Ari’s Take: 11 Mistakes Every Young Band Makes

Posted: June 22, 2015 by Kimberly Weiss in & Tips, Support, Promo, & Tips
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1) Wait To Be Discovered

If you want a career in music you have to MAKE your career in music. You can’t wait for “the powers that be” to come swoop you up and turn you into a star. You must put in the work. No one wants to work with someone with a great recording but absolutely no work ethic, no following, no buzz, can’t perform live and has no social media presence. You must build this on your own first. The days of “getting discovered” at a club in Hollywood are over. Build up your enterprise on your own first, and people will come aknockin when you’ve become unstoppable.

2) Expect People To Just Show Up To Your Shows

I can’t tell you how many young bands I see (with very little online presence) book huge tours and expect that people will just show up because they’re playing a cool club. This goes for local shows as well. Just because you’re on the venue’s calendar doesn’t mean anyone is going to come. You must have a purpose for every show you play. If you’re a super new band and you need performance experience, then fine, play open mics, jams, community centers, charity events, and low pressure environments. If you’re a professional outfit, you need to promote EVERY show you book. Otherwise why are you playing the show? If you do not promote the show, no one will show up. Plain and simple. And you can’t just make a Facebook event and pat yourself on the back. There are many more creative (and effective) ways to promote your shows than just Facebook. Do them!

3) Go On Tour Before You’re Ready

Similarly, if you haven’t figured out how to get anyone out to your shows locally, what makes you think you’re going to get people out when you headline a tour? Unless you’ve been invited as the support act on a national headliner’s tour, don’t tour until you have figured out your audience. If you’re in a major city (200,000+ people) I promise you there are people in your town who like your kind of music. Maybe “the scene” doesn’t care for your music, but there are actual, ticket buying humans who do.
Want to test this out? Go on Facebook advertising and start to setup an ad (you don’t need to buy one) and type in similar artists in the Interests field and then make your location within 20 miles of your city. It will give you an exact number of people who like those bands. So target them!
Don’t get discouraged if you can’t get any local media attention. I consistently filled the 800 cap Varsity Theater when I was living in Minneapolis without any radio or press coverage. I was completely ignored by “the scene’s” tastemakers, but drew more people to my shows than most other local bands they positively reviewed.
Once you’ve figured out how to draw locally, then take your show on the road. Not before then.
If you’re in a tiny town, then it might be a good idea to move to a larger city to start your music career. Or start killing it online first.

4) Move To LA Before You’re Ready

I’ve been living in LA for 5 years now. LA is not a town for beginners. Not to say there aren’t beginners here. There are WAY too many! If your band can’t get your hometown to care about you, it probably means that you aren’t good enough yet (no matter what your friends and family say). Cut your chops locally. Practice and perform your ass off. Move out to LA ONLY when you’re killing it regionally (or online). That’s when you’re ready to make the leap. No, you don’t need to be in LA to make your music career happen. Not at all. BUT don’t move out here before you’re ready. LA is not a very forgiving city. If you get a tastemaker or gatekeeper to one of your shows and you suck, they will blacklist you and never come again.

5) Fake Social Media Numbers

The industry has caught on. You can’t fool anyone anymore. It’s now about engagement. People want to see that your fans are ENGAGED. It means nothing if you have 10,000 Facebook likes but you only get 2 Likes a post and can only get 10 people out to your shows. Everybody knows numbers can be bought. If you have 200,000 YouTube views and 6 comments, everyone knows those were paid views. They don’t count. You look foolish.
If you’re going to buy numbers to just get started, buy a small amount. 1,000 is good. It at least gives you a starting point and off of a one second glance it looks like you’re doing something. But then you ACTUALLY need to start kicking ass. But if you want Facebook Likes I recommend using their ad platform (NOT a 3rd party Like-farm service) because Facebook weeds out fake Likes pretty frequently and Facebook only shows your posts to a tiny subset of your followers. If you have 1,000 fake Likes and 400 real ones, it’s very unlikely those 400 real people will EVER see your posts. If you’re going to spend money on Facebook promo, use their ad platform. But don’t pay to get fans before you’re ready.

6) Belittle Merch

Bands live and die on the road based on merch sales. Especially if you’re the opener getting a tiny guarantee for each show. You NEED great merch and a great merch seller at every show. Someone at the merch table from when doors open to when they close. But, of course, you need a fan base first. Don’t go buying thousands in merch inventory if you’re only bringing 40 people locally.
Make sure you accept credit (Square or PayPal have swipers with low fees) and make your display BRIGHT and BIG. You want everyone leaving your show making a conscious decision to either buy merch or not buy merch. Not knowing you have merch or not being able to purchase it when they want to (no merch seller) should not be an option. And always announce it from the stage. It may seem cheesy, but you can find a way to do it that’s not. Make it a part of your set.

Catch all 11 Mistakes here:
Ari’s Take: 11 Mistakes Every Young Band Makes

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