Your band got together years ago. You've written great songs, and you've toured your region year after year but you have yet to be signed. Sound familiar? Congrats, you're one of a thousand bands in your area experiencing the exact same thing. Don't worry, there's a solution. BE A PROFITABLE BAND. That's it, it's that simple.
Even the big labels only devote a small portion of their client development money to building a profitable artist from scratch. The rest of their development funds go to bands that are already profitable so they can grow them even bigger and take a small piece of the pie while they're on their way to the top.
How do you get there? You need to be profitable. Plain and simple. Until you're profitable, no big label will even consider signing you. And how do you become profitable? Hard work by every member of your band is the only way to get there. (Or go viral LOL) Having the ability to tour, write and record music, sell merch, get streams, and make money is the only avenue to profitability as a band. Once you're profitable you're ready to try and signed.
You'll need to attract members that aren't just pretty faces and play instruments but also great at filling the roles necessary to be a successful band. Remember, every role that you don't fill, will need to be hired out to someone else. Hiring out your work equals a lot of money and a whole lot less profit so choose members for your band that are multitalented.
Before we get to the assigned roles, please note the often overlooked roles that every member will need to fill as a minimum requirement to be in the band:
- Take lessons and practice your instrument
- Practice the material and show up ready to rehearse at band practice
- Learn how to maintain your instrument and travel gear
- Maintain a valid driver's license and know how to drive a trailer or bus
- Present a good online image
- Make enough money to cover expenses, instruments, contribute to the band fund, and tour
- Network with other bands, fans, venues, bartenders, promoters, live sound engineers, photographers, and videographers
- Coordinate with other band members to fulfill the needs of your own role as well as the needs of the band
- Be a cool dude to be in a band and tour with
- Stay sober enough to perform all of these roles
- Post regularly on social media about upcoming band events
Once you have the right members who can perform the basic needs of their parts just to be in the band, you'll need to assign roles to each band member. These roles don't have to be rigid, you can trade tasks between members that better suit their passions or talents. The key is to cover each and every one of these needs. Remember, every task that your band can't perform will need to be hired out. More hiring = more money = less profit!
ROLE O1: CONTENT CREATOR
This role is all about producing consumable content. Whether it's photos, videos, live video streams, online copy, or merch, this person needs to be on the cutting edge of trends to catch your audience's attention.
Research: So much of this role comes down to research. Research the hottest visual artists, photographers, videographers, designers, and trends to produce content that's desirable.
Copywriting: Whether it's your bands' origin story or you're blogging and vlogging about your upcoming or current tour, your audience needs to hear from you daily.
Branding: This covers everything from your logo, your style, your slogan, the tone of your copy, your merch, and your album covers. These things all represent your band and brand. Deciding if you're going to be dark and mysterious or loud and funny can impact the tone of your posts or the style of your merch.
Logistics: Hire the best merch artists, find the quality printers, secure best shippers and distributers.
ROLE 02: TOUR MANAGER
This role is all about coordinating the logistics of a multistate or multination tour and preparing the best live performance possible.
Networking: You are tasked with building relationships with promoters, bookers, fellow bands, tour managers, drivers, venues, bartenders, photographers, and videographers.
Logistics: Learn how to secure vehicle rentals, transportation, trailers, fuel, lodging, food, and understand show riders. Don't forget hygiene and entertainment to keep your band mates happy and healthy.
Marketing: You'll need to coordinate tour dates and plans with your band's social media, legal, and content managers.
Performing: You're job is to coordinate and schedule a team for a successful tour. Not just your bandmates but also roadies, merch salesman, front of house engineers, instrument techs, lighting engineers, photographers, videographers, and tour managers.
ROLE 03: SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER
This roles' number one job is to expose your band to the maximum number of people through social media, physical print, steaming platforms, word of mouth, and online sites as possible.
Organic growth: Aside from running social media ads, organic growth is the most important way to gain an audience. Or, hack the system and go viral. LOL
Research: Building a fan avatar, reading books on guerilla marketing, consuming music industry podcasts, getting to know the social media algorithms, grasping music business, and understanding trends is your number one job.
Advertising: If you have to, pay for classes to understand how Google Ads, retargeting, Facebook, and Instagram ads can work for you instead of against you. Without reach, your band will be performing to empty rooms and selling zero merch.
Business: Figure out how to position your music so it can get on the best Spotify playlists. Learn how to build an awesome website with tour dates and merchandise for sale. Get to know advertising, cross platform advertising, affiliate links, and brand deals to help your band grow and reach more people.
ROLE 04: FINANCE MANAGER
This role is all about money. Although a boring task, this may be the most important when looking to get signed.
Banking: Setting up a checking account, learning how to pay your employees/bandmates/subcontractors, record keeping, paying for expenses, and processing your revenue streams are just a few tasks involved with this role.
Taxes: Get to know your local, state, and federal taxes and understand how and when they need to be filed and paid.
Subcontracting: You may need to hire a lawyer if you're ever offered a label contract. Or you may need a great accountant with the heart of a teacher that can assist you with bookkeeping, payroll, and taxes.
Legal: Setting up a business, having employees, providing benefits, hiring sub contractors, and understanding contracts all need to be addressed.
Education: There's no lack of learning and education required to perform this role unless you're already a Lawyer or a CPA. Get to know budgeting software, QuickBooks, as well as profit and loss statements.
Business: Will your business be a sole proprietor, partnership, or an LLC? What type of label or label deal best suits your band? What type of band is your dream label looking for?
ROLE 05: SONGWRITER & ENGINEER
This is obviously my favorite and preferred role to play in a band. You don't need to be the next big music producer to perform this role, you just need to get to know the basics of these tasks.
Research: Spend plenty of time reading up on all sorts of techniques from songwriting, recording, editing, mixing, and mastering. Great places to look are podcasts, books, and online forums.
Hiring: Anything you can't or shouldn't do yourself will need to be hired out to a professional. Staying connected with your peers, mentors, teachers, and other professionals will help you pick the best person for the job. The most common tasks to hire out are producers, songwriters, mix/master engineers and even FOH engineers, techs, and photographers/videographers.
Education: You could spend a lifetime on this one task. Whether you pick all of these tasks to get good at or just a few to be great at, every task you master saves your band time and money. Aside from songwriting and studio engineering you should learn how to engineer FOH run live lighting. You should also learn how to tech drums, vocals, guitars, and bass. Teach a few of your bandmates how to tech and engineer in case your sick or fired.
Writing and Recording: A great producer once told a band they weren't ready to record their next album until they've written 300 songs. The more songs you write the better your songs will be. So put in the work and get the results. At a bare minimum you need to learn how to write your own music and record you own rehearsals and demos.
Live: Learn how to run the PA at your rehearsal space, learn how to run a mixing board, and learn how to create click/backing tracks for your live performance. Learn how to transport and care for your equipment and instruments as well as run a light board and perform guitar and drum tech duties.
There may be tasks I've missed here but this should give you a good idea of what you'll need to be working on. Ultimately, picking the right member to take care of each task should not be overlooked. If you have to, schedule a quarterly reviews where the whole team sits down and talks about how their tasks are going and discusses any challenges they're facing.
You'll need to mix and match talents as needed. If the member in charge of touring is great at running sound just swap tasks with another member. Sometimes the merch guy isn't great at Photoshop or the main songwriter isn't great at recording. There's no sense in assigning a task to a member who isn't passionate about being successful in that area.
So far we've covered what to do to prepare to get signed. But when should you hire a manager or a PR firm or approach a record label? We'll discuss that next time. NOW GET TO WORK! lol