In addition to editing Wake the Zine with Jorja, Lauren books many of WAKE’s shows and fronts local band EL LAGO. She is still learning as an independent artist every single day. Here are some thoughts on how to improve your approach as a new band, including online essentials, booking basics, and more.
1. Make it easy to find and describe you.
Is your band name almost impossible to find in online search results? Do you have something like “f—k genres!” in your band profile? Sounds like a great way to irritate people who are (were?) trying to write about you, book you, or set up an event page. Once you have a band name, try to be consistent so people can follow you.
2. Get your social media in shape.
Start with a Facebook page and an Instagram account. They are both free! You will also want to do your best to strike a good tone with your words, images, graphics, and attitude toward others.
3. Post at least one high quality photo.
A high resolution, professional-looking photo will make it more likely that press will feature your band, and you will be taken more seriously in general.
4. Get your music-hosting profiles in shape.
When you have recordings—even just a demo can go a long way—start a Bandcamp and a Soundcloud. Just be aware that other music-hosting platforms could be perceived as less professional.
5. Open an email account for your band.
A lot of communication happens through Facebook, but creating a booking email is free and worthwhile. Go into settings and add a professional-looking email signature with your most important sites linked.
6. Avoid asking to borrow gear if possible.
Generally speaking, avoid asking to borrow from friends or other bands unless you are in a real pinch. They may not say so directly, but many people are not keen on loaning out their gear. (You don’t want to be that band, right?)
7. Invest in quality tools.
The reality is that some people will write you off because of your gear choices. Of course you can sometimes break the rules and be better for it—but generally speaking, it doesn’t hurt to take note of what is reputable in your field or genre.
8. Consider purchasing used gear.
You don’t have to drop all of that cash on brand new, expensive gear! Do research and patiently hunt on Craigslist or eBay. You may even know people who might want to sell or trade unwanted gear.
9. Do NOT play without compensation...
Playing for “exposure” is not good enough. You are undercutting your peers and training bars and venues to disrespect artists. Even a poorly attended DIY show should be able to throw you a little cash as a sign of respect. Bars have no excuse.
10. ...with a few exceptions.
Fundraisers are an obvious exception. Realistically, your first few shows as a new band will be low-paid or unpaid. Playing a free house party for your friends is a great way to get started, or find a way to put on a DIY show. Keep in mind that bars should always pay bands. (If your band is good enough to book, it’s good enough to pay!)
11. NEVER pay to play.
When you pay-to-play, you are paying to do free labor for a promoter who doesn’t care about you, your band, or your scene. These promoters prey on your desperation, which is why it’s kind of embarrassing to be spotted on a pay-to-play lineup. You may think that the legit-sounding venue makes it all worthwhile—but all those presale tickets with your name plus “special guests” are a dead giveaway to other musicians in your scene. Partner with venues and booking groups in your city that actually care about local artists or find a way to do DIY shows.
12. Avoid overplaying.
Getting paid to play every week in the same town may sound like “living off music,” but it could very well dilute your project in the long run. If you really care about your creative work, don’t treat it like just another paycheck.
13. Curate your shows.
Don’t play every show you are offered. Not every show will offer the same visibility or compensation, but as you build your project, curate your shows to raise the bar.
14. Troubleshoot your performances.
Are people avoiding the front—even walking out? Sometimes it’s not a reflection on you or your music, but you might consider things like your volume level, your tone, and your onstage personality. Are you saying something bigoted or egotistical? That can be a turnoff just as much as shitty tone. Is alcohol or another substance having a negative effect on your performance or your social interactions?
15. Practice goodwill toward your peers.
Train your attitude away from negativity as much as possible. Talking trash about other musicians or bands can come from a place of boredom. In that case, get off your ass and do something productive!! If the negativity is being encouraged by your friends, push back a little or take a break from spending time together. If you are feeling dissatisfied with your progress, recognize that bringing someone else down isn’t the way up.
16. Go to shows featuring up-and-coming local bands like you.
You’re missing out on half the fun of being a band if you aren’t involved in your community by supporting other bands. Stay in touch with the greater Houston area by following venues and bands, checking out David Garrick’s “The Best of the Week,” and picking up this zine.
17. Protect your ears.
When you do go out to shows, give your ears a break by wearing earplugs with a low decibel rating. That way, you can still enjoy the show but not be as fatigued.
18. Be patient with yourself.
If you are a high achiever with a fair amount of ambition, this can be a big challenge. Sometimes it just takes time; you can’t always make it happen quickly. Learning your craft, learning how to manage your band, writing new material... all of it takes time, and you are going to have some “off” nights.
19. Be patient with your band.
Address serious challenges in a fair way, but a good attitude is key to keeping your band happy and productive. Nothing kills progress like a terrible band dynamic!
20. Learn to react quickly and effectively when your boundaries are crossed.
Let’s be real, your work involves dealing with intoxicated strangers. You are likely to receive unwanted comments—and, what’s worse, physical interactions. Train yourself to respond in a way that defends your boundaries and keeps you safe. Review past situations so you’ll be ready next time.