The Gigging Musician Podcast

Cover Band Interview (2 of 3) With James Gross - Shirts and Skins

June 16, 2021 Jared Judge
The Gigging Musician Podcast
Cover Band Interview (2 of 3) With James Gross - Shirts and Skins
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The Gigging Musician Podcast
Cover Band Interview (2 of 3) With James Gross - Shirts and Skins
Jun 16, 2021
Jared Judge

In this episode, James Gross, bandleader of the Shirts and Skins band shares his approach to bookings. He shares a crazy story where his band faked an event to get that perfect promo shot. Let’s take a listen!

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, James Gross, bandleader of the Shirts and Skins band shares his approach to bookings. He shares a crazy story where his band faked an event to get that perfect promo shot. Let’s take a listen!

Hey gigging musicians. It's Jared Judge and this is part two of three of our interview with the bandleader James gross bandleader of Shirts and Skins band in Minneapolis, Minnesota. If you have not listened to Part one yet, please listen to that before you listen to this episode. This episode is super fun. I love the stories that James tells in this including my favorite story of him faking a fireman's dance to promote his gigs. So take a listen. And I hope you love part two of our interview. What are the ways that you personally get the word out about Shirts and Skins and how you can book them for a wedding? Or, you know, corporate event? Well, and yeah, I think that that was, that was a huge point when I when I decided to expand the band, because at one point, the band was one unit five people. And I was working almost as hard as I work now just for the five. And I was like, What? So I started reading every book I could get about business and, and, and growing something. And it was lack of lead generation. And how do we get lead generation? Being a band? And then, so what is so I started looking at our promo, and I'm like, Okay, well, even if we get massive lead generation, we got these crappy iPhone videos, you know? So it was okay, well, the one thing about our band, that's that, that has been a thing of mine was, you know, have great stage presence, and have a great look. And that was one of the first things that that we we molded was to be best dressed, great stage presence. And then it was okay, now I need to get the promo. So that if I do start putting the word out there, it looks classy. So I tell every band that don't, don't skimp on the promo video, everything's video now. And it doesn't matter what your photos look like, like that, you know, everybody, the first thing you're gonna say is, where's the video? So we spent almost $10,000 on videos in a year and, and I was like, well, there's budget people out there for there's pros. And if I use the pros, we show up one day, do the work, and they deliver the products at a different day. I don't have to be calling him to look at him. I don't have to do revisions, because they know what works, you know. So that was the first step was that and then it was, okay, now we need to you know, I'm one of those people that I'm always looking for, for ways to to find things. So I was able to buy a list of all the casinos in the country. And once I got a list of all the casinos, I stayed up multiple hours in nights and made Excel documents and track them and cold call them and I found ways to call people and get past the stages and and one of the books that I read said, you know, you should be able to get to whoever you want to in three phone calls. And here's how you do it. So it was do that, you know, get on business trade magazines, you know, they have lists of all the all the HR departments of big businesses in Minneapolis. So it was like, Okay, well, we have multiple fortune 500 companies, let's get LinkedIn, let's find these people reach out to them, they all have Christmas parties, they all have backyard barbecues, like weddings, it was, okay, let's go to let's go to the trade shows. And we spent two years going to trade shows on Sundays and playing, you know, not sleeping through that Saturday night loading in and setting up at a trade show. And, you know, you got to look at the investment of you know, a trade show might cost $3,000. But you get to weddings, and it paid for it. You know, and you get the listing, and and you just start doing that, you know, we also pay to be on the websites, you know, the bash and, and wedding wire and, and the not and then it's looking at and keeping track of everything. And then if you are going to pay for all those things, you got to respond quickly. You know, and one of the things that that I have notifications on my phone so when somebody requests something, usually within an hour I respond. And they're just like, Oh my gosh, you respond I can't believe this like, and a lot of times it's like 10 minutes after they do it. And I can't tell you like a quick response like that is right away. They're like this person's a pro. Like they everybody else took a day or two you know and and i think that so it's about lead generation