Have you ever wanted to get advice from your favorite band and hear directly from them about the ups and downs of the biz? Well that's what happened last night at the Yost Theater, when the OC Music Awards teamed up with Red Bull to sponsor a Q&A session with Bad Religion's Jay Bentley and Brian Baker moderated by KROQ's Kat Corbett.
The session, which lasted about two-and-a-half hours, featured commentary from across the musical spectrum. Some of the more candid moments came at the beginning of the three-part symposium, when Bentley recalled some highlights (and lowlights) from the band's early years — teachable moments for anxious onlookers. The band also brought their tour manager, Cathy Mason, and Jason Feinberg, the vice president of digital strategy for Epitaph Records (which is their label).
Here are some of the highlights (both biz and from the band's history) from the free-flowing discussion between the panelists:
The band's first gig: It was supposed to be at a club in Burbank, but things didn't go according to plan. Bentley shared with the attendees that the band showed up ready to roll, but the club owner never arrived, and after a few hours of waiting, they gave up. However, they were surprised to see that people came out to see them play.
Their business acumen was learned from Brett Gurewitz's dad: Bentley shared that he and Gurewitz would frequently talk shop with the latter's father, who told them they needed to focus on their business or else they'd learn the hard way. By paying attention to band business early on, it set up everything they needed when they broke through 13 years later.
Tenacity: For a band to succeed, they need to be tenacious and never give up. Both Bentley and Baker said that even though there are some bands who are good enough to succeed, they needed to keep playing and make it their life without excuses. If you're good enough, they said, people will find a band, but the band need to start small by playing shows locally.
DIY: For Bad Religion's first six albums, they didn't have a manager. Though that's hard to believe in today's climate, it wasn't necessary for them at the time, as they did everything themselves, including Bentley driving a forklift at the label's warehouse. They preached that the more you do yourself, the better things will turn out. Except to hire a lawyer, the panelists agreed that's imperative and the most important expense for a budding outfit in order to not get sucked into a bad deal. DIY was a necessity instead of a choice, since no one would put out Bad Religion's music back then.
Touring: When bands can afford it, having someone to handle all organization and financial obligations of being on the road is imperative. It will help the band if someone is on tour to make sure things go smoothly, and the sooner they could bring a tour manager on, the better.
Leverage: The most important point of emphasis. With so many bad 360-degree deals being offered to bands, Corbett, Bentley and Baker agreed that a band need to do as much as they can on their own before inking with a label. This means they'll be less likely to need a label, except to put them over the top, which will help the financial security of the band. If a band have a strong digital presence, then they'll be able to dictate their own terms, and with a little bit of luck, they'll become a career band.