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  • Starting a cover band business

    I've taken a 15 year break from playing music in bands to pursue a more professional career.  Now that I've reached a decent place in my company, I've been getting the urge to play music live again.  I found a group on craigslist and started playing music with them, but I find myself frustrated with the disorganization and unproductive practice sessions.  I've realized that I want to run a band like a business and I'd love to get your feedback on this.  I have a strong background in starting companies and managing people in a professional environment.  I want to create a well-payed cover band.

    I want to play in the band (keyboard and rhythm guitar) and hire 5 other people (male vocals, female vocals, lead guitar, bass, drummer) to play in the band as employees.  We'd focus on playing cover songs that people liked with the goal of lots of crowd interaction and the audience having a good time.  

    My wife would be the manager and would handle the business aspects like getting gigs, promoting, managing vendors (accounting etc).  We'd hire a sound person to be present for every gig.

    I want to buy a very professional PA system:  custom in-ear monitors and personal monitor mixes for every member.  No amps on stage (guitar and bass could have their amps mic'd offstage).  Digital mixing console beside the stage controlled remotely by ipads or other tablets.  I'd also buy awesome lighting effects and a van for loading/unloading.  We'd rent a reharsal space.

    I'd pay everyone (as W-2 employees) a fixed amount for practices and gigs, and I'd cover all expenses.  I'd make all decisions including setlist and hiring/firing. 

    The musicians will only have to worry about learning the songs and putting on a good show.  Everything else will be taken care of for them.  Obviously, they will make less than what they would earn if they did all this work themselves, however, what they get in return will be a busy gigging band with strong leadership, strong organization, good communication, happy audiences, and professional equipment.

     

    I'm sure this idea isn't novel, but it seems out of the norm.  Please let me know what you think of this idea.  

     


  • #2
    I think I would just go find a seat in a band that has gigs. Its hard enough to come off the bench, let alone be a band leader that can attract the players its going to take to make what you want happen.
    "you mess with him and you mess with the whole trailer park"

    Comment


    • #3

      snowbird122 wrote:

      I've taken a 15 year break from playing music in bands to pursue a more professional career.  Now that I've reached a decent place in my company, I've been getting the urge to play music live again.  I found a group on craigslist and started playing music with them, but I find myself frustrated with the disorganization and unproductive practice sessions.  I've realized that I want to run a band like a business and I'd love to get your feedback on this.  I have a strong background in starting companies and managing people in a professional environment.  I want to create a well-payed cover band.

      I want to play in the band (keyboard and rhythm guitar) and hire 5 other people (male vocals, female vocals, lead guitar, bass, drummer) to play in the band as employees.  We'd focus on playing cover songs that people liked with the goal of lots of crowd interaction and the audience having a good time.  

      My wife would be the manager and would handle the business aspects like getting gigs, promoting, managing vendors (accounting etc).  We'd hire a sound person to be present for every gig.

      I want to buy a very professional PA system:  custom in-ear monitors and personal monitor mixes for every member.  No amps on stage (guitar and bass could have their amps mic'd offstage).  Digital mixing console beside the stage controlled remotely by ipads or other tablets.  I'd also buy awesome lighting effects and a van for loading/unloading.  We'd rent a reharsal space.

      I'd pay everyone (as W-2 employees) a fixed amount for practices and gigs, and I'd cover all expenses.  I'd make all decisions including setlist and hiring/firing. 

      The musicians will only have to worry about learning the songs and putting on a good show.  Everything else will be taken care of for them.  Obviously, they will make less than what they would earn if they did all this work themselves, however, what they get in return will be a busy gigging band with strong leadership, strong organization, good communication, happy audiences, and professional equipment.

       

      I'm sure this idea isn't novel, but it seems out of the norm.  Please let me know what you think of this idea.  

       


      While this idea is hardly novel... it's also a bit naive to think that if you build it 'gigs will come'.   In my experience bands that startup as a business rarely get things off the ground where as bands that are established and start becoming more business like have a better track record. Why do I say that? Well successful bands usually depend on four things: Product, demand, talent and marketibility. As someone who has played in a successful 'band as a business 8 out of 11 years we've been established, there's so much more inbetween stuff that goes on to keep a band business running. So let's knock these out one by one and see where you stand.

