Yeah, yeah...we know. You've heard it before. How does it pertain to the music industry? Let's think about that for a minute. How many of you, who've either been in several bands over the years or have seen players come and go, have ever been left sitting there going "What is it going to take to find the right mix here?! We need help!" A LOT of you.
Our version of the No "I" in "Team phrase has a few different meanings. Yes, obviously you don't want the band leader diva who always gets her way no matter the cost to the entire band. That's a given. However, this IS the music industry, you're GOING to have a diva here and there and even that doesn't mean that you're in a losing battle with no light at the end of the tunnel. Most people who have been on this ride for more than a year or so, already know it comes with the territory. If you have a "diva" who actually gets sh*t DONE, then you also already know you'd be hurting yourself more than helping to not bend and ebb with the tide long enough to see it through. So with that being said, we don't want 100 bands out there to read this article and then go fire their lead singers.
Our No "I" in "Team" leans a little more towards "Oh, okay Einstein so you think you can do it better all by yourself?" NO. YOU CAN'T. Not if you're doing it right and covering every single base you possibly can. So to the 4 of you sitting there reading this at band rehearsal right now, thinking "But our moms HATE what we do! How can we have a team?" or "We just started this band, and we don't even have friends other than each other", YOU are just the beautiful empty canvas who has yet to earn your scars in the business, and you have the perfect opportunity to begin on a clean slate.
For those readers who have been through ten different people who 'Wanted so much to be a part of this!' and then bailed with the new T-shirt designs on their hard-drive and your spare set of van keys just two days before you leave for tour, never to be heard from again, YOU are the veterans of this party! Pat yourself on the back! Then get busy because you have to hurry up and replace your design guy and your spare key holder person.
Seriously though, if you're doing this because you know you can't do anything else, and you're that guy or girl who TELLS people "I'm just not quitting until I can support a family on my music", keep reading. Then start building.
From what we've seen over the years, there are, for the most part, two types of situations. An artist or band starts early, middle school or high school, and has mom and dad cheering them on from the get-go. If they continue the path into college, most families stay involved. If they're helping you succeed, keep them. They believe in you. If they stay involved when you continue the path INSTEAD OF COLLEGE, seriously, keep them AND make sure you buy them a mansion when you're famous. So often Grandma-Grandpa-Mom and Dad cringe when the "I'm not going to college, I'm moving to (insert Nashville, NY, L.A, Miami, Atlanta here) to pursue my music career" conversation happens. If they support it, you're one of the lucky ones! Those people are generally the beginning of your team, and depending on how the flow works as your fan base and touring opportunities grow, they tend to hang around for awhile.
The most important part of building a real team is remembering to once again, treat your band AS A BUSINESS. Yes, you can do this without MONEY. You just have to find the right individuals as you move along who will be with you for the long haul. We know it's not easy. We see it all the time in every level of music. One's jumping ship as another is buying a ticket. It's okay, they are all a part of your story. (OH SNAP!)
Start within your band. Get out your spreadsheets (yes, this can just be a piece of paper and a sharpie if need be) and get to work. There's not a single person who excels at "everything", so start talking about the strong points of each band member.
Bassist took a web design class? Great, throw her on Weebly.
Drummer's had some marketing classes? He's your social media director and pitches the ideas for merch and sales.
Guitar player is a handy man? Cool, keep the trailer in good condition. Learn to fix equipment.
Lead singer- go get a mani-pedi. (JK!! Stop!)
It doesn't matter what you do, but you should each be doing something specific besides your instrument. If one person is trying to be in charge of everything, it turns into a complete mess and you've seen it already if you've been rolling that way for awhile. Especially when your band gets big enough to have a decent fan base and starts touring. It's next to impossible for one human to be a travel agent, marketing major, accountant, manager, bus driver, stage hand, fan liaison, cook/food runner, etc. etc.
One of the best things we've seen since we've been working with indie bands is bringing a "fan-turned BFF turned family" into the mix. This is a really common thing as many of you already know. Sometimes as your fan base starts to grow, you'll notice that ONE person just takes control of promoting your social media like a madman/madwoman. GRAB THAT PERSON NOW. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. (As long as, of course, they're not crazy. You need to stay away from 'crazy'. Crazy can get bad. Real bad). But there are music fans out there who are so into what you're doing that they end up learning much more than even they themselves expected. These are the people you keep on your team, and if you grow into a huge outfit, they end up on the payroll.
Basically, you need to sit down and make a list of every single thing that your band needs to reach the goals you've set for yourself for a specific period of time. (A year out is a good time frame within which to set goals). No different than a business. One-year plan for short-term goals. Five year plan for long-term goals.
Set up your short-term goals like you would a 6 or 9 week school report card calendar:
May 15- July 1: Finish writing EP
July 1- August 15: Record EP while beginning online promotion. (or WHATEVER works for you)
Once you've done that, look at the empty spaces. Is #3 on your list "merch person"? Is it empty? Start looking for someone within your families, friends or acquaintances that you think might be good for this and talk to them about it. Only you know what positions need to be filled within your business. We can't tell you all of them because what works for one band might not work for another.
The biggest, most important thing we can tell you about your "Team" is this. Don't assume that every person who rolled up to the last 5 shows like a winning stagehand is going to continue that heavy lifting forever. Your team is going to change, and change OFTEN, throughout your journey. We've heard it 100 times, "I can't BELIEVE that Jonathan just bailed like that! He seemed fine on Friday!"
Get used to it. It happens.
We call the ones who stick around through the tough times, the arguments, the empty pockets and all the other hard stuff your “keepers”. Those people are your inner circle, the tight ones. They're not leaving. There will only be a few of them. The rest won't make it, and that's okay. It wasn't for them.
Remember, the ones who do hang through it with you, even when you have a dull period and there's nothing for them to do, to be thankful and show them. 99% of the time, all they want in return is appreciation for their hard work, and they damn sure deserve it. If you haven't figured out yet the amount of work that goes on in the shaded area away from the limelight, please PLEASE "check yourself" and just be a better person. A sense of entitlement type of attitude isn't something that your best friends who work their behinds off for you for FREE are going to take kindly to.
The other addition to this, which again, is something we've seen too often, are people who hop on board simply for the wrong reasons. They themselves may not even know it at the time. You'll find these people throughout your career at different levels, and they're going to come and go. Many times they just seem "too good to be true" and if you THINK of that phrase in your mind when you meet them, just keep it filed somewhere and remember it later when they take off with the keys. It happens with actual band members, as many of you know, and with those who've been helping out on your team. It'll blow your mind and make you so mad that your head will spin but just LET IT GO...LET THEM GO.
In closing, there's a special phrase we like to use around here. "MAKE SURE EVERYONE IN YOUR BOAT IS ROWING AND NOT DRILLING HOLES WHILE YOU'RE NOT LOOKING".
Your band is your business. If someone isn't good for your business, it's best if they aren't a part of it.
There's no “I” in Team. You can only get so far doing it all alone. Build one.
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