Being in myriad unsigned, under-achieving and terrible bands that have toured the London toilet circuit for years, I feel I am at least somewhat versed in the mistakes unsigned bands make. So for no other reason than a cathartic release, here’s a list of the ten I could think of without too much effort. Don’t be fooled, this isn’t one of these “how to promote your band using a social network” type posts but there are probably a few peanuts of good advice hidden amongst the vitriol of shit if you really want to look hard enough. Now read damn you:
1) Having one of their mates as a Manager
Got a band with your friends? Like hanging out having a laugh at each others houses whilst having a jam? Want to include your bezzie mate in the party but it turns out he’s as talented as Peter Andre? Well don’t worry, make him your “Manager”. How hard can it be? Is he able to turn up at your pub gig, annoy everyone by being “official”, attempt to get 50 people on the guest list by consistently haranguing the promoter and explaining at the top of his voice several times that he’s “The Manager”? Then he’s the man for the job.
2) Making personal shout outs or in jokes on stage
We’ve all been there. You’re in a club watching some band, everything is going swimmingly and then between songs the singer saying something like “This is for everyone who goes down Oaky’s on a Saturday night!” before a group of baying idiots near the stage respond with a collective “wahaaayyy!” The singer feels great for having a supportive crowd, the crowd feels great for “knowing the band” and everyone else in the room wants to kill them with a blunt spoon.
3) Acting like they’re the next ‘Big Thing’
Well, this covers a myriad of crimes but basically it boils down to being a collection of super arrogant arse hats that will treat promoters, other bands and even fans with such contempt that the only thing they’ll be remembered for is being a compendium of awful cunts that think they’re Oasis in 1995 (it’s normally those sorts of bands that are most likely to do it). Leave the ego at your parents house Sunny Jim.
4) Let total bastard promoters shit all over them
The flip side. For every twenty or so genuine music-loving promoters out there, there are one or two absolute shitbags. Normally this will involve a few or all of the following: No guest list, no expenses paid, more than four bands on the bill in one evening, no sound check, no coherence in styles of the bands playing that night, no actual attendance of the promoter or representative thereof on the night, no cash return despite getting a large crowd attendance (“I’m sorry but 27 people just isn’t enough for a return”) and most importantly of all: no actual evidence of any promotion of the night at all. Not even a listing. Of course, you wouldn’t catch me naming any bad promoters on here. Dead or alive.
5) Play way to loud
There is no need for this. It’s difficult enough to get people to come and listen to what you call your “nu-funk sex rock” anyway without punishing their ears with volumes that make people want to puke. It’s a small room, they can all hear you, trust me. All they want to do is enjoy a weak pint in a squidgy glass without developing tinnitus. Don’t push the few people attending out the room, otherwise it’ll be another gig playing to your mates.
6) They exit the stage with a ten minute feedback wail
The last point is normally followed by this point. Remember: You’re not Sonic Youth, anyone can do this, it’s fucking annoying, boring at most of all, rude.
7) Charge for their CDs and other merchandise
So I quite liked your band. You were great in fact. Can I have one of those CDs you said you had as I know I’ll forget to look you up when I get home drunk. £10? Ah, how about you stick it up your arse? And there goes a potential fan. I mean this wholeheartedly, and I don’t care what other people say: If you’re in a band to make money, you’re in the wrong business.
8) Ask to borrow the other bands’ equipment
I love my amp. It cost loads. I’ve tweaked it all the way through sound check to get the perfect tone. Listen to how warm those single coils sound running through this baby. Oh hang on, it’s been mullered by some twat factory who wanted to borrow it because they couldn’t be bothered to bring their own equipment down as that meant they’d have to drive and couldn’t drink whilst chatting enormous amounts of shit to their three friends. I mean fans.
9) Argue on stage
Well it’s rock and roll isn’t it? No, it’s amateur. No-one wants to hear you and your mate whine at each other between songs because you’re still annoyed he wouldn’t change the intro to some song no-one yet cares about anyway. Unless you’re going to have a full on fist fight (now that’s entertainment) keep the moaning to a minimum.
10) Act like this is their art and it’s that or death
Passion is one thing, acting like Billy Corgan going through primal scream therapy on stage is another. Want to cry into the microphone / windmill into the crowd screaming / destroy the house equipment on stage, then go ahead, but don’t think anyone’s going to be thinking “man he really believes in what he’s doing”. They might remember you but it’ll be in the way you remember a difficult bowel movement. A funny story perhaps but not something you’re not interested in seeing again.
P.S. Oh, and read how to market your band effectively across social networks here.