About a month ago, a question was posed to me from a friend of mine, who happens to be a guitarist, Sonny Bihl. The question? Well, it’s the subject of my new column.
The question: Which do you recommend…
- Getting a band together, playing shows, garnering fans, build from live shows?
- Getting a band together, get a Website, market online, record a CD or EP, and mass promote all before the first show?
Play Live First
I think this is the direction most bands take. You get yourself 3 or 4 other folks together and jam in a garage or practice space for a few weeks and then take your show to a bar or club. If you’re lucky, one will let you play there on a weeknight for a few months.
If you do your homework, promote the shows, get fans to sign up for your email list, and create a bankable draw (meaning the bar doesn’t lose money on you) you can ask for a weekend show opening for a bigger band. The more fans you get, the more clubs will want you to play there, and the more money you may make.
- You’re honing your stage presence and that will take you far.
- The more you play live, the tighter and better the band will sound.
- You are getting the band’s name out there and, if you’re worthwhile, creating a buzz
- Earning $$ that can be used to record debut CD, which you’ll have a demand for when done.
- You may have begun playing before you have actually arrived at the sound you’d like your band to have, which means the shows will be rough.
- If you aren’t giving people anything to walk away with. How are they going to remember you?
- If you don’t have a Website, Facebook page, Twitter account, Google+ for the band… how are people hearing about you?
Overall, this isn’t a bad direction to take. The more you play live, the more comfortable the band will be together and as long as you’re looking longer term and looking at actually making it, you’ll be releasing a full-length CD within a year of forming the band.
Produce A Record First
If you have OCD or was a perfectionist, I’d imagine this is the route you’d want to take as a musician. I’ve known a few bands that go this route as well and it’s not a bad one. What you do is assemble your band, work in the studio for a few months until you have an album together, then produce it, print it, and use that as your calling card to get bigger gigs and to have merchandise at the shows.
While you’re in the studio, you’re also establishing a Facebook, Twitter, Website, and using other outlets to start a buzz about your band.
Since you already recorded the songs, the band should be tighter from the get-go and the sound of your band will be established. With a CD you can pitch your band to bigger-named acts and perhaps get to open for them.
- Having a CD shows you’re a serious band, one a booking agent can bank on being around for a while.
- You have something to give or sell to people at shows.
- You will have had time to get to know your band, so you’re going to be more comfortable playing with them.
- You are going to try and sell a product having never played live, meaning you probably won’t sound great those first few shows.
- If any of the band members quits, that CD is not representative of your band.
- The money for the recording has to come directly out of pocket.
A Little of Both
My recommendation would be this… Once you get your band together and settle on a name, publish it. Make a Facebook account, twitter account, link to it from your personal accounts, invite your friends.
Then, start working on your sound. If you have one track in particular that you think it a good one, record it. Get some of your music out there.
When you’ve got a 30-45 minute set down and you think you’ve got a solid band together, hit up a few clubs. Maybe you have a few friends in bands that play at the club you’re hoping to gig at. Call them up, see if they’ll vouch for you and see if you can get a spot opening up for them.
When you play your first few shows, be sure and give away that track to anyone and everyone… include it as a free download if people sign up for your mailing list, or hand them an actual CD with it burned onto it. Make sure they leave knowing who they just saw play. There are millions of bands in the world… and you are just one. Make sure you are the one they think of when they wake up the next day.
Make sure you’re collecting e-mails for your mailing list and using all the social media outlets you can to reach new fans and keep existing ones informed.
Once you’ve got a few shows under your belt, you know how a crowd is responding to your sound. You have a better idea of which songs work and which songs don’t… you can use the crowds in the early shows as a test group for your music. If you have their butts shaking, you win… if you have their butts moving towards the door… consider revising the song.
After playing for a few months, you’ll have a good idea of what to record, and if you’ve been a smart band you’ve saved a little bit of money as well. Use the money to record the debut CD.
Once your CD is done, you should have a decent sized mailing list and a good amount of friends on Facebook and Twitter…. It’s time to have a CD release show.
Rinse and repeat if necessary.
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 - http://www.tinyurl.com/Claes52DIY. If you like what you read... please share. To visit Claes' homepage, go here - http://www.seanclaes.com/.