#1. Don’t play shows until you are ready and well rehearsed.
Too many times bands want to play out live so badly that they rush it and end up making a bad first impression. This is not a good idea as club bookers will remember how horrible the band was and you may never get another shot to perform there again.
#2. Don’t bother with looking for a manager, they will come looking for you.
Some beginner bands I have performed with had managers that were basically friends that tried to get the band shows and whatnot. You don’t really need a manager until there is something to manage meaning you are pulling in hundreds of fans in several markets and cannot keep up with the demand.
#3. Don’t be afraid to make some cold calls.
This is tough especially for introverts. You have to be able to network with people in this business as that is what it is mostly about…after talent of course!
There are plenty of talented bands out there but if you are not confident and don’t try to contact people that can help your career, be it booking agents or other bands you can open/play with, then you may be playing those empty clubs for longer than you really need to.
#4. Hard work almost always pays off.
This is a no brainer. I took my little independent band and basically got us on dozens of national radio stations while a friend in another band hired a guy to try to do it for him. My single took off into the top 40 and all it cost was some time, a few dollars on the phone bill and some CDs.
His single didn’t crack the top 50 and he was paying the guy $4,000 a month when he could have done it himself.
#5. Have a direction/sound if you want success.
People still love ACDC and Aerosmith. Why? Because these bands have an identifiable sound that people know the moment they hear the band. This one is a tough one because you can only do the best with what you got but I believe that everyone is unique, you just have to search for that little thing that makes you stand out.
#6. Grease the palms of the radio station in your town.
Make friends with the DJs and music director at the station that plays the music genre you fit into. Go down now and then and throw them some pizzas or t-shirts. People love free stuff and people in the radio biz are no different.
If they end up liking your music, a few extra mentions from them can help pack out your shows, especially if they end up becoming a big supporter further down the line by playing your music.
#7. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.
Keep the wheels rolling, especially if you are in a young band. You need a lot of time in a room together to get a consistency for shows and to develop a sound.
#8. Go see other bands and support the scene.
This is a great way to get on bills you would not normally get on and may help you build a following by exposing you to fans of other like bands.
#9. Major market radio only plays music from major labels or from bands that have advertising $ to spend at the stations; don’t worry if you’re not getting traction on their radar.
I knew of a band, a fairly mediocre band in many people’s opinions that had a new CD they were flogging. They got nowhere when they pushed their CD on the station at first so their investors decided to throw $30,000 the station’s way. The next week the program director of said radio station was on the air proclaiming “This city’s greatest new band has arrived and their name is (insert name here).”
Then the band’s single got into rotation. Trouble is, they didn’t have a plan and when the airplay came they were not ready and it ended up being a futile investment. Start small and build it slowly and they will come on board when you are ready. In the meantime work the smaller stations in your area.
#10. Don’t hire a publicist unless you are opening on a major national tour.
Learned this one the hard way. A major tour would be say, Nickelback or ACDC, not “Don And The Iguanas.” Publicists can only do so much and unless you have generated major buzz on your own through winning Canadian Idol or selling over 20,000 CDs independently, the editors at the publications and the producers of television stations will not be interested. Publicists are not cheap either so save it for tour support instead.
#11. Do music for the enjoyment and expect nothing more than that.
This is probably the most important thing I can convey. There are so many sharks out there, and so many acts vying for that little piece of pie called music industry success that it is more difficult now than ever to find it. Keep it fun and if it isn’t fun anymore, quit, there will be a million bands tomorrow willing to take your place.