Success is whatever makes you and the people that surround you happy.
Most of us want to play in a band, most of us started playing because the band was there first, some of us are no longer in that band and we have a room full of gear and we play by ourselves.
At least that was me, I’ve been playing for 20 years, I’ve been in numerous bands that never played live much but rehearsed a lot. All these bands had something in common… lack of direction.
I’m not talking about being a band leader and calling the shots, because to be honest… you need to be a renowned musician to behave like that and still have musicians following you. I’m talking about setting expectations and following them through.
At the moment I’m playing in an AC/DC tribute band that I formed with two good friends, and now that the band is fully formed… we are 5 good friends :). However there’s still a sense of “ownership” of the band, and again this doesn’t mean calling the shots (I’ll keep repeating this).
The band was my idea so I do have a responsibility of fulfilling what I pitched that night at the pub when my two good friends accepted to join the band. I knew what I wanted: to be out there enjoying the stage.
Maintaining a band together is no easy task, but trust me… it is a lot harder when there’s no reward, and what’s a musicians best reward? Tick tock tick tock… yeah.. you know it… it’s playing to an audience! Why would you spend 1 year rehearsing without at least having one gig.
Step 1: be ready sooner rather than later. How?
You need to book rehearsals, manage the diary, make sure everyone remembers there’s a rehearsal that day, if 1 person can’t make it… meet anyway… a rehearsal without one member can be just as productive and it will force the other member to do homework, because guess what… you are not slowing down!
Step 2: start talking about gigs
We all want to live in the 60s travelling in a volkswagen van and playing every night… but that’s not possible, if you are like me… in your late 30s, you probably have a job, mortgage, partner and maybe a kid, and if you don’t… someone in the band will.
You need to be realistic, and set achievable expectations, so maybe after 6 months of getting the band ready, try to set your self to get at least 3 gigs for the next 3 months.
Step 3: maintain the band spirit
Wait… so the next step is not getting gigs? Well… hold on. Getting gigs is freaking difficult and no one wants to do it, trust me… everyone has suggestions… But it is very hard to close a deal, so while you plan your “getting the gig” strategy, make sure to keep a motivated rehearsal plan, maybe now that you are ready… reduce the rehearsal schedule to once every two weeks, and bring beers to rehearsals, bring ideas, and keep the guys up to date with the plan
Step 4: get those gigs
Ah yes… this is the “secret sauce” how do I get gigs, facebook, email, go to the pubs, facebook groups, phone calls, be pushy but not desperate, offer a trial gig.
Alright let’s break that down: facebook and facebook groups. You got to setup a facebook page for your band, once all your relatives and friends are following you (they won’t go to your gigs) you need some real followers.
Get some studio shots, rehearsal audios, maybe a bit of video, all to attract attention and also to have content to share with the pub/bar you want to play at, but… don’t be too serious about it, remember which business you are in….”entertainment”
Get to the pubs: this actually doesn’t work that well unless you know the pub owner, I’ve shown up at places with CDs in my hand and talking about how great and cheap we are… and none of them materialised, but it was a crucial step for me… it made me realise how the pub dynamics work, any tip you can get from them it’s extremely valuable.
What worked for me was basically contacting venues/pubs through facebook messenger where it is very easy to be cheeky and share a video/picture with very little effort and of course your facebook page link
Step 5: prepare for those gigs
Ah yes… the good old 1-2-1 formation, or maybe 1-3? Or 1-1-2-1. It is critical that you don’t just show up to the venue unprepared about positioning yourself on stage. This is your chance to shine, it is your sunday match… you need to blow these people heads, so make sure you turn up with a plan and everyone knows what to do, act professional so the landlord sees that you know what you are doing. So make sure you rehearse stage presence… a lot!!
Step 5.1: design your gig, invest!
Let’s be honest, you are not impressing anyone with your guitar solos, or drum solos, and if there is a musician in the audience… he’ll be trying to pick on your mistakes. There are 3 things that the audience will remember.
How good you sounded overall (not just you… yeah you… you know what I mean), how good was the singer AND how much fun they had.
Let’s break these down again.
A) How good you sounded: of course… making less mistakes means that you’ll sound better, right? Well… yes but no. You need to learn how to recover from mistakes, everyone, EVERYONE screws up a few times per gig, most of them goes unnoticed… but… if some one does.. we need to cover up for him. Together we stand, divided we fall. If the singer misses the start of the chorus, if the drum started on the wrong beat, if the guitar player is going for a longer/shorter solo… you need to adjust the song.
Everyone needs to listen what each band member is doing and make sure you are constantly adjusting to make the band sound good. Not just yourself.
B) How good is the singer: Well… anyone can sing, right? Wrong! There is nothing more annoying than seeing a band with a bad singer, the singer is the most important member, the songs need to suit the singer and the singer needs to suit the songs, there will always be a song that you love and your solo is great on it… but if the singer is not feeling it.. then you are not playing it. The Singer is the face of your band, they present the band to the public and the public will judge the band based on his performance. So.. keep the singer happy and do the songs he likes and the one he sounds better at. Remember… the performance is not for you… it is for the audience.
C) How much fun they had: oh yeah, my favourite!! Don’t just stand there like lemons… move around, engage with the audience, buy props, lights, banners, be different, give the audience some gifts.
This has really made a difference for us. Lights, smoke machines, confetti cannon. The look on people’s faces when you fire that confetti cannon… it’s priceless, suddenly you’ve become the center of attention even for those that don’t like your music… who cares.. confetti! Let’s dance. Simple as that, if this was an equation… fun = confetti and confetti = fun.
Step 6: be consistent and step up your game everytime
Have something new every time you return to a venue, not necessarily songs… but props, lights. Be consistent on you performance quality and step up your game on how you engage and entertain your audience. For example… last time we returned to a venue… we filled up the place with balloons! And we don’t have roadies.. it was just us inflating balloons (over 100).
So that’s it…. basically… follow your heart and lead the way. Not everyone in the band will have the same passion for the songs, but everyone in the band is up for having fun, and that’s your responsibility.
Am I (the author of this post) credited to give advise on this? I think so… I’ve moved to a new country and managed to setup a band that ir is regularly gigging and does not need constant rehearsing, so the fun to homework ratio is very high.
Follow my band here: Meanstreak UK
Last but not least… none of this would’ve been possible without the encouragement of Chris, so… Chris if you are reading this… THANK YOU!