The Ramones were very much like Iggy Pop and the Stooges (or for that matter, the Three Stooges) in that they were never truly appreciated during the times they were active.  The Ramones always had poor record sales, terrible national radio play, and had no major concert runs of their own.  Regardless of these issues, the Ramones finished out their careers in 1996 as millionaires.

One reason for this was Johnny Ramone, the militaristic leader of the Ramones.  Johnny, fully understanding the drawbacks listed above, paid very careful attention to the business end of the music industry.  He was watchful of the Ramones’ money, never took unnecessary or stupid risks, made sure that the Ramones name and reputation remained true and intact, and gave undivided attention and genuine appreciation to fans.  He also understood where the Ramones niche did lay, and kept them relentlessly touring for the entirety of their 22-year career, which allowed them to make the bulk of their money in ticket and t-shirt sales.

During his retirement, the formerly anti-social Ramone befriended the likes of Eddie Vedder, Rob Zombie, John Frusciante, Pete Yorn, even Lisa Marie Presley, and often imparted to them words of wisdom about the performance and business sides of music.

Below are a few tidbits I’ve picked up over the years, slightly modified by myself:

 BUSINESS

  1. When your band is “playing for the door,” always have someone from your crew – preferably a large, somewhat menacing individual – standing right next to the club’s door attendant, watching his every move.  Make sure your person uses a “clicker” to record EVERYONE coming into the club.  When a door attendant “comps” people’s entry into the club, the club is responsible for their admittance, NOT the band.  A door attendant has no right to give away the band’s entertainment for free.  It might not seem like a lot of money at the moment, but it adds up after a while.  In the music industry, it is a matter of accounting for the pennies;
  2. Hard working roadies and soundmen are an absolute necessity;
  3. Always have a good piece of merchandise to sell at gigs;
  4. Set up unique and innovative ways of getting new fan email addresses at gigs;
  5. Watch the money!

 

STAGE PRESENCE

  1. Whether you are on stage or not, if people can see you, you are “on;”
  2. Never let the crowd see you set-up or teardown your gear.  Always have the roadies do it.  You play rock n’ roll, roadies set up equipment;
  3. Straight microphone stands only – boom microphone stands aren’t rock ‘n roll;
  4. No music stands.  Ever;
  5. Walk on the stage professionally, with a purpose.  Do the same when walking off;
  6. Look forward, and don’t look around.  Always face the crowd;
  7. “Own” your section of the stage;
  8. No stopping between songs.  “When the Ramones played live, there wasn’t enough room to slide a slip of cigarette paper between the songs!” – Joe Strummer of the Clash;
  9. No fiddling around on stage with your gear.  Amps should already be set;
  10. Work the crowd between sets.  Sign all autographs.  Always make time for the audience: be accessible;
  11. If something needs to be said between songs (due to a guitar switch or something), it should be short, planned and well thought out;
  12. Always play to the back of the room.

 

THINGS TO REMEMBER

  1. Always look like a rock star.  Have a great look;
  2. Know the music inside and out.  Know it so well you could play it backwards;
  3. Keep the integrity of the band true.  Never compromise what you do or who you are.

 

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Comments
  1. Tara says:

    Any advice on the following. My 2 sons 15 & 17 are in a band with 2 sisters from another family. Their parents have, taken full control, of all songs, band names (which 3 times have had to be changed due to their lack of research), causing me to set up 2 websites that have now been taken down. The latest fiasco is my being unable to attend a meeting, due to illness, and not responding immediately to an email of theirs. Interestingly, they have neither acknowledged pages of band names, pages of song requests, nor accepted them. including responding to numerous emails and even gig emails, in the past year. Now, my older son informed me, yesterday, these parents presented to my sons that they should possibly conduct all future business through my sons.

    The band is very talented, being looked at by reputable companies and are working toward a professional career. They could very well make it. Their first concert, after 6 weeks of being together, was given 3 encores.

    They are prepping for studio this month, to record originals. I want them to enjoy this amazing experience, however, I cannot tolerate them and myself “not being given any choices or a voice” in this band situation. The price of fame is ???? The price of fame is “giving someone else everything they want. Feels like a deal with the devil.

    What would be the best “move” to make at this point? As a parent, I am shocked that they would continually lead the boys on, to believe that they are heard, respected, considered, valued, when it appears to me that they are nothing more than non-paid hired hands, at this point. If they devalue any of our opinions, choices, hopes, etc., in the beginning of the game, should we consider taking the closest exit.

    I have been told if I was a good mother, I would not cause the break up of the band, just because I, including my boys, are not given any choices. I said if my boys are puppets, without a voice, then why do they not just hire another lead guitarist and drummer whom they can tell “every move” that is expected of them? Why have these boys believe they are “part” of something special, when really passive-aggressive techniques are constantly being used towards them and myself?

    It’s a hard business, that’s for sure, but my job as a parent is to ensure my youth go into their adulthood years, with pride, voices, choices and that their gifts/talents not be used, at their expense, to further the careers of selfish, self-consumed individuals.

    Thanks for any input.

    • tmc102464 says:

      First and foremost, YOU, as the legal guardian of the boys (who ARE minors) have full, legal control regarding any and all business deals and agreements. They CAN’T enter into any agreement, formal or informal, without your consent. I am sure that you are well aware of this, but it doesn’t hurt to say it out loud. You DO have power in this, more than you may believe you do.

