Gothtopia is almost certain he is the only Houston Press staff member to have an album that was sold in Hot Topic stores. [Ed. Note: Rocks Off No. 2's debut Hlocked and Hloaded should be in stores next year.] That came to be purely through dumb luck.
In order to further the careers of Texas Goth acts, Gothtopia sat down with Jay Adelberg (above), the music buyer for the chain, and asked him exactly what it takes for an indie artist to make its way onto the Hot Topic shelves.
Rocks Off: Basically, what are you looking for in the Goth music you stock?
Jay Adelberg: I am taking the approach that you are asking me about young, local, up-and-coming bands. Established bands likely have booking agents and managers to do these things for them.
RO: Right. How big a following does a band have to have? How do you determine that?
JA: None at all, to be considered for a live Local Static event in our stores. These are live local band events set up at the store level. The band needs to go into the store, prove they are an actual band and are likely to get folks to show up (20-50 people), and they can be booked. The stores then let us know who the bands were and my assistant Mike and I check them out online to see if they are a high- or low-potential type band.
RO: What are you looking for music-wise?
JA: Anything that appeals to people between 12-22 years old that isn't total mainstream pop. We like punk, metal, goth, industrial, hip-hop, country, rockabilly, etc., so on and so forth.
RO: What are you looking for presentation-wise - members' looks, album artwork, band name, etc.?
JA: Looks are not important really, and just artwork and direction that says "We are a serious band, and hopeful of being professionals one day." Usually it is pretty obvious who has a chance to move forward and who is destined to play in their mom's basement for all eternity.
RO: How do you want to be approached by a band? What would be your ideal first contact with a band?
JA: Stores give out my contact info all the time, so an email is cool and we can take it from there.
RO: What are the mathematics of you buying their CDs? What can they expect to get for at the price you sell the album?
JA: Like, what sort of mark-up do we want to make? With local bands, it's not that important, really. It's more about establishing the relationship and hoping Hot Topic and the band can grow together.
RO: What do you expect of a band once their CD is in your store?
JA: They need to get the word out! No sales = No moving forward with the band.
RO: What would you consider a successful venture from an unsigned band - how many numbers sold, etc.?
JA: There really is no blanket answer for that, as each band is essentially a custom deal.
RO: What do you hate about the buying process?
JA: About this part of it? I would say bands that aren't really ready that think they are and you have to hold their hands throughout the entire process and the results rarely eclipse the amount of labor it took to get it set up.
RO: Any horror stories from dealing with unsigned or indie-label artists as a buyer?
JA: Horror stories? Not really, but I'll tell you this. If I had a nickel for every band manager/band member/label person who came to me espousing the virtues of some band that's going to be the next big thing, a can't-miss proposition, and had it fail miserably I would retire off my giant pile of nickels.
Thanks to Jay for talking with us. For all you hopefuls out there, Hot Topic really does buy independent artists. Don't be afraid to get in contact. The worst they can do is say "no."
Next: Getting Consume-d by the latest album from Houston electro-Goth sensations //TENSE//.
THINGS TO DO IN HOUSTON WHEN YOU'RE UNDEAD
Tonight at Notsouh, Houston's newest electronic sensation, // TENSE //, hits the stage with Future Blondes. Gothtopia has yet to catch the band live, much to chagrin of the spooky electronic fans in the city to judge by his hate mail, but we did get a chance to check out the band's newest album, Consume.
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The electronic Goth scene in Houston continues to move in a more visceral direction. At once more classic and more evolved, Consume brings to mind a lot of early Ministry - that same inherent sinister approach, without losing any of the more laid-back pop audience appeal.
Not that you're likely to hear any cuts on the radio or anything. The tracks are mostly slow burns lasting well past the established three-minute mark for a radio single, but for those among us who like to wallow in the evil synth rather than just take a quick dip, this isn't a bad thing.
Falling headfirst into the spiked matrices of //TENSE// is to wander a world of cold charisma. Getting down on a track like "Versus Man" is easy to do, with just the right amount of beat to dance to, and the perfect mix of throaty growls to liven up your darkside.
And even the non-dancy tracks are well suited for just laying back a letting a whole of alternate dimension wash over you. Definitely worth picking up at the show tonight.