There were a couple of things that I really wish I had known before I started becoming a musician that would have made the journey easier for me to reach my goals. One starts out being young and naive without any goals—just full-on dreams.
I listed the things that I wish I had known before I started making music that would either prepare me better for my journey or guide me to where my attention and energy are more valuable in the long term.
Before we go on, I also wrote a helpful article that’s closely related to this one about The Hardest Things About Being In an Independent Band that would certainly interest you.
Equipment is Expensive
It’s no secret that being a musician is an expensive hobby or job to start with. There’s just such a variation of equipment needed and effects to learn and fall in love with, which will probably have you poor again by the beginning of the next month.
The best advice is to either start with something secondhand so that you can make sure about your passion and musical direction, or buy something decent to play and perform with from the start.
I am not a fan of starting with entry-level equipment. You immediately feel proud of yourself and your performance when you have a decent instrument in your hands and your sound comes out blazing.
Often, an entry-level instrument is really to try it out and see if you’d like it.
I remember borrowing a red Ibanez bass guitar from my school teacher when I was 16. He borrowed his own instruments and band equipment to my school band and I, just to try it out.
After I realised that bass is indeed my instrument, my dad bought me a bass guitar that I still have today.
This all happened to me when I was 16-17. If you are interested in my journey, I wrote a blog post about it here in 17 Is the Golden Age to Become a Musician in the financial challenges subtitle.
Networking is Key
Without contacts, you are a nobody in the industry. Every smile, every time you greet someone or make themself good, you are also investing in your future.
Make sure you do your best to make people take notice of you. Go out of your way to be different and that people want to work with you.
At the end of the day, I’d rather work with a humble B-level artist than an arrogant A-level artist. The potential is there to reach a higher level just by the attitude and willingness of a person who shows me love, and compassion and does not act exclusively.
My suggestion is to set up a list that you can continuously update on your phone about all the sound engineers, photographers, videographers, venue managers etc. that you get to meet or work with so that when you need someone trustworthy that you’ve worked with before the contact has already been made.
Within a year, you will already be pretty impressed by the amount of contacts you have collected. You can also rate them in your personal diary and write down their strengths and weaknesses. It might sound harsh, but you will want to have a ranking list of the people you favour working alongside with more regularly.
Knowledge is Power
We are eager learners and we should keep feeding ourselves info to master more skills to become independent and have more of our fate in our own hands.
I will definitely motivate you to upgrade your skills in any area of expertise that you feel comfortable with.
I truly believe that bands that can design their own images, record themselves, and do all their own social media, have a foot in the door that others don’t.
This also makes you irreplaceable in your band and you’ll most likely be a valuable band member for any other bands.
Check out the blog post I wrote about 13 Best Side Jobs for Musicians for a decent variety of different ideas to up your skill level and make yourself irreplaceable.
Management is Neverending
If you set your goals for your band correctly, you’ll still have to follow up regularly and manage what is going on around you. The first signs of falling behind will mean that you’ll have to revise your goals so that you can continue growing as a band.
Check out my article about setting goals for bands. This is so helpful if all of the members know what is expected of them and that they are all pulling in the same direction.
I also recommend getting a manager if you’d like to upgrade your contact list and get some extra support with booking and marketing. The most useful managers are people with a passion for your music, even if they are learning from scratch. You grow together in the industry.
My previous manager was a great friend of mine even outside of the music industry. He was a big fan and a hard worker. He was the type of guy with plenty of contacts and a lot of willpower, which made him the perfect candidate for the job.
As a band just starting out, I would recommend you do your own managing for the first 6-24 months until you start to feel overwhelmed. Then it would be useful to scan through my post about What Makes a Good Artist Manager?
Chemistry is Longevity
Being in a band is fun because you’re sharing a stage with like-minded people, performing music that you all love, and gelling together as a unit to produce masterpieces for yourself and for your fans. This is only possible if you and your band members are practising and performing with the same passion, energy and dynamic.
If your band feels like a brother- (or sister-) hood, you would never want to give it up for anything. Your social life and your hobby become one and the same. You share the same friends, and very often also the same family.
