The budget for most indie bands is pretty tight unless they have parental management and backing like Usher or Beyoncé. But that’s a rarity, and can come with its own familial conflicts. Band managers have a critical task that relates directly to the group’s success. They need to coordinate travel, handle the varying egos and goals within the bandmates, and promote the band’s identity and talent.
These six tips can help artists take on the challenge of managing their own band:
Write Down Goals
Work with your bandmates to develop short, medium, and long-term goals. Written goals are more likely to be achieved, and doing this process will encourage discussion and compromise amongst everyone involved. Perhaps the short-term goal is to book more gigs and develop some relationships with club owners. Medium or long-term goals could be saving money to pay for studio time or planning out a larger-scale tour for next summer. Start a new Google Doc with all of these goals so the other band members can contribute to the plans over time.
Carefully Spend Money
Managing the band’s budget not only involves finding areas to save (such as not eating out too much on the road), but also allocating money towards the most effective expenditures. Think about an executive at a bigger company who is always looking for a return on money spent. You might want those super high-end microphones, but if they don’t produce a noticeable on-stage improvement of your sound, then perhaps the money would be better spent on promotion. Or you might be considering studio time, but the cost is not yet justified by your smaller fan base. Make reasonable choices that will push the band towards its goals.
Look at the Data and Adjust Accordingly
You didn’t get into the music business to become a “data scientist”, but there are some insights you can gain from simply taking a peek at information. For example, do you notice any trends about ticket sales or merchandise between your various shows? Were the personal or geographical demographics different, and how could that play into the sales?
As the band manager, you’re also in charge of the band’s social media efforts. Analyze the results of your posts and other content. Do people share all of your Instagram pics, or mainly the ones that show the “life on the road” candid shots? Who’s sharing your content, and can you find a way to work with them to help reach their followers? Free merchandise in exchange for someone with 100k followers sharing your posts is usually a great deal.
Networking is not just going to mixers and other events expecting to meet the next Jimmy Iovine who will take you to the next level. Networking is fundamentally about connecting with smart people and understanding if you can help them in some way, knowing that relationship will hold value in the future. You can’t tackle it with the “what can you do for me?” attitude – you have to see the two sides of any relationship, especially if you’re the one asking for a favor. Think about helping others in the industry such as producers or other upcoming indie bands, and then you’ll develop a group of people who will help you when it really counts.
Make Great Music
Managing your own band isn’t easy. While doing so, don’t lose sight of the most important task, which is to make consistently great music by developing a great band with quality instruments, techniques, and vocals. It’s your job to push the band towards innovation and to keep the excitement level high at all times. As an indie musician, you don’t have the resources of record labels or distribution companies, but you do have the flexibility of “wearing many hats”. You also have an intimate understanding of your own band’s strengths and weaknesses in a way that an outside manager never could.