There are two main schools of thought on putting together a band. One advises starting with a clearly defined concept of what you’re looking for musically, professionally, and personally. The other approach strongly suggests getting together a group of people that like making music, and then, let the band find itself in the process of getting to know each other personally, professionally, and creatively.
The truth is actually a combination of both approaches. I’d never suggest having no clue about what you want as far as creating your sound or look or even name for your band. But so much of what makes a band click is chemistry, the strange dynamic that creates its own forces from the unique gifts, personalities, and quirks of the players and singers coming together.
Get The Word Out
That being said, you can’t start a band unless you get the word out. Discovering potential band members is often as simple as getting your buddies and your musical friends to see how cool it might be socially or creatively or both to be in a band. But you have to find ways to get the word out to people you don’t know whose gifts might not only be what you’re looking for but something that exceeds your expectations and fires your imagination.
Classified ads in local papers, Craigslist and social network sites/blogs, local industry publications, college and school papers, even church publications can be great resources for getting the word out. It’s also wise to check out your community and local area for music venues, theaters, and other public arenas where live music is performed. This will help you network, and you can even get some tips from local bands on how to get started or connected.
Audition + Interview
When you place an ad make sure you arrange some way to set up a meeting, get a music sample, and hold an audition-interview of some kind. Before you interview a potential band member make a list of key things you’re looking for including time availability, commitment level, self-discipline – you want to weed out the flakes and slackers.
As for the instrumental makeup of your group, start with the basics: percussion, keys, guitar, and bass. You can add to this mix based on the musicians that show up and intrigue you and the material you create. But it’s best to start simple. That gives you a strong foundation to work on perfecting and then building on.
Perfect Your Practice
Sometimes the group will click right away, and it’s almost instinctual how you read and feed off of another player. However, that is rarely the case when you’re starting out.
Your band members will likely have varied backgrounds, temperaments, and different levels of experience. Use your rehearsal time to not just work out the kinks, but to get to know and understand each other as you define and refine your sound and music sets.
Be true to yourself in terms of musical tastes, image, and the messages your music communicates. Don’t be pretentious or phony, unless you happen to be performing a piece where that is the point of the song.
When you’re starting out, word of mouth is your best advertiser. Start out by holding an informal backyard concert to introduce yourself to the community. You might want to share the night or afternoon with other groups and artists that are seeking an audience as well. You may want proceeds from the conceert to benefit a favorite community charity.
You can also look to established artists in your area to see if they can help you out by showing up to perform a song or by simply giving you advice on getting started and staying booked.
A backyard concert can be held in somebody’s rec room, a school auditorium, a football field, park, a church hall – any place you can find that is available, cost effective – ideally free – and will accommodate a sizable audience of at least 30 to 50 people. Be sure to bring contact info for those who show up and a CD demo sample, if you can.
The Biz Of Buzz
Your goal at this concert is to get bookings, create a buzz, make a positive first impression that will have lasting results. Seek constructive feedback from this initial concert and put it to good use. And make sure you stay in touch with those who show support.
The more you play, the more you will grow. That will build on itself. You might even outgrow your band, or your band may grow in a direction that you’re not comfortable with. Let your experience teach you more about your unique voice. Find ways to use your band experience as a way to support your fellow artists. That support is part of what will help you define your walk of fame as a singer, singer-songwriter, musician, performer, or the whole package.