We continue to refer to each other in my band as brothers. We spend so much time together with band practices, gigs, studio time, interviews and video shootings that you cannot afford to have bad vibes in the band.
Many bands struggle to reach this point, and it’s mainly because they are not spending enough time outside of the band room. This is where mutual respect is gained and where members often feel more included and connected than just jumping in the band room.
As a kid, I watched plenty of live rock bands perform, especially my favourite South African rock band called 16 Stitch (by the way, I attended this concert: 16 Stitch – Patiently) showcasing the highest level of chemistry and harmonising. There are also brothers in the band which contributes to the stability and unity of the band.
To read more about what methods you can use to build chemistry in your band, check out my post 4 Ways To Build Chemistry With Your Bandmates for more ideas!
This article was written and published by De Wet from startingmyband.com on 28.08.2023. The content was stolen from me if this blog post is seen anywhere other than on my website.
Band Conflict Exist
You will surely get to do with egos, lazy bums and members with bad habits that will be like a parasite to your band. These cases are pretty tough to deal with since you want to keep your band together. The first step would be to deal with the issues for the benefit of the band.
Bad vibes and conflict also often start with miscommunication, so take your time to sort out what needs to be sorted out before you reflect a negative image on stage.
Check out my post: 9 Steps to Deal with Conflict in Your Band, to help you out!
If the conflict continues to be a problem and you struggle to resolve the peace, you might have valid reasons to feel frustrated and keen to drop a member of your band.
I wrote a step-by-step post to guide you into peaceful discourse to get the hard job done firmly, but sensitively. Check out my post How to Ask a Band Member to Leave here.
The Industry Is Competitive
There’s no genre that’s not filled with various musicians from mediocre to absolute legendary, and that’s something we just need to learn how to deal with.
Getting along with other artists and using each other’s fanbase to progress and build our careers is a skill that we should learn as rock musicians. The pop industry has managed to share stages and perform for each other’s fans, but often we as rock bands expect to fill venues all by ourselves when it’s in the modern day harder than it was in the past.
Make use of a buddy band system, where you have other 3-4 bands that you enjoy playing together, you guys respect each other and get along well. There’s no need for competition or greed, but only to grow each other’s fan bases and keep performing regularly.
I organised many of these events to keep performing and growing our fan base, and you can do the same!
Check out The Guide to Organise an Amateur Band Night for Charity here to follow along with how I organised many for my band and our buddy bands.
Finding Committed Bandmembers Is a Challenge
Building your band and setting the members together is like laying the foundation of a project that could completely change your life. And you have the control over whom to put in.
For a band just starting, I would look to my closest comrades. My friends and musical colleagues that I’ve spent some time with and are sharing similar musical ambitions as I do.
Even for the last position in the band which is always the hardest to fill, I would try to find someone trustworthy, who’s looking for an opportunity and can commit for about 24 months.
I would hand-pick my candidates and rather spot musicians instead of having an audition.
We normally hold auditions to fill an established position and not for a position in a starting band. I want to be sure about the first members as it should be an honour that they will never experience again.
I’ve made mistakes in the past by choosing members that:
- Reside too far away (100+ miles)
- Is too versatile
- Can play drums, bass, and guitar.
- So he went around teaching everyone what they need to play
- Is too lazy
- Is not ambitious
- Has no income
- Has bad habits
- Has no car or transportation
- Has night shifts
In this case, I would certainly recommend my blog post about How to Find Committed Band Members to guide you to more direct solutions!
Consistency Is Success
Consistency is the main key to success as an artist.
- Performing regularly
- Posting on social media regularly
- Releasing new music regularly
- Releasing updated video material regularly
If you can do all of these consistently for years to come, there’s absolutely nobody that can stop you from being successful. All the other bands will try for 2-3 years and stop after they fail or get frustrated in the process.
I hope you got some insight from this blog post. I want you to go out and make your dream come true, but it’s also good to be aware of some of the potential stumbling stones along the way.
For the next read, you would benefit massively from my The MEGA Starting a Band Checklist which will take you through the process from scratch to get your musical project to liftoff.
Are there any other things you think should be important to mention? Drop them in the comments below so that I can add them next time!
Rock ‘n Roll Boys ‘n Gals!