Have a Memorable and Unique Band Name
This will be the hardest, but most important decision you’ll ever make as a band. Your name is the first perception of who you are as an artist. People will pass judgement on you long before they hear a single note based on your name. It’s the one thing that is uniquely yours and sets you apart from others. Christian bands in particular, have a habit of using cliches such as, “street names” and verse numbers like “2:54″.Stay away from those if you can! Try and find something that is unique, but fits who you are as individuals and your musical style. There are so many bands out there, so before you pay a lawyer to trademark your name do your homework. Check myspace links and AllMusic.com, to make sure there aren’t any bands out there with the same name.
Record a Quality Demo
This is easer to do than ever these days, but for some reason bands aren’t taking advantage of the resources in front of them. A good demo can be made from $400-$800 per track. Up and coming producers who put out great quality recordings are willing to work at reduced rates, because they need to feed their families. One piece of advice, if you don’t have experience in recording, don’t spend $1000s on recording gear to try and do it yourself. Hire a producer that you can trust and knows what they’re doing. Make sure your producer has a good track record with cranking out good material. Ask bands or artist that have a great product, who produced it and don’t be afraid to ask how much it cost them. Be careful though to not overspend. One mistake I see bands make is they’ll hire a producer who’s produced their favorite signed band, and they record a full length record for $50,000. Then they’re stuck with a good product, but a huge debt. A label will most likely want to re-record everything anyway and the artist gets stuck with figuring out how to pay back the debt.
Once you have your quality demo, and you’re myspace and facebook are rocking with your new music, it’s time to start building your fan base. When I look at an artist’s page I begin to listen to the music and simultaneously I’m looking for who it’s connecting with. Are you twittering? If so, how many followers do you have? How many comments have you had on your facebook page in the last few days? When someone comments are you following up with them with a response? Without open and proactive communication with your audience, you don’t have a fan base. Keep your fans engaged and engage them often. Put up videos weekly, and put out new music at least once a month even if it is just a demo.
The Merch Perception
Perception is a huge part of our industry, whether it’s right or not. When I see a band’s merch table and they have a huge colorful banner and several t-shirts with great designs, I automatically think they have their act together. This doesn’t mean you should take your focus off of your music, but if you’re trying to make a living by playing music, a standout merch presentation is a must. Check the resources that are out there and look as professional as possible. However, this only applies for bands that are touring on a consistent level. If you’re just getting started, stay away from a fancy merch set-up and don’t even bother with t-shirts or other merch items like bags and bracelets until you’re a full time touring act.