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Once you've learned the fundamentals of your instrument, you might be looking to start a band.

Playing in a band is a lot of fun, but if you're going to go anywhere with it, you'll need motivation, talent, and confidence to make this happen.

The following advice is based on my personal experiences starting a band, and advice I've received from successful, touring musicians.

Let's dive in.

Step 1: Forming the band - Find band members

Unless you're going to build a career as a solo artist, you're going to need to find band members who share your vision for the band.

Here's how to do this:

Make a demo

Before you go on your search for band members, you'll need a demo that expresses your level of skill and shows others what type of music you're looking to make.

If you're trying to start a band that's going to write and perform original songs, then you want to have high-quality recordings of some songs you've written. People will perceive a song as much better if it's presented as a high-quality recording, and if more people like the song, more people will be interested in playing music with you. Not only that, but having a recording of original material shows that you have songwriting experience.

If you're trying to start a cover band or don't have expensive recording equipment, make a performance video of yourself playing a song.

Whichever you decide to go with, you need to make the demo relevant to the type of band you're going to play in. If you're starting a cover band, do a cover. Starting an original band? Perform and record a song you've written. Do what you can to create the best, highest quality demo possible, and you'll attract the best band members.

Get leads

Once your demo is recorded, you're ready to start your search for band members.

I've used a number of strategies to find members for my band, but here are the 3 I've found most effective.

1. The "walking billboard" technique

According to this survey by Gallup, 54% of households have a member who plays an instrument.

In 48% of these households, 2 or more members play an instrument.

You can see how this adds up to tons of people globally who play instruments.

Unfortunately, there's no way you could possibly walk the streets, go to the gym, or ride the bus knowing who plays an instrument - or who is interested in joining a band.

Approaching each and every person you come into contact with about your band would be extremely inefficient.

A better approach is to passively let everyone you come into contact with know that you're starting a band so that anyone who's interested can simply approach you to ask about it.

You can do that with one of these:

join-my-band-shirt

With a shirt advertising the fact that you're starting a band, every person you come into contact with at school, the gym, or on your way to work will know you're looking for band members.

People who are interested will approach you.

I wore one of these shirts to some local gigs and went to talk to the musicians in the local bands.

Because of this shirt, they saw that I was looking for a vocalist - I didn't even have to say anything - and they recommended some people for me to reach out to.

Whether you're looking for a bass player, drummer, vocalist - whatever, you can get a shirt like this that's specific to your needs right here.

2. Find band members on Craigslist

Craigslist is one of the best places to find band members, but you have to do it correctly for the best results.

When posting to Craigslist, include the following:

  • Member type - Guitarist, bass player, whatever. Put it in the headline.
  • The level of required dedication - Are you a cover band? Are you looking to go all the way with this? Make sure people who see your ad know what they're getting into.
  • Your influences - Genre is way too subjective. Instead, list specific bands that influence your style to attract musicians who like similar music.
  • Your location - If you don't include your location, you'll end up having to filter out options that are too far away from you.

Here's an example of a Craigslist post I did that attracted lots of high-quality leads.

start-a-band-craigslist

When writing your post, make sure it's spaced out in a way that's easy to read, like the example above.

3. Find band members in Facebook groups

This method is extremely time-consuming, but it can definitely get you a number of quality leads.

Find the right Facebook groups

First, find a group on Facebook of musicians.

The more members it has, the better.

You can use Facebook's search to find these groups by entering terms like these:

  • [your city] musicians
  • [your city] songwriters
  • [your city] genre musicians

Find and join relevant groups that show up in the search results with a large number of members.

Find group members in your city

Sometimes, musicians will join a group outside of their local area to find other bands to tour with.

To escape this problem, we want to find musicians who actually live in your city.

Here's how.

First, go to the members section of the group.

view-facebook-group-members

Next, scroll down to the section where it shows members of the group that live in your city and click "See More."

facebook-group-members-by-city

You should now be seeing a huge list of every member in the group that lives in your city.

