Starting a band may sound pretty straightforward, but it can be one of the most frustrating parts for many people. If you don't go about setting up your band right, you'll be caught in an endless cycle of trying to replace this player or that. You may also need to try to get the new people ready to play the songs currently in your playbook. Not to mention the fact that a dysfunctional band can out-drama any group of middle school girls. Save yourself the hassle and get your best band going right from the start.
Know Who You Need
Before you can start finding band members, you've got to figure out exactly what your band needs. Say you and friend are playing together, and you play guitar, and she plays drums. Well, you're set on a drummer, and whether you need a second guitarist will depend on your songs. Sounds obvious, right? But, it's easy to end up trying to fit in an unexpected keyboard player or extra guitarist just because you like that person. Remember that your goal is to get a band that can play shows together. Figure out the roles you need filled and match the people to the roles instead of the other way around.
Find the Musicians
Now that you know what kind of musicians you need, you can start looking for them. There are plenty of places you can track down other musicians, from word of mouth. For more detailed information about your band member search, check out this article:
Figure Out the Ground Rules
When you're just getting started in your band, there's no need to get too overly complicated and start fighting about your future royalties (if you are - consider it a huge red flag). If you're serious about your band, however, there are a few basics you should consider - it will help keep everyone on the same page:
Band management is about more than just booking gigs. As your band grows, the things you need to figure out together will increase and some may include:
- Setting up a practice schedule
- Selecting a place to practice
- How to pay any expenses (practice space, etc.)
Who's the Boss
Most bands have a natural leader, usually the songwriter and/or the person who formed the band. Exactly how much you want to exercise this whole "boss" thing is up to you - for instance, is it your songs, your way or the highway, or can others have some input?
More importantly, when you start booking shows and promoting your band's brand, it's good to have one person who is the main contact for the band. It can be the person who runs the show musically or someone else good at taking care of details. When you're ready to take those steps, this advice will help:
Obviously, of course, the most important part of starting a band is just getting together and playing some music. Even with the best-laid plans, this is the only way to make sure your band clicks together. It is also a good time to figure out who is taking things seriously and is committed to the band, and who is not. If you have ambitions to make a living through your music, and your other band members view the band as a hobby, now is when that difference will rear its head. If you and your band aren't a music love match, no problem - return to step one!
React to Changes
You don't need to act like you're setting up a multinational corporation when you form your band, but you should also recognize when it's time to have some serious discussions. If you're heading into the studio, on the cusp of getting a record deal or investing a lot of money in touring, then you need to talk about how costs will be covered and how income will be divided. It may not be fun to talk about, but it will help avoid resentment later.
Who Wrote the Song?
Songwriters get the royalties for their songs, and while some songwriters are happy to share that money equally between the band, some, well, aren't. Know which one you are before the money comes in. Don't assume everyone is on the same page - someone might think that their suggestion on a song gives them part of the songwriting credit, and you may disagree. If you wait until the royalties are paid to argue about it, it'll be much harder to sort out without resentment.