’10 Things I wish I knew before I joined a band’ with Bethany Munroe

If you are a musician just starting out, then this article will save you time and money.

If you are a musician just starting out, then this article will save you time and money.1. Sort out your PRS account right now
PRS (Performance Rights Society) pay musicians whenever their original songs are played in public. This means you can get paid for playing your own songs at gig. Lets say you play an average small show every couple of weeks, you’re talking royalties of around £200 per year, and the payout increases as you get bigger gigs and play to more people. I remember back when I was unsure, was unfamiliar with how the whole thing worked – so I left it. Looking back now if I had signed up to PRS at the beginning, I’d have an extra £500 right now. You can’t afford not to do this >>> www.prsformusic.comhttp://www.prsformusic.com

2. Be a hard-ass
Keeping a band going takes a huge amount of work. Do not let any of your band mates hold you down with laziness, negativity, apathy or bad attitude. 
You deserve musicians who are dedicated, hard working, professional, level headed, respectful and kind. This is your future, don’t let anyone else take it away from you. 
When I look back on my musical career, I see someone who stayed quiet and kept the peace with the wrong people, and repeatedly walked away with nothing but time wasted. It is one of the saddest feelings in the world to know that I let my entire career slide, simply out of fear of being called a bossy bitch. And I really, really, don’t want it to happen to you too.

3. Practice, practice, practice
My guitar tutor said: “A good musician practices until they get it right, a great musician practices until they cannot get it wrong.”
Mistakes happen live, it’s actually not a problem with the right attitude – but walking onstage underprepared and terrified is bound to affect everything about your performance. 
Practice your parts 100x until they’re completely muscle memory and watch how much it transforms your performance. Everything will improve, both from the audience’s perspective and yours. You may be nervous, but be over-prepared, and everything will fall into place.

4. Network
It will always be the people around you that end up opening doors for you. Don’t be afraid to send out lots of messages and emails, and make sure they’re clear, concise and professional. Your first message is often ignored, a good rule is to message 3 times, the 3rd say it’s your last message, and thanks for their time anyway. This approach is actually quite successful in finally getting a reply.

Gigs will always be the best way to network. The gigs I landed at first were because I went to gigs, and physically introduced myself to the promoter. Be polite, smile, take a moment to describe your band and hand them a CD/card/bit of paper with your details, then message them a bit later reminding them who you are. This is the most effective way to get a gig.

Other musicians can get you gigs as well, so it’s always worth introducing yourself to them. Just take a moment to say hi, compliment them and take a couple of minutes to let them know you exist, are a musician and nice human being.

Lastly, the audience, if you’re super friendly and seen at gigs, people will have a good impression of you before you’ve stepped onstage. Seriously, go to gigs, it’s the best thing you can do to help your career. 

5. Do social media properly
Promoters, managers and radio pluggers pay attention to how you handle your social media. Building an online fan base takes so much patience and work to expand into what you want. 

Facebook is terrible for self-promotion, and is not the main site you should concentrate on. Instagram is probably the best right now, (although there’s rumours about them restricting reach like Facebook, so be wary.) Spend time on each platform, learn the algorithms, patterns and behaviours of each site, keep engaging with others as much as possible so that you’re bringing people in and not just hurling posts out into the abyss every now and then.

Create content with personality, pictures work better than words, and videos work best of all, so let people see you, even just you chatting or a bedroom video of a new song. Let people into your life and make them feel like they know you.
An important point: Set up social media for yourself as a musician, as well as for your band. The 2 pages can reference each other and bounce off one another, and if the band splits up, you’re not suddenly starting from square one, which – trust me – is a massive pain.

6. Surround yourself with good people
You deserve to be surrounded by people who are committed, respectful, and want the best for you. I’ve been in bands with some awful negative people, and I’ve been in bands with outright bullies that completely pulled my confidence apart. It happens often, and sometimes when you’re in the middle of it you don’t realise what’s happening. You will meet assholes everywhere on your journey, but the good thing is as time goes on you will be better equipped to recognise them. 
***Never stick to someone awful out of desperation, you are better off on your own than with someone who isn’t a good person.***

7. Play simple stuff well
When I began playing guitar, I refused to let anyone hear me because I thought I was shit (I mean, I was shit, but that’s beside the point.) I spent so much time doing exercises that I hated, so that I could ‘shred’. I didn’t even like it, I just felt like I was supposed to. 

I neglected the important things: being a solid, well-rounded player, building a unique style, knowing my stuff, and playing confidently. I sucked all the fun out of music for myself, simply out of insecurity and a need to be validated. 

When I went to study music I had to relearn playing simple stuff well. Learn great songs, not just difficult songs, find a balance of learning things you love and also learning the things you need to know to be a good musician – and practice it all to a metronome. 

Know your basic rudiments/chords/scales when asked, play in time and play with ease, this is what other musicians are looking for. It doesn’t matter if what you play is simple, what matters is that you play it well.  

8. Budget, schedule, research and plan
I know right? I’m sorry to be the one to say this to you. It’s going to be a lot easier to reach your goals and do what you dream of doing if you set up a business plan, take small, logical steps, and always know what you’re doing, and why. 

You are much more likely to get something done if you break it down into small, manageable chunks, figure out how each chunk is going to get done, and set deadlines. To try and keep a band afloat takes serious planning and organisational skills, practice budgeting and time management now, so that when you suddenly need to organise a tour or a new release, you aren’t completely overwhelmed.

9. Ask for help
People absolutely freaking loooove it when you ask for their advice. Never be afraid of bugging strangers for advice or small favours, as long as you are polite, flattering and succinct. 
Tell them you are unsure and would love their personal professional advice, not a problem if they are busy, thanks either way etc. If you’re struggling to get gigs or get noticed ask a more established band how they did it, or ask someone in the industry what they’re looking for, and if there’s an area you could improve. All they can do is ignore your request, now is not the time to be embarrassed or proud. 

The same goes with loans or favours. Put yourself across as someone who’s trying really hard to do something amazing, and people will want to help you. Be excited about this adventure, so that people want to join in. If you are nice and non-pushy they can only say no. If you are asking for anything from anyone, remember to keep it really, really, really positive, never winge or make excuses, you are there to sell this idea, this excitement of the fact that you are going to work hard, play great songs and change the world. Stay humble and remember you could always do with advice and help from people no matter who you are.

10. Be ok with failure
You alone determine your future, even if your current band and the next 10 bands you join all fail. If you are going out there and making mistakes, and struggling through problems, and losing people you thought would help you, and falling on your ass, and starting over again – this is what you are meant to be doing. Breathe, you’re doing just fine. 

This is the amazing journey that’s been put out in front of you to mould you into a greater musician, a savvier entrepreneur, and a better and stronger person. This is your chance to prove to yourself how much you really want this. 

I’ve seen so many amazing bands that gave up, just because they had a couple of setbacks or someone left the band, or it was too hard for them. This is the most common thing that will pull your competition down, and the longer you hold on without giving up, the more your competition will begin to fall away while you’re still learning and becoming better than ever.
If you don’t give up then you have a greater chance than anybody else around you. This could be the one thing that means you make it when other people don’t. Hold on. 

Beth Munroe is an Indietronica artist signed to WMTH Records. She is a guitarist, singer and songwriter, and has been a gigging musician for 10 years. She studied Guitar and Songwriting at the Brighton Institute of Modern Music, and has since been touring new material.

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