by T. Perry Bowers
Every band needs to practice. In my experience (more than 20 years in the rehearsal space business) once per week seems to be the most common interval. I do see individual members come to their practice space and practice individually more often, but bands typically get together, with all of the members at the same time, once per week.
Of course, there are exceptions. Some bands practice every night. When I was in my twenties my musical partner and I met at the practice space every night at seven sharp for about two years. It’s amazing what happens when you practice more regularly.
Back then we needed to! We needed to grow and become better musicians. I would sing for at least an hour every day before we met for practice. It was intense and my biggest growth spurt as a musician happened at that time.
How much time we dedicate to practice definitely has an impact. But what about the business side of being in a band? How much time do we dedicate to that? Back then, I was dedicating more time than most bands. It was the nineties, so before the Internet took over as a promo tool.
I had a physical mailing list of addresses. We printed post cards, affixed mailing labels and stamps and mailed them. We probably had two or three hundred people on our mailing list so it was a time consuming job.
We also created posters and drove around the city putting them up in coffee shops, record stores, on electrical poles and any bulletin board we could find. To promote a show we probably spent eight hours between the postcards and the posters with two of us. To be honest, most of those postcards probably went directly into the bin and very few people ever noticed our posters.
It was mostly futile. I spent a lot of time doing silly things trying to make a name for my band. It wasn’t until I had a business that I started to become more efficient with my advertising.
When I opened my first recording studio/rehearsal space, the local magazine, City Pages was the only game in town. Everyone looked in City Pages if they needed a music service. I refined my ad so it said everything it needed to in as few words as possible. It was expensive: I think around seventy-five dollars per week but without it I would have been dead in the water. That’s where musicians found me. I didn’t advertise anywhere else and it fed my business for years.
Now the Internet is the new City Pages . Without ranking in Google, my business would be dead. I have to work every day to keep my numbers high. This blog is actually part of that process.
So where am I going with all this? Simply this – if you’re in a band, you need to consider your marketing and business processes very carefully. While there may be a certain amount of trial and error, you need to have a plan and execute on that plan every day.
The first thing to do is get your band members on board. Not every member is going to be strong in business but everybody has a talent. Work out where your strengths lie and play to them.
For example, the guitarist in my current band is an excellent visual and graphic artist. So he handles all our posters, web art, t-shirt design, album layout, etc. If you don’t have a strong visual artist in your band, you need someone who can be the liaison between the band and whomever you hire for graphics.
Promotion is made up of lots of little, often menial tasks. Maybe your plan involves posting on social media once per day. Put someone in charge of each account. Being disciplined about posting every day isn’t easy for everyone, but with the right content, you’ll be surprised how fast your following grows. It may not happen overnight, but over time you’ll gain more followers.
Converting followers into customers requires more than just posting so you’ll need an effective strategy for this. It’s great to have good content for free but eventually you need to sell a ticket or an album. Someone in your band needs to be thinking about how to do that.
Hopefully, you are also thinking about touring. It’s the only way to make it. Margins are always tight. The best business person in the band should be your tour manager – making the deals with venues and accommodation providers.
If you have someone who is good at logistics put them in charge of the tour van. What route to take, when you need to leave to get to the next sound check, etc.
I don’t know your band, so I can’t give you specific advice. The point is you have a task force at your disposal. Four or five guys working towards the same goal is a powerful thing. If you’re the leader of the band, embrace it. If you’re the graphics guy, do it with passion.
If you’re blessed enough to be in a band with a good leader, count yourself lucky. Many bands are aimless. They practice and luck into shows once in a while. If your band handles its business well, go with it. If not, maybe you’re the one who needs to take the reigns.
I promise you, over time with hard work and calculated business strategies, you will get closer to your goals. Don’t forget though – your band must be good – so practice this too. It’s all for moot if you suck.