Stephen Melton performing in Denver, CO. Photo by David Bach.
[This article was written by Dave Kusek, founder of the New Artist Model, an online music business school for independent musicians, performers, recording artists, producers, managers, and songwriters. He is also the founder of Berklee Online, co-author of The Future of Music book, and a member of the team who brought midi to the market.]
Playing with a band for a living seems like a dream for a lot of people, but like anything, if it isn’t built on a solid foundation, it will most likely crumble. That solid foundation is the relationship you have with your band. Think about it like this: even if you’ve managed to establish a really profitable music career, an internal band conflict can bring it all to an end.
Just keeping everyone moving in the same direction is a challenge, and unfortunately, it’s not something we like to focus on until it’s going wrong. Egos can get in the way, conflicting expectations can tear people in opposite directions, and miscommunication can send your productivity to the ground.
Luckily, there’s an easy way to stop all these problems before they start, and once you get everything organized, you’ll get more done, reach your goals faster, and feel more fulfilled as a group. You can get even more tips for organizing your band and your music career in this free ebook, so be sure to download it after you read this article.
1. Create a Hierarchy
Music is fun. And one of the best parts about being in a band is that you get to do what you love every single day. But if you want to make this your career, you need to think of yourself as a business – and that includes how your organize yourself. Just like a company, try to create a hierarchy of leadership that will help you make decisions and get more done.
You may be in a situation where one member is a clear bandleader with the other members working as salaried employees, or maybe you all have an equal say in things. Other bands will give the two main songwriters a bigger say in the decision making process.
2. Decide on Decisions
How decisions are made and who can make them will build off your band hierarchy, but it’s worth making it crystal clear. Will the bandleader be responsible for all decisions? Do you have to get together as a group and discuss every time there’s a decision to be made? Or will each of you have the freedom to make calls without consulting other members?
3. Set Expectations
This is probably the most important point. As a band, you all need to settle on common goals and expectations for your career. Decide what sound and image you’re going for and how long you see yourself pushing your music career. The last thing you want is your singer to bail after a few years because he feels like he needs to “grow up” and get a “real job.”
Another really important expectation to set is how much time you can all realistically dedicate to the band. Some member may still want to hold down part-time jobs as a stable income while others may feel the best option is to go full force into music to “make it” faster. In the end, you may end up feeling like some members aren’t pulling their weight and that leads to tension in the band.
4. Divide Tasks
As a band you have a distinct advantage over solo musicians – you already have a team of people at your disposal and you can divide up the tasks to get more done. The key is to really make it clear which tasks each member is responsible for so there’s no overlapping or confusion.
You can also divide up the tasks based on each member’s strengths to really power drive your productivity. Let the most outgoing member be responsible for calling venue owners and promoters to get gigs. If one of your members is good at math, put them in charge of your accounting. If another member is always on Facebook, they could be responsible for updating your social media pages and growing your fanbase online.
5. Create a Band Contract
The last thing to do is to put together a formal band contract. There are a lot of options available to bands, so you’ll have to decide which is best suited to you and your career.
A partnership is easy and inexpensive to put together. However, your personal assets are at risk if you get sued or owe any debts and the partnership will dissolve if any member leaves. But if you’ve decided that the band is a short-term thing, a partnership will be perfectly adequate.
An LLC is a great option for bands in it for the long haul. Your personal assets are safe, members can enter or leave the band without disrupting anything, and they are still fairly easy and inexpensive to set up.
As you can see, taking the time to organize yourself as a band up front will help you in the long run. If you want to learn more, check out the New Artist Model online music business courses where you’ll learn how to turn your music into a successful business – a business where you are in control! You’ll create an actionable and personalized plan that will help you achieve a career in music, and you’ll be able to do it all with the resources you have available right now.
If you’d like more strategies like these, you can download this ebook for free. It will take you through some of the best strategies for indie musicians to help you grow your fanbase and your career.