Music 101 – How To Be A Band

Music 101
By Middagh Goodwin

So you have a band, you have written some songs, you have practice and at least your friends say you are pretty good. What’s next? What do you want to do with your band?Where do you want to take it? How do you get a show? Simple questions yes, but the answers are not always so easy. If you just want to play some local shows once in awhile than you have it made. If you want to record, tour and try to make a life out of your music; well than your work has just begun and the road is a long hard drive to breaking even.

First things first, you have the band and some songs and hopefully a good name(or even a bad one.) Once you get going and start to build a fan base you get going and start to build a fan base you are going to be stuck with whatever name you decide upon(or work hard at letting people know who you are after you change it.)

Before you get out and start playing think about how you can speed up your chances of getting your name out. Lots of artist record a demo before they play their first show(not only does this help with getting gigs it is something you can sell.) You do not have to spend a lot of money on your demo, with technology where it is at a lot of bands record great sounding demos using their computers or even inexpensive home studios. I have heard decent recordings made by well practiced bands using nothing but a single mic and a boombox. Do the best you can with the money or resources you have at hand.

What about other merchandise? Stickers, buttons and patches are inexpensive and a great start and often you can do multiple designs for the same price. T-Shirts are great(keep adding new designs as you can also do koozies, hoodies etc as you can afford too.) Remember with merch you are promoting your band and making extra money for gas or better recording. Be creative on your Merchandise(Iron Maiden was the highest grossing band back in the 80’s and it wasn’t from record sells.) Think about it this way, people are paying you to advertise your band.

Playing shows: I personally think it is good idea, especially once you get things together, to only play your hometown no more then once a month. I have known some bands who won’t play within a 60 mile radius more then once a month. Doing this will force you(if you want to play more) to book shows outside your area and expand your fan base. For a promoter or venue this is a favorable thing because not only will you be building a larger and larger draw, you wont be burning out the crowd by over playing. Make them want to see you, as the old saying goes “absence makes the fan grow fonder.”

Are you ready to tour? To start you might want to think about doing weekend or 3 and 4 day runs. This way you expand your ring of influence and at the same time don’t burn yourselves(or your finances) out. We have all seen acts break up because they were not used to being locked up in a van for two or three weeks. When you are ready to tackle the road there are tons of resources to find places to play(indie bible, indie on the move, book your own f#*(ing life, check out other bands at your level and genres tour schedules to get ideas for routing and venues.) Don’t forget all the contacts you have made from bands you have played with over the life of your band. Take notes and write down any good contacts as you develop as a band, don’t forget to be grateful for what people give you. It is a great idea send out a thank you email to the promoters, venues, bands you played with at every show and to anyone who helped you out or let you have a place to stay while you were on the road. This will help them remember you in a better light the next time you hit the road. Kepi Ghoulie sends out Valentines Day and The Sandwich Mafia used to send out Christmas cards every year.

If you do everything right(and are lucky)before you know it you will have more fans then you know(singing your songs and buying your stuff and in turn making you rich(ha ha.) That record deal will be right around the corner. Or if it doesn’t come soon enough you can always finance your first record yourself(and hey then all the profits go to your band fund and you have total creative control.) Labels are more impressed by artist who have some kind of numbers to show, if you sell 500-1000 7″ or CD’s without any backing says a lot. It gives you more leverage when talking to anyone indie or major label about a record contract. If you are dealing with a big indie or major label make sure you get yourself a good entertainment lawyer, because many a good band has broken up over a bad record deal. You never want to give away your publishing or song writing credits(those are your babies and where the money is in the long run.)

Now go out and make some music and remember you are just playing, it is only work if you let it become work.

Middagh Goodwin>



Posted in: news

About the Author:

Chris Murphy is the President and CEO of Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group and Publisher and Founder of ModestoView Inc. Chris worked globally in the cycling industry returning to Modesto in 1996. He is also the founder of the Modesto Historic Graffiti Cruise Route, Legends of the Cruise Walk of Fame, Modesto Rockin’ Holiday, the Modesto Music History Organization and co-founder of the Modesto Area Music Association. Chris is married to his artist wife Rebecca since 1985 and has two daughters Madison and Abigail, both graduating from Modesto High and UC Berkeley. He is lead singer and guitarist for his band, Third Party that donates their performances to non-profits.