Sunday, May 09, 2010
Record labels don't decide where bands tour, Tour Agents do.
Question: I have two questions really, not very related, but relevant none the less. First, I've noticed that on every tour I've been to, the bands playing are rarely all on the same label. Just recently this struck a chord, who decides what bands go on a tour, and do labels ever have any say whether or not their band goes out or is it the band's decision?
Secondly, I'm in a death metal band called Hadean Reign and we write an ABUNDANCE of songs. I've read lots of interviews with bands getting ready for an album and they'll say things like, "we already have 34 songs written," and stuff like that. My question is, when signing a band what are labels looking for in terms of album writing frequency? Do you want a band to be able to write 30 songs and put an album out every year or two, or do you prefer them to sit and gain momentum on tour and take time with material? From: firstname.lastname@example.org
Answer: Record labels traditionally sign bands up to a 'Recording Agreement' which governs the releasing of material to the public on recorded formats- CD, LP, Digital etc- and collecting the money from record shops, legal download sites etc. Very often the live performances of the act is not covered in such a deal because performing live is a seperate type of business, which has specialist types of companies called Touring Agents who deal with it.
For some reason the whole Touring Agent side of the business is less well known to the general public, mainly because the Touring Agencies do not spend as much time promoting themselves as the record labels do, The agencies tend to stay in the background quietly planning the live appearances and tours of the bands they represent.
Much like labels have a roster of acts, most of the bigger Touring Agencies boast a roster of performers too. Some of the biggest examples are CAA who boast AC/DC, Green Day and Radiohead on their books, William Morris Agency with Lady Gaga, Slash and Prince. Their are agencies who specialise in Rock and Metal like The Agency who rep Muse, Paramore and Trivium.
Agencies are typically the ones who negotiate the live performance fees for a show by the acts they rep, and in recent years the live touring circuit has assumed a huge level of importance for bands- just as the importance of record labels has declined due to less people actually buying music, and rampant illegal downloading. Agents negotiate the fee with the concert promotor who is the one putting on the gig, selling the tickets and taking the gamble.
In many ways, its now arguable that a knowledgable, dedicated touring agent who works hard for a band is more key than having a record label on board, but it must be noted that rarely do agents actually finance and fund the touring, they just supply a list of clubs and dates they booked for you, then its up to the band to finance the tour, so its not ideal for new unknown bands. To provide the finance to meet the huge costs of touring, you'll need an old-fashioned record company, as Agencies - like typical middlemen- rarely take risks with their own money. So bizarrely, Record labels aren't dead yet as we have had to reinvented ourselves as financiers of tours.
Touring packages most often include bands from the same Agency, its common for a headline act to take out newbie bands who recently signed to the same agent, as a stepping stone to a live career, and record labels hardly ever have a say in this process. This is why bands on the same label don't tour together much.
The last 10 years or so has seen an even bigger change in the touring landscape though. The rise of the super-promotors like Live Nation which have grown to become massive companies involved in the touring business.Live Nation has a financial turnover which dwarfs even the biggest Agency.
Live Nation grew out of a chain of US radio stations and its advertising business to eventually controlling numerous live venues and stadiums in the USA.Used to taking gsmbles and coming out on top, Live Nation turned the traditional record business on its head by signing Madonna for a reported $100 Million advance to cover her touring and recording for a number of years. Live Nation run the successful Download metal festival in the UK and numerous high profile events.
On the subject of number of songs recorded for an album, its a proven fact that the more songs a band has written and ready, the better the resulting album with be. Like most jobs, but especially in the creative songwriting process, the more you practise it, the better you get. You'd be surprised how many famous bands struggle to write material, many trivial things can disturb the writing process, but pressure to produce a follow-up after a big selling debut album often results in the dreaded "second album syndrome".
I think I read recently about ex-Earache band The Haunted had something like 40 new songs written and ready for a new album, which is remarkable as when they recorded for us, like most bands, it was more like 9 or 10 maximum. 40 potential new songs means the new album will be amazing.
Being prolific in the songwriting dept is brilliant and is exactly what labels are looking for.Prolific bands who can write under pressure are like gold-dust.