So let’s review. You’ve created a game plan, you’ve gone social, and now you’re playing shows regularly. Great! You’re getting the hang of this, aren’t ya? Now comes the business aspect of your career. With each show you play, you’ll be getting paid. It might not be a lot, but it is something. The inevitable question will come up: What to do with the money? This is where you have to find a way to stop being the creative, music creating person and become the intelligent, business savvy person.
If you are in band, how to spend the money will be even harder to answer because there may be 3 or more people who want to do 3 or more different things with that money. Now you could go and spend that money on something you need, like an amp, guitar, guitar strings, drum sticks, etc. But you should try to save as much of that money as possible. You want to get recorded and release an album, right?
You could record yourself. Creating a home studio isn’t impossible, but it certainly requires money and the know-how. And there is a LOT of know-how required – just ask No Island. If you’re just making simple recordings to upload to Reverb, Bandcamp and SoundCloud, that’s one thing. But if you want to release an album, you’ll want the quality to be much better than what you’ve made available to your fans so far. And that’s where getting someone who knows what they’re doing, in regards to recording, is important. I highly suggest, unless you have recorded albums before and have the equipment, software, and knowledge, to go to a studio. As you play shows and interact with other bands, you’ll learn about where they go to get recorded. You may have someone living close to you who is running a studio out of their basement and they do a fantastic job. Sure, you could go to some big fancy studio, but that’s going to be expensive and probably way out of your budget.
Start out small. Life Lesson #4 – You have to start out small and work your way up. If a small, hometown studio is all you can afford, go with that. It will still be better than you trying to record yourself and better than anything you’ve uploaded to any site. Once you get your songs recorded semi-professionally, you can upload those higher quality songs to Reverb et. al. Now again, you’ll be tempted to try to sell your music on Amazon and iTunes. Don’t. It costs you money. Yes, selling your music with these big name sites will cost you money. And depending on how you choose to sell your music (strictly digital, physical copies, EPs, singles) it can end up being pretty expensive and way out of your local-band budget. You’re still small and you’re still trying to attract an audience. Keep giving your music away for free. Remember, your income should be coming from playing shows and selling t-shirts and stickers.
Which brings us to merchandise. You’re still trying to market yourself. And what better way to market yourself than create walking billboards? It might cost you some money, but making up some t-shirts and stickers can help get your name out there. People won’t be able to hear your music with a shirt, but if it’s a memorable shirt, people will either ask the wearer about it or check it out when they get online somewhere.
When you play at shows, it’s a good idea to have a small table or something set up where you can try to sell some merchandise. DO NOT try to sell your crappy recordings of your music. Give it away for free. Just buy a big thing of CDs and burn your songs on them. Get a black marker and write your name on the CDs as well as your website and hand them out. Hand them out anywhere you can. Leave them on people’s cars. Hand them out in stores. You’re trying to get your music out there, and selling it will attract less people. I cannot stress that enough.
If you’ve outgrown your local bars, pubs, night clubs, taverns, or eateries, it’s time to start thinking about touring. Or at least mini-touring. As I mentioned earlier, you can go to Indieonthemove.com and contact venues from all over the country. Assuming they’ll let you play, you can create a national tour or statewide mini-tour. Or maybe you can create a two or three state mini-tour. But here’s the thing: It all requires time to either email or call those venues (for the record, I would call. You’ll get a response on the phone rather than waiting for an email). You’ll have to figure out how you’ll pay for gas, that’s assuming, of course, that you have transportation. If you don’t have a vehicle, you can always ask the internet to help you out like The Oh Wells did. They used Kickstarter to get a van. If you have a vehicle, can it fit all your equipment? If you’re a solo show, that shouldn’t be an issue. But if you are a band, there is a lot of stuff to pack up – and you won’t have roadies to help you.
If you do a state-wide tour, where will you sleep? What will you eat? You’ll also want to shower. The people coming to your shows will also want you to shower. And all that costs money. Where will that money come from? Now sure, you could hire a manager to take care of all this stuff for you, but where’s that money going to come from? If you can’t afford to get a hotel or pay for gas or food, how the hell are you going to afford a manager?
You are on Page 5 – Somehow You Manage