Why do some bands get places and others do not?
I started writing this about a year ago. I haven’t proofread it / will probably change it / add to it later. Publishing it now for benefit of some people I am discussing it with currently.
The name of your band is kind of important and you really shouldn’t mess with it once it is established. So when choosing a name here are some things to consider:
GOOD NAMES for your band
Is it easy to remember? – If it’s too weird or hard to remember or hard to spell, it might be hard to find your band online.
Is it something people would proudly wear on a t-shirt? If your name is really silly, some people might not want to wear it on a shirt. In some genres a silly name might be an advantage, I guess it needs to be appropriate to your target audience.
Is it easy to shorten / abbreviate? I recall reading that Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails liked the name because “NIN” still read well on paper.
BAD NAMES for your band
Is it a song name from another band in your genre? – I know of a local band who had several thousand fans on their Facebook who changed their name once they started getting well known because they were now embarrassed that their name was lyrics from another band. It could be embarrassing if you ever have to play with that band, I mean it’s kinda cute but it is also saying “we will never be as big as you and we love you so much” which is a bit lame. You should be aiming to be big, not to be smaller than another existing band. It could also make you sound like a cheesy tribute band. A lot of them have lyrics from other bands or puns on their other song names as names.
Is the name already taken? – This is probably the most important thing ever when choosing a band name. If someone else in another country has the same band name as you… DO NOT USE THAT NAME. It is pretty simple. Do not just assume “Oh we are way better than them, we will just take it anyway and no one will ever know”. Blink-182 was originally just called Blink and later found out that another band in Ireland was threatening legal action for using the same name, so they added numbers to the end. Back then it would have been much harder to find out about other bands with the same name as you but NOW you can do it easily… just search the internet. You are only making life hard for yourself if you do choose a name that is already taken. The names for all your online sites will probably be taken already. You are probably not going to be taken seriously if you can’t even get the Facebook name you want. Just say you wanted to name your band Metallica. This name has already been taken. You don’t really want to have your URL as “MetallicaAU” or “MetallicaRock” or “MetallicaBand”. It is making your URL too long and it will look lame when written down.
Do Not Change Your Name UNLESS You Really Have To
Ok sometimes it becomes hard not to change your name. But if you are starting to get a following and you change your name, anyone who had known of your band but hadn’t really been following you too closely will forget about you. If your name had been appearing on gig flyers at stores and all over the internet and suddenly you change your name to something totally different, people who read your name will assume you are someone else starting again from the bottom. I have seen a few bands do this after having established 1,000+ likes on Facebook, they both managed to get decent numbers back up afterwards but their original profiles (having been around much longer) still have more likes.
One of my pet peeves is when bands start designing logos and tshirts before they have even recorded any songs or in some cases, before they have even performed live. Making merch is a bit of a commitment. On numerous occasions I have seen local bands start selling t-shirts before they have even done a show yet. In other instances they have done one or two shows and then do merch, if they are a good band, then it is less risky, but still you are really just selling things to your friends, not your fans. I own shirts from most of the local bands in my town from 2004 to maybe 2007ish. I think only 2 of those bands is still around and only 1 of them I still occasionally wear and when I do, it’s for some kind of weird nostalgic / ironic reason due to them getting big recently and hardly anyone has that original tshirt design from back then. All the other shirts and hoodies I don’t wear because whenever I did, people would ask me why I’m wearing that and say that band broke up and stuff. It’s like you’re not allowed to wear a shirt for a local band anymore if they’ve broken up. If you sell your friends clothes that they will feel silly for wearing 1 month from now, you’ve kind of burned them. They probably won’t want to wear a shirt of a crappy band that only existed for two months and you’ll probably end up with a box of unsold shirts that no one will want to buy and now you’ve also burnt yourself.
