Tips for Songwriters on Bandleading

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Here are some tips I’ve accumulated over my years as MD to make things run smoother  organizing a band.
1: if you’re really interested in hiring great musicians for your project, give them a little time to respond after first contact. I would say at least 48 hours. The person you may be trying to contact may be away and unable to respond quickly. It DOES NOT mean they’re un-available or not interested. This of course means don’t wait too long to contact them in the first place.
2:  When approaching musicians about gigs they’re going to need certain information before they can say yes or no. Here is a list:
·      Date, time and length of gig
·      Location of gig
·      Date, time and length of rehearsals
·      Number of rehearsals
·      Location of rehearsals
·      Your website with samples of your music
·      How many songs to be performed
·      If charts are provided
·      If backline is provided
·      Payment method and amount for gig
All of this info should be in your first contact either in an email, text or phone message.
3: Choose one form of communication to exchange details. This way it’s traceable when musicians have to look up info for your gig. Don’t send an email about one thing, a text about another and then a facebook message about something else. Clear and simple in the event someone needs to find details. If you must use more then one form on communication carbon copy or confirm it with original form of correspondence.
4: When sending time and location for gigs/rehearsals make sure email title is clear. It should be in an email all of it’s own, not in a chain of 10 other emails. This way everyone can quickly and easily find out all details. Call the email something like “Gig and Rehearsal Confirmation”.
5: Make sure the musicians have one source for the songs they’ll be playing. Use a file transfer site like yousendit or dropbox. Try to avoid sending them in separate emails as a server may bounce some, plus it gets confusing keeping track. You run the risk of someone showing up to rehearsal and not knowing a song.
In general YouTube videos are a bad idea to send musicians. Don’t do it. You need Internet access to listen to a YouTube video and sometimes musicians learn songs in places where there is no wifi (like on a train). If the only place a song is available is on YouTube, use a website like www.youtube-mp3.org to convert the video into an MP3 file.
6:Make sure all songs are in the same format and that format should be MP3. It’s easy enough to convert.
Here’s a tutorial.
7: After you have all songs in the same format and have sent tracks using a transfer site, follow with a song list confirmation email. This way everyone can check they have all songs. Make sure to use a clearly marked email. Something like “Songlist”
8: Avoid sending 4 different versions of the same song. As an artist you may feel like the vocal is better in the studio version, but you like the arrangement of the live version that has an imperfect vocal and… oh wait…  you also liked the third verse of the original demo, etc… Even though it seems clear in your mind as a musician it gets confusing. We’re not judging your performance. By now we’ve taken the gig and know your abilities. We need to learn the songs. Send the arrangement you wish to perform.
9: If musicians are going to sing backup vocals include text file of lyrics. Use a universal format like pdf and create a new file for each song. Also make sure the print is in a larger font.
10: Make a list of things you would like to review in rehearsal. Take notes song by song. Things like…. inserting new breaks into a verse, changing dynamics in a bridge, key changes to try…. Note anything that may be different from the recording, concerns or things to review. This way you won’t forget in the moment.
11: Know what you’re paying your musicians before you pay them. Don’t ask them at the gig what their rate is. You should have already discussed this and it feels a little disrespectful when being asked at the end of the set what is owed to you.
12: Place payments to musicians into envelopes and label them before the gig. Hand them out before the gig rather then after. You should be talking to fans after the set not fumbling over cash or writing checks. A lot of musicians don’t like being paid in front of people. Plus, from an audience standpoint they like to have the illusion that you’re a “real” band. Business is for backstage.
13: Eye contact is important when leading a band. If the musicians are good they’ll know where they are, but its nice to get a glance that you’re onboard the same ship. Standing at the front of the stage with horse blinders on doesn’t set a confident vibe. Look around at the band. Smile.
14: Take a deep breath before you perform. Relax and get into a good headspace even if it’s for just a minute. Clear you head. Make time for it even if you’re rushed. You want to be in control from beat 1.
15: Know all your musicians first AND last names when you announce them onstage. It’s really awkward to watch artists’ fumble names onstage, especially people that are performing with them. It comes across cold. The audience wants to believe you play together all the time and are good friends. It’s showbiz people!!
16: Let the musicians know at least a week in advance what the dress code will be, NOT the day of show. Sometimes once people leave their apartments in the morning they’re out all day making it impossible for a wardrobe change on short notice.
17: Always know your material before you step into a room to lead a band. The MD or bandleader is the pillar. You should always know your arrangements. If you don’t remember your own songs you’re not really setting a solid foundation. As a leader you want to be listening as a whole, not caught in your head trying to remember parts.
18: Always remember to have fun!! You’ll be surprised how well people respond to positive interaction.

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Guitarist Mark Marshall located at 51 Macdougal St #264 , New York, NY . Reviewed by 11 customers rated: 4.9 / 5
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