I had some requests to write a second part to my last article "How To Start A Band For Beginners" so here it is. This segment will pick up where I left off in the last one. It covers writing original music, picking up gigs, and promoting your band.
If you are part of an established band right now with other dedicated musicians, but you don't know which move to make next then this is the article for you. My last segment covered finding the right band members and what you need to know in order to start making music successfully. In this piece, I'll pick up where I left off. So for the sake of someone who hasn't read part 1, this first "Step" in this one will be dubbed "Step Seven."
Step Seven: Getting Off The Ground.
Before you continue to these next steps, I want you to be sure that you are content with the band you are in. As you practice and get to know the guys (if you don't already) you should be able to tell pretty quickly if this band is going in the direction that you want. After all, you're going to be putting a lot of time and money into this thing, so you want to make sure it going to work so you don't flake out later because you hate how it's going. Here's a small list of things you should look for.
-Do you get along with you band members?
This is important because they will now be like a family to you. You will be spending a lot of time with these guys and, trust me, no matter what, you will have you're differences, but it's matter of resolving the problem and compromising to make everyone happy.
-Do their playing styles match yours?
If they don't, it can still work. There are tons of bands who incorporate different styles into their music and it works for them. But make sure it will work for you. Like I said in Part 1, you have to look at your influences. If you've got one guy who likes country music and one who listens to electronica, it's going to be tough to make music together that you both like.
-Are the other guys dedicated enough?
One of the hardest things to do in life is kick out a band member, especially if he is your friend, but sometimes it has to be done. Have any of the guys blown off a much needed practice to hang out with a girlfriend or spend the day playing video games?. Have you done that?
Step Eight: Getting Your First Gig.
Say you followed step six in my last article, and right now you and your band have a set's worth of cover songs down and ready to play. Contrary to a quite popular belief, you can, in fact, play covers at a show. Some venues don't allow cover songs because of licensing, but who says you have to play at a legit venue? Play at a friend's birthday party or some other kind of "get-together." Don't expect to have your first show at the 02 Arena. There's a very slim chance that you will get paid for your first gig..or your second, or even your third. Right now you are going to be playing for fun, experience, and to get your band's name out to the public. The internet is a very useful tool for up and coming bands. Use your band's primary social networking profile to contact venues in your area. Sometimes a venue will want a demo or something in order to find out if the band is the right style or has the right skill level to play there, but not all of them do. Remember, if you show up and bring some of you're friends, the venue is going to make money from the people you bring. So look at it this way. Without bands like yours, the venues wouldn't be able to stay in business. Anyway, I digress. So the venue messages you back giving you a few dates that they have open spots on. This next sentence is very important. Make sure you talk it over with the band to see which of the dates they will be able to perform on. If you don't do this before the venue books you on a show, you will have to go back and cancel it and the venue will quickly find another band to replace you for that night. This isn't a huge deal, but it doesn't make you look too good. They know that this happens a lot, but if you pick a night and they put you down for it, then you're ready to go and show them what you've got. If you must cancel because you didn't know your drummer had to go to a family reunion that weekend, then you realize you should have made sure everybody was going to be able to make it. Getting a gig really isn't as hard as people make it look. Yes, you might have to sell tickets, this can be annoying to you, but it's smart on the venue's side. Think about it like this. If you sell a ticket to somebody who has never heard your band, they will be more likely to go because they paid money for it already. Now say you didn't have to sell tickets. You tell that guy "Hey you should come see my band at [Name of Venue] this Friday." He might think about it, but he has nothing to lose if he doesn't go because he hasn't prepaid.
