Nick Rallis Band
Brandon McMichael, Class of 2010

My internship was based on breaking into the music business with an emphasis on the business aspect of what it took. I studied with Paul Tims, lead guitarist of the Nick Rallis Band, an accomplished group based out of Sioux Falls. During this time I started up a band with Mike Vanasek, and with some guidance learned first-hand what it takes to break into the music business. We first observed and talked with the band for some time about the risks and dangers of investing in equipment without the actual funds to do so. Every business usually starts out as a risky investment, so I was not deterred by this at all. After shopping around at countless places and researching every possible website and article about music equipment, we purchased around $5,000 worth of start-up equipment. We immediately began perfecting our craft. This was not enough to get the business rolling, though. We understood that we had to market ourselves effectively to gain venues, and people to go out and support those venues. Paul helped us with some contacts to call for potential shows, and we observed the band’s chemistry and conversations with several venue owners before we approached the owner of Smoe’s for our first show. His name was Lance, and we scored the gig. Unfortunately it did not pan out very well as one of our friends got us kicked out before we could finish. We realized at that point that we had to be more careful about who we invited and how close we kept people to the music, which was our business, because we couldn’t afford any negative associations with it. We enjoyed a pretty good turnout, due to marketing the event on Facebook and distributing posters at what we determined to be hotspots throughout the city. We repeated this practice for every show thereafter. The music started getting better and more fluid, and the shows started paying us more. We gained efficiency at making deals with owners, and setting up the places the way we wanted for our product (the music) to be presented in the best way. We came up with a semi-decent payment plan for the equipment after we foolishly put an entire $500 check towards it without anticipating our own personal needs for finances from a meager income. We decided that in the future we would try and put 20% of all our earnings towards paying the equipment back (after paying other immediate expenses, gas, business lunches, etc.) The highlight of the experience came when we played at a packed Stella’s Fish Café in uptown Minneapolis. We had a lot of fans there, and realized that the Twin Cities had our target market. We immediately made plans to move there as soon as possible. We were invited to play back at Stella’s as well as the Cove in Prior Lake (we played there by ourselves the next night) for the summer. Copper Lounge in Sioux Falls also invited us back for several dates over the summer, so by the end of the internship we were making better money, we were paying off the loan for our equipment, and things were looking promising for the summer. The internship ended with us rolling forward as a music business entity, and no longer being dependent on the Nick Rallis Band for our shows. We are nowhere near where we want to be, but progress always feels good, and through this internship I have a clear and unique understanding of what it takes to break into the music business.