UNSIGNED BANDS: Real Ways To Help YOU Succeed!
Photo Credit: Andrew Wendowski
Many kids today, maybe even you, want to be a rockstar one day. Bands like Asking Alexandria or Falling In Reverse are headlining massive shows and you want to know how to get there. What the secret is, I can tell you that there is no secret.
There isn’t a end all be all solution to make your band super popular. If being super popular and making money is the goal to start, then you’re going to have a bad time off the bat. Sure, we all want to make money doing our passion, and that’s where it has to start. Passion. Ask yourself this question if you’re in a band and having a tough time. Are you happy? Would you do it for free? If the answer is no, then you may need to reevaluate your focus. Some of you are in bands where all you need is that extra push to make it to the next level, and that is what this is for. Here are 3 parts with different points to identify some things you can do NOW to ensure success LATER.
I will say this, I am not in a band. I have never been in a band. I will say that I have spent the last 3 1/2 years in this business to see and find these things that many of you may benefit from.
Part 1- What Your Band Really Is And Who The Members Are
-Your band is more than a family. Your band is actually a small business! From the small level you’re at now to the big names, the name, members, merch, etc are all branding for your product. So, if it’s a business then who are each member of the band? This type of business is a partnership, one where everyone holds equal stock in the company. A couple members have various skill sets that could help you go forward. The person that is great with time management and organization should play the role as tour manager/booking agent. This person sets up the entire tour by getting in contact with promoters and venues while making sure the band stays on schedule and gets paid, if you’re at that level. The member who has an eye for design and fashion is the merch designer handling all orders to send out/orders going in for more product/inventory to keep track and records of all sales and numbers. Then we have accounting also. The one who is great at crunching numbers and handling money keeps track of all expenses, handles the band bank account (if you don’t have one of these then get one ASAP), and plans out the expenses needed for the next tour. That leaves one if we are going off of a 5 member band, so what do they do? They can either be a part of any of these also or be the person who bounces around helping where needed. The better the team work, the better off you’ll be. It is also worth noting that doing these things you not have to hire outside help and therefore you can make and save money!
Part 2- You Don’t Need What You Think You Need
–Many bands feel that their success is only measured by signing to a label and touring with big bands. The real answer is that a record label isn’t everything you think you need. Labels do help, and a lot of them do really well but they aren’t required for your success. Labels are a middle man between you and the world with a bank account. If you go in to make a record, the label gives you a budget, which is expected to paid back to them after it’s out. If you pay for the recording yourself, your profit margins once released will be MUCH greater! Many bands have signed deals and were ecstatic only to fall away because they couldn’t do everything they needed. That being said, being signed to a label doesn’t mean you take the day off. ALWAYS be involved. The more you do, the less money the label pays, the more you save. Also taking control and being hands on ensures the label you are hard workers and can get stuff done. Also, if you are your own manager/merch company/accountant then you save even more by not hiring others to do stuff that YOU have the capability to do. It takes a lot of work but the pay off is worth it!
Part 3- Your Music Isn’t Everything
– Many bands assume that if they just sound good they’ll get noticed if they have ‘the sound’ and go to the right producer and have the right guest spot feature. While your music is important, it’s not the factor that will set you apart or make you standout more unless you’re doing something way off than the standard. Having a cohesive image and brand goes a long way. Picking a name is a big deal and can place an opinion about you before anyone even hears your music. If you are going the route of labels and management, many look at how they can market and brand you and many times your name has a say in that. Pick something memorable but yet not too abstract. Certain words become popular or phrases tend to be similar, avoid these and think real hard about how you as a fan would perceive that name. Would you say it is kind of like band xzy? Would you say it is a variation of band abc? Bands now days are also more clothing companies than music brands. With the decline of music sales and the rise of streaming services, printing and selling CDs is going away more and more. This puts the focus on clothing. You also make more off the clothing you sell than the CDs also, just making that clear here too. So make sure your designs and merch are something you would buy and not just a basic name on a black shirt. I know you want merch ASAP, but quality and nice designs are worth the wait. Last but not least, be respectful to EVERYONE you meet. That goes a long way. From the door guy, to the promoter, to the sound guy, and to the other bands, be a decent person because this industry is small and you’ll be working below someone you were rude to later when you were higher, and short memories don’t exist here. Please, for the love of everything out there…don’t go over your set time.
Now as I said, these aren’t guaranteed to make you famous or get you from point A to B faster, every band has their path to take. These will however make your band function and work harder to ensure every task is being handled by everyone and no one is just being a big ego’d diva. Your hard work and professionalism will go noticed by many whether you see it or not, and if the time comes you put it all in and get a deal at a label and decide to release control a bit, that’s fine too. Just make sure you’re always involved no matter what level you’re at right now.