How to deal with an Ego in a band

How to deal with ego in a band

Ego’s are sometimes unavoidable (but should be avoided whenever possible)

Learning how to deal with an ego in a band requires patience, tact and good management skills. There are few bands that don’t have at least one ego contained within and the nature of performers means that some are easier contained than others. For those who don’t know, ‘ego’ is short for egotism, which Wikipedia tells us is “the drive to maintain and enhance favourable views of oneself, and generally features an inflated opinion of one’s personal features and importance.”

Ego’s can be damaging for bands if they are not contained. If someone thinks they are better than the rest of the members of the band that’s always going to be the beginning of a recipe for people walking away. As the manager of the band you need to decide if the egotistical person is worth suffering for the better or the band, of if they need to be asked to leave to contain harmony.

My experience has taught me two things about egos:

  1. a person with an ego usually has something to hide
  2. a person with an ego generally isn’t as good as they think they are

I recommend you think very carefully about keeping someone within a group of people who has a big ego unless you can justify keeping them because their talent. Generally these people have a poor attitude, upset the harmony within the band and ultimately lead to bad feeling. They’re usually at the centre of any problems and can be quite poisonous.

How to deal with an ego in a band – sacking someone

This is one of the most awkward aspects of running a band. You’re doing well but one player just isn’t pulling their weight, or keeping up with progress. Or perhaps they just aren’t at a good enough standard to keep and are out of their depth?

You’ve had a meeting with the other members of the band and decided someone needs to go. But how do you do it? Who’s going to be the one to deliver the final blow? and how?

Consider these points before you make your move:

  • Be honest but not ruthless – tell the truth constructively so that the person can work on their issues for the next band
  • Consider an alternative position for the person in question – it may be that you want to keep their talent, but not in the position they are currently in
  • Be polite and don’t make it personal – make it personal and you’re on a difficult path. Keep it honest.
  • Consider given them some time to improve – consider setting some deadlines for improvement if you don’t want to lose them

Sacking someone in a band is never easy, but the music business is a small world and being honest is crucial.

How to Promote a Band (for free or very cheaply)

Learning how to promote a band is a crucial tool which can safe you a load of cash and increase your profile exponentially. These are ideas are either free or very cheap ways to aid in promotion without the need for managers and expensive marketing.

Of course, as you progress you might need the help of a company, but you can certainly make good headway yourself.

Record a great music video

Nowadays emailing an MP3 of your band to a music venue (or sending a CD) is considered old-hat. What music venues, promoters and potential clients really want to see is your band or group performing and the more natural the video the better.

You don’t need to employ the services of a professional company to produce a good video, either. Nowadays anyone with half decent digital camera and a bit of imagination can record a decent video. One of my favourite music videos was recorded in my home town by a local ska band call the Newtown Kings and is called ‘Newstand’. It involved using a local music venue and a few shots from around the nearby streets of Colchester town. The result was a relatively inexpensive video which was very effective and fun. It also gave a great local feel for local fans.

If you’re unsure how to go about putting together such a video, consider getting in touch with locals colleges or universities, many of which have budding film-makers desperate for the opportunity to expand their portfolio and experience.

Get Social!

Although the likes of Myspace is pretty much dead nowadays, social media is a very important (and free) tool for promoting your band. Sure some people don’t like (or are even afraid of) Facebook and Twitter but the fact is that pages and promotion on such websites are a necessary part of promoting your band. Some younger generations may even consider you poor if you don’t have some sort of social presence. Social media is a vital tool when considering how to promote a band.

Social media is also a great way for your fans to keep up-to-date with your latest news, upcoming gigs and events and also always fans to share your product with their friends and family (some of which may never even have heard of you). This can lead to more fans, more exposure, more gigs and more money.

You should also consider starting a You Tube or Vimeo channel and upload some videos. If you have any decent live recordings get them uploaded and share them. You might even consider making a Vlog (video blog) to introduce people to your band members. I made a basic video blog last year while we were hanging around waiting to shoot a music video and it was received very well on our Facebook page – followers went up around 10% in 3 days.

Consider registering with an Agency

Over the years the word ‘agency’ has struck fear into the hearts of many a musician, despite the fact being that quality agents bring gigs.

