ASK LI'L HANK ARCHIVE
Past Questions to Li'l Hank
This section was originally inspired by an email I recieved from a girl seeking advice on behalf of her brother. As I was typing my response to her, I said to myself, "Hey, I can actually help people with the amount of knowledge I've acquired over the years. It is in that spirit that I invite anyone and everyone seeking advice about being a musician, a songwriter / performer or entertainer in the big shark infested waters of L.A. If I don't know the answers off hand, I'll find out for you. Take advantage of me now before I have to start charging for my invaluable advice!
Ian Gregory Wright
Ian Gregory Wright asks:
Nice picture of the mic on your web page. I am a singer/song
writer new to the Los Angeles area. I am looking for any information that
could be helpful in getting started here. If you've got a minute, perhaps
you could Email me.
I like that picture, too. Since you aren't asking a specific question about songwriting and you just want general info, your first stop should be at LASS/NAS. LASS (The Los Angeles Songwriter's Showcase and NAS (Aational Academy of Songwriters) used to be two seperate organizations, however, they've merged. You can learn more about them and apply for membership online at:
Or call their office at 800/771-7223 (US) or in L.A.310/399-5527.
The SGA Songwriters Guild of America is also a great organization and the west coast offices of ASCAP and BMI are here in Hollywood, too. They all sponsor a many showcases and pitch sessions. Any or all of these places will offer an unbelievable amount of help and support. You just have to get out there and take advantage of the resources available.
Hal Cohen's Open Mic Guide on my site will give you plenty of places where you can go strut your stuff. I would request that if you download it or print it out that you contribute a few bucks to my efforts, but it is optional - I can't stop you from helping yourself to it. Just know that I do get around, so if I see one in your hand, you're buying dinner.
One last thing - grab a copy of Music Connection Magazine. It comes out twice a month and it's loaded with great stuff. It costs about three bucks an issue. You might consider subscribing to that one.
They also have a nice website at:
This is about all you'll need to get started. Don't put it off. Make plans to hit every one of these resources within the next few weeks and start meeting PEOPLE, because it's not only who you know - it's who knows you. This is something I repeat a few times on this page because it is important to remember. All the best,
Dear Li'l Hank
Hello, it's Jake Messinger writing from Grand Rapids.
How's it going? I am saving money and am getting real serious about making the journey. I have a question. I know a lot of famous people have done backup singing to pay the rent before they were famous (like Sheryl Crow.) It sounds like a great job, as opposed to flipping burgers! What do you know about this area? How does one get involved in this? I heard something about a union, but I'm not sure if that has something to do with the process. I am still planning on moving in summer or fall, so as soon as I'm in town, I will look you up. Your advice is greatly appreciated. Well, gotta go. You're the first person I thought of to ask. See you later!
Garnd Rapids, MI
Whoa, Jake! That's one loaded question and I'm not so sure you're gonna be thrilled with the answer. Though it's true some (I wouldn't say a lot) of famous people sang backup for other famous people before they themselves became famous people - trust me, they did their share of burger flipping or related services. As I recall from my singing waiter days, Katie Segal (Peg Bundy in 'Married With Children') left the restaurant we worked in to tour as a backup singer with Bob Dylan. He fired her during the tour, but that didn't stop her from putting her own band together and doing local gigs before her acting career kicked in. It wasn't until ten years later that she put out her first CD and her first love has always been the music. Let me tell you like it is:
If you're serious about moving out here to make it in the music biz, whether it's backup vocals, lead guitarist, or any type of session player, the first thing you have to keep in mind is "It's who you know" AND "Who knows you!"
Plan on lining up some kind of regular job to fall back on so you have a little cash to go out to the clubs with and check out the scene, get to know people, and set out to build yourself a network of musicians, singers, writers, record people, etc. You might even want to get a job in an entry level position with a record company or music publisher which will put you on the inside track rather quickly. Get the Music Connection Magazine and go right to the classifieds and go out for some auditions. If you have the talent, you'll find your niche or it may even find you. Just make sure you have a lot of perseverance, tenacity and know your goals. If I knew then what I know now, Jake, I'd be too busy touring to maintain this website. Currently, I'm working on MY first CD and I've been out here about 20 years. When you get here, give yourself a limit on the time you take to catch few rays, take in a few sites and soak in the ocean. I spent much too much time when I first got here on the beach so learn from my mistake. Just to reitterate- when you get here, you've got your work cut out for you!
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Entry to Guestbook
Fri, 21 Feb 1997 16:33:18 -0500
email@example.com (Jack Pier)
Dear Li'l Hank
I am a singer/songwriter who is almost finished with a 5-song, 8 track demo of Alternative/Modern rock. A friend of mine has a music attorney who he says can shop my CD when its finished, but I'm not sure if thats the best way to go about it. Would there be a better source that could get me a better deal faster? Should I be looking for an agent? A management company?
Any assistance you could give would be most appreciated.
Jack, Jack, Jack...
