Artist Resources- Afton - Big Time Entertainment - Pay-To-Play

AFTON'S (BIG TIME ENTERTAINMENT) ARTIST RESOURCES PAGE!
(THE MOST HILARIOUS IDEAS FROM AFTON YET!)
UPDATE 11-24-08 BIG TIME ENTERTAINMENT HAS CHANGED THEIR NAME TO AFTON.
EVERYTHING ELSE IS THE SAME.
SAME MYSPACE SPAM EMAILS, SAME PAY-TO-PLAY SHOWS, SAME COMPANY. MORE INFO SOON.

TAKING A LOOK AT THE ARTISTS' RESOURCE PAGE
(RETURN TO THE AFTON PAGE - RETURN TO THE ORIGINAL AFTON/BIG TIME PAGE)

Several people have told me that when discussing their biz practices and helpful recommendations, what Afton does best is shoot themselves in the foot. Well they’ve got a Howitzer pointed at themselves this time! I could have written this as a joke. I wish I had!

Where do I start? Afton's “Artist Resources” website is so full of boneheaded assumptions, fabrications, misinformation and absolutely unusable “tips” for new bands, it’s hard to know where to begin! Somebody spent hours and hours cooking this thing up and where they got these ideas from is anybody’s guess. It certainly wasn’t from playing shows! Many tips they are actually suggesting as a way to be successful are so ludicrous, it’s hilarious. I can’t imagine that any band could actually put these suggestions into practice. This whole thing smacks more of somebody that’s taken one college marketing course and sat behind a computer dreaming up ways to apply their new found “knowledge” to bands. In the real music world very little of this works. It’s a big waste of your time, energy and especially money.

Besides expanding their Pay-To Play Empire, Afton (formerly Big Time Entertainment) is now passing themselves off as experts who can show your band how to be successful. I have carefully read every word of the Afton Artist Resource website. With much time and effort I could easily dispute each point (and the rest is so rudimentary it could hardly be classified as useful information). However, I’m going to go through some of the worst ideas, so that you will realize your efforts could be spent better elsewhere. So let’s take a look at this mess, shall we? First, acquaint yourselves with the...

Afton's ARTIST RESOURCE PAGE

Then scroll down or pick your poison...

GENERAL INFORMATION - THE BIG LIE ABOUT AUDIO FLYERS - THE TEST - THE SHOW ANYALISIS SHEET !!!



BUT BEFORE I START, THERE ARE A COUPLE GENERAL THINGS TO NOTICE ON THE AFTON ARTIST RESOURCE WEBSITE...

1. FREE STUFF:
Afton is absolutely obsessed with free giveaways as a way to gain fans. Look through the website and see how many times they suggest that you hand out free stickers, buttons, T-shirts and CDs. It’s insane! You will be giving out so many free (not to you, of course) items that all your band members better have good jobs to pay for all this extra free crap you’ll be passing out. Just check it out and see if I’m exaggerating. People bringing new fans or getting in on special (your band name here) promotional deals, strangers who show up from your email newsletter, people who come up to the front of the stage, people you meet at the mall (!) are all eligible for stickers, buttons, shirts and CDs. And then they expect you to sell merch? Why would anybody want to buy anything? If they wait around, you’ll give it to them!

2. NO OTHER BANDS:
The Afton World is a completely narcissistic one. They never mention putting a good lineup of bands together (which is the BEST way to really get people to see you) or joining with other bands to form a community. It’s all about your band alone, your fans alone, your salesmanship alone. Whoever wrote this apparently never made any band friends. Damn, taking Afton's advice is going to be a lonely road.

3. FANS NOT FRIENDS:
Be sure and notice how Afton refers to people. To them there are two kinds of people: EXISTING FANS and NEW FANS. Everybody is just a statistic to the Afton crew. Fans are there to buy tickets to your shows, buy your merch and bring you new fans. In fact, Afton even suggests that immediately after you finish your set, you IGNORE (I’m not kidding!) your existing fans so you can make the more important contact with your new fans. (When it comes to your current fans, they state: “Explain to them that you have to talk to new fans first, and then you’ll come hang out with them - they will understand.” Yeah, they’ll understand...what a dick you are!). Like contacts in the business world, fans are there for success in your career (because they claim the minute you leave the garage, you’ve got a career!).



