So something that is key for anyone trying to make it in the underground and get to be more active is to just go out and do stuff. This is a really crucial point that people seem to routinely miss out on – is the simple fact that if you want to grow in the scene you just have to do stuff. However, if you start making a point of doing stuff within the underground then it is eventually going to start to pay off and as it increasingly pays off – guess what? You are going to wind up with better and better opportunities – it’s the flywheel effect. So in this article, I wanted to talk about ways to get the ball rolling for anyone seeking to become a tour manager, merch person or touring sound guy. All of these will take time to work out for you but I’ve seen them work countless times over the years.
4. Doing Door
This is perhaps the lowest level thing you can do in the biz, however it will open up countless opportunities for you. I’ve done the door at venues around the world for no other reason than that it needed to get done and guess what – it’s part of the game. If you aren’t willing to do the door then you aren’t going to go anywhere. I know that it sucks and you have to deal with people yada yada yada, but it’s important and a crucial look for anyone trying to bring their music career to a new level. Doing door at gigs just shows that people can trust you with money and that you’re willing to put the work in. It’s also a great way to start to meet people and build connections. You can use it as a leverage point, and in some cases even get paid for doing it.
3. Volunteering As A Stage Hand
Another one that is old as time and that you will see real motherfuckers engaging in all the time! There are countless stories out there dudes like Matt Pike helping random people load in. This is just a part of what you need to do when you are trying to build up a reputation in the underground and it’s something you’re going to want to keep doing no matter how far you get. But this all being said – if you start off just showing up at shows and offering to help bands bring people in – guess what? They are going to appreciate it. This is another way to build trust and eventually start to earn a position for themselves in the underground. It’s a really good way to open the doors, make friends and generally establish a reputation as a ‘good dude’.
2. Recording Other Bands
This is the one that perhaps requires the most upfront investment but is also one that can most concretely build up your resume. It’s less scalable in the way doing door or helping bands load in is. However, it’s a great way to show that you’re a smart person who can bring a lot of value. Tied into this (As well as the next point) is that if you can also do sound it’s going to really ensure that you build up some meaningful relationships that people aren’t going to forget. If you can get a good setup going it also is a great boost for your band too because it means you can more easily crank out content and build your bands’ reputation.
1. Booking Shows
Perhaps the hardest option on this list but also the one that will get money flowing and legitimacy being shown AND high-level contacts fastest. No one seems to get this but like – if you want to start talking to legit booking agents, there is no better way to do it than to start booking shows and doing it well. I see people learning the ins and outs of the industry and building up a reputation for themselves out of booking shows constantly. Yes, you need to be able and aware that you are going to probably lose money, but it’s also going to get people talking and showing that you are truly invested in this thing. It’s really as simple as that. If you show you are dedicated at scale for an extended period of time it’s going to pay off.
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Matt Bacon is a consultant, A&R man, and journalist specializing in the world of heavy metal. Having worked with everyone from Glam Rock icon Phil Collen of Def Leppard, to post Black Metal titans Alcest, by way of legendary thrashers Exhorder as well as labels including Prophecy Productions and Ripple Music, he has dedicated his life to helping young bands develop. Having started his own blog at the age of 14 he views his career in artist development as ‘a hobby that got out of hand’. In 2015 he formed Dropout Media in order to better support the artists he loves. We sit here now, years later with countless tours booked, records released and deals signed, and loving every minute of it.
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