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What is the best way for a gigging band to get local exposure?

If you're in a band and you play out right now, it's most likely true you try but ultimately fail to sell anything at shows.

You should treat each gig as a way to further your local exposure. And the best way to do that is to make your fans walking advertisements by giving away free t-shirts. Yes, I know this sounds "corporate", but the fact of the matter is this:

Things you MUST have ready before doing this

1. A web site

...as in the-band's-name.com. This has to be up and running. This web site is going to be on every t-shirt, so it has to be working.

2. A blog on the web site (or linked out from it)

The web site must have a blog or at least a link to a blog where you post updates regularly, and you must post updates AT LEAST twice a week.

It is strongly suggested that the blog be something not on Facebook. Use something like Tumblr or Blogger instead.

3. Links to your music that's ready-to-buy

Bandcamp. No further explanation needed.

Now that you know the basics, here we go.

How to make your giveaway t-shirts cheap

Step 1. Buy a crapload of the cheapest bulk blank XL unisex t-shirts you can find.

Step 2. Buy 4 cans of spray paint. I suggest using Krylon brand.

Step 3. Print a black-and-white photo of something (your band logo maybe?)

Create a stencil, then spray-paint on the shirts like this (this shows it on a wall but you can do the same on a shirt with no problem at all):

You don't have to be anywhere near as detailed as the video above. Just get something legible that can be seen on a t-shirt from a distance.

Step 4. Have a stamp made at your local stationary shop.

The stamp you have made will have your WEB SITE on it in plain text and only that. After spray-painting the stencil, stamp your web site on the shirt. If you have the stencil in black and the stamp ink in another color like red or blue, this helps make it stick out. The best place to stamp your site is on the back right under the collar.

Step 5. Give these shirts away at every show.

DO NOT sell these things. Just give them away.

Other ways to get creative, cost considerations and the benefits to your band

These shirts are so easy to make that you could customize them for every gig you play.

If you were playing a gig in Tampa Florida, you could create a separate stencil of "TAMPA ROCKS!" and put that alongside your band-logo stencil. That's just one idea, as I'm sure you could come up with others.

The places you play really like it if you actually put their establishment logo on your shirts, because you're advertising them for free at that point and may even give you special treatment when you go to play there again.

For a lot of 100 cotton t-shirts (cotton does soak up paint best and lasts longest), you're going to spend about $125. Yes, that sounds expensive, but it's a worthwhile investment. Remember, 100 shirts for $125 means you only paid $1.25 per shirt.

The ultimate benefit to your band is when your fans start wearing the shirts you gave away in public. At that point they're adversiting your band for free, and that's why you gave away the shirts for free in the first place. This kind of adversiting is something companies pay BIG money for, and it's ridiculously easy to have people do it for you for NOTHING just by giving away shirts.

Now of course, the drawback is that this only works on a local-only level. Giving away free t-shirts is unlikely to make you world-famous, but it will make it much much easier to get local gigs once you start giving them out. Remember that thing I just said above about putting an establishment logo on the shirt for certain gigs you play? You save that establishment hundreds of dollars in free advertising every time you do that, and they will really love you for it. They'll love you so much that they'll keep asking you back, which means more money for more gigs...

...assuming your band doesn't suck. 🙂

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How did I learn to play Paranoid the right way? From a magazine

Guitar World August 1992At right is the cover of the August 1992 issue of Guitar World. I was 17 at the time, and I bought the mag for one reason and one reason only - Tony Iommi was on the cover.

I never actually subscribed to any guitar magazines but rather picked up one whenever I was in a guitar store (as they were the only places that carried them). Because I bought it right off the stand, I always paid more for it compared to a subscription. Something like 3 or 4 dollars. Maybe a little less.

Anyway, yeah there was an interview between Hetfield of Metallica fame and Iommi, obviously of Black Sabbath fame. It was a weird read. Metal guys aren't exactly known for giving good interviews. And seriously, how "heavy" can an interview get? Like I said, it was a weird read.

The better part however was that in this mag Iommi actually describes how to play Paranoid the right way. Remember, this is 1992 we're talking about here, meaning no internet. It was in that magazine that I read for the first time that the main riff is supposed to be played on the 12th fret and not the 7th like I had been doing. To me this was like finding the keys that unlocked that "secret Iommi tone" I was looking for. If I recall correctly, he also explained other things, such as the fact uses super-light strings, how he really doesn't pick that hard at all, some explanation on the "thimbles" he uses on his severed fingers and so on. It's all great info.

