The first step to starting a band is thinking about what instruments you want in the band. Guitar, bass, drums, violin, keyboard, piano, trumpet, what do you want? Then you have to go find the players. Maybe you know some guys who play, or maybe you will hold auditions. However you find the players, make sure they are actually good.
That’s the easy part. Now you have a band. You may want to sit around and think of who you want to sound like, or what style you want to be. Maybe you just want to think of a band name. First, everyone in the band needs to get together to have a jam session. Just get to a place where you can set up, plug in, and play. Feed ideas off of each other, back and forth. Here is where you will get a glimpse of what the band should sound like. Avoid at all costs playing other bands’ material. Jam sessions bring out spur of the moment ideas, usually stuff that will reflect a person’s expression of music. It is natural and pure.
Now that the first jam session is out of the way and you have an idea of what the band will sound like, people can choose to stay or go. Assuming everyone stays, have the infamous band meeting. There you should discuss personal preferences on how you want to run the band and where you want to go with music. You want to have the right group of people, and get everything out up front to avoid any confusion or confrontations later. Discuss how many days a week you want to practice, does everyone want to tour, how many shows per month, make sure you all want the same things. It is like marrying 4 or 5 other people, so you better be sure that you like them. Assuming again that everyone is staying on board, we go to the next step.
In the beginning you will be handling everything yourselves. So get to it. Practice, I believe can be over-rated. If you can play a song all the way through decently, then book some shows. You aren’t going to be playing in front of more than 25 people your first few months of shows anyway, so get the crappy shows out of the way while no one cares. Book as many shows as you can. This experience will be invaluable as your band’s career progresses.
Also when you feel you can be a band that will last, record a demo or E.P., get some shirts and stickers printed up and start a Myspace page. Fans love when they have a cd they can pop in their players to listen to. EP’s are also great to go to shows to hand out to people as they leave the venue. Who doesn’t listen to a free CD at least once? Shirts and stickers will become a driving force behind your band’s income. Along with CD’s, shirts and stickers can be sold to make a profit to help print more, as well as develop a band fund. And if you didn’t go out and make a Myspace page the day you auditioned guys, like most bands do, make one! This is the new make it or break it for new bands. There are literally over 85 million Myspace accounts all waiting to be added by your band. If only 1% of people like your band from that number, that is 850,000 people who will like your music. Exactly!
Now you are playing shows, you have a demo and shirts, and more and more people are coming out to your shows. It is time for management. Usually friends make the best managers. They will take care of payment at shows, getting you what you need, keeping you updated on times, making sure you keep your practice schedule, and more. On the same lines as a manager, a booking agent can be equally important. Sometimes it pays to hire a booking agent. This is where press kits come into play. A press kit contains a 3-4 song demo, lyric sheet, high-res photo of the band, any press related articles, and anything else that will make your band stick out. Maybe add a shirt or a sticker. Look up booking agents and send them your press kit. Remember that people in the industry can be very hard to win over so stay optimistic and persistent. Something good will always happen to bands that work, and stick around for a while.
As an interlude to the guide, know how to market your band. Don’t be friends with your fans. You have to be something bigger than the scene. Be someone that people want to see and feel like you are just out of their reach. But at the same time you have to keep a good head on your shoulders and remember that you are no better than anyone. It is a tricky situation to be in, but you have to find a good medium.
So what is next? Well you can plan a tour! Do it yourself or have your booking agent do it for you, but whoever books it, you have to promote it hard. On tour, the shows will resemble shows when you first started out – empty. But touring will be another step to see if you can handle your band mates on an everyday basis. Touring comes in handy when sending press kits to labels.
The step you’ve been waiting for. Well, it’s not as glamorous as you might think. Chances are you won’t get signed off sending in your press kit to a label. At best it might become a coaster or giant paper weight, but it’s part of doing the band thing. What it might do is get you on a label’s radar. The best way to get signed is to play shows and network with other people. You never know who you might meet who knows someone, who knows someone else. If you stick with it long enough, something will happen.
All this info is great, but the most important thing when being in a band is to not suck. A unique or catchy sound can go a long way these days. So capture a sound, use this piece as a guideline, and STICK WITH THE BAND.