Welcome to the first instalment of SHUT UP CAUSTIC!, a (hopefully) monthly advice column on whatever damn subjects I want to talk about. Want advice on music makin', promoting, relationships, or if you should get a cherry or raspberry Slushie? Email them all to email@example.com with the subject "SHUT UP".
From Dan: At what point as an artist do you ask to get paid to do remixes? What if you just started a new band yet you were in a band before for many years doing free remixing. Do you combine your work from all those years or do you have to start over since the band you did remixes for in the past is no longer a band anymore?
CAUSTIC: There are a lot of reasons people charge for remixes. For some people it's because this is their fulltime job and it's another source of income. For others it's to separate the wheat from the chaff, as some people just ask everyone under the sun for a remix simply to see if it'll work and saying you want money weeds a lot of them out. Personally, I charge because remixing takes me away from doing my own music and, often, time away from my family. That's worth money to me because remixing, while fun, is also work. It also depends on who is asking for a remix, as sometimes a larger artist might ask you for a remix. Would I charge someone like VNV Nation or Combichrist for a remix? No, because there's a good chance a lot of people will hear that mix and it's a smart business move. Would I charge an up and coming artist though? Yes, in most cases I would. I think it's fair, and if someone doesn't they have every right not to hire me to do it. I think I'm also exceedingly reasonable in what I ask.
I'm not trying to get rich. I just think my time helping you is worth a few bucks, otherwise I could be plowing through the Beauty Queen Autopsy full length or the next Caustic.
As to "when is right" is totally up to you. Everyone starts out remixing for free, and if you already established yourself in another act, unless you're remixing under that name I'd say the point is moot unless you were huge under that name. When it really comes down to it if you want to charge you can. You just may not get any business because most artists remix for free or as a remix trade. Ultimately if people are willing to pay and happy with the results then that's the time. I never got a letter in the mail saying "you're ready." I just decided I needed some small compensation for my time.
From Tommy: What are your thoughts on the "pay to play" or "pay to be on comps" in the industry?
CAUSTIC: Pay to play is a tricky beast-- it's very common for openers on tours to pay to be on them. That's pretty much an industry standard, so when you see some band opening for a big band and wonder how they got so lucky? They bought that luck, and I can't really complain about that too much even though I've never done it. If you think it's worth the investment then go for it.
My pay to play issue comes with venues that make you pay to play there, whether by selling tickets to cover expenses for the headliner or because they're too lazy to promote the stupid show themselves. I think it's exploitative to expect a band to cover a certain amount of the costs of the show by themselves outside of kicking butt on stage. Mind you, if you have a show and you're not promoting it you deserve to not get booked, but to make you financially liable before the show even starts? That's just lazy and gross to me and I don't agree with it at all, especially since these deals often end up with the pay to play band going on stage ridiculously early...to no people.
Paying to be on comps, unless they're a major motion picture, is a total waste of money to me. Compilations rarely sell a ton, and if they do you're probably not going to get many sales off of them to justify even a paltry sum to be on them. In cases where you get the equivalent money back in CDs/vinyl though I'd say use your best judgement, as that's something to sell and helps promote you at shows and such. Again though, it's your money, so weigh the pros and cons of blowing a few hundred bucks on a compilation appearance or saving it, sinking it into advertising, and just maybe giving the track away instead for an email address.
From Ilari: How does one make it from a warm-up act into a headliner?
CAUSTIC: Two words: Persistence and talent. There are some bands that will never become a headliner-- they'll always open for bigger bands. But bands that put the time in on the road and in promoting their releases online can potentially enjoy the fruits of their labor and move up the line. Artists like Aesthetic Perfection opened on a ton of tours building a fanbase by just keeping their nose to the grindstone. Skrillex opened for Deadmau5 for a long time, which got his music in front of hundreds of thousands of people that learned his name that night. Now they're both reliable headliners. They put in the time.
Most importantly, your music and show have to be great. Playing lots of shows helps with that, no matter where they are or to how many people. The more stage time you get the better for your overall show. If you aren't putting out music that's connecting with people you're dead in the water.
By the way, "headlining" isn't always great. I've headlined plenty of shows where I ended up playing to the ten people that stuck around because it was a Wednesday night and people had to get up the next morning. I've also had plenty of gigs where we had a full house, but there are drawbacks to playing last. Sometimes the best crowd is right in the middle of the show.
From Chad: What do you think of people who don't believe in mixing outside genres with the genre of music one plays? Example being punks shunning traditional rock elements.