Is there no shame in the World of Afton Shows? These people are YOUR FRIENDS! Pearl Jam and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers are big enough to have fans. Your band and my band have friends: friends that come to your shows, friends who'll buy your stuff, friends you hang out with, friends you have fun with, and friends who support you. While they might start out as fans of your music, DON’T YOU DARE THINK OF THESE PEOPLE AS JUST FANS! THEY ARE FRIENDS! When you do stadium shows, you can have fans. Everybody else gets friends.

4. SELL, SELL, SELL:
All the time, at every opportunity, before, during and after your show, you are there for one purpose only - to sell CDs. Your singer must announce the CDs you have for sale at least three times during your show, every band member must get people on your mailing list during set changes, you must lead your fans to the merch table immediately after you stop playing. Only view your "existing fans" as a marketing tool to get them to bring "new fans" to your shows. All band members must be in constant sales mode during the entire show. Money is the name of the game in the Afton World. I personally did a 5 year stint with a sales corporation called the Girl Scouts. I can tell you that these “helpful hints” are more reminiscent of cookie sales than selling CDs and I bet you won't win a bitchin' Brownie pennant for good salesmanship. Afton is trying to turn you all into pushy sales nerds!

5. TOO MUCH MATH:
What are we, back in high school? Obviously, somebody also took some math courses, along with the marketing class. Jeez, just look at this crap! Why do we need all these percentages and figures? Here’s the most important problem you’ll encounter as a musician: divide the number of drink tickets evenly by the number of band members. If you can solve that one, you’re pretty much in business.


THE BIG LIE ABOUT AUDIO FLYERS

Afton is really pushing this “audio flyer” idea over posters, handbills and print ads. “Audio Flyers” are CD-Rs that you make for every show (they suggest 100-200!), with an “intro” (introducing the band, short interviews), two or three songs, and an “outro” (thanks and pumping up the show). First you should read all the drivel they have on this idea and then get back to me. Here are the problems with this idea.

THE RECORDING ITSELF:
Afton insists that new bands start immediately recording their songs and passing them out. They are acting like all new bands have enough decent material and play well enough to make recordings that anybody is going to want to listen to. This is just not the case with about 99% of all beginning bands. New bands are just starting out! Nobody is instantly great. That takes time, and many hours of practice and yes...some solid hours of stage time. New bands, most bands, typically hone their material on stage. Our band plays everything to an audience before we record. This makes your songs sharper and your band tighter. It gives you a chance to work out the kinks.

DON’T MAKE CDs BEFORE YOUR BAND IS READY!
Recordings are not to be taken lightly! You know that old chestnut about how your "school report card is a permanent record that will follow you throughout your adult life?" Well, that might not be true about your report card but it is about your CD. A bad CD will haunt you forever. This is the best advice we ever got: Always be completely satisfied when you put out your music. Girl Trouble didn’t put out a record until we’d played shows for several years. It is something we’ve never regretted. We had to be completely confident that is was good enough for strangers to hear. Twenty years later, we are still happy with it and we’d be glad to let you hear it.

Why does Afton think beginners are “CD ready”? They spam anybody on Myspace so they know their target clients have barely gotten out of their parents’ basement, garage, or rec room. Yet, they suggest that these new bands start making CDs immediately and passing them out. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t try recording. Recording is a lot of fun and a great way to see how your band is doing. I’m just saying that 9 times out of 10 it’s not really ready for an official CD release. Keep it on Myspace (a great way to get your music heard!) and when you know you’re ready, release it.

