Thursday, 14 May 2009

An idiots guide to starting a band from a guy thats started a few...

Starting a band can be a daunting process. After all the hype, the drunken discussions and the first practise where you wrote a song that sounds quite a lot like Smells Like Teen Spirit but no quite so much that people will notice immediately, you begin to discover that its actually quite hard work. You also discover that as much as you talk about it, the ladies just don't seem to give a damn that you are "in fact a pretty big deal, being singer of 'The Butt Monkeys'".
You need a presence, you need a scene, and most of all you need gigs and songs to play at them. This article will give you a no nonsense, no frills and most importantly no promises guide to getting your band of the ground.

1. Find a sound. It may seem obvious but far, far too many bands recycle the same shit again and again, but with less and less quality – and then wonder why no one wants to watch them. Don't find a riff, hit overdrive, moan over the top and repeat it for four minutes. Even the worst song in the world can be saved by adding dynamics, stops, changes and middle 8s - and even a tiny bit of subtlety will set you apart on the local scene.

2. Don't jump in at the deep end. If your mate is having a party and wants you to play, don't unless you're ready to. You'll need 5 songs all drilled to perfection before you can play in front of people. You only get one chance to impress a crowd and if you want people to come see you again you can't be scrappy, out of time and off-tune.

3. Get a decent recording. If you have a friend with some tech knowledge, get him in, or if you can afford it get some studio time (prices will be from £120ish a day most local places.) A clean recording with a decent mix, presented with contact details on the CD case, will double your chances of getting a gig – but then your songs have to do the rest of the talking. A scrappy demo has the same effect as a scrappy gig – the promoter won't look back.

4. Send out as many CDs as possible. Buy 50 cds, 50 cases and 50 envelopes. Go online, find all the venues in your area and send you CD. Don't be picky – A gig is a gig. Give any dates that you can't play – just to save the promoter time and so you come across as serious and professional (even though you're not). By all means sell some CDs to get your costs back – but don't look to make a profit because then you won't. If it has cover art and 5 songs charge no more than £3, for less songs/no cover art £1 is best - It's about spreading the word remember.

5. Most promoters are moody bastards. It's harsh but its true – they do this every night, their ear drums are shot and if you find sound checks boring imagine doing it four times a day. So - turn up on time, set up without a fuss, sound check quickly and efficiently and get out of the promoters hair if he looks angry. Keep to you allotted set time and don't insult the audience (whether you're Pete Doherty or Jim from The Butt Monkeys you'll come across as a twat) or the promoter. Once you're on stage you can go apeshit – 'coz its wicked – but, and I can't stress this enough, only trash you own equipment! Seriously, a guy broke my drummers bass pedal by throwing it at the audience – he got banned from playing there.

6. Socialise! After playing so talk to people, carry CDs with you (visibly!) so if people want to buy one they know where to go and can see you're approachable. Don't sit and hide behind you pint expecting people to come over, because they won't. Be friendly with the promoter too – if you make good friends with him he is more likely to remember you when you ask for a second gig.

7. Get a mailing list. It's the easiest way to let people know when you're playing. Forget facebooks and Myspace messages because they get ignored way to easily. Everytime you have a gig, send out an email saying where when and with whom.

8. Make your myspace/facebook/bebo/sellaband etc look good - its sad but its true that people judge you by how it looks. If you have spent time on it it will pay dividends. Also, spend some time getting friends and commenting to increase click throughs and messages back. A busy myspace is important!

9. Make sure you apply to festivals, because playing them fucking rules.

10. Don't take yourself too seriously. Work hard, have a laugh and at worst it will be a lot of fun. Most chances at the big time come through talent (which you can't control) and luck. Push and push, but don't get overly excited. It's a cliche but the music world is harsh, commercial and forgetful - but do it right and you wont ever forget that moment when you jumped off the stage and crowdsurfed out the door.

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