Breaking into the music scene can be tricky, especially if you live in a big city that’s spoiled for choice. And while it’s true that making it big in the music world takes a lot of talent, it also takes drive, discipline, an ability to take chances and a shrewd business sense. The first steps in any fledgling music career are crucial, and so it’s important to know what you are doing. Consider these four tips, which pretty much every successful band has followed in some form or another.
Don’t Be Afraid To Self-Promote
Self-promotion happens on a number of fronts, but here let’s focus on the big one: the merch table. You can think of as the merch table as the heart of your grassroots self-marketing campaign. Here is how it works – people come to your shows for an experience, and if that experience is good enough, they will want a memento of it. It doesn’t matter if you’re an obscure band – in fact, many show-goers actually like that. To get started on your merch table, take your logo over to a shop that offers custom screen printing in Toronto (or whatever city you’re in) and have them make you a bulk order of t-shirts. The more t-shirts you sell, the better you can fund your tour, and the more exposure your band will get.
Take Every Gig (At First)
Taking gigs when you are new and taking gigs when you are established are two totally different things. When you are starting out, any kind of exposure is good exposure, since you are simply trying to get your music in as many ears as possible. Playing a gig to eight people on a Tuesday night at a pizza shop? Sure, take it — it’s better than playing no gig at all. Then, once you have played enough gigs and gained enough notoriety you can start being more discerning, choosing gigs according to things like pay, branding or location.
Work Together As A Unit (But Have A Manager)
You might say to yourself: well, pretty much all bands have one person who’s the creative force, who’s the face of the band. While that might be true, all successful bands still function as a unit, and the ones that allow a single, autocratic person to make all the decisions is bound for failure, as it courts resentment and in-fighting. If you want someone to manage your band, it’s better to look to a third party, to hire a manager who will take care of the bookings and marketing – read through this handy article on how to get a great band manager.
Once you have some cred, some merch and – most importantly – some music, it’s time to take things on the road. There are only so many venues in your home city, and touring can be a great way of expanding your listenership. Create a budget, map a route, rent a van or trailer and start cold-calling venues in each of the stops. Before long, a set-in-stone tour will emerge and you can start saving up money for the big tour.
You’ve worked hard on your music, honing your sound and practicing your synchronicity – now it’s time to reap the rewards. Follow these four tips and watch your band go from playing mouldy bars to playing giant arenas.