Now what you want to do is message the group's members asking if they know anyone who's looking to join a band. Here's a message template you can use:


“Hey [name], I saw that you were a member of [Facebook group name].

My band is looking for a [member type], and I thought you might be able to help.

Do you know anyone who might be interested?”


At this point, they'll usually respond and ask for your demo.

If they aren't right for your band, often times they'll refer someone who is. Reach out to these referrals asking if you can send them your demo, and if they like the demo, ask if they'll meet up for an audition.

Request demos

Once you've found someone who's interested in joining your band, the next step is to ask for a demo from them.

Don't be too quick to schedule an audition. Asking for a demo ahead of time is a great test of commitment. If people aren't willing to put together a demo for you to showcase their skills, they probably aren't going to be committed or dedicated band members.

You put in the time to create a demo to show them, so it's only fair.

Hold auditions

If you like the demo they've shown you, the next step is to schedule an in-person audition with them.

During the audition, don't just look for musical abilities. You want to seek out personality traits of a great band member as well.

Some things to look for during your audition include:

  • Reliability - This is extremely important. Make sure your potential band member responds to texts or Facebook messages, and otherwise does what he says he will. A good test for this is to request something from them after the rehearsal and see if they follow through with your request.
  • Has similar goals to you - Ask your potential band mate where they want to take this. Whether you're looking to form a local cover band or go on tour, make sure your potential band mate's goals are in line with yours.
  • Strong work ethic and dedication - Ask what musical accomplishments they have. If none, ask about what their biggest accomplishment to date is. Listen closely for how they achieved this.
  • A team player - You don't want someone who's trying to be a one-man show. Have a few jam sessions and see how they work with others.
  • No drug addiction - Ask about drug addictions and make it clear you won't tolerate this.
  • Responds positively to criticism - It might be a good idea to give them some feedback on their performance during the audition to see how they handle it.
  • Drives a car and has (or will invest in) equipment - How else will they get to practice and play gigs?

When asking your potential band mate questions at rehearsal, be sure to also ask them if they have questions for you, and answer them honestly. Forming a band is a team effort among all parties.

Have a probational period

If you've found someone you enjoy playing with and want to ask them to join the band, great! You're off to a good start!

However, sometimes, you find out later on that you guys aren't a good fit.

You can often sense this coming within a month or 2 of working together.

This is why you should set up a probational period - meaning, once they join the band, you both agree that after 30-90 days you'll reassess whether or not you're a good fit for each other. If not, you'll part ways.

Step 2: Form a band agreement and divide responsibilities

Getting band members to commit is one of the most difficult parts of forming a band. Sometimes, one member being unable to show up for rehearsals can kill the entire project.

To help with this, it's best to be upfront with your band mates about the expectations of each member.

Solving this upfront will stop problems from arising in the future, but being too forceful about it can turn off some band mates, so keep the feel of it as easy going as possible. It's also best to have it drafted by a third party, but if you have someone in the band write the agreement, make sure everyone agrees with the contents of the band agreement.

Within your band agreement, you want to address the following, at minimum:

  • How many missed rehearsals is excusable, and what happens when a band member misses too many.
  • How the band will split expenses on things like recording, equipment, and music videos.
  • Any other expectations that apply to all members of the band.

In addition to a band agreement, I recommend giving each member of the band some distinct responsibilities that contribute to the growth and organization of the band.

Here are some of the responsibilities that should be distributed among the band members.

  • Band leader - This person should oversee the organization and operation of the band. Usually, this is the person who started the band. Booking agents and venues want to deal with one person, not a whole group - the band leader should be that person. While the group generally decides who to hire together for things like music videos, recording, and artwork, this person is usually also responsible for taking action on the hiring and firing of those individuals.

  • Rehearsal director - Generally, the group leader also handles this. This person is responsible for making sure rehearsals are scheduled at a time where everyone can show up, setting rehearsal goals, and that the rehearsals are run efficiently.

  • Image coordinator - This person is in charge of leading the groups image, and should be the person who cares most about the image of the band. The person with this job will make sure that things like stage presence, wardrobe, and branding elements will compliment to the style of the band.

