by Jimmy Leslie
Somewhere in between yourself and the sound that emanates from the stage is your band. The number of members in the group is equal to the number of relationships that need to work symbiotically. So, the greater the number, the greater the challenge. Take a resolute look at your band. Does it seem to be growing creatively or in quality? Is the style something that you dig heavily? Is there a demand for what you do? Do you sell CDs and merchandise? Do clubs or agents call you? Are the people cool and professional?
The greatest challenge of any band is to take the individual identities of its members and combine them in a manner that speaks as one identifiable collective, great than the sum of its parts. Few acts ever gel so completely and move with such purpose. If yours does, then you’re most likely in the right band and on the right track.
Talk to that band member who is making you uncomfortable. There’s a good chance some misunderstanding is leading to an evil vibe. If not, you can at least agree to act professional.
2. Share some quality time off stage.
If you can tolerate the people you play with off stage it’s a wonderful thing. Spend some time doing non-music or music business-related things. If it’s raining, see The Muppet Movie with your drummer or watch Spinal Tap on DVD (with everybody in your band except the drummer–just to be safe).
3. Set simple goals.
Decide on a venue you want to play, a band you really want to play on a bill with, or a town you want to break into, and spend the year attempting to make it happen.
4. Revamp the set list.
Music, like beer, is best served fresh. Fresh tuneage makes for healthy, happy musicians–so learn something new. Mixing up the old tunes in terms of things like placement and tempo is essential to a long, loving relationship with them. Kill three songs from last year’s set list that you’re sick of.
5. Rehearse more regularly.
The key is to keep as many days and nights where rehearsal is the top priority in each band member’s life as possible. Give someone that responsibility of being the point person for coordination.
6. Pay more attention.
Acknowledge the needs of the other players in your band, and ask them to reciprocate the effort. Everyone needs to be sensitive to reasonable stage volume. Look at one another if it helps, or just listen closely. Exercise listening at practice and bring that mentality to the stage.
7. Make the scene.
Go see a local show you know nothing about and buy a CD. Learn the name of a music director at a local station that might play your band, and then mark down when the local and specialty shows are that you might get in on and listen. Same sort of thing with the press. Find out when and where the best open mic and jam nights are in your town, and make an effort to drop in.
8. Create a CD.
Chipping in on a CD project satisfies creativity, gives a sense of focus, and provides an important promotional tool for your band–as well as a potential stream of income.
9. Go on tour.
Doing some touring is essential to a band. Even if your group doesn’t have touring ambitions, every once in a while you need to hop in the van and do a road trip bit–even if only for a few days. Bands do one of two things on a tour: Gel and grow, or realize something isn’t working personally or musically.
10. Record your shows.
Listen back on the drive, or set time at rehearsal to evaluate. There is so much out there in terms of portable recording devices that this is becoming very easy, and it’s huge in the development of a band.