AUDIO FLYERS ARE EXPENSIVE:
Afton claims that these blank CD-Rs cost 25 cents (fat chance!) to about 65 cents (closer estimate) to buy. They don’t count the recording time, burning time (they say all band members should have a CD burner so the work can be divided evenly), label making or time to pass these out. They are actually claiming that producing a CD-R is cheaper than making a flyer! What planet are these people living on?! Afton suggests making 100-200 audio flyers. That’s $130 in just CD-R blanks, and not counting all the other expenses. You can make enough flyers for about $25. Oh hell, let’s go crazy and make them for $40. How could all these CD-Rs possibly be cheaper than $40 worth of flyers and handbills? Even with my limited math skills it doesn’t compare. AND ALWAYS REMEMBER: This flyer isn’t just a piece of paper with your band’s name alone. You are promoting A SHOW. This is a solid line-up of bands (some established, some unknown) that will give the audience a fantastic night of entertainment for a reasonable price. Again, Afton is narrow-mindedly assuming that you are only promoting yourselves. In reality, you are pumping up all the bands on the bill. They, in turn, are doing the same for you. This way all the bands work as a team. Afton never promotes bands working together. There is no “scene” or “community of musicians” in the Afton World. This is huge mistake.

ADDING ANOTHER STEP:
If you’ve ever done the mail marking thing, you know this already. In successful mail marketing it is vital to eliminate any extra “steps” that your intended customer must perform. This is why providing postage-paid envelopes is so important. Even though a person may be highly motivated to contact you, a little thing like addressing an envelope and putting a stamp on it is a huge hurdle. They’ll leave your mailing lying around, meaning to get back to it, but never doing it. Eliminating steps (like providing pre-addressed envelopes) increases your success rate.

Afton is adding a step when they want the person to actually PLAY the CD-R. They are assuming that your “new fan” is rushing out to the car CD player or driving quickly home to listen to your recording. You can’t be 100% sure this is happening. There has to be instances when your audio flyer ends up stuck in the car seat, buried with the junk mail on the kitchen table or lost in somebody’s messy bedroom. There is no guarantee that these get played.

ONE AUDIO FLYER - ONE PERSON AT A TIME:
This is where I cannot understand how Afton believes traditional flyers and print ads don’t work. I’ll match my nice poster, with a killer line-up of bands, put up at the local record/CD store (and most local record/music stores are very supportive of local talent) against one audio flyer, any day of the week. My flyer will be seen by hundreds of people before the show date. If I don't design it myself (which I find totally fun) I can pass the job on and support a local artist. And thousands of people will see my show listing in the local music paper. The "live show listing" is the section most people read first! However, that audio flyer will only be given to one person, who may or may not listen to it. And don’t forget the all-important: WORD OF MOUTH. Once a solid line-up is established, a good show pretty much promotes itself. Get everybody talking about what a great show it’s going to be, how everybody will be there, how you’ll be missing out if you don’t go...and see how many people turn out. Always remember: THE SHOW'S THE THING! Not one band but the whole line-up.

CD-Rs (AUDIO FLYERS) ARE THE CASSETTE TAPES OF THE 21st CENTURY:
Many of you may not remember the cassette demo days of Grunge, but we do. EVERY band had a cassette. They were all passing them out like candy. It was crazy! If you did listen to them, many times they got separated from the box, labels peeled off and pretty soon you had 100s of cassettes. Nine times out of ten, you didn’t even know who the band was. We collected enough of those unwanted cassettes to practically build an addition to our practice shed. CD-Rs are now taking the place of the old “demo cassette”. They aren’t considered the “real thing” by anybody. They are disposable. It was given out free and that’s what it’s worth. You can listen to it or not. Unless somebody personally knows and likes the band already, chances are these “audio flyers” will end up in the landfill with the cassettes of the 90s. If you really want your music to be heard, list your Myspace site on your traditional flyer and save the planet from future garbage.


TAKE THE BIG TIME ENTERTAINMENT - AFTON CHALLENGE

THEIR TEST: (WOW, THEY SURE CHANGED THEIR TUNE ON THIS ONE! I WONDER WHY?) Now they say you shouldn't give fliers out at the Mall, but check out the show analysis sheet below! They actually have 45 minutes scheduled at the Hillcrest Shopping Mall for Alex, Pam and Jim to hand out those audio CDRs and talk to 32 people for 3+ minutes! The Afton reps are confused! Here's the new page, but we should still look at the old information to see what they were previously claiming.

