Many of us dream of being a rockstar on stage as a kid. Far less have the foresight to envision the years of work it takes to become a successful band with a sold-out show. Every musician has to start from somewhere, but it can be understandably overwhelming from getting your first gig to putting together a new band.
Fortunately, we've put together a comprehensive guide on how to start a band in 2023. The modern age of streaming comes with its own host of challenges, but these practical tips are designed to help you navigate today's nuanced music industry. Let's take a look!
Why Should You Start a Band?
Starting a band provides obvious benefits if you're hoping to become a famous performer. However, the harsh reality is that most bands won't make it to this alleged superstar status-- but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try. Starting a band is guaranteed to bring you value for the following reasons:
- For the Love of Music: Even if you're only playing to a room of ten people, playing live music is an incredibly special experience. Being in a band gives you the opportunity to present your music in a live setting and see people connect to your creations in real time.
- Increase Your Skillset: Working with others will help you learn what sounds good in a live setting. You're bound to increase your technical chops under the tutelage of other musicians on a regular basis.
- Collaboration: Being in a band teaches you incredible collaboration skills. Bandmates often develop a rich friendship over their innately unique shared experience.
How to Start a Band in 9 Steps
Whether you're an experienced instrumentalist, solo artist looking for accompaniment, or aspiring musician, use these steps to help you start your band:
1. Find Your Sound
Before you seek out band members, rehearsal space, or even start thinking about reaching out to venues, you'll need to have a general idea of what vein of music you'd like to create. Even if you don't have any songs written (learn more about the song writing process here) , try to think of what artists or genres your band will have a similar feel to.
This step is essential since it will give you an idea of how many prospective band members you need, and who to call for. As noted below, when you outreach for certain instrumentalists, it's important to list the ideal genre and musical influences. A punk guitarist is going to be widely different in skillset than a Flamenco fingerpicking player.
The more specific you can get from the start of your search, the better! It's preferable if you have some music already written. This way, assuming you find the right people, you're one step closer to performing live. Make sure your skills are up to snuff, too. Players are attracted to other artists that show obvious promise through their technical abilities and artistic chops.
As showcased by industry professional Jesse Cannon, having a clear vision of your sound, and most importantly what makes your music stand out amongst the sea of other musicians is crucial to kicking off any career in the music industry. You want to iron out these details before seeking out other band members since your original material will inevitably shift and evolve with more cooks in the kitchen.
2. Determine What Kind of Band You Want to Be
Now that you've put together your musical references and thought through your initial ideas, it's time to determine what you need technically speaking to pull off a live show. Do you need a four-piece band with a singer, drummer, guitarist, and bassist? Are you better off as a duo?
Look to bands and instrumentalists within a similar sonic space to get inspired by other set ups. Curate a list of your priorities for prospective band members and think through what you can offer an entire band beyond a few songs.
Will you be writing the music together or separately? How often do you want to gig? Will these gigs be paid or revolve around opportunity?
3. Find Your Band Members
Create paper flyers to place in local music stores, rehearsal spaces, and venues. Talk to the shop owners about displaying these flyers, and hang them accordingly with their permission. Your flyer should outline each band member position you're looking to fill, a band name if you have one, the genre of music you're looking to create, and a couple of established musical artists as referenced.
Make sure your contact information is readily available and include information about auditions, should you choose to host them. You can also start with an online search, but note that it may be challenging to sus out whether potential collaborators are ready and available to play in an area of your choice.
Put the word out to local musician friends, and make an effort to go to indie shows at local bars and venues. Talk to band members and make your intentions to start a band clear. Talk to enough people and you'll eventually find the right fit for your needs.
4. Outline a Band Agreement
Have a couple of band members in mind? It's time to lay down some ground rules. Note that these roles may change as you evolve as a band, but outlining them from the start is a good way to ensure that everyone at least starts off on the same page.
You'll want to discuss how you want to approach the writing process, whether you plan to play covers or original, ad how much money each member can expect to earn from each gig (0 is fine too and probably most realistic when you're starting from the ground up). It's easier to define a fair split amongst band members
money has arrived.
