Tour SmartAustin Convention Center, Wednesday, March 12
"Welcome to the music business," intoned journeyman Pigface/PiL/Nine Inch Nails drummer Martin Atkins. "You're fucked!" Dire as that sounds, recognizing what you're up against is the first step toward learning how to rock smarter. Drawing on his weighty new book, Tour: Smart ("Sheet Music," March 7), Atkins was loaded with irreverent but relevant advice for bands, along with blueberry muffins to hurl at panel attendees. Paraphrasing Sun Tzu, he likened touring to a war that bands should never declare until they have a strategy for the desired outcome. Step one might be drawing a line from Minneapolis to Texas and noticing how few Top 100 markets are west of that line. "What happens when you come offstage in Denver?" Atkins asked rhetorically. "Nothing, because you're already late for Salt Lake City." Taking responsibility and not blaming others was another prominent theme. Why count on a promoter to stick venue information labels on posters when you can ply friends with beer and pizza to do it? "You can do all this shit," Atkins said, "but once you're in a venue with two people, there's nothing you can do except shit your pants." Supersuckers vocalist Eddie Spaghetti and Live Nation promoter Emily White echoed the gospel when they could get a word in, but Wednesday's panel was definitely Atkins' show.