If you have an hour to spare and want a grubby but realistic take on how to survive in the music business as a band, you'll want to attend a lecture from self-appointed 'powerpoint ninja' Martin Atkins.
This onetime drummer has an impressive resume, which includes stints with Public Image Ltd., Killing Joke, Nine Inch Nails and Ministry; authoring "Tour: Smart" (2007); and presently teaching at Madison Media Institute.
For his lecture, the black-suited, spike-haired Atkins blazed through his do's and don'ts for bands at a blistering pace that defied extensive note-taking - but he was clearly there entertain as much as to inform, not to mention push his books.
First off, he ran through a list of things that screw bands up as they navigate the biz, dropping f-bombs liberally - and gleefully -- throughout.
Atkins' list of common musician pitfalls included: blaming everyone but yourself ("It's tragic when the biggest problem you have is yourself"), over-ambition, being a jerk, the pursuit of perfection, seeking external validation, bad contracts ("A contract is not protection -- ever!"), looking for shortcuts and deals, and a lack of imagination.
His list of strategies to overcome those problems included: have a strategy, get the f--- out of bed, be omnipresent online, don't be afraid of doing things for free ("It's not a problem if 20,000 people 'illegally' download your music -- it's a problem if they don't"), don't worship technology, differentiate yourself from the competition, make your shows into events, don't overplay your local market, have more than one T-shirt for sale, define success on your terms, and don't be afraid of making mistakes: "It's what you do with the accident."
In conclusion, he said, "If in doubt, throw blueberry muffins," and then proceeded to do just that, showering the audience with blueberry muffins inviting them to view his 15-foot robot just outside. Successful attention-grabbing strategies? For sure.