Supersuckers Go With The Marketing Flow
Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.Fans of veteran indie band Supersuckers admire the group for offering tremendous live shows and albums and for living the rock'n'roll lifestyle to the hilt.
But Supersuckers have at least one more distinguishing characteristic: They try to incorporate a marketing element into everything they do.
"It's easy to get the records into the stores," frontman/bassist Eddie Spaghetti says. "It's getting them out of the stores that's the challenge. We look at all of those unsold records as our little orphans that are out there waiting to be adopted."
So far, 212,000 of the band's orphans have found new homes, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The most recent of the band's 12 albums, "Devil's Food," has scanned some 5,000 units since its April 5 release. That's well short of the 20,000 mark the band aims for with each album.
In fact, five Supersuckers titles have reached that goal, including their best seller, "Must've Been High," which has moved 35,000 units.
Like many indie acts, Supersuckers -- whose other permanent members are guitarists Dan "Thunder" Bolton and Ron "Rontrose" Heathman -- are always looking to gain exposure in a cost-effective way. But for genre-benders like them, that is rarely easy.
Known primarily as a revved-up, double-lead-guitar-powered punk-garage band, Supersuckers also put out country albums, tour as a country band and have collaborated on numerous projects with Willie Nelson.
Initially, that country inclination almost cost the band fans, but Supersuckers figured out how to turn threats into opportunities: They occasionally have the country Supersuckers open for the rock'n'roll Supersuckers.
The road is key to all of the band's activities. It performs about 200 shows per year. "There are very few bands who work as hard as we do," Spaghetti says.
Because they spend so much time on the road, Supersuckers sell space on their van and trailer to advertisers. But instead of going through the hassle of shopping the space around, they auction it on eBay. Winning bidders have included apparel company Hot Leathers and Dynamite Distribution, which distributes tobacco paraphernalia.
The band also uses auctions to promote itself and its shows. Supersuckers have held auctions for trips to see them live, for a guitar lesson from Heathman and for a seat on the stage during one of their concerts.
"Bands ask us all the time, 'How do you do it?'" manager Chris Neal says. "And the answer is, 'We just do it.' This band is open to so many ideas that a lot of bands will turn down."
The band and Neal started their own label, Mid-Fi Recordings, which goes through Redeye Distribution. Not only does that allow them a greater portion of revenue per album, it also allows them to release product more than once every year or two. In the last six months, Mid-Fi has issued two Supersuckers live albums, "Live at the Magic Bag" and "Live at the Tractor."
Supersuckers' do-it-yourself marketing weapons include an e-mail list 15,000 strong and a fan club with 1,000 members. For annual dues of $15, fan club members get a few free singles a year and a chance to buy exclusive Supersuckers recordings. They also turn up on the band's guest list at shows and receive e-mail updates from Spaghetti at least once a month.
And then there's the merchandise. On the Supersuckers' Web site and at their shows, there's the opportunity to purchase albums, fan club recordings, T-shirts, branded lighters, pint glasses, shot glasses, mugs, patches, rings, dog tags, belt buckles and guitar-pick necklaces.
"We are a guerrilla warfare band," Spaghetti says. "This is a great job to have. In order to keep on doing it, if we want something done right we have to do it ourselves. It certainly is a lot of work, but the goal is to have no boss."
Excerpted from the July 2, 2005, issue of Billboard. The full original text is available to Billboard.com subscribers.
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