Starting a band is easy. Keeping a band together while growing a fanbase and increasing
your reach is the real challenge. Myself along with vocalist/guitarist John Schreiner started the band “Schreiner” in 2017 with the intent of creating original music and performing live in the Washington DC area while receiving income from this endeavor. Over the past 18 months, we have learned a fair amount of key lessons related to the business side of running a band that we would like to pass on to other artists and musicians. Many people start their musical projects with good intentions based on their love for music and performing. Getting musicians together, developing a setlist, rehearsing and performing your first show are the first big steps that most projects can achieve fairly easily. If your goal as a musician or group is to play some local bar gigs as a hobbyist while making some side money then you are all set. However, if your project wants to evolve into a more lucrative act with higher paying gigs then certain businesses mechanisms and practices must be executed for your project to get to the next level. It's very important for group members to define their expectations as they move forward as this process is very time and money intensive. All of us would love to show up to our gigs, plug-in, and rock out to a packed house. While that’s what we all want, it is not the reality. For bands wanting to move to a more lucrative pay and gigs, music acts need to adopt a business approach tailored to the types of shows they want to perform with certain must have mechanisms in place. The music business can be very rewarding for the few artists who want to endure the difficult challenges (and gut punches) associated with growing their band into a lucrative business. This post is for those who are interested in how much work is truly involved in running a band, music group, solo artist, or music project as a business.
Who am I? My name is Jay Glaspy and I’m a bassist, audio engineer, DJ, and a certified project manager. I’ve worked in numerous bands since 2006 and now I’m currently the bassist for DC based acts Schreiner and Night Sage. I also own Northern Virginia based entertainment company Xen Live where part of my job is booking live acts for special events. In this post, I will outline what’s worked well and didn’t work well based on my experiences and observations of other acts I’ve worked with.
Once your band or act is formed, the basic components you need to have in place are a website, video, high resolution photos, audio demos, and social media accounts. Your project most likely will not score gigs outside of your local area without these items in place. We faced these challenges initially back in 2017 and tackled them one by one.
Website with Video
Your website is your one-stop shop for anyone trying to learn about your project. The website should pass the “15” second test. Which means it must engage the viewer to keep their attention past 15 seconds. We live in a digital overload world and your website must be engaging enough to capture the viewer’s attention. A video of your act performing can go a long way. I recommend your video should be a live performance featuring your band performing one of your signature songs. This will allow the booking agent, bar owner, or potential fan to quickly decide if they want to learn more. Next should be a brief 100-word bio describing the basic demographics of your band such as who you are, where you are based, what type of music you perform, and any other pertinent information. Additionally, the site should contain your show schedule, social media links, hi-res photos, and maybe an electronic press kit (EPK). Your EPK is basically a condensed version of your website designed to pitch to booking agents who wish to learn about your band in a very short manner. EPKs could be a different topic totally and I will hold-off on going down that rabbit hole for now. Lastly, your website should have your contact information for booking purposes and inquiries.
As for managing the website, I highly recommend someone in the band who is tech savvy and has the time to manage the site weekly. Again, this can be time-consuming and regular maintenance is necessary.
Next, your site should have quality demos. When I mean “quality” I mean audio recordings that are professionally recorded in a pro or project studio. It is an instant turn-off to hear a poorly recorded demo on an iPhone. Studio time is very available nowadays with digital technology and artists can produce a quality 3 song demo for under $1000 and have the tunes on Spotify relatively quickly.
Working with Schreiner we have been very fortunate to apply a team effort to many of these tasks. We have partnered with our close friend Chris McPhee from Green Beret Media which has allowed us to created high-quality videos at an affordable rate. We also have access to a home recording studio which allows us to pull the audio straight from the board at our shows and create great sounding mixes to accompany the video.
Instagram, Youtube, and Facebook are our go-to social media sites. We use Facebook for longer posts in addition to Facebook ads. Instagram allows for photo content that usually gets more traction than a Facebook post. The great thing about Instagram is that most of the posts on Instagram are direct and to the point which directly relates to the photo you post. Most of the videos we post on Social Media are connected to our youtube channel. We also use Twitter and its also great for quick tweets and mass messaging to your followers. Lastly, we also recommend using an app such as Hootsuite to sync all of your social media accounts.
Once your project has established the basics, considering websites and tools that are useful for bands is the next step. Reverb Nation and Sonicbids are two primary sites we use that facilitate exposure and opportunities for bands. We were selected to perform two very large events through our accounts at Sonic Bids and Reverb Nation which justified our investment. Reverb Nation has a direct link to hundreds of opportunities while Sonic Bids also offers similar tools.
PR Company & Booking Agents
To further increase exposure, a music PR company is highly recommended. We recently partnered with The Marketing Mixtape (https://www.themarketingmixtape.com/) from Richmond, VA to help gain more of a regional following and to support our album release. PR companies have an extensive network of press contacts and they can be very helpful on the promotion side. As for scoring more gigs, we partnered with several Washington DC-based booking agents and talent buyers. The booking agents receive many inquiries and it is imperative that your website and social media accounts are solid in order to cut through the tons of submissions booking agents receive.
As you can see, there is a lot of work involved in running a band and it can be very time-consuming. Defining your goals and expectations is paramount and to prevent spinning your wheels in different directions. Every group or project operates differently and group members should discuss what their business approach should be. The basics tasks such as a website, video, audio demo, and social media presence are a good way to start and essential to landing gigs. As the project grows, employing other tools such as Reverb Nation and Sonic Bids will help to grow your fanbase while connecting your project to larger venues. Running and performing in a band is not easy…then again, nothing worth having or doing comes easy. Good luck!
Owner, Xen Live (www.xenlive.net)
Bassist for Schreiner (www.schreinermusic.com)
Session Bassist (www.xeonesbass.com)