How to start a band in 7 steps
There’s something magical that happens when a group of talented musicians come together. From the Beatles to The Bangles to The Black Eyed Peas, bands have had an enormous impact on the history of music.
And there’s always room for more. Starting a band might seem as simple as gathering some of your musically minded friends together for a jam session, but if you want to be truly successful, it takes a bit more elbow grease than that.
We’ve outlined the 7 steps you need to take to form a band that really rocks. If you follow this guide, you’ll be well on your way to forming a music group that will make a name for itself.
Step 1: Decide if you want to start a band or join a band
The first step comes down to a simple question: Are you going to start your own band, with all new members? Or are you going to join a band that already exists?
There are pros and cons to each option:
When you start your own band…
- You have control over who is in your band and what kind of music you make
- You get to come up with your own band name, branding, and style
- You get to work with new musicians and meet new people
- You’ll have to do all of the work from the ground up, rather than leveraging an existing brand
- You will have to work hard to make sure everyone is treated fairly and knows their roles
- You’ll need to make sure your band members are as committed to the idea as you are
When you join an existing band…
- You already know the other musicians are committed and talented
- You will join something that’s already moving—meaning you won’t’ have to work as hard to build an audience
- You won’t have to dedicate as much of your free time to managing the band, since someone else will be in charge of that
- You will have little control over the creative direction of the band
- You will have to sign on to the existing image and style of the band you join
- You will need to find an existing band that consists of musicians you can work well with
Ultimately, the decision is yours. For the purposes of this article, we’ll mostly be guiding you on how to start your own band. We’ll be back soon with a whole article about how to join a band that suits your skills.
Step 2: Finding your band mates
This step may seem obvious—to start a band, you need band members! But how do you find the right types of musicians, with the appropriate skill level and personalities that match yours?
We’ve listed out some of the best places to find musicians below, but before we dig in, remember that finding the musicians is only the start. You need to start building relationships with people who you are interested in.
The best way to do this is by being interactive. Comment on people’s posts, reply to their questions and comments on your content, and when the moment is right, send direct messages to bring a conversation one-on-one.
Finding talented musicians is easier now than ever, thanks to social media. You can find musicians using nearly every single major platform.
On Facebook, the easiest ways to find musicians is to search for local groups in your area. You can find these simply by going to Facebook and typing in something like “[your city] + musicians.” Then filter your search to groups, and see what comes up.
For Twitter and Instagram, your best bet is to start following hashtags. If you’re already using these platforms, try posting some of your own music and using these hashtags to help others find you:
You can also look for certain genres (like #punkmusic) or instruments (like #bassguitar) to find specific types of artists.
YouTube is another fantastic place to find other musicians. On that platform, you can simply search for musicians, or follow channels that promote budding artists, like Loudwire or Indie Music Dimension.
Finally, you can also use Reddit to grow your network of musicians. Reddit has a number of music forums. Here’s a handy list of all of them, broken down by category.
If you aren’t a big social media user, there are still plenty of other gathering places for musicians on the internet. Music forums are a great place to start interacting with other artists, asking your questions, and scouting for talent.
Live Events and Live Streams
Due to Covid-19, there aren’t too many live events to attend these days. But when concerts and music festivals start up again, you’ll find they are excellent places to meet new musicians.
When it comes to live events, the best places to go are open mic nights, talent shows, and battle-of-the-band-style gigs. You’ll have more opportunities to meet artists than you would attending a single band’s performance.
For now, you can recreate some of this experience by tuning into livestreams on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok. Watch musicians you like, and send them comments and compliments while they perform. Eventually, you can leverage these into one-on-one conversations.
Ads and flyers
If you have a little budget to help you find musicians for your band, then it could be money well spent on ads calling for artists on Facebook and Instagram. You’ll need to be clear in these ads—let people know what kind of band you’re hoping to form, what talent you need, and what the commitment will be like. It might be wise to hire a freelance ads manager to make sure you put the right kind of reach and targeting behind your ads.
Last but not least, there’s always the old-fashioned way: using flyers to attract artists. Print up a few fliers calling for musicians, and be sure to leave your contact details so people can get in touch. Post them around your neighborhood or city, in places like notice boards, music shops, cafes, or reheals studios. Soon enough, your phone should start ringing.
Auditioning members for your band
Once you’ve found a handful of musicians you think might work for your band, the next step is to hold auditions.
There are a few things you can do during these auditions:
Ask them to come prepared with a song. This will give them a chance to showcase their talents with a piece of music they are comfortable with.
