Okay, here I go sounding like the old guy talking “back in my day” again. The truth is technology is changing so fast, that guy could have actually been born when grunge was the thing (google Seattle music or Soundgarden). And while lots of folks complain about what the cursed internet has done to music, and while I could easily call Pandora the devil’s work, a whole lot of things have changed for the better.
Van #1-Brownie. Okay, this was actually a mini-van. When I made the decision to give this music thing a chance I sold my Jeep Renegade and bought a Ford Astro van from a lady who had been using it to move her paintings. It was sans chairs of any kind and covered wall to wall in carpet. Not cool Dazed and Confused carpet. Just plain, office grade stuff. We all met at my house in Norman, Ok, packed our gear and hit the road for our first out of town gig in Stillwater, Ok roughly 70 minutes away. But damn it we told everyone of our friends we were on tour.
Van #2-The Banana. Yeah, cause it was yellow (too easy?). This was a big step up from Brownie. Full sized, customized and we finally had that sweet 70’s shag this time. Here’s how we bought The Banana. My dad worked for the Dept. of Transportation and was put in charge of finding a band for their annual Christmas party, or yearly retreat or something. Now, the only place worse than a corporate event for a band who was in full on refuse-to-turn-down-or-play-covers mode to play, is an event for state employees. Listen, I was a state employ once (different story for a different time centering around me holding a “stop/slow” sign on the side of the highway) and I’ve met cool state employees. But a room full of them drinking punch out of paper cups at noon…
Why’d we do it? We’d just seen an ad for a perfect van upgrade, cost, 3500. Pay for the gig, 3500. By now we’d graduated to the seven state area. The Banana’s last trip was even farther… to NYC to play a label showcase at CBGB’s, which incidentally was not the last time we were passed on by a label.
Van#3-No Name, but a badass shiny new 15 passenger van pulling a very solid trailer full of gear. No stories about this one. Not even the bullet in the side story (crazy girls). It’s time to address the future.
That’s where we are now and holy hell things look so much easier. We could've graduated vans way quicker if I could’ve sent blasts to our fans tweeting or snapping away. We could've saved tons of gas skipping that one show we just had to play in Brownsville, TX for 15 people (btw that’s pretty much as far south as you can go). Would’ve had a contest where fans put up a youtube video of their favorite Nixons song and pick the one from south Texas. And services like TuneCore: this is basically an online handbook for people trying to do exactly what we were trying to do. I didn’t even know what publishing was. On sites like this you can learn every intricate detail on this and almost any other music business related topic. It’s like the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for bands (don’t panic).
Listen, did I enjoy spray painting our band name on dumpsters all over the Oklahoma City metro area banking on people thinking we suddenly had such rabid fans we were worthy of a little petty vandalism? Okay, I actually did enjoy that and would do that one all over again.
I’m a songwriter now and fought every sibling-in-law I had telling me how great American Idol was. See, I did it the real way. Came up the right way. Until I got a cut on an Idol’s album, then I liked it better. Oh okay, not so bad. It was a platform. A way in. Today there are so many more of them. In my heart, I’m proud of the way we did it. I learned a lot and know a lot things to warn my sons about. We played around 300 days a year for nearly a decade and hell yeah could’ve used an assist from TuneCore to shave off a hundred miles or so.
Van and Trailer Vs. The Internet? We’ll call it a draw.