PRACTICAL SHIT 5 - KEEPING EVERYBODY IN YOUR BAND ORGANIZED by Mark Eckert

TODAY WE GON' TALK ABOUT REAL SEXY STUFF.

GOOGLE CALENDAR & DOCS.

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So, making music at a certain point becomes the easy part. Especially when you're dealing with everyone in your band / duo, quartet, whatever.

Keeping everyone organized can be a real son of a bitch. You have to deal with your guitarists crazy needy girlfriend, your synth players conflicting schedule with his 9-5 dickhead boss that keeps him there until 10:30PM. And of course, your drummer - who never seems to have his drum kit. I mean realistically speaking - if you're the 'band leader', you're trying to run a small business... without any pay. (Assuming you are not rolling in the dough just yet.)

It can be a pain in the ass. Stressful. Overwhelming. And miserable at times.

How do you make things better? There are MANY tools, some more advanced than others that I will mention later on (as they require more advanced setups, and occasional pay.) But to start - I want to put something out there that everyone NEEDS to be familiar with, and is 100% free.

Google Calendar & Docs.

What is "Google Calendar & Docs"? Google has many apps that you have access too providing you have a gmail account. These are just 2 apps. Google Calendar is a simple calendar program, which in my opinion - completely kicks Apple iCal's ass. And Google Docs - this is where you can put up word documents, contracts, pdf's, etc. In other words - you can upload lyric sheets, stage layouts, notes that you can email to venues prior to setting up, contracts, flyers, upcoming shows with notes attached (and you can share all of these things to each of your band members emails.) etc.

THE SEXY ADMINISTRATIVE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS AF.

So - here are the links to getting started with Google Calendar & Google Docs. Get it set up. Need any more specific info about setting up? Comment below and I will edit/update.

PRACTICAL SHIT 4 - HOW TO RESPECTFULLY DECLINE A SHOW by Mark Eckert

There will be (and most likely have been) plenty of shows you were not trying to play, either because you weren't too excited about the venue, or about the band/artist that asked you. 

THAT'S COMPLETELY NORMAL. *Not every opportunity is the right one.* You DO NOT by ANY MEANS have to play every show you're asked to. Value your time - because if it's not the right show to play, you can invest that time and energy elsewhere that could very well help you down the road.

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Some things that didn't quite make the vid because Instagram only gives me a minute of time:

#1 - When you decline a show, MAKE SURE to give them some options around your area. Other bands, artists, or events that may perhaps be a good fit for them. You should absolutely respond (within reason - some people are just creepy as hell. So I mean, always exceptions.) Reputation goes a long way in this industry, and if you don't respond - it gives one excuse for someone to gossip about you. 

#2 - Why should you respond? Even if they aren't the right fit. Well, let's say this band is touring in from Detroit. Next time you want to tour through Detroit, you'll have a contact. Even if they aren't the right fit, they may know someone. And since you respectfully declined them, they should have no beef with you at all. Hell, you may even have a place to crash!

- Mark

PRACTICAL SHIT 3 - HOW TO TREAT THE SOUND GUY. PART 2 by Mark Eckert

Quick tips! A few key things you should know before talking to the unsung hero who will be mixing you at your show. Remember, if you do him (or her) wrong, you'll sound like ass on stage.

This practical shit is brought to you by Will (@spiffypal), and his band Cuzco (@cuzcomusic)!

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Alright! Practical Shit - Episode 3. We're doing a little embellishment of the week before. If you haven't checked out Episode 2 you can check it out here. This little mini-series this month is about how to not be a dick to your sound guy/girl, so YOU can sound your BEST.

There are two very basic principles we will cover in this video.

Hand Gestures & Tipping.

So here we go.

HAND GESTURES.

If your sound person/lady/man/alien is asking you what you want in your monitors - you should be directly able to tell them with very distinct gestures. This is something most musicians learn over time, and it is often hard-earned. Why? Well, because typically it involves pissing off your sound guy. So let's not do that. Read below, and nobody will be mad at you.

  • Point up for more
  • Point down for less.
  • 'OK' sign or a 'Cut-off' sign if you are all good.

TIPPING.

Tip your sound person. Every show I play, we typically do. (Except this one show where the dude literally just bailed 5 minutes before we started. WHAT A PILE OF SHIT.) Either give them a tip, or buy them a drink. Something to show them you appreciated what they did for you. *At many small clubs,* sound guys may often do it because they just love running sound. Sometimes they get paid if it's a good show with a high turnout, but often, it's a tough job - and for not a lot of money. If any. 

