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So, Your Band Sucks, Now What?

Devil Horns

Okay, so you’re in a band. You’ve rounded up your most talented (or, at least, most available) friends, bought a ton of gear, rented a practice space, decked out your facebook fan page, and played enough shows that your circle of acquaintances has stopped showing up. You’ve been killing it for over a month and no one has booked your alternative-folk-techno-synth-pop-metal hybrid project for a national tour. What are you doing wrong?

We here at Music in Minnesota have compiled a list of helpful suggestions that are sure to attract groupies and die-hard fans, up your Spotify count, and fill your pockets with monetary approval. Enjoy!

1. Fire the Bass Player

I know, this one is an oldie, but it’s still a goodie. If you haven’t tried it yet, we highly recommend it. No band has ever made all their dreams come true without leaving some poor fool on the side of the road. It is an unwritten rule of rock that, at some point, your original bass player has to go.

Or, if the bass player is your childhood best friend or next-gen Geddy Lee, maybe the drummer. Think about it. They’re not really contributing much anyway. You’re the one banging out all the songs, organizing practices, making flyers. What has the rhythm section ever done besides drink the last beer and leave early?

Even though their original drummer had experience, Foo Fighters opted to make the change.

If you wait long enough, this problem might take care of itself. Drummers and bass players are notorious for their lack of commitment. Most people with college degrees and successful marriages are, in fact, nothing more than failed musicians who quit a great band before it got going. If you don’t have time to wait for that, just do what has to be done and fire one of them.

Trust me, hire a studio musician. It may be more expensive, but people to whom you have no emotional attachment are less likely to steal your spotlight down the road.

2. Focus Your Efforts on Social Media Promotion

This tip is new to the world of rock superstardom. Back in the eighties, if you were in a band, you’d pretty much immediately get a manager and be signed to a major record label. Then all you had to do was nurture your genius while they did the rest.

Unfortunately, thanks to Radiohead, those days are gone. Now it is imperative that you work on your brand. Today’s musician has to do it all, but if you take most of your rehearsal time and spend it in front of your laptop screen, it will be worth it. Redesign your logo, boost posts from your page, take non-stop photos, send out invites.

One great way to monetize this process is to participate in crowdfunding. It’s an easy and effective way to ride your potential as long as you can without actually having to DO anything.

Start a Kickstarter or a Patreon page full of promises of greatness. Then, the longer you go without producing anything, the more money you can convince people to give you. Everybody wins. You don’t have to try, because you’ve got income, and you benefactors get to feel like a patron of the arts without having to break the bank.

These tasks are as important, if not more so, than writing songs or playing gigs. Make sure to give them the attention they deserve. If your online presence makes it look like you’re killing it, you’ll be surprised how many people just assume your band is actually good. It may not convince them to come to shows or buy albums, but it’ll certainly increase your ‘likes’ and ‘shares.’ What’s more important to the modern artist than that?

3. Quantity Not Quality

This tip ties directly in with tip #2. While you are promoting yourself online, presenting a version of your band that far exceeds the reality of your success, you also need to pump out material. The days of the front-to-back brilliance of ‘the album’ are long gone. You can’t take years to release new material that sounds exactly like your old material. You ain’t Tool. You need new songs, and you need them as often as possible.

So, the modern band/influencer must prioritize. Something has to take a hit, and in today’s click-a-minute society, quality doesn’t matter as much as it used to. There just needs to be a lot of content backed by your presence on Soundcloud, Twitter, Facebook, and Bandcamp.

“This one is off our second-to-newest release this year. It’s called, ‘Soundproof the Basement So Mom’ll Get Off My Back.'”

To fill these sites, there are several avenues open to you. Do side projects with people who already have material. Start a cover band. Do a solo project called The Apartment Tapes and release a bunch of junk you recorded on your phone over a long weekend. Record your practices and put the footage on Youtube. These are all effective ways of keeping people interested. As long as you are in people’s face, they can’t ignore you forever.

4. Keep Doing What You’re Doing

This is a good trick if you’re the kind of uncompromising artist who values your vision above any external attention. If you stay within your comfort zone and keep playing the same set every few weeks at a coffee shop where you already know everyone, everything might work out.

Many soon-to-be successful bands have taken this route. For example, your friend Travis’ band. What’s their name? I can’t remember, but they’re really good. Oh, and Anvil. Don’t forget about them. These people have been doing the same thing for decades, and they will probably be really famous at some point.

Anyway, there’s a lot to be said for consistency, bullheadedness, and safe, attainable goals. While you are playing for small crowds and only letting certain people listen to your demos, there might be a record executive named Chet Platinum lurking in the shadows, waiting to discover the next Replacements. He’s out there patiently searching for just the right act. He’s wearing a silk suit, he’s got slick hair and white teeth. He’s got a contract in his hand and a check in his pocket. If you miss your Friday slot at The Basement, he might sign Travis’ band, and then what would you do?

5. Gimmicks!

Ever wonder what your music would sound like with more lights and video screens? Or perhaps you’re a sucker for face paint? Or maybe you can build your aesthetic around a famous character or some cultural phenomenon that already had a bunch of attention?

The point is, gimmicks are a great way to distract people from the fact that you have not done the work necessary for the music to matter. Just look at Kiss.

Here’s a free one: Call your band Pubic Zirconia and shower the audience with synthetic hair.

Kiss (GWAR)- Photo Credit Brian Pfeffer

6. Just Give Up

Hold on, hear me out. One of the best ways to preserve your musical legacy is to move past the whole ‘playing in a band’ thing and straight into the days of ‘reminiscing about that wicked show in Phoenix.’ When you can simply TELL everyone how great your time in the industry was, you rarely have to provide any proof.

I’m not talking about anything dramatic here. This isn’t a suggestion that you deteriorate into a drug-fueled pit of despair or burn out somewhere in Mexico. For advice on that, see my upcoming article, “So the Trappings of Fame Seem More Like a Prison than a Gift.” What I’m suggesting is that your dad’s offer to pay for business school isn’t going to be on the table forever.  

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So, there you have it, some surefire advice on how to make it in the music industry without putting the necessary time into your actual music. Remember, you can absolutely make up for your complete lack of talent, work ethic, or perseverance if you just distract yourself with satellite tasks instead of producing quality art! Get out there and make us proud!

Author: Scott Bryan

Scott Bryan is a writer and adventurer. He has penned the books This Book Will Make You Go Crazy and Yellowville as well as the script for the independent feature film, Drunk. Now he goes to shows and runs the website getitawayfromme.com.

Written by Scott Bryan

Scott Bryan is a writer and adventurer. He has penned the books This Book Will Make You Go Crazy and Yellowville as well as the script for the independent feature film, Drunk. Now he goes to shows and runs the website getitawayfromme.com.

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