Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Interview With Frankie Whyte of FRANKIE WHYTE AND THE DEAD IDOLS

Every once in a while a band comes along that really grabs my attention and stands above the crowd as something really special. I remember walking into Lee's Palace in Toronto one night back in 2008 and seeing Frankie Whyte and the Dead Idols ripping it up on stage and from that moment on they've had my undivided attention.

They are rock and roll... period! In fact, if aliens were to come down from another planet and ask me, "What is rock and roll?", I'd take them to see a FWDI show. They live, breathe, eat and sleep rock and roll and they work very hard at what they do. They're big thinkers and they've accomplished some big things since their inception.

Frankie Whyte took some time to answer some questions for me and I'm pleased to share this interview with you. If you're not familiar with FWDI, please check out their website and if possible, go see them live. I think you'll be glad you did.

Enough chatter... on with the interview.

DR S: When did FWDI form and how did it all come about?

FW: Our project came together in 2008, through connecting with like-minded individuals that identified with what I wanted to do. I’ve always had a clear vision as to the message, the steps and the goals I’ve wanted (and still want) to set for this project. Those individuals turned into what is now my family, my band: Dan Cavalcante, Monti and Rio Nicolle, with our phantom fifth member Duncan Coutts. We’ve expanded our team over the years- from our media team with Cut Cartel, to the co-writing team I’ve created with Andre Kaden Black. A band is bigger than just the sum of what you would see on a stage, these are people that relate to and support what we musically stand for. Our band, this project at this point, is a community of creatively fearless people that share similar ambitions to myself, which is why I think it works.

DR S: What do you think sets FWDI apart from other bands?

FW: We have something to say. We want to create a meaningful moment for our fans in 3 minute vignettes. It was said to me recently “you can’t change the world, you can only change yourself”. I remember thinking “how can we not even try to make a contribution or a connection outside of ourselves…”. Perhaps it’s an incredibly na├»ve notion – but I do believe that music changes people, we all notice those changes within ourselves when we hear the right song or the right words, right. Music brings us together through hope or whatever the common thread is-- and when people unite through their similarities and dissimilarities, that’s when change becomes a possibility.

DR S: You've played quite a wide spectrum of gigs since the band's inception. What are some of the most memorable and why?

FW: Getting banned from Sauble Beach this summer by the Chamber Council was probably the most memorable gig to date. I haven’t heard of that happening to a band for over 30 years. Doing our first tour with KISS… opening for Bon Jovi. It’s hard to put into words what those shows mean to us as fans of the music.

DR S: You've done a fair bit of work with Our Lady Peace bassist, Duncan Coutts. How did you hook up with him and what was the experience like?

FW: Duncan and I have worked together nearly every day for 4 years – writing and recording songs in a rehearsal space. Financial Times columnist Tim Harford wrote a book called “Why Success Always Starts With Failure.” How we deal with our mistakes and failures, how we grow and learn from them, can determine and enable our future successes. In music, young performers--perhaps if you’re a new singer--you’re afraid to go for certain notes, as you might be embarrassed of sounding bad in front of someone else; so you never go for that note, and you never build your range. Duncan gave me the opportunity to fail in front of him over and over and over again, as a songwriter/singer/performer in a safe non-judgemental environment. That kind of learning curve and experience is invaluable. I’m so thankful to him for giving me the chance to develop my skills.

DR S: Lately you've been involved in songwriting with many different songwriters. With whom have you been working and what have you learned from the overall experience?

FW: I went from writing with Duncan to working with over 40 different songwriters across North America in the past two years of my own accord. If there’s something to be learned from someone, I will find a way to that person and I will ask them a million questions about what I want to know. Since then I’ve come back around to working primarily with one person--my main co-writer Andre Kaden Black. Co-writing has been a real education. I could talk about forms and prosody, etc. I love the "craft;" I’m obsessed with songs. But above all, with everyone I’ve worked with, the commonality has been to just keep it real.

DR S: You've obviously had a positive experience writing with outside writers. What would you say to other bands who may be hesitant or averse to looking outside themselves for song ideas?

FW: Pushing a band or an artist into a situation where they feel artistically at risk isn’t right. For me, I love co-writing and I love making as much music as I can, with as many people as I can, for a variety of projects. But, that’s me. You like Milk Chocolate, I like Dark Chocolate. All good.

That being said, I do feel there is a common public misperception surrounding co-writing that is very negative; that the artist is no longer being real or true, or perhaps isn’t contributing to the process at all. Not everyone is so lucky as to have Lennon AND McCartney in the same band. Bon Jovi, Kiss, Desmond Child. Bryan Adams, Jim Vallance, and on and on. These are musical marriages that come together to create something bigger than the individual. The joining of super powers, if you will. Andre Kaden Black is the Black to my White… er, Whyte. And I’m the white to his black, you know what I mean? Together we’re just better, to the point where we’re now writing with/for other artists together. I would really like to encourage bands to be unafraid of experimenting with co-writing--you could be missing out on making some great music. And like anything in life, you get what you put in.

DR S: Please take a moment to introduce us to the musicians that make up Frankie Whyte and The Dead Idols.

- Danny C – guitars, background vocals, richie sambora.
- Monti – bass, background vocals, bad ass.
- Rio Nicolle – drums, gang vocals, machine.
- Frankie Whyte – lead vocals, lead guitar… you’d have to ask a Dead Idol as to how to describe me.

