Sometimes all the most important skills that you can hold to benefit your band are the ones that aren’t at all related to music. That’s a weird thought, now isn’t it? However – in my experience that’s just the way things are. People far too often believe that being a great musician is going to take them far. Little do they realize that it’s everything else that actually matters. There are tons of great musicians out there, we call it ‘playing’ an instrument because that is exactly what it is – play. Obviously there is a ton of practice and hard work that goes into truly mastering an instrument, but in all honesty, that’s something most people do in their teens and early twenties. In most cases and in most bands you are replaceable as a musician. The people who want to take this whole music thing to a career level though realize they need to go above and beyond.
In all of the most successful independent bands that I have worked with, different people in the band held different jobs. The stress of running in a band can overwhelm any one individual, that’s why it’s great to have bands made up of invested individuals. Even if you have a manager or a label, they are going to expect a lot of personal commitment. There are always going to be people who are more ‘into it’ than their peers, but still. The bands who tend to succeed the most have people who are not only deeply invested in the music industry and who have a strong understanding of business, but also those who engage in graphic design work, study social media, and construct a brand around their band.
I’m not trying to dive back into the standard ideas of hard work and kindness that define this blog with this post though. No. I am trying to emphasize that even though it’s all about the music, it should not be all music. In fact I would argue that the minority is music. One could argue that certain people are in fairly major bands simply because in the early days they knew how to properly handle the business side of things. Just look at someone like John Paul Jones in Led Zeppelin, after a while he became a de facto member of the bands management team and ended up being one of the most successful members of the band post Bonhams death.
If you’re seriously trying to make a go at this whole being a musician thing, you are going to need at least one other thing hat you are really good at that you can tie into the music industry somehow. Graphic design or something else artistic is obviously one way to go about it, as is mixing and production. That being said – there is also a lot to be said for things in the more business oriented side of the profession. Being able to read and judge your own contracts before having to get a lawyer look at them is going to help you a lot .That is not to say you shouldn’t hire a lawyer, but knowing how to make those kinds of decisions and being sufficiently aware of their import is going to impress people if nothing else.
If you’re in a band now with people who you love and get along with well, then that’s an awesome step forward. You need to make sure that everyone is delivering though if you want to move to the next level. If members are not contributing to the future of your band then their role needs to be brought into question. This is not because they are bad people or are lacking musically, but because they aren’t helping you move your career forward. The band is the beginning of the team that needs to find its way to success. And if the very foundation has people who want to loaf around and not take what could be their careers seriously then you need to re-evaluate your bands priorities.
Keep in mind that it is TOTALLY fine if you want to be a hobby band. Different people like different aspects of the musical experience, and if your whole goal is to go out, play a few shows with your buddies now and then and maybe impress a few girls then you don’t need to expect this level of commitment. The advice I’m giving in this article purely applies to bands who want to make it ‘big’. That being said – if you want you hobby band to get out and do some exciting stuff, then you still are going to need a decent level of commitment (And possibly a little insanity) coming from all sides of the band.
Ultimately what it boils down to is asking what you bring to the team. Sure it can be hard to find band members, but if you want a band made up of people who are truly going to succeed then it becomes a need for so much more than just good players. Some bands do have a main dude who handles everything, but if you can’t even handle the side things that are going to come as being part of a band (Insurance for vans, interviews, etc) then you are going to have a hard time breaking into that next level act who is going to tour the country and do a lot of cool stuff. Maybe you will get lucky and break in, but most people these days are going to need you to be a great player and something else.