Since childhood I’ve looked up to musicians. They’re so stylish and outgoing and talented. It always looked like they were having the most fun–playing gigs, making music videos, going to the VMAs!–what a blast. I spent every spare minute in junior high and high school making mix tapes, watching MTV’s 120 Minutes and going to see live music. Naturally, as I eased into “adulthood,” I buddied up to as many musicians as possible. I released records on my own label, tour managed, sold merchandise, and frequently offered to carry my friends’ cymbals or bass amps, anything to keep me close to the action. It wasn’t until very recently however, that I decided to actually join the party. After much advocacy from my musical friends I decided to start my first band at age 29.
Of course it felt weird to have my first-ever band performance happen in my 30th year but hey, it’s better now than never. It is by far one of the most fun, creative and exciting projects I’ve ever been a part of; I don’t know what took me so long. It’s a lot easier to find your treasure if you have a map, so for all you other wishers and hopers out there, I’ve created a step-by-step guide for getting your musical project off the ground. Follow these simple steps and you’ll be beating the groupies away with a stick in no time.
Step 1: Commit.
Dedicate yourself to your musical project. Know that it’s going to take time, patience and tons of practice to realize this dream but that it is totally achievable. If you’re truly committed to the project, you’ll make it happen. #fact
Step 2: Know How You Want to Sound
It’s a good to have a general idea of what you’d like to sound like. Realizing your sound gives the band direction, helps with songwriting and will make it easier for you to get a band together. The clearer you are about how you’d like to sound, the greater your chance of success. Mine your favorite artists and songs for ideas, just like Kurt.
Step 3: Find Fellow Musicians
If you’re anything like me, you don’t have any real talent and must stake your claim on the role of singer early. If you’re way ahead of me and can already hack it on guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, or tambourine, you’re in a much better position. Either way it’s important to find other musicians who share your vision and are as committed to the project as you are. It can be tough to find these magical people which is why you may need to enlist the help of Craigslist.org. Don’t be shy, plenty of bands have met through the want-ads. In fact, Kim Deal joined the Pixies after answering an ad in The Phoenix newspaper in Boston asking for a bass player into equal parts Hüsker Dü and Peter, Paul and Mary.
Step 4: Secure a Practice Location
If you don’t have somewhere to practice you won’t, so find a good place as soon as possible. There are tons of practice spaces available for rent around the Bay Area. Many other bands are willing to split the cost of a shared space so it’s a great idea to look for a sublet. If possible, always opt for a mini fridge as well. Trust me, it’s crucial.
Step 5: Pick a Name
Choosing a name is important because well, it’s your name, but don’t freak out about it. It’s okay to come up with a few ideas and then change your mind–lots of bands do that— just make sure you’ve secured your name before your first show as it’s tougher to change it after you’ve gone public (though not impossible, right Jefferson Starship?). You want to get a name as soon as you can so can give your project life. This will also help as you embark on Step 7. A band’s name can be influenced by almost anything. Legend has it Cheap Trick got their name by asking a Ouija board, a very cool Ouija board.
Step 6: Write Your Own Songs
Covers songs are fun, that’s for sure, but creating your own song from scratch is so much more rewarding. It doesn’t need to be fancy, especially when you’re first starting out. Keep in mind, some of the best-ever rock n’ roll songs were predicated on just 3 chords. This is your chance to truly let your creativity fly so don’t be timid.
Step 7: Learn To Love the Internet
If you haven’t begun this rewarding love-affair yet, starting a band will be the perfect excuse to fall in love with the internet. Lucky for us, the world wide web offers a bounty of free services in which to self-promote. For musicians and other artists this means access to numerous free or inexpensive band profile pages, forums and music hosting sites. A close friendship with the internet will allow you to engage, gain and keep fans, share news and promote upcoming shows. Get comfortable with all social media platforms, brush up on your LOLs and OMGs and TTFNs– it’ll only help you in the long run. The internet is a friend you should take advantage of.
Step 8: Get Your Music Heard
People have to hear you to like you. In order to get your music heard by lots of people all over the place, you have to get it recorded, so save your pennies. If you can’t afford a professional recording session, improvise! Many smartphones have surprisingly good recording technology–it’s at least good enough to get your point across and it’s in the palm of your hand, how convenient. Once you have a demo it’s your job to set up a site where your songs can be heard. You have plenty of options when it comes to hosting your music online. If you’re feeling ambitious, send your music to as many record labels and media personnel as possible. It is also imperative that you set up some live shows. Don’t over-saturate your market, but do try to play as often as you can when first starting out.
Step 9: Don’t Forget: Haters Gonna Hate
Who cares what people think? Be fearless. There is absolutely nothing cooler than when a person follows their passion. Don’t let age or preconceived notions hold you back. When you put something creative out into the world, there’ll always be haters. They’re just part of the deal. Learn to take the negative chatter in stride, use it to fuel your fire for more practice, better songwriting and a stronger stage performance.
Step 10: Always Have Fun
It seems like a no-brainer but when people spend a ton of time together, tensions can rise. Dramatic band sagas make for great Behind the Music episodes, but mostly making music should be fun. Don’t lose sight of why you’re doing it and don’t forget to enjoy the ride while it’s happening.
It’ll take some focused effort, but with a little perseverance and patience you’ll have your own band off the ground in the Bay Area in no time. Remember gang, if you believe it, you can achieve it.