First, read THE TEST from the old Big Time Entertainment site if you can actually get through it, and see if any of it makes sense to you. What a mind-boggling set of made-up “facts”. They’ve got some concocted ideas to “prove” the time-honored tradition of making flyers, handbills and getting the word out through print ads doesn’t work. If you want to take the challenge, please let me know how you came out. I personally don’t have time for a test this complicated and silly. You are supposed to make traditional handbills and hand them out with a free CD giveaway offer (yeah, more free CD-Rs to pass out!). Then you count how many people turn in the handbill at your show for the free CD-R and that’s supposed to prove that they don’t work. However, it also proves that nobody cares about getting a free CD-R!

More goofy math from Afton:
"Take the total number of people who came in with fliers to redeem their new CD and divide by the total number you gave out. Then look at how many HOURS your band spent doing this, and how much printing costs were. DECIDE FOR YOURSELF if you think that the percentage of people who came out was worth the TIME and MONEY."

MY TEST:
As you may know I also did a TEST back in September, 2006. I rented Tacoma's Hell’s Kitchen for $400. I got five young bands (two well-established who had actually worked with Big Time and found it lame, and three newcomers) who agreed to play. We formed a team, all of us together. We gave the show a theme “Tacoma’s Night of Punk”. We made flyers and handbills, we contacted any paper that had free show listings, we got some press from local music papers and got the word out to anybody who would listen. There was one low price of $6 and nobody was asked at the door who they were there to see. All the bands worked like crazy to get the word out. There were no slackers, as Afton suggests there will be. In the end, 165 people paid to get in, I got my money back and each band made $110. It’s a show people still talk about. But in the end, it wasn’t even about the money. It was about the great show from some great new bands. Each one of those bands have gone on to form strong friendships, do their own cool shows and I’m proud of all of them. I think my TEST is more conclusive...and you'll learn more from taking it!


THE SHOW ANALYSIS SHEET
FEAST YOUR EYEBALLS ON THIS! (Check it out first and then let’s discuss it)

Below is the actual “rock work-sheet” that the experts at Afton claim is VITAL to fill out for each show you play. Damn, my 25 year old band has some catching up to do!

HERE'S THE LINK TO THE ACTUAL PDF.

Can Afton/Big Time Entertainment go any farther to prove that they know absolutely nothing about being in a band? The answer is:
OH, YES THEY CAN!
If you still don’t believe me about the expense and ineffectiveness of the audio flyers. If you still think talking to people at the local mall is a good way to bring in a crowd. If you still don’t believe that I really do know what I’m talking about and DIY is always better than paying-to-play. If all my ranting still hasn’t convinced you, then there’s no better way than to show you THE SHOW ANALYSIS SHEET. Let's do a break-down.

GOALS FOR THIS SHOW:
Mailing lists, CD-Rs, T-shirts...sell, sell, sell. According to Afton, this is why you are in a band. Where’s the time to “Have a Ton of Fun” when you are constantly on people’s backs to promote yourselves? Have the brains behind Afton's Artists Resource page ever given any thought to the fact that rock fans don’t really enjoy the pushy approach? Have they ever considered that actually going through with all these “suggestions” just might turn people off? There’s nothing I personally hate more than some super-sales rock band trying to get me on mailing lists and pressuring me into buying their crap like a used-car salesman. I paid to see a show. Do that well, and I’m with you. Practice your material, play a good show, entertain people - the rest will follow. Never set stupid sales goals! The only rule you need to follow in this catagory is “HAVE A TON OF FUN”.

PROMOTION DONE FOR THIS SHOW:
Want to start an instant band fight? Just track every little job done by each member on a work-sheet and I guarantee you’ll be arguing in no time! Each member of a band has strengths and weaknesses. You’ll find this out soon enough. There is no reason to push band members into jobs they’d rather not do. Each member will find their niche. Some people are good at the promo, some can keep up on phone calls and websites, some are good songwriters and some can drive or load a van. There are tons of jobs that band members can perform. All the duties will eventually be filled by the people that are best at it. But let that work itself out. But don’t start giving out rock demerits to the other band members. This is counterproductive and will cause you grief. Your first priority is to remain together, as friends.