  • Bookkeeper - This job should be given to the person who is best with money. Once your band is established as a business, you should open a checking account for the band. As a band that's formed as a business, it's important to keep accurate account of your finances for tax purposes, and make sure you're paying the proper taxes. This person should also maintain a good relationship with the bank incase you need to borrow money for equipment or touring expenses.

  • Marketing coordinator - This person should be in charge of your band's overall marketing strategy. They'll run ads, set up PR campaigns, and reach out to radio stations and playlist curators on streaming services. The job of this person is to grow the band's audience online and offline through marketing.

  • Social media account manager - Sometimes, the person handling the marketing also handles the social media accounts. While social media is definitely an important part of a band's marketing strategy, it may be beneficial to designate one person to schedule social media posts if you plan on managing multiple accounts.

Step 3: Decide on a sound and image for your band

Each of your band members will have slightly different interests when it comes to music, and that's fine.

What's important is that you find where you overlap.

When discussing what sound you want to go for in the band, discuss with your band mates what they like about different bands, and use overlapping musical interests to develop a unique sound for your band.

Not everyone is going to like every part of every song, but knowing what elements of the genre your band mates are into will help with the songwriting process.

While it's obvious that you need to discuss your sound with your band mates, the less obvious point of discussion is your image.

In the modern music industry, image is extremely important.

Your image isn't just how you dress on stage - it's how you present the whole band. It's the attitude behind your music - the thing that is tied together by your stage presence, album artwork, logo, images, and music videos.

In short, it's your brand.

You need an image that's going to represent the type of music you're making. When people see your album artwork or music video, they need to get a sense of what your band might sound like before they ever hear a song.

When they do hear a song, they need to feel that the image is well representative of what they're listening to.

To accomplish a complimentary sound and image for your band, it's best to discuss these topics together.

Step 4: Write songs, practice, and rehearse

It's a good idea to start writing songs, practicing, and rehearsing as soon as possible - each of which are different, which I'll explain below.

Writing songs

Every band has a different songwriting process. When writing songs with your band, you don't necessarily need to be together. Often times, it's actually one member of the band who does most of the writing.

If you want to have the whole band participate in the songwriting process, I've seen many bands pull this off successfully in the following way:

  1. One of the members comes up with a part on their instrument. The guitarist comes up with a riff, the vocalist comes up with a melody, etc.
  2. The band meets to jam out their parts over the part that was presented, and maybe comes up with some other parts to the song together.
  3. Once the band agrees that this is something worth pursuing, the individual members write the other parts to the song on their own. My band usually discusses what we want the song to progress like at practice before moving on to this.
  4. Once all of the parts are individually written, the band meets again to work on transitions and build the music for the song.
  5. If the music comes first (which it usually does), then the vocalist(s) add lyrics on top after the song structure is laid out.

There are many different approaches to songwriting, but I've had a lot of success with this one.

If you want to learn more about writing great songs, check out our post featuring tips on writing great songs from 25 different songwriters.

Practice

Practice is the thing you do on your own at home. You work to build your skills on your instrument, and you master the songs your band wrote to prepare for the next rehearsal.

In order to help your band members maximize their practice time at home and get the songs down quickly, it's important to make demos of each song.

When you make your demos, they don't have to be the best quality, but they should be recorded to a click. Take these recordings with the click in the track, and distribute them among the band members with their instrument taken out. This is what they will use to practice.

This way, you can be sure that everyone is going to be practicing at the same tempo and you'll have less to work on at rehearsals.

Every band member should spend time on their own practicing the songs in order for rehearsals to run effectively. If one of your band members isn't spending time at home practicing your songs, it's time to kick them from the band and find a replacement.

If everyone in the band is self disciplined, the band can move forward with very little need for rehearsal.

Rehearsal

Rehearsal is the time where the whole band gets together to run through what would be a live set. This is where you work on syncing up what you've been practicing at home, and how you become tight as a band.

It's important to have a rehearsal space where you can make a good amount of noise. Many cities offer rehearsal spaces for rent, but if your area doesn't, you can rehears in a garage or rent a storage facility for rehearsals.

