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Starting A Band

honeyboy's house partyOk, you’ve got your chops to the point where you think they are ready for prime time. You want to get out in front of some people and have some fun. You’ve got two choices.

  • Start A Band
  • Get Into An Existing Band

Which is the best choice?

Well of course if you can get into an existing band that’s already working, that’s a great short cut to getting into gear quickly. But a working band will always be harder to get into, because they have the ability to be more choosy about who they pick. So you better have your act together and be ready to reach the bar they’ve set.

If you are uncomfortable meeting someone else’s expectations, or don’t feel ready, then maybe starting your own band can be a better choice. You can set your own bar and then find band mates who at YOUR level. You won’t have to tow the bar of someone else.

Starting Your Own Band

There’s no question that starting a band from scratch is a lot of work. You have to not only find band mates, pick songs, and then rehearse those songs until they are ready. But you have to go out and get gigs and build your band brand from scratch. It’s clearly climbing a big hill.

But once you’ve done it and know what has to be done, you’ll have a real understanding of how the music business works. And from then on you’ll have control over your own musical career. You’ll also be able to appreciate other bands and what it took them to succeed.

Steps To Starting Your Own Band

There’s a lot to do to get your own band off the ground. Plan on at least several months to reach the point where you can play out. Of course that depends on how much time you put into it. But here’s the basic steps involved.

Pick A Musical Style

Choosing the type of music your band will play is pretty important. You not only want to pick a style that you are good at and like, but you also should pick a style that will have some demand out there in the world. I don’t mean you’ll have to play music you hate, but if the clubs in your area don’t want your type of music, you won’t have many places to play. At least if you want to make money.

And about making money…

Now you don’t have to have a band that makes money. Making money may not be the most important thing to you. Perhaps playing the music you love, or your original music, is more important to you. That’s fine.

But if you want to make money playing in clubs and restaurants, there’s no question you’ll have to be able to fulfill a need. You’ll have to pick a music that it popular enough that people want to come out and see it. Fortunately “The Blues” is the kind of music that in most locations, still has some demand and probably always will. So’ll we’ll focus on blues as being the general category of music that your band will play. But starting a band in any style still has to follow these same basic steps.

rick honeyboy hartFind Band Members

There’s 3 rules for finding appropriate band mates…

  1. Make sure they like the same kind of music
  2. Make sure you are all at the same musical level
  3. Make sure they are not jerks

It’s hard to keep a band going. I’ve been in many bands that sooner or later break up, usually for one of the reasons above. If you want a band that lasts, pay close attention to the 3 rules above.

OK let’s say you agree with the above rules… where are you going to find band members. There’s really many ways to find them, but here’s the main three.

1. At jams

2. By putting ads up at music stores

3. Facebook or some other social media site like YouTube

All of the above can work well. Online you can even share some recordings of each other so you can decide if you are at the same level. In fact, you may be able to evaluate someone based on the above criteria without even meeting someone. Certainly for the first two. A-holes are a little harder to sniff out. Whoops… Sorry for that image.

Rehearse

Rehearsals are some of my favorite musical times. You get to experiment and work out songs in a relatively stress and judgement-free environment. You can make mistakes and play those leads a little longer than you might in club situation. You can try different ways of playing a part to see what works and what doesn’t.

Plus it can be a lot of fun. You don’t have to please a club owner or a crowd so you can take your time, have a few beers and enjoy each others company.

Don’t forget to record your rehearsals. Listening back can be the best way to learn what you are doing wrong and right. You’ll improve more quickly by listening back to what you did.

And if you aren’t lucky enough to have a place to rehearse, finding good rehearsal space can be a pain. You definitely want to be somewhere that you will feel comfortable. You want to be able to play at a realistic volume for the type of music that you play (within limits).

If you’re looking for a place to rehearse here’s some suggestions…

1. Rehearsal studios for hire.

2. Clubs on an off night.

3. A business that is closed at night (and has space)

4. Storage facilities

But remember the goal is to come out with enough good songs to go get some work. So you have to balance the fun with the business at hand. Try to have some set goals for each rehearsal. It’s best to have these before you rehearse…

1. A written list of songs with the chords and the words. Make sure you have enough copies for everyone. Be sure everyone has bought into the song list in advance if possible. Don’t waste your time trying to figure out songs at the rehearsal. Try and get them sorted out in advance at home.

2. Rough arrangements for the songs in advance. Of course, this may change as you rehearse.

3. A goal of how many songs you want to get through at each rehearsal.

Rehearsal is really where the band will come to life. It will sometimes be hard work and often hard to listen to. But putting in the work practicing is where great bands come from.

Here’s some other pages on my site you might find helpful as you learn how to play in a band..

B.B. King's BandFind A Name

This part is harder than you think. You certainly want something that is clever and expresses your bands style and genre. But don’t get too far out there. Remember you’ll have to live with this name for a long time (if you are lucky).

