11 Things New Artists Get Wrong

Often I see new musicians getting a few things wrong when they start off their musical careers. Some of their mistakes take longer to repair than others. It’s valuable to take note of these mistakes and to make sure that you kick your career off with fewer stumbling stones along the way.

I understand that we are often over-eager to get things underway and don’t place too much thought into the processes and the order in which we should do certain things to kick off our musical journeys.

1. Choosing The Wrong Members

For me, this is the most important one. The greatest advantage of being in a band is that you get to choose your colleagues. When you join a business firm, you have to adapt to the team and be “the new guy”, but in your band, you can choose who you would like to spend your hobby and free time with.

On the one side, we would like to have skilled members, but we also would like to have flexible people.

This is such a challenge to get the balance right.

My rule of thumb is to go with fitting the person to the group, irrelevant of skill level. Of course, the new member should have a certain skill level, but if one suits the group and their way of thinking is more alike to the other band members, then I would work with him.

Yes, I am choosing someone with more commitment, loyalty, adaptability and cooperativeness above someone with a higher skill level.

I can recommend an article I wrote if you need more info on How to Find Committed Band Members where I expand more on this topic since it’s just such a crucial first step to take.

I’ve played with bands with all sorts of personalities and leadership types. It has not always been easy, and I surely have learned the hard way, but it’s made me stronger and wiser to guide you to a smoother start.

Skill can be learned and people grow into the instruments. Cherish those that are most grateful and they will give it exponentially back to you.

De Wet Kruger

2. Choosing the Wrong Genre

Some of us get stuck in joining a project that seems promising at first but ends up not being the genre that we have a passion for. It happens to most of us!

The first band I joined, was supposed to be a soft rock band. After a few practices, it started to become a jazz-punk band. I felt that I was enjoying the guidance and experience from the senior members, but I only finished my 6-month agreement before I started a new band with the guitarist.

It wasn’t my genre, but I took the positives from the experience and saw it as a learning curve.

Sometimes we need to go through such challenges to become better and stronger for what is still to come.

How long can one hold out playing in such a band?

It’s hard to say and it depends on the flexibility of the individual, the chemistry within the band and alternative opportunities that may arise.

A general rule is that you should use a 1-6 month trial period before you commit to a 6-24 month project before you reanalyse the project.

I can also refer you to a post I published recently about the 7 Ways to Know that You Should Leave Your Band.

3. Not Performing Enough

As a beginner band, you need to perform and get in the much-needed stage time. This is where you gel as a unit and grow together as band members.

Individual experience is always important for your instrumental skills, but teamwork on stage is what makes you shine and stand out to the crowd.

There are a few points I’d like to mention:

Where do I get quality gigs?

As a beginner band, I can recommend that you follow this step-by-step guide for your success about Steps to Reach your First Paid Gig – From Zero to Hero. The name says it all.

  • Have you played at a Battle of the Bands yet?
  • Organise your band nights
  • Open the concert for another band
    • To open for another band is an honour and you stand in the light of someone who has already convinced an audience of their potential.
    • One of my first shows with a new band was an opening, and it was a great success.
    • Here’s my guide on how to Land an Opening Gig for a Succesful Band.

When do I have enough songs to start performing?

For a first performance, having three songs ready and well-prepared is an excellent goal. You’ll be able to perform an opening, a body song and end your mini set on a high.

You will also leave the audience curious for more, so remember to announce a space where people can follow you or see you again soon.

I wrote a blog post about How Many Songs You Need To Gig that will add more background info including Tips for Your First Performance. Make sure not to miss out on it!

4. Overcomplicate Music Distribution

Your main job is to build your performance music collection. These songs will often come in the form of covers at first while you discover your own unique sound and genre. Then your original tracks would take up more space on your setlist.

Once you are ready with 3-4 original singles, find a place to do your demo recording. This will be so helpful to get you to the next level since music promotion is done by playing your music. Check out my post about Vital Reasons to Record Your Band Demo for the key info.

When you have the mastered versions of your music, you can start with your distribution. In the modern day, we as independent artists don’t necessarily need local distributors or labels to place our music on the various music platforms.

We generally make use of the distribution websites like Distrokid and CD Baby, which are user-friendly and have a great overview to track your clicks and payments. It also distributes the income between the band members automatically.

So there’s no reason to be afraid or intimidated by how your music will get out there. The important thing is to keep writing and recording.

