Releasing Records and Touring: The DIY Approach in Practice

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Are you a musician? Is your group having issues? Ask Fan Landers! Critic Jessica Hopper has played in and managed bands, toured internationally, booked shows, produced records, worked as a publicist, and is the author of The Girls' Guide to Rocking, a how-to for teen ladies. She is here to help you stop doing it wrong. Send your problems to her -- confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame.

Hi Fan, My band, Knights, is about to send our 12-song self-produced and self-financed album to get mixed and mastered. The album art is done, and I have a timeline/agenda set for self-releasing it. Recently though, I've been thinking, would it be a better idea to attempt to get it released on a label? Is it a common practice for people to complete whole albums and not release if they can get a small label to back it? I have no problem releasing it myself, but it would be nice to get on a small label and hopefully be helped by some of their marketing and booking resources. Regards, Nick

Hi Nick, If those are the only things you want from a label, I think you should just continue on with your plan and find someone who can help with those resources. Having control and learning how to make things happen for yourself, networking and having firsthand contact with people and the process of putting a record out there is a lot more valuable, initially, than having access to someone else's machinery, so to speak. That said, if you have some labels in mind, some local folks who maybe are already aware of your band, I don't think there is any harm in putting on the breaks for a set time--say a month--to aggressively shop the thing.

Keep in mind that if someone is interested, they may have a couple other projects in the hopper ahead of you or might not have the bucks to throw at it for another few months. It sounds like you are ready to have this thing out soon, throwing someone else's plans into the mix could add months or a year to its scheduled release date.

Given that your band is obviously a hands-on DIY operation but if you feel like marketing and booking are totally outside your wheelhouse, look into finding some help. That could mean hiring someone, or having a knowledgable friend help direct you. Doing your own release, putting your own money and sweat equity into your band's album and promotion makes you a much more attractive prospect to labels--so my feeling is you should do you do with this one and then use it to shop for a label. Best of luck, Fan

Hi Fan, My band is about to start doing some weekend runs regionally throughout the Midwest. The problem is, we don't have a suitable vehicle to carry us and our gear out of town. We're a four piece with a full drum kit, a sizable bass amp, a guitar amp, a synth, various equipment bags, and our guitars. We have a little money saved up from playing local shows, and all four members are willing to split gas costs.

We just need an economical way to tour. We all have small cars that we could barely fit ourselves without equipment in, and are unable to hook a hitch up to our V-4 engine vehicles. Would it be smart to invest in a mini-van? Would renting a small SUV be a viable option? We're bashing our brains trying to figure this out. Matt

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