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Words of Fang: Disillusion and the Equation of Greatness!

January 25, 2017

Lords of the Trident 2016

Hails metalheads! My name is Fang VonWrathenstein, vocalist for the band Lords of the Trident (http://www.LordsOfTheTrident.com). Every month or so, I’ll be handing out my sage advice to other bands on how to take their band from the garage to the next level. I’m no industry insider, but I’ve been around the block a few times. Have an idea for a topic, or fervently disagree with something I write? Email me at LordsOfTheTrident@gmail.com.

Gather round, children, and let uncle Fang tell you a tale. For you see, this year marks the 18th year in a row that I’ve been running a band. In that time, I’ve seen technologies come and go, watched countless talented bands form and break up, and learned an awful lot about the realities of being in the music industry.

I and my counterparts – the jaded booking agents, the club owners, the sound guys, PR managers, etc. – have been doing this for so long that we can spot a good band pretty quick. Conversely, we can also see a terrible band coming from a mile away. What usually gives them away? There are a lot of simple warning signs, but I think it boils down to one main aspect: disillusion.

Calling Captain Disillusion! Perhaps you can do a segment on deathcore bands?

What do I mean by disillusion? Specifically, I mean vehemently believing that your band is the greatest, most amazing, most spectacular thing to ever be created. You are god’s gift to music. No one is as good as you. Now I’ll admit – there’s a certain amount of grandstanding that goes into any successful band. Part of the image of the “rock and roll” life is being separate from the rest of humanity. Being put up on a golden pedestal, if you will. But here’s the crux – this exists because other people do it to your band. If the band themselves believe they’re amazing, I will 99.9% guarantee that they’re not. The ability to stay humble is crucial to the creative process, because you are your own biggest critic. If you lose that ability, you lose the drive to improve yourself.

What immediately gives these bands away? First and foremost, their “bio” section. Take a look at this actual bio from an actual band (and please ignore the grammar mistake, this was copied and pasted as-is):

“Every once in a while a band comes around that breathes new life in a stale music scene. (NAME REMOVED) is that band.”

If I had a nickel for every band that was the “leader of the genre”, “a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale genre”, or “creates a sound that cannot be easily described”, I’d have more cash than these bands have album sales. Unless you’re writing this in some sort of tongue-in-cheek fashion, don’t ever describe your band in this way. Nothing makes the eyes of booking agents roll into the back of their head faster than these types of descriptions. By the way, the band in question plays pretty mediocre melodic hardcore music in the style of a bunch of different bands any booking agent could easily name. Not bad, mind you, but not BREATHING NEW LIFE INTO A STALE GENRE!

These guys must go through so much hair product!

Here’s the honest-to-Dio truth: your band is NOT special. There is such a statistical improbability that your band is going to be the next Led Zeppelin/Tool/Rush/Beatles that your chances are about the same as winning the lottery.

There are a large number of bands much better than yours. My band as well. There are bands out there that are so much more talented than either of our bands, it would make us straight-up quit music if we saw all of them play. No matter how good you think you are, there are 10-20 other bands or players who are much better.

Those who have been on the road, who’ve slugged it out playing shitty dive bar shows, and who have seen the good and the terrible aspects of the music industry already know this. They’re not going around saying or thinking they’re the best at what they do – they’re simply doing it, and trying to make it work for them. Professional bands know this. Fledgling bands don’t.

“If that’s the case, Fang…what’s the point? We’re never going to be famous!”

Hold up a second there, I never said anything about fame. Ask any of the most famous bands out there if they think they’re the best band in the world – I guarantee none of them would say “yes”. Bands that we’d think of as “leaders of their genre” probably have 10-20 different bands that they think are much better musicians or performers. These bands influence their sound and keep them working towards greatness – not fame.

So what’s the answer? If you’re surrounded by bands that are much better than yours, how do you work towards becoming one of the greats? How can you stand out? How do you get those big show offers? In general, the equation of band greatness looks like this:

([Number of fans + clout] * professionalism * [important contacts * 10]) /

(Talent (1 = God-like, 10,000 = the worst) + [Important people you’ve pissed off * 10])

“Hey guys, get a hold of the nerd!”

Here you go – a sure-fire equation for musical success. You’ll notice that a big part of your success ratio has to do with the people you know. Just like most professional fields out there, you can be at a big advantage (or disadvantage) based on how many influential people you have in your corner. So how do you go about increasing your chances? Let’s walk through these variables piece by piece.

Fans – The more fans you have, the more people will attend your shows and share your music. Increase this by playing more shows, creating more media, and becoming friends with more people!

Clout – What is “clout”? This is a bit harder to define. Clout can generally be thought of as “sway in a community”. Are you considered one of the go-to people in your scene locally? Regionally? Do you support other bands and go to their shows? Do you volunteer your time for others? To increase your clout, you need to be seen as a leader. The more you help others, and the more involved you become in your scene, the higher amount of clout you gain. Increase this by helping other bands, booking shows and festivals, and volunteering your time to help others become successful.

Professionalism – Calling back to the disillusion discussed at the beginning of the article, professionalism is two facets – first, how easy your band/management is to work with, and secondly, how much the powers that be want to work with your band. If you’re generally seen as a jerk, you may be professional on the stage, but no one will want to work with you off the stage. This is hugely important, hence why it’s multiplied. How to increase your professionalism? Put others before you, work on being easy-going, and don’t be a jerk!

Important Contacts – This is the big one. It’s a dose of harsh reality, but the more important people who like you and your band, the easier everything will be. When a major booking agent is looking for a local band to contact, they’ll likely ask someone local they trust before surfing the Reverbnation charts. If you’re the first name that comes to mind, you’ll almost certainly get the show. Your band will live and die by these people – if you piss these people off, you’re going to have a very, very hard time booking anything significant (see the denominator of the equation). The worst part – you never know who will eventually become an important person.

If you’re the type to react harshly and flame others on social media, you’re digging your band’s grave. Always strive to be the nicest band in the room, no matter the situation. Increase your connections by doing volunteer work or favors for these important people and their friends. Eventually, you may be able to ask for a favor in return.

Talent – Talent is not inconsequential – it’s one of the two factors of the denominator that the rest of your work balances on – but it’s not a make-or-break factor. Increasing your talent greatly helps your chances of success, but someone with more important contacts than talent can achieve the same outcome as someone with ridiculous talent and very few contacts. Talent is perhaps the easiest thing to increase – simply practice more!

This may be a harsh dose of reality, but I feel it’s important for all bands – especially the disillusioned bands – to see it. Now that you have the formula, you can begin to use it. Get out there and grind! Help others, play nice, and never forget who helped you get there!

Are you a band that owes your success to my pearls of wisdom? Do you wish there was some way you could pay me back? Well there is! Buy the Lords of the Trident’s albums off AmazonMP3, iTunes, or BandCamp, watch our music videos on YouTube, and visit us online – http://www.LordsOfTheTrident.com. Want to email me directly? Tell me how good/horrible my advice has been thus far? Email me at LordsOfTheTrident@gmail.com. If you give me an idea for an article, I’ll send you a FREE album as a reward!

Related Articles: WOF: Too Old To Rock N Roll? | WOF: How to Get on Blog X | WOF: Learn To Say NO!

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