An Example of That Thing You Do

On October 12, 2010, in John Sumser, More2Know, by John Sumser

An Example of That Thing You Do

Yesterday’s piece talked about how useful the music business is for understanding talent, drive and luck and how the three interplay. The following letter appeared in Bob Lefsetz’ blog (I’ve asked for permission to reprint his stuff occasionally). It chronicles the early success of a band committed to making it.

As you read the letter, understand that you are seeing an example of that elusive thing that isn’t desire or passion. It’s the will to succeed, the capacity to convert hardship into opportunity, the willingness to fully utilize the resources you have in pursuit of a dream.

Ask yourself how your operation helps people find this thing in the people they hire and cultivate.

From: Hollerado

Subject: Thanks

Hello Mr. Lefsetz

I am a longtime reader of your column, first time writer. I wanted to say thanks for talking about us last week. Besides getting a whole bunch of new people to take notice of Hollerado, it really meant a lot to me personally to have you talk about what we are doing.

We are a DIY band through and through. I would love for you to get to know our band a little more.

  • We come from a small town in Ontario called Manotick -We have been touring relentlessly for 4 year
  • For our first american tour, no-one wanted to book us. So, instead of booking shows, we drove as far way from our homes in canada as we could get. We would then show up at venues where a show was going on and tell them we were 2000 miles away from home, had a gig booked down the street but it somehow feel through. “Would you guys mind if we played a short set here tonight?” IT WORKED! We played countless shows this way.
  • Since we rarely got paid more than a few drinks and sometimes pizza, we needed to make gas money.
  • We had a laptop with the the tracks to our demo CD. We would go to best buy, get a CD burner and a couple spindles of blank cds. We would burn a hundred demos in the parking lot and then return the CD burner to Best Buy. we would then put the demos in zip lock bags. (hence the name of our first record….record in a bag)
  • Once we had a stash of demos we would drive to the nearest mall and set up shop in front of Hot Topic (probly the most shameless thing we have done for our band). We would stand there for hours, with discmen and demos asking anyone who would stop to take a listen if they wanted to buy a demo in a bag. We could sell the discs for 5 bucks and still make $4.50 to put towards gas.
  • We did this for 2 years. Anything to avoid having a real job, right?
  • In febuary 2009, we released our first full length album for FREE online.
  • That same month we invented the RESIDENCY TOUR. We took the old concept of playing a residency one day a week at the same bar and made it psyco. We booked 7 residencies for the month, one for each night of the week. Every Sunday of that cold February we played in at the same club in Boston, every monday at Piano’s in NYC, Tuesday was Lacolle Quebec, Wednesdays- Hamilton ontario, Thursdays – Toronto, Friday – Ottawa, Saturday – Montreal. Repeat 4 times. 28 shows in a row. over 12,000 miles of crap canadian winter driving in 28 days.
  • In febuary 2010, we started our own record label to release “record in a bag” in stores in Canada. Although every distributor we talked to said it was impossible, we were finally able to convince one (Arts and Crafts) that we could literally package “record in a bag” in a ziplock bag filled with goodies. So far we have sold over 10,000 copies of it in Canada. With no label support, our first single “Juliette” went top 5 in mainstream Canadian alternative radio.
  • Things began to take hold in Canada and we soon became privy to the Canadian grant system for touring acts. Still, when they gave us a budget to play a showcase in China, we took the budget and stretched it for all it was worth. We turned it into a 3 week tour deep into china. We recorded a song in mandarin chinese and released it on the internet in China. We were able to return for another tour 6 months later.
  • We can play our instruments. We play live and we play live allot, hundreds of shows a year, we sweat. We take requests. We play covers we don’t know. We play for the audience, as much as each other, because without them we would still be in back Manotick, working jobs we hated. We play anywhere anytime. It is what we love more than anything.
  • We listen to good bands (Petty, Roy Orbison, The Clash, Booker T, Paul Butterfield, John Prine). We have a strong conviction that pop music does not have to suck.
  • We are 4 best friends (2 of the guys are brothers). We intend to do this for a long time. We want to have careers and catalogues that we can be proud of. Personally, i think, our song for the video you talked about is not nearly our stongest. Since then we have written a whole bunch more, and like anything else, they are getting better with practice.
  • I truly believe we have a few songs on our album that really have heart and are really about things. i’d love for you to listen to our record, because although we are happy with what the video has accomplished creatively and exposure-wise, we are a rock band and the bottom line is that we make songs. it is for these reasons that i would like to invite you to see us live when we play in Los Angeles later this month. thanks for reading sincerely-Menno Versteeg

ps. Would you mind sending me your address so i can mail you a copy of “record in a bag”?

Bonus link (or watch below): Amazing Hollerado Video.

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