El Paso Music Scene

Promotion Round Table

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Left to Right: Dave Volk, Ryan Rosoff, Melissa Benavides



Ryan Rosoff: Owner of Little King Productions, a full-service music promotion service, and front man for Little King, an El Paso-based band that gets radio play and sells music in digital format around the world

Dave Volk: Drummer of Archer Avenue, previous owner of Bordertown Records. Dave is finishing up his law degree at Arizona State University. I frequently receive impressive publicity releases from both Ryan and Dave about their respective bands, which have been playing in the southwest U.S. for several years.

Melissa Benavides: Owner of Mind Over Matter Promotions, an El Paso-based booking company.

The Discussion:

Dave Volk: I really appreciate you asking me to be here. I'm just a drummer in Archer Avenue these days and I'm just a guy trying to get our stuff out there. My role these days is as a drummer and not much else, but I'm pumped to share any experiences I've had along the way."

There are two rules, I guess; 1) don't get hurt, you can't take things personally, and 2) you don't deserve anything. Do you e-mail who writes that column, happen to meet that guy in a bar... there is no one specific way to get into Tiempo, on local radio... Know who's in charge, read the columns they've written. Definitely, when they write something, thank them. Don't be hurt. Also, you have to know, a full page in Tiempo doesn't by itself make you big. If you have a pretty good live show to back it up, you're on your way.

Ryan Rosoff: I think, what I want to add is, first and foremost, content is king. All art, music, any visual kind of art... you've got to have good stuff. If you're not ready to compete, you're wasting your time with promotion. Let your family and friends hear you, and if you're not ready to submit your work, then don't send it, work on your craft first. The second thing is, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. You must be persistent. You have to know that three e-mails in one week is too much, but maybe three in ten days is OK. You have to have a feel for people. Some people don't want to be bugged, so don't bug them.

Melissa Benavides: Basically, once you've recorded your CDs, drop them off in many places; they help you build a following. Be sure to thank people. If somebody does something for you, don't be in their face, don't be bad-mouthing them if they don't give you everything you wanted.

EPMS: When you had your early bands, what mistakes did you make?

Dave Volk: I played in a band called Warhole, which was a thrash metal band. I had a fierce mullet. I guess, the number one mistake we made was, we didn't promote at all. It was weird, though, we were really popular. Had we done what Ryan said, we could have done something. Face down, we had the ugliest looking merch, the worst flyers... Now, with Archer Avenue, finally we've figured it out, we have a good balance between promotion and sound, and it's really great.

Ryan Rosoff: Whatever you're going for, make it look like you care.

Dave Volk: Have a good 8x10, have your album produced by somebody who knows what they're doing. We had our last album produced by my hero, Pete Anderson. We did it with Keith Krauss of San Antonio. A number one mistake; bands can't produce themselves. You need third-party ears.

Ryan Rosoff: I do self-produce, but then I have people like Billy Townes listen to it afterward. It's my production, from start to finish. I have an engineer and sound mixer, those are things I can't do. I never could keep a band together long enough for the first two records. The other players were not as dedicated to the goal as I was. It was great working with Terry Brown. He's first generation, I'm second generation. He could do amazing things with his tricks of the trade, he knew where I was going. He's sixty-two or sixty-three, the godfather. He's the coolest guy.

Melissa Benavides: Among younger bands, a big mistake is to bad-mouth another band to promoters. Things like that get you blacklisted.

Ryan Rosoff: As it should, that's karma, that will come back to you.

Dave Volk: We're too busy talking about ourselves. I would never be a booking agent. (To Ryan) Do you book yourself?

Ryan Rosoff: I used to.

Melissa Benavides: It's fun; I like it.

Ryan Rosoff: I quit. Once I booked a band from Dallas, they were excellent, musically, and were huge in Dallas, but when they hit the road, they thought they were huge everywhere.

EPMS: Ryan, what have you done to put your MP3s on different web sites?

Ryan Rosoff: We're on all the iTunes, Napster, The Orchard, plus my online distributor has us online all over. With the physical products, though, it's tough dealing with everything you have to do. We've sent CDs to college radio stations.

EPMS: What is involved with that?

Ryan Rosoff: Again, I deal with CDs and college radio. You can't send singles to them; they don't want less than a full-length CD. There are tons of stations listed on the internet; you can get names, addresses, etc. It's just a process; you put on sticker the package that says "Going for adds." We hired somebody this time to do it. So, I tell them where I want to be submitted to. We use a company called Tinderbox Music in Minneapolis. They're the best ever. They send reports every two weeks, detailed. They also have licensing connections. That's college. Commercial radio is different. If you're not on a major label, you don't get any play on commercial stations. We're on KLAQ, only because we get good response. I appreciate all they've done. They give us one or two plays a day, which is huge. They especially service specialty shows.

EPMS: Like Q Connected?

Ryan Rosoff: Right. There are a lot of them out there. We service these specialty shows, we tried with about 80, and we're on 6 stations. The third level is to get real distribution, where you can actually do a full national radio campaign.

EPMS: What do you mean by 'national?'

