by MATT BACON >
One thing that not a lot of local bands seem to understand is how not to alienate their fans.
At first glance this would seem like it was fairly obvious. Shouldn’t it be pretty easy to figure out how to not piss off the people who already claim to like your music? Shockingly enough bands manage to do it all the time and while some of these lessons might seem like they are retreading old ground others I think are the sorts of things that bands don’t think about enough when trying to move forward in the music business. As much as you might be trying to create an image around your band if the image is a shitty one then you re going to find yourself with more trouble than you’re worth, hurting your band and limiting your ability for growth as you proceed in trying to develop your band. Yes, a lot of this boils down to personal charisma, but there’s a hell of a lot more too, and that’s where things get a little interesting.
First and foremost I think it’s important to realize that the rock star aesthetic can be a double edged sword.
While on the one hand I think it’s important to hold yourself a little bit above the common fan when trying to present yourself to the masses it’s also important to not be super haughty. You need to be realistic of where you are at and then build from there. If your band is starting to have a draw and make an impact on the scene you need to be able to step back a little bit and show that you understand where things are coming from, you need to show that you appreciate the love fans are giving you and that this in a small way pushes you higher. This is especially relevant to touring bands. Remember that you are selling a fantasy and your ‘character’ should play into that. If you’re just a know nothing local, or even a local with members who attend a ton of shows then that’s just being pretentious. But if you recognize what your brand is then that’s going to help to give your brand a sense of power it might not normally have.
That being said, it’s also important not to act entitled.
If you make it seem like people owe you drinks, owe you favors and shouldn’t talk to you that puts you in a weird and separate place that is just going to blow up in your face. Fans want to buy into a fantasy but they don’t want to think that the singer of their favorite band is an asshole. By refusing to hang out at merch, by not buying drinks and hanging out or generally trying to shut down people who try an hang out with you then you are only hurting yourself. Just as much as people want to have an idol to look up to you can’t make yourself more popular by being inaccessible. You need to be around ready to hang and acting like a goddamn adult. If you can’t meet these moderate tasks which are your charge then you might as well not be in a band because it just turns you into some random asshole who can’t seem to get anything substantial done because he thinks he’s better than everyone.
Conversely, I think here’s something to be said for not being too desperate, and this ties into the first point of a certain degree of separation going a long way. If you’re constantly trying to make friends, acting weird and generally being a little too in your face then that doesn’t typically read well and folks will be alienated. You don’t want to be that overeager dork at the show who remembers weirdly specific details about people and who stands just a little bit too close. You can’t just ‘cool guy’ your way through everything but you also can’t try and make yourself seem silly and pathetic and then expect it to work in your favor. Remember, folks in underground music always think that they are cool, and frequently they are, because underground music is an inherently cool thing. This means that if you are distinctly uncool then you’re going to wind up hurting yourself and what you’re trying to create.
Ultimately what a lot of this boils down to is that you need to have your most charismatic person handling a lot of the fan interaction.
I know that kind of sucks, especially when the one with the charisma plays something lame, like the bass guitar. Still – if that’s what’s going to move units and help your band grow in popularity then that’s what needs to happen. I know that you probably have a shy member or two, but guess what, you can’t expect to succeed if your entire thing is ‘we are all neckbeards and virgins’. The thing about rock and roll is that it’s inherently sexy and if you don’t have that sexiness, at least to some extent then you aren’t going to get anywhere. Rock and roll is a genre built around charisma and since underground music descends from rock and roll this is an unavoidable reality.
At the end of the day a lot of what I’m saying here might not even impact you. These are general rules that I think tend to be helpful for most bands but as comment sections love to remind me there are always exceptions. Still – when I look at the bands who tend to do best, they follow some semblance of these guidelines in order to make things run smoothly. Sure you can possibly find a different way to run things and that can become part of your brand, but again it has to be part of your brand. You can’t just be an arrogant shy dick and expect that to work out. You need to acknowledge what you are worth and then grow from there, mighty forces will come to your aid, but only if you do things right.