Your band's reputation will be a deciding factor in many dealings with the people that can help you. Here are some ideas for keeping a positive light on your band.
Honesty is best. I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "We have record company interest" or "we're going on tour with so-and-so band." Then, months later, the band is still playing at the small dive club that they had called a dump. It just doesn't look good for a band's reputation.
Try this instead, "We can't get any labels to listen to us, the only ones that care are our fans!" or "We can't start a fire in a match factory". This "Rodney Dangerfield" attitude really works. Before you know it, your fans and the people that love you will start doing the work for you. They will get new people to your shows, contact radio stations to get you airplay, make connections for you to get better gigs, even contact record labels and tell them to check out your band. Don't underestimate the "underdog" position you are in.
1) You will sound the best there because the sound guy is familiar with your songs.
2) You will be the most comfortable there and put on the best shows because of familiarity.
3) You will be able to build a bigger following there because it is probably local to where you live and where most of your friends live.
4) If you build a good relationship, the club or bar manager will most likely let you have any date and time slot you want. That includes big nights such as, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Halloween Night, St. Patrick's Day, or even New Years Eve. These are all the top nights for club and bar attendance and usually the hardest nights to pin down when booking gigs.
Be personable and approachable. Invite new fans and old friends to rehearsals.
Ask them what song should we open with? What song should be our finale or what song should be our encore? What songs should we have in the set list? They would love to get involved.
Take pictures during your gigs and tell everyone you will post them on your website. One of my favorite things to do is to take pictures from the stage and post them as "what we see".
Tell fans to take pictures of themselves wearing your T-Shirts and you'll post them on your site. People love to be the center of attention, too. They love to do things like this and then tell their friends to check it out.
If you're handing out free demos and someone doesn't want to take it, don't ask them, "Why not?" Be polite and say "No problem," and move on to the next person.
If an event organizer does not choose your band for a big event, don't call them up with an attitude. Call and say, "Thanks for reviewing our music. Can you please keep us in mind for your next event or an event that will be more suited for our music?" I got a high profile gig in NYC, using that pleasant attitude.)
When a record company A&R person says something about your band, try to take constructive criticism. Ask them, "What can we do to make the band better or more saleable or better suitable to what your label would release?" (A&R people love to have input because they are mostly closet musicians.)
Do not say you are working on a project or touring with a name band until you are actually in the studio or on the tour with that band. Much can happen between now and the possible future engagement. If these types of projects continually fall through and do not come to fulfillment, it makes you seem foolish or even worse like you are a liar.
In time, the lies and exaggerations just destroy your credibility and make you seem foolish. Whether listed on your website or sent out in emails, these kind of sketchy news items only ruin your credibility as a band.
As long as you are creating something and putting it out there for the public to see, you are going to get critisism.
You are going to get bad reviews of everything you do. You are going to have people tell you "You suck" while you are on stage (especially if their friend's band is playing the same gig.) You are going to have negative comments posted on your youtube, myspace, and facebook sites.
Some people have ulterior motives for putting you down or putting down your band. The anonymity of the internet makes it easy for them to say things they would never say in person. Maybe it makes them feel good, it makes them think they are funny or it makes them feel daring. Some of them just wish they had the chutzpah to get out there and do what you did - even though they would never admit it. Shrug these people off - they are insects, annoying pests not worth your thoughts or time. Do not take it personally.
Only take criticism from people you trust. If a reputable magazine that often reviews the same style of music you play has some negative comments - it may be worth taking those comments into consideration. If you ignore all criticism from respected colleagues you could be passing up good ideas to make your band better.
One time, at a small gig with several bands, I let a guitarist from another band use my duct tape to tape down his unruly wires. He never forgot that small gesture. We kept in touch, mostly email-ing each other with gigs and news of our bands. Then, out of the blue, he emails me with info about a huge gig at one of the areas biggest clubs and asks if my band would like to be on the bill. This is the perfect example of how a small gesture was rewarded in a big way, years later.
Just some things to think about, thanks for tuning in.
Michael Knight is a composer and guitar player from Floral Park, NY, who has released several independent CDs on his own label, Knight Music Productions.
His latest CD is entitled "Electric Horrorland", another musical descent into the darkest depths of the abyss.