MusicMusic Features

How to Get Ahead in Athens Music

Sure, you came to Athens for “school,” but we all know why you’re really here. Our music scene is legendary for a reason; we’ve exported more than our share of nationally and globally recognized talent over the years, and the Classic City continues to pump out band after in-demand band.

But if you’re thinking of getting involved, it’s not as easy as just strapping on a guitar. We polled a selection of big local names—bands, talent buyers, promoters, studio engineers; basically, folks you’ll need to know—for their advice on how to make it in Athens music.

Joel Hatstat, Cinemechanica/Joel Hatstat Audio:

  • Walk up to people and introduce yourself. “My name is Dan, I have a band called Michelob Detonator that is playing on Friday, we sound a lot like your band, swing by if you want.” And leave it at that.
  • With regards to recording, do the best that you can with the amount of knowledge and gear that you have surrounded yourself with, and be OK with how things turn out. If you are unhappy with the results, do it differently the next time. Making records should always be a dynamic and ongoing learning process. 
  • Mastering should be the last 15 percent of your record, max. Do not turn in some sloppy crud and ask for it to sound like The Mars Volta.

Rachel Bailey, Flagpole writer:

  • Bandcamp and Facebook are not spaces for you to be cheeky. Fill them out thoroughly with correct information (names, instruments, etc.). This may not seem important, but if you want press, you’d be wise to make it easy for a writer to find basic information about you in a convenient way. Same goes for your music. Make it easy to find and up-to-date. Bonus points if you pick a name that’s Google-friendly.
  • Don’t trash other members of the music community in a public way. This town is small. You WILL make enemies. They WILL hold grudges.
  • Don’t let your band’s success or failure at garnering attention or making money dictate how you feel about your music and the community you make it in. It will make you hard and bitter and a real pain in the ass, not to mention bankrupt an experience that should be inherently satisfying.

Mike Turner, HHBTM Records:

  • When making show posters, make sure to list band names, venue, date, price and age restriction. Make sure that you can read the poster. Refrain from profanity and nudity; half the places [in town] won’t put them up. 
  • Before pressing something on vinyl, first ask, “Is there a demand?” Start out [small]. Make 100 cassettes or CD-Rs, and if you sell all of them, make 100 more. If you can move another 100, you might be ready to press 500 of a 7-inch or LP.

Katie Carmody, Georgia Theatre:

  • Limit your guestlist. Start early and train your friends to pay for tickets. If they are your real friends, they’ll understand the hard work you put into your show and will pay to see you play.
  • Be gracious to everyone who assists in the process of putting on the show. The club owners, the production people, the security staff, the box office staff, bartenders, fans, other bands you’re playing with—they remember.  

Scott Low, singer-songwriter:

  • Work hard. Practice. Don’t play in Athens more than once a month, and as fans build, play locally less frequently.

Noelle Shuck, Shehehe:

  • Don’t be a dick. It doesn’t matter how cool you think you are or how amazing your band is. The fact of the matter is that one person in your band being a dick can give your entire band that reputation.
  • Be willing to share equipment if you’ve got a limited amount of time and you know shit’s gonna be tight. If you saw the way that one drummer abused his kit last time, then maybe find a way around having him play yours. If you’ve got a million rack toms, two kick drums, a gong and chimes, things will be different for you, as well. Though in that case, you should maybe just rethink why the hell you’re using all that in the first place.

Sienna Chandler, Monsoon:

  • We all play a vital role to the scene, whether we’re stamping hands, running sound, serving drinks, performing or spectating. No one’s role is greater than another’s, so don’t be an asshole. If you absolutely CAN’T help being an asshole due to poor upbringing or circumstances beyond your control, don’t be a drunk asshole.
  • Tip the bar when you close out at the end of the night, but not before you buy the sound guy a beer.
  • Always keep five bucks and a Clif bar in your gig bag. The Clif bar will hold you over until you can get to Waffle House for eggs and toast.

Family and Friends, local band

  • Putting on a good live show is essential to growing your fanbase and creating buzz in town. You never look as cool standing still as you think you do. The audience wants to engage with what is on stage.
  • Be a band on and off the stage. To us, a good band also consists of good people. Never forget that you represent your band with your actions in the community. Be good to others, and they will be good to you.

Troy Aubrey, Foundry Entertainment

  • Don’t say yes to every opportunity. Be smart about spacing out your plays. You have to work hard to find that right balance between playing too much and not playing enough.
  • Please don’t try to push talent buyers to book your new band to headline a weekend night. Unless you have a proven draw, then it’s best to work on putting strong bills together with likeminded bands earlier in the week.
  • On the night of your show, have some common courtesy and be respectful of the venue’s personnel (door staff, venue manager, bartenders, light and sound techs). Copping an attitude rarely gets you anywhere but blackballed. Be a decent human, enjoy the night and just be glad you are playing music in Athens, GA!