I think the production of t-shirts may have improved in recent years but it seemed that in the old days, most bands had 1-2 colour screen prints and they looked kind of cheap. Professional band tshirts usually have lots of colours /shades and just look better. Don’t use a font that came preinstalled on your operating system. Especially don’t use Comic Sans or Chiller. If possible pay someone to design you something that actually looks cool. There are a lot of talented people out there, you could probably license an image pretty cheap off Deviant Art or some other online artist website, or maybe you know a good tattoo artist or actual artist who can do something. Unless someone close to you actually studied design, you really should just get a professional, it’s worth the money and you won’t have to worry about offending your friend if their design sucks. If your merch looks awesome people will be more inclined to buy it. I have passed on buying some of my friends merch in the past because I didn’t think it looked good and didn’t really want to wear it.
Hoodies are pretty awesome but I wouldn’t suggest selling those unless you’ve had a lot of success with t-shirts beforehand. The cost price to get a hoodie made used to be about $35-$45 AUD. Which meant they had to be sold for a bit more than that. It’s still cheaper than what someone would pay at a concert or band merch store in Australia, I remember them being $65-$99 at these places a few years back. I know I once paid $75 for a Nine Inch Nails 2007 tour hoodie that only had a 1 colour print on the front and back and was the exact same brand as what you would buy at K-Mart for $15. But I used to love Nine Inch Nails and had been obsessed with them for a few years by that point so was willing to pay a stupid amount of money for a hoodie at a concert. Most of your friends probably don’t love your band THAT much to spend big money on a hoodie of yours. A local band I know from maybe 2006-7 actually sold hoodies and only performed about 1 show ever. After a while it was only the band members who wore the hoodie. They were nice guys and all, but I guess their enthusiasm was bit overwhelming and more time should have been focused on writing good music and practicing instead of making designs and researching merch companies.
Before you start selling merch you should probably ask yourself these questions:
Do we have friends or fans?
Have we performed shows where people you haven’t met before are singing along to your original songs?
Do we get a lot of feedback on our Facebook and Twitter pages from people we don’t know very well / have never met
Have we released an EP or Album yet?
Do we gig regularly?
If your answer to any of those things is no, then it’s probably not the right time. If you are starting to do shows interstate then that’s actually a good time to start selling things. This is only if you are actually wanted interstate and that people will buy it. If you land a support slot on decent tour then you should definitely have something to sell or to give away, otherwise people from that show will forget you. If you’re any good (which you probably are if you are supporting a high profile band) then people will naturally add you to Facebook, but if you have something to give them then and there, it really seals the deal. Bands from interstate always look good with their state’s initials next to their name, a band from another state (our country) usually gives a bit of credibility to the event and to the band itself. “Ooooh these guys must be good if this venue I like got them to come all this way” or “This venue must be good if they can afford bands from interstate” and I guess in most cases this is true. Most interstate bands I have seen at Melbourne venues have been quite decent except there was a very young looking band that I saw open at metal concert whose music was very boring. I think they opened for Children of Bodom a few years ago or some other bigger metal band. We assumed they must have been related to someone important or something. You’d expect a metal band who opened for them to be catchy and at least be similar to the headline band. Metal has a lot of sub genres. Get someone of the same sub genre or else they could be pretty hit or miss.
Your first CD.
If you are doing lots of gigs then shirts and CDs are great. I see a lot of bands who go straight to recording all their songs as soon as they have written them, this seems a bit premature but at the same time this is a double edged sword. Recording your EP before you’ve done many gigs is risky because time spent in the studio early kind of takes away from time you could be spending doing shows and practicing. If you have played the songs live a lot before you record them, you will probably be able to do a better job on the album. But if you have nothing on your social media pages that shows what you sound like, then many venues or bookers are unlikely to book you. If you can get a decent live demo done or know a sound engineering student who can just make 1 track for you or something early on as a demo then this could be handy.
The reason Why I am hesitant about recording songs straight away is this:
1 once you hit the road, you might find out your band is full of idiots you don’t want to spend lots of time with. Someone gets kicked out of the band / the whole band breaks up and the recording is kind of wasted. Also anyone who got kicked out soon after recording will also feel ripped off.
2. The first songs you write probably won’t be your best work. One of my favourite local bands, Obsidieth didn’t release their album for quite some time, they scrapped quite a few older songs and only put their best ones on their album. Most venues will only give bands a 20-30 minute set. If you are a good band, you will write more songs over time and will drop the bad ones. Why fill your CD up with bad songs if you are probably going to drop them soon?