7 Basic Things That All Bands Should Invest In, And Usually Don’t

From hiring a songwriting consultant to hiring a light and sound man for your performances, Bobby Borg shares 7 basic things that a ll bands should invest in, and usually don’t.

I can’t tell you how many indie bands I’ve seen that are quick to drop money they don’t have on some “3 month Internet campaign” with a publicist while neglecting to budget just a few hundred dollars in core essentials. Most indie artists are broke, but if you’re going to spend your valuable savings or that money you raised in your crowd funding campaign, here’s a few things you may want to consider.

1. Songwriting Consultant (US$75 – $150 Per Hour):
Just because you can play your guitar does not mean that you can write a well-crafted song. Songwriting is a skill all its own that takes years of training and practice to perfect. A seasoned songwriting consultant can offer objective advice about your songs and improve upon them significantly. It makes no sense to spend zero dollars in working on the most important aspect of your career—your songs, and thousands of dollars recording and promoting your music. Trust me on this one: no matter how many new fans or “likes” a publicist can guarantee on your social networks, and no matter how many record companies some artist development firm says will hear your music, if you don’t have undeniably great songs, you pretty much have dank!

2. Focus Group Marketing: (US$200 – $350):
One of the most important people to the success of your career are the people to whom you are trying to appeal (i.e, your fans). Yet, it surprises me how most bands don’t spend the time or money to conduct research and get feedback from them. By rounding up two groups of 30 people, renting a rehearsal studio, buying a keg of beer and several pizzas, performing sets of your music, and having a moderator ask each group of fans to separately discuss/rate your songs (or sound, stage presence, look, etc.), you’ll produce some important information that can help save you a great deal of time and money in the long run. After all, if its the fans who you are trying to satisfy with your music, doesn’t it make sense to see what they think before spending thousands recording your EP? Of course it does!

3. Photographer and Stylist (US$300 – $750):
These days everyone with a camera phone and mirror in their bedroom thinks that they are a photographer and/or a stylist. Wrong! An experienced pro who has access to amazing locations, knows about arranging a shot, understands proper lighting, knows about hair and make-up, and understands fashion can give your band the visual edge it needs. Look, if they say that a picture is really worth a thousand words and you agree with this statement, then why not spend at least that much in getting some really professional photos done? Your brand depends on it. Enough said!

4. Graphic Designer (US$300 – $500):
Your band’s logo serves as the stamp of your brand. It is what is put on your drummer’s bass drum heads, your banners, your road cases, your merch, and it even becomes your tattoos. Yet everyone with Adobe Photoshop—or some other free online logo software—thinks they’re a graphic artist. But if there’s one thing you listen to, listen to this: Pay a trained pro to get your logo done right! I’m not talking about low-cost options like Fivve-R (www.fiverr.com) where you let people essentially bid on doing the job for you. Rather, I’m suggesting you hire someone who has an outstanding portfolio of band logos and several years of experience to back it up. Remember, at a time when people are not paying for music anymore, you want to have a bad-ass logo that can become part of that bad-ass T-shirt that people will gladly be willing to pay $10 (or more) to take home. So let the pros do your logo. Okay? Good!

5. Sound Man (US$50 to $125 nightly):
Most artists spend thousands of dollars to get their music recorded, mixed, and mastered, and zero dollars to replicate that sound on stage! Think about it: you book yourself into a club with 7 other bands playing on the same bill, and then use a house sound guy who knows nothing about your music and vibe. Don’t get me wrong, house guys do good work. But hiring someone who knows every snare drum fill, every guitar riff, and every vocal harmony can make a huge difference and give your band’s live show the competitive advantage that it so desperately needs.

6. Light Man (US$50 to $125 Nightly):
While on the topic of your live show, let’s discuss your light show! What light show, you ask? My point exactly! Once again, most bands rely on whatever the club provides, and that’s precisely what the other 8 bands on the bill do. This means that every band ends up looking the same! But imagine having a light man who synchronizes every snare drum roll with a series of strobe lights, projects bright white lights from the stage into the audience on dramatic power chords, and builds special boxes that project bright lights upwards into your face making you look nearly God-like every time you step up on these boxes. Awesome! Right? So remember, you’re in show business. No show typically means no business!

7. Bar and Food Tab (US$75):
Want to get a really important person to come and see your show and hear your music? Then why not pick up their food and drink tab for the night? Really! It blows me away how indie artists will pay some random company to blast out their music to hundreds of bloggers, but never think about targeting one or two local magazine writers (radio DJs, etc.) and offering to comp their night. Surely, there are still no guarantees that the person you invite will like your music, but I’d bet on this more personal approach any day over some “get successful quick” campaign that sends unsolicited emails to the world.

Want to learn more helpful tips? BOBBY BORG is the author of Music Marketing For The DIY Musician: Creating and Executing a Plan of Attack On A Low Budget (September 2014). The book is available at Bobby Borg (bobbyborg.com).
(This article appeared on allaboutjazz.com)

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