getting out there. And then we you know, we've we've just started a huge push on social media. And that's been you know, what is we had to figure out what was social media and for a long time for us it was it felt to me like we were using social media to brag to other bands. And I was like, why why why do we that's not what social media is anymore social media is is to document your life for yourself so that when it pops up in Facebook, look what you did 10 years ago, you can be like, Oh, that's really cool. And it's for marketing. And and that's what it's for. And I mean, if you look at anything, even Instagram now it's every other thing is an ad. Like, it's. So we've done a huge push in the last in the last four weeks. And we did the analytics of Okay, what is social media, let's look at the time spread of when things are actually viewed on each platform. Let's schedule stuff. And I think we've got, you know, scheduled out almost a month right now. And then the only things we update are, okay, let's take pictures of fans, let's connect with people. Because people want to see that and to see the organic growth in that is has just been amazing, you know, at a show just saying, Hey, you know, on this break, we're gonna take some pictures to post on our Instagram next week. And they just flood up and and want to take pictures. So I think it's all about lead generation and, and thinking outside the box of, of, do I want to just sit here and let it happen? Or be proactive? You know, I still go around to a place. And I'll go like, we're trying to kick off our acoustic thing right now, because we've got all this time during the week. And now since a pandemic, every place thinks they can have live music on a patio, which is wonderful. Yeah, but I go to the places and, and have lunch. And they're like, Well, what do you mean, you're in a band, and I'm like, I came in here to meet who's in charge. And that doesn't happen anymore. Like, like, it's all like, I'm going to call an email and wait for somebody to respond back. Like, don't wait, go get what you want. You know, and, and what I tell everybody, when I show up is Hey, man, if you wouldn't reply to my email, I wouldn't be. But if you're not, I'm okay with a no, like, if you don't want my band, like just tell me. But don't avoid, like, you know, because that's that's just disrespectful. It's so much of it. It's like, I mean, I'm sure you see it in your business. We put flags on our emails, we know if they've read it. And it's like, if I've sent you four emails, and you've read them, I got to say, dude, stop talking, like stop, I'm not going to book your van at all, like, you know, what I'm gonna be like, Okay, well, I'm not gonna waste my time, because I've got a list of another 400 people that I want to contact. You know, so, yeah, you know, that's awesome. Can I ask a follow up question about that? So it sounds like when you're approaching these venues about bringing in your band, you always go for either like, you go until you get either a yes or no? Yeah. Are you the same with the leads that you generate on like wedding wire, do you go keep following up with them until you get either yes or no. Not as much with the weddings. Because weddings are one time buyers. And and with weddings, you have to understand that you have to have the patience for the for the couples, because they don't know what they're doing. Like this is hopefully a one time thing, they're never going to do it again. We do follow follow ups. You know, like, if it comes in, we send our blank, I send my blanket email to them with our packages that we offer. And just an introductory. And I will do. I will do a couple follow ups. I'll do like a two week after that to see if they've got any questions. And then I'll maybe do it two or a month after that. If they do respond, you know, I always ask them, you know, if they're willing to share, if they're not going to book us if they're willing to share who they are. Just to see like, what, what am I doing that? What am I doing that didn't get this gig, you know, and a lot of times it just might be like, they just didn't like something that they saw, which is totally fine. You know, and I'm totally, like I said, I'm I don't I'm fine with rejection. I just want to know, like, if it's something I did, you know, if I said something that that rubbed them the wrong way I want to know, so I didn't don't say it again, you know, because I probably didn't mean it. Yeah. And, and musicians are hugely passionate people. So we get, you know, we get excited about things sometimes and, and overly into something, you know, that you never know. So I think that, you know, but with a club in a casino or a corporate event, you know, also you know, we do, you know, I do creative things like one of our biggest revenues is Firemen's dances. And that was something that, that when I saw it, I was like, man, there's like every city has one of these. And it's kind of a tradition that they do a dance. So one of the things I did years ago is I rented some fire trucks from the 70s. And I had them pull into a