vs. The Music Biz: An insiders perspective

Hello friends with sore eyes

My name is Jason.  I have spent the majority of my life playing music and the last 6 years with it as my profession.  I am currently the VP of Digital Marketing and Strategy for the Eleven Seven Music group.  The fine folks who run this excellent online retailer are not only friends but also respected colleges and supporters of my current musical endeavor IKILLYA.  They’ve asked me to write a few pieces based on my experience and I’m happy to do so.  So without further adieu, here’s my first.

If I tell you that the music industry has changed significantly over the past decade I’m sure you’d say you’re tired of hearing that from everyone, everywhere.  I don’t believe that anyone who has even a passing interest in music is not painfully aware of this fact.  What surprises me is how many musicians either do not understand the implication of these changes or choose to act as if they don’t apply to them.  In simple math, the music industry earns a mere percentage of what it did 10 years ago and like anything or anyone else, when you have less money coming in, you have less money to send out.  This means that the industry is less interested in taking risks on new acts or investing in the development of a band.  Artists in this age simply have to do the work themselves.  All the work.  No longer can you start a band, play 11 shows and sign a multi-million dollar record deal.

The good side of this is that in laying all of the ground work it takes to develop a band, you will build a fan base that you own and have direct connection to.  A fan base that if you continue to nurture will stay with you no matter what happens.  That means, if done right, you can have a career in music with or without a record label.  You’ve all heard the stories of Pearl Jam and Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead giving away their music or self-releasing and I’m sure you’ve heard those who say it’s the future of the music industry.  It’s important to note that their fan bases were built by the promotion of huge record labels, but their actions now can be a great guide for building your own base.

All of those bands have a very strong, direct relationship with their fans.  They deliver constant contact and perks to those who invest in the band.  Their band business is their life.  Look closely and you’ll see that creating and releasing an album have become almost footnotes to the other work they do.  They create custom content and immersive experiences for those willing to support the band.  This is a full time job – exactly the same way building a new band is.  Every person who raises their hand and says “I like this band” needs to be super-served.  And since there is no advertising being done by a label, it’s all up to you.  I am shocked by how few artists even take the time to hand out fliers after other shows or do more than just have a facebook page.  If this is your dream, live it.

Of course, I understand the investment that takes and I understand the time commitment, but there are many tools to help you.  Sites like provide a tool box that helps you effectively and efficiently market, advertise and simply communicate with your supporters.  Sites like help you fund-raise for your project while offering real value for the supporter in return.  Regardless of what platform you use, this is a dedication to a lifestyle.  You must be a business and a musician.  This is a second job, and like any job, the amount you work directly effects the return you receive.

If this doesn’t sound appealing to you and you just want to make music, there is no crime in that.  Just be realistic about the likelihood of your music alone becoming a profession.  See ya on the sidewalks and in the clubs.

Jason Lekberg

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