The screams of adoring fans, world tours, doing what you love for a living. That doesn’t sound too bad, right? But if being in a successful band was easy, everyone would do it. It takes more than talent, and any successful musician will be able to point to a laundry list of lucky breaks and moments of luck that helped them progress their careers. However, we can make our own luck to a certain extent. With the internet, it’s also never been easier to find collaborators and get your music out to a massive audience. If you’re serious about putting in the work to make your dream a reality, here are some pointers to even the odds in your favor.
Find Some Bandmates
Unless you’re planning on setting the acoustic singer/ songwriter world on fire, you’re going to need some bandmates to make music with. Bandmates aren’t just there to play the notes: they’re integral to working through musical concepts, refining your sound, and fleshing out your songs. With a few notable exceptions, the vast majority of musical superstars had a lot of talented individuals contributing to the success of their music. The good news is that you can easily find collaborators with modern technology. You could post on classified sites like Craigslist or Gumtree to find prospective bandmates in your area or find like-minded musicians on social media. Just don’t forget that talent isn’t everything in a bandmate – you need to be able to get along with them as well. Although some of the best albums in music history were created in the midst of personal hatreds, you’re not going to get far starting out with unworkable personality clashes.
Practice. Then Practice Some More.
Practice and jamming are critical to drawing out your collective talents in a way that will produce good music. You’ll get more familiar with each other’s styles and allow your group of individual musicians to cohere into something more than the sum of your parts. It’s also the place where you’ll bounce around ideas for songwriting and see if some happy accidents lead you into stumbling onto the perfect bassline or figuring out a tricky bridge. You should have at least a couple of EP-worth songs figured out before you start thinking about playing to audiences. This is so that you have enough material to play a reasonable open mic set and ensure you have some surprises to pull out if you get offered a longer slot. If you’re having trouble figuring out where to start with your songwriting, try playing some covers of songs that you all enjoy.
Something of a no-brainer for any aspiring band, but it bears repeating. Playing live is where a lot of your identity as a band will start coming together. That 20 minute drone workout that you were all geeking over during practice might hit your sweetspot but may ultimately be more fun to play than to stand around listening to. Conversely, you might find that some of the songs you thought were your weakest actually go over very well with audiences. Getting gigs booked will need some coordination between different band members so that you can ensure that every member has the night off from work and can be relied upon to show up. Don’t be afraid to play for different kinds of venues and audiences than the ones you would assume to be the best fit: if you can different crowds moving to your music, it’ll be tremendous in developing your stagecraft and figuring out your strengths and weaknesses. If you’re having trouble figuring out where to start, look for some local open mics that might be held in local bars and cafes, or see if there are any local promoters or small festivals that are on the lookout for emerging talent.
Get Yourselves Online
It feels redundant to say it in this day and age, but make sure your band has at least the vestiges of an online presence. Something like a Bandcamp page with your music for sale or available for free with a link to your upcoming live performances should be enough. Not only does this give you a platform to market your music, but it also allows someone who enjoyed your music at an open mic to keep tabs on your gigging schedule. If you’re on any music forums or fansites, you can link to your online presence and help present your work to fresh ears. Having pages on the major social media sites also lets people like and share your content around their social networks. This will also help show promoters the kind of music you make.
Diversify Your Income Opportunities
In the streaming era, the majority of smaller, independent bands can’t rely on record sales to see a return on time and money invested in their music. So you need to find ways to make your dream’s balance books even out. Creating merch like t-shirts, tote bags, limited-edition releases, and zines can all be sold directly to fans at your gigs while cutting out the middleman. Another underused way for new bands to make money is by submitting your work to a music licensing company like Audiosocket. They’ll be able to put your work up for sale to clients who might work in film or advertising and will be willing to pay a premium for the right tune. It’s where a lot of independent musicians like Mark Dannells have found a second career and a lucrative source of income from their creative output.
Conclusion: Take the Plunge
Starting a band takes discipline, patience, and effort, but it’s the only way to scratch that creative itch that every musician feels. Don’t expect the groupies to throw themselves at your feet at your first gig, but remember that every rockstar had to get their break somewhere. Like-minded musicians can help you find your artistic voice, and playing live will give you memories that you’ll always treasure. Who knows, people might really love your music! But whatever happens, remember that when you shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll still be among the stars.