How To Start A Music Career – Advice From 30 Bands
When starting my music career I had a lot of questions, but few places to get good answers. If you’re wondering how to start a music career listen to those that have done it. Learn what steps successful musicians have taken to build a business in the music industry.
What follows are contributions from 40 bands giving their advice on how to start a music career. They can all be summed up in these 6 Tips – How To Start A Music Career
6 Tips – How To Start A Music Career
- Start with the right makeup of musicians that have similar goals.
- Don’t do it for the fame. Have fun and enjoy the journey.
- Love what your write and be original.
- Invest in your career early on and run it like a professional business.
- Make a great first impression. Work hard and prepare.
- Don’t focus on other’s success. Focus on what YOU are doing.
“The word “band” is actually Old Norse for ‘bind’ so firstly make sure you find band members that you can hang with for more than 48 hours.” Braithe – Arteries
“Be humble, and ready to be humbled.” – Chris – Softspoken
“Don’t focus too much on other people’s successes. It can feel like everyone else is getting somewhere and leaving you behind but that’s never really the case.” – Nic – River Jumpers
“Keep a note of every little thing you write. Even if you randomly come up with a riff in your head or a lyric idea, write it down or quickly record it. I keep my phone on me at all times…” – Josh – Fiveash
Here is what the band’s had to say.
“If you’re looking to start a band my only advice is to pick up your instrument, get some friends together and do it! My fondest memories as a teenager were from playing in a band with friends and learning how it all works. If you’re shy it’s an exciting creative outlet that helps build character & explore confidence which can really help sculpt who you are. At the time, I was extremely nervous in front of crowds and playing music to a group of people made me feel on top of the world & still does.” – JJ Armstrong – Dire Bloom
“Don’t focus too much on other people’s successes. It can feel like everyone else is getting somewhere and leaving you behind but that’s never really the case.
Take comfort in the best parts of being in a band. For me that’s hanging out, playing music with your friend’s, meeting new people, travelling – anything else like ‘fame’ or even ‘recognition’ is extra and shouldn’t be the reason you do what you do.
Don’t ‘free-wheel’ it. You need some strategy to get ahead of the curve – you can’t wait around for things to happen. Everything good that’s happened to River Jumpers has been 90% planning and about 10% luck.
In a nutshell – write prolifically, find your true north, always be grateful, always pack too many socks and invest in a good sleeping bag!” – Nic Davis – River Jumpers
“Find band members that not only inspire you with their musicianship, but also ones that you vibe with on a personal level. You’ll wake up next to them more often than your SO – mostly un-showered and hungover in a Walmart parking lot. Having driven from one city to the next through the night and living on a diet that would make even the least health conscious person shudder. You’ll face repeated and constant rejection, nay-saying and doubt from others and yourself and these people will be your ONLY true allies.
If they know how to fix a van (because it WILL break down), you might as well just put a ring on it, but now we’re getting into unicorn territory.” – Christoph – Sun & Flesh
“The word “band” is actually Old Norse for ‘bind’ so firstly make sure you find band members that you can hang with for more than 48 hours. If not, this will bite you hard on the ass down the track. Also don’t be a dick and make it harder for the band you’re in. Music is supposed to be fun – so first and foremost, have some freakin fun!
Practice smart, be hard on yourself and don’t give up until your practice becomes muscle memory and your vision becomes crystal clear. Work out everyone’s role in the band. Stick to your guns to optimize everyone’s strengths and produce the best results for your EP or album releases, live shows, band promo, etc.
Translate your feelings, thoughts and ideas through your instrument. If you music is genuine, people will listen.
Set realistic goals and work towards achieving them. Every famous band started out in the garage with small goals of playing their first show so don’t be afraid and always give 100%.” – Arteries
“My first tip would be to make sure that your live performance is as good as it can be, practice, practice, practice! The majority of the time, especially for a group of young and possibly inexperienced musicians, the expectations from a potential fan-base perspective will be relatively low, make sure your live performance is as slick as it can be, and give the best first impression possible (you only ever get one first show).
My second piece of advice would be to not rush the process, but take your time to ensure you have as much content ready as possible, spend time working behind the scenes on social media profiles, getting your best songs recorded, even shoot a music video to release at the time of, or shortly after ‘going live’. The more content that you can offer, the more likely you are to gain a strong fanbase early on.” – Daryl – High Hopes
“Love what you write. Get out and share it with as many people as you can, as frequently as you can. Make genuine connections and friendships with the bands and people you encounter along the way.” – Lost Continent
“The most important thing to keep in mind when starting a band is to have fun and love what you do. Everyone must have a unified reason on why you are in a band. HoldFast. began because we loved playing music. All of us had experience with various band instruments in middle school and wanted to expand on it. We live for the moments where we get to perform and share our creations with others. Don’t start a band with the intent to become superstars and profit from it. Play out. Practice often. And love making music. ” – Michael – HoldFast.
