Wow, you’ve created that masterpiece album you’ve been dreaming of since you were a kid. You’ve put blood sweat and tears in to every sample of audio in your ten 345- 754 track Logic sessions and you are pressing the confirm button on Distrokid to let the album see the light of day - and hopefully more ears than just your mums.
CLICK. It’s done. Fuck.
Now you need to play a show… But you have no band! FUCK.
In this post, I’m going to help you get your perfect band together, and give you the tools to keep them together and NOT piss them off in the process.
The first and most important thing to do is select the right people! This seems easy right? But people dynamics are hard to navigate. I’ll give it to you straight. An important balance needs to be struck between how well you get along with them and amazing musicianship.
I think this is the order of importance too.
I’m telling you to pick the person you vibe with the most personally, who can play pretty well. As opposed to the person who plays every note perfectly but is a brick wall to talk to. This is because your goal is to curate your groups vibe. You are selecting what presence you give off to the audience. Do you want to portray rigid perfection or fun with friends?
Fun with friends right?! Me too!
Before picking any members, ask yourself what your current productions needs are and how many members you’ll have to get. Could you play the live set with less members and utilise pre-recorded tracks?
It’s time to get REAL transparent in your intentions. Write stuff down. Write down if/how you intend to pay members and what’s expected of the band members. Go full boss CEO style on it! Your future band members will appreciate this.
I recommend finding one member at a time and meeting up with them individually to have a jam, talk about musical commonalities and your vision. If you just find one person who you can be confident in, it’ll make the next member even easier to find!
IF YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO PAY THE BAND:
This is original music, you have not recorded a million streams yet. Lets be real. You can't afford to pay these guys for rehersal. You can’t afford to pay them for the gig sometimes. This is OK. Again, if they are friendly Joe and not perfection Frank- They will be having fun. BUT you need to tell them this as early on and upfront as you can be (ideally in writing) and you need to make it clear that if they are not happy with this, they don’t need to commit to the project. This makes everyones lives easier! If you do have a budget for a gig or recording session, let them know right away too!
WRITE SOME CHARTS:
The best way to let a band know you are serious and avoid unwanted rehersal time is to chart your songs in a detailed way. This could be using iReal Pro or the NNS (Nashville Numbers System). Once you have charted these, export them as PDFs and print a copy for each member + give them a google drive file with the charts inside + the recordings.
Make sure you give them the charts at least a week before your first rehersal so they can have a listen to them and play them through!
Put the recordings in a Google Drive folder. Please make sure there is only one version of each song and it is in MP3 form so that they can stream it easily (low buffer times) and they can potentially download it to listen in the car.
YOUR FIRST REHERSALS:
I want you to be aware of something very important. YOU ARE IN CHARGE. This means that you have to make the rehersal as beneficial as it can be and have a responsibility to make every minute count by planning each part of the rehersal.
For the first rehersal, bring two options of snacks and one drink for every member. Be thoughtful and let them know you appreciate them being there. Start by writing your pre written plan down on a white board (or paper) in the rehersal space. This will let the band know that you both appreciate their efforts to come (with snacks and drink) AND that you value their time (not wasting time being unsure what to do)
Before you start playing, put your iPhone down and press record on voice memos to capture the whole rehersal. It is also a great idea to take notes about exactly what you have practiced. Afterwards, send the recording and these notes to each person through the previously created Google Drive file so that they have something to reference and at the next rehersal, they don’t feel like they are starting fresh.
If you are running in ears, make sure YOU have all of the equipment to make that a success, and don’t expect the band to go out of their way to buy what you need them to have, to play your show. Buy it yourself and then you’ll have a flexible and reliable system to allow other people to jump in if someone cant play!
THE DAY OF THE SHOW:
Make sure each member knows their backline expectations (what they are meant to bring) and are feeling comfortable/needing to clarify anything before going on. Make sure you let them know the week before if there are any dress code requirements or talk about stage attire before gig day.
On the day of the show, your job as ”The Artist” should be to create a calm, relaxed and fun energy devoid of stress about technical elements of the show. To do this, you may need other people to manage certain technical things and logistical things. If you organise that, you can focus your energy on a positive, fun sound check with plenty of banter. I recommend going to a local bar/restaurant around the venue with the band to enjoy a meal together and spin yarns before the show. The idea is to be excited, be together and be confident.
Just like at rehersal, it’s a great idea to record the show. Audio is good. Video is even better! Send these to the members after the show so they can watch if they want to. You will be able to grow from analysing this and offer feedback to the band for future shows.
What I have learnt from being in many people bands is that leadership and direction is very important as well as comradely and appreciation. This is a social circle you’re creating and if you want everybody to be happy serving your music and excited to play with you each time, you’ve got to make each interaction with them fun, surprising and efficient. If this is the case from you, they will notice the difference between how you treat them and how other artists treat them. They will CHOOSE to play with you. And when you start playing bigger shows, your transparency about finance and expectations will extend in to a lasting business relationship and friendship.