My two most recent bands, Napalmpom and Self-Cut Bangs, have existed as the increasingly rare “hobby bands that have never lost money on their releases.” While the former worked and toured hard to sell out of vinyl and CD pressings of 500+, playing hundreds of shows in the process, the latter was formed during the pandemic and has existed solely off of digital sales, project grants, occasional shows bookings and SOCAN and Sound Exchange royalties. Both projects have made money.
But let’s be clear. Both bands are five pieces, and the $250,000+ needed to make that a comfortable career for each member is nowhere near the ballpark of success we’re talking about here.
With due diligence in having everything lined up for a release, hard work in executing that plan, and a little luck, there are scenarios for both that represent viable side careers or at the very least, pay-for-themselves hobbies. In each section of this guide, I will be transparent about the financial realities of these bands and how to set yourself up for the same level of relative successes. Again, we’re talking “these releases help to fund tours and the next release so the band isn’t out of pocket, and occasionally allow for a little extra cash on top of that.”
To give a sense of what kinds of results a record can get without outside help from a manager, publicist, radio tracker or agent, and using the Trickle Down Music guide, here’s some selected highlights from Self-Cut Bangs’ latest release. I choose this one to highlight partly because it’s the latest release I’ve worked on, and partly because the band was formed in the pandemic and didn’t have the benefit of name recognition or an actual live band or touring momentum in the lead-up to the release. In other words, it wasn’t starting from an established position.
That said, having worked in the music industry in various roles in Canada for over 20 years, it did have the benefit of many prior relationships and networks, and it must be acknowledged that I benefit from a privileged position.
Self-Cut Bangs – Album Highlights
- Album broke even before release day
- Charted on National Earshot Charts for Campus & Community Radio for 10 weeks (#40, #40, #22, #6, #7, #15, #9, #9, #23, #27) – Monthly Top 200 Placements: #67 for November 2022, #12 for January 2023, #52 for February 2023
- Earshot Chart Breakdown: 23 weeks, 12 stations, 56 chart placements, highest placement #1 on CJAM). Stations charted on: CFBX, CFMU, CFOU, CFUV, CHLY, CHRW, CICK, CITR, CJAM, CJRU, CJSR, CJSW
- Radio Locations: Canada (Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Yukon), USA (New Jersey, Massachussetts, Carolina), Japan, Brazil, UK, etc.
- 10/12 of the album’s songs played on National, campus & community radio
- Played on multiple shows on WFMU (Dance To The Radio, Shake Some Action, The Mike Rogers Show, etc.)
- Charted for 13 weeks on WLAS (Massachussetts)
- #1 debut for sales on Alberta New & Notable releases on Bandcamp
- Features & interviews from Range Magazine, CBC Homestretch, CBC Provincial Playlist, The Calgary Herald, The YYScene, The JFJ Conspiracy Podcast, The Raven, etc.
- Top 10 Best Calgary Releases of 2022 – The Calgary Herald
- Top 10 Best Local Releases of 2022 – The YYScene
- Album of the Week – Tinnitist
- Best Music Videos of 2022 – Cups N Cakes
- Pick Of The Week release – Cups N Cakes
- Festival showcases confirmed at Winterruption (Edmonton), Big Winter Classic (Calgary)
- + much more!
Selected Highlights of Recent Discography
Album cover: Jen Schier
Circle Around The Free (2022)
Highlights: 23 weeks and counting on Earshot Charts, broke even before release, #1 Bandcamp Debut – Alberta New & Notable, Top 10 Calgary Releases from The Calgary Herald/The YYScene, Best Music Videos of 2022 by Cups N Cakes.
Album cover: Hamburger Hands
Highlights: 27 weeks on Earshot charts, Recommended for Polaris Music Prize Long List consideration by jury member, broke even on release day, Bandcamp #1 Debut – Alberta New & Notable, Top 5 Albums from Calgary Herald/The YYScene, Best Music Videos of 2022 by Cups N Cakes, played on Strombo Show.
Album cover: The Little Friends Of Printmaking
The Core Competencies Of Napalmpom (2017)
Highlights: Selected for Polaris Music Prize Longer List, #2 Album of 2017 CJSW Charts, 19 weeks on Earshot charts, Broke even on release weekend, Bandcamp #1 Debut – Alberta New & Notable, Juried Sound Recording Grant from FACTOR, Best Calgary Album of 2017 – The YYScene, Top 25 Albums of 2017 by Cups N Cakes, Top 10 Albums of 2017 by Bullying The Jukebox, Best of 2017 X92.9.
Album cover: Geoff Hanson
The Unconditional Love Of Napalmpom (2014)
Highlights: Recommended for Polaris Music Prize Long List consideration by juror, 40 weeks on Earshot charts, Western Canadian Music Awards Nominee – Best Rock Recording, Broke even before release, 4 Star Review NOW Magazine, CBC Music Awards Nominee – Best Independent Artist, CBC Best Music Video Selection – “Guided By Volume,” Charted on CBC R3-30 for 13 weeks, Top 5 Calgary Releases by The Calgary Herald, Top 16 CBC Searchlight Semi-Finalist, Songs featured on MTV’s Ridiculousness and Showtime’s Shameless.
Album artwork: Olivia Forsyth
The Sled Island Rock Lotto (2021)
Charted on Earshot for 12 weeks, Features from EXCLAIM!, Calgary Herald, CTV, CBC Homestretch, House of Strombo, X92.9, Bandcamp #1 Debut – Alberta New & Notable.