I think that a lot of bands underestimate the utility of spreadsheets. This is one of those book keeping things that I am pretty sure you are going to hate but which are also going to make your life incredibly easy when you get through. Spreadsheets documenting just about every aspect of your scene make it easy to reach out and figure out how you want to do what without having to rack your brain for answers all the time. When it comes down to it – you’re really busy. Remembering everything that goes into being in a band is hard, but simultaneously you don’t want to look like a dick. I’ll be honest with you – I don’t really know anything anymore, but I do have spreadsheets. So when the time comes to get something done I can pull up my spreadsheet and sound like I have my shit together, when I really spent the entire morning making weird noises while playing with my belly button. When it comes down to it – spreadsheets are the future.
Here’s how I generally have things sorted. I know people across the country who can book metal shows for me, but of course this list is over a hundred people long, and I work in other genres too. So instead of trying to call them all up from memory (Though that periodically does have to happen, my spreadsheets are not perfect) I am able to keep a list of them so that when the time comes to book a show in Reno I’m not clueless but rather I have someone to go to. This has the added bonus of not having to constantly harass bigger bands that I know in order to find people who can book a show or two for me. This isn’t the only thing I have spreadsheets for either. When I said I try to know as little as possible I wasn’t joking. I recently developed a spreadsheet categorizing 36 types of social media post and the best places to use them and what brand types they need to be associated with. I even keep spreadsheets for individual bands so I can remember minute details in order to help them as best as possible.
The key issue with creating spreadsheets themselves is twofold. First of all you need to figure out what information makes the most sense in spreadsheet form. The answer to this is simple – pretty much all of it. I know that at first spreadsheets can feel clunky but the more you get used to them and the better you get with the inherent programming and tabs then you will slowly find yourself eagerly embracing what they have to offer. I know they can be very alienating, so I really challenge you to spend more time with them to unlock their full potential. Beyond that of course is the fundamental issue of how to present the information. As obvious as something might seem to you remember that this resource isn’t always just going to be for you. I know you might think that for now, but that’s probably not going to remain the case. Eventually this band you’re in now will break up. Eventually you might want to share your information with someone, hell you might even get a music job. Then you are going to need to share resources and find a better way forward.
Making your information presentable can be tricky. A lot of it can be done with formatting in the background, which is inherently a complicated thing involving a lot of programming. Fortunately there are a ton of guides out there that you can use in order to develop systems that basically do all the math of being in a band for you. Seriously – I have seen accounting spreadsheets that were so finely tuned you could document one sweatshirt sale in a specific size and it would go on to update your inventory and tell you your net and gross income as well as your income percentage – and all you had to do was update a single number! Think about what this power can mean for your band. Suddenly you don’t have to try and do your best and remember if playing Kalamazoo two years ago was a good choice. Instead you have a sheet that shows you not only how many people showed up but also how much merch you were able to move and the value per head from that show.
Now I know all of this sounds intense – and believe me it is. I have spent MANY a weekend putting together sheets that I knew would pay off in the long run. When you look at it you need to consider not just the inherent value of these resources but also the time saved over the long term. For example – now that I have this spreadsheet with every type of merch I could possibly want and where I can buy it I now no longer have to google that sort of thing. That might not sound like a huge help for a band who print shirts once or twice a year, but for someone like me who has merch orders going out pretty much every week – well that’s kind of a game changer. By the same token – if you can set up a sheet documenting the types of social media posts you do then you are going to save a lot of time that you might have otherwise spent brainstorming the same repetitive social media strategies. You just want to minimize the stress that goes into your band and documenting everything is going to make your day to day much easier.
I totally understand why bands don’t want to do this. Trust me – I’ve been on long tours and filling out the sheet is no ones favorite task. Google Docs helps a lot with this because rather than trying to write things down and document it later you can just do it with a few quick taps on your phone. You also need to be willing to double check – especially at the bigger shows where there are so many people trying to buy merchandise that it’s simply unrealistic trying to keep track. No one said this would be fun or easy – I just want to facilitate your day to day so that when things start to fall apart and you are cracking under the stress then you have at least the basics sorted out to be easy and feasible – a far cry from the nightmare many bands face.