Monday, 29 January 2007

Practice Makes Perfect

As you can probably guess band practice is very important. It is necessary for a number of reasons: most obviously it helps you play tighter and remember your songs better, it is also the time when you will be writing new songs, and it is also a good time to get all the band members together to talk about big band decisions.

The first thing you have to do is find somewhere you can practice. Your first option is to practice at one of your band members houses. This is the cheapest option that you have available, however there is the problem of your neighbours and the volume of noise you will be producing. If your neighbours, don’t mind then go right ahead, as this will save you a lot of money, and you can practice for as long as you want.

Your next option is to hire a practice room. The advantage of which is that you can make as much noise as you like, however it will cost you, normally between £5 and £20 per hour, but for this you get to use the house PA, microphones, stands, leads etc and you can also hire amps, drums etc for a small charge. You can search on Google to find rehearsal rooms in your area and to check the prices to find the cheapest solution.

When finding a rehearsal space it is always important to make sure that it is easily accessible to all band members, it is also important to make sure that all band members have transportation to wherever you are practicing.

Band practice should be held at least once per week. If you are paying to practice then you probably won’t be able to afford to practice more than this, however if you are practicing for free then there is no harm in practicing more than this, but I think that one three or four hour practice per week should be fine.

The best thing to do is to make a specific time and day for practice, 5pm to 9pm on Sunday for example, and stick to it, make it your practice day, and make sure that everyone in the band knows that at this time on this day to be at the rehearsal room ready to play.

I have found from my experience that this system is more reliable, because everyone knows that you are practicing and will therefore not arrange to do anything at that time, whereas if you don’t have a specified practice time and just ring everyone up on the day you are due to practice and tell them to get there, the chances are that someone will be doing something else and practice will have to be cancelled.

When setting up you gear to practice it is best to set everything up as if you are playing a real gig. Look at the image below, you can see that the amps and PA speakers are set up slightly behind the drum kit. Setting up your equipment in this way means that the drummer will be able to hear what everyone else is playing a lot better, this is important, because the drums are so load that if you position the amps in front of the kit the drummer will have a hard time hearing everything.
That is all for now, on Wednesday I will be talking about recording your music, so make sure you check back then.

Thursday, 25 January 2007

Band Reviews!!!

I am going to start reviewing bands on this blog. If you want you band to be reviewed by DIYbands then email me at diybands@googlemail.com, please send all relevant info about your band: name, style, where you are, website, e-mail etc. Thank you.

Monday, 22 January 2007

Computers The Internet And The Power Of Myspace

Today’s article is about computers and the internet, as these two things are probably the most powerful tools in the arsenal of a DIY band. In this day and age the internet is everywhere, approximately one billion people and are connected to it, and of this one billion people there is a good chance that a few of them will like your music. So this is an opportunity that you and your band can’t afford to miss out on.

As the title of this article suggests I am also going to be talking about Myspace, there are hundreds of millions of people on Myspace and growing, so again another thing that your band can’t afford to miss out on. If you don’t have a Myspace account get one now, click here, this will take you to the artist sign up page, make sure you don’t sign up for a normal myspace account as this will mean you don’t have access to all the features that are provided on an artist profile.

The features that are available are really good for marketing your music to a large audience, they include: a media player, which can store up to four songs for your fans to listen to and a gig calendar which you can store the dates, times and venues of your gigs so that your fans can see where you are going to be playing. The profile also lets you use regular Myspace features like pictures, blogs comments and messages.

Once you have set up your profile, make sure that you customise it to your bands particular style, this should follow the style of your website, merchandise, poster etc. You can use any Myspace editor, by I like to use www.mywackospace.com. Also sign yourself you with an account on www.myspacecharts.com, this is a great tool for new bands as it ranks you among the other artists on Myspace by the amount of plays you get.

Another great resource on the net for UK based bands is www.ukbands.net this allows you to make a profile with pictures, songs, bio, gig calendar and is so going to feature a shop for to sell Merchandise and CDs etc. There is also a forum which you can use to get in touch with gig promoters, venues and fans.