Ryan Rosoff: By 'national,' I probably mean about five hundred stations. With specialty shows, you have to press singles, typically. Big stations will not playlist if your product is not in the stores. That's the way it works in commercial radio.

Dave Volk: As for as distributing your record, you want to get a label... FYE has programs you can apply for, called LocalEyez.

Ryan Rosoff: They haven't done anything with my record set.

Dave Volk: You do have those options. We used to, when we were on the road, put our records in the stores ourselves.

Ryan Rosoff: Did that work very well?

Dave Volk: Not very well.

Ryan Rosoff: Did you register with Sound Scan?

Dave Volk: Yes. There's formalities a lot of bands don't do. Most people don't know what publishing is. For instance, does a young band know about royalty fees you can pay to put a cover song on your record?

Ryan Rosoff: I'm self-educated. I've always learned the hard way, which makes me more aware of things.

Dave Volk: ASCAP has to do with royalties for public performance (radio, TV, live) of songs; they also cover juke boxes.

Ryan Rosoff: BMI also. Sesac..

Dave Volk: As for publishing, you have a song, usually song you write. Now, bands are on their own, and can do their own publishing, even sheet music. By publishing, I mean like, in guitar magazines, if you have tunes you think could make it there.

Ryan Rosoff: You can do everything on-line.

Dave Volk: You can register the title, the name, the perfomers, and those kind of formalities.

Ryan Rosoff: Labels want their bands to have this in place before they talk to you. 95% of bands in El Paso don't have that in place.

Dave Volk: I didn't know about this until I went to law school. If you have a record, and you get ten to fifteen spins a week, times eighty stations, it adds up to real money.

EPMS: How is law school coming?

Dave Volk: I graduate in May from ASU Law.

Ryan Rosoff: I admire that.

EPMS: Tell me about Sound Scan:

Dave Volk: You register your UPC. All the formalities don't matter without significant sales.

Ryan Rosoff: Sound Scan is important; it's the only tangible record you can present to verify your sales.

Dave Volk: You can include sales from shows with the approriate forms. It's a pain in ass, but you should do it.

Ryan Rosoff: It's a one-page fax. Neilsen owns Sound Scan; also Broadcast Data Systems, This is really important for radio - BDS is a digital encoding system that tracks radio play, spins on a real-time basis for commercial stations.

EPMS: How do you book a tour?

Dave Volk: The best thing is to get an agent, but if you've reached that level, it's probably already done.

Ryan Rosoff: Agents make their money on contingency.

Dave Volk: Generally a ten percent fee.

EPMS: How do you do it without an agent?

Ryan Rosoff: There are tons of resources. www.byofl.org is fantastic. It has venues, promoters, and agents, in every decent-sized city in the U.S., but it's more for punk. It has thousands of listings. It's the music atlas, it comes out once a year.

Dave Volk: It's the indie bible. I never used it. I always just got on phone.

Ryan Rosoff: (to Melissa): How do you hear about bands?

Melissa Benavides: Being on myspace.com. Mainly, Lonisar telling people about my company. The next thing I knew, I had gotten lots of stuff on Myspace.

Ryan Rosoff: Did you get busy fast, once you had three or four good ones?

Melissa Benavides: Many people hit me up.

Dave Volk: Number one rule, be realistic, start local. Then, branch to neighboring cities, build a circuit. Ours is the Southwest circuit. We're going national some time in 2006; you've got to plan ahead.

Ryan Rosoff: I've found, when contacting venues and promoters, let them know you're doing radio publicity. Be willing to promote your band. It's all about business. If you're doing something, you have a better chance to book a good show.

Melissa Benavides: Don't burn you bridges. In San Antonio, don't bad-mouth Dallas venues.

Ryan Rosoff: Get a fan e-mail list, so, next time...

Dave Volk: Next time you come through town, you can let people know. Or, put your tour on your website.

EPMS: How often do you update your web site, your blog?

Ryan Rosoff: Once a month, but we've been having webmaster problems. They're good but he's in California; it's a kid. My news section is a month old.

Dave Volk: I used Dreamweaver.

Ryan Rosoff: Is it easy?

Dave Volk: No, it isn't. I try to update our site all the time. There are always things that change. There is one easy way: link your site to your Myspace page, and update that.

Ryan Rosoff: Treat it like a business, for the time that you're controlling it. Like any job, you need to organize your work, and stay persistent. Good content is not like making cars or furniture, it's art. You have to have the nuts and bolts of promotion to be successful, or know others that can do it.

Ryan Rosoff: You have to have a good grasp of all of it. There are no entertainment firms here.

EPMS: What role does an attorney have for a band?

Dave Volk: Legally speaking, at some point, you're going to need an attorney, that's the way it is. In my class, we did a pro bono arts thing, where bands could ask free legal questions. You need to familiarize yourself with the basics of copyright and trademark law. Make sure there is not another band with a trademark of your name, that you're not stealing someone else's material. If you have legal questions, you have to ask an attorney.

Melissa Benavides: You've got to have contracts with bands and venues. You want someone at the door to see who pays... At my last show, I had two bands drop out at the last minute.