Another common problem among new bands is members not showing up for rehearsal. If your band member misses one rehearsal in 3 months, fine, but if they're consistently missing rehearsals at times when they said they'd be able to make it, it's time to find a replacement.

When it comes to band members, it's better to take your time finding the right people, and getting rid of the ones holding you back as quickly as possible.

Step 5: Name your band

Coming up with a name for your band is a challenge in itself.

Unfortunately, the fact that there are so many band names already taken makes it even harder.

However, I've come up with a solution that has worked very well for me. I've been able to use this process to come up with lots of band name ideas quickly.

Basically, you want to compile a list of short phrases or sentences.

I'll walk you through how to do this below.

To come up with good phrases or sentences, we're going to need a starting point. This starting point is going to be a list of nouns, verbs, or adjectives.

Review these lists and write down any words that can be used to describe your band in any way:

Here's an example of some words I picked out:

  • control
  • power
  • idea
  • think
  • leave
  • begin
  • narrow
  • round
  • large

Next, head over to thesaurus.com. Enter some of the words from the list you compiled and start going down the rabbit holes of words. Look at synonyms and antonyms of the word you entered, and click on these words to find more interesting words. Compile a list of 10-20 words that you think might become part of a good band name.

Here are some words I picked out from this step.

  • denial
  • sanction
  • refusal
  • authority
  • force
  • restraint

From these words, you can then come up with band name ideas by building short phrases or sentences around the list of words you come up with.

A great way to do this is to put some short words, such as prepositions or conjunctions (and, but, or, nor, for, yet), before or after each word in your list, and let you mind complete the phrase or sentence for you.

Here are some phrases I came up with using the words I found in the thesaurus:

  • Denial of the Century
  • Fight and Refusal
  • Force of the Awakened
  • The Final Sanction

When you start piecing words together, your mind will finish creating the sentences. Repeat this process until you find a band name that you like.

If you're having a creative block, you can also use this band name generator using the words in your list for some new ideas.

Once you've come up with a list of band names that you're ready to choose from, make sure the name isn't already taken. A quick Facebook or Google search can accomplish this, but you also want to make sure your band name isn't trademarked - which you can do here.

Keep in mind that you don't have to love your band name. In fact, many famous bands hate their band names.

It's really about finding something that isn't bad that fits well in your genre.

Step 6: Make your band into a business

Setting up a business entity for your band is a must if you plan on taking the band seriously. It gives you a way to assign ownership of things like your band name and logo to the band instead of an individual.

If you come up with a band name and register the trademark for it under your guitarist's name, what happens if your guitarist quits? Having an LLC eliminates issues like this from being a problem.

This way, members of the band can leave without causing any legal complications.

A Limited Liability Company (LLC) is the best business structure choice for musicians for a number of reasons:

  • They protect you from personal liability in legal disputes.
  • They provide the simple structure of a partnership with the benefits of a corporation.
  • Band members can easily enter or leave without disrupting the system.
  • Expenses can be more easily written off as business expenses.

You can set up an LLC quickly and fairly inexpensively through LegalZoom.

Once you've set up a business entity for your band, you may want to trademark your band name.

If you have a logo designed, it might be a good idea to trademark that as well.

Step 7: Record and release some music

If you're a cover band you can skip this step, but as an original band, you should try to record and release an album or EP as soon as you can.

Think about it - if you play a show and have nothing for people to take home with them, or go home and listen to online, they're going to forget about you.

With this in mind, when you record your songs, you want to make sure you get the best quality possible.

Don't go to your local recording studio just because it's near you and available - take time to seek out the best location. Listen to recordings on recording studio websites, talk to other musicians, and put the work in to find a recording studio that has great equipment, and - more importantly - someone who knows what they're doing.

To find the best people to work with on your album or EP, check the credits of some of your favorite releases on AllMusic.

You can see who worked on any big name release.

all-music-credits-a-day-to-remember

Doing this takes more time, but it's very much worth it in the end.

