Dave Byers Blog

What is the best way for me to start a band?

I opened a store back in 98. One big eye opener was how almost everyone complains about getting in a band, being in a band and then the eventual band breakup. OMG it's on going every day. lol! Then of course it's the complaining about all the musician's in the area and then of course the envious stuff and so on. So many love to come in a music store and complain about other bands and musician's. So I nod to be polite, and move about the store staying busy cause... I do have things to do. ;-)

Anyhow, so you want to steer clear of as much of that as you can. I love democracy but I truthfully think it rarely every works in a band. Someone should be in charge. Someone should be the final say of yea the drummer needs to chill some and just lay down a beat, the guitarist needs to turn the $%^& @ down, the bass player really shouldn't be singing cause he can't sing etc. Someone has to be a final verdict. It's time to fire the keyboard player, ok if the singer doesn't help setup and pack up then look we're going to get someone else etc. Then you have the equipment routine. If you buy a sound system "together" as a band you better have one heck of a good exit strategy with it. I suggest people buy individual things or if possible one person buys the lights and another the sound etc. Look, if I have to be the one who owns the sound system and lights and I'm the one who sets it up and tears it down then I'm getting paid more also.

So to your question " what's the best method to start a band?"

A. Find people to choose from. Post on Craigslist, at local music stores, facebook, twitter, go to clubs around the area and network with other musicians letting it be known that you're forming a band etc.

B. Be clear in what you want. What you're expectations are

C. Make it real clear who is in charge and what the goals are - gigs, practices and how important it is to be prompt / well early for all, that the music should already be down "before" they get to practice etc.

D. Stay organized, focused and on point. (or get used to your gigs being at your house as practice sessions that never go anywhere.

E. When the time comes move on from people who pull the band down. Not if but when...

F. Build the band like a business. You need to have an image. You must have a following. Harvest your customers. Get the cell #'s, e-mails, get them liking and following your page etc. with promos you offer to bring them in. You need a crowd of people who are "your people" who will follow you from gig to gig, one day buy your merch and music and keep supporting you. You have to harvest these people and then treat them like a million bucks. They're your customers.

G. Be professional. Look, no one wants to hire a bunch of losers or idiots. They expect you on time, doing a great job (delivering a great product) and being a good investment for that club/church/festival/concert etc. Otherwise don't expect future bookings. Word travels also so getting a promoter etc. unhappy means they may spread the word about you. So will fans. Social media makes it all the faster. You want people raving about your band all the time, every time.
Look, putting a band together is tough. Keeping a band together is even tougher. Why?

- Similar music tastes. If you don't have similar music tastes there will be much conflict

- Schedule - you have to have time to be in a band and that free time has to mesh with others

- Level of commitment - this is huge. Are your aspirations to tour the world? Well that's big. But if the rest of the band is content with playing at the local club you'll have issues. How much will the other band members practice on their own if at all? If this isn't a similar level there will be issues and gripes. Sometimes this changes also. The bassist falls in love and wow all the sudden his "level of commitment" to the band changed dramatically.

- Genre - Yikes this is big. First, you have to have similar tastes in music genre. Not identical of course but if the drummer loves playing country, the bassist loves jazz, the keyboardists wants to be Billy Joel and the guitarist is into Pink Floyd and this is a heavy metal band will everyone's hearts be in the same place? I certainly agree that different tastes can make things unique that's not what I'm saying but your idea of what you want to play. you don't to be arguing about direction is my point.

- Covers vs original music - Again, this is big. You get some folks who never want to play another cover song again. I understand that. I've been a songwriter since 1979. Trust me I get it. But listen, people want to go to churches, clubs, festivals & concerts and hear songs "they know and sing along." Playing originals will very much limit your options to play places, amount of pay etc. Maybe you'll be one of the very few who break through this. But for the vast majority of bands, if you play covers well and entertain you'll be booked and make $. If you play originals ... good luck brother, your gonna need it. Do covers and pay your dues. Toss in an original song or two a night till you start getting a real following who keeps begging you for more and then at some point you're sliding in a couple songs each set that are yours. Then one day your following is built up and established and you have a cd release party and you kick $#!@$%$ and you start breaking out of the cocoon of covers.

- Getting along - It's important to get along with fellow band members. We've all heard of wards between members of big bands. Well that all goes on with the little bands also. You need to be able to get along well. Who wants to jam in a band with people they don't get along with? Life is to short for that.

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