December 16, 2010

Week 13: Basic Ground Rules

Basic Ground Rules

Treat your band like a business. I have mentioned a few times in past articles and will continue to mention this throughout this series.

Like most of the musicians I know, I have a day job. Making a living off of being an entertainment writer is just as difficult as making a living off of music itself. There is a big pond and we’re all small fish hoping to grow.

Anyhow, in every meeting room at my workplace, there’s a poster that states the “Basic Ground Rules.” It’s easy to ignore or treat like one of those stupid motivational posters (although I do dig the demotivational posters on but it really does give good advice for the workplace… and perhaps bands as well.

So... below are the words on the poster along with my suggestions about how this is applicable in DIY music.

Poster from a meeting room where I work.

Basic Ground Rules
Get it in writing
The problem with a “gentleman’s agreement” is not everyone is a gentleman. When you book a show or agree to appear on a show or at a function, make sure all of the details are in writing and signed by both parties (or at least in an e-mail you’ve printed and taken with you). Things to consider including are: the time, date, price agreed upon, price at the door, sound requirements, number of spots on the guest list, number of drink tickets, contact numbers in case any issues arise… anything you think you’ll need. It’s not that hard to do and it will come in handy at some point.

Be punctual and be prepared
Don’t show up late to your own gig. That should be a given, but for some reason bands get this one wrong a lot. And then they complain when the club doesn’t take their calls. Show up early, make sure you have everything loaded in, hang around and support the other bands on the bill. And when it’s your time to get on stage, BE READY.

Strive to reach consensus
Everyone in the band should have equal rights to have their opinion heard inside the four walls of the band. Each person in your band should be in it for the same reason, to play the music they love for people who dig it. Have band meetings before practice and keep your ego in check. You’re not always going to agree on every detail, but you better have a valid reason behind your decisions.

And when it is time to talk up and promote your band, make sure you all agree on the direction the band is going. Then, elect a leader or spokesperson for your band. This will be the contact clubs will use, media will reach, and fans will be talking to on MySpace, Twitter and Facebook. The spokesperson should be able to talk intelligently about the project at any time. And if you’re not the “elected” spokesperson for the band, you should know what your band’s story is and be able to share it if you have an opportunity to do so (to family, friends, or the stranger on the bar stool next to you that says “Hey, you’re in a band, right?”

One conversation at a time
When you have band meetings, make a list of things to talk about (mental or written) and cover each thing individually. This gives equal weight to all conversations and nobody who has a question will feel ignored or passed over. Its just good manners and it’ll make the unit a stronger one since everyone will know their being heard.

Respect the views of others
So, the local live music rag just trashed last week’s show. Instead of going off about it, why not shoot the reviewer e-mail and thank them for the mention, for coming to the show, and ask if there was anything they can suggest to improve it for next time. You may get a flippant response or no response at all, but you may actually get some good feedback. Always strive to improve and learn your craft.

Inside the band, make sure everyone’s voice is heard and ideas are shared without fear of being raked over the coals. Remember, sometimes the dumbest idea can be the million-dollar discovery. I mean… look at the guy who invented the “sun shade” for cars, or the “Shake Weight,” or KISS’ “I Was Made For Loving You” (rumor has it that song was written as a joke by Paul Stanley to prove how dumb disco music was).

Keep the discussion relevant

Much like this dog in UP, I’ve ALWAYS had problems with this. I’m all over the place mentally… all the time. While writing this I’ve stopped to check Facebook, go to lunch, start designing a Christmas flier for church, upload a video, answer a phone call, order a free bible online (you can get one too - from burn CDs, and check e-mail. When I’m in a meeting, I’ll get a little gleam in my eye and set the group off on a tangent… almost every time. I’m trying to get better though, because I know when dealing with a group, there has to be focus. Keep on the subject at hand and talk about “Red House Furniture” later.

Seriously. Have you seen that commercial for Red House? It’s awesome. I’ll post it at the end of this blog… because you really need to keep reading.

The group is responsible for the outcome
Whatever you create, you create it together. Your band is a partnership, a collective. I’m not saying you should credit the band for songs you’ve written or lessen your creative role in the band. I’m just saying as a band, you present yourself as a single unit and everybody is equal once you step up on stage. If the drummer is off or the guitar is out of tune, or the vocalist’s voice cracks the person in the audience will attribute what they saw to the entire band, not just an individual member, so take it seriously. If you have a problem with the group being responsible for the outcome… you need to go solo. You shouldn’t be in a band.

So... that's is for this week. Did you find this helpful or insightful? Let me know via comment (or click a box below).

Oh.. almost forgot. here's "Red House"

Sean Claes is the owner of Austin's INsite Magazine and has been a freelance entertainment writer since 1996. For an introduction to his "52 Weeks of DIY Music Advice" visit this link - If you like what you read... please share. To visit Claes' homepage, go here -

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