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Generally, treating your band as a company means nothing more than taking a professional approach in the best sense of the word. The more professional you are, the more you will appreciate yourself and be valued by others. The following points should help you to better understand and apply non-artistic needs.
Business people invest first in order to generate income. You have paid for rehearsal rooms, instruments and equipment, as well as the recording studio, album production, merchandise etc. In addition, the performances cost you fuel money and rental fees for the tour van and possibly also backline. Unfortunately, it does not stop there. Now, you have to promote your product through advertising which means presenting your product to as many people as possible.
All the time I get requests for gigs by completely unknown bands. They tell me “we only need enough money to cover our expenses”, which includes renting a tour van and fuel costs. They, however, do not realize that these figures are already quite high and that they are making unrealistic claims. It is not enough to produce a product (a live show) and then wait for people to buy it (pay for tickets).
You have to bite the bullet in the beginning, play live as often as you can, and unfortunately lose out. You shouldn’t sell yourself below value, but at the very beginning of your career, you just don’t have any (financial) value. In the beginning, it may make sense to give away albums and to perform for little to no money. These are, so to speak, “introductory prices” for your new product. Once your product is established, you can ask for reasonable money.
Many musicians want to save money wherever possible. They sometimes do this by producing their T-shirts as cheaply as possible. Then the customers have little choice of shirts of poor quality with rather uncreative design. But wouldn’t it be an invaluable advantage if fans not only buy the shirts, but also liked to wear them? The fans would be walking advertising spaces for your band which move in just the right places. So you should dedicate the merchandise a lot of effort and if possible, invest a little more money.
Read more → How to promote your band
Define target group
You should find out which people like your music. You should think about how old they are, what bands and music they like, which venues they visit, whether they live out in the country or in cities, what kind of lifestyle they have and more. Once you figure this out, you will have your target audience.
In your region, your audience probably reflects yourself, but that may be different in other places. For example, I worked with some young bands with band members around 25 who were surprised that the average age at some of their shows was around 40, and the same also happened the other way around.
In one country hard rock might experience a revival while in other countries only older people would go and see a hard rock show. You have to learn what music is currently hip in each tour region. That in turn can change every five years. In the beginning, you may not be able to choose the venues where you play, but it’s generally important to focus on venues with visitors matching your music. Many bands waste their time by repeatedly applying for shows at and playing in the wrong venues.
First, you should clarify within your band what you expect. The more band members you have, the more opinions, wishes, and ideas there are. After you have clarified what and whom you want to reach and how much time and money you want to invest, you can plan.
The book „Project Management for Musicians: Recordings, Concerts, Tours, Studios, and More” by Jonathan Feist has helped me a lot in treating tours as individual projects with interim targets. You do not have to follow every detail described in the book, but defining your next goals and splitting individual projects (like album production or tour planning) into different phases will help you to be more structured. By doing this, you will achieve your goals faster and have more time for creativity. Working under less stress will also help you to achieve better results.
One of your goals could be to spend less money than you earn so that the band sustains itself. If the band is no longer a financial burden for the members, it also contributes to the band’s internal motivation. If you plan better and set the right priorities, you will be able to reach your goals more easily and enjoy the way there more.
To get an overview of your expenses, a cost statement helps. It’s best to keep a record of your revenue and expenditure. If you invest your private money, consider it as a private investment. Write down what you pay for the rehearsal room rental, equipment repairs, instrumental accessories, fuel, tour van rental, merchandise, flyers, posters, etc. If you know the amount of your costs, it will also be easier for you to negotiate with local promoters about your fee or expense allowance. If you are offered a good show, play in front of the right people and excite them, there is no reason to be ashamed of accepting money.
A band cash box helps to keep the peace in the band. For example, if equipment repairs or instrument accessories are paid out of the cash box, no one can blame the singer for having spent less while earning the same money. Or if one of the band members owns the band van, he or she could at least pay for part of the repairs, insurances, taxes, and maintenance costs out of the cash box.
The best way to do this is to separate private expenses and expenses for the band with a separate bank account. The account can then be used to pay for recurring expenses like the rehearsal room rental or merchandise.
Not all band members will invest the same amount of time and work. It can be a lot less stressful if you divide the tasks ahead among you. Of course, you have to take into account each other’s skills and how much time each band member has, especially if some band members work full-time or have small children. Not everyone has to invest the same amount of time, but you should make sure that everyone is content with their roles and workload.
There are many bands in which a single band member does most of the non-artistic work. If he or she does that voluntarily and gladly, that’s no problem, but keep in mind that you can also think of ways to compensate them.
For example, a band member may be appointed to be the band-internal booking agent and get paid just like an outside booking agent. Possibly he or she already has contacts of local promoters from past tours with another band. Then he or she would book the shows and get a percentage off the fees before the rest goes to the band account or is paid in equal parts to all band members.
Likewise, if one band member drives the band to most of the shows, you could give him or her other benefits or compensation. The same applies to those who always stay at the merch table while the others enjoy themselves or rest after the show.
As long as you cannot pay any other people for these tasks, divide the jobs within the band so that nobody feels overwhelmed at the end.
Do not leave the advertisement for your band, your album or your performances exclusively to other people. Of course, the label is interested in selling your albums and the local promoters are interested in people coming to your shows, but no one cares as much as you do. As long as you aren’t very popular, nobody is earning much money by helping you, so the whole thing works more on the basis of favors.
Therefore, you cannot expect too much. Even if others are helping to promote your products as best they can, there are still plenty of opportunities to attract even more buyers and visitors. You can read more about that in my article “How to Promote Your Band“.
If you have a good and contemporary product, if you think economically and are willing to invest time and money in marketing, you have a good chance of success, be it fame and recognition and/or income. It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s more about your attitude.