My point in mentioning all this is that it really takes information - written information mind you - to sometimes get a sound right.

Internet video is great and all that, but there are times you have to actually read things to learn how to play better. I'm not talking about just tabs and things like that but rather interviews, write-ups and things of that sort. Old guitar magazines contain a treasure trove of this information, much of which you'll never learn just by watching videos.

If you know of anyone that has old guitar magazines, read them - especially the interviews explaining how songs are done and where the inspiration for them came from. You'll learn a lot.

Guitar buyer's remorse

Every guitar player at some point experiences guitar buyer's remorse. It's when you put a bunch of money into a specific guitar only to discover it's not the magical axe you thought it was going to be, and then the sinking feeling sets in of, "Oh, crap.. I spent way too much money on that guitar."

Have I ever experienced guitar buyer's remorse? Yes. But I learned from the experience and know not to do it again.

Guys suffering from guitar buyer's remorse get really, really ticked off at anyone who states the truth about their "prized possession" guitars on the internet and will openly attack anyone in a pathetic attempt to justify their overpriced purchase.

Here's a few things remorse sufferers do.

"You're just a kid"

The sufferer is admitting here he's a clueless old fart that literally bought into the idea that expensive guitars are actually worth it just for a logo on the headstock.

I have some fans that are well over 55 years old. Many listened to what I had to say. Many realized that their expensive guitars are in fact nothing but collectors pieces. So what did they do? They cleaned up their ritzy expensive guitars as best they could, put them away in a case, and then bought a Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster.

Eventually one day they'll sell off the ritzy guitars for a nice retirement fund of sorts, and that's fine. In the meantime, they're happily playing their Squiers (or Epiphones or other brand of "low-end" guitar which really isn't "low" at all) and actually enjoying playing guitar for a change.

Quoting the résumé

One thing remorse sufferers love to do is what I "quoting the résumé". This is when some idiot starts blabbing about how long he's been playing and/or how long he's been building and/or how long he's been buying guitars.

I've been playing for over 20 years. Impressed? Don't be, because it doesn't mean anything. I've known guys that have been playing for 30 years and still suck at the guitar, so any time someone blabs about their "experience", I seriously don't care, and neither should you.

Summed up: Just because you've been doing something a long time doesn't mean you're any good at it or know anything about anything. You can quote me on that.

"Quality"

Yes, just the one word, quality.

Remorse sufferers spew this word out a lot, and I sincerely believe they don't even know what it means.

Let's say Guitar A is an Asian-made Epiphone G-400, and Guitar B is a USA-made Gibson SG '61 Reissue.

Now let's say both guitars have bodies that were well cut, finishes that are proper with no obvious mistakes, necks that were properly set, frets that were finished properly, all electronics work like they should, tuners that tune like they're supposed to and everything checks out 100% A-OK on both guitars.

Which guitar has better quality at that point?

The answer is neither. If both guitars were constructed properly and everything checks out, the quality is the same.

And no, "tone" (mentioned next) has absolutely nothing to do with the build quality of a guitar. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

"Tone"

You'll notice I don't use the word tone too often. There's a reason for that. When it comes to guitars, tone, much like quality, can't be measured.

I'll put it another way that's really easy to understand: Nobody can define in words what a guitar tone sounds like.

Example: Define a Stratocaster's tone. You can't, other than saying "sounds like a Strat". You can throw whatever other words you want in there, but it won't matter because the only way to define a Strat's tone is to say it is Strat tone.

In addition, using temperature words like "cool" or "warm" doesn't define a sound either. Remorse sufferers do a lot of that "warm sound" nonsense.

If I said, "Yeah, this Strat has a warm tone on the neck position of about 22 degrees C", does that make any sense? Of course not.

I recognize most guitar players have to suffer from guitar buyer's remorse before they wise up

Unfortunately for most players, they have to take the plunge and spend too much money at least once before they realize they made a mistake. That is just the way of things.

There are plenty of idiots out there spending thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars on guitars, and that they'll go on the internet and spew garbage left and right about their toys that they do everything BUT make music with. Fine, whatever. Let 'em talk. Let 'em spew their garbage.

I'll be busy making music instead.

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