5. Thinking That Everybody Will Love You

A general rule we follow is to say that 1 out of 5 people will love your music.

It becomes your mission to gain the support of other people as well. I can guarantee you that once you gather a handful of die-hard fans that follows you to your gigs, you will understand the reason that you get up that stage.

Never let the hate or critical feedback put you back, but use it as motivation to improve your work and become better and stronger.

6. Signing for a Record Label Too Fast

Signing for a record label can be such an exciting time of your career, but there are a few things to look out for:

Do you need a record label?

In the modern day, fewer artists decide to sign for a record label. They decide that they don’t need it after all.

A record label can help you with things like distribution, promotion, bookings, and recording, but often many record labels take a cut of your performance money, which isn’t always fair towards artists that don’t need the promotion.

I found a record label that I will be working with that does not touch the performance income, but therefore they take the income from the music videos on youtube.

To me this makes sense since they will use it as promotional material and in the end, they also pay for the video shoot and editing. It only contributes to my advantage.

This article was written and published by De Wet from startingmyband.com on 23.06.2023. The content was stolen from me if this blog post is seen anywhere other than on my website.

A rapper recording his vocal (Photo credit: Canva)

7. Having Poor Band Chemistry

You might start your band out as being great friends, but start to drift apart after the honeymoon phase.

I can recommend a blog I posted about various Ways To Build Chemistry With Your Bandmates that will help you with spending some time outside of your bedroom as well.

Another solution is to set proper goals for your band. This keeps the members dedicated and on track.

It’s valuable to award each band member with different tasks and responsibilities which they have ownership of and be proud of. By doing this, the band members learn to let go and trust each other.

I wrote a more detailed blog about Goal Setting for Bands and Artists to add more info and direction to execute these tasks to various band members.

8. Thinking That You’ll Quit Your Day Job Tomorrow

It takes a new musical project between 6-24 months to see if it will head anywhere.

Commit for a 2-year period and reanalyse again after it. Keep your feet on the floor and work to reach your goals.

A friend of mine, which I also coached when he was a beginner musician, decided to go solo after the Covid lockdown. He used the time to quit his lawyer job and build his song repertoire including the hits that he was going to release.

This paid off so well for him that he is currently touring Europe with sponsors paying for him and a label that carries him.

I have a lot of respect for someone that’s able to make such a jump with nothing to catch you when you fall and I would not recommend this type of risk to everyone.

9. Finding the Wrong Manager

Being a manager is all about organising and networking. It’s crucial to find someone with these skills that can actually open doors for your band.

If you end up having someone that’s lazy, shy, and easily falls into a comfort zone, you might want to look further.

I’ve written an insightful article about What Makes a Good Artist Manager to guide you in finding a suitable candidate for your band.

10. Not Networking Enough

In a band, you need at least one member to go out and build bridges with other artists, podcasters, bloggers, sound engineers, venue managers and session musicians.

We are all in the same business and we need each other just as much as we need the fans. These contacts will bring you far, especially when you treat people kindly and with respect.

I became great friends with true legends of the music business just by showing presence, greeting consistently, and having conversations about more than just music.

My tip is to always show interest, and prioritise memorising facts about people’s lives so that you can carry on your conversation when your paths cross again.

11. Your Childhood Idea of Success Changes

You will grow and develop and your idea of what success looks like won’t be the same forever.

Many artists dream of performing at stadiums and with high-profile artists, but as we develop and grow, our opinion about what success looks like also changes.

We often have this vision and image of ourselves of being successful in some way, but you might end up performing at a local theatre with a crew that you like and you decide to stick with it.

You are still a musician and still making music, but we as human beings change and circumstances place us where we are happy and where we belong.

For the next step, I can recommend you an interesting post about Why Most Bands Fail that could assist you with further information about what to look out for during your starting phase.

Stay out of trouble, until next time!

De Wet

The dream started during a school tour at the age of 15 years old. One that might take a long time to reach. De Wet was 16 years old when he got his first bass guitar as a gift from his dad. The guitar was found, hidden under boxes. As if it was waiting for its owner to come by and pick him up. He practiced every day to improve and to teach his fingers to dance to the music. After finishing high school, he played in various bands where he collected valuable experience, before being signed by a record label as an upcoming band. He reached success at age 22 when he released two albums with his band, which also included televised music videos for publicity. By age 24, he co-started management, artist promotion, and booking agency for successful and upcoming musical acts.

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