No matter what kind of music you prefer, creating it is an expression of the soul. Whether it is classical, rock, metal, rap, jazz, blues, country or a variety of other genres, music can be a spiritual method of expression as well as a road to financial stability … if you are lucky.
Putting a band together can be a real challenge; you must find the right mix of musicians that includes musical chemistry, compatibility of personalities and positive attitudes. Keeping band mates happy, while at the same time planning and implementing goals for the group as a whole, is a juggling act that can be done if everyone is on the same page. If you want to make money, you must treat the project as a serious business.
Advertise for Musicians
First, decide on the number of instruments you want to have in the band. You can go the basic route with a three piece — drums, guitar (or piano) and bass — or you can expand the number with a second guitar, keys player, horn player and vocalist. The type of music you wish to play and the type of gigs you hope to book will help determine how many instruments you will need in order to make the kind of music you want.
Keep in mind that the more people you have in the band, the more people you have to work around when scheduling rehearsals and shows, in addition to paying for performances. The pay you receive for performances may vary, so be sure your band members agree on how much they expect to be paid. If the band is playing for fun with the hopes of making just a little pocket money, add as many musicians as you wish.
Music stores and Internet sites offer bulletin boards and web pages for musician advertising. When posting your advertisement, mention that it is a “start-up” and include the long-term goals you have for the band. Give the reader as much information as possible about what you hope to achieve with the band so that you will find musicians who share your goals.
Types of Shows to Book
The music your band chooses to play will vary depending on the types of gigs sought. For instance, if your band will be playing shows at bars and nightclubs, chances are you won’t need to learn how to play Hava Nagila or the Beer Barrel Polka.
Weddings, corporate events, restaurants, festivals and private parties often require a band to be able to play a wide variety of music: jazz, country, rock, pop, R & B, soul, easy listening and more, depending on what the audience wants to hear. Decide on where most of your shows will be booked if the gigs are available, but be open to playing wherever the dollars are.
Every band needs a leader but not the kind who dictates every aspect of what the project should be. Bands that are made up of equal members have a better chance of surviving inner-group conflicts. If your band’s goal is to make money, you must put a draft business plan into place but when musicians come together, everyone will have an opinion about what to play and how to play it.
Song lists are often developed naturally; get your musicians together for a jam, determine which songs sound good and then stick to what works. This may ultimately change the original musical direction of the band but not necessarily the business plan.
Once you have the players involved, set a rehearsal schedule and have your first business meeting. Every member should have input on the songs he or she would like to include, but if your band plays cover songs, choose ones that will please different types of audiences. If your band plays “original” compositions, play songs that your followers like to hear.
“Original” bands are challenged because most audiences don’t know their music; it is important for these bands to have a following if they hope to make money. Once the music is decided upon, choose which band members will run rehearsals, move equipment and help promote shows, in addition to handling sound duties, if necessary (or do these tasks yourself). Dividing the tasks among the band members will help the team function as a whole. Encourage all band members to search for show opportunities.
There is no “gig fairy;” it is in everyone’s best interest to work toward booking shows. Today’s economy has hurt people who earn a living playing music and those who play for beer money because many venues have stopped or cut back on hiring live music for their events.
Booking agents are available in many cities, however, they may be particular in choosing the kinds of bands they will represent. Online agents may require bands to pay a fee upfront.
Most nightclub owners want the bands they hire to bring in new customers so promoting your band and upcoming shows is very important. In today’s Internet world, it is in your best interest to have a website or at the very least, a Myspace or Facebook page that promotes your band.
Promote your upcoming appearances with fliers, mass-emails to your friends and followers, posters of the event for the venue and mentions in the newspapers and online. If your band plays original music and has recordings for sale, promote the CDs with other merchandise such as decals and t-shirts.
Hold back a percentage of the amount of money that the band makes from each show so that all expenses are paid from band income. Establish a band fund to pay for promotional materials such as a website and fliers. You may have shows for which you must pay professionals to run the sound. If the band is earning a large amount of money, open a special bank account and designate someone to be the treasurer for the group.
The Bottom Line
Bands can be volatile; musicians come and go. Today’s musical climate for booking shows is much different than it was some 25 years ago, partly because of the economy and partly because of other entertainment options for venue owners to offer their patrons.
Even the “weekend-warrior-part-time-let’s-do-it-for-fun’ musicians who want to get out of the basement and into the clubs may find that booking a show is a challenge. So, get organized and develop a band strategy that will help you and your members with your ultimate goals. Above all, be flexible, because even the best laid plans need to be changed.