So the other night I was out with a band I manage. They were on some godawful show or another with five local bands and I was sweaty and drunk. Band after band came on and we would make jokes with each other about how I should totally sign this band or that. Of course it was obvious to us that none of the bands playing were really in a position to get signed by someone trying to do serious things. Which consequently brought up the question in the back of my mind – how do I decide who is worth starting to work with and who I should just keep at arms length? There is a definite line there and it’s sometimes hard to exactly define what makes me so certain that a given local band is going to stay a local band forever as opposed to if a band is going to become a substantial part of the scene and has a very real future in this crazy old universe of ours. So I wanted to take some time to try and pick apart how I can tell if a band has an actual future. Let’s get to it.
I think first and foremost is the way that you can tell if a band sucks based on logo alone. There are countless bands that I know I can immediately discount because there logo is in a generic font and on a stupid background. The logo is frequently the first thing you take in from a band, even before the music, so if you can immediately see that a logo sucks then people aren’t going to end up being invested in your music. A good logo needs to be clear and precise. We’ve obviously talked before about how to make a good logo, but realize that above all you need to make sure that your logo isn’t generic and boring. I think this is especially the case with metal where the subgenreification is so deep that you can tell the specific type of music a band makes based on the font of their logo. Moreover though I think it needs to be clear that your logo isn’t just something your drummer drew up while he was bored one Tuesday afternoon.
This professionalism in your logo needs to extend to your general visual presence. Again – the visuals are something that you take in before the music in most cases. Even in terms of album art I think that some analysis makes it fairly obvious what the difference is between the art of a signed touring band and some unknown fucko’s. Now a lot of this is rather intangible and when I try to explain it to curious musicians in bars I often struggle with my words and quite frankly look like a bit of an ass. I think what it really comes down to is spending time to look at what every relevant band in your genre from the last 10 years has done and trying to emulate that to some degree. Even if you’re not creating a pastiche, which is in and of itself rarely a good idea, you can look at the general presentation and figure out how these bands are doing things and what’s working. In most cases people seem to miss the fundamental point of why bands get successful, and I a genuinely convinced it’s because they haven’t looked at enough other acts.
Now this is where it ties into seeing the band live. Of course me and the guys in the band I was with weren’t really checking out these dudes digital assets. We were just drinking beers and being critical because that’s what happens when you are jaded and old like me. What we were seeing those was bands that get so close and yet so far. I think that one of the hardest things to do as a band is to not come off as a try hard but also prove that you are really going for it. It’s one of those tricky realities that groups have to deal with. There is shit you might want to do that’s just going to come off as ridiculously stupid if you’re playing to 25 people, which is what the case will be early on. I would argue that the main thing here is confidence. A lot of bands when they come on stage seem giggly and nervous and that just shoots them in the foot. You need a band who are going to come at you with swagger and who realize why people connect to groups. It’s all about the fantasy, and if you can tap into that then you are going to have a great time.
Beyond that I think that there is a certain confidence the band needs to project offstage. The balance is important though. On the one hand I think there are countless arrogant musicians who don’t really do anything and don’t really make the music worth their while. Meanwhile there are a fair amount of people who think that as single share on their Facebook page is going to drive people to their band. Instead you need to have confidence in your project ut also be aware that no one cares and making them care is a nigh on impossible task. That doesn’t mean that you should give up, but rather that you need to spend some time figuring out what makes an individual project a logical choice for you and how to evolve that in the name of a greater tomorrow. If no one cares it’s up to you to make them care, and if you can’t make them care then you are going to need to reevaluate a lot of why you joined a band in the first place.
At the end of the day – it comes down to mimicking people who already have figured out something substantial and developing from there. Most people don’t really care about local music and a huge part of that is because local bands present themselves like a bunch of fucking dumbasses and that blows up in their faces. Bu if you take the time to make sure that your band looks just as good as any of the pros then people are going to be a lot more likely to connect to what you are offering and think you are a much bigger deal than you are. You need to find the keys to this presentation and unfortunately this changes between each individual artist. It’s a lot of work to be sure but if you don’t spend the time you’re going to look like an ass.