Being in bands over the course of my life has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve met my best friends, developed amazing musical relationships, was able to travel the country, and learned how to work with different personalities on the road.
I’ve learned so many things over the years by being in the music business in one form or another. I thought it’d be beneficial to share at least five of the things I think are important to know for being in a band. There’s lots more to learn than these five tips, but these are things I wished I knew before I got started.
I’m hoping we can develop a good conversation around this post, and share tips with one another on social. With that being said, here’s some of the most important things I’ve learned.
The Importance of Being Able to Work With Your Band, Not Against It
This point alone could spawn five or more topics in itself. So what does it mean to be able to work with the rest of your band? Whether it be making a decision for what song you’re going to release next, or what shows to play, how you feel about a certain part in one of your songs, and even how you’re getting along when you’re cramped up on the road in a van - knowing that people operate in such different ways is important.
It’s extremely important to pick and choose your battles. Maybe you’re not entirely excited about playing a small club (more about this later), or you really want a certain song to have a guitar line in it, or even it could be about what you’re going to wear on stage - you have to learn how to go back to the drawing board and come at scenarios in a different way.
Working this way is also all about compromises and understanding how each band member works. There’s been many times I’ve asked my band mates if they enjoyed a riff, only for them to not be into it, and ultimately have me go back to the drawing board and come up with something even better.
Other times I’ve felt so strongly about a part, that I thought it was worth fighting for. There will be times like this on both the musical and business sides.
Learn how to talk to your band mates. Everyone learns differently, argues differently, and plays music differently. The biggest thing to remember about being in a band, is that you’re on common ground, looking to make your band better.
Once you learn how to let go of your ego, the band will be entirely much stronger. As a side note, this tip might take the most time to implement. You don’t learn about a significant other overnight, and the same thing applies to a band, except there are even more personalities to deal with!
You Don’t Have to Do Everything - Strengths and Weaknesses
Similar to the last tip, at some point it's a good idea to take stock of what each band member can bring to the table, in addition to making music. For me, I always enjoyed recording and mixing my bands albums. At some points, it became contentious, because the band wanted to go to a professional studio and have a different engineer.
I had to step back, see that it was for the better good of our music, and keep on keeping on. Sometimes you can’t be all things to all people when in a band. With that particular scenario, I think it actually helped our albums, because I didn’t have to worry about recording and engineering, and I was able to work on my guitar parts.
Always try and pitch in where you can. If you’re the social media person in the band, try and get other band members involved. You’ll find out quick enough that having 4 or more strong and talented band members in a band is incredible. Not every member has to do every single thing in the band, but there will be times that you’ll have to come together, not only musically, but as a team to get things done (sending out CDs, emails, booking shows, etc.)
The most important thing to keep in mind with this tip, is that not every band member has to be constantly doing each and every thing for the band - this often leads to burnout and arguments. Do what excites you, and what you’re good at, and team up for the rest of the things that are more mundane.
Pay Your Dues
It might sound cliche at this point, but paying your dues is a right of passage for any band. It’s true that you’ll never know who will be attending a show, no matter how big or small the venue is. This is why it’s important to try and play as many shows as you can manage, within reason.
Don’t overlook that small club show just because you don’t think it’ll make a dent in your bands’ career. The music world is much smaller than you might think when it comes to the live scene, and you never know who you’ll meet.
You also might experience shows where you have to sell a certain number of tickets. These shows make you sell tickets to play at all, or to get a better slot during the night. These were always a difficult thing for many bands in the past. Make sure you try and develop a good relationship with the promoter, and make sure your entire band is hustling to sell tickets.
No bigger label will want you if you cant even bring a large audience to a hometown show. Rather than a bummer, think of it as a challenge that will only make your band better. You’ll be interacting with fans, talking to other musicians, and working on your marketing skills as you try and sell tickets.
With all the talk about shows and paying your dues, I do have to bring up that the barrier to entry is wayyyy lower than it’s ever been. When I was first playing shows out professionally, I didn't have the luxury of YouTube, Twitter, Instagram or anything else. Now it’s a lot easier to interact with your fans, and build a good group of people who’ll want to see you before you sell a single ticket.
But, paying your dues comes into play even with social media. Overnight success is not typically a thing. Most bands work tirelessly to upload clips to YouTube, stories to Instagram, jump into discussion on forums, and so much more before they start to develop a following. This is the new way of paying dues, before you even hit the stage!
Keep hustling, and the more work you put in, the better your luck will get. Isn’t it funny how that works?
Always Be Prepared
One of the most disheartening things I’ve seen over the years is when a band member didn’t adequately get themselves prepared for something band related.
This happens all the time in the studio with so many bands. Being a guitarist and an engineer, I’ve seen this too many times. Your band might be playing live all the time, and occasionally, playing at that volume, and with all that distortion, you might get a little messy when it comes to your parts. Once you step into the studio to record, it becomes an entirely different ballgame.
Don’t be that person. Be prepared, know your parts, change your strings, and be ready to make music together. In the studio, time is money, and the less prepared you are, the more money you’re throwing out the window.
The same thing goes for live shows. If your band decides you’ll be debuting a new song live, make sure you practice at home or in your practice space before heading out to the show. There’s nothing more embarrassing than getting up on stage and being the one who doesn’t know the song.
Finally on this point, you also have to be ready for opportunities. Does a college station want to have you on for an interview, or a charity show want to feature your band to play? Within reason, I think it’s important to be ready for any and all opportunities. Opportunities will come along more often if you keep on working hard, but occasionally your band will need to make a decision that could entirely change the trajectory of your band’s life.
Haters Gonna Hate
I was so happy to learn early on in my music playing career that it’s never cool to hate on other bands - especially behind their backs. This isn’t only great advice for being in a band, but it’s also pretty solid advice for life.
There’s no room for being in a successful band, and hating or talking badly about other bands. There’s literally nothing good that can be gained from this, and on the opposite hand, only good things that can come from being a decent human being to other bands.
You never know what band will go on to bigger things, and if you’re friends with that band, that might mean that they bring you along too. Maybe they know a producer you’ve wanted to work with, or a guitar company you’re interested in. No one likes someone who is malicious to other people.
Work like a professional, and the next time you think about trash talking another band, simply think of saying nothing at all instead.
What’s Your Favorite Band Tip?
These are just five tips out of a long list of things I’ve learned while being in a band. I recommend jamming with as many people as you can, and making music as often as you can!
As I said before, a lot of these tips aren’t only for being in a band, but also good as general life advice.
What’s your favorite tip when it comes to being in a band? Let me know by reaching out on social - I’m @ChasingSound everywhere.