I’m putting together a mini-series of articles that are geared towards the working DIY band. Although many of the things that I refer to are for bands in the early stages and semi-pro level, they can be applied to musical projects at higher levels as well.
I have been managing bands for a decade now and I’ve noticed that new start-up projects seem to have the same roadblocks in the early stages. I’d like to shed some light on these common roadblocks and the solutions that have worked for me and the bands that I have worked with over the years.
1. Identity (or lack thereof)
The identity of your band is very important. Who is going to believe in you, if you, as a whole, don’t believe in yourselves? Start off with multiple band names that reflect the image and message that you want your band to be known for, or that reflect the thoughts and image of your band. Narrow the names down over the course of a few weeks in order to give each name submission some thought and consideration. You want to make sure that you are all happy with the selection before proceeding to officially start the project under the selected name.
You want the name to be memorable, easy to say, easy to read, and most of all, easily identified amongst other names. One of my biggest pet peeves are metal band names/logos that I can’t even read. I end up skipping over them completely and quite frankly, I might be missing out on some bands that I may have otherwise fallen in love with.
2. Ensure that everyone is on board
Now that you have decided on your project’s name, it’s time to make sure that the members are serious. Ensure that all members are on board with the project. Are there members that are more keen than others? Who is willing to drop everything at the confirmation of a national or international tour?
It is often a good idea to have each member sign a contract with the band so that they are each held accountable. This contract can also contain royalty shareholder figures and a termination clause if one member isn’t pulling their weight. In most cases, this step is overlooked because the band starts out as a group of friends creating music together. It’s always a good idea to treat the band as a business from the get-go, and avoid issues later on.
In order to receive royalties, all members of the project must first sign up and become a member of SOCAN. This is a free service and it takes 3-6 weeks to get set up. Go to the SOCAN website, sign up, and wait for the package in the mail. After signing and mailing the package back to SOCAN, you will receive your online login and password. This is how you will submit your songs for your catalogue, live performances, and eventually, your film and TV cue sheets. For more information, visit the SOCAN website.
3. Social media
Set up your band’s social media pages but hold off on adding people to them, for now.
Start off with some basic things such as: a video that introduces people to your band, band members, or the cause that you support, photos from a recent professional photo shoot, your band logo/your band name, a show or contest that you have signed up for, a photo/video from a band that you support, merchandise that you have available, etc.
4. Share your content
Now you are ready to start inviting people to your social media pages. Ensure that the content that you have uploaded is visible to your followers and that the content represents who and what your band stands by.
If you have an older set of social media accounts, go through the content before inviting the public to your page and delete what doesn’t reflect your current band image.
Remember to stay active, stay current, and have fun when you connect with your fans.
5. Network, network, network
So many bands fail to stay connected in their local music network and they wonder why they feel unsupported by the community that they supported so strongly, prior to officially becoming a band themselves.
Continue to attend the local music events that you did prior to becoming a band. Open mics are great places to showcase your new songs and to play them in different arrangements. I have encouraged many heavier bands to play acoustically at some open mics and when it has been done, it has been extremely successful. Use these opportunities to gain feedback and to build your fanbase.
Reach out to bands that have a similar sound to your band, both locally and in other cities. If you are not ready to hit the road, encourage the out of town bands to come to your city and have you open or headline the show.
- Have all current band members sign a contract with the band
- Have all band members sign up with SOCAN
- Register the band name as a company
- Set up a band bank account using the company information and encourage band members to contribute to the band fund on a regular basis
- Connect the PayPal account to the band bank account
- Record demo tracks that can be used to direct listeners ears to. If you are already in the studio, create teaser clips so that potential fans, bookings agents, and media representatives can get an idea of what to expect from the full tracks, once they have been mixed and mastered. Make sure that you get your tracks mastered after the mixing process is complete.
- Design and stock merchandise
- Book shows and market your merchandise
- Attend conferences and seminars to promote growth within your band and to gain more knowledge about the music industry. These are also great places to network and promote your band to industry folks
Your band’s image is what the public sees and what they fall in love with. Make sure that your band and the message that you are sending, is the one that you yourself, would follow. Don’t be afraid to compare your band to other bands in terms of sound, image, or beliefs, just be mindful that this may cause some initial tension, disinterest, or even some lofty expectations, so don’t get too far ahead of yourselves.
As a DIY band, you have the power to bring in, on contract, professionals who can help your band out. You can appoint someone to operate your band’s social media, book shows, market/promote your band, manage your band, and assist you in securing radio, film, and TV placements. With the industry in the state that it’s in and with the technology that is available, you don’t necessarily need a record label to succeed, just the desire to succeed, the work ethic to get things accomplished, a dedicated team to assist you, and a product that people enjoy listening to.
Best of luck to you.