As I mentioned at the beginning today’s article is also about computers. Computers are a great tool, and almost essential to today’s DIY musicians, you can use them to record your music, make and print flyers and artwork, burn CDs, send and receive email, keep a record of all you contacts and, of course, access the internet and all the sites mentioned above.

When choosing a computer make sure that it has a CD rewriter, this is essential for burning CDs, also make sure you have a printer, for printing flyers and artwork. Essential software includes: a wordprocesser, this is needed for writing letters to clubs and promoters, some form of art program, paint is ok but if you have the money get photoshop, there are lots of online tutorials available on how to use it so don’t worry if it appears daunting at first. An internet browser, I suggest Mozilla Firefox because it is much, much better than internet explorer. Some form of address book is also good, such as Microsoft outlook, this allows you to keep track of all your contacts and generally organise your life.

You will also need some form of email account for your band, I suggest getting a free online account, such as Hotmail or Google Mail. I recommend Google Mail, however it is still in beta, so you need to be invited. If you wish to set up a Google Mail account email me and I will happily sent you and invite, if not then hotmail will do fine.

I hope this article has help you, please leave a comment and tell me what you think.

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Advertising Gigs On A Budget

My post on Monday showed you how to get onto the first rung on the gigging ladder, and today I am going to be talking about how to get people to those gigs so you can start getting exposure. Being a working musician myself, I know that money is always tight, and that there are much more important thing to spend it on, like beer. So I have decided that my post today should be about advertising on a budget.

First things first, you need to have a gig to advertise, read my post “Getting Gigs” to learn more about this. If you already have a gig set up the next thing you need to do is make sure that you have all the essential information about it, basically all the stuff that people how want to go need to know: where, when, entry cost, other bands playing and the running order of the bands playing.

When designing your flyers make sure that all of this information is clear and easy to read at a glance. The list of bands playing should start with the headlining act at the top of the list and the first support band at the bottom. The date and time should be big and clear of any obstruction, so should the location of the gig, as this is the info that will get the crowd there on time. Other good things to include on flyers are: any drink offers or happy hours, because in my experience cheap alcohol will get more people in to a gig than good bands will. Also if the gig is free then put that on there too, but make sure it is big, FREE GIG written in big capital letters across the top of the flyers should catch most peoples attention.

When it comes to printing you have a few choices, first there is having professional flyers made up for you, these have the advantage of being very high quality, they are normally printed in colour on double sided glossy card. However, they are expensive, and also have to be bought in bulk, often 1000 flyers is the minimum order.

Your next option is photocopying, this is a very good choice for someone who is in college or uni or works in an office and has easy, and free, access to a photocopier. The advantage of this is that you can print of many flyers very quickly, and for free. The downside is that you can only use laser printer paper, which is OK but not the best for flyers, however I would recommend this option to any who has free access to a photocopier.

The last option, which is personally think is the best, is a the use of an ink jet printer. This is how I make all my flyers, it costs a bit, but can make high quality flyers. Your best bet is to make sure that all your flyers are black and white then print them out on to coloured paper. I have found that light colour are the best for the paper, yellow being may favourite. This is because if you use dark paper, like red, the black ink does not stand out as much as on lighter paper. The downside of an inkjet printer is that it uses quite a bit of ink.

If you are going to be using an inkjet printer then you have to design accordingly. This means not putting massive amounts of things on to your flyer that will mean the flyers are mostly ink. Don’t put a big picture on it, just put the need to know information on, making sure it is clear and readable. Then print it on coloured paper and your laughing. A6 is the best size for flyers, this means four flyers per A4 sheet, which is good value, and much easier to handle when you are handing them out in the wind. The best amount to print is 200 flyers for your average gig, and if you make them A6 that means only 50 sheets of A4, which isn’t really that much.

You will notice I have been mainly talking about flyers, instead of posters, the reason for this is that I believe flyers to be a much better advertising medium. Problem with posters on a budget scale is that you are restricted to A4 black and white posters, and when you are competing with the A1 full colour monster that you see up everywhere you would need to put up a hell of a lot of posters to make an impact, also as I just mentioned for the same amount of paper to make 50 posters you could make 200 flyers.

