Going Pro: Taking Your Backyard Band to the Next Level
Many backyard bands never get a paid gig. Sometimes that’s because in their hearts they just like playing in the backyard, or the garage, or in their friends’ backyards or garages. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if you want to play in a professional setting and you’re wondering whether to invest in powered speakers, DJ lights, mixers and so forth, and if that’s going to help you get there, then the answer is yes. Read on for other ways you can take your band to the next level.
Speakers and mixers
You probably have some sort of PA that your singer/backing vocalists go through during practice. But do you really think it’s going to work in a professional setting? Would you be confident trotting it out in front of a paid audience? The answer is usually no, and that’s why you need to think about collectively purchasing powered speakers and a mixer. Powered speakers because they eliminate the need for a power amp; a mixer because you can control the levels on stage – you could even run a backing track from a synth or midi controller through there as well, rather than through a separate amp.
Is it big enough?
You might wonder why you need to buy your own PA when you have your sights set on playing Festival Hall. Sorry to burst your balloon, but you might not get that Foo Fighters support gig right away. What’s more likely to happen is a friend of a friend will ask you to play at their 21st birthday for $400. Someone who sees you there asks you to play in a tiny café, and so on it goes. If you have your own PA you can play these smaller places, and that experience will teach you stage craft, how to read an audience, and help you build a following.
Put yourself in the best light
You need lighting. It adds a visual commentary to the music and makes instant rock stars out of you and your band-mates. Many PA hire companies know this and automatically include DJ lights as part of the hire package. The problem is it costs you $800 to hire their PA and lights for one gig. Think about how much you could save by buying something like the American DJ Dotz TPar system. Four LED lights mounted on a stand give you RGB colour mixing for that classic stage look (think Queen). Just add smoke and watch your audience swoon!
Manager? What manager?
One of the reasons bands fail to get out of the garage is they don’t make connections in the local music scene. They think that once they’ve perfected their songs, venue bookers will sense their genius and come knocking. To get gigs you need to delegate someone to call/email venue managers and find out who controls their bookings.
Sometimes venues use an agent. In fact, one person can control a whole bunch of venues, and if so, you need to be on that person’s radar. Send them an electronic press kit – a one-page media release saying who you are and how to get in touch with you, photos of the band (colour, not black and white) and an MP3 of the demo you should have recorded by now.
Be persistent, but not rude. Pay your dues and you’ll earn the respect of people in the industry, without which you will likely remain forever in the backyard!