Most agencies charge 15% commission. So, they take 15% of your overall fee. In some cases they may charge 15%+VAT if they’re registered for VAT. Now of course it seems a lot to pay. But when you consider that agents will almost always negotiate a higher fee than you could have it very often pays for itself.

Another advantage of registering with an agent is that they will often be able to get you in to venues that you can’t get access to yourself or into chains of holiday parks, pubs, clubs and businesses. In some cases they may also be able to arrange for you to perform alongside some high profile acts and some really big audiences. They may also lead to gigs or jobs in theatres which can lead to bigger things.

Agents are especially good for niche acts, tributes, solo artists and big bands. To find an agent in your area check out the Agents Association official website. Contact them and ask them how they can help to promote your band.

Consider supporting a local charity

One way of how to promote a band is to support charity events to increase your profile. It’s good experience and good PR. I have supported Ipswich Mencap for many years and it had two major benefits; helps them to raise money and gets us exposure in the press and on local radio.

Once a year we perform for Ipswich Mencap free of charge at their annual Ball. In return they spread our name. We feel good for helping them and they get an evening of free entertainment.

You need to limit just how many charity events you do. I receive regular requests for us to perform a freebie at a charity event and as much as I would like to help all of the charities I do have a family to support. As gigging for me is a source of income I have to justify how many charity events I support but I will be helping out Cancer Research UK this year in addition to Mencap.

Don’t undervalue yourselves

Buying PA equipment is expensive. Buying musical equipment can be even more expensive. Add to that the cost of rehearsal studios, fuel, websites, advertising and all the other expenses that being a musician entails and you can quickly go skint.

Be VERY careful at the free gigs you perform. Where possible restrict them purely to charity events of events where you can be certain of good exposure. There are plenty of pubs that will have people perform for free – leave that to the people who are rich enough to give up their time and money for nothing.

If you are good enough people will pay to have you at their venue!

Respond to gig enquiries promptly

Unless a potential customer specifically wants your band, chances are they they’ll be looking at a number of different acts for their event. I’m part of a Blues Brothers tribute that has been performing for over 11 years and we have a good following, but I know that there are numerous other Blues Brothers tributes on the market and I also know that when someone contacts us it’s very likely they will be contacting other acts at the same time.

Replying to enquiries quickly and politely shows a level of professionalism and will very likely set you apart from the rest of the competition. Give the prospective client a contact number and get as many details as possible.

How to Manage a Band Successfully

How to Manage a Band

There are two types of person when it comes to running the band – those who want to be involved in almost every discussion and decision and those who are happy to let others make the decision, turn up to rehearsals and don’t get involved in band politics. This blog will help you learn how to manage a band successfully and keep it together.

Whether you’re a 4-piece covers band or a 20 piece Big Band, you need a firm management structure so that everyone knows exactly who it is that will make final decisions, organise rehearsals, plug gigs and even deal with updating the band’s website or vlog.

Decide on who will make decisions

In an ideal world you might want every member of the group to have a fair split in decision making, my experience is that in practice this is almost impossible. This is for various reasons ranging from the skill sets of the people in the band (someone might be excellent at designing websites, another might have excellent management skills) and it will also depend on the ego’s and experience of other members of the band (ego is something we’ll cover later).

There is also the issue that not everyone in the band will agree on everything all of the time and it will be necessary for someone to have to make a final decision sooner or later. If this doesn’t happen then you’ll find the band will get stuck on certain issues, never to agree on how to proceed, and this will ultimately cause stalemate resulting in the band being unable to move forward. A band that can’t move forward is unable to progress to better things, which is why it’s vital that you learn how to manage a band properly.

Decide who is going to do what

First of all you need to decide on someone (or some people) to manage the band. Most band’s can’t afford a management company and will therefore need to nominate someone to do this for them. This doesn’t mean that the manager will take on every single aspect of running a band themselves; delegation is very important.

If you want to be successful you’ll need to treat the band as a product – a business – and like any well-run business there is a management structure. That structure needs to be respected and adhered to or the business eventually falls apart. If there is a certain member (or members) of the business that are unable to accept the structure they probably shouldn’t be in the band in the first place.

Of course, if you’re lucky enough to be in a band where everyone agrees on every decision all of the time that’s great. My experience, however, is that it’s an unsustainable basis for a band and eventually falls apart resulting in a complete split due to their being no nominated person to clean up the mess.