The good news is once your name is established it won’t mean much as a phrase. It will now represent you and your music. Who when they hear the name “The Beatles,” doesn’t just think of their music or their members instead of the clever use of the word “Beat”? That’s when you know your band brand is clearly established. It takes on a whole new meaning.

Put Up A Website

Most bands have some sort of web presence these days. Either they have a Reverb Nation page, a Facebook page, or a web site. I recommend all of the above. Here’s my website.

The reason you want all three is because each will serve a different role in your Fan Funnel. What’s that? That’s the way you turn acquaintances into stark-raving-fans… Fans that come to gigs and maybe buy merchandise.

But do you really need a website?

Yes you do! Because an actual website is the place you will have the most control over how you connect with your fans, how it looks and how you interact with visitors. For example… you definitely want to get a visitor’s email address. Why? So you can stay in touch and let them know what’s going on and when the next show is. It also lets you know they are truly a fan. It’s a bit of a commitment to give someone your email address. People don’t do it lightly these days.

Also you can put Google Analytics on a website and find out which pages they visited and how long they stayed and track how they bought your CD or merch. Facebook and Twitter and YouTube don’t give you the same degree of control that a website does.

And remember…

These days, the number one way a band makes money is doing gigs. Sure you may be able to sell some CD’s or maybe a tee shirt, but unless you are out there gigging and have fans showing up, nothing will really happen.

So once you meet a potential admirer you have to convince them to keep in touch and become a fan. You’ll want a way to turn them onto your music and then let them know about gigs. You’ll do this on your website’s blog, on your Facebook page and by sending them a reminder email. That’s how the game is played these days.

Get Gigs

If you’ve decided you want to make money doing this music thing, then sooner or later you’re going to have to get some paying gigs. Of course, if you are just doing it for fun, then you may find lots of places looking for a free band or for cheap.

Be careful though. If other bands in your style are trying hard to make a living and you come in and work for low dough, don’t be surprised if the other bands don’t like it. The last thing they want to hear is “so-and-so came in and worked for this much, why won’t you?” You’ll quickly lose credibility and more than likely the word will get out, and with Facebook being what it is, that means you can gain a lot of enemies quickly. You don’t want to do that.

Why? Because a great way to spread your brand and reputation is through other bands talking about you… particularly online. Good bands know that helping each other out is just good business. It’s called … I’ll scratch your back and you scratch mine marketing.

Booking Agents

There are booking agencies out there that will get you gigs. Don’t count on that much in the beginning. Until you are established, or have a very unique niche or style, agencies won’t want to waste their time. They are only focusing on the top-dollar gigs so you better be able to provide a top-dollar product.

Demos and Videos

The quickest and best way to get club owners attention is by having a demo they can listen to. Even better, have a video of you performing, ideally at a club, or at least of a rehearsal with you doing your “show.” With YouTube and cheap recording and video equipment there’s no excuse for not having something of decent quality to show what you can do.

B B King Tour Bus 1950's

B. B. King Tour Bus 1950’s

Approaching Club Owners

OK once you have your act together, and a good demo and video, it’s time to spread the word. Welcome to the world of sales.

They say “sales” is a numbers game. The more people you contact the more chances you have of selling your wares. But it’s not entirely true. Quality is more important than quantity. First be sure you have a good product to sell. In other words, rehearse until you are sure you are ready. Make a great demo tape and/or video. Now you have something to represent you.

And then do your homework. Research all the clubs in your area and try to find out the manager’s name. You can often find this info online.

Don’t just drop off your demo at every bar with the bartender. Be sure to find out who books the bands and when is the best time to get in touch with them. Then call or show up at that time. It’s better to be there in person if you can.

Be sure to be clear on what you are going to say. Have what they call an “elevator speech” ready. An elevator speech is about a 30-60 second description of what your band is about and what makes you special. Be sure to mention if you have any other places you are playing they would know. And if you have a Facebook following mention how many “friends” you have there.

The key is to put yourself in their shoes.

They get calls and demo CD’s from bands all the time. You’re just one more unknown band taking up their time. So you better be able to show them “what’s in it for them” very quickly, otherwise they will lose interest quickly. Be sure to mention, your bands strong points, like female singer, or special instrumentation, but mostly all they will care about is ‘can you put some butts in the club or restaurant?’ That’s what’s in it for them.

If you are new and don’t know many butts yet, explain your current marketing strategies and how you plan to get the word out for the club. Be ready to work for a little less money to start. But be sure to make it clear this is only a special price and you won’t be able to work for it again if things go well.

Now Follow-up… again and again.

Now comes the most important part… the followup. Great salespeople say “the fortune is in the follow-up.”

So without being a pain, be sure to follow-up with every club owner, on the phone and in person. Each time let them know what’s new, where you’ve been playing, how many new Facebook friends you have and any new highlights of your recent shows.

Promote Your Band – here’s a page where I talk about how to promote your band.

My New Band

I’m in the process of putting my old band back together. It’s going to be called Honeyboy’s House Party. You’ll see the videos on this site and can learn more about the concept on my band website.

Wish me luck!

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