Fly posting is illegal and in some areas even controlled by gangs so putting posters up in the wrong part of town could get you beaten up, or arrested or worse. Another good thing with flyers is that you actually give them out to people individually which means that that person is guaranteed to look at it.

There are lots of pros and cons to consider when choosing how to advertise, I personally think that A6 black and white printed on colour paper is a great choice, however if you want to try other things then you should, just try every thing and use what works best for you. Another great whey to advertise is on the internet, look at my article Computers The Internet And The Power Of Myspace for more information

Monday, 15 January 2007

Getting Gigs

Please Note: A lot of this blog is aimed at new bands getting their first gigs, however other bands will still find it useful

The most important thing for a new band, or any band for that matter, to do is gig. Gigging is the best publicity you will get when you are starting out. Posters, flyers and other forms of advertising are useless with out regular gigs. Ask yourself this: Which would you be more likely to listen to, a poster or flyer telling you a band is great or your best mate saying “This band is fucking awesome”.

There is no wrong answer to that question but I think most people would take the advice of their mates over a poster, I know I would. The point I am trying to make is that word of mouth is one of the best forms of advertising on the planet, not only because it is extremely effective but because it is free, and not only that but because all you need to do is play the gig, your fans will take care of the rest.

Of course you will need to advertise through posters, flyer etc. as well, however if you are just starting out you will be first on the bill, and so it is not your job to draw in a crowd, the headlining act will do this.

If you are a support band and want to do your own advertising so you can draw in more of a crowd then do so. This is good practice for later on when you are the main act, and also because the basic fact of the matter is that people are lazy so you should not rely on them to do the advertising for you. For more information on this be sure to check this blog on Wednesday when I will be going into depth on advertising gigs.

It maybe different for you, but where I live a lot of gigs are done in working men’s associations and pubs, if things are similar where you live then these sorts of gigs are a great way to break into your local scene. They are usually quite informal in the way they are organised and so getting an opening slot at a gig is usually easy, just talk to the sound guy, that’s the guy behind the mixing desk for those how are new to gigging. You can ask him if he could give you a gig, or if he doesn’t organise the bands that play he will be able to point you in the direction of the guy who does, they are normally friendly and helpful and you should be able to line up a gig.

After you’ve gotten your foot in the door getting gigs will get easier, you just have to make sure you are well rehearsed and play well, oh and don’t act like you own the place, especially if it’s your first gig, a little bit of arrogance on stage can help your performance, but don’t act like a dick, promoters talk to each other and in the end no one will want to book you.

This is the best way to get into gigging, it doesn’t pay very well, if at all, but it will give you a chance to start building a fan base and give you some on stage experience.

Trying to get gigs in professional clubs is a little more difficult, costly and time consuming. You will normally need a recording of your band, which many new band won’t have, you also need to put together a press kit. A press kit is like a sales pitch for your band, it must contain all the information about your band, look very professional and be easy and quick to read as club owners are very busy, for more info on of to make press kits in the future.

After you have put together your press kit, you need to find the name, address and phone number of the club you wish to play at, it also helps to have the name of the person who will be reading it, however if you can’t find that information don’t worry about it.

Send it off and then wait.

Many club will tell you on their website how long to wait before making a follow up phone call, this normally ranges from a bout one week to a month, but that all depends on the club in question. If it doesn’t tell you how long to wait before making a follow up called then you should probably wait for about three weeks or a month. Make sure you hold on to the phone number otherwise you will have wasted a one of you press kits as clubs are far to busy to call bands in order to arrange gigs.

I hope you found this useful, click here for my guide on advertising your gigs.

Introduction to DIYbands

DIYbands is a new blog which will help unsigned bands to further they're music careers.

In the coming weeks I will be covering important topics such as: setting up gigs, advertising, recording and a lot more.

I hope that this blog helps struggling musicians to achieve their goals in the fast paced, cut throat world that is the music industry. Whether you want to be signed to a major label and have a multi-platinum album, or just want to make money doing what you love, I will provide you with tips and information that should help you get where you want to be.

I will be posting new information on this site three times a week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) so check back regularly and don't forget to spread the word.