10 Tips: Things I Wish I Was Told When I started playing in a Band

You are not going to be famous

I have known a lot of musicians who think they are special. They believe they are going to be the next Beatles. Seriously, sorry, you won’t. More people have won the lottery then have been on a gold album. Let’s put it this way, The Ramones first album- It took 35 years to go gold. THE RAMONES! These guys are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and it took their album 35 years! What chance do you have of making it? Minuscule. This doesn't mean you can’t have a successful music career. Just be sure to set realistic goals so that you don’t cry and quit when you don’t become the next Herb Alpert.

You are going to play a lot of shows to no one

When your band is starting out, or even after you have ‘made it’ you will play to no one sometimes. You will show up at the bar, and there will be the bar tender- and no one else. Your 20 friends that said they would make it, won’t be there. Your mom stayed home sick. That cute girl you met three weeks ago has a date. This is not the end of the world. Keep in mind, every band has been there. The important thing is to still put on your best show. Sometimes that one person in the audience will become one of your biggest fans.

Half music/half promotion

You need to promote your band too. It is not all about the music. If you want to be semi successful you need to promote promote promote. This is not just making a Facebook page with half assed photos. You need to put actual work into creating a marketing brand for your band. You might say "but we are all about the music"- then have fun playing for your 4 friends. A promoter of the local scene once said "You do the music for fun, the band gets paid for promotion"

People are going to hate what you do

There are going to be people who tell you that your band sucks. There are going to be people who tell you that your band is amazing. Be warned, the truth is probably someplace in the middle. You have to let the criticisms roll off your back. Also, keep in mind that sometimes the compliments are lies. You have to be strong enough to not have either responses effect you.

Don't play with people who party

Do you want to be serious? Stay away from people who want to do drugs, drink and get messed up for practices and shows. If you have a band member who gets drunk and can’t play the show at 100%; you are going to sound like shit. If you want to be serious about your music, then be play with people who take it seriously too. Playing a show sloppy drunk makes your band sound bad.

Good gear matters

Lots of musicians like to skimp on the type of guitar and amp they have. They will insist that “This solid state amp with a 2 inch speaker from radio shack with 2 inches of dust is fine” Good gear is important. If you have an amp buzzing the entire time you are playing- you will not sound your best. If you need to stop between songs to "fix" your cable because it keeps cutting out- but a new cable. If you have a pick up that you put in your acoustic or banjo and it cuts out ALL THE TIME- it is time to buy a new one. These are tools of your profession. Do not buy cheap crappy pieces of shit unless your band wants to sound like a crappy piece of shit. This is not to say that you need to spend 3 grand on a guitar, but please stay away from the budget crap.

Don’t apologize

If you mess up on a song while playing out- Don’t say sorry- Chances are that no one noticed that you even flubbed up. It ruins the show.

Loud is bad

I see band all too often thinking that cranking their amps is cool. It isn't. Turn down. Bartenders hate it. You will not get asked back to play venues if you are to loud for bartenders to take drink orders.

Playing for free is for dummies

Sure there are time when you need to play for free- A few charity shows, when you are just starting out or as a favor to a close friend. However, don’t fall into the crap trap of playing shows for free when people are making money off of you. When you play a show for “free exposure” the bar is making money, the sound guy is making money, the promoter is making money. Maybe you should be making a little money too.

Be professional

At all times: be polite. Share. Don't cancel a gig the day of the show. Don't get in a fight with the bouncer after a show. Don’t act like a turd. If the band opening for you needs a cable; let them borrow one (same goes for you sound guys). Promote yourself and promote other bands (we are all in this together). Return emails, return calls, and show up on time. Don’t ask for more money the day of the show or threaten to cancel, don’t talk about people behind their backs, and don’t try to scam people out of their money. Simple.

supplement:
don't start acting like a dick when your ego swells up from local "success". if your friends & fans support you to help you achieve something, don't forget it & get the attitude that you're better than them, because you are nothing without them. don't be like that kid from Rookie Of The Year who broke his arm & developed advanced pitching abilities who in turn signed with the Chicago Cubs and left his friends behind, didn't show up to their play dates & didn't help build that canoe or fort or whatever they were working on in the woods. It all worked out in the movie, but in real life you could lose your friends.

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