“The first is finding a group of musicians to play with that have a similar mindset both musically and business-wise. If everyone is on the same page about whether the band is a hobby or something that could potentially become a career, it makes difficult decisions much easier to make!
The second thing once the band has formed is to practice! Play together until it becomes second nature. The key to having a great live show is when the audience can tell that the band is well rehearsed and having a great time jamming together.
Lastly, don’t ever forget why you started! Being in a band can be very stressful at times, so it’s important to always remember the pure joy that music brought you when you first start playing.” – Nikhil – A War Within
“In our current climate of every Tom, Dick and Harry being in a band, it is essential to make your debut into the music industry something extra special. Take time to hone your sound, work out your image and target audience. Always get music professionally recorded. Practice live as often as possible, and if you’re good… Someone WILL take notice of you. Also don’t expect to get big overnight, it can take years of grafting before you’re playing those festival stages!” – Johnny – Griever
“If I could go back and talk to a younger version of myself, I’d say: (1) Decide why you’re doing it. Is it just for fun as a hobby on the weekends, or is it to make a successful business? The difference between those two should greatly impact how you approach everything else. (2) PERFECT your instrument, and study the basics of the others, too. It will help with songwriting. (3) Write a band agreement on what to do with money and what belongs to who, etc. (4) Find solid musicians/people to build the band with. They don’t have to be your best friends before joining the band, but they should be people you get along with and can be creative with. (5) Be financially sound; have your debts paid off (or be working on it). Have a job that’s flexible with touring. (6) Be humble, and ready to be humbled.” – Chris – Softspoken
“Keep a note of every little thing you write. Even if you randomly come up with a riff in your head or a lyric idea, write it down or quickly record it. I keep my phone on me at all times (as most people do anyway) but I’m always ready to pull it out and record if I’ve thought of something. Sometimes I’ll even make the sound of the idea with my mouth; anything so that the idea isn’t lost. Even if it’s just average, it will be a blessing if/when you ever get stuck in a creative rut or get writer’s block. A few times I’ve pulled out my phone and found a voice recording of an idea and built a song from that. So basically, keep a record of all your stuff. There’s nothing worse than coming up with a killer idea and then forgetting it later.” – Josh – Fiveash
“Don’t be afraid. Go ahead and message someone who you wanna jam with. Nothing can go wrong. Personally, I’m a shy individual so reaching out to the people that are now my best friends wasn’t easy for me. Once you have the people, don’t be afraid to play what you love. After you conquer those fears, don’t stop. Keep messaging, networking is a very important part of being in a band.” – Colin – Anyone Anyway
“Play as many shows as possible, and with that, as many promoters and like minded musicians as possible. Put yourself around people that believe in your sound, and support other musicians in your area. It will all come back around to you eventually. Community before competition is the mantra to live by for younger bands.” – Sleepshaker
“Remember, the industry needs you just as much as you need them. But they need your uninspired, trend driven songs like a fish needs a bicycle! Ha! The best thing I ever did was to spend time diligently putting effort into the ‘craft of songwriting’ and write songs that I am 100% proud of in the genre I most enjoy.
I feel that a mistake a lot of young musicians make is they get a band together with the goal to fit into the current trend (and gain instant gratification). Unfortunately for them, trying to suit a trend is not sustainable and will result in uninspired music. You are better off investing your efforts into the kind of music you are passionate about. Learn to write songs that you are personally proud of. This is the foundation that everything else will build upon. The music will be received much better.
For me this meant countless hours jamming on the style of music I like. I studied songwriting techniques, took risks, made mistakes and continuously refined the music until I knew I would be happy to share my stuff with everyone. The band came naturally after that. I like to say ‘Fuck the trend, be the hype’ – Andrew – Mullen
“As a young musician, have fun with it and keep practicing your instrument whenever you have free time. When starting a band, try to find reliable, like-minded musicians that you know you can mesh with and grow with. You want to see yourself creating better and better music with these members, but you also want people that are going to be dedicated and continue to put effort and resources into growing your band. You also need to be able to trust and hang out with these guys – that is super important” – Imran – Awake At Last
“Be aware that being in a band and attempting to make a career out of music is a long and difficult road. Starting out can be very grueling and there will be days that you ask yourself “is this worth it”. But if music is something you love and being in a band is part of the dream you have for yourself – It is so important to be mentally ready to push through those difficult times.
Our second piece of advice would be to learn the other aspects of being in a band (marketing, social media, networking, etc.) as early as possible in your band’s career.
