Brooklyn’s independent music scene has always been something to see. But in the past few years, the indie rock movement has engulfed Brooklyn like it never has before, with many a band moving to and claiming Brooklyn as their place of habitat and inspiration. But, as with many times in any genre of music, one thing that gets forgotten about is that the music business is essentially that: a BUSINESS. Whether you’re a mainstream phenomenon or an indie rocker playing coffee houses and other intimate gatherings, you’ve gotta have your business affairs in order if you want to be successful, from the financial to the legal to the promotional to the managerial, and everything else that falls under the umbrella of business.
Enter Love Crushed Velvet, a Brooklyn-based, independent rock music outfit fronted by solo artist and indie/alt rock veteran A.L.X. But Love Crushed Velvet is more than just your average band: it’s an entire concept that’s been over two years in the making, which includes the creation of the band, and both the song and album of the same name, all of which is the original brainchild of A.L.X. With the continuing growth and evolution of the band, Love Crushed Velvet is now beginning to find its feet in terms of style and sound. But more importantly, A.L.X. and his crew are taking hold of the sense that the music business isn’t JUST about the music: in this day and age, it’s about how to properly present a music product, using as many tools as possible to be successful, and how to build valued relationships so that you can continue to do what you love.
I had the chance to catch up with A.L.X. to get a better sense of how business is conducted within Love Crushed Velvet and what direction the band, and the brand, is taking in the future:
How did Love Crushed Velvet come together initially?
The core of musicians that made the record were veteran players and friends of A.L.X. that he’d worked with in various projects, including some of his solo work. After playing with them for some years, he decided to start writing around their playing style rather than having them work around his writing style. The result was Love Crushed Velvet. Since then, a new set of musicians joined the band, so our style continues to evolve. It’s exciting in that we feel that we are continuing to grow rather than being stuck in a narrow genre.
In what ways does Love Crushed Velvet use the Internet to make itself relevant as a band and a brand? Are there certain strategies or tactics employed?
Up until very recently, we were very laid back as far as Internet strategies go. We released content and posted something online only when we felt we had something to say. It never really dawned on us that anyone was really interested in what Jay was having for breakfast, or whether Max liked his coffee with cream or sugar. We’ve learned, however, that people do take an interest in those things and are trying to remind ourselves that a band’s connection with its fans isn’t exclusively about the music alone. So we’ll be putting out a lot more content in the near future that doesn’t just relate to the music, but to the band members as people.
How important is networking (be it with other bands or music business experts and professionals) to the success of Love Crushed Velvet?
Very. One of the things you learn pretty quickly is how important relationships are in the music business. Relationships with other bands, with bookers, with the media. Having said that, we still try to surround ourselves with people that we like, which has sometimes held us back as a band, but made the day-to-day experience more fulfilling. We all really wish that there was an imaginary world out there where you could just focus on making music and not have to deal with a lot of the business issues, but the only way to really do that is to be a hobbyist in your own basement. And that takes away the interactive aspect of the experience, which is one of the best parts about being a musician—bringing it to people.
Playing at festivals has become very important to many indie music acts. How important have they been to you as a solo artist and to Love Crushed Velvet? Have you been able to perform at any major music festivals in the past?
Funny enough, we just played a festival last weekend, but a bit of an unconventional one: A Beatles tribute festival. If you give a listen to our music, the Beatles aren’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind, so we had a lot of fun learning those songs but still trying to keep the Love Crushed Velvet feel alive within those songs. Overall, though, we haven’t played in a ton of festivals, so it’s something we’d definitely like to do more of as a way to interact with broader audiences. We’re known at the moment as very much of a club band, so we like the challenge of hitting the larger stage.
What are some of the most important music business issues you think are facing indie artists these days?
The revenue and exposure models of old have been turned upside down. You used to count on CD sales to a certain degree, which would help drive bookings. Nowadays, CD sales have fallen off a cliff, and music fans are saturated from every angle by a gazillion different acts being transmitted by scores of different media outlets. It’s overwhelming to a musician, so I can only imagine what a music fan must go through every day after being assaulted from multiple angles. It’s certainly become a harder business to earn a living at, so it’s really the love of doing it that keeps you going. But there’s no doubt that you have to stay on your toes because things are changing so quickly that what was true 9 months ago may no longer be the case today.
Do you use any resources and references (books, websites, blogs, consumer and trade magazines) to stay on top of music business and music industry news and trends? If so, what are some of them?
One of us will often attend one of the major music conferences each year and bring back a slew of ideas, magazines, blog links, etc. that we will then digest. A few of us subscribe to Bob Lefsetz’s blog, which is often very insightful. But there isn’t a single source that we use as gospel—it really comes from a pretty broad range of outlets. As well as personal interactions; New York is still one of the world’s major music hubs, so music business issues come up in conversation all the time.
Some of Love Crushed Velvet’s influences include U2, Blondie and David Bowie. How has naming these bands as major influences helped the band in terms of booking gigs and gaining a bigger fan base?
When people haven’t heard your music, they need something to compare it to. Describing it as “melodic alt rock” doesn’t really help anyone get a true handle on the sound, so naming some influences is sometimes an easier way into peoples’ imaginations. Then again, it’s debatable how much we really sound like our influences.
Does Love Crushed Velvet have a standard Band agreement between its members?
No, we’ve made all of our internal agreements on a handshake up to this point. A healthy band relationship is based on trust, and we only deal with written agreements if the outside world demands it. An agreement is only as good as the goodwill of the people who sign it anyway.
(Specifically to ALX) In your time as an artist, what are some of the most important things you’ve learned about the business side of music?
I heard someone recently compare being in a successful band to a start-up company, and that made a lot of sense. It’s important to be able to shift from left brain to right brain, which takes some of the romanticism out of the process, but you have to face the reality that making a living at music requires treating it like a business—yet blocking out that fact while you are in the process of actually making music or performing. And just like start-ups burn cash, be prepared to not make much—or any—money in the beginning. Be in it for the long haul, but more importantly, be in it for the music. Which is not to say that one should be foolish in their business decisions or leave money on the table, but when all is said and done, it’s the music alone that you’re left with. When you’re by yourself in a faraway place with only your instrument at your side, you can always make music. It’s the one part of the process that’s free, and you know what they say about the best things in life…
What are some of the things that Love Crushed Velvet plans to do to strengthen itself as a band, as a brand and as a business in the future?
We’ve been self-managed up to this point, and while it’s worked fine, we realize that it’s now time to take the next step and get proper representation. The more time you put into the business side of things, the less time is left for you to play and create, so we feel that it’s appropriate to make that move in order to free us up more creatively and make it easier to generate more music and content overall. So stay tuned!
Power 105.1's The Breakfast Club took the week off and compiled a best of footage collection from their whirlwind year. Most of the interviews are featured in full on the site, but here's a comprehensive look. Salute!