DR S: Many musicians have said that being in a band is like a four-way marriage. What is your take on this and what challenges have you faced as a band unit?

FW: Being in a band is definitely a four-way marriage, and relationships take a lot of commitment, care and time. Communication is key, having fun is also key. We laugh a lot.

DR S: What are the long term and short term plans for FWDI?

FW: We’re currently writing for a new album that we will begin to record in 2012. Look out for it. Shows/Tours to follow. See you out there!

Check out FWDI's video for their track, "Keep Walkin'."

Monday, November 7, 2011

How Much Does It Cost To Record?

When a new potential client comes along and inquires about working with me on a recording project, one of the first concerns they have is how much it will cost. And understandably so, as recording can be a rather expensive endeavor.

The problem is, when an artist asks me something like, "Hey, how much do you charge to record three songs?" I can't answer that question until I have more information.

Imagine someone who's in the market to purchase a new car and she walks onto the car lot to have a look around. The salesman greets her and she promptly asks, "How much does it cost to buy a car?" In a scenario like this, the answer to the customer's question would be another question. "What kind of car do you want, a Ferrari or a Ford Focus?"

You have to be specific about what you want when you're looking to record your songs. Here are a couple questions you should ask yourself before you pick up the phone or sit down at your computer to send an email to contact your producer/engineer of choice:

What are the recordings going to be used for?

Will these sessions be pre production sessions to help you pick the songs that will eventually make the cut on your EP or full-length release?

Is it supposed to be a low budget off-the-floor recording so you can get something out there to help you get gigs and give away free music to engage new fans?

Is it a demo for you ears only to help develop your sound?

Are you hoping to enlist the services of a professional radio tracker in hopes of getting your song(s) on mainstream radio?

Do you want your recordings to stand up next to the biggest of the big in your genre?

You need to be clear about this because the cost of recording a three song demo off-the-floor is very different from the cost of producing three songs that are ready for mainstream radio. We're talking a few hundred dollars verses thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars depending on the studio and/or producer you're hiring.

The next question you want ask yourself is:

What is my budget for this recording project?

Determine what you can afford to spend on the recording and make sure you look ahead at other expenses that you'll need money for such as graphic art, web development, touring, merch, marketing & promotion, radio tracking, videos, etc. If you don't have any money for the things that follow the recording process, then there's not much sense in laying down tracks in the first place.

I can't stress enough, if this is something you're trying to make a living at, you have to treat it like a business. If a brand new burger joint put all their resources into creating the world's tastiest burger, but they had nothing left to advertise and get the word out, it won't matter how good it is because no one will ever know about it.

Having said that, it is important to put as much as you can into your recordings because your songs are your most important assests. If your intention is to have your music stand up to the Bon Jovis and Lady Gagas of the world, then your investment is going to have to reflect that, otherwise your music will likely be rejected by the very people within the music industry that can help make that happen for you.

I'm not saying you have to spend a million dollars as an indie artist to compete with the majors, but you do have to spend a reasonable amount to bring some validity to what you're doing. Who is going to want to invest anything into your music if you haven't put much into it yourself?

Here's an article where artist manager Ray Daniels (Rush, Tea Party, Van Halen) breaks down the costs of making a hit song from writing and recording all the way to marketing and promoting.


If you read the above mentioned article, you learned that it can cost about $78,000 to have one song written, recorded and produced. So, in order to put together a ten-song album, you're looking at $780,000 before you've even done an ounce of promo. For those of you who are writing your own material and therefore do not need to pay for songwriting camps, etc, the average cost of recording an album in the big leagues is still about $250,000. Again, lucky for indie artists, there are much cheaper alternatives, but you'll still have to come up with a considerable chunk of change to make anything happen.

Outside of attracting investors with deep pockets who love and believe in your music and brand, you're going to have to have some way of generating cash flow to support the necessary expenses of running your business. There are some very real costs that come with growing your music career and if there's nothing there to work with, nothing will get done. Be careful with your money too. Make sure you're getting good value for your dollar wherever you're spending it. Don't always look for the cheapest option though, because remember: Good work isn't cheap and cheap work isn't good.


So sit down with your band mates and figure out how you can generate income to finance your career. Don't negate ways you can make money with your music; after all, the idea is to make a living at it. And also, take a very close look at your spending habits and see if there's some waste that you can cut down on or eliminate altogehter. Remember the example of the band from my last blog?

It doesn't take much to find a few extra dollars a day to put toward something that's imporotant to you. If every member of a four-piece band put aside only $7 a day instead of buying frappuccino lattes at Starbucks, at the end of a year they'd have over $10,000 to invest in themselves. An extra $10,000 on top of the cash flow generated by day jobs, offering music lessons and selling your music and merch. Not bad!

Here's a great exercise to help you get a handle on your spending: Simply write down absolutely everything you purchase throughout your day. Do this every day for a week and then tally up the results. I've done this and it was an eye opener! After doing this exercise I cut my frivolous spending significantly and started saving hundreds of dollars every month.

See if you can find some creative ways of coming up with some extra cash, whether it's offering some kind of service or just plain old saving. Please share your ideas, I'd love to hear them.