When putting out your first EP, take the time to build a team around your band that can help you make your music sound professional and polished so people treat it the same as a big release.

Step 8: Get started on the marketing

After you have your music recorded, it's time to get it online and start marketing the recordings.

Here are some things you can do to market your music as a new band.

Start and grow an email list

When it comes to marketing, the most important thing is growing your email list.

When you're looking to book gigs or get press coverage, a large email list can be a huge help.

If you tell a venue that you have 1,000 email subscribers in their market, to them, this is 1,000 people who they can advertise their location to if they book you.

If you tell a blog you have 2,000 subscribers on your email list, they see reviewing your album as an opportunity to get traffic. As a blogger myself, I can tell you that to us, traffic and email marketing is everything.

For your email marketing provider, I recommend Aweber. It has a clean, easy to use editor, allows for time zone based email delivery, and lets you add attachments to emails - which is great for giving away free downloads of your songs in exchange for an email address.

Their plans start at around $20/month for up to 500 email list subscribers, which is about the cost of 2 Netflix subscriptions.

If you want to give Aweber a trial run, you can get it free for 30 days here. You can unsubscribe at any time if you don't like it.

You can read more about the pros and cons of different email providers here, as well as different strategies for growing your email list as a musician.

Promote your music to bloggers

A great way to get your music in front of a passionate audience is to get your album or EP reviewed by a well-followed music blog.

To do this, head over to HypeMachine and type a band similar to yours, or even just in your genre, in the search bar.

From this, you should have a list of blogs that have reviewed a song or album from that band.

hypemachine-bring-me-the-horizon-search

Head over to the blog's website and look around to get a feel for the type of music they like to review.

If it seems like they'd be interested in reviewing a band like yours, pitch them with an email like this one:


Hi [Name],

I came across your blog via your review of [Album]. Awesome stuff!

I thought you might be interested in reviewing our album, since we have a similar following to [Artist].

Here's a link to one of the songs on the album: [URL]

Let me know if this interests you and if you need more info. Either way, keep up the awesome work!

Cheers,

[Signature]


If they don't reply within a few days, go ahead and follow up. Only follow up once though, don't be spammy.

Very few musicians actually pay for advertising, but if you look at any major label marketing strategy for new artists, it always includes an advertising budget.

If you aren't paying to run ads for your band, growth will be very slow, at best.

Facebook, YouTube, and even Google are great places to run ads to promote your band. Spending just $5 per day can make a huge difference in the awareness of your band.

Step 9: Get the best live equipment you can

Before you start gigging, you need to make sure you have the best equipment possible.

If you're opening for a touring band, you don't want to have low quality equipment that makes it very obvious that you're a local band. You want to put on the image and sound quality of a huge touring band, and to do that, you need awesome equipment.

Spend the money to get the best electric guitars, best amps, and overall best sounding equipment you can before you play live. Having good equipment will have a positive affect on how the audience perceives the quality of your music.

Step 10: Get gigs

Once you've nailed your live performance rehearsal, released some music, started on the marketing, and have gotten the right equipment for a live setting, you're ready to start booking gigs.

If you're going for cover gigs, you don't need to worry about your draw. Often times, you're being paid to provide atmosphere for the event that you're playing at.

For original gigs, however, you need to have a following. Venues only care about sales and you must know how to sell yourself if you're going to be successful in booking gigs.

The details of booking gigs is beyond the scope of this article, since it's about starting a band, but if you'd like to learn more about booking gigs for your band, check out this post about how to get gigs.


Conclusion

There you have it - everything you need to know to piece together your band and get started on your journey to becoming a successful musician.

The key to starting a successful band is all in the band members. If you can find band members that align with your vision and are dedicated to making things work, anything is possible.

Once you have your band members in place, taking steps to write up a band agreement, distribute the workload, and set your band up as a business can help you avoid issues later down the road.

Write songs, record an EP or album, get your marketing strategy in place, and put on awesome shows to give your band the best chances of success. Pay attention to the details of every step, and you'll see amazing results.

If you've had any success starting your own band, or have anything to add, please feel free to leave it in the comments below!



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