Words by Leah Phillips
Sex On Toast. The wondrous nine-piece band have been around for years, selling out headline shows in Melbourne and building an impressive reputation as one of our most colourful live acts. But it wasn’t until this year that they organised a national tour, a move that wasn’t exactly easy.
Just before the start of their Ricky tour I caught up with the charismatic front man and band manager Angus Leslie to discuss the business side of Sex On Toast. He answered the tough questions, offering some pearls of wisdom as to how independent bands can remain organized, plan successful tours and produce high quality recordings and film clip production at an affordable rate.
It seems organisation is the key amongst any sort of band and according to Leslie, organisation is essential within a nine-piece. “You have to be organised. I once wasn’t; it really didn’t do me any favors. I was having a very hard time doing what I was trying to do.” His approach to getting the band in order for gigs and rehearsals is by utilizing Google Calendar. He gets members to send across their full schedule for the next few months, compares them and then pencils in mutual availabilities for band meetings. This approach works for SOT most of the time, but of course things do come up and sometimes a re-shuffle is necessary.
Over the past few years, the band have sold out headline shows at The Toff and The Evelyn and have played at several festivals, including Falls. But it wasn’t until this year that Leslie organized the band’s national tours. For someone who admitted he never thought he could do it, after giving it a shot – initially with the assistance of a booking agent and then independently – he now says “booking a tour is not as hard as you think it is; it’s just a lot of work.”
There have been some thoughts for SOT to tour outside of Australia, but the huge costs and risks associated with this means double the organisation and planning. “It’s good to take a chance but there are a lot of costs associated with it, especially since you’re not always going to have a huge audience waiting for you.” According to Scott Barkham – the US manager of good friends – Hiatus Kaiyote, it’s smarter for Australian bands to tour Asia first because it’s a massive investment to go halfway across the world to Europe or the US for a potentially unsuccessful and costly tour.
The other part of touring anywhere is to be professional with those you’re dealing with regardless of where they’re from. Try to forge relationships with people who are organized and business-minded.
“You’re going to a gig to do work. You’re not just getting there to have fun, although it can be. If you’re choosing to do this seriously, it’s work. And you absolutely want everyone involved to be professional.”
Emphasising the importance of making a good product, Leslie states that it’s worth spending the extra cash or putting in that extra bit of effort to make a good video clip that you’re proud of. You don’t have to win the lottery to be able to produce a video clip or record an album.
Frugality is key. For video clips, try and find a director that may be willing to do a trade off. You could offer to score their short film in exchange for a free or discounted rate on your video clip production. Some people will flatly refuse, while others may put you onto other directors in their network who may be more accommodating. And when it comes to recording music, once again you can do it frugally; you just have to figure out a way. You must be tireless about it.
Crowdfunding is often a quick solution to this dilemma, but Leslie gives a heeded warning to not abuse the model, as funding a record and then a tour within six months of each other can make you look bad. Unless you’ve got a huge dedicated fan base behind you, it’s generally an avenue that can only be exploited once. He also adds that if you do decide that crowdfunding is the right way to back your project, budget seriously and ask for a precise amount. All too often bands are asking for way too much when it comes to record funding campaigns, especially since recording equipment is both affordable and readily available these days and it’s vital that musicians learn to record themselves.
What about social media and the maintenance of an online fan presence? SOT have a strong presence on Facebook, using Instragram and Twitter as their second and third most important forms of contact with their audience. Leslie states that the golden rule here is to always give something to your audience and establish common interests. You should share things that you think your audience may find interesting, such as another band or song you think is cool, because the chances are that if they like your music you’ll probably have other things in common.
Keep track of the boys via: www.sexontoastmusic.com