Part 7: TL;DR and Real Talk
An editorial series by Eric Navarro
In this final installment, I will briefly summarize some of the previous sections in “Too Long; Didn’t Read” form, and then add a little bit of pure honesty in regards to that section. Here’s an example:
TL;DR: I hope you enjoyed this article series and took away some things that will help your band succeed.
Real Talk: Your band will probably not succeed unless you make some major sacrifices.
Part 1: Don’t Set Your Band Up To Fail
TL;DR: Be very careful when forming your band. Choose band members wisely and don’t be afraid to kick them out the moment you see a red flag. Don’t be optimistic and expect anyone to change as the band progresses. Play to your strengths when picking your genre.
Real Talk: You’re going to have to move. Unless you’re already living in an area where your genre is exploding, you have to move to a place where it is. Further, that’s where you’ll find bandmates who truly share your passion for putting in the work required to succeed. If you have any doubt that you are in a booming scene, then you aren’t. If the shows aren’t plentiful and consistently packed, then you need to move to where they are.
Part 2: Breaking Into Your Scene
TL;DR: Go to shows and meet people often. Made a name for yourself as a person before your band is active (or even exists). Be a peer to both fans and bands alike.
Real Talk: These are your “nights out” now. Whether you’re working or in school, the times you would normally spend at a bar, at a party, playing sports, etc need to be converted to attending shows all the time. If you’re someone who goes out five nights a week then I’m sure you’ll fit everything in, but most people only have one or two nights a week they can dedicate to something and that something needs to be going to shows.
Part 3: You Only Need 15
TL;DR: Be smart and think long-term when planning your first few shows. Make some money and hopefully turn 15 people in your life into fans of your band. Also, keep in mind that fans who are influential in the scene (online and in person) are worth more to your band than someone who likes your band but is otherwise disconnected from the scene.
Real Talk: If you have followed these steps and cannot seem to cobble together 15 hardcore fans, or at the very least- 60 casual fans who will see your band once for every four shows you play, or if you are not getting requests from people to book your band, then you need to be making better music. As a general rule you should always be working to put out better music, but if you’re doing the work required to get your music and band name out there and people just aren’t connecting to it, then you’re doing something wrong. Most of the time it’s something fixable like the songwriting or production quality, which can be fixed by working hard on revising songs or finding a producer, engineer, and studio that works well with your band. Other times it’s something unfixable like if your singer just doesn’t have that great of a voice. Don’t hesitate or assume your band has “gone too far” to replace him or her. The sooner you burn it down, the sooner you can rebuild.
Part 4: The Trenches
TL;DR: Get your band’s name, music, and shows out to everyone you can. This stage requires more work than brains. Learn how to talk to strangers and don’t get discouraged over how slow the progress goes. Find ways to reach your target audience and how to quickly get someone interested in your band through the few means you have- the image on a download card, your band name, and your personality.
Real Talk: This part sucks and it takes years. This is also when your entire life becomes the band. If you’re in school or if you work, every waking minute that does not go into doing the thing that keeps a roof over your head is now dedicated to the band. And don’t think you can tour so fast. Premature touring kills momentum faster than an unexpected pregnancy.
Part 5: Turning Casual Fans Into Devoted Fans
TL;DR: Put out quality content at a consistent rate. A lot of bands get attention after hustling for a few years and think they can just relax. Six months later, everyone has lost interest in them. For the first few years of being a band you’re basically yelling “Hey! Look at me!” to a crowded room. Now people are finally looking at you so it’s time to do something. The bands I’ve seen succeed are the ones who take advantage of that attention and maintain it through quality content at a consistent rate.
Real Talk: This is hard for me to even write, but it’s honest. If your band has spent a few years relentlessly playing shows and giving out music, but you still haven’t gathered enough attention for your content to make an impact, then you should probably break up. I can’t tell you the exact reason that your band is struggling so much, but there is clearly something wrong. As a last gasp, you can always throw money at a tour or promotion company, but even then, most respectable bookers and PR companies won’t accept your money if they don’t think you have a shot to succeed. If you are willing to accept the increasing likelihood that your band will never “make it,” but you truly love what you’re doing, then by all means keep playing and promoting to whatever degree you are comfortable with. However, you can greatly increase your odds of success in the music business if you join a more established band or start a new one with different, more promising musicians.
Worst Case Scenario and Silver Lining:
Even in failure, the silver lining from putting your heart and soul into a band is two-fold. First, you will have many contacts if you choose to continue pursuing music, many of which may even look up to you if they got into the scene during the years that your band was prevalent. Secondly, you’ll have had an experience that most people will never get to have. I’ve had the same conversation with many younger musicians when they tell me how badly they want to make music for a living. In fact, most of this guide could probably be pieced together out of my Facebook messages and emails with bands who are, admittedly, experiencing more success than my bands ever did. I always give them my best advice, but I also warn them of the high likelihood of failure. However, I make sure they know that the worst case scenario is that they’ll wake up five years later- broke, jobless, and alone- forced to start on a new path in life, but with the knowledge that they can spend the rest of their lives knowing they had a more fulfilling half-decade than most people have in a lifetime.
Last modified: July 30, 2015