So You Want to Be in a Rock & Roll Band? - Phase 2 by Sal Canzonieri
Welcome to my second column in Loud Fast Rules magazine. This column will be all about being successful in the music business based on my experiences from playing music since 1975. I'm going to be real and no holds barred about every facet of the music biz from the top to the bottom. It's pretty much advice and discussion, what sucks and what is great. I'm going to tell you what other people won't. Feel free to contact me and let me know what worked for you, if you have some good advice for people.
Loud Fast Rules magazine issue 2
There are many aspects to the music world, and every one of them has things that happen in them that can either totally fuck you up or can be great if things work out right for you. These are: the people in the bands themselves; the booking agents; the promoters of the shows; the clubs, halls, etc.; the lawyers; the recording studios; the record producers; the A&R people; the radio stations and the DJs; the internet and music websites; the music shops that carry supplies and instruments; the record labels; the distributors; the record stores; the merch manufacturers; the music press and the fanzines and newstand magazines; and the audience. So, in each column I am going to talk about one of these aspects and it ain't going to be pretty!

Phase 2 - Getting Popular

In the beginning (the first 3 years), it is more important to get popular than anything else, that is the sure road to success. This requires creative thinking and lots of sacrifice and some money to invest. Last column I concentrated on advice about the putting together the band itself, which was Phase 1. You are now ready to enter Phase 2!

1. It's ALL in the songs! Where I left off last column was for you to tape your five best songs and play it for as many people that you know. If they don't freak out about how great the songs are, your band is already in trouble, big trouble. The BIG SECRET in the music world on how to get huge is WRITE GREAT SONGS! Yep, it's that simple, now go and do it, hah!

Once you finally have the right people, no matter how long that takes, then the fruit of your labors is the songs. A band's / musical group's goal is to create great songs, nothing else; it's the only reason that a band exists really. Getting laid, fame, money, etc., is the result of how great your songs are. DON'T confuse goals with results. Success is the RESULT of writing great songs, success is not a goal. Get that straight! So, again, it's all in the songs. If your songs are great, then people are going to tell other people, and you will get popular fast. You can blame every aspect of the music business on why your band isn't popular, but the truth is IF the songs were great, no matter what the style of music, then the people would have been excited about your songs and each show would have more and more people there.

Popularity always follows great songs; sure, you can accelerate this by looking cool, doing wild stuff on stage, and so on, but at the end of the day, if no one can rememeber your songs days later and if they don't go around telling lots of other people about how impressed they were, then you failed, totally. You should not step out of the rehearsal studio and bother getting on stage if you don't have great songs. Without great songs, your friends and family will come to your first like 8 shows, but they will eventually abandon you. If strangers aren't flocking around you after your sets, then something is wrong:. Your songs suck.

Everybody in every band has influnces from the bands that they like. If you can honestly say that your songs hold up to your favorite bands, then you are ready to move on. If you wouldn't buy your own record if you heard the songs somewhere, then what the hell are you doing? You have to always compare your stuff to what you already think are great songs and work on making them as great. Bland songs make bland bands.

There are various parts to writing songs. The band has to cooperate together, have chemistry, enjoy being together, and support each other's ideas. Hey, it's just like keeping a girlfriend or boyfriend! That's right, if you can't do that well, you more than likely can't work well with other people enough to write great songs.

The songs themselves have to have a great melody, strong beat, and cool lyrics. They need to have hooks that will keep themselves in someone's memory. The melody should be concentrated on first, then you can add a chorus and lyrics after. If the band is excited about the melody, then everything comes into place. If the melody isn't well developed, people won't bother with caring about great the basslines, the lyrics, and so on. Think about it, when you hear someone humming a tune, what do you hear? The chord progression? No. The bassline? No again. The guitar riff? Doubt it. Almost always its the vocal melody of the song, which is what sticks with most people. In many cases it is why they like or dislike a song (whether they realize it or not). If your melodies are well-written and catchy, people will remember and enjoy your music. If the melodies you write are carelessly written and bland, they won't. A great melody is refreshing and exciting to hear. It inspires people and makes them feel happy to hear it, even if it is Death Metal. The best melodies are repetitive, simple, catchy, and very clever sounding. Never underestimate the power of repetitive and simple melodies. I can't teach you how to write great songs, but I can tell you to really listen to the songs you love and think about why they are so great to you. What this all means is that you will be rewriting, a lot. Do what's best for the song, not your egos.

Next, you can work on the chord progressions, the bassline, the lyrics, etc. Pay equal attention to these other aspects of a song so that you don't have any weak links in the chain. The lyrics just have to make people feel an emotion, they don't have to be fancy or even poetic. The art of song writing is all about how you put together all these aspects in such a way that your songs are unique. Your intention when writing as a band should always be about impressing the people who will be listening to you. It's really easy to fool yourselves into thinking you have cool songs if you don't start out writing to impress the world. Each time you play live, you will be making an impression on the audience; if your songs are great, then a strong impression will be lasting on people and they will be excited to tell other people to come see your band. Once you have some real songs that you can be proud of and that you have tested on friends and they were impressed with them, then you can play live!

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(c) 2005 BGT ENT / Sal Canzonieri