I would have been a lot more involved in the local music scene by attending shows, making friends within the community, and trying to do my part to contribute. Get out to a show and talk to people. Help bands load in gear. Let them crash on your floor. Find your place in the community you want to be a part of.” – Forever Losing Sleep
“Find others who generally want to write, listen to and play the same music as you do. They also have to be prepared for the costs of gear, promotion, and traveling if you want to tour. The biggest thing you should do if you want to start a band is … do it now! Don’t waste any more time! Get out there, find like-minded musicians who you can truly vibe with and tell everyone you know about your music! Nobody will believe in you as much as you do. So whether or not people are into it, promote your band and believe you’re the shit because if you don’t… nobody else will” – Grayson – At Face Value
“When we were young, we just wanted to play and start a band as quickly as possible. We didn’t articulate future goals, except for writing songs. There’s a lot I could explain thoroughly to my younger self.
Find members that are going to get along with one another and have the same long-term objectives. For example, I’m in a band with my brother. Our chemistry is organic and we tend to agree on almost everything. Find similar influences between one another and concur on a specific sound and genre. This will make life easier in the long run.
It can be devastating to hear SAVE MONEY. You and your band mates need to save up an entire year’s worth of money to record a professional EP or LP the first time around. Then spend money for marketing and promotion. Only self produce your pre-production tracks. You need an outside producers’ production opinion. Also, establish connections in the game.” – Al – A Scent Like Wolves
“When starting a band, it’s extremely important to know that community is everything. Local bands depend on the support of their fellow bands as much as they do from their fans. If another band from your scene does something cool, it’s important to support and be excited for them rather than being jealous of them. The “why can’t that be us” mentality is toxic to the morale of a young band. Instead of being envious of other bands when they achieve something remarkable, be happy for them and give them credit where credit is due. Complimenting them and showing them that you’re happy for them and support them will only lead to a stronger music community.
We’re all in this together, and supporting fellow musicians will ensure that they’ll support you when good things happen to your band. What goes around comes around.” – One Flew West
“Be passionate about the music you write and play the music that you would wanna listen to. Don’t be afraid of people critiquing your art, it pays to be yourself, being different separates you from the crowd. Don’t be concerned with making it big, have fun with what you do while it lasts. Some people get too fixated on the next thing to come and they don’t see what’s happening now.” – Zach – Summer Homes
“First and foremost get the right team! From then you need a clear objective: What do you aim to achieve in the first year and in general why does your band need to exist? As a band we have spent a lot of time planning and thinking through what we want to achieve, where we want to be heard and what message we want to portray. This comes down to the music, your image, the companies you work with, the places you play, the merchandise and branding behind your music. As long as you have a clear image of what you’re aiming for you can find how to get there. Without that you’re pretty much walking in a maze without any sort of guidance.” – Luke – The Sun Never Set
- Find the right lineup – This took us 3 years to perfect. Be patient.
- Become friends with bands in your scene. Friends=bigger crowds and more show opportunities.
- Be awesome to the promoters and sell your tickets. They won’t forget when it comes time to find openers for traveling headline acts.
- Compete in Battle Of The Bands – We were knocked of our high horses failing to make semi-finals. Be humbled and have someone tell you that your stage presence sucks. You’ll learn quickly.
- Take everything one step at a time and have fun.
Put everything into your first EP, live show, music video, etc. If you don’t focus on the day to day hustle, you will lose sight of your goal.” – Gavin – Friday Giants
“My best tip when looking to start a band would be to get a solid lineup. Make sure you guys are well rehearsed before your first show. Don’t be afraid of doing cover songs. Don’t ever be afraid to chase your dreams. Know your goal. Visualize it. Execute. But the main thing about a band is finding gents (or ladies) that carry the same passion, work ethic, and drive. Things won’t be easy. And it may take forever to get off the ground but never give up. Never.” – End The Empire
“My biggest tip for a young musician starting out is to put as much focus as you can into what makes you unique musically. It’s very easy to emulate, it’s an entirely different task to try to innovate within hardcore.
When I started out playing, I remember reading an article by Tom Morello of RATM regarding his practice routine. He would split his practicing into three segments. First he would start with warm ups. Next he would move on to theory training and learning scales and other fundamentals. And the last portion of his practice time he would devote to working on what made his playing style unique.