Dave Volk: Anyone can write a contact: the terms of agreement are your terms. The more money you make, the more you have to protect your legal interests. If you're in a band, and you start making money, get a lawyer, hopefully a good lawyer.

EPMS: Let's say you're band is having its third show. What should a band be doing?

Dave Volk: Flyering, having a web site with your fans, your friends and buddies, get on bills with bands similar to yours to help you gain some new fans. Be in contact with press outlets here, elpasomusicscene.com, Whats up El Paso, Victor at The Times. EP Scene, Open Mic. If you do those, someone will see these. Javier (Herrera) never really played, he was brand new. He got contacted by a nice lady, Christie Flores, who e-mailed him, and said, "We'd like to do photos... let me take some pictures. I'd contact her in advance, ask her, can we get photo in whatever issue. We had to have a purpose, like a CD release thing, etc. It was a combination of then being cool, us responding, make sure he's available. They're pretty cool.

EPMS: Why was it so much trouble getting into the El Paso Times?

Dave Volk: I contacted them in 2003 about who I was. I gave them my mission statement, "Hi, I'm Dave, I'm starting a new label... I'm going to send you stuff, please review." I would keep them informed, making sure to be direct in all my letters. I gave them a reason, such as a record being released. At least I had something to say. The El Paso Times liked Javier, it was easy knowing who to talk to. Communicate without sounding like a jerk, have some genuineness.

Melissa Benavides: For newer bands, just burn your CDs, get them out there, be friendly, be in people's faces. Be approachable. When playing let's say, Dave's new band, try to make the crowd like you; force it down their throats... just have fun, get crowd the involved, especially here in El Paso.

Dave Volk: One final thought. Back to basics, don't get upset if you don't get coverage, keep trying. A mention in a magazine is what it is, words on a page, It comes down to the few people that read it, see if you deliver. Some can deliver, some can't. Make sure you sound good live.

There's a lot more talent here than in San Antonio, but bands in San Antonio promote much more. It would be fantastic if a band could have balance. Definitely, jump at any opportunity.

Melissa Benavides: Bands think they get a break, that they're too good for El Paso... in hip-hop, it's not like rock bands in El Paso. Hip hop will do anything. Rock bands are really demanding.

Dave Volk: Managers can be a bad thing for young bands. Managers are usually not supposed to get you gigs. Do managers have to report on their taxes? In California, managers do guidance, agents procure employment. If you want to do merch, start with your CD. BRL Music is the best CD duplicator for the price.

With merch, you gotta find out what people want. Here, I don't know.

Melissa Benavides: Lunatic Agency. They do nice shirts and buttons. Figure out what people are into. Some like stickers; do what the crowd wants.

Dave Volk: Same thing with flyers, if you're not good at it, find out who does it. With us, it was somebody's girlfriend. They look cool. Look them over once they're finished, that's an important thing. Looks bad to mis-spell the venue's name, or put the wrong address.

Melissa Benavides: Or forget the date and time...

Dave Volk: Build your following. Make sure your live show is the best you can make it.

Melissa Benavides: Younger bands must realize, this isn't MTV's "Making of the band." There, they have a big artist, like Puff Daddy, they have auditions, the pros train them. Tito (Diaz, Eye II Eye Productions) said, "You have to be in at least four years, then people will take you seriously. As far as merch, give out stickers and buttons for free. People will come back. The more stuff, the more people will listen to you. They will at least listen to you. Maybe they will give your free CD to somebody else. Keep in mind the age of the crowd. If they're 18 and under, don't do drugs and suicide songs.

When performing, don't bad-mouth the venue, the price of show, don't tell people "Fuck you," or "Man, you guys paid like $7 to see this BS?" You can't get mad, shows never start on time. You can't bad-mouth anyone. There is so much that young people won't listen to. I've been promoting for a while.

EPMS: How about a street team?

Melissa Benavides: Basically, a street team is just a fan base in different cities. They try and get more people to listen to the band. Once you get a good fan base, you can really start trying to get to a higher level; maybe open for Ozz Fest, or be an opener for a bigger band.

EPMS: How about message boards, also known as bulletin boards or forums?

Melissa Benavides: Hit up as many as you can in El Paso, from elpasomusicscene.com to www.elpasochat.org.

EPMS: How many flyers should a band pass out?

Melissa Benavides: A lot. lot of bands think, drop a few hundred flyers, people are going to look at them.. You must hit every side of town.

EPMS: How does a band get their flyers done?

Melissa Benavides: First, find someone with creative, artistic ability. I've seen some with a picture of Marilyn Monroe, plus the info about the show, or whatever. It needs flashy letters... black and white or color, make sure it's eye-catching. Canvas all of El Paso.

EPMS: Do you pass them out door-to-door, in parking lots, or what?

Melissa Benavides: gas stations, tattoo shops, clubs, on cars. You have to spend money to make money. You have to really get yourself out there. Get a show together, do a benefit show. You can get a lot of publicity, the news will be covering it. Perseverance, perseverance, perseverance. Don't rely on someone else to do it for you.

- Charles Hurley

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