5 Ways to Ensure your Band’s Success
(that have nothing to do with music)
By T. Perry Bowers
Let me start by saying there is nothing you can do to guarantee your band will become famous and sell lots of records. However, if you do these five things, you’ll succeed in the sense that you’ll learn how to run a business. Running a band is the same as running a business. It’s a business where only one out of every million bands makes it. Your chances are virtually zero. Learning to be efficient in your business will give you skills to apply to another profession if you don’t make it as a rock star. You’ll need these skills either way.
1. Return Your Phone Calls, Texts and Emails.
It may seem simple, but I’m amazed how many young musicians lack this fundamental skill. You need to respond when someone wants something from you, not just when you want something from someone else. The service and the entertainment industries are the same — your job is to serve. You are paid to perform for people, not only on stage, but also in every aspect of the business. If you look at every communication as an opportunity to serve, you will succeed.
People need to be able to rely on you. When they call you, you need to deliver, or at the very least not waste their time. Get all of your band mates on the same page. When an opportunity for a gig comes along, you need to take it as fast as possible. If it’s a choice gig there are twenty other bands waiting to pounce on it. If you text your band mates and they respond quickly, you’ll be able to jump on opportunities. If there is a slacker in your band who takes days to respond to a text find out why. More than likely, they’re not happy for some reason. In order to succeed all band members need to be timely. If they can’t, their place in the band should open up to others.
2. Sell Yourself
Phone calls, texts and emails to contacts in the industry should be part of your daily routine. Don’t ask people to do things for you. Ask what you can do for them. If you’re talking to a promoter ask if you can help distribute posters or promote a show online. Hand out flyers after similar shows to get cross-pollination of fans. Maybe when that promoter has an opening slot for a national act, he’ll think of all the times you helped him out. But don’t expect it. Serve selflessly.
3. Be Patient
When you serve people, it doesn’t always come back around quickly or even at all. Rack up enough good will so you really deserve the opportunity. Pay your dues. There are gatekeepers (record execs, promoters, agents, etc) in this business who watch and see who is putting in their time and doing the hard yards. They’ll know if you’re a bunch of entitled, spoiled assholes or if you’re humble. Trust me, word gets around. Nobody will help a bunch of self-righteous pricks. So work hard, serve people and be patient while you wait for your opportunity.
4. Enjoy What You Do
Becoming a rock star is not the most important mission on the planet. Relish the process but keep it in perspective. Focus on creating long-term friendships with reliable folks in the business and make every connection with some levity. Aim to make other people’s lives easier by the work you do and the attitude you carry. Even if you don’t make it in the long run, at least you can say you had a good time. That in itself is a success.
5. Pack the Club You Play in Every Time
This is clearly the hardest of the 5. Your chances of making it are very small if you can’t draw an audience. Don’t fool yourself into thinking the record company will promote you into an audience. That’s backwards. Record companies can’t promote you into an audience if you don’t already draw one yourself. Industry people can make things bigger. They know how to scale what you have already proven to be a success. When they walk into a club they notice if people are drinking, buying t-shirts, merchandise and CDs. If they see this activity, they know they can make money. If they can make money you’ll be offered a deal. So let’s be really clear. It’s not only about how good you sound, it’s also about how many people show up and spend money at your gigs.
Of course, there are other things bands can do to help themselves, like practice their instruments and write good songs, but these 5 things may be even more important. Put as much emphasis on your business as you do on making music and you will increase your chances of success. Anybody can sit in their room and play music all day but it takes a special individual to have the confidence and creativity to promote their band effectively.