Sunday, May 8, 2016

"Be a musician, the dirt cheap way" Winter 2015 Article

Winter 2015

Be a musician, the dirt cheap way
By: Dar Stellabotta

Section 1: Instruments for Cheap
The cheapest way to get instruments is secondhand. Either reach out to your community or craigslist. There is always a shop around somewhere that sells second hand instruments. Or reach out to your community. Ask someone if they have a instrument you are looking for laying around collecting dust. Put up a ad with your story and your quest for whatever instrument you seek. Then when you get it, practice, practice, practice. Yeah, your good looks and cool clothes will get you no where. It’s all about the music. Always has, and always will be about the music.

Section 2: The Mystery of No Information
If you have no information available about your band, you leave your audience curious. If you ask me,
this is the best way to go. Especially if you have awesome music. Then the music will speak for itself and keep the people talking. I have attended shows where the act had no internet presence and had a ton more people attending than a band with a lot of internet presence and exposure. Leaving your audience with no information makes them more likely to attend a show to hear and see your act sometimes. Mystery is intriguing. Plus it costs you no money.

Section 3: Making a Effective Demo at a Low Cost
Before you spend thousands of dollars in the studio, I recommend recording at home or at a friend’s house for free. If you plan on being a musician for a while you might want to invest in a nice computer. I recommend a MAC. When you record at your home or art space, this gives you the freedom to take as long as you need to record a song. You can record it different ways, with different musicians or different instruments with out being charged $35 a hour. If you do invest in a nice computer you most likely will be able to make music videos depending on what type of computer you get. Its cheaper to do it yourself. When you get 1 to 3 songs your ready to make your demo. You can either stream your music on one of the many free websites, make a physical demo (CD, tape, vinyl) or have it downloadable somewhere on the internet. Right now, I will tell you how to make a descent physical demo. First, burn your song or songs to a blank disc. Then, label it with a .99 Sharpie. Maybe have your friend draw or take a picture of the act and print out a couple of black and white covers for the demo. Black and white is the cheapest way to print. You can either wrap the CD in paper to protect it or put it in a poly sleeve. I order my poly CD sleeves for, the have good prices. Now you have something to give to your friends for donations or to give out to bookers to get shows. When I make a demo, I use a sharpie to label the disc, print out a black and white sleeve insert that I created in photoshop and put it all together in a poly sleeve.

Section 4: Free Website
The internet has a wide range of different websites for bands and musicians to display their media. Such as Reverbnation, Bandcamp, Youtube, Indie on the Move, Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and many more. I am just going to talk about a few of these sites that I personally use. Reverbnation is a good site because it is user friendly and has a good layout. You can upload pictures, your music (mp3 files), list your shows, stream your music videos and much more. You can directly link your social media to Reverbnation as well. I like Youtube because I am a film maker as well. If you want to make films or music videos this would be a free site you can use to stream your film. I encourage anyone out there who has ever wanted to make a film, to MAKE ONE! If you would like to release a digital album for free, CD Baby has the option to release your album with just them for free or with them and other big digital download companies such as I-Tunes or Amazon for a fee of about $25-$50. Depending on if it is a single , EP or LP. CD Baby also offers mass production of CD, Vinyl and other music promotional products for descent prices. But I say go with releasing your album or single for free with CD Baby before you go dishing out the duckets. 

Section 5: Getting shows for Free
The best way I can tell you is to go to your local shows. Not only to support your scene but to make friends with the bands and people who set up the shows. Friends always help out friends. If there are no shows in your area, email is the next best option. Or calling a booker on the phone. You can always look up venues in your area or the area you would like to play and email or call them. If you email the booker, send them a link to your free website you made. If you call, offer to send them a free demo thru the mail. A website I find useful for getting shows is Indie on the Move. It is free and has a great database and format for contacting bookers, You could also set up a show at a friends house, a art space, a corn field or just about anywhere. You don’t need a official venue to have a show.

Section 6: Merch (make it yourself it’s a lot cheaper)
If you would like to have tshirts, patches, etc, for your act, your best bet is to learn how to silk screen. Then you can make your own tshirts, patches, etc. I learned how to silk screen from purchasing a Speed Ball silk screen starter kit. The kit comes with a DVD that teaches all the techniques as well as a lot of things you need to know about silk screening. Making a physical demo is also a good start in the merch department.

Section 7: Funding your Music
Different ways to seek funding can consist of a traditional or online method. A traditional method could be throwing a show or party to raise money for a record release, tour, a instrument or something along those lines. Two online methods that I have seen work well for people are Go Fund Me at and Kickstarter at These websites have a good layout for pitching your story and accepting money for your cause. They do take a percentage of the money your raise. In order to use either of these websites you have to have a bank account you don’t mind linking to their website. This is how they get the money you raise, into your hand. Another thing you can do is ask local businesses to sponsor your band. A country band from around my way asked a car dealership to sponsor them and they got a tour van for free. Other ways businesses do it is that they might give you money to put their logo on your tour vehicle.

Section 8: Independent Radio
You can search the internet for stations that play independent artists but the most effective method I have learned is to use The Indie Bible. This is a book that is published every year with up to date listings of all the radio stations, reviewers and publications that deal with independent musicians and bands. It costs about $60 but I believe it is worth the money. You and another band could split the cost to make it cheaper and share it. I have received airplay, reviews and interviews for free with only the purchase of this book. You have to make the effort to contact the stations, reviewers and magazines to receive the exposure. You can read more about or order The Indie Bible at

About Myself:
I am a musician from Southern Maryland. The things I have wrote about in this article are things I have tried and have seen that they work. I am by far no scholar, neither the best writer. So take it for what it is, just some helpful advice. If you have questions please email me at or if you are interested in hearing my music or seeing my music videos please visit

Summary: You can either pay people to do things for you or you can do it yourself. Have a nice day:)

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