      Never, EVER surrender any right or rights. Let me say that again, NEVER, EVER SURRENDER YOUR RIGHTS to ANYTHING musically. I’m not saying never enter into ANY agreement – agreements are what makes great things happen – but also BAD things happen as well! Look at the careers of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, and almost every black blues artist from the 1930s through to the 1970s. The MILLIONS they gave away needlessly pertaining to their rights! I’m sure that you already know that the surviving Beatles don’t own any of their own songs, but there are things even worse than that. Did you know that “Wooly, Bully” star Sam ‘the Sham’ of Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs doesn’t legally own that name? He lost the rights to it – to his own stage name!!

      And in listening to your story, what is thinly veiled by them as conducting the “future business” of the band REALLY means them calling all of the shots, them being responsible to no one, and your boys actually BEING only hired hands.

      As far as control of the band and its decision making, did the boys join the band, or was the band formed equally between the four of them? That does enter into things as far as any claims regarding intellectual property (ownership: the name of the band, sound recordings, etc.) Who owns the song copyrights? Is it a “girl-fronted” band, such as how the Wilson sisters front the band, “Heart?”

      To assess the situation better, do you have any sites or promotional things I can look over?

      To me, it doesn’t seem that these parents really know even the simplest of things to do – like when deciding upon a name. A name search is the FIRST thing that must be done! Holy cow!

      Somebody actually told you that you weren’t being a good mother about this?!?!?! You might be the ONLY one thinking clearly! You sound like a top-notch mom to me!

      The first move I would recommend – especially as the parent of two girls, 20 and 17 – would be to nail the other parents down to a meeting. A very polite but firm meeting should be conducted by yourself. Tell them how excited you are about the opportunities that seem to be opening up (and rather quickly!) for ALL of the kids. But also tell them what you think, what your concerns are, etc.

      After that, one of three things will occur. Let’s discuss each…

      1. – They will be receptive, take your concerns to heart, and improve their skills and manners of including the boys (BUT REALLY, YOU!!) in the decision making;

      2. – They will be receptive, but NOT take your concerns to heart, and WON’T improve basic communication, a team spirit, etc., in which case you GET YOUR BOYS OUT OF THAT MESS ASAP!;

      3. – They will balk at your suggestions, and tell you to ‘take it or leave it,’ in which case, you LEAVE IT, again, getting the boys out of that mess. If they do reject what you are saying to them out of hand, you will be incredibly relieved and have confirmation that your suspicions were founded on facts!

      You know, regardless of the roll that you boys are playing – and I say this only because I haven’t observed them yet, so I’m speaking sort of from a blind perspective – the boys MUST be doing SOMETHING right. It can’t be only the girls and their abilities causing all this immediate success. The boys have to be making at least part of the magic themselves. Keep that in mind also.

      Some final words: TRUST NO ONE. NO ONE. The music business is full of sweet sounding snake oil salesmen. ASSUME that you are the only one to have their best interests at heart, because as far as the integrity of the music business goes, you just might BE the only one watching out for them!

      I look forward to hearing back from you!

      Tim McCarthy

  2. Tara says:

    Tim….thank you so much. My son and I just read this email, from you. From the bottom of our hearts, we cannot thank you enough. By the way, the girls’ parents emailed me and quit the band yesterday. I am relieved. I didn’t want to go into recording studio, knowing they had the drummer and guitar player (my two boys) who have created that part of the song…and not had any contract, or control. The parents were so angry, when I stood up for us in an email, they responded angrily, accused me of not being professional, lied about the band name (saying I chose the latest one….when I had not even heard of the name until informed by the boys). The website they had was Ministry of Misfits, however, we closed it down because the name was being changed. I paid for another website, only to find out that name was already taken – after the parents’ informed me that they did a thorough search.

    She accused me of poor business management, because I did not answer an email, immediately, of hers about a free coffee shop gig – where we had to bring all the drums, etc. an hour away from our home. The very next day we were to record. Also, Dylan is performing for Rick Hansen and has other auditions for large gigs (with another band he is in), so it would be too much in the next few weeks.

    I sent her an email back, about the 3 large gigs (one expecting up to 150,000 people regarding a City festival) and, another email about Canada Day in Langley, BC (quite large festival) and another Sports Festival. These were sent to her, repeated to her, and told to her in person and I reminded her that I could resend her those emails, and that I have been waiting since February 3rd for confirmation. So, I received no “immediate” response from her – regarding huge, professional gigs – yet she calls me unprofessional because I didn’t jump when she wanted me to. When I reminded her, politely, of this….she stated that she thought I was mocking them and she could no longer work with us.

    In my email, I also informed her, nicely that the boys, within 11 months have had 3 song choices, all of which have been back-burnered….had 1 original prepped for recording, written (music & lyrics) by my oldest son – also back-burnered. CFOX, which is Vancouver’s Rock Station – informed us if it was good enough, they would see if they could find a time-slot – even once – due to BC kids and it being a Christmas Song.

    I knew in my heart that it was a lost situation, but continued to make attempts. We were nothing but kind, professional, sharing, giving….I’m actually quite relieved.

    Yes, I do know everything you have informed me about – above in your email, but it is so good to hear it from someone else in the business. Thank you, especially, for your kind words about my being a “good” mother and “looking out for my youth.” It is a difficult business, for sure, but now we can go forward with other creative works.

    I have to head out, right now, but I will get some videos to you, if you would like – but obviously not through the closed down web-site. 2 sites we paid for that are useless. I would also like to forward you our emails, and like your opinion about them. By this, I mean the last 3 emails, where I stated our situation/feelings and where they slammed us down and quit. I pretty much knew this would happen, because I had read a lot on the internet, this weekend, about “people who control everything” and the “techniques they will use.”

    So thanks Tim. We’ll sleep easier tonight.

    Tara.

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