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