The second part of our interview with George Merkel. Here’s Part 1 if you missed it.
In the second part of my interview with Ben Daniels Band guitarist George Merkel we got into more detail about booking and playing around Michigan. George is a full time musician who does most of the booking for his band. They play a lot of Michigan microbreweries.
Alex: When you play a venue, what are they getting out of having you there?
George: That’s a good question. I think what they get out of us being there is a good rock show. It depends what they want. Shorts Brewing Co wants softer music for their dinner crowd and we’ll cater to that. Ore Dock Brewing up in Marquette is a later crowd and so we’ll play more loud danceable stuff.
Alex: But do you have a sense of why they are bothering to have live music at all?
George: It’s part of the atmosphere, especially with the Microbreweries. They’re kind of synonymous with Michigan music now, especially the Americana, roots, rock, jam band kind of stuff, so that’s why they would have us come. It’s part of their business. When you go to Founders Brewing you know what to expect. You like listening to live music, you like microbreweries, and you like that it’s part of Michigan.
Alex: I haven’t been there yet.
George: It’s crazy. It’s huge.
Alex: So there really is an advantage for the venue. You show up on time and put on a good show. Do you bring people in the door? Do you have a following at any of the places you play?
George: Yeah! Not all of them. Some places just want us to play solid, quality music for four hours.
Alex: Do you do much promotion?
George: Yes. Especially if we are playing a place like the Ark or the Magic Bag. We have a big gig at Bell Brewery‘s coming up in August and we did a radio spot for that. We try to promote our bigger shows. If it’s a show playing nine to one on a Saturday night, we’re not going to promote it as much. That stems from us not wanting to inundate our fans with constant gigs. We’re a full time band and we do a fair number of bar gigs.
Alex: So, if it’s a concert you will promote it. If it’s a bar gig, not as much?
George: Exactly. There’s some gray area there, but yeah.
Alex: How many hours per week do you spend on booking?
George: At this point it’s maybe an hour per day. With promoting maybe two hours.
Alex: Do you set aside regular hours?
George: It’s mostly Monday through Wednesday because that’s when we’re in town.
Alex: Is there anything else you want to talk about on this topic? What are the things you have learned that you want other people to know?
George: Having a well written email is important. Something that caters to the venue so it doesn’t look like you just cut and pasted from your press kit. Keep it concise, with good grammar and maybe a song and a picture. You don’t want to overload it with media but you want them to know that you have the professional side of things together. Also it is important to be persistent. These venues are inundated with people asking for gigs.
Alex’s Bio: Alex Anest has been performing, recording and teaching music in the Southeast Michigan area since 1996. He was a founding member of the Jericho Guitar Trio, Never Nebula, and Delta 88. With Delta 88 Alex performed across the Midwest and played at the Ann Arbor Folk Festival in 2004. Since then he has toured Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Italy with songwriter Kevin Meisel. Alex currently performs with Ryan Racine and Gas for Less and the electric anti-jazz ensemble Giraffe. Giraffe is a chance for Alex to bring his many musical influences together – a very enjoyable, though sometimes difficult task for a musician who finds inspiration from artists as varied as Paco de Lucia, George Harrison, Thelonious Monk, and Jimi Hendrix. The common thread among these giants (and the goal to which Alex aspires) is the ability to transcend stylistic boundaries while keeping their own unique musical voice intact.