Back to School 2014
Duuuuuuuude! Being in a band is the best! I didn't "start" a band as much as I said "okay" when three friends asked me to sing some songs out of what was basically a Barbie toy microphone in a practice space we weren't supposed to have a key to, but I highly recommend it as one of the best experiences you can experience. It's also time-consuming, expensive, grueling, and a brutal way to get your ego smashed, but if you love music and think that playing music might be up your alley, here are some practical tips for starting a band:
GET SOME BANDMATES
Seek out buddies with similar musical taste (or better records than you). You don't all have to be on exactly the same page, but some amount of camaraderie is helpful. Schedule practices and get to know them. If they're insufferable or lazy or sketchy or hardworking or fun or talented, these might be traits you're dealing with in the long run. Hot tip: In the beginning, only one of you needs to "know" how to "play" an instrument.
YOU NEED TO PRACTICE
Basements are your best bet for a cheap practice space—if you have scored one of those, bake your neighbors some cookies and let them know about your sweet band. Don't be an asshole. City noise curfews are real, and your cookies can't be that good, so be reasonable about when you call it a night. Practices spaces are another option, which require diligence in getting everyone's share of the rent and a Buddha-like ability to deal with broken strings and missing cords. Hot tip: No practice should go longer than two hours, and one of those hours should be taken up by getting stoned, eating, laughing, and/or discussing ways to obtain a fog machine.
NAME YOUR BAND
Band names are tricky. All the good ones are taken, and having the same name as another band is a nightmare for everyone. Avoid full sentences. Don't abuse punctuation or capitalization. Vowels are back in. Puns are still kinda funny. You're going to get real sick of explaining anything shocking, stupid, and/or un-googleable. Hot tip: Sometimes certain words become popular for band names at the same time. Right now, its best to avoid "wolf" and "white" and "eyes" and any portmanteau involving "Japan."
GET ONTO THE INTERNET
You need an internet presence. It may seem "not punk," but this is your first step toward playing shows. Even the shittiest handful of recordings on a Bandcamp page suddenly makes you legit—venues, other bands, and potential people who want to see you play (sometimes known as "fans") can now get an idea of what you're about. Hot tip: SoundCloud is okay, Facebook should just link to your music (don't try to do their version of a band page), never go back to MySpace, and ReverbNation is where music goes to die.
IT'S OKAY TO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING
Don't fret about nailing guitar solos or double-kick-pedal breakdowns. Don't worry about Radiohead-ing the shit out of your recordings. More often than not, people who do those things right off the bat are annoying anyway. You will get more pro as you go. Hot tip: Radiohead suck. Just kidding.
BUT YOU SHOULD KIND OF KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING
Okay, it is important to know how to plug your gear in correctly. Learn your way around a PA, or how to set up a drum kit, or which cables need to go into which holes in your amp. Having a rough idea of what makes microphone feedback will help you not do that. Google things. Read books. Ask questions. The more you can do for yourself, the less onstage disasters you'll encounter when the sound person isn't familiar with your shit. Hot tip: Always be nice to the sound person.
GETTING HELLA FAMOUS
So you've been playing around town a lot, you know how to plug in your amp, you have more than 10 songs, and people have uncrossed their arms at your shows. Now what? Not to get your hopes up, but sometimes a record label might want to put your music onto a record or CD for you and then help you sell it! How does this happen? You'll need to take the first steps. Get to know labels that might be a good fit for you. Do you generally like the other albums they've put out? Does their repertoire include bands in your approximate genre or vibe? Do they seem cool to work with? Drop some lines—send e-mails and include links to your very impressive internet presence, invite them out to see you play, send them a heart-shaped pizza. If you do "get signed," please read and re-read the paperwork and make sure you're down with touring and promoting your music yourself. Hot tip: Keep in mind that you're probably not going to make a million dollars, but being on a label will help you better reach an adoring audience that might even purchase your music—an important step toward saving up for the fog machine of your dreams.