Anthony Cottom who plays piano in The Beautiful Display, tells us things he wish someone would've told him when he started a band in this contributor blog. Read it below after the jump!
In late 2012, I started my band The Beautiful Display. When I started the band, I was no new-comer to the music scene by any means. I had been in a couple bands before and had even had a solo project. When I started this band, I set out with a very serious mindset and vowed to myself to do everything that it takes to make this the biggest band I had ever been in. However, what no one ever was how much hard work it actually was. I will say this now, and you can be offended and quit reading, or carry on reading. Hard work will surpass any disadvantage EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
So, here is a list of 5 Things I REALLY Wish Someone Would Have Told Me When I Started A Band. In No particular order.
Leave Your Ego At Home
I am by no means pointing fingers here blindly. In fact, this was one of my biggest obstacles to overcome. You are the new kids on the block (without the killer dance moves). Everyone MUST pay their dues no matter which music scene you are in. You will have to open for other bands. You will have to play first. You will have to play 30 minutes before the flyer even says the show starts. People will go eat, smoke, talk with their friends, use the bathroom, etc during your set. Get over it. They don’t owe you a thing. It is your job to capture the attention of the 6-8 people who are still hanging around the stage when your band is performing. Make them tell their friends what they missed. If you didn’t give them anything to miss, that’s your fault and not their problem. Its very easy to walk in thinking you’re the hottest new thing around, but reality will gut check you so quickly when the promoter tells you “You guys are on first. Playing 6:15-6:30.” Do yourself a favor, and just reply with the biggest forced smile you can and thank the promoter for letting you on the show. Load your gear on. And just play.
Which leads me into my next point…
Be Efficient When Loading On And Off Stage
You need to learn to be as professional as you can, as quickly as you can. This will never hurt you. It will only help you. Here’s a short list of the worst things I have seen new bands do that have taken up so much time..
Have your drums ready to go on stage long before they are supposed to be taken up there
This means getting your cymbal stands ready, cymbals on them and everything. Tune up your toms somewhere other than side stage while the band is playing before you. Know how you want things to be set up and be ready to load them up there as soon as the opportunity arises.
Help the other band load their gear off
“Well the band before us took forever to get their stuff out of our way” is literally the worst excuse I have ever heard come out of new bands’ mouths. Take the opportunity to help them and help yourselves by offering to lend a hand loading their gear off stage with them. This will also give you a chance to congratulate them, bond with them (quickly, please), and will more than likely get yourself the same treatment as soon as your set is done.
Unnecessarily long sound checks
The joke about “Can I get more in my monitors?” is what all good bands say, is exactly that. A joke. Sound check is critical, but don’t be THAT guy who keeps asking the sound guy to turn something up, then back down, then back up, then down a smidge. This is a sure fire way to make you anger the person who has control over how good you sound..and you don’t want that. Get what you can, and work with it. Cry about it later in the car on the way home, if you need to.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help loading your stuff on and off stage.
Just ask. Most bands are more than willing to lend a helping hand.
You WILL Have To Make Sacrifices
Contrary to what you probably believe, your favorite bands were once right in the same spot you are. The only difference is they probably had MySpace, the great God of unsigned artists (RIP). If you want to truly take your band to the next level it will take some major sacrifices. There will be times you walk away from a show spending way more money than you ever anticipated and never breaking even. Just remember that this will only help you to appreciate the times when you get paid even more, and will teach you not to blow it as soon as you get it. Monetary sacrifices are only a small piece of the puzzle though.
You will have to make decisions to miss your favorite bands play so that you can play a show yourself. You will have to either get really good at your job and suck up to your boss so you can get show dates off, or find a job who will work around your shows. You will spend long hours crammed in a car, hungry, tired, and grouchy..and have to be at work in 5 hours from the time you leave the venue that’s over an hour from home. You will need to CONSTANTLY be thinking about your next move as a band. When you hit the point in your life where your body is being held up by Red Bull and fast food, you actually may be doing something right.
Be Kind to EVERYONE. ALWAYS.
I can not begin to tell you how many of our current business contacts have come to us just through nice, casual conversation. You never have any idea who you are actually speaking to most of the time in this industry, and what they could potentially do for you. Always be kind. Always. Always. Always. Do everything from making a point to thank the sound guy, to thanking the other bands who played, to taking that extra time out to talk to the “weird guy” who runs up to you when you’re finished playing and wants to get into deep conversation about something off the wall. You never know who these people know and what they could do for you. I can not stress that enough. On top of all that, these are the people who are the reason you are even able to do anything. Without them, youre just some punk kid playing in your moms garage whining about your ex girlfriends into a generic brand microphone.
You Are A Representation Of Your Band. Everywhere.
When the tiny amount of recognition first start to show up, this is a very important thing to remember. How you act offstage says just as much about you and your band, if not more, than how you act onstage. This plays off my previous point of being nice to everyone. Everything you do, whether music related or not, will eventually fall back as a reflection of your band. This can make you or break you. You need to balance humility with professionalism at this point. From your facebook posts, to your conversations with strangers, to what you decide to retweet on twitter and like on Instagram and how you treat your waiter at a restaurant..it ALL reflects onto your band. You want this to become a positive thing for you, not a negative thing. Don’t make stupid choices. Don’t do it. It effects everyone in your band. Just don’t do it.
Hopefully I have addressed a few things you can take from this article and apply to your own music career. Let me make it very clear that while times will be tough, and things can really suck at points.. there will also be great times. You will meet friends who will become like family. You will meet amazing new people. You will get to see places and things you have never seen before. Don’t take all of this for granted. Its all about the journey. This is the dream. Thank you so much for your time, and go out there and shred someone’s face off (after all, Obama MAKES them have health insurance anyway).
Do not take anyone’s opinion on your music more seriously than your own. What others think of you does not matter as much as what you think of yourselves. Art is art. Some people love some art and hate other art. And vice versa. The point is to never forget why you started in the first place.
This post was written by Anthony Cottom. Anthony currently plays piano and sings in The Beautiful Display. He is a marketing major at Ivy Tech in Terre Haute, Indiana and really enjoys Transformers and doesn’t care what mean things you have to say about Michae Bay. He also has an unhealthy obsession with Hilary Duff.