parking lot. We did a massive photo shoot with fire trucks. And then I got the list of the five state area of every fire department and I sent him postcards every year and it costs about 800 900 bucks every time I did it. But I can't tell you how many even now and I haven't done one of the mailings for five years. I get somebody that hits us up and they're like, used to send us these postcards and we just keep watching you. Yeah. And like last weekend we did two vitamins as is one one on the border of Montana and North Dakota and one in southern Minnesota. You know So it's a, it's been creative, you know, there's, there's a lot of revenue out there to be had in non traditional ways. Yeah, that's insane. I love the entrepreneurial spirit of renting fire trucks and faking a fire, just like material. But now, you know, one of the things that I do is I set schedule a photoshoot for 40 minutes before the band plays, and I tell them to bring the trucks out, and if they want to bring coats and hats, and let us wear that stuff, and they just love it, you know, and it's just like, it's connecting with people. And, and like, it kind of circles back to what I said, with music. Like, we're performers, we're we're aiming to connect, you know, and that's, and if you connect with somebody, it's so beautiful. And, and they show up. And, and I mean, you know, our band has been around 16 years. And even this last, just last week, we're playing a 10th party on a Wednesday, and I had some people come up that worked at clubs, maybe 1213 years ago, it came up right away and talked and I was just it's so cool to have that to just constantly run into people that you've made an impact with, you know, and, and have that kinship with, you know, yeah, that's awesome. Yeah, it really is about connecting with people. And there's, you know, we're all in this same boat here. There's just so much in the administrative work that gets in the way of that. Sometimes. I know that you are a BookLive Pro user, what are ome of the systems that you se, you can even mention how ou use BookLive Pro, to e iminate some of that work to b able to connect with more p ople. Yeah, for us, it's all about, you know, with me being it is as fast as we're trying to grow. And I mean, right now, I'm sure you guys are seeing it, too. If I had nine bands, I could send up I could get the gigs. I could say yes. It's it's finding that balance of how do you keep it organized enough so that your players are happy with what you're doing? And how do you make sure that nothing gets lost through the cracks. So for us, the BookLive part, I ould say the biggest, the iggest thing for me is that it ives another, it gives another ay for me to balance verything. So I have the BookL ve all set up. But I also h ve, you know, Excel s readsheets and I have a p yroll document and I have a p l. And I'm able to cross reference everything to make sure everything's in the same place, I have a gig detailed thing that I've actually put out in drive as well. And what it's done for me the most is allowed me to automate bogging people to say yes to the gig or no. And one of the things that, that, you know, we've been using it for about about six months. And the hardest thing that I'm having with it with my players is they are having a hard, hard time with the concept of it's okay to say no, I'm okay to decline. And I would rather have you declined quickly, so that I can move on to the next person, right and sit on it, you know, and it's like, and and it's like, if you're getting anxiety, because of the reminders is because you didn't answer the question. Yeah, like, just say no. Yeah. So that's the, it's eliminated with 30 people. It's eliminated me having to call people multiple times and be like, Hey, man, you're not answering my emails, like, what's up? You know, what, you know, I have had a few people that they get the anxiety, and then I have to take them out to lunch and be like, hey, you're not letting me down? Just Say No, right? Move on. But I think that it's all about, you know, it's all about, you know, having, you know, we had for the first time we had some people start messaging within the system. And that was really cool to see too. And then as you know, kind of the guy that oversees everything, it was really cool to have it to where I could see the messages that were going on, you know, where they were just talking about a setlist or something like that. So I think it's having a portal, you know, having a place for people to contact. That's not just their email, because I think a lot of what I find with a lot of these players is, well, I get so much spam in my email, I didn't see it, or give me a new email. You know, like, get a new email, you know, or unsubscribe to all your spam, like, you know, tagging. So I think that it's, you know, kind of one of those things, so, for sure, that's awesome. So, from you, I'm seeing like so many different sides to James that I never knew about and I like you more and more, the more I talk to you. I'm hearing like you're very nurturing with your bandmates, which is awesome. You're very