As someone who was a member of a signed band for several years, and a musician for over 10 years, I have found myself constantly frustrated by the challenges that bands and artists actually face in the current music industry. There are issues and problems that, far from being solved, have only become worse with every passing year. Pursuing a career in music has become more of a daunting and depressing task than ever before – if you’re going to go about it in the traditionally accepted way, if you’re going to follow the standard procedure that record labels and artists have been following for decades.
Let me break something down for you. These are the actual costings that my former band, a duo, had to face in our first year.
1. We recorded our demo, of three songs, for $1500. These weren’t mastered or anything, just recorded and mixed, and we actually had self produced all the music before we hit the studio so we were only doing vocals. That was two days work, $1500.
2. We started playing shows. We were rehearsing at several small rehearsal spaces around Sydney, and it was costing us $60 per rehearsal. We were rehearsing every week, for a month leading up to our first show. $280. Then there were petrol costs to and from the rehearsal studio, and to and from the actual show. All up, about $60 petrol for both members. $120. To play the actual show, all up, was $400. So far, we’d spent $1900. We were paid $100 for our show. putting us at $1800. We were losing $100 on each show.
3. Gear costs were phenomenal. We paid $900 for Ableton Live, and we paid a whole lot more for Roland and Korg synths and amplifiers, not to mention laptops. At least $3,000 was spent on actual equipment and software.
In my opinion, We Did This The Wrong Way.
You need to get a few things straight in your head. The first is that sure, everyone will tell you how they think you ought to be running your band, or starting your band. They’ll say this software, these instruments, this rehearsal space, that recording studio are all the best and you have to use them. But they are wrong. The best thing for your band is whatever works.
Self record as much as you can.
Do it on open source software. There is a wealth of it out there, some of it even cloud based. Meaning you don’t even need to install it.
If you can’t afford a Macbook Pro, then don’t buy one. Buy a PC. Or an iPad. You can make good music on those.
Don’t pay through the nose for a rehearsal space. Rehearse in your garage. It worked for a thousand different bands before you, it’ll work for you.
Don’t wait around for people to give you shows. Book your own shows. Play anywhere.
Use the internet. Grow your audience any way you can. Do goofy stuff and put it on YouTube. Film yourself playing acoustic songs. Work hard.
Don’t make CDs. Release your music on Bandcamp.
Just get out there and make stuff, however you can, do stuff however you can, and help actually create a new and vibrant music industry. Stop playing by the rules and make your own. Fugazi did that 20 years ago. You need to do that now.