Tip them. They'll remember you, you'll gain street cred' for being "one of the good ones" in the scene. And I mean, like, you would've sounded like shit if they weren't running your sound. If you didn't have a sound system, and a competent person running it, nobody would stick around to watch your set. The sound guy should be one of the last people you talk to before you go on, and one of the first people you thank after you finish your set.

That about sums up Practical Shit 3! Have an awesome weekend. If you are playing this weekend, GESTURE & TIP, DAMNIT.

- Mark

PRACTICAL SHIT - How To Treat The Sound Guy by Mark Eckert

Quick tips! A few key things you should know before talking to the unsung hero who will be mixing you at your show. Remember, if you do him (or her) wrong, you'll sound like ass on stage.

This practical shit is brought to you by Will (@spiffypal), and his band Cuzco (@cuzcomusic)!

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Summary

Learn the sound guys name. Super crucial. Don't just scream "YO." or "Hey man, hey? hey!? HEY. YEAH YOU!" Can you imagine how annoying that would be? This dude is working til 3AM to make sure you sound dope, he's got a pissed off girlfriend back at his apartment who needs to complain about her waitressing position - and even though he's working all night long, and just getting paid tips at this local dive bar - he's STILL gotta pay for his poorly mixed Gin & Tonic... plus tip! UGH.

TREAT HIM WELL DAMNIT.

An incredibly important thing you need to remember: When he (or she) is sound checking you. Stop talking & playing. They are doing their best job to make you sound as great as they possibly can. There's a drunk crowd, a noisey air conditioner, some random middle-age man in the back making mixing suggestions with various directional finger-points of "up" & "down". And he's still trying to down this gin & tonic that just tastes like gin... with like, three sad lonely bubbles.

The less you talk and fuck around, the more he can focus on fixing your screeching amp from potentially deafening the audience, he can maybe find that duck-taped *but working* guitar cable that a previous band left behind because your guitarist forgot his (again) - Or (like one show I played) the sound guy can point out a potentially dying battery in your bassist's bass during sound check. Thanks to this mensch of a man giving all the shits about my band that night, we had low end and subsequently could efficiently melt faces.

YOUR SOUND GUY IS A FUCKING HERO. TREAT HIM AS IF HE'S GENE WILDER. BECAUSE HE'S GOT YOUR GOLDEN TICKET TO SOUNDING GREAT.

Follow these 2 simple tips - and you'll have a wonderful 'bffl' relation with your sound guy in no time at all. Or more likely - he will give you 1 SOLID half-smile before you drunkenly stumble out of the venue at 3AM with your new fans & homies.

Chur boi'

- Mark

Don't Forget Why You're Pursuing Music. by Mark Eckert

In an industry like this, it’s been hard to balance the passion + growth of my craft, personal developmental bullshiiiit, with modern day living (making da money.) BIG SURPRISE, RIGHT?

So, of course, the past few weeks I’ve questioned the direction of my career in music (detailed oriented things that are irrelevant - but somehow hold back my thought process), just like we all secretly do. I have huge goals, both musically & personally, but there are always different ways to go about pursuing them.

Anyone who says they don’t question their direction in life / career is 100% bullshitting. (even the people you stalk on IG.)

I know millionaires who are miserable. I also know near-homeless visual artists who couldn't be more thrilled about what they're doing. Be ecstatic of where you’re at right now and show yourself compassion. Most of all, remind yourself of why you're pursuing music. Keep reminding yourself, whether you’ve played 1 show, wrote 1 song, or have learned how to play 1 chord - you’re lucky to be doing this at all. At one point, you weren't doing it. You’ll look back on yourself a year from today and think you were awesome. Even though you will most likely be more advanced at what you're doing. 

This morning, I opened up a back-up of my old iPhone. I was overwhelmed with nostalgia. Pictures of playing shows, working in a bunch of different studios, traveling around America with my beautiful girlfriend Shirah, hanging out with my best friends both here in Charlotte & visiting them far away, spending time with my incredible parents. All the while - I was doing music ALL the time. A dream that I once had. I truly forgot how far I've come. 

The reason you need to remind yourself of 'WHY' in Music is because 'WHAT' doesn't matter without it. Music is all emotion. There is very little logic in what we do.

"So Mark, why are you pursuing music? Are you bullshitting me for an uplifting post and then you can get another subscriber? NICE TRY YOU WANNA-BE TONY ROBBINS."

JOKES ON YOU BECAUSE I ALWAYS FORGET TO SEND OUT TO MY EMAIL LIST. LOL. 

