How to form a band part 3 was written by Ruth Graham. If you are involved in the music industry and have music business advice to share, you can contact us and send a guide our way.
Hey guys, so we’re onto the final part of our guide on forming a professional band. A professional band is a band that can be hired to play at events. You get paid for playing out, whether it’s at weddings, one off events, or anywhere else they need some musical entertainment.
If you haven’t already seen them, please start by reading the following parts before you go any further with this guide:
Once you’ve gone through those guides first, let’s carry on setting up and positioning our money making band.
The Thorny Bits – Money, Equipment And Who Does What
Running a band isn’t always going to be smooth sailing. In the previous parts, we’ve walked you through how to get the right band members, and how to start getting yourself out there. But there are going to be some other issues you’re going to have to deal with. Some of these can be touchy areas, so it’s best you think about them now so you’re prepared to deal with them if they ever come up.
Bands And Money
Lots of bands will work for beer (which cheapens the market for everyone else, but that’s another story). As a professional band however, you want to make it all about the money.
If you’re serious about making money, then ground rules should be established as soon as possible. Find a method that works for everyone. It took ages for things to settle in Celtic Clan, but we learned a lot along the way. Here are some suggested scenarios to make things easier:
Scenario 1 – You (The Band Leader) Takes A Cut
Presuming you do all the work, you must take something for this. I’d suggest 15%. The rest is then shared equally, with everyone equally sharing any expenses. Any objections – show them this article!
As the bandleader, you generally:
- Find the work. Negotiate the fee. Mail the band members any set dates. Work on the basis that unless they have booked out a date, it is available. This saves you having to ring around everyone to check they’re free.
- Deal with the paperwork. Always have contracts with weddings and private functions. Nothing fancy – just stipulate the client’s name and address, your details, the venue, and the timings.
Ask for any special requests from the client’s party, and make sure there’s a clause at the end that says the deposit is non-returnable in the event of a cancellation. Take their deposit first, then send them two copies of the contract, both signed by you. They keep one, and sign and return theirs within 7 days. Arrange for either cash or check on the night, or for it all to be paid up-front 14 days before the event.
- Organize the final set list for gigs, which should be printed up and distributed to the band.
- Liaise with clients before the gigs to organize first dance requests, timings for arrival and set up, the length of your performance at the venue etc…
- Generate stories and publicity for the band. Look at what’s happening locally; what can you get involved in?
- Digital marketing. This is a HUGE job, and if you have the skills, could take up several days a week. This is any activity that promotes you online. Anything from putting free ads on Gumtree, to filling in your dates on websites like wherecanwego.com and registering your band on Google maps. There are countless free business websites available, and some of them can really help get your band out there. Things like blogging, tweeting, setting up a Facebook fan page or even guest-posting on other people’s sites can all help as well.
- Looking for new material, printing out song words, organizing tour schedules and accommodation, audition and rehearsing with deps (deputies), and lots more. It’s a major job!
If you do all of these duties or a good amount of them, then you deserve to take that extra 15%. If you do the majority of the work, you should get paid accordingly as band leader.
Scenario 2 – You Pay The Band A Set Wage
This is a tough one. It works on the basis that everyone gets a set wage, regardless of the gig. Of course, things can go either way…
If you play at a run down pub for hardly anything, but you have to guarantee them their £100 or £150, not great! Alternatively, if you get hired to gig at a wedding for top money, it’s bonanza time for you! Everyone gets £100 and you walk home with several hundred more.
I worked the band like this for the first year, but I also picked up all the expenses too. Ultimately they voiced that it didn’t feel very inclusive and was too secretive, so we now do the more open accounting and it seems to flow better.
Scenario 3 – All Money Goes Into A Pot To Be Divided Up
Some bands do work this way, but they tend not to be high earners. The idea is all money gets held back and just petrol covered. It goes into an account which, depending on how often you work, is then split over the band members every now and again (or when someone leaves).
Ultimately, it’s up to you all to decide what will work best.
Sharing Your Band’s Expenses
Ok, so this is very important. You need to keep all receipts, and keep everyone informed of what expenses are coming up. These expenses could be anything from:
- The printing of flyers and banners.
- Website domain names and hosting fees.
- Advertising costs in papers, on websites and for trade shows.
- Backing tracks (if you use them).
- Equipment repairs.
Expenses that individuals are responsible for are repairs to their own gear, their stage clothes, their strings etc.
Who In The Band Should Buy Equipment
Always a tough one. It’s probably best not to pitch in and buy together, as it’s a minefield if somebody leaves. If you can provide the basic PA this is ideal, and everyone else provides their own microphone, stand, leads, and amps where needed.
If you can’t afford a PA, then consider hiring one for your first few gigs, just to see how it all goes.
Or if you do buy together, make sure everyone is responsible for a ‘bit’ of the rig. If someone leaves, they take that with them and nothing else.
How To Run A Band Conclusion
So, hopefully all this will have been some help to you forming a band. If you’ve read all the articles (See How To Run A Band Guide 1 and Guide 2), then you should have found your look, your sound, your brand and the right people. The internal running of the band should be established, and you and/or the others will be looking hard (in the right places) for good quality work.
It’s not easy. In fact, it’s a hard slog. And sometimes you’ll wonder why you bothered. But ultimately, bear in mind there are far worse things you could be doing to earn money. Enjoy the journey and ALL THE VERY BEST!!!!
This is a guest post by Ruth Graham, band leader of the Irish wedding/function band Celtic Clan. Take a look at their website for more useful information or to book the Midlands’ best Celtic and Irish function band.