Delegate

Just because the band was your idea, doesn’t mean you’re necessarily the best person to run it and it doesn’t mean that the management structure can’t change at any time.

Sometimes people turn out to be poor at delegation or at making decisions. In this case it’s going to be important to address this problem quickly. If someone is better than you at doing a job perhaps it’s time you passed it over to them. Use the skilled people in your band to your advantage.

How to Manage a Band

 

Value everyone’s opinion

Some members of a band will read and reply to every email. Others may not.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that the members of the band who keep quiet aren’t interested in the direction or decision making of the band. Chances are that they are reading and digesting every email they receive.

You also need to ensure that you take on-board everyone’s comments, thoughts, concerns and ideas. Don’t get blinkered into one train of thought. Your opinion isn’t always going to be right and neither will your ideas, despite how much you might think you’re always right!

If you have a situation where the majority of the band disagree with something then it’s probably because you’re wrong. You must listen or risk losing members or even splitting the band completely. If you insist that they are wrong explain why in a polite and un-patronising manner.

 

Try to retain your most talented people

One of the things that many bands struggle with is retaining good people. From my experience these are the main reasons for people leaving a band:

  • personal events such as a bereavement, divorce, having children
  • they’re not happy with the overall direction
  • they’re bored (either from playing the same songs or a lack of progress)
  • they don’t like someone else in the band
  • long-term illness
  • disagreements about money or band finances

Whilst some of these issues may be out of your hands, you can prevent some of them. Too many bands spend months (or years) rehearsing but never get any gigs. Rehearsing over and over again can become very tiresome and getting gigs creates momentum.

Generally, if a band isn’t gigging within 6 months of commencing rehearsals they’re probably never going to get out of the studio and as a manager you need to assess why you are not progressing (it’s usually because either the band or certain members just aren’t good enough). You need to make a decision and either replace some member or just call it a day, sell your guitar and take up skiing.

A band that is already out gigging should look at revising their set-list and trying new songs every now and then. I’ve been in bands before where we’ve tried a new song in front of an audience and you’ll find that in the right situation an audience will actually respect you for it. Be honest – tell them it’s new. If it goes well bask in the glory and if it goes badly wrong just laugh it off and move on. New material keeps interest up, shows diversity and interests fans.

If you’re looking for ways of successfully advertising for new members my page ‘how to advertise for band members‘ has a wealth of ideas and information to help.

Plan regular rehearsals

Regular rehearsals are very important but the larger the group of people the more difficult it can be to arrange time to practice together. Everyone has different priorities and getting everyone together at the same time on the same day of the week might not always be practical. But it is necessary if you want to improve the quality of your performance and make the band tighter; both of which will make you more appealing and more likely to get gigs.

Try to find a fixed day and time each week when you can all get together. For a bigger band you may need to consider splitting the rehearsals into sections – your brass section might meet on Tuesday evenings and your rhythm section on Thursdays but have 1 rehearsal with all sections together at least once a month.

For those bands without the luxury of somewhere free to rehearse, you should also try to chose a rehearsal venue as central as possible to all members. It’s not fair to expect some people to drive 25 miles to rehearse but this won’t always be possible.

Of course, not all bands will need to rehearse weekly. Depending on the experience and expertise of your people it might only be necessary to rehearse once a month, but a new band with little experience should be rehearsing at least once a week.

Make sure everyone contributes to the cost as well. If someone is ill or unable to turn up to a planned rehearsal make sure they pay their split of that weeks fee at the next rehearsal. It’s not fair to expect people to pay more one week because someone forget to put a rehearsal in their diary, has a cold, or just can’t be bothered to turn up that week.

Most importantly – learn your material! There is nothing that screams ‘I don’t know what I’m doing’ more than a singer reading their lyrics from a music stand or a guitarist reading tab from scraps of paper lying around the stage. Of course they may be the need for a prompt or two but if you’re reading every song from a sheet of paper you’re probably not quite ready to gig. An exception to this might be dep musicians or sight readers such a brass instrumentalists but whenever possible avoid it. I’ve done it myself – it looks crap – don’t do it!

