Welcome to the second part of my ‘How To Treat Your Band Like A Business’ series (still not come up with a better name :/), where I take you through some elements on how to progress your band to the next level. The previous chapter on Choosing Your Bandmates looked at some of the key characteristics and qualities you want to be looking for in the band you choose to work with. This post will follow on from that by looking at what kind of jobs the members of your band should be doing. It will also discuss why they are necessary, and how to do them well. (due to the length of this segment, it’s been split across 2 posts, the second will be up in the coming weeks).
Why To Delegate Band Roles?
The fun and most obvious part of being in a band is jamming together and making awesome music! This is often thought of as the only role that bandmates need to fill, to the extent that many bands think that making this awesome music alone will be enough to get them signed. However, eventually all bands will realise how much work it actually takes to reach that next step, and that having an awesome EP is nowhere near enough. Nowadays, labels want bands to be the complete article before signing; with a huge following, well gigged, and hours of radio play under their belt. Unfortunately for bands, that means you have to do an awful lot yourselves. It’s when you get to this stage that you really need to start thinking of band as a business, and band members as having roles beyond Singer, Guitarist, Bassist, Drummer. Assuming your band has 5 people, I’ll go through the roles needed to be filled by each member (there may be more roles needed depending on your band, and its unique needs, but these are generalised). They are also suggested under the assumption that everyone will have a part time job alongside being in the band to help earn money.
The band leader is the first band role we’ll discuss, and while always present in a band, it is never (or at least rarely) assigned. This position is often assumed by whoever instigated the band, or is the main creative force in rehearsals, or the front man on stage. It is often this band leader that takes on ALL of the roles discussed herein, which sometimes leads to discontent, and a feeling on the leader’s part of doing more than anyone else in the band. Meanwhile, a lot of the rest of band are unaware of how much this person actually does. It is this situation that provides the need for the clear delegation of roles in the first place, as this is often a big reason for why a band will break-up due to ‘personal reasons’, as you often hear about.
Despite this, when used properly, the band leader can be an important person in the band as the main driving force, overseeing the progress of people in all the other roles. The band leader will usually have a clear vision for how the band should progress, and an idea of strategy about how to do it. They need to ensure that the band’s time is well spent between their activities, deciding on a timeline for album release, touring to promote an album, and marketing efforts for the album, as well as time off between ventures. There’s no reason why the person fulfilling this role can’t still be the creative, driving force of the band (in fact, it’s probably better if it is due to their passion for the band), but it shouldn’t necessarily be. The leader is likely to emerge, but with some emphasis on strategy here, it could be worth delegating some of the responsibilities associated with this role, rather than it being the job of this driving force character if they lack the necessary skills to perform the role successfully.
Tour Manager (Gig Booker)
This next one is often the easiest band role to figure out needs assuming. Most bands recognise the need for Tour manager without thinking about band roles as it’s common for bands to go straight to gigging to raise awareness and build a fanbase. Despite its obvious nature, and the fact that your band may already have a band member who sorts this, it’s worth ensuring this role is assigned to the band mate best suited to this role, and not necessarily the ‘band leader’ who initially assumed the role. The role entails:
- Talking to promoters
- Ensuring the band has enough gigs to suit the time available
The tasks in this band role are quite minimal, but require a lot of thought and planning. A key task is ensuring that the gigs are appropriately placed around the country and the schedule is not too demanding. No one wants to gig in Exeter one night, spend the entire next day travelling to gig up in Durham, only to travel back to Portsmouth the following day. The band will burn out due to lack of sleep, performances will suffer, and you’ll likely do damage to your reputation rather than improve it.
It’s easiest if all band members work the same days of the week. This allows you to book 2/3 gigs in succession each week, as an almost mini-tour. For example, if everyone in the band works Mon-Thursday, the band can aim to gig Friday and Saturday night in Newcastle and Hull before return to Birmingham for work, and minimise the amount of actual travelling done, without forcing bandmates to take holidays from their part time jobs for a month long tour of the country.
Another factor to consider here is that the gigs are right for your band. There’s nothing worse than being the only heavy metal band on a billing amongst 3 acoustic bands. The night will likely be promoted as an acoustic night, then you show up in the middle, and it’s not at all what the fans attending the gig came to see, so they hang around in the smoking for the duration of your set while you play to an empty room. Thankfully, this rarely happens. Promoters want this as little as you do; they want to put on the best night possible, and having one act that the audience doesn’t like, greatly hinders their chances for this. It’s always worth watching out for, ensuring you ask the promoters for the kinds of gigs you want to play, as well as making sure the billing they put you on is what you want.
Finally, gigging is a great source of income. When playing in your home town, promoters might operate a pay to play system, where you get money based on how many people come to watch your band, and how many tickets you sell. This isn’t an ideal system, but when in your home town, you’ll hopefully be able to muster up a reasonable following. However, when you’re making the trip all the way to the other end of the country for gigs, you have no mass of followers there, you can’t be expected to earn your pay in the same way, so promoters will pay you, at the very least, for the cost of travel, and you should be able to get more, depending on the gig you’re playing. This fee needs to be agreed in advance when booking the gigs. If the promoter’s not willing to pay, then there are plenty of others in the same area who will.
So suddenly this task isn’t the easiest, with various factors to consider and plan for. Band mates should be on similar work schedule to allow for ease of booking; gigs should be appropriately spaced out, without overstretching; days off should be factored in, if touring; the other bands on the bill should match your style and genre to avoid playing to an empty room and; you should make sure you’re getting paid, before agreeing to the gig.
Stay Tuned For Part 2
Sorry to say that that’s all we’ve got for this installment! If you’re interested to learn more and find out what the other suggested roles are, make sure you come back in 2 weeks time for part 2 of this topic on Band Roles!
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If you’re in a band, and found this helpful, check out more helpful tips from the blog!