I could probably write a book on this subject alone…
A band is very much like any other small business. Most musicians cringe at the word “business” but unfortunately, after all the practicing of the intro’s, outro’s and back-up harmonies, you still need to market your band, promote your band, beg for jobs (perhaps in the beginning) and honestly assess where you’re at in a band.
I have to admit, the most fun I’ve had in bands is where we weren’t quite as serious. I really had no friends in the band I made the most amount of money with. It doesn’t have to be that way, and I hope that’s what makes my current band different. I want to be friends AND play out regularly with this band.
Band dynamics come into play no matter what age you’re at. You could be high school or college students, juggling final exams, SATs, and maybe a girlfriend or boyfriend. Or you could be working folk, where this is a side thing. No matter which situation you are in, if your band is going to play jobs (or “gigs”), you have to invest some time into it. Maybe some money too, if you need equipment.
In my current band, we have 5 very different people. One is a working professional who travels a lot (and thus misses practices, it can’t be helped). Another is in a new relationship and is off on weekends with their sweetheart (and thus misses practices). Another is a bit outside of the age range and needs to become more familiar with our set list. Another has no transportation and is trying to get up on their feet after various setbacks. And me? Oh I’m just perfect LOL. Well, to be honest, I’m a single parent who has 50% custody of my kids, I have a professional career in a high tech company, a girl friend, I teach and I do this band thing. Yes, I’m busy. My saving grace is I have a lot of years of experience, I pick up songs quickly, and that saves me a lot of time. I will also chart songs out and post on google docs, shared with the rest of the band, and that saves THEM a lot of time.
Usually a band will have a clear cut leader. In my current band, the leadership is somewhat shared, which is new to me. No one person wants to be the Fearless Leader with all the pushing and prodding that comes with it. I did step up to the plate yesterday and urged all the band members to make an effort for Wednesday’s practice since we are playing a birthday party this weekend. No pay, but like I said in previous posts – no deadline, no intensity. No one wants to go out there and look like a “fool”, or unprepared, even in front of a friendly audience.
So this Saturday’s performance is for yet another prod to get us all motivated to fill out our setlist. We currently have nearly 20 songs, but we need at least 3 hours worth of music to start playing for pay. If one set is an hour, and the other two 45 minutes (to allow breaks), that’s 150 minutes of music needed, and if each song is 5 minutes (which it isn’t, unless you start stretching out solos, repeat verses, or talk to the crowd) then you need a minimum of 30 songs. I’m hoping to push the band into learning 2 new songs a week, shunning the more complex tunes in favor of the quick and easy songs, like some Tom Petty or Cheryl Crow. Not to take away from any one artist here, but songs like “Breakdown” are 3 chords. Easy to knock out and people love them.
As we near “gig ready” status, there is also the need for a Public Address (PA) system. I am against “band” purchases, and more in favor of each of us owning a piece of the system – mixing board, speakers, monitors, etc. These are decisions each band has to make for itself. I don’t like the band purchasing model because if someone quits, we all need to buy that person out of their percentage of the investment. It just gets sticky. Of course, the way I’m proposing is that if someone quits, you just lost a piece of your PA! It’s a trade off.
This Saturday, a birthday party….and next, the world!