Feel free to ignore me if you wish these are just my opinions I'm just a musician with a few years experience, an internet connection, and a soapbox to stand on. This is just an overview I plan on expanding on these points in future columns.
Every indy artist/band regardless of genre hears a variation of the same speech as he/she/they toil away trying to make a name for themselves. With a little hard work you can make it in this business, you gotta be willing to sacrifice in order to get where you wanna be! Truer words were never spoken, but often bands are taken advantage of as promoters, bar owners, shifty managers and everything in between bleed you dry under the auspices of you working hard.
We all love playing music, we all love playing our own music so we're willing to put up with a lot of crap because at the end of the day playing on that stage is the most important thing. We put our whole hearts into our music, but the mistake we all often make is not using our heads as well. Here are just some things I've learned along the way
Number 1: Treat Your Band Like A Business
Contrary to popular belief business is not a dirty word. Whether it's a sole proprietorship or a joint venture between four people; businesses are entities that create some sort of product, provide some sort of service, and generate some sort of income. Your band is essentially a company (in the loosest definition of the word).
As a band your product is your music and making your music as good as it can be is your number 1 priority. Without a good product your bandyour business is going nowhere. The service you provide is entertainment, so making your performance as good as it can be is also top priority. If you don't provide a good service your business is going nowhere.
You have to really think about the things that you do musically and decide whether or not they are good for business or bad for business. You have to cut through all the B.S. and ask yourself How will doing this particular thing benefit me and/or my band?
Number 2: Know What Your Goals Are
You can't decide what's good for your business unless you know what your company's goals are. Does your band just wanna play shows for free beer and loose girls? Do they wanna take over the local scene, the regional scene, the world? Is making money important to you? If so how important is it? Does it want to stay independent or is the ultimate goal to be signed to a major label? All of these are admirable goals but you all have to be on the same page as far as what you want to do. It will color all the decisions that you make pertaining to what your band does.
Number 3: Know Your Value
This is when you take that ego (no matter the size) of yours and check it. You have to really make an honest assessment of how good you are musically and what draws people to your music/band. Is it the hot chick that sings or plays? Is it your bands great players? Is it the strong songwriting? Honestly think about what's best about your band and play to that strength as you develop the other aspects.
You also have to know your value in terms of draw. You should know how many people you can bring into a club on any given night. A shitty band will get a good gig because they can get 50+ people to show up to see them.
Number 4: Watch The Money
While the club owner and/or the promoter of the show is busy providing you an opportunity to play your music they are cleaning up at the bar and the kitchen (if they have one). If 50 people show up and spend 20 bucks the clubs making 1,000 dollars that's not counting whatever piece of the door they're taking. Understand that YOU are the money maker that evening. Generally bars have bands in their clubs on nights where they may not make a whole lot of money otherwise. Don't be fooled those folks aren't in it for the love of the music, they're there to make as much money as possible, so never be shy about asking to be cut in. Those people that came to see you will probably see you no matter where it is you're playing. Keep that in mind.
Keep an eye on your spending. A lot of bands needlessly buy merch that doesn't really sell that well. Make sure that it's the right kind of merch for your audience, buttons and bumper stickers may sell better than t-shirts or vice versa. Do you really need the wireless guitar set-up? Are paper flyers the best way to advertise? If you're in a band you're going to end up spending more money than your making (especially at first) so there's no need to make that hole bigger.
Number 5: Form Strong Alliances
Get to know the other bands in your area and find out which ones you can have a mutually beneficial relationship with. The right alliance can help you get into places, make connections, and grow your fan base. You just have to make sure you're allying yourself with the right people, partnering with a rapper may not be good if you're in a metal band.
Number 6: Be Willing Not To Take A Gig
I know that sounds like blasphemy but there will definitely be offers from venues that don't sound quite right. Be willing to say no. Just like there are bands lined up around the block to play a venue there will always be places to playeven if it's in someone's basement and your fan base will pretty much come see you anywhere where the bathroom is clean.
Just because you say no it doesn't mean that you're not dedicated or that you don't love your music, it just means you want things to be right before you step on the stage. If you think Hendrix, Cream, or G&R walked on-stage without everything being in order you're kidding yourself.
Number 7: Use Your Head
You can prevent a lot of crap from happening to your band by simply thinking about things before you do them. Be aware of your surroundings and the people you do business with. We're not going to be millionaires so it's not really an issue of making a lot of money playing a gig it's an issue of being treated and compensated fairly and if we all use our heads we can make sure that happens.