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:
- 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;
- Hard working roadies and soundmen are an absolute necessity;
- Always have a good piece of merchandise to sell at gigs;
- Set up unique and innovative ways of getting new fan email addresses at gigs;
- Watch the money!
- Whether you are on stage or not, if people can see you, you are “on;”
- 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;
- Straight microphone stands only – boom microphone stands aren’t rock ‘n roll;
- No music stands. Ever;
- Walk on the stage professionally, with a purpose. Do the same when walking off;
- Look forward, and don’t look around. Always face the crowd;
- “Own” your section of the stage;
- 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;
- No fiddling around on stage with your gear. Amps should already be set;
- Work the crowd between sets. Sign all autographs. Always make time for the audience: be accessible;
- If something needs to be said between songs (due to a guitar switch or something), it should be short, planned and well thought out;
- Always play to the back of the room.
THINGS TO REMEMBER
- Always look like a rock star. Have a great look;
- Know the music inside and out. Know it so well you could play it backwards;
- Keep the integrity of the band true. Never compromise what you do or who you are.