For all those about to rock (but have to finish the day job first)

For all those about to rock (but have to finish the day job first)

People in metal bands love their music, they love the fans, they love playing live. But if they are not Korn, Trivium, or (insert favourite band here), it begs an interesting question:


Do small bands matter?

For many small bands, as the years roll by, their members will have normally been in one or two different incarnations of a band, perhaps with some local success, a few great support gigs, and thrilled when facebook reaches the dizzy heights of a few thousand likes. Sound familiar? Working a ‘normal’ day job because music never paid enough but… so what?! They love it, right?

Once in a year or two year cycle, some of these ‘hobby but still working hard’ bands get to decide if they can tour. Because these are still small bands, they don’t have the kind of resources and patently not the success that bigger bands do so, instead, they club together and buy-on to a tour that they like/want/need.

No respect for bands that buy on?

This is a controversial decision, even writes ‘You won’t gain respect in the industry (most managers, booking agents, and labels smell a “buy on” act a mile away)’. But they are not doing it for respect, they are doing it for the opportunity to play in front of as many music fans as possible. That is where the buzz is.

Another interesting point is raised here, bands can be swayed by promoters and agents – and there are no measures of the scruples at play by them (‘can smell a buy-on a mile away). Bands members work hard for their money and they should be able to expect a few things in return:

  • Terms: without them even a verbal contract is not formed
  • Choice: it’s their money and they should be able to spend it where they want
  • Return on investment: they get to make the best decisions based on the best fit for themselves as a band, mainly to get in front of the largest number of like minded fans


No contract and no terms?

So, recently one band has found itself in the center of a shit-storm, with dirty linen displayed in public for all to see.

They changed tours. That was it. They gave notice, they were deeply sorry for the inconvenience caused, but they didn’t kill anybody!


With the original agent there was no contract, no terms agreed especially relating to cancellations, but a standard time-scale was adhered to by the band giving notice. Notice was given at the point that contracts and terms were agreed and signed by both parties, and an initial payment made between the small band and the manager of the second main artist.

For that ‘choice’, for choosing where they spent their limited and hard-earned cash – an industry ‘professional’ slated the small band in social media, and used considerable reach to promote an extraordinarily narrow perspective on the whole affair. There was certainly no mention of a buy-on, and the other bands rushing with offers to fill the support slot may find the responses they receive given with a lot more privacy.

There are a few questions that are raised by this, because as an ex-manager with Third Rail Inc. (Bob Cavallo and Pat Magnarella’s UK Office) some 20 years ago I am astounded by the implications of this display of music business ethics:

  • Should buying-on still be common practice?
  • Do bands buying on to tours have any rights of choice?
  • If a buy-on is necessary to complete the financing of a tour – then surely terms and a contract should have been tied up by the agent at the very start (for this example)?
  • Should established professionals in the industry use their positions to openly slate small bands?



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