Recently, the music industry has seen a great tide of lo-fi ventures. The recent comeback of vinyl, bands spending bundles to record to tape because it apparently sounds warmer, even the idea that faults in guitar riffs add character to a song, all add to the lo-fi surge. But, in this dizzying swirl of return to our roots mentality, bands must not mistake the definition of lo-fi as less professional, at least not if they expect to make it in the industry.
Professionalism is an all-encompassing word and includes everything from greeting the promoter with a handshake and a promo-kit in hand, to arriving at gigs on time to saving money earned from shows. How might a band realize this truly crucial quest for professionalism? Just remember the five words that govern all decisions in any successful musical career.
A band is a business.
This is what separates people who play music as a hobby from those who play for a living. Just like a business, bands must be concerned with every dollar and how it can best be earned and spent. It's even more important to watch the money in its early stages, when good luck means getting a cheque for $17.86.
One fundraising idea is to collect a monthly band allowance from each member. If every member of a four piece puts $25 into a band fund every month, the band will have enough money to press 500 copies of basement recordings after one year.
On top of this allowance, all money raised through gigs, busking, etc. should be reinvested towards making more money the next time. This could mean purchasing a banner to hang behind the band at gigs or simply saving the money for that mixing board everyone has been eyeing. However, be cautious when spending band money. Never purchase gear for specific members and never make purchases without everyone's consent.
Another thing to sort out as soon as possible is what happens to everything should the band decide it's time to call it quits. Picture this: two years down the road, when the band is making $250 a night at local clubs plus the sales revenue of their brand new CD, the lead guitarist decides that he wants to follow his heart on the road to jazz. But, seeing that he put in his dues, he's earned a piece of the pie and wants some of the money from the band fund.
What do they do?
Had the band drawn up some sort of written agreement as to what happens when members leave, the band breaks, etc., it would not be in this situation. A contract covers what happens to money, equipment and merchandise that the band owns, as well as what happens to the band's name (this is honestly the most important part). You may think it will never happen to you, but there's always that chance.
Posing the idea of a contract may raise awkwardness between the band, especially between friends. But if a band can't make it through this, there's no way they'll make it in the long run. If it is uncomfortable to pose the idea of a contract, just say "but Myke said he'll break all our arms if we don't do this." Trust me, it worked for me.
Myke Atkinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.