Starting a band: PART 1

By Russel Hlongwane & Marlyn Ntsele

starting a bandStarting a band costs lots of time and it helps if you know from the outset where you are headed and how you will get there. Before taking the initiative to start a band, you should ask yourself a tricky question. Is a band really the best way for you?

A talented singer or rapper can also make a solo career. In studio and on stage you can get session musicians to work with you. The decision to work with a group has to be a conscious one. Even if you choose to go solo it is still worth it to read this article, it will help with direction in your career.

The next question that you will have to ask yourself: which musical direction should your band take? If you will compose your own music: would you like other composers in your band?

When you have the answers to the questions above, you can start approaching people. Also if you already have a band, it will be useful to think about the agreements you make. The right musicians, the standard question for a start-up band is if the friend who is not too talented, but such a cool guy can join! Our standard answer is NO!

A group is as good as their weakest link. Someone who does not have the same level as the others will only stop the growth of your band. Sooner or later he will drop out and it will become a problem. If he is really a good friend, he will understand. Your own circle of friends is usually not the best place to find musicians. Someone who can maybe help is your music teacher. He knows a lot of musicians and has a good ear to estimate their qualities. Also rehearsal spaces and music shops are good places to find musicians. The people who work there often know exactly which musicians are looking for work. They know the scene and have knowhow of the different genres.

The first meeting

The first band meeting is so crucial. You want to set the right tone. This is when the band is defined and shaped. This first meeting is a test to find out if you can come to clear agreements with each other about the roles in the band and its direction. Does this not work out, then the collaboration often quickly falls apart or the music will be lack direction and no one will notice this. The main rules have to be that all band members are present. If one person does not show up, you can already come to the conclusion that this will be a problem in the future. During the first meeting you will have to agree on the following: Is everyone excited and wants to “go for it”?

Give everyone the chance to tell the others who he is, what he does, what his experience is in other groups, in which other groups he plays, how much time he would be available, what music does he like and what are his expectations of the band?

What will we play?

Coverbands and groups who compose music themselves, play in different circuits. Make a choice from the moment you start. Try to name the genre as specific as possible like punk, hip hop or rock. A lot of musicians hate to be “boxed”, but a clear choice of genre increases your chance of success.

Also ask yourself if what you want is what you are good at? Who will be the musician leader? This is mostly a fickle point, but again very important to make a clear decision, since it can influence the success of the band. Mostly the person who took the initiative has a clear idea about the concept of the band. He or she would be the most suitable person to pave the way, but everyone will have to agree. If you will compose and perform original songs, this is the moment where the songwriter can give an example and others can comment.

Who will be the business leader?

Just as important as the musical leader will be the business leader: the person who is a “fast-talker”, who organizes the gigs, divides tasks and takes care of the books. His first job will be to organize rehearsal space.

Our vision?

Try to agree about what you would like to achieve with the band. Things like “regular gigs”, “make records” or “we will see where the band will take us” are not good enough. Try to make a few realistic goals, such as:

• Have our first show within 6 months time.

• Within 2 years have a performance a week

• Make our first record within 3 years.

P.S – Remember to track these goals from time to time. Are they met? If not, why? What will be done to help achieve them?

The band name?

The result of this brainstorm session will give your band its identity. A good name will take you that much further and a band name means you will have to work harder to proof yourself. In theory all a name has to do is to stand out, fit with the music and is very simple.

A common problem is that there are more bands or artists with the same name. They fight it out in court and the judge decides who was the first one. This is easy to prevent. Google the band name before you choose it (also check the English, it registered over 500.000 band names). When you made your final choice for your band name, you can register it at CIPC as a trademark; this protects you by law for abuse of your name by others. The application fee is R590 plus R190 for a research to see if the name is not already in use by someone.

Read more tips & tricks in PART 2 of this article, soon to appear on our website....



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