Do a little sightreading. Write up a few lines of music for your potential bandmates to play off the cuff. This will give them a chance to show you how well they read music.
Play together. Invite your auditionees to play music with you. You can ask them to prepare a specific song to play together, or just do an improv jam session (perhaps even including other auditionees, to see who fits well together).
Have a conversation. It’s not all about music talent when it comes to finding bandmates. You also want to make sure the person is easy to get along with and will work hard to help the band succeed. Have a conversation and ask your auditionees about their background, experience, and what they do for fun.
Step 3: Divide the work and roles in the band
Once you’ve finalized the members of your band, it’s time to call the first meeting. This is a good chance for everyone to get to know each other and spend some time playing music together for the first time.
But beyond that, you should take this opportunity to put some structures in place to help your band function. As a start-up band, it will be best if everyone can pitch in with a role—though depending on the size of your group, some people may need to take on more than one.
Here are the roles you should consider when building a band:
The leader of the pack
There should be one person who ultimately leads the band. If you’re the one starting the band, this very well could be you. While it’s important to get everyone’s input on the direction of the band, there needs to be one person who can make final decisions and will shoulder the responsibility of moving the band forward.
The success of your band depends on the group’s ability to meet frequently for practice. Designate one person in the group to make sure this happens—they should be organized and able to juggle multiple schedules to make things work. They should also be in charge of running the rehearsals, choosing which songs to practice and what to work on.
Unless you plan to be a cover band, you’ll need to decide who is going to be the primary songwriter. Of course, multiple people in a band may want to write songs. Either way, be sure you have at least one person in the band who is dedicated to creating new music for the band.
Marketing & branding leader
The branding and marketing of your group should begin even before you start recording tracks. One person, who ideally has some marketing know-how, should lead the charge. They will need to manage everything from your social media pages, uploading music to platforms like Spotify and Soundcloud, building a strong music website, developing an EPK, and creating merch to sell online or at events.
Though you won’t need to make too much of an investment at the start of your band, you will likely need to spend some money on finding the right equipment and running your marketing campaigns. There should be one person who is in charge of managing the money in the group—including taking contributions if everyone is pitching in, and making sure that money is spent wisely.
Step 4: Develop your sound and vision
Now that you’ve got the band together and divided up the work, it’s time to start mapping out the strategy for your band.
During your first few rehearsals, the group should have a discussion about where you want the band to go. Start discussing what genre of music you will produce, and talk about what you’d like the future of the band to look like. Are you going to stick to mostly local gigs, or are you hoping to go international and make it big? Once you have a goal in mind, start planning out a timeline to reach that milestone.
Step 5: Start writing and rehearsing
It’s finally time to start making music with your new band. Once you’ve come to an agreement on the vision for your group, it’s time to start rehearsing your first tracks. Hopefully by this point, the songwriter in the group has some new music to try out. But it’s also fine to play songs everyone knows already, or just have some improvised sessions for the first few rehearsals.
During this stage, your goal is to see how your group sounds when your talents merge together. You can refine your genre, workshop each other’s playing style, and eventually start recording.
You will need a good rehearsal space for this stage. You may be able to rent out a studio or small recording space, but it’s potentially more cost-effective to build a DIY recording studio, if anyone in your band has room in their home.
Step 6: Work on your band name and image
As you develop your sound and get to know your other band mates, you will start to have a better understanding of what your band’s branding should look like. Your musician brand includes everything from your band name and logo to the look and feel of your social media pages to what you wear when you’re performing.
It may take some time to come upon the right band name—your band can toss around a few names at the start before landing on one that sticks. If you don’t have any graphic designers in the band, you can look on places like Fiverr to see if you can find someone to help you develop a logo and branding for your merch.
It’s a good idea to write down the branding guidelines you develop for your group. That way, anyone in the band can refer to them when working on promotion or preparing for a gig. This will help your band maintain consistency, so that your group becomes instantly recognizable to fans.
Step 7: Begin marketing and planning performances
The final step in starting a band is all about getting your name out there. Once you feel like the music is coming together, you should start ramping up the promotion of your band and looking for opportunities to perform.
First, decide which tracks are your best. Use these as recordings to upload to your EPK, and gather your first few tracks into an album or EP release. When it’s all ready to go, start uploading it to all of the major music platforms, put clips up on your social media, and start messaging venue owners, music blogs, and maybe even some music agents or studios. Soon enough, you’ll be performing your music live for your first fans.