ROCK YOUR CITY: The 5 Steps To Becoming the Biggest Band in Town
by John Michalak, with Dan Cull
Owners of the World’s Biggest Production Company Supporting Local Musicians
207 pages, softcover, $19.95.
A review by Bon Von Wheelie
The new book, Rock Your City: The 5 Steps to Becoming the Biggest Band in Town, by John Michalak “with Dan Cull” (although it’s never clear what that really means) of Gorilla Music has finally arrived and it exceeds my wildest expectations. If I took the time to comment on everything wrong about this book, I would have to write a book of my own. This book is confusing, contradictory, and slightly antiquated. It is difficult to assess who is the intended reader. Beginners will be discouraged at the thought of getting a thousand person guest list or only playing one show every two months, and a professional would have little use for extensive tips on selling tickets. Instead of going into extreme detail I will try to hit some of my main criticisms of this book including some examples.
IS IT SONGS OR SOSGN?
Author Michalak makes a special effort for the 5 Steps to spell out the word “SONGS” which is prominent throughout the book. It seems to me that if the 5 Steps spell out the word SONGS, the first step should not also be “Songs”. This defeats the use of his clever memory technique. But even more confusing is the fact that the 5 chapters (or Steps) then do not follow this guideline. The five chapters spell out “SOSGN”! Considering how confusing this book is, maybe that was intended.
THE AUTHOR IS THE MAIN SUBJECT
Not surprising, Rock Your City seems more like a book about John Michalak than anything else. In fact, the first three chapters are practically an autobiography. While there are “tips” for musicians, in over 50 pages Michalak talks about himself, his childhood, his former bands, his clubs, his company, his brother, his love for KISS and various experiences. The two bands he lists as examples of his success as a musician are The AKT and Serious Nature. Both were formed and disbanded many years ago. It’s almost impossible to find much information on them now, other than one of the members of The AKT was Richard Patrick from Filter (in his high school days - and this reference doesn't mention Michalak). If Michalak was still working in these bands his reference to them might seem more vital.
In the back of the book there are more than seven pages of names (including Gorilla Music reps), where the author thanks some of his famous contacts. So why didn’t he ask his friends Jay-Z, or Kid Rock, or Creed or System of a Down to contribute to this book?
It would have been helpful to ask a musician who is currently performing for their input. Without the help of successful musicians, this book reads more like a vanity publication than a musicians' how-to.
There is no index. I always check to see what the index looks like. This is the sign of a well-thought-out, organized manuscript. There's seven pages of "thank-yous" and five blank pages (what? for notes you'll take?) which would be enough space for an index. Writinig a "how-to" book and not including one is a joke.
Of course since it’s from Gorilla Music, before any mention of music appears, the subject of how to successfully sell tickets is discussed at length. I wonder who that idea will help? Michalak even goes into detail about how he first came up with the pre-sale idea*. In this book, every contact you make is mostly used to further your “career” (and yes, every kid that steps out of his bedroom with his new guitar has an instant career). All the bands and people you meet are just a head-count to gauge your progress. It’s all about numbers, it’s all about selling tickets and getting those people to see you. There is a suggestion that you must also find and meet VIPs, even though it might be tough to find VIPs in a small town. Selling tickets is discussed before the topic of music (which of course was left in the dust when Michalak decided to switch the first Step, “Songs”, with the 5th Step, “Social Circle”) and everything is an absolute. Throughout the book specific numbers are given on how many people should be attending your show, how many shows to do a year (apparently it’s 6 - 8) and that you should have the entire year booked so you’ll be ready to promote shows properly.
* It is important to notice that pay-to-play promoters always claim they used pre-sale tickets themselves (when they were successful musicians). What they fail to mention is that there was no middleman to take 80-90-100% of the money.
In the video above, Michalak claims Gorilla frowns on bands buying tickets themselves, but some bands didn't get the memo...
Apparently, Gorilla didn't think they pushed the ticket selling quite enough, so they are coming out with an entire book called "Rock Your City: Ticket Selling Made Easy." Oh goody.
THE TIPS RANGE FROM UNREALISTIC TO CONFUSING TO CONTRADICTORY TO DUMB
This book is such a jumble of ideas, it’s hard to keep track. In one instance Michalak says “The quality of your music at this stage of your career has very little to do with the number of people who will come to see you,” while later he writes “The music business is about songs! If you are capable of writing great songs, then you’ll get noticed; it’s really that simple.” So I'm confused. Is the music important or not?
Some "tips" include:
Rock Your City says:
Rock Your City says:
Rock Your City says:
THEY'VE GIVEN PART OF IT AWAY ALREADY IN THEIR ON-LINE VIDEOS
EVERYTHING CAN BE FOUND ELSEWHERE...FOR FREE
I always judge the worth of a book by how much I’ve learned specifically from reading it. Any of the tips that are valid in Rock Your City can be found elsewhere and far better on-line without paying a dime. Why would anybody want to shell out $20 for better information found for free? Here are some links (not necessarily endorsements although I do like Indie on the Move) of websites that seem to have tons of information and opinion. You may find many more examples of solid free on-line info. This is just a sample of the websites out there!
WHAT A PILE OF...
It’s no secret that I am not a fan of Gorilla Music (could you guess?) or how they run their pay-to-play shows. But the idea Michalak continues to push; that making friends is only a way to further your career and that you should be concentrating on it 24/7, is exhausting and frustrating. The author speaks in such absolutes that I fear many new musicians will give up when they can’t meet these unrealistic expectations. This book doesn’t make it sound like being in a band is any fun at all. It’s all about pushing yourselves and your tickets to family, friends and strangers. It’s all about how to get ahead and nothing else. If you follow all of these tips, any joy you have from playing music will be sucked dry. I've seen hundreds of bands work only so they can "get ahead" in the music biz. It takes about a year before they break up. I believe you can become the Biggest Band in Town on your own, and without the help of the self-imposed “Owners of the World’s Biggest Production Company Supporting Local Musicians”.
BACK TO NEVERPAYTOPLAY.COM