No man—or band—is an island. The success of any musician is the cumulative effort of many people. As you set out to become a legend, there are ten people you want to surround yourself and your band with. Whether you hire these folks, or simply find them and build a mentoring relationship with them—they have the expertise you need to get where you want to be: on top.
Stylists aren’t just for corporate bands. Someone who is an expert in style and public opinion can give you an objective view about how other people see you. Talk to a stylist about your overall sound and the vision of your band and get some feedback about ways you can express that with your on-stage appearance.
2. Graphic Designer
A graphic designer is going to be able to help you design your “brand”. That can include everything from your website design, to your t-shirt graphics and your album cover. These are items that make a huge impression on people long before they have a chance to hear your music. Most graphic designers appreciate it when you bring them solid ideas and examples of things that inspire you. The more direction you can give them, the easier it will be for them to provide you with a finished product you’ll love.
3. Recording Techs
Live music and recorded music are two entirely different animals. You may have a great live sound, but if you’re going to make any money off your music, it needs to be recorded—and recorded well. Your MP3s can be placed on your website and circulated around the globe, so you want them to be the best possible representation of your band. Add to that the fact that recording time is so expensive, and mistakes can cost you time and money. It’s easy to see how important it is to find people who know their way around a mixing board.
If you can, ask other bands who they have helping them with the technical aspects of their recording. Or, you may place an ad and interview people who will help you in your session. Even if you use studio staff—don’t go in blindly and expect perfection in only a couple hours. Try to meet with the technical staff before you record and give them some idea what your expectations are. You may also want to hang out on some music industry message boards and get informed on techniques and terminology so that you can communicate what you really want when you get in to the studio.
4. Other Bands
Don’t look at other bands as competition. Each group is unique and has something different to offer. Each band has its own personality. You can co-exist peacefully with bands and find they are your best allies as you try to establish yourself. No one else knows what you are going through like another up-and-coming band. If you can find musicians who have more experience than you or who have already achieved success, try to form a mentoring relationship with them and let them help you through the landmines that take down so many young bands.
No, I’m not talking about Tawny Kitaen. I’m talking about Classic Groupies—girls (and even guys) who are loyal fans. These are people who will be at every show, wear your t-shirt until it falls apart, and tell everyone they meet how great you are. These people will develop in to an entourage—they create a party wherever they go—even if it is just waiting in line to buy your tickets. They are an asset, and a time-honored tradition on the road to success.
6. Web Guru
The internet is where you’re going to be marketing yourself for the rest of the century, so you might as well get comfy there. No one expects you to be a geek, but you should definitely have an in with a geek to can help you establish yourself online. A web guru is going to be well-versed in web design and implementation, have technical skills for generating web traffic and search-engine optimization, and an eye on anything new that you can latch on to and use. Not only do you want a professional website, but you want to appear web savvy; which means using online tools and giving your fans access to those tools, too.
7. Business Advisor
Most musicians are terrible businesspeople. That makes having a business advisor all the more important. Whether you hire someone, or simply have a trusted friend with a business background give you some pointers, it is absolutely essential to have someone with a business mind help you make the most of your money. That means managing any income you have from gigs, album sales, or merchandise. It means planning a budget for the band, and knowing where and how to invest wisely.
8. Club owners
People that own clubs can give you great opportunities to perform live—but they can also give you added perspective and the experience that comes from seeing musicians perform on a regular basis. A club owner, if they befriend you, can provide you with all kinds of information including warnings of pitfalls they’ve seen bring other bands down. They know their own club or bar better than anyone else and they can tell you how to optimize your performance’s sound and appearance. They can tell you which nights are the best to book, and what kind of crowd to expect. They have their finger on the pulse of the music scene from a business perspective and can give you highly specialized information to make the most of your shows.
9. Friends and Family
Your friends and family are the people who believe in you more than anyone else. They are going to stick by you through ups and downs, successes and discouragements. They are a ready-made army of marketers who will tell the world how great you are with total conviction. Don’t alienate yourself from these folks. Let them put your name out there, and let them share in the victory when you get recognition.
10. Radio DJs and Press People
These guys have the ability to promote you in ways you cannot imagine. Most radio stations have featured staff picks on their shows, and radio DJs and music journalists also keep blogs on their company websites. If they make it to your show and like it, they’re going to tell thousands of people. Take the initiative and seek out DJs on stations that play music similar to yours and press people who cover music in your area. Send them CDs and invite them to your shows. Offer to give them an interview for their blogs and ask them to share their experience with you.
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