Bento rocks. Just ask Heather St. Marie, the lead singer of the Los Angeles-based rock band Hydrovibe.
Heather St. Marie
Bento rocks. Just ask Heather St. Marie, the lead singer of the Los Angeles-based rock band Hydrovibe. She uses Bento to keep track of concert venues, band merchandise, and more. The database program has become the band's electronic administrative assistant, handling all the day-to-day data that keeps the band going. “ This is pretty much a personal assistant for me," says St. Marie. "It's taking a lot of effort out of the admin side of things. It gives me more time to be the singer, be the merchandise person and to just be a band member.”
Hydrovibe-lead singer Heather St. Marie, guitarist Mat Dauzat, bassist Eliot Lorango, and drummer Phil Mathys-formed in Louisiana. Eventually, the band moved to L.A. to pursue a recording contract. Hydrovibe was offered a deal, but decided to go independent. The band formed its own label, called Orleans Street Records and laid down a four-song EP for the label. Then one of their songs was featured in the movie Saw III and the rest was history. The band launched a nine-month tour across the U.S.
The shows rocked, but the bookkeeping could barely keep up. “I kept track of everything with pen and paper, just wrote in a notebook," says St. Marie. "It was a real pain to keep up with merchandise inventory and even remember all the different venues we played. I knew I needed something better to work with for our next tour.”
St. Marie didn't want to be mired in complicated spreadsheet applications, so she searched for an easy-to-use alternative. “I don't come from a business background," she says. "I'm an artist. I've tried other database programs in the past, but I would just get lost and give up. I saw that Bento offered an easier way to organize things and I downloaded the trial. Right away I knew it would work much better for me than any spreadsheet. I set it up quickly and I've been using it ever since.”
Setting Up for the Show
When St. Marie isn't rocking with Hydrovibe, she works as a freelance graphic designer. So clean design is important, even in a database. “ Bento is just easy for a person like me who is visually oriented,” she says. “It sounds silly, but to me it was important that it looked nice, that it wasn't just a page of columns and cells. With Bento, I could actually make it look like how I wanted, which makes a big difference to me.”
The vocalist/designer started with the band's merchandise database. Hydrovibe, like many bands, sells an assortment of T-shirts, posters, stickers, buttons, patches, and, of course, CDs. “We kept selling out of shirts and I just couldn't keep up with how many we had left,” says St. Marie. “I started with the Bento merchandise inventory template and within half an hour, I had a good database setup. I could just jump in and go.”
The Hydrovibe merchandise database features basic data about all the band merchandise, complete with photos. “Being able to drop photos of the different T-shirts and posters into the Bento database was fantastic,” says St. Marie. “It makes things very easy, especially when I'm doing inventory after a show.”
The next time Hydrovibe went on tour, St. Marie carted her 17-inch MacBook Pro and Bento. “Bento allowed me to keep track of what we had in stock while we were touring,“ she says. “Every night I entered how much we sold and I had a simple little calculation cell at the end so I knew how much inventory I had left at a glance. When it got low I knew it was time to reorder. It was a lot more organized than using pen and paper.“
Touring with Bento
Merchandise isn't the only thing a band needs to keep track of while they're on tour-specially when that tour includes hundreds of venues across the U.S. “When you play so many venues, it's difficult to remember them all,” says St. Marie. “I made a venue database with Bento so we could remember and rate all the places we played during the tour.” The vocalist linked her venue database with iCal and Address book, allowing her to see when the band played at each bar, concert hall, auditorium, or festival.
“We can actually give each place our own rating,” says St. Marie. “How large was the place? Was it packed or empty? Was it a good experience? It helps tremendously when you're looking forward to what the next show is going to be like.” The database allows St. Marie to track the history of each venue; how often the band played there and how the shows went.
The final piece of the Hydrovibe database tracks income. “I wanted to be able to link everything to the income database,” says the singer. “How much money did we make for each show? How much merchandise did we sell? What were our costs? It's easy in Bento to link that information to the venue database, so I can pull up a venue and see what the history has been with them.”
The income database is more than just good bookkeeping. “Being an independent band can get be hard,” says St. Marie. “So you want to keep showing the success to everyone in the band. Bento is great for that. I can show the band how well we're doing year over year and break down all our different sources of income. It helps to keep everyone going.”