How to Start A Successful Band – Part 1

So you want to be a rock star, huh? 

You’ve been playing your instrument for a while now in your bedroom and you are ready to assemble a band that will show the world what you’re all about, but before you begin, you must take a step back and think about a few things.

In this two-part series, we will go over everything you need to know about starting a successful band.

Part one will go over the basics of starting a strong band, and part two will go over gaining exposure and fans through marketing and promotion, as well as playing shows effectively.

Outline Your Goals

Do you just want a jam band that gets together once a week to mess around?

Do you want to get signed and make tons of money?

Think about what type of music you want to create, but don’t get too specific. 

If you want to make pop music or heavy metal that’s fine, but don’t limit yourself to a subgenre in order to allow creativity to shine through without too many rules.

Find The Right Band Members

This can be a somewhat difficult step.

You may already have a few friends that also play instruments, and they may have expressed interest in creating a band with you.  They are friends that you have a lot of fun being around, they play their instruments well and there is great chemistry between you, so it’s a no-brainer that you should invite them to join your band, right?

Actually, starting a band with friends could run the risk of ruining your friendship if any power struggles or complications arise.  If you end up realizing that your friend’s musical skills are not a good fit with your band, firing them would certainly be awkward and put a strain on the friendship.

For this reason I recommend looking for members elsewhere, like your local music shops, websites or even forums.

What you are looking for is people who have reliable transportation, a steady income, decent music equipment and know how to play their instruments. Nothing is more annoying than stopping an otherwise productive practice just to show your guitarist how to play his part correctly.

Going Forward

Once you finish assembling the ultimate dream team, there are a few things you must do before we can continue on to the next segment.

  • Come up with a band name that everyone in the band is happy with
  • Find a songwriting process that works for your band
  • Create about a half hour’s worth of music
  • Practice makes perfect, so practice, practice, practice!

Once you have some songs written and practised to perfection, start working on your stage show.

Pretend that you are all at a live venue and just go wild.  Film it and play it back to see what you need to work on, and what looks great.

Music is only the first part of having a successful band; the second part is performance and how your band advertises itself, both onstage and off stage.

Part Two

You’ve read the first segment, and you now have a well-practiced band with a full line-up, a catchy band name and enough songs to play continuously for about thirty minutes.

Apart from the neighbours who pretend they like your music but secretly wish you would keep it down, who else is going to listen to your band?  How can you get your music into the hands of the masses?

Music can be just like any business, and works much in the same way.  The artist or band can be seen as the company, and the music is the product, of course.

Your goal, in addition to having the time of your life, is to spread your music to potential fans who might love the music you made as much as you do.  You have to pitch it, sell it, advertise and market it, and distribute it just like any company does with their product.

Creating an Online Presence

The internet has been a great tool for both signed artists and independent musicians.

If you don’t already have one, make a Facebook page for your band.  Fill out all of the appropriate information, and try to keep it up to date!  Few things are as bad as having an obviously old, outdated page.

If you have the funds available, create a website for the band.  You can make it like a virtual press kit, and it can include things like information regarding any upcoming shows, the band’s biography, links to purchase or listen to your music, lyric sheets, contact information and more.  If you think it is appropriate, perhaps you can put up a donation link on your website.

Cut a Demo CD

A lot of bands fail to do this even after having a good sized repertoire.  Making a demo CD is important to the success of your band for many reasons.  It can be given out for free or for very cheap to friends, family, and even strangers waiting in line for another band’s show.  It will also make it a little easier to get shows booked, as the CD will act as your resume by showcasing what your band has to offer.

Immediately after playing a successful show, offer free demos to everyone in the crowd.  Free is the best way to self promote, especially at the beginning, because many potential fans will be more willing to listen to something new and free.

Be sure to write down your contact information and band website, as well as the band name on each CD, so that fans will know how to keep in touch.

Many bands take the cheap and easy route when it comes to demo CDs, leaving them sounding rough, unpolished and hard to listen to.  You have to make it easy for the listener to understand what is going on, and the quality should be good enough that they can play it in the car while driving to work and not have to play with the equalizer settings.

Personally, I feel as though the demo CD should be the most important investment any band can make.

Promote Your Band

Promotion can be the trickiest part of band development.  If you advertise yourself too early, before you have any decent recordings, band photos, a band logo and a polished website, listeners might get the wrong impression and might not return once you’ve revamped everything.  I strongly recommend having the above solid and perfected, and once you have everything organized and where it should be, then the promotion can begin.

Besides handing free CDs to the audience at one of your shows, you could put up YouTube videos, post Facebook statuses on other people’s profiles, send your band’s website link to your friends and family with the instruction of them forwarding it to their own friends and family, and print out stickers to leave everywhere that is appropriate.

Verify that all of the CDs and stickers that you give out have your band’s name and website address, or else how are people going to find your band after they go home?

Anytime you have a show coming up, promote it early.  Print out tons of flyers and pass them out at concerts that have similar artists.

All of these things and more go into forming a successful band, but these are the foundations that must be strong if you plan on succeeding.  Entire books have been written on the subject of entertainment marketing and business, but the takeaway points of these two articles will get you started on the right foot in your journey to become a rock star.