Step Nine: Getting Ripped Off
Please be aware that, as a young musician, there are people out there who will try to make money off your band. Be wary of Amateur Booking Agencies. They can help you get gigs, but remember, every person who is involved with your band, will want a cut of the very little bit of money you make. If you play a show that you got through a booking agent, he works as a middle man. Getting you a gig is his job, therefore he has to make money. The way it usually works is he finds the bands and before the venues pays you, he gets his cut too. It divides the revenue up even more, therefore the band's get less. I'm not saying booking agents are evil thieves, but that's the way it works. Another way that you can get taken advantage of is buying something that costs more than it's worth. Please do yourself a favor and price things before you buy. If you are getting some band shirts made, make sure you are buying them at the going price. It just like anything else, make sure you know how much these things are being sold for at an average before you spend money on it from a company that is overpriced. Maintaining a band can be very expensive and you want to spend the least amount of money possible, right?
Step Ten: "I've got a gig! Now What Do I Do?!"
Alright. The beginning of the coolest time of your life. You're about to show the world what you've got....The world....or...like 10 people...it could go either way...most likely 10 people. Unless you've grabbed a gig opening for a bigger name, then there's a good chance that you'll be playing with bands that are at eye level with yours. Don't worry about that. This is a good opportunity for you to get a bit of a following. Obviously, the people there to see you are friends or family, but these other people have never seen you play. The first impression is the most important. The other band's family and friends can becomes fans of you. It doesn't matter if 1 person in standing in the audience, that is one person you can make like you. Be prepared though, there is very little chance that you will get a standing ovation after you play for 30 minutes, but you never know. I've seen quite a few hardcore bands play in people's living rooms, which I always thought was pretty cool. It gives the crowd and the bands an intimate performance and the room is really crowded because it's so small. If that's the case with your band, fire up a mosh pit and destroy that living room. It's not your house! A lot of times, when playing with other bands, there is sort of a competitive aspect to it. I still don't know why this happens, but it does. Just be cool to the other bands and they'll realize you aren't out to get them and hopefully be cool to you in return. Everywhere you play, there will be a guy who forgot something. If a member from another band asks you to borrow a pick, let him, but don't be a jerk about it. Make sure you get it back after he's done, though. That brings me to my next topic. Don't get anything stolen from you. If you are hanging out in the green room backstage tuning up right before you are about to go on, don't leave your guitar there without another member of YOUR band keeping an eye on it. You don't know the other bands. It's really easy for someone to walk by and pick up your guitar and load it in with their stuff as they leave, even by accident.
Step Eleven: Stage Presence
This is something you should have thought about before you stepped on stage. If it's you're very first time playing in front of anyone, you're bound to be a little nervous. This eventually goes away. It's all well and good for the guitar and bass players to head bang and jump around, but make sure it doesn't interfere with you're playing. Some people will tell you it doesn't matter how well you play as long as you look cool. This isn't true. Now, if you go see Led Zeppelin live (if that ever happens) you aren't really going to care how well they play because you probably aren't going to be able to hear the music over your screams anyhow and you're there just to see the band. They can suck if they want to, they are legends, but you aren't...not yet, anyway. Like I said, the first impression can make or break you. Play you're music to the best of your abilities and worry about back flipping off your amp later. "How do I know what stage moves to use?" you ask? Look at what kind of music you play and watch those bands that define that style. What are they doing? If you play Southern Rock, don't act like 50 Cent. Trust me, you will look stupid. If that's what you want to do, who am I to say you can't express yourself? I'm just trying to warn you. Regardless of what the band is doing, the singer is the one who most of the eyes will be on. If I was at your show, I'd be looking at the instrumental portion of the band, but I'm a musician myself. Your average concert goer will be watching and listening to the vocalist, I assume. Just make sure he isn't dancing around while the rest of the band look like statues though. You want all the band members to be moving around at the same amount. It may be boring if the band is just standing still, but it's better than having one guy acting insane while the others just stand there. It makes him look out of place. Try to find a happy medium in your performance. People like a high energy performance, but only if the music is. During a slow, acoustic song, it'd be best not to do Pete Townshend windmills. You've got match you live performance with the music. It should come naturally, but if not, it all goes back to seeing what other bands are doing. You may not want to "copy" other musicians, but sometimes stage moves are universal for all bands.
