We can discuss booking strategies and marketing plans forever, but until your group has established a working group dynamic, success may be elusive. One of my first concerns when I worked with any group, is to see how the group worked together and interacted with each other away from the music. I’ve seen situations when a band can make incredible music together, and as soon as the rehearsal or the gig is over, everyone disappears into their own world just so they don’t have to interact with one another. There is so much more to creating a successful band than just playing the music. I want to know that the group will do more than simply tolerate each other when it’s absolutely necessary.
The first place to start is to see if each of your goals for the group are in alignment does everyone want the same thing? This may best be done with your manager if you have one, or simply ask someone who is not tied to anyone in particular within the group to serve as an impartial facilitator. I suggest getting together for a non-rehearsal date. Each person would share their ideas about the group, what each individual sees as their desires for the group’s goals and what their own individual goals are. Be open and honest as you communicate with each other. It sets the tone for future interactions. One member may see the group as a vehicle for their songwriting; another might be using the group as a stepping stone to a solo career or until a different group comes along more to their liking. One member might like to play the in-town gigs but not really want to tour extensively out of the area. Another member may just want to play once in a while and not really want to put much energy into the group. These kinds of things are important to know up front, before a lot of energy, money and time are invested and before the group starts to take off.
This kind of discussion often produces many “what-if” scenarios. As you brainstorm future situations that may arise, you get a chance to see how the others may react. For example, an opportunity to open a series of dates for a larger act is offered to the group. This means you will be on the road for a month or perhaps more. In that situation, what will the member who doesn’t want to tour extensively do? Wouldn’t it be good to explore these situations in advance rather than at the moment it actually happens? When everyone discusses these possibilities as a prelude to success rather than a reaction to it, the group has more of a chance to make great music and enjoy all the effort involved in the making of it.
Once you are aware of each member’s view of the role the group plays in their lives, you are more able to proceed setting realistic goals. It is also appropriate to set a timeline for when a change needs to occur in order to satisfy a member’s relationship to the group. Make arrangements with each member to give enough advance notice about quitting when the group begins heading in a direction they are not interested in going. This allows the group enough time to find a replacement if that is what’s needed. Depending upon the legal structure of the group, contracts between group members may be required to spell out how each member gets in and how they get out. If investments were made, contracts would help describe financial compensation to the leaving member and required investment of a newcomer. When you anticipate as many of the worse case scenarios in advance, cooler heads design the outcomes and the remedies.
Taking Responsibility for Success
There are many tasks required in making a band successful. When first getting started, there is not enough money to hire road managers, business managers, and others to take care of all the details to keep the group operating. These various tasks must fall to the members of the group. Some jobs, like booking the dates, (prior to having an agent) often takes the most time and it requires a certain type of personality. It may also be the job that is the most crucial if the band want’s to play anywhere other than the garage. Often people find this to be the least fun as well. I recommend that the group member taking on this task be compensated with an additional percentage above their split of the performance fee. If you had an agent you would be paying them anywhere from 10%-20%. Agree on a percentage and pay the member of the group that percentage of every date they book.
What about the other tasks? They are just as meaningful to the group’s success. You may decide that when each person takes responsibility for a specific job, rather than offering additional compensation for one job, you simply split the gig fees equally if each job holds equal weight and requires equal amounts of time. The various jobs necessary to keep the group going to build toward success are:
- Keeping the books
- Advancing the tour dates
You may come up with others specific to your group’s needs, but these are the main tasks. When the group members share equally in all aspects of operations, then you may decide to split all income equally. If, however, one or two group members take responsibility for the majority of the tasks to keep the group working, then it would be appropriate to compensate those members accordingly. The additional compensation shows respect for the work being done on behalf of the entire group. When these arrangements are established early in a group’s career, those members doing the extra work are less likely to feel unappreciated and overwhelmed or suffer burnout. Take care of the people taking care of the group.
If you are serious about success, then start out with a meaningful dialog among members to know you are all heading in the same direction and working for the same goals. Establishing the working dynamics early in the group’s career will ensure consistent growth, smooth transitions, and easy interactions.
And, I invite you to learn more about this and other topics important to your career development and to sign up for free weekly audio Biz Booster Hot Tip! Every Monday you’ll get another valuable strategy and technique that you can put to use immediately. You’ll find helpful books, career development seminars, Booking & Touring Success Strategies & Secrets online course and information on booking tours, the music business and performing arts. It’s all waiting for you at https://www.performingbiz.com. Jeri Goldstein is the author of, How To Be Your Own Booking Agent The Musician’s & Performing Artist’s Guide To Successful Touring, 3rd Edition.
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