So according to the SAS (Show Analysis Sheet) Alex, Pam and Jim went to the Hillcrest Mall to hand out those damn CD-Rs and talk with each person for 3+ minutes (which contradicts what they tell you in the cold-selling section). They each had to hand out 10 CD-Rs and if it took 45 minutes, they talked for 30 minutes. This means it took them 15 minutes to find 30 rock fans at a mall. What were these people doing? Lining up? This is another one of those Afton fabrications. It’s going to take you a lot longer than 15 minutes to find people who are interested enough to stop shopping and listen to your pep talk. Also the amount paid for the CD-Rs is another pipe dream. Cost of materials, time and effort is going to be more than 25 cents a piece.

AT THE SHOW STATS:
Again, in the narcissistic Afton World people only come to see ONE BAND (yours). The only way you can have perfect stats like this is if you sell tickets and force every person at the door to declare who they are there to see. In the real music world, nobody does this. No real door person ever asks you what band you are there to see and keeps a running total. Only Pay-To-Play shows operate this way. Do you have time to stand around with the door guy and ask each person if they are there to see you? Aren’t you supposed to be over at the merch table or getting those addresses for your mailing list? I hope you have one of those eight-piece ska bands so you have enough members to perform all the tasks suggested here. And by the way, just because you conned 103 people into being on your mailing list doesn’t mean they are "fans". It just means they wanted you to leave them alone, so they agreed to fill out your stupid form.

There is a glaring omission on the SAS. That is the price of admission. 212 people came in the door. Afton usually charges a stiff price of $7 per pre-sold ticket. That’s $1,484. Since our fake band got $71, a more interesting breakdown would be where what that other $1,413 went (and honest clubs don’t mind sharing that information). I'd bet my $71 that a hefty chunk went to Afton Live.

POST SHOW ANALYSIS:
Yeah, it’s all about new fans and selling crap. Here’s a couple they missed: Did everybody in your band get along? Did you feel you did a good show? Did your audience like it? Did you hang out with the other bands, trade stories, talk about more places to play and shows you could do together? Did you meet new people (and not so you could count them as a "new fan" on your mailing list)? Did you meet and thank the club owner/booker for the cool show? Did you thank the soundman? Did you remember to pack up everything?

Here's some of the actual AFTON figures. READ THIS AND SEE IF YOU STILL WANT TO FILL OUT A SHOW ANALYSIS SHEET! It makes me tired just trying to read through it!:

"EXAMPLE: This is an example of one of the ways the Show Analysis Sheet can give you a clearer picture about whether you did well or poorly at attracting new fans at the show. For instance, if you know that the show had 100 people in total attendance, and you know that YOUR draw was 70; then by filling out the Show Analysis you will see that the number of “potential new fans” was 30. This means that if you got only 15 new fans from that show, you actually had great results since you converted 50% of the potential fans into new fans! Conversely, if 100 total people came to the show and you only drew 20 people, then there were 80 potential new fans. In this case, if you only made 15 new fans you actually didn't maximize the effectiveness of this show for gaining new fans, because you essentially only made 18% of the potential fans into new fans. In either scenario, if you had not filled out a Show Analysis Sheet, you may have been happy with scenario two when in reality you didn't really maximize the effectiveness of that show for gaining new fans. By doing the Show Analysis Sheet for each show you can start to see details such as this so that you can truly see if what you are doing is helping you reach your goals".

GRADE FOR THIS SHOW:
Poor Mike, Alex, Pam and Jim. They totally busted their asses and still only got an A-? Yeah, remember friends, always give your band a grade! A sixteen year old I know told me he formed a rock band to get away from school. Here’s Afton trying to shove it right back down your throat!
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OUR GRADE FOR YOU:
Are you staying away from companies that force bands to pre-sell tickets to their shows?
Then you all get an automatic...

A+


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