 

Ask for discounts from rehearsal venues

Some rehearsal venues offer a discount for regular booking or paying by direct debit. Don’t be afraid to ask. Rehearsing can be expensive. £20-30 a week soon adds up so it’s worth asking for a deal.

You might be able to get a deal on a Friday night (Friday and Saturday is generally respected as being ‘gig night’ so will often be cheaper for a studio). If your band isn’t ready to gig you might as well take advantage of the cheaper nights and save yourselves some money. You could even use the money you save on a Friday night rehearsal to buy the first round of drinks in the pub after your practice – beer, a chat and a bit of socialising never hurt.

 

Up next: How to promote your band

Putting a band together (and keeping it together)

Putting a band together

So you’re a musician and you’ve got something to offer. Or perhaps you want to start playing music to the public as a form of expression. Unless you’re a solo artiste the chances are you’ll be looking at putting a band together. A vocal group such as a boy-band will also need music. Even a solo artiste is likely to need a band at some stage.

Whether you’re putting together a band as a bit of fun or as a serious project, you’ll want more gigs and you’ll want acknowledgement. Getting more gigs means putting your band or group out there. It means treating the band as a product. As someone with many years in the live music industry – as a career and a hobby – I have a wealth of experience to share with readers. I’ve been there, worn the t-shirt, made the mistakes and learned from them. I’ve seen bands succeed and fail and I’ve been part of both.

Let me share my knowledge and experience with you to help you get your band together and, most importantly, keep it together.

Decide on what your product is

Whether you agree with it or not, almost every successful band or artiste is a product. I’m not just talking about the manufactured X Factor boybands either. Look at any famous band and they have a brand and an image.

If I said ‘Guns n Roses’ you’ll probably think of Slash in a large hat, Axel Rose in a bandanna or a logo consisting of guns and roses. If I said AC/DC you might imagine a lightning strike and if I mention Oasis you might imagine a singer punching a photographer. If I said Justin Bieber, apart from feeling you want to vomit, you’ll probably think of a spoilt pretty-boy. Of course, if you’re a 14 year old girl it’s likely that your reaction to Mr Bieber will be completely the opposite. Whatever the band there is an image, good or bad. What you need to decided is what your image is and how you’re going to achieve it.

For example, there’s little point in a wedding function band dressing in drag and playing Pantara covers (now there’s a thought – you can have that one for free). You need to know what you’re aiming for, and most importantly who your audience is going to be. Some items to considered might include (but are no means restricted to):

  • set list of songs you want to perform
  • dress code
  • age of audience (i.e. are you a band only suitable for adult audiences)
  • the venues you want to play
  • stage presence such as lights, audio visual, backdrops)

You can also read my page on how to chose a band name for more detailed information on the subject.

Pool your talents

I’ve been in various bands and worked with an eclectic range of people – from the heavy rock drummer who works in insurance to the stage manager who makes men’s ties for his day job. Regardless of the size of your band you’re likely to have a range of talented people who are not only good musicians but who also have skills outside of their musical ability.

So, if you’re guitarist is good at graphic design perhaps you can nominate the job of producing and managing a website to him. If you’re drummer works in insurance during the day perhaps you can ask her to deal with Public Liability insurance for the band. If you’re sound tech is borderline OCD then he or she may be the person to pool diaries and organises regular band rehearsals.

Make use of all your talents – it will save time, reduce stress and most importantly keep your overheads to a minimum. Every band needs money and if you can reduce overheads that’s a great way to help cash-flow.

 

Reliable people are vital

Every band needs reliable people. There are numerous reasons for this.

First, it keeps harmony within the band. If 4 members turn up to rehearse on regular occasions but the 5th doesn’t, that will start to annoy people as it will appear that the unreliable person either isn’t taking the band seriously, doesn’t want to pay their part for a rehearsal studio or has an ego problem (see the section on how to deal with an Ego in a band).

But most importantly you need reliable people to turn up to gigs. If your singer suddenly decides to forget about an important gig the chances are you’ll have to cancel it. If you have to cancel it the client or venue is going to be very annoyed. It’s unlikely that they will give you another gig and very likely they will tell other people that you let them down. Do you really want to let a couple down on their wedding day? or leave a packed pub full of potential fans with no music for the evening? Of course not and you don’t need the stress that it causes either.

Up next: How to manage a band