Opinion Piece: Rant and Roll with Freddie Mack – Chapter Two: Banners?!

The music industry – and its fans – have changed. Guest writer, Freddie Mack of Liquid Meat fame, takes to Cat on the Wall to explain his views on the industry, the people, the music and more…



The more local bands I follow on social media, the more insight I get on things that really piss me off.  It isn’t even big things, but they tend to get under my skin… kind of the blue car effect. Do you know what I am talking about? You think about never seeing a blue car driving around, and all of a sudden in your everyday life, all you start noticing are blue cars – all of a sudden, they’re everywhere!

That’s how it is for me and those shitty banners hanging behind a band on stage. You know the ones, 99% of the time, they’re made of black PVC, have the band name featured on them, usually in white, and… that’s that. I get it, you see your favourite bands on a huge stage, blasting out your favourite tunes, standing in front of a massive banner the size of a Viking ship’s sails – bad ass! Right? Sure… whatever floats your boat. I’m a huge believer in bringing stadium show elements to the local scene, but the banner your band got from the same shop that Leslie’s Pool Supplies use for their annual autumn Sale banners? That’s not the way.

Look: I understand you want to look professional. I understand you don’t have wads of cash, and probably have multiple people in the band who don’t really want to invest more than their time to the band, but the compromise isn’t to settle.

Never settle! Anything worth doing is worth doing right!

You’ll have heard that many times, probably from people you have contempt for, the authority figures that drove you to the devil’s music in the first place. Those people might be fascist assholes, but the classic saying should not be negated. Basically, to me, your shitty stage banner is like the minuscule Stonehenge in Spinal Tap. It was hilarious to see in the movie. Naturally, it was an embarrassment on stage.  It’s something that draws my eye away from the band on stage in front of me, every time. They wanted the overpowering effect of an enormous Stonehenge monument, but we all know how that turned out for the Tap boys; and you’re doing this subconsciously to yourselves!

The question is, what’s the need of the banner anyways? Why do you need it on stage? From my discussions with fellow musicians, there are two reasons.

  1.  They want to look professional
  2. They want the audience to remember the band’s name.

We’ve already covered that reason number one isn’t going to happen with a cheap, shitty banner hanging behind your band. I mean, lots of places don’t even have a place to hang them. So what do you do? Annoy the sound guy until he gets you some duct tape, so you can hang it on the wall behind the drummer. Then it slowly peels off from one side during your show.

Or! You were so cheap with your decision, you didn’t even go for the banner with the metal eyelets, so even if a venue is equipped to hang banners, you can’t hang it in a professional manner. So not only does your banner look shitty, the display is shitty!

Reason two, you want people to know who you are! In my experience, if the audience likes your music, they’ll remember who you are when you tell them over the microphone. The only time a person in the audience needs the banner is to text someone your band name, to tell them how ridiculously bad you are…!

If they were impressed with your music, and even if they didn’t catch your band’s name, chances are they can find out from someone else there, or you personally, while you’re either breaking down your equipment or stood behind the merch table. In short, does your piece of crap banner really do anything for you?

Just because white on black band sticker gives someone something to look at it while they’re urinating at their favourite watering hole, it doesn’t mean you should just send the same vector graphic to the banner printers and call it a day. Sure, it may be the only vector graphic you have. Maybe you can’t afford another, or, more likely, you’re just not original enough to come up with anything better.

Things that look good small, don’t usually look good when they’re huge. So, unless you plan to have a giant in attendance at your show, who needs to look at something while he is urinating on you, maybe you should get another design. Just take a deep breath, wait until you can execute it correctly, or don’t do it at all! There’s a reason I’ve not mentioned any well executed background banners….

I’m yet to see any.

I opted for one of those pull out band signs with a stand. I thought:

Hey, this is easy to transport, I can set it up easily, and I even got someone to design it to match my last album design!”

I used it once, because I saw photos after the show.

Even though it looks kickass, the impact’s lost on stage. I now have it in my bedroom, where it  looks great, and keeps my mind on the band at all times. You live and learn. Just stay objective. Really, that’s a good analogy. Even if an idea sounds cool on a demo, or in the rehearsal room, if it sucks on stage and no one’s into it: you should probably think of cutting it out of the song.


Our review of Liquid Meat’s In Meat We Trust

Our Interview with Freddie on his Godfather, Freddie Mercury


About the author

My name is Freddie Mack. I am 35, I'm the son of record producer Reinhold Mack, and the godson of Freddie Mercury and John Deacon. I'm a musician: bassist, guitarist, songwriter, and lyricist. I've fronted a band for about 15 years now, and I'm here to rant about the music scene. Let your preconception, or should I say, misconceptions of me begin!

What comes to mind? Trust me, I've heard it all before! "Here's a guy who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, he must have it easy in the music industry, with all of his connections through his dear old dad, I bet he had everything handed to him and never had to work a day in his life!"

Look, I used to do my best not to mention who my father is or who my godfathers are, but, thanks to Google and the internet (and Cat on the Wall) there's no way to hide it, so why bother? That's why I threw that at you right off the bat. Honestly, if anything, these ties have made it harder for me, because of the preconceptions and misconceptions that come with them. Oh poor me!

Sure, my father worked with Queen, ELO, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Deep Purple, Rainbow, Scorpions, Meat Loaf, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Billy Squier, Rory Gallagher, Uriah Heep, etc. I can see how that would make one assume that I must have all the connections in the world at the tip of my fingers, the keys to the kingdom, if you will. But, if you know anything about the music industry, besides those names above, you''ll know that absolutely nothing is like it used to be. You'll know that there are less than a handful of record companies left, since the big ones bought out everyone else. It is also fair to assume that most managers, PR folk, executives etc. from back in the day are no longer working. At least, not in the capacity they used to, and certainly not for the companies that employed them. Ergo, it is safe to say that there are no connections to draw from, at least not ones that could further my musical career in any way.

I can say that I've seen 100s of the greatest bands in concert, and I barely ever paid for a ticket, but 95% of those shows were not facilitated through connections from my father, but rather through my best friend. Furthermore, if you know a thing or two about the business, you should know about residuals. Who are the moneymakers in a band? If your answer is "The band", you're very wrong. The record companies get the most, and then come the songwriters: which, more often than not, are only one or two people in any given band. The other musicians get fractions of a cent for any music sold, after that come the producers and engineers, etc... So whatever your idea was of how I grew up, scale it down!

I'll never deny how fortunate I am. I had the best upbringing I could imagine. The greatest parents and siblings in the world. Private schools and swimming pools. But, the fact is, I started working when I was 18. Since I was 18, I have worked and studied. Since I was 21, I pursued the dream of becoming a working full-time musician. So along with my studies, my work, I wrote every single piece of music, every lyric, found every band member, every replacement, booked every rehearsal, every gig, created every flyer, ran all the social media sites, designed the website, created the press kits, sent the albums out for review, and basically everything else besides playing the other instruments, recording the music, and creating the album art.

For 15 years, I've been in the trenches with my own band leading the charge, I have seen the ups and downs of the biggest names in music, and I have had more than my fair share as well. You might not like what I say in my rants, but I think we can agree that I at least have the experience to have a solid opinion on the matter...

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