It took me years of being in crappy bands and not following my own advice to realize that there is no shame in sounding different. The bands that always stick out to me… are the ones that have something unique to their sound and their message. Follow that muse, push yourself outside of your comfort zone and figure out what your musical identity is.” – Andrew – At The Heart Of It
“The road ahead is going to seem impossible, like there is absolutely no way you can achieve the goals you have set for yourself. However you will start to achieve success, and little by little it will become less impossible. Hold onto that feeling no matter what, and one day you’ll wake up with no more small victories, but one that could be life changing.” – Steven – Animal Sun
“First off, you have to have people to play in the band, so make sure to find members that are going to take it serious. Otherwise they might lose focus on achieving whatever goals you have set for the band. Create a game plan, take out a poster board and a marker and do the good ol’ fashion list of goals. Short term goals, long term goals and everything in between. Reaching the goals you set will motivate the band as a whole to work that much harder to achieve everything you set out to do. Cross out each goal that you accomplish on the poster board as they’re achieved. It’s a great feeling seeing it right in front of you!” – Andrew – Ocean Grid
And just in case you aren’t sure where to start here are some examples of goals that you can put on the list;
- Choose a name
- Write 4 songs
- Play your first show
- Record songs
- Get a van / transportation
- Play out of state shows
- Get signed
“One of the most important things to consider when starting a band is choosing the right bandmates to play with. The most common thing I hear from younger musicians is that their bandmates don’t take the music seriously enough. Look for like minded people who are willing to put everything on the line by being active in your local scene and network as much as possible.
If you’re like me growing up in a small town without a local scene, do everything you can online and share what you’re looking for. This is how I was able to find A Better Hand! Most importantly, make sure your bandmates are decent, trustworthy people. I want to feel like my band is an extension of my family and be confident in that bond.
Last but not least, start a band because you love music! It’s going to be difficult at times, but at the end of the day, never forget why you started in the first place.” – Brandon Wortham – A Better Hand
“Make sure that everyone on your team has the same goals in mind and is prepared to do anything and everything to meet those goals. Invest in yourself in every single aspect. Not investing in ourselves early on was definitely the biggest thing we wish we would of started to do earlier.” – Chris – Ashes
“Make sure that you form strong bonds with your band mates. You can’t spell band mate without mate. You’ll inevitably spend a lot of your time with them so make sure that you get on well. It can make the working aspect of being in a band much easier. It also leads to less conflict. You’ll also enjoy everything you do as a band so much more. It’s important to enjoy it, as you’ll be investing so much time, money and effort into your band!” – Maypine
“Above anything else, when starting a band, look at chemistry between the people you’ll be in a band with. Talent will come, but if you can’t get along with the people you’ll be spending a lot of time with, then talent won’t matter. Oasis is the only exception, lol.
Look at common goals between members as well. If a few members are looking to form the band for success, glory, and riches right off the bat but the rest of the members are just there to have fun, motives will conflict. Everyone needs to be on the same page.” – Something Clever
“Have an outstanding work ethic. As in life, the more you are helping yourself, the more others are willing to help you. Most of the advice bands offer sound like cliches but they became cliches for a reason. The best advice I can offer is stay extremely organized, work hard, work smart and stay focused. I’ve owned a restaurant for quite a few years and you can always apply things from your daily life to your band. Learn from all experiences and challenge yourself to apply that to a working band situation. As our guitar player Scott says, “everything is a no until you ask”. Stay persistent and have fun with it!” – Dustin – Stone Deaf
“The best advice we can give is be ready to sacrifice a lot. Time with friends, family time, money to do fun stuff with. If you are serious, all of that has to take a back seat. That’s why this business is tough. We sacrifice so much of ourselves and our free time. Learn to balance the things you enjoy in life and it can take a lot of pressure off of the business side of music.” – A Sunday Fire
“Number one would be, be selective on who you work with. Be open minded. Listen to people who know more than you do. Know that everyone has something to teach you. Most importantly make friends. Be kind to everyone you meet and help people along the way, because those people are your success.” – Noah – The World I Knew
“First off, figure out how serious you are and where you want to go with your music. Go out and find other musicians and just jam with them. Find peeps who have the same goals and passion as you do. Most importantly, folks you can get along with. Don’t try to fit a square peg in a round hole.
Run your band like a business. Yep we said it. A business! The music you create is your product. Your music develops your brand so put a lot of effort into it. Always be on time and professional at gigs and studio sessions. Learn about mechanical royalties and performance rights. Don’t rush to sign. Labels and publishers are in the business of making money, so make sure the contract is mutually beneficial and don’t sign anything that says “in perpetuity”.
Don’t fret about where you are as a band/musician at any given point in time. Embrace the moment, enjoy your creativity, enjoy yourself.” – Jason – Not This Day
“One of the most important things I learned before joining Others by No One was how to properly promote myself. In previous bands, I stuck to the all too common strategy of the “Like” button. While this is helpful for your first couple hundred likes, it becomes very apparent when bands abuse this feature. Engagement is key on social media. The more you abuse the like button the less of it you will see. To find genuine fans, hang around music groups and forums that relate to your band. Be sure you are always creating quality content. Combine this with data collection on small targeted advertisements, and you’ll see your organic reach flourish.” – Brian – Others By No One
Now that you now how to start a music career don’t wait. Get started now. Put yourself out there and start a band, make a video on YouTube, or record yourself. Don’t be afraid of failure. Great things can come from failure. It’s how we learn. I’ll leave you with this quote from Thomas Jefferson. “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
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