Transcending Local Limbo by Carson of XXI
Being in a Band: Expectation vs. Reality
Being in a band was supposed to be so fun. How could it not be? Playing shows for thousands of people every night, making great money, and hanging out with your best friends; what could be better? The fact is that except for a few outliers, this couldn’t be further from the reality of being in an active touring band.
Firstly, you need to prepare mentally, physically, and financially for your project to be in “local limbo” for at least two to four years. What’s local limbo? Local limbo is what I use to describe your growth status as a new band which is characterized by turnouts of 20-40 people in your hometown, more money put into your band than you get out of it, and probably working a day job to support your budding music career. So how to get out of local limbo? I wish that there were an exact formula I could give you, like Record Deal = Mc². Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way, but I can give you a few tips that can help transcend local limbo.
LOVE What You Do!
If you don’t have passion for your music, I promise you the crowd won’t either. You can find passion in EVERY genre of music. Remember that the crowd feeds off YOU first, and you feed off of the crowd second. Your band has to command the show and when you do that, fans and record labels will notice. Also, the cold truth is that there are extremely difficult times ahead of you. It’s that way for every successful band, and only genuine passion is likely to get you through.
Find Your Sound
This is the second thing you should worry about after passion. I know you hear this all the time, but there is a good reason for it. Labels want fresh sounding material always. Resist the urge to go to your producer saying “we want to sound like _________.” 99% of the time it won’t turn out in your favor.
Reason being? By simply reverse engineering what another (more popular) artist is doing, you’re creating a product which is in direct competition with theirs and therefore choosing to fight an uphill battle with an artist who is more established, better funded, and who likely has a stronger team than you. Not a good start. Influences are fine and everybody has them, but if you want to really stick out in a good way you HAVE to develop your own sound.
Establish Your Image
Anyone that tells you “image doesn’t matter and it’s solely about the music” doesn’t know what they are talking about. Image is the third most important asset that your band has to develop behind passion and sound. Find out what is natural and what you can feel comfortable trademarking. If you plan on doing something insane and it gets a lot attention, that’s awesome. Just be prepared to continue out with that look for your entire career, as it will be what you are known for!
Being in a band is beautiful, exhausting, and sometimes absolutely terrifying. The most important thing I have ever been told is “find out what making it means to you”. Setting up short to medium term goals can help you stay energized and motivated, so start picking some. Record a song, play a show, and go on tour. No accomplishment is too small. Once your goals are met, feel free to set more if you want. If it’s in your heart, never stop pushing for it.