Startups are hot right now. Every day there seems to be another app or social media site coming out as the next big thing. But wait a minute – why are all these tech companies getting all the buzz? Can’t there be different kinds of startups?
Let’s take a step back for a second and define what a "startup" actually is:
"The early stage in the life cycle of an enterprise, where the entrepreneur moves from the idea stage to securing financing, laying down the basic structure of the business, and initiating operations or trading." – The Business Dictionary
That’s interesting. It sounds like something we all know. Let’s just change a couple of the words around and see if we’re on to something here:
"The early stage in the life cycle of an enterprise a career in music where the entrepreneur musician(s) move from the idea stage (aka “the garage”) to securing financing, laying down the basic structure of the business band, and initiating operations, independently or trading with a label."
Hey, that’s pretty good!
Well, if your band actually is a startup, then why not try and mimic the way these successful tech companies have gotten off the ground? Let's walk through some basics on how to set your band up for success and make you the Zuckerberg of rock 'n' roll.
1. Define your purpose and who you are
One of the main challenges when starting a company is defining why you are doing what you do. This is also known as the "Are you solving a problem?" phase.
Bands are no different. A majority of you will be solving some sort of entertainment need in the market, but being able to differentiate yourself will be the key.
Some of you might say, "We're using this to fulfill our own creative outlet and don't care who hears it." That's fine if music is a hobby for you, but if you ever want people to hear your art and get paid, you're going to have to make sure that you are considering the community when defining yourself. If you find where you can fit in the market, you can reach the appropriate people, interact with them and be able to profit off of your art.
Start with identifying your influences to build your short, concise message to connect with people and explain why they should choose to listen to or buy a ticket to see you.
2. Define your goals and build your team
Having everyone on the same page and driving towards your key goals is everything. Whether that's playing local shows, going on tour, being signed to a major label or operating independently, defining your goals will help you focus your efforts. Knowing what direction you’re going in will help define what the appropriate opportunities are to go after and connect with the right people.
Once you have an understanding of your purpose and goals, you can start building your team. Your team includes your bandmates and, when you're ready, management and booking agents.
First things first: You need to identify people who are on the same page as you business wise and creatively. If you're someone who’s looking to play arenas and another person wants to play one show a year, then you’re obviously not going to be on the same page with the time and commitment you need to put in to get to that level. It’s not to say that you all have to be the same person, but you have to know that you can trust the other people on your team are all committed to your goals and willing to chip in to make you all a success.
3. Define your audience
Knowing who you are and why you’ve started your “bandup” are two key components, but knowing who is going to listen is huge in helping you get your message out there.
The first thing you should do in marketing is define your potential audience. This helps with everything when establishing your band's brand, from knowing which venues to try and play to knowing the kind of press and PR to go after. If your audience consists of young teenage metal fans, then there’s no reason you should be trying to play shows or opportunities at country saloons or submit your EP to be reviewed on the "Honkey Tonk country music blog," right? So understand where your audience is hanging out and get your message out to them.
4. Hit the streets and connect
Ultimately, without that hustle, drive and killer product (the music!), it’s all for nothing. Make sure you’re keeping up on what’s going on around you. Understand the market and realize that other bands can be your competitors, even though you may not think of them that way. Figure out how you can differentiate yourself from them, while being true to yourself and your fans.
And please don’t forget about the fans. Early on they're worth their weight in gold – especially since gaining new fans down the line will be six to seven times more expensive than retaining current ones.
Finally, just treat people right. It’s a small world in this industry, so be nice and it will come back to you.
To wrap up, these aren’t all day one conversations to have. This is something that will develop as you develop your product of great music and build chemistry with the right people. It can take off like a rocketship though – so if this is the direction you want to go in, the sooner you lay the foundation for establishing your band as a business, the better your "bandup" will be.
"Move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough." -The Zuck Man
“Especially if you play metal.” -Me