Do you want a better deal or a faster deal? There is more than one right answer to your question. If in fact, your friend's music attorney is well connected and he or she likes your material, you hit pay dirt. BUT- just because you know a music attorney doesn't mean you should stop seeking representation elsewhere before you sign anything. Have you done your homework on this attorney? You have to do a little research and set up a meeting and ask all the right questions. Who else does he or she represent, how much will this cost, does this attorney absolutely love your material and do you know how he or she plans to present you and to whom? Remember, know matter who takes your case, be it an attorney, a publisher, an agent or manager - They work for YOU. Attorneys are often paid up front. Publishers occasionally pay you up front against future royalties but that's getting rare these days (aand besides, it's only a loan). Either way, many record companies will not even accept your material if it's not submitted by an attorney or reputable publisher and even at that, they prefer those that they have already done business with or that have an established track record.
Bottom line- if you have good gut instinct and it says this person or that person is really on your side and will work hard for you, then take the deal. One last thing - don't expect anyone to get you a fast deal. If it happens, great - but give them between 18 months to two years to work it and make sure your contract has a reversion clause so the songs become yours to shop with someone else if things don't work out.
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Dear Li'l Hank
My name is Tori and I'm just messing around for the first time on the
Internet through my brother's computer so I'm not sure if I'm
communicating properly but what I would like to know is where I can find
existing bands in need of a male lead singer who will be moving to LA in
October. His name is Divad and he can better tell you what he's all
about but basically I'm the only one here right now and all I can say is
he has an awesome voice which ranges 4 octaves and his influences are
Marillon, Journey, Queen and various European rock artists.
Any help you can be will be helpful and hopefully my brother gets your
message to me as I will be leaving here in a few days to return to the
crazy LA life. Thanx for listening to me babble!
Well, let's see, now. First of all, the best way to hook up with a band or even put one together from scratch is not through the internet - at least not yet (unless part of your requirements for members is that they have a computer and a modem in which case , I can't see what that has to do with their ability to tear up a concert hall).
In Los Angeles, the first thing I would do is go to a newsstand or 7-11 and obtain a copy of Music Connection Magazine. It's a local bi-weekly magazine that is practically the bible for musicians, singers and songwriters here. They also have a website at http://www.musicconnection.com (what else?). There you will find lots of listings in their classifieds.
Another publication called The Recycler has proven to me to be invaluable. A lot of musicians will tell you that the people who advertise in the Recycler are not as high a caliber or even that there are alot of flakes that advertise there, but I have found it to be hit and miss no matter what ads you respond to. Finding the right musical partners is every bit as difficult as finding the perfect mate, and you know how much luck most people have with the dating scene. You are basically looking for a musical soul mate, so be prepared for a lot of let downs. On the other hand, when you do find compatible players, it is downright magical and those moments are what makes it all worthwhile.
Other avenues are to sign up with the Musicians Union - Local 47 and there is an organization called MCS (Musicians Contact Service ) which will list you on their phone in service for a reasonable fee.
If you think that Divad would be a good session singer for commercials or demos, he can put a demo together and join NAS (the National Academy of Songwriters) and they could place it in their demo vocalist library.
I'm sure I could come up with many other resources, but this will surely give you enough of a jump start to get you on the road to discovering the multitude of opportunities for yourself. If you are in doubt about a particular organization or ageny that you hear of along the way, write me again and I'll get the skinny on 'em for you.
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Dear Li'l Hank
This is a question that is not only for me, but for a lot of my friends who
also have bands. I've noticed that the clubs that will book us are sort of
dumpy, and the clubs we want to play won't book us because we don't have a
"following". So, short of marrying into an extended family, how do we get
around this problem? We do have a mailing list of over 100, we have a pretty
decent package, and we've won songwriting contests and had some songs
published. So we can't be all that horrible. I need a jump start. Any ideas?
If you are able to play unplugged as well as full on electric, you
can expand your fan base by doing some rooms (such as coffee houses) you
wouldn't ordinarily consider. Since you've had stuff published, I'd
imagine your songwriting is decent. The clubs you want to play are
probably overrated anyhow.
You never know where and when you'll be performing when an industry insider
is listening. Don't limit yourself to House of Blues, The Roxy and The
Troubador, because once you have played there - then what?
It's been my experience that the farther away from L.A you get, the better
the audience reception AND the money. If someone in your band is in charge
of the booking, start looking into a little mini-tour of some clubs in the
MIdwest or even the East Coast. Colleges are the best, especially if you
have a CD to sell. In fact. you might want to start working on getting a
product (even a single) out, and try and get it in rotation at some college
stations and then book a gig there so that people actually anticipate
seeing you live. After a band gets a little buzz going OUTSIDE of L.A.,
suddenly, the powers that be get interested back here at the ranch.
Shitty how it all works, but them's the facts.
In the meanwhile, no matter where you play, even if there's only one guy in
the audience and he's the bouncer, get that person on your mailing list!
It will gradually build. Than, after years of knocking your head against a
wall, perhaps you'll attain the recognition you desrerve - at which time
you'll be described as "an overnight success". Good Luck!
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