Why am I pursing music?? Because Music makes me feel like I belong. I was one of 3 Jews in a High School 'out in the sticks' of Charlotte NC. Charlotte does not have a big Jewish community. In fact there are only 3 Temples in a population nearing 3 million. If you do the math, that's about 1 temple per 1 million people. (Despite going to conservatory, I totally still got my Math Skillz, ayeeee.) We lived around a 40-minute drive from the nearest Temple. Before living in Charlotte, I had always lived in a city with a thriving Jewish Population. It was strange as hell moving to Charlotte. My parents knew it & I knew it. But we didn't talk too much about it. We tried our very best to make the best of it, as any parents should do when talking to their child.

I was absolutely the minority of minorities in my school.

Long story short, I got harassed both verbally & physically a fuck ton. From peers, occasionally side-swipes from teachers, etc. Swastikas drawn into my locker & desks. Hate mail. Called a Kike. Pictures of the holocaust thrown on my desk. Notes left on my car windshield telling me to "go back where you came from." I'd rather not even talk about the bus in 9th grade.

I experienced more anti-semitism than a majority of the Jews I've met in my life. The worst part? All of my Jewish Family & Friends lived in NYC, Chicago & Israel. They truly were baffled by the stories I told them. They had no idea what to say. I was more alone than ever. 

I had been playing drums & piano for a while, but until then - it was just for fun. My mom has always been in the industry, but she never *pressured* me to pursue it full time. However, things shifted. At this point - Music absolutely became my safety net. When I played, I was in the zone. It was therapy for me. It was somewhere where I didn't have to think about the bullshit 'jew-jokes' that were made that day. It was the one thing that I could do to re-create my own identity to peers. Instead of being called 'the jew' which quickly became my identity. I became 'the drummer,' 'the producer.' etc. Instead of some parents not wanting their daughters to date me because I was a jew, I became the cool guy in bands & studios - YOU COULD SAY CHUR BOI WAS DOWNRIGHT IRRESISTIBLE NOW.

CUE: HEARTBREAKER BY PAT BENATAR.

 

 

This re-creation of my identity is still with me today. I honor music because it helped me create myself into who I wanted to be, and instead of being known as "what I was," I was now known for "what I do." I was in control. Nobody else. Music made me proud of who I am. It made me embrace things I was nearly convinced to hate.. It changed who I was for the better. A few years later, I even got homecoming king.

In fact, this relentlessness to 'be in control' is most likely the very reason I've never had an actual job. I've only done music professionally. I really went from no friends, insecure, depressed, etc. To having confidence, a bunch of friends, and gaining an insatiable hunger for life. 

I think Social Media is honestly poison. However, my income is made through it - so I'm sort of in a catch 22. I owe a majority of my career / good friends / network to Facebook & Instagram (as well as my rent & food.) However, I hate that we are all attached to it. Looking at what other people are doing can EASILY make you question what you're doing and WHY you're doing it - for me? It's (at times) made me forget why I fell into this.

Chances are, what you're doing when you're in the zone is exactly where you should be. And if you're in the arts in some way shape or form, you're doing it out of therapy. Re-realize why you're doing it, and HONOR that reason. Honor the very thing that saved you. I Guaran-fucking-tee you you'll be right back to tip-top shape in your creativity and hustle. 

OKAY PLAYAZ. ACTIVITY TIME.

  1. Put your phone on Airplane mode for an hour.
  2. Deep Breathe / Pray / Meditate (I meditate using the app Headspace.)
  3. Get a piece of paper and a pencil.
  4. Make 2 columns. 
  5. Column 1 should say "Why I'm pursuing music." Be honest. In fact, be vain. I encourage it. If you want to make a million dollars - then say it. Don't disguise it as 'starting a movement.' Just be honest, dude. 
  6. Column 2 should say "Why I started making music." For me, it was very clear. I was an outcast - and it was therapy for me. My only goal at the time was being able to do music as much as I could - so I could avoid bullying etc. 

Chances are if the answers you wrote in both columns have little to do with one another, you have some reconsidering to do. It will for sure put things back into perspective.

- Mark

HOW TO BOOK A LOCAL SHOW by Mark Eckert

Have you ever wanted to book a show? Get some PR? Getting a band or backup musicians to help you out? How to talk to the soundguy? How to get paid at a gig? Make a show flyer? How to network? What you should say in an email? How to get sponsors? Book a DIY tour?

A lot of this stuff causes creatives to overthink. UNFORTUNATELY overthinking gives you an excuse to not get anything done!

PRACTICAL SHIT WITH WILL.

Will is a brother to me, he books more shows, plays more often, and absolutely slays every time. He is seasoned as hell, is VERY down to earth, and wants to help indie artists as much as I do.


