If AC/DC were right about anything, they were right about rock n’ roll being “harder than it looks”. Playing in a band can be insanely stressful, challenging, and mind-numbing. Yet, at the end of the day, it’s been one of the most fulfilling and exciting experiences of my life, so if this sounds like fun, read on.
There are plenty of reasons to start a band. Maybe you’re inspired by the music you listen to, or maybe you’re looking to have a good time with your friends. Maybe you’re even trying to make some money on the side. In my experience, playing in a band is a great way to meet new people, bond with friends, make spare change, gain street cred (probably not), and learn teamwork skills. It’s also a decent conversation starter at ice cream socials. (Side note: as a general rule, groupies and college application fillers are bad reasons to start a band). Either way, remember that playing in a band should be a lot of fun.
Play music with people you don’t hate.
As you might imagine, this is a pretty important issue. My band congealed over the course of middle school, with various members drifting in and out. I learned a lot from this. While most of us intended to form a “jam-band” of sorts, our original lead singer preferred a vocal-driven pop repertoire with a “frontman” feel. Hence, although we’re all great friends, our differing opinions kept the group from playing well together. On the other hand, another old member simply couldn’t find the time to practice or make it to gigs. Suffice to say that this didn’t work out. Right now, my other band mate is my own brother, and of course, this comes with its pros and cons (White Stripes). Still, at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that you’re making music with other people who are as excited as you are.
Try your best to not be a tyrant.
Of course, leadership is important. Do you have an individual who “leads” the band, or is the band a collective effort? If you make any money, how will you split it up? I’d say this one’s pretty simple: keep things fair. If a band member is pulling their weight, then they deserve just as much money and credit as you do. If they’re not doing their part, why are they in the band?
Now, selecting a genre of music sounds simple enough, but in actuality, it’s proven to be the cornerstone of countless band debates. Suppose you have a gig playing at the local farmer’s market. Are you going to stick to your guns and play psychedelic math rock, or play crowd-pleasers in hopes of making a profit? Fact: Beatles covers don’t break new ground. Also a fact: GY!BE covers don’t net you as many tips as Beatles songs.
What is your artistic vision?
So, what is your band vision? Do you want to create your own original material, or pay homage to other musicians? Do you want to create art in the studio or on the stage? Both? There are no wrong answers here. I recommend collaborating with all sorts of different people and just doing what you want to do. As the platitude goes, the sky’s the limit. Also, try not to pick a band name that already exists. Now, go out there and make some noise.