The most important thing you can do to make your band successful is both obvious and deceptively simple: Keep your band together.
You and your fellow band members don't have a lot of control when it comes to who likes your music or which blogs will write about it or if it gets any kind of airplay. What you do have control over is yourselves: how you interact with each other, what your individual and collective goals are, and most importantly how you treat each other.
Its so obvious. I mean if the band isn't together of course it can't become successful :) I have a strong belief that if 4 people who hadn't ever played instruments came together with the same goals, focus, and good communication they would be eventually become a famous band (if that's what their goals were ;) )
Here are a few ways to get and keep your band together, focused and strong.
1. Everyone in your band should be on the same page.
The best way to do this is with clearly defined goals - especially ones you can break down into numbers. Don't let people get away with answers like 'I don't know' or 'I guess, I'll have to see how it goes'. The more specific you can be the better.
- How many shows do you want to play now - Twice a month; every weekend all weekend?
- Ideally how many shows do you want to play or CAN you play - is a 60 or 90 day tour too much?
- How much is everyone willing to contribute monetarily to the band - how much money can you contribute of your own/month $0? $1000?
- How much personal time is everyone willing to contribute - 10 hours/week; 20? 50?
In addition to clearly defined goals with numbers you should all talk about what the ultimate goal for the band is. Is it 'have fun'? If so, what does 'have fun' mean to everyone? Try not to have answers that are open ended - "Dude, I just want to have fun, but if something happens, you know, that's cool." Those answers tend to create a lot of problems down the road.
A lot of bands ask this question and answer it with "I would like the band to get to a point where it breaks even money-wise." Fine. If that's what you want, write songs in the basement and don't play shows. No recording budgets. No gas for shows. No merch costs. BAM! You just broke even - goal met! The problem is people want some form of success in addition to 'breaking even'. They want to record and play shows and have merch. If you really want to have all those things AND have your band break even, its a good exercise to define some costs so you have a better understanding of how much you should be looking to make in return to break even. For instance call some recording studios and get realistic budgets for how much it is to record. Call merch vendors and find out how much it is to get shirts pressed. If you know your recording will be $1000 and shirts will be $500 and you know how much you plan on charging for shirts and recordings, then you know you have to sell 'x' amount of recordings and shirts to break even. Having that 'x' number is KEY. It gives you something to shoot toward while you're trying to 'spread the word' (market) yourselves.
2. Be not only cool with one another, but be a family.
Have respect for other members and try to find ways to talk with each other that are not incendiary or cause flare-ups. If someone has a problem with something try to use "I" statements to approach the other person(s). For instance try approaches like "Maybe its just me, but I feel like that part you're playing is not totally on. Can you show me what you're doing?" instead of "Dude, you're totally fucking up that part like ALWAYS! WTF!"
A lot of people just use the latter way and play the "Dude, I'm just being honest!" card, but there are ways of being honest without insulting someone or damaging their ego - and ego damage control is key to communicating with other musicians/artists.
Being a family also means being there for each other no matter how bad things get. In the Nirvana video below (at 2:00), Kurt is having problems with a bouncer. Watch how FAST Dave and Chris throw down their instruments to come to his aid. Amazing solidarity!
3. Sometimes its best to love the one you're with, not the one you want.
Everyone has their own idea of what they would like the band to sound like. With that sound comes individual styles of play. If you find that you have a member whose personality fits in well with the band, but his playing style is a little different than what you would like, its best to try and modify your vision to match the members you're playing with. For instance, The Smiths almost didn't use Mike Joyce, because they thought his drumming was too aggressive at first, but in the end I think the aggressiveness of his style adds something to their sound, they maybe wouldn't have got with a mellower drummer. Same with Andy Hurley from Falloutboy. Falloutboy would sound totally different if Hurley's drumming was a more poppy style instead of the hardcore background he came from. Also when people play to their strengths they feel good about what they're doing because they're doing something they are confident with.
Being in a band is like having 4 (or more) girlfriends or boyfriends and they're all different and all have different quirks and personalities. If you can find ways to focus yourselves, communicate better, and appreciate one another for who you are, your chances of survival AND success as a band will be much greater.
- Shane Olivo
The New Loud
Bobby Peru Recording