In this VERY FIRST EPISODE, we cover 7 Key Steps to Booking A Local Show. 

GOING TO SHOWS
GETTING YOUR CONTACT
TWO WAYS TO BOOK
PAY TO PLAY?
PAYMENTS
SOUND CHECK
PROMOTION

Some of these aren’t “steps” necessarily, but they are incredibly important guidelines that you can and frankly should follow. ALSO, these are some ways that Will has suggested that have worked for him, but just like in all things in music, there are no rules. :)


ENJOY!

Mark & Will. 

Intro Music: 'Raygun Superstar’ from the album Dirty Feelings, by The Business People. 

Underscore Music: 'Pacha" from the album A Medicine For Melancholy, by Cuzco.

HOW TO HIRE AN INDIE POP PRODUCER: THE ULTIMATE CHECKLIST by Mark Eckert

Hire an indie pop producer before and they were lacking something musically, or professionally?

Feeling like you just can’t make THAT connection to a producer who can turn your artist vision into reality?

Just plain ol’ SICK AND TIRED of dealing with fuck-bois?

WELL DO I HAVE THE BLOGPOST FOR YOU.

Here is a guide to making sure you have a successful production process, come out with killin’ tracks, don’t argue over royalties, have zero confusion with payments, and make sure everyone is respected, understood, and happy as hell throughout the production process. COOL RIGHT? I KNOW.

This post is intended for people who want to find and hire an indie pop producer, whether or not that dude is me, or someone on the other side of the planet. It’s truly just a topic that needs to be openly discussed, because like any other facet of the music industry, there seems to be a lot of “guessing” way too often. So let’s cut some of that out! What should you expect from someone you are thinking of hiring.

I just wanna help you keep in mind, you are searching for someone valuable, and respectable. I think too often the music industry is put in this “grey area” when it comes to being a professional. But let’s be honest, when you devote yourself to making good music with someone who is qualified to do so, you are investing time, emotion, and usually a good sum of money.

Admit it to yourself, you ARE looking for a professional. In fact, you’re looking for an expert. Need a definition of that? CLICK HERE.

HAVING SAID ALL THAT, a majority of the producers that I am close with are incredible, and respectable men & women. However, just like all people in every industry… I have heard bad experiences. I’ve personally heard HORROR stories from artists I’ve worked with, in the US and all over the globe with past producers, or producers they’ve just discussed projects with. If I could help even 1 artist not experience a bad time in the studio and production process in general… well then, this blog post was worth it.

So without further adieu, while you are shopping around for the right producer, here are:

5 THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN YOU HIRE AN INDIE POP PRODUCER.

1. They do it full-time OR are actively pursuing full-time production.

Why? If you want something to be done well, you don’t go to a hobbyist. Simply put. You go to an expert. Someone who really knows what’s up. If my toilet is broken. I’m calling a plumber. I’m not asking my neighbor. Why is that? Because what I do on my toilet is a personal thing to me (just like your song is to you) and (just like your song) I want someone to realize how important it is in ‘getting right’ when they help me out (or you) with improving the situation. I want to know, by the end of this, my toilet (or your song) will reach it’s full potential.

You want someone who says “Hey. I do this. I fix the hell out of toilets.” or “Hey. I do this. I produce the hell outta songs.

Side-hustle producing is very hard to do with a 9 to 5. I know some very talented people who produce and have day jobs… the problem a lot of time is time. A lot of times producers are in the studio 12 hours a day… the last few hours fixing small transients in the backup vocals… because producers are ‘details’ people. Producers are as much of artists as artists are. It’s a passion, and not a back-up job if something else doesn’t work out. It’s just as difficult to pursue as any other artistic path.

So do you want someone really going for it, trying to be the best they can be, who is going to put in the extra time to make it THAT much better, if for no other reason THEIR name is going on it too? Or do you want someone who thinks something is “good enough.”

2. They specialize and are actually into what you do.

 

Okay! We’re taking on requests. What was that? You want something you can Twerk to? Oh. We don’t do that. But we’ll play Shamalama Ding Dong really really well again! Hit it, Louise!

Whether they specialize in a genre, in helping a type of artist, in how they run their business, or something else… you want to know that they are also passionate about your art. It’s worth shopping around and seeing who is your best fit and who you can connect with, rather than investing a large sum of money into someone who is just itching to get your record finished.

For instance, I work with indie pop artists both local and anywhere in the world – so anyone can have the opportunity to work with a specialist that does exactly this! I don’t accept work from anybody unless it’s an indie pop project – or something close. I was offered to produce a country record last year that would have paid my bills for 5 months straight. I said no. Why? Because I am not passionate about it, they needed someone who was passionate about it. Someone who would do it right.

