Are you about to enter the local music scene? Are you in an existing band looking for some advice to help you? Here are 10 commandments to make use of.
THOU SHALT PLAY THE MUSIC
When starting a band the first thing you need to focus on is writing and recording music as soon as possible. This can be one song with a video, or a full album, that much is up to you. Too many bands these days get onto Facebook with a name, logo, photoshoots and an image before anyone even knows what they sound like! Starting a new project can generate significant buzz on your personal social media profiles which can be a great kickstart to your fanbase but those people won’t care if they must wait months and months to hear what your band sounds like. This is mainly aimed at new starters, but can be a good reminder to seasoned bands to update their catalogue, if it’s been a while.
THOU SHALT NETWORK
I think a lot of people ignore how important networking is as a musician, but it’s probably more important than the quality of your music. You see, local music scenes are based upon groups and circles of people who go to shows, put on shows etc. and you need to be a part of that if you want your own band to succeed! The most important part of ‘network’ is ‘work’. Go and watch a band play locally, chat to them, find out when their next release is, like them on Facebook, chuck them a message congratulating them on a fantastic performance the night before. Do this as often as you can. Once you start getting yourself out there and making the right friends, people will start to consider your band for concerts, tours and more!
THOU SHALT MOVE YOUR HEAD
Following on now from the previous point, you’ve grabbed a few mates and gone down to the local venue. Now what do you do? Simple, what do you want to see from the crowd at your shows? Being in a band yourself is no reason not to get involved! Sing along, boogie, participate and just let yourself have a good time. The band will thank you after and will remember you even more fondly for being the guy going nuts at the front.
THOU SHALT (RARELY) GET PAID
Pay is an issue raised in almost every local music discussion. In theory, any band who plays a show should get paid. It’s their talent, gear and determination that is filling the room. However, if you only take paid gigs as a small/new band, you won’t be playing many. The best thing you can do as a new band in your first year is play as many shows as possible; wherever and with whoever. Get the fans in first and paid gig offers will come later. If you are offered a fee however, make sure that promoter pays you because if you don’t, they won’t.
THOU SHALT HAVE FUN
No concert goer has ever felt a rush of energy from a disinterested band! Is your singer just standing there waiting for the cool drum solo after the chorus, or your guitarist trying to tie his laces by simply staring at them? Sort it out! The best bands to see live are the ones who cover every inch of that stage. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have great dance moves, it’s not Strictly, but once you start having fun up there on stage you’ll notice the people watching you enjoy themselves more, too.
THOU SHALT LIKE AND SHARE
Gone are the days of standing on a street corner handing out fliers for your band’s show to anyone who walk past wearing a band t-shirt (This can still be an effective way to promote and network, however). In this digital age, you should have an online presence. Facebook is essential, partly because almost every gig you play will have a Facebook Event made for it. It’s also where most of your show offers and important messages will come in. Twitter is a great way to chat to those who listen to your band, thank them for their support and engage them in a fun and personal manner. Instagram is an effective way to build a targeted list of followers and the perfect place to share photos from the concerts you play (Be sure to credit the photographer, though). Building a wide presence online is a tough process, but find a good balance of content and information and you’ll soon see results.
THOU SHALT COME PREPARED
There’s no worse feeling than showing up at a venue and finding out that it was your band who were supposed to be supplying backline. There’s also no use missing your load in and holding up the entire event. Now, especially on the local scene, you will seldom find a well organised show where all the details are known and passed on to you effectively. This however doesn’t stop you from messaging the promoter to confirm what he expects of your band on the day. You can message the other bands who are performing, too. Never let yourself get to the day of a gig without previously finding out exactly what the situation is for gear, or you’ll find yourself playing impromptu acoustic sets before long!
THOU SHALT DO THE IDIOT CHECK
The ‘Idiot Check’ is simple. After you load out your equipment and are sure that you have everything, you’ll be ready to go. Before you do however, assign one band member to do the ‘Idiot Check’. They then re-enter the venue and look one last time for any lost gear or belongings. In my own personal experience there have been countless occasions already where the ‘Idiot Check’ has saved something important from getting lost in the storeroom of a venue forever. Do it!
THOU SHALT SET YOUR GOALS
Playing in a band can get frustrating at times. The constant rehearsal, travelling long distances to gigs just to drive back on the same night, or performing at under-attended shows in what seems like an endless cycle will often leave you thinking ‘what’s the point?’ and that’s why it’s important to set goals. Whether the goal is to release an album by the end of the year, tour during the summer, reach a certain amount of social media followers or a combination; having something clear to work towards will be what keeps motivation high within the band. Sit down every few months to plan your time and strategy for achieving these goals.
THOU SHALT NOT GIVE UP
If you really want to make it in music then perseverance is the most important quality you can have. Keep playing shows even if you played a dud last time. Keep writing new music even if your mates hated your last song. Keep going to gigs and getting your name out there. Keep posting online about your band and where your friends can see you play next. Music is not about success, music is about love. Of course it would be great to sell out an arena tour; but you can still have the time of your life playing tiny clubs whenever and wherever you can.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on all this, post a comment below if you found the 10 commandments of being in a band useful or have any further ideas you want to discuss!