Also discuss other responsibilities. Who will run the band's social media accounts? Who will put together the electronic press kit? Where will you rehearse? Who will pay for the equipment and rehearsal spaces? There is a lot that goes into running a successful music act outside of the music itself so try to be as detailed as possible.
5. Start Writing
If you haven't already, learn to write your own music. The writing process may be more or less challenging with other band members, but you'll find your flow so long as you commit to meeting and practicing often. Try to set up a regular band meeting you all can count on outside of your day-to-day commitments.
6. Market Your Music
You don't have to delve into this during your first band meeting, but inevitably, you will have to market your own material. Whether that's on social media, flyers around town, word of mouth, or a combination of the methods is up to you, but know that it's essential. A record label doesn't want to just sign a great band nowadays, they want to sign an established fanbase.
7. Go Gigging
After you've put some effort behind marketing your music and have enough material to perform a full set, it's time to start gigging. You won't go from unknown garage band to touring overnight, but with dedication and patience, you can earn more gigs. You'll need to set your expectations low for the first few gigs-- there will be plenty of times in which you'll be playing to an audience of very few or no one at all.
It might make sense to start by performing at open mic nights. This is a great way to network with some good musicians and work through some of that early-stage performance anxiety. You can also reach out to venues directly, though you'll be expected to bring in a certain amount of heads, particularly if you're in a more popular market.
Going to other people's gigs can also help you earn opener or support slots. Once you get in the gig circuit, you'll start to become more visible in your market. Continue to play your own songs, share new songs with fans, and meet with as many people as you can at every gig. You know you'll be ready to start touring once you're consistently selling out your local market and receiving significant press coverage.
8. Network with a Positive Attitude
One of the most important aspects of building a successful band that's frequently overlooked is the importance of networking. Even if you aren't in an area with a lot of professional artists, you can still show support for other artists on social media pages like Instagram or TikTok.
If you have the opportunity, make the trek to local area shows as often as possible. You'd be surprised how often many bands are seeking a last-minute opener or another act to fill the bill. Sometimes, being the first act to come to mind is all you need to book the gig. Small gigs turn into bigger ones, and if you and your new bandmates commit to being supportive musicians in your community, some of the love is bound to be reciprocated.
9. Keep Putting Out Music
While they might make it appear that way, most bands, including your all-time favorites, are hardly an overnight success. Becoming a successful band means putting in years of blood, sweat, and tears while navigating the trials and tribulations of collaborating regularly within the context of the music industry.
Continue to put out music online, play shows, and network, even when you feel discouraged because only five people showed up to your latest dive bar gig. We've all been there, and seasoned professionals are the first to tell you that building a successful band takes plenty of persistence. Keep making music, trust the process, and know that if you keep striving to improve and work hard to market your creations , you're sure to find the right audience for your art in time.
How to Start a Band FAQ
Starting a band comes with more considerations than you may think. Consider these commonly asked questions and answers before assembling a group of your own:
How much does it cost to start a band?
When you start a band, you can expect to pay for equipment and potentially the time of your band members depending on your arrangement. However, if you already have the necessary equipment, starting a band could cost next to nothing.
How do you start a band for beginners?
To start a band in the music industry, all you need is several like-minded musicians who want to play music together. Make time to meet, rehearse, and write music, and in no time, you'll find yourself on stage with other bands.
Is it hard to start a band?
Starting a band isn't particularly difficult but staying committed to one is. Being in a band comes with navigating emotionally heightened relationships and actively collaborating with other musicians which can be surprisingly challenging.
What age should you start a band?
It's never too early or too late to start a band. As long as you have several people who enjoy playing music, you're ready to build a band! If you're not sure you want to commit out of the gate, start with a group jam session to see how you gel.
How can a 12-year-old start a band?
Absolutely. So long as each band member (a 12-year-old, in this case) makes the time to play in their own band and practice accordingly, it's never too young to start a band.
Can 2 people be a band?
A band could be as small as two people, though this is usually referred to as a duo. For instance, bands like Magdalena Bay and Twenty One Pilots held out as duos for a while before extending their musical experience to other band members.
Starting a band can be one of the most rewarding experiences for any musician. Enjoy working through the entire process with your bandmates from the first song to the first tour.