I thought I’d get into a topic that is near and dear to my heart at the moment. Band management. Most bands that rehearse at The hen House Rehearsal Studios don’t have a Manager but almost all would like one. Should you get one? Do you even need one? I’ve spent the past 8 months managing youngsters Small Town Heroes and I thought I’d give you a few takeaways from the key things I’ve learnt so far. Hopefully they might inspire a different way of thinking for your band!
We’re all guilty of a little (or a lot) of procrastination and general time wasting (see: beer drinking) in our bands. So the manager really needs to be able to motivate his/her band to reach beyond what they think they’re capable of. When you are a new band, you have BIG dreams but no real road map of how to get their. A great manager is your oversized fleshy GPS and understands that there is a path to reaching those dreams and they know how to help you get there.
I think about motivating Small Town Heroes (STH from now on) as a manager all the time. How do I keep my the band focused? How do I help them fulfil their goals?
The band were doing a great job keeping all elements progressing (social media for example) that at times they could forget what is really at the core of every great act…..The songs!
DO THE SAME OLD THING, EXPECT THE SAME OLD RESULT.
When STH asked me to manage them in August 2016, the first thing I did was sit down for a big long chat. Alarm bells went off when they shared their song writing process. At the time, writing 1 song took them 1 month. This was a major problem. No band can write songs at this pace and get where they want to go anytime soon.
In Gyroscope we average about 1 full song a week when we are writing. We would typically need 30 songs in order to end up with an albums worth of strong material that we really loved. If we apply that principle to STH it would take 2 years and 6 months for them to write their debut album!
So we set about trying out a new approach to songwriting. The plan was to create ideas first. They would simply write little ‘song chunks’, around 3 or 4 sections totalling about 1 minute of music. The structure was up to the band and could look be in order, here are a few examples.
Verse – Pre Chorus – Chorus
Intro – Verse – Chorus
Riff – Verse – Chorus
Chorus – Verse – Chorus – Riff
By only focusing on 1 minute of music it allowed the band to work much quicker. The essence of the song was there in this mini idea and it allowed them to decide if it was good enough to spend more time on or not. I encouraged the band to try and get 2 x Ideas (1min each) a week. To their credit they were able to do this for the 8 weeks in a row. In a space of 2 months they went from having no new song ideas to 16 ideas. Out of those 16 ideas we could identify 2 or 3 REALLY strong ideas that we could expand and turn into songs.
More interestingly for the next 3 months the guys wrote another 14 ideas. In this second batch of 14 ideas there was about 8 REALLY strong ideas that the band could expand out into songs. I have definitely found (in my years in Gyro) that its only in getting through the initial 15 or so song ideas does the magic really come to a band. Almost all of STH last 7 ideas have been absolute winners. Songs that they themselves couldn’t believe they had written and will go on to shape the sound of the bands next release.
Is this something your band could try? Absolutely. Experimentation is so so important when songwriting. Give it a go.
MOTIVATION IS A TWO WAY STREET!
This is an important point. I am the sort of person that feeds off other peoples energy, most of us are. When I see how hard STH work on crafting their music and their willingness to listen to ideas and experiment, it pushes me to work harder and longer for the band. The band/manager dynamic is a two way street and one with out the other works about as well as a fish trying to ride a bicycle. LISTEN UP BANDS….When you start working with a manager don’t expect them to do ALL the heavy lifting. Its still the band who start the engine (loving the car metaphors today, aren’t i!?!) and do the work day in and day out. But I promise, if you work hard and show passion for what your doing, your manager will reciprocate and you’ll be rewarded for it!
With the band having worked so hard on the music, I now have a fantastic product to present to my contacts in the music industry. This is where the skills of a manager really come into play. Having a great network is key and being willing to get out there and get in front of people is essential.
When your band is deciding on a manager you may not be able to get a person with a ready built network. Thats ok. As long as they have a go-getter attitude and people skills to get in front of the people that count.
So when you’re finding your band a manager, ask yourself:
Do they have a passion for the music business?
Do they know who the key players in the industry are?
Are the willing to learn and put themselves out there?
Your looking for a whole bunch of YES!