Here is a short list of the common threads that I see from over three decades in the music business that are worth noting that successful bands incorporate. Some may say that these are no brainers, however a lot of bands don’t use some of these skills needed to gain popularity with their fans in this industry that we call music. Here are just a few of the most common threads that I see and hear from talking with people who have had success in the music industry.
They have a lot of times learned this the hard way, but don’t sign ANYTHING important especially record deals without having a lawyer first look at it in your behalf. There are a lot of people out there that are only looking to make a buck off of you and then cast you aside for the next person who looks desperate to get signed. Bands can get tied up in legal battles for several years just waiting to get out of a bad mistake that they wished was never made. Take note as well that the verbal agreement is worth NOTHING and take it as that. You cannot be held responsible for it and neither can whoever you made it with, the verbal agreement is worthless.
Copyright everything before it is released. Yes, I understand that this basic. However, is your music registered through BMI or an ASCAP type service? I am not recommending one over another because they all have their pros and cons but if you are not registered at all good luck getting paid. You need them as much as they need you and this is a business.
NEVER put down another musician, genre of music, celebrity, or religion. I see it all the time and this never works in the behalf of the band. As tempting as it may be just stay out of it. We all have favorite bands and music genres so why tick off someone who likes your band as well as other bands or celebrities that you do not care for, this is basic stuff here but I see it all of the time. One thing that some bands sometimes do is focus on the negativity of life events, focus on the positive ones over the negative ones, the most successful bands tend to leave the drama out.
Marketing your band is very IMPORTANT, get a simple logo for your band made and put it on EVERYTHING, your releases, your posted upcoming events, hats, shirts, etc. Yes this sounds so basic however I cannot tell you how many times bands don’t do it. Look at it from the consumer standpoint. Your fans want to know with a glance that it is you the “real deal” and not someone else, also the repetition of seeing your logo over and over eventually sticks in their heads, it’s called branding and it works Linkin Park is a great example of branding for their albums so take a look at every one and what do you see, yes it’s a logo on it. Bands often change their logo’s, but the most successful ones use one.
It seems that most bands gain success by having a group photo of the band or the featured artist on the cover in place of using only cover art. But you can use both on the cover just take a look at a lot of album covers out there and you will see how many do this, and it is a lot. This is a real common thread that goes back to the early days of the fifties and still today very much in practice. I am not saying look like a 60’s album cover (but hey if it floats your boat why not) but really, people want to see you so give it to them in a way that best reflects your band’s image. This can vary depending on the popularity of the band however it does seem to be a common thread for the most part.
Does your band really need six keyboards and seven guitars when there is no funding to get a professional mix for your newest release? What about marketing costs, or what if the bass player doesn’t have a bass that stays in tune. Are you in it to win it as a team or is this just a glorified hobby? However fire breathing strippers can add a certain spark to a show, just saying. But seriously you must decide what you want to be and go with it as a band not as solo artists who happen to play together. A friend of mine named Danny who has been with the band “The Police” then later with “Sting” told me that they sacrificed a lot when “The Police” first started out. It was more about finding the right management and gigs then finding the right bass amp. What he is basically saying is that they were a team with one common goal.
Songwriting; I am not here to tell you how to write a song, but one thing that I do see is that a lot of bands use the same key and song structure on almost every song they write, mix it up everyone. Perhaps start a song with the chorus or drop the instruments out for a vocals only part in the song, use different tempos and instrumentation as well.
Finding success is really difficult so most bands tend to implement a strategy of releasing a song every other month or so if possible to gain popularity. I see a lot of bands work for years on the perfect full length CD and when nothing happens, so they do it again. Get a single out into the music market every other month if you can, when you have three or four singles then re-release them as an EP. Unless you have a huge following launching a successful CD is a lot harder than a successful single. This strategy works because it keeps your band always in the public eye, and people have now become single driven because of Spotify and iTunes.
A lot of the bands that have worked with engineers and producers that I know ten not to fret (had to put a pun in here somewhere) about the smallest of things in the song. As an example there is an organ buried very deep in the mix and you are spending an afternoon trying to decide between two different chorus effects that are really close in sound. All while the song is in a key that the singer cannot sing in. Move on from the trivial and look at the big picture.
Drew Puzia is a multi-award winning Mix Engineer at SoundBurst Studios in Las Vegas. Drew is certified in Audio Engineering from the world renowned Berklee College of Music. His experience spans over three decades in the music industry and he has recorded and mixed countless musicians in many genres of music.