So You Want To Be A Musician Are You F&*((&(&(*g Nuts?
Chapter 1 : – Fantasy and Reality.
There are so many pitfalls and decisions to face when starting a band or even setting out as a solo artist. The first thing to do, to ensure everyone is on the same page, is to separate the fantasy of where you would like to be, against the reality of the music industry in its current state.
I will repeat this line over and over, because many bands completely ignore this fact and to be honest it is why a lot split up.
Your Band Is Your Business, Treat It As Such
We might as well get the big one out of the way first, the dreaded finances. If your aim is to get on the bigger stage it is going to take a lot of financial investment. The days of record labels funding new talent are long gone and no-one is going to pay to get you started. Having said that, you are now in the best technology led era the music industry has ever known, in terms of being able to get your music out there. With the advent of social media, it is now easier to spread your music and get heard, however again this does come at a cost (more on that later).
So that is the doom and gloom over with. Now on to basics. As a band you need to decide what you want to achieve, sit down and get the fantasy ideas out in the open so they can be readily crushed for the reality of what is to come.
What sets you apart as a band? What is your USP (Unique Selling Point)? Are your band members in for the long hard slog to make it?
Presentation is the key to success. Apart from sounding great you need to engage your audience. Think about your stage show, there is nothing worse than standing around in jeans and t-shirts; it really does not capture the energy for your potential fans.
As a radio station owner I get a lot of releases a week from bands who have decided to do it themselves and I have to say that the majority of it is uninspiring. I get awful photographs of a band standing against a wall, with no imagination having gone into the artwork, self-penned press releases that may as well have been written by a five year old with a box of crayons. Even poor video production, most likely shot and then edited on a mobile phone. Even if your music is fantastic you will not get past a professional radio station if the rest of the package is substandard.
Take the time plan carefully what you want to do and set a budget for it. Think creatively about the photo shoot. I have seen many artists that have turned a photoshoot into a work of art but none more so than Doris Brendel whose sound and visual concept is by far in advance of anything I see on a daily basis and which has really helped put her on the map.
Doris Brendel & Lee Dunham
As you can see from the above photo, the visualisation is simply stunning. This was part of a multi-location shoot for her fantastic album Upside Down World. As you can see, the planning and costume choices do make a solid visual difference and help capture potential fans interest.
Assign the band jobs to do. If you are strapped for cash minimise the expense as much as possible, while you are preparing your first album. It is not ideal as a musician should focus on the music and not the business end of things. Making a steady start on building your fan base is easily possible through social media; so set up Facebook Pages, Twitter Pages, Instagram accounts etc. and slowly build your audience base. If you have no music to show them as yet, start leaking stories about the band on to these platforms, such things as “coming soon”. Give people a taster. If the band have any hobbies or interests that are different to the norm spread them as well, it all helps for your potential audience to identify with you.
Start planning and writing a catchy biography to sell your band with (once you have a decent set of photos).
Another thing to consider, and this is vitally important. Do you have the right front person in the band. It is all great if they can sing well but not so great if they have no stage presence, nothing is more of a turn off than watching a wooden performance. Make sure they can catch the attention of the crowd.
All this is what you need to start generating before you even start approaching festivals. Get a few shows under your belt, try and get support slots, try not to do pub gigs unless they are an “under the radar” warm up.
I know this may seem like the opening to this book is trying to teach you how to suck eggs, but the majority of bands out there ignore these simple basics.
Perception of Image is key!
Remember, and this is the most important thing, most bands fail in the first 12 months due to poor levels of co-operation, too many ego’s or just laziness. Co-operate, work as a team and it will ensure the band works properly both on and off stage.
Coming up in Chapter 2 is a guide on Social media interaction and Chapter 3 deals with the basics of what to do when you have your first EP/Album.