Tech Tip:Tips on Forming a Band
By Kenny Kerner
To most musicians, bands are cool. They help you get laid and make you feel macho. They're like hobbies; They make for some great male bonding and allow you to spend some time away from the girls. Being in a band sometimes makes you feel as if you're a rock star when you're really not!
But the truth is, if you don't set up your band like a business, you're wasting your time. Don't ever forget that we're in the Music BUSINESS. And the business part of it is every bit as important as the music part.
A band is the vehicle you choose to help get your music across to the people. It must be comprised of members who all share the same focus, the same vision, and who are all willing to make the same efforts and sacrifices toward succeeding. So, just how does one go about finding these people? Well, you'll probably have to go through the rigors of auditioning band members.
The first and easiest way to look for new band mates is to place a free ad in a local magazine, fanzine, or newspaper. But even that can backfire if you don't say exactly what you mean. A short and simple ad that reads, "Rock guitarist wanted for Valley band," tells you virtually nothing. If you run that ad, you're likely to spend hours on the phone explaining what it is you're really looking for. A better ad reads like this: "Male Rock guitarist, 17-25, with image, wanted to form new Valley band into Van Halen." In less than 25 words, you've given every potential caller an exact indication of what you want in a new guitarist. By saying "into Van Halen," you've also answered the question of what kind of music you play. Rock, obviously! So, take your time and write out your ad several times until every word is perfect. Remember, once it appears in a paper, it's too late to change anything.
Although running an ad in a local paper is a smart way to start, the most direct way to recruit new players is simply to steal them from existing bands. To do this, merely hang out at your favorite clubs and check out the local talent while they are performing. You couldn't ask for a better audition!
New Member Checklist
Make certain that all of the members in your band are approximately the same age. Someone too young or too old will likely have different interests.
- If potential band members have boyfriends or girlfriends, find out how serious they are. Tough as it may sound, someone who cares more about his sexual partner is not gonna last long in any band. Here's where the word FOCUS really comes into play. Keep in mind that Yoko Ono pretty much broke up the Beatles!
- Be certain to personally check out the musician's equipment before telling him that he's in your band. A serious musician should always be prepared with his equipment and a spare. Be on the lookout for excuses like, "I always borrow my friend's amp for gigs." That excuse means the musician is ready to blame someone else for his failure to be prepared for a serious career.
Each and every player in your band should have his own means of transportation. If a musician has to rely on a parent, friend, or other band mate for a ride to a rehearsal or a gig, there's gonna be trouble again.
- Find out how each musician lives. Does he or she work? Where do they get their money for food? Who pays the rent? This will give you insight into their desires to pay for rehearsals and general band dues. Nobody should get a free ride. Nobody should have to pick up the slack for a lazy band member. If band members have to work all day to afford a rehearsal studio, they will appreciate it more and won't waste a second when rehearsal time rolls around. After all, it's THEIR money that is paying for the place.
- At an in-person audition, be prepared to play a tape/CD of your material to potential new members. Don't give them the opportunity of telling you (six months down the road), that they didn't know this is what you wanted to play.
If you fancy yourself as the major songwriter in the band, lay it on the line from Day One. Say that you'll be writing the bulk of the material but that you're always open to listening to other songs from within the band. Never close the doors to someone's potential to write or sing in your band.
- Tell everyone how you intend to run the band and what your game plan is. Will everyone have an equal say in band matters? Will you personally direct band activities? Do you intend to perform live? Record indie CDs? Seek professional management? Who are your contacts in the industry? What kind of timetable are you looking at? What kind of rehearsal schedule are you comfortable with? Don't keep secrets from the band members.
I know what you're thinking. You feel that none of these things will ever happen to your band. But you're wrong. They happen to everyone. These helpful hints will eliminate hours of frustration and months of seeking replacement players. Besides, this is the proper way to conduct a business. And after all, your band IS your business, right?
Excerpted from the book, Going Pro by Kenny Kerner, published by Hal Leonard. Available at all bookstores and at Amazon.com.
About Kenny Kerner:
Discovered and produced KISS. Also produced albums for Gladys Knight, Jose Feliciano and Badfinger. As a publicist, he represented Michael J. Fox and Jay Leno. Was the former Senior Editor at Music Connection Magazine and wrote a best-selling music education book called "Going Pro" Kerner is currently the Director of the Music Business Program at Musicians Institute in Hollywood. Specialties include Personal Management, Artist Development and Music Business.
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