If they were to hire me for a country record… you’d see Juno-106’s and Sampled high pitch girl vocals where the fucking fiddle should have been. Although that could be totally dope (in only my opinion, ha)… they needed someone who would give them the best possible experience and would respect the hell out of the project. That guy was simply not me.

So, I sent them right off to my friend who produces the shit outta country. They had a blast. And it ended up sounding light years more authentic than what I would have done had I accepted the role of producer for a country record.

(PS. YO. IF YOU TRYNNA PUT A JUNO & HIGH PITCH GIRL VOCALS OVER YOUR COUNTRY RECORD, HIT CHUR’ BOI UP.)

3. They have a clear payment process put in place. Money is openly talked about.

OY VEY. This is in my opinion, the most common issue that causes a project to go south. Payment not discussed before starting the project. This whole heartedly ends up with everyone mad, rumors, and people getting claimed of “being fucked over in the music industry.” When really, they were just not responsible when hiring someone / accepting a project.

Before I start a project with ANY artist, company, etc, I write out a written proposal. This proposal can take me up to 2 hours each (I should really automate this now that I’m saying this out loud, haha.)

This proposal covers everything, what money goes where in the project, what my rate is and why it is that rate. When they are expected to pay the rate. What is included in the project, what is not. EVERYTHING that you could EVER imagine is laid out so there is not even the possibility that their is a misunderstanding. 

I would much rather have a potential client read this proposal and tell me their concerns (/ or even back out!), vs not discussing things and disagreeing along the way, causing someone to be upset with the project – and me. Reputation goes far in this industry. So being a nice person, with open communication is vital.

Nobody intentionally fucks people over (I haven’t experienced that at least.) People just don’t say upfront what they expect in return their service. And THAT is what causes problems. Misunderstandings. Or… no understandings, if you don’t lay everything out!

4. Royalties are openly talked about and agreed upon.

Who has rights to the songs? Percentages? This can be a touchy thing if you approach it insecurely, or with the wrong intent. And believe me, people can tell. Making sure your producer is honest in what they believe they deserve in the song (or just claiming before they get started, in return for service) is extremely important. Again, you don’t want any misunderstandings, or surprises.

It always depends on the project for me, but no matter what, I am ALWAYS 100% upfront about it. And as always, I will much rather take less credit, if it turns out that I am not stepping on someones toes. Yeah, I may make some money off of the song in the long run if I fight for more rights, but someone talking negatively about me for years? That also effects me in the long run. Mentally AND monetarily.

I always remind myself why I’m in music… and when I do that, the appropriate response comes easier.

5. They don’t hit on you: i.e. NOT A FUCKBOI.

I thought I would throw in some Merrian-Webster shade for you in regards to this mysterious term; “fuckboi”:

*fuckboi – More than not, a teenage or young adult male who manages to fuck up his life and/or future prospects despite having every intellectual, social, parental, and economic advantage for success in his favor. Most likely will be interested in: “chilling”, bragging about how much he can “hold his liquor,” and mooching off others. The natural habitat of a fuckboi is usually a couch in someones basement.

“We’d love to finish our single, but we can’t because our 19 y/o fuckboi producer won’t get back in touch with us. Wait, where’s Amy? Oh my god. Are they? THEY’RE ON A CRUISE TOGETHER?” 

ALRIGHT. Aside from wondering where he got the money to bring “Amy” on the cruise, and you have envisioned the fuckboi that you personally know… We can wrap this all up.

This is directed more towards girls, but you need a professional who truly cares about what you’re doing, and what you are trying to accomplish. I work with a lot of girl singers. And I’ve even been told “I’m so happy you’ve been so professional during this whole process.” WHAT THE FUCK? WHY SHOULDN’T YOU EXPECT THAT, LADIES?

HAVE YOU LISTENED TO R-E-S-P-E-C-T?

No matter how naughty people try to make the music industry seem… a majority of the times, being hit on, or hitting on someone in the studio is not cool.

It is not normal if someone you have hired is trying to get in your pants. Having someone professional who treats your art as an investment from you, and treats his (or hers) own career, as a career, is essential into finishing your single, record, or whatever you need to create in a timely manner, with an incredible product you can showcase to the world. 

So, If you’re thinking of hiring someone to produce you… more specifically, if you want to hire an indie pop producer, you have a pretty good guideline of what ‘redflags’ to avoid.

Cheers, and enjoy your day!

– Mark