The First Stage
Wait, let me get this straight: You just went ahead and blew all your hard-earned cash on musical instruments and computer software? You want to start a band?
Well, good luck. You're gonna need it. Because—just so you know—today's musical climate is somewhere south of overcast with a chance of showers. Pick up any music magazine these days. They all read the same: The industry is clueless, no one's selling records and the bulk of the actual music out there in the ether is almost completely derivative, if not just plain terrible.
So, yes, you'll need some luck if you hope to develop a following for your act. You'll also need a keen understanding of the local music scene, specifically of the venues you'll be playing around town. That's vital if you're just getting started; you have to find a venue that embraces the type of music you want to be playing, a venue that already fills its house with people predisposed to like your sound.
Now, first things first, before you start calling club booking agents all excited about the fact that you and your pals are getting together and jamming once or twice a week, think about where you want to take your sound. Also think about how you hope your band will end up being perceived. (And, for the love of God, be realistic about it.)
Then follow the guide below. We've got your path to stardom—in all its many forms—laid out for ya...
Arena/Radio Rock Band
Influences: You live for the radio. A big fan of Daughtry, Three Doors Down and Puddle of Mudd, you're currently working on a sound that showcases that jaw-dropping variety. Plus, your lead singer totally has a voice that just screams "husky."
Hopes: Edgefest, MTV and, eventually, the American Airlines Center as part of your world tour.
Venue: The Curtain Club and the Liquid Lounge. Home to Dallas' favorite radio wannabe original live music acts, the Curtain Club is all about rocking out, man. The Liquid Lounge seems a little more varied in its booking, though, so if your influences extend all the way out to include, like, Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews and the like, that's your best bet, dude.
Marketing must: Create a MySpace page, like, yesterday and pepper the SMU campus whenever you have a show. There's your bread-and-butter crowd. Also? Keep the guyliner to a minimum, brah.
Influences: Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, the Old 97's. Anything with a little twang and some acoustic guitar sounds right up your alley. But, no, you're not into country or folk.
Hopes: Ryan Adams writes a song a day it seems. Down the line, you hope to do the same thing—but with albums.
Venue: Call up Mike Snider, ASAP. As a booking agent for both his AllGood Café and for Sons of Hermann Hall, Snider's got your hook-up with a starter venue and a next step. Just make sure your act is tight by the time you call him. Snider's a big-time advocate of the local scene, and he'll be your head cheerleader—if, that is, you're up to snuff.
Marketing must: Hit up the coffee shop open mic scene first as you develop a comfort level onstage. As you work toward hitting your stride, you'll gain teenage fans for life (or until they head off for college). Hey, it worked for Rhett Miller, right?
Influences: A Tribe Called Quest, Soulja Boy, anything with legitimate soul to it, or anything that can get your bills paid. You want to lyrically blow people's minds. Unless you come up with a killer beat and hook first. Then you'll totally go the sell-out route.
Hopes: Getting appreciated on, well, any level possible. The cover of The Source would be cool. So would a write-up in Rolling Stone. But you'll settle for a well-visited MySpace page so long as you move discs.
Venue: If you're more of the fitted backward cap, sports team apparel-sporting, 97.9 The Beat-loving variety, Muddy Waters is for you. If you're more the neon-decked, '80s-loving, synth-heavy type it's all about finding your niche among the hipsters at The Cavern.
Marketing must: A MySpace page that takes 10 years to load because of all the graphics you've used to lay it out. Hey, good things come to those who wait, right?
Influences: Pavement, The Shins, Arcade Fire, The Replacements and anything else that's ever been big on college radio. (You'd know what I was talking about if there were a college station worth listening to around these parts. Or you live far enough west in Dallas to pick up that mythological TCU station everyone raves about.)
Hopes: Pitch. Fork. Media. Or a mention in Spin. And maybe a tour opening up for Stephen Malkmus' latest project one day?
Venue: Depends if you're more indie rock or more indie rock. The former sets you up for Club Dada. The latter puts you right in the Double Wide's wheelhouse. And both throw you up to discerning audiences who don't want to hear you miss a chord on an off night. So, you know, be ready.
Marketing must: Band logos! Cool T-shirts! Merch! You need a graphic designer, bud. Or at least a bass player who has Photoshop and Illustrator and can fake like he's one.
Influences: Bowie, Kraftwerk, Devo. Anything that lets you act dramatically onstage as you perform. Or anything you can twist knobs to. Or anything that suddenly allows you to wear the eyeglasses or oddball wardrobe you've owned for years—only now people will assume you're doing so ironically.
Hopes: That one day people will appreciate you for the genius that you are.
Venue: Hailey's and Rubber Gloves in Denton. Lola's in Fort Worth. Nowhere, really, anymore in Dallas, now that Sloppyworld's closed, unless you want to hit up the house party scene. The right house—The Swiss House in Dallas or the House of Tinnitus in Denton—could be right up your alley.
Marketing must: Uh, marketing? You will not create a MySpace page for your band; you will play a bare minimum of live shows; and you'll release nothing more than a six-song EP—which you'll distribute only at Bill's Records without telling anyone. Somewhere down the line, a fresh-faced kid will discover your disc there and you'll smile politely to yourself when you overhear him name-drop your act to his buddy while riding the long-completed DART rail.
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