We regularly find ourselves being asked for our advice on how to get on as a young band. Well we have put together a list of 9 things to do and 9 things to not do.
(1) Don’t be a dick. Treat others as you would be treated yourself.
(2) Don’t play support shows for no money – ever. If a band or promoter can’t afford to pay you for your time, they shouldn’t be running events. (Charity events are of course the exception)
(3) Dont play support shows for crap fees – pretty much ever, unless its the opportunity of a lifetime and even then, if it is, surely they can afford more than 50 quid. See point 1. There’s no other business model in the world where one participant is expected to run at a massive loss, so others can line their pockets. Promoters are meant to enjoy economies of scale, if they are funding aspects incorrectly they shouldn’t be promoters. Giving all the money to the headliner is just bogus talk for – “I don’t understand what I am doing and I need you to make up for my inadequacies”. If all promoters adopted an ethical position, then all concerts would operate in the same way and everyone would be better off. They are happy working in this manner because it’s better for them, it is not better for you. No matter how many promises of exposure and festival positioning they make.
(4) Don’t play too much, build your shows, build your audience. Headlining one week then supporting a smaller band the week later confuses your audience, they want to support a success story, however small that story is. Fans want to see you develop, they do not want to see you fail. Playing to 20 people in a dingy venue 3 weeks after playing to 50 folks in a decent space, just makes it look like you are desperate. Sure you need to hone your performance, do that in the rehearsal room. Practise your set behind close doors. Your audience wants to see you get better, they want to hear your songs develop with time. They do not want to hear a half arsed version of an incomplete song you wrote last week and haven’t played yet.
(5) Maintain contact and support your hard core fans. be respectful to them and their expectations. Playing your Jazz Odyssey because you’re bored of the songs you wrote last year is just going to alienate them. Sure you should push them and challenge them but don’t piss them off.
(6) Don’t pay for PR. If someone is asking for money because there are “no guarantees” then clearly you’d be as well doing the job and saving 2 or 3 grand. You will surely miss it when the best they do is get you one play on late night BBC with a DJ who prounounces your name incorrectly.
(7) Don’t ever pay a cent for Playlisting. Anyone claiming they can Spotify playlist you is a liar. Plain and simple. You might be lucky but you’ll be just as lucky trying yourself.
(8) In fact dont pay anyone anything if they want money for trying as opposed to rewards for succeeding. Anyone happy to take the rewards of a succesful venture has confidence in their ability, anyone wanting paid in advance is a chancer.
(9) Don’t fantasise about Spotify, it wont likely happen for you and you’d need hundreds of thouands of streams to generate even half the money of some decent Record or CD sales. Sure you need to be on Spotify and other streaming sites but their construct is unfair, you are paying the price for the greed of the multinationals and you really should understand that telling folks “it’s okay to listen to your music for free,” is basically saying “I do not value my art”
(1) Do believe in yourself. Likely noone else will but listen to constructive critcism. Folks on the outside have a much much better idea of what you sound like and how you come across than you do.
(2) Do what you love, if you dont love a direction you’re taking, it’s probably the wrong direction
(3) Do appoint a benevolent dictator, bands cannot run by committee. But choose the right dictator – should be easy to spot, he or she is usually the one doing all the work.
(4) Do seek funding from England Arts, Creative Scotland, HMUK but do get advice when doing so. A good application is hugely important
(5) Pay decent support fees, you will feel better about yourself and it’s the right thing to do.
(6) Do reinvest any income the band makes. Work within that budget, nothing splits a band up more quickly than money problems. Sensible Merchanise commitments can be a money spinner but don’t over stretch yourself.
(7) Do ignore the established cliques, they only exist to serve themselves.
(8) Support local independent radio, good relations with 10 small stations will reach as many folks as occassional BBC play. Also these guys appreciate it.
(9) Don’t ever forget who helped you and don’t ever forget to name check them at all times. Taking the glory for someone else’s work is the sure fire way to lose your friends. Forgetting a platform someone else provided is a sure fire way of ensuring that platform won’t be there next time you need or want it.