systems minded because you have a process for things that you recognize opportunities that most people might not notice, even if they're right in front of their face. What would you say are some of the most important traits that a person must possess to be a successful bandleader I think you, you know, one of the most important things has been to learn how to read people, and and learn how to, how can I encourage? How can I make people better? You know, how can I criticize when criticism needs to be be done? How can I deal with with drama, you know, because they're all hugely passionate musicians, and I can't tell you all the late phone calls I get with stuff, that's a non issue. And I think it's, you know, and then making sure that you're on the same page, as everybody. You know, one of the things that, that I had a really hard time, before we expanded to the multiple units was, you know, for the first the band's been around for 16 years. So the first six years I had one female singer, and doing, you know, doing the multiple shows with them. You know, after three years, they'd be spent, like, their voice just would blow out. So then after that, I was like, after the second one, went into the E and T and had massive problems with their, with their vocal cords. I was like, I can't knowingly do this to somebody else. Like, I've done it twice like this, you know, blitzing 40 songs a night, five nights a week, because at that time, you know, we're doing a lot of casino runs, where it would be a full week. It's just not healthy. So then we decided, Okay, well, I need to add two girls, because then we can split the load, it'll be healthier. But then I didn't have any idea that girls don't play nice. They don't like each other like, then there'll be, you don't know about it till it's too late. You know. So I think that it's, you know, being aware of everything and taking, you know, one of the things I do now is, is twice a year, I take everybody out for lunch, and I just, you know, tell me what I'm doing right? Tell me what I'm doing wrong. Tell me what I can do that will make this better for you. Because it's, you know, the players that that will have been with me, and I've had a number of them that have been with me for 10 years, it was a total different thing, when I decided to expand and make it a collective, and start circulating players to where right now we have 38 players, they it's not special units, it they're all intermixed, like they all and they all have to rehearse, like, they have to come to two rehearsals a month. And we all play, you know, so. So it was one of those things with those band members that it was, like, I'm used to the Brotherhood of our band. Now we've got like, I don't feel connected with everybody. So it's been kind of I think, so as as a band leader, you got to be open to that. I also tell everybody, as a band leader, there, you need to be the band leader. That is not the stage band leader. That's the that's the business bandleader and the friend band leader. But then when I tell everybody when when I hit the stage, you there's no, we're not asking anything. It's my job to make that show good. And and I don't care about what your opinion is for that four hours. I do afterwards. And if I did something wrong, or I did something that that made you feel a certain way I want to know about it. But at the end of the day, like it's my stage. But I think that that that's been a hard thing for me to teach to other band leaders, because I can't be at every show now. And I have to have people that are strong band leaders, and I've had a few that, you know, they want more of the collective like, hey, should we do this or do that? Well, you look unprofessional, and that happens. We want to audibly call a song because you don't think the dance floor is gonna be packed. You don't ask your band members, if it's okay, you just do it. And so I think there's, you know, wearing the multiple hats of what is a bandleader and as an opera everybody and knowing when, you know, there's some, some people that hey, they're a great band leader on stage and to be the stage director. But when it comes to the organization or the business, they're not good at it. And, and for me, it was also when it expanded, you know, forming the team to delegate stuff to, like, I can't, I can't deal with 300 shows a year and sending out everything and doing everything else that goes along with it, you know, in managing our warehouse said, and our production company, you know, because we've expanded into owning part of a production company as well. Alright, so that was part two of three of our interview, make sure to stay tuned for part three, where we get the dramatic conclusion and here where Shirt and Skins band is going Plus, think one of the mos interesting questions is I aske if he lost everything and he ha to start from scratch. How woul he get his first gig in 30 day or less? You do not want to mis that episode. If you've got an value out of this, make sure t subscribe to the podcast, shoo me a message and we hope to se you on the next gigging musicia podcast