Pete Wernick How To Make A Band Work (Boulder, CO: By the Author, 1991; 142 pages)
Book Review by Art Menius
Original publication in Bluegrass Canada
Pete Wernick’s new self-published volume, How to Make A Band Work, proves a dream come true for anyone such as an agent, magazine editor, or employee of an organization like IBMA, who is called upon by inexperienced performers to explain how it all works. Wernick, the President of IBMA and former member of Hot Rize and Country Cooking, provides a gloss to every major aspect of the acoustic music business from agenting to song publishing to recording. Even more significantly, Wernick uses the Hot Rize experience to draft a primer for succeeding as a band.
The insights provided in that area form the real substance and most interesting portions of the book. Here the reader can find information available no place else and earned by years of hard work and personal trial and error. Wernick obviously does not attempt to explore each subject in depth but instead serves up a fast moving overview of the whole ball of wax. He deals with personal relationships in the band, road management, traveling, band finances and concessions, and, thanks to Nick Forster, how to put on an effective stage show. Readers will learn how to book gigs and what to do if a band member is depressed right before an important set.
How many times have I been asked the questions Wernick answers? (That’s a rhetorical question, Pete.) You’ve faced them, too, I bet. How much does a good publicist cost? Should we make a CD on our own or wait for a label to pick us up? What if nobody in the audience is listening to us? How do you get an agent and which one is best for us? How do you do press releases? Why don’t we get more gigs? Should we buy a band bus or keep the RV?
Wernick dispenses this information methodically and as straightforwardly as can be imagined. Clarity reigns supreme over stylistic elegance. As writer Wernick does everything possible to avoid ambivalence and obfuscation; no mean trick for a sociologist.
Don’t think that this book is intended just for those who want to make a full-time living as musicians. Even those acts who just play a party or baskethouse every now and then will find a wealth of valuable information. Indeed, anyone considering agenting, concert or festival production, or starting a recording company needs a copy of How To Make A Band Work. I’d suppose that a lot of fans would enjoy reading it as well.
The utilitarian desktop publishing production values lend the volume an appearance about as attractive as cafeteria food, but gold mines don’t look like much from the outside either.
Pete Wernick 7930 Oxford Rd. Boulder, CO 80503