Step Twelve: Writing A Song
I want to make this clear here. There are many cover bands who make really good money. I'm talking like a couple thousand dollars a night. If that's what you want to do, go for it. Even if that's the case, many cover bands still have original music. They may not be known for their original songs, but people will still listen to it. Although, when playing in bars and clubs, people like to hear the band cover popular songs while they get their drink on, but throwing in some original songs is okay too. Now you want to write a song. After playing covers and doing some light gigging, you should know how the band members play by now. This is very helpful because a lot of times, one band member will write an entire song. If he knows what you all like and he knows what to expect from you, then this could help him in his writing process. When writing a song, the writer can visualize the other members putting their own spins on it. If he knows the singers vocal range, he will know what key to write the music in. Everything in music ties together. Keep that in mind. Say you've just got one riff that you'd like to use, but you're not much of a writer. Pitch it to the band. Remember that not everything you come up with will go over well with the rest of the band, so you've got to be prepared to change the riff around a little bit for them. Maybe another player has a cool chorus part that would go well with your riff, you've got most of a song right there. Now just add drums, a bassline, vocal line, lyrics and maybe another section like a bridge or something and you're first song is done after a little tweaking. It's not always that easy though. If you're really feeling stumped and nobody has any ideas, ask them what kind of song they want to play. Think of some of your favorite musicians and listen to what they do on that instrument. It's not ripping them off because when the other instruments are added to it it will change the entire feel of the song. Don't get me wrong, if you write a song that sounds almost exactly like another song, don't play it, but what are the odds of that happening? The best way to write is when you're alone with just you and your instrument. Just play something. Anything. Keep playing and playing and soon enough you'll discover something that sounds cool. I could go into Music Theory here, but for the simplicity of the article, I wont. There are tons of things you can learn to help you write music, but most famous riffs are really simple things that were just discovered by the players. Take Sunshine Of your Love for example. This riff is one of the most played "Guitar Store Licks." The riff was said to be written by Jack Bruce one night while jamming and it became Cream's biggest hit. So you never know what you'll come across while jamming. Just jamming with the band is a cool way to come up with material on the spot.
Step Thirteen: Promoting The Band
I'd advise you not to spend too much money on promotion if you aren't going to be playing out very often and you don't have much material to play. Promotion is something you should spend time doing when you really start to take off. My advice is to invest in a website domain. They aren't very expensive. Myspace is cool and everything, but social networking sites come and go. Say you get a ton of friends on one, then it goes out of style and you've got nobody to keep updated. You could create an account on the new "cool" one, but it'll just happen again. If you can get a website called www.yourbandname.com it could be an easier way for people to keep up with you and everything you are doing. You can still have accounts on the social sites, but post links to your website on those. Websites like Reverb Nation and Ultimate-Guitar are good for creating band profiles. The internet is great, but so is word of mouth promotion. By now you should have some people who really like you're music and can tell other people about you and invite them to your next show. Once you record an EP or a demo you can give it out to people with your contact info and website and people can go and learn more. Flyers are an effective and classic way to promote a show. Now days, people make digital flyers on the computer and post them on websites. That's good too, but you can also print them out and give them to people or post them up at local businesses that have common interests with music like a music store or something. You want the flyers to be seen by people who are interested in going to a concert. If you want to get noticed by the media, competing in a Battle Of The Bands is a great way. If the competition is sponsored by a local radio station, your name will probably be announced on the radio as they advertise the event. If you win, you will definitely be recognized locally. Once you start playing out regularly you will gain trust from owners and operators of the venues you play at and when a bigger name comes through your town, you may be offered to open for them. This is a good way for people to see you're band play. People will come out to see the headlining band and when they show up, you'll be getting on stage. It's best to open for a band who have similar music styles as yours, that way the viewers will be interested in hearing a band that sounds kind of like the band there are there to see.
Well, This was part 2 of my "How To Start A Band for Beginners" article. I hope I covered everything that was requested. I Hope you guys enjoyed it. If you have any other suggestions, let me know and I'll see if I can write something about it.