       

      Product: The band doesn't exist yet but in your head you are envisioning a big stage show... lighting, professional PA, popular song choices. It takes alot to put that all together... almost a full time job in itself. How do you sell a product that doesn't exist, and how do you get players to be part of a product if you haven't got gigs to support it yet? 

       

      Demand: What's the demand for a band like the what you want to form. Does one already exist on top of the food chain? (established) Will you have to compete for those gigs. Is the a big demand for this type of band in nightclubs, weddings, privates? Who will you compete against? How will you compete... on price, on package... etc? If you see a gaping hole here you may have an opportunity... but most markets have a couple of dominant bands that are first call for everything. Consider them McDonalds against your startup burger business.

       

      Marketability: Your a brand new band with expensive gear... no one has heard you play yet. How will you land your first gig? How will you get paid anything more than top bottom price. Again you will have to fall in line with the rest of the established bands in your market and you are at the back of the line. Here's a catch in the bar/nightclub market... bands don't usually get paid based on how good they are... they are usually paid on 'draw'... how many people can you bring the nightclub to have them spend some money. Even then it takes time to establish yourself from the rest of the pack.  In privates you'll still have to compete against established names and reputations. How many weddings have you done... do you have referrals. It's not impossible but it all takes time... a year or more maybe. Do you have that time to spare while getting this machine running where you have nough calendar dates, money coming in to satisfy your debt?

       

      Talent: To put together a top notch band you have to have great players. Not just players but performers. To attract them you'll have to offer them competetive pay. That comes out of YOUR pocket. Rehearsals, performances etc. This is the area where I see alot of bands fail... someone bankrolls some cash up front and the lineup looks terrific. Then a few stumbles... gigs get cancelled or don't pay as much. Players get nervous and jump ship. Replacement players are not quite as good as the original lineup and the product suffers. "What happened to the blond singer?" "I thought your guitar player with the long hair was terrific... what happened to him?". In so many of these situations I see bands not be able to get smoothly off the ground because they haven't clearly thought out the first three elements. Then people start abandoning ship. 

      Are you just a generous guy? Do you just love to play music infront of audiences no matter the expense? How much are you willing to invest? In my head I'm imagining $20-30K+ in just marketing and equipment costs. You have to pay players regardless if you are getting paid, transport all of the gear, take care of insurance, pay taxes, cover maintenence. If you assume all of the risk then you'll have to assume all of the loss as well. When will you break even? When will you be in the '$ black'? How will you keep good players and talent from jumping ship if you don't have a strong track record or reputation to command good paying gigs. And more over how can you even compete for those gigs without a strong name or reputation. If you are able to average $1500 per performance (that's my band after a decade of established) and net after expenses $500 for yourself ... how many performances will that take to get yourself into the $black$.

      so over this signature BS!!!

      Comment


      • TIMKEYS
        TIMKEYS commented
        Editing a comment

        wheresgrant3 wrote:

        snowbird122 wrote:

        I've taken a 15 year break from playing music in bands to pursue a more professional career.  Now that I've reached a decent place in my company, I've been getting the urge to play music live again.  I found a group on craigslist and started playing music with them, but I find myself frustrated with the disorganization and unproductive practice sessions.  I've realized that I want to run a band like a business and I'd love to get your feedback on this.  I have a strong background in starting companies and managing people in a professional environment.  I want to create a well-payed cover band.

        I want to play in the band (keyboard and rhythm guitar) and hire 5 other people (male vocals, female vocals, lead guitar, bass, drummer) to play in the band as employees.  We'd focus on playing cover songs that people liked with the goal of lots of crowd interaction and the audience having a good time.  

        My wife would be the manager and would handle the business aspects like getting gigs, promoting, managing vendors (accounting etc).  We'd hire a sound person to be present for every gig.

        I want to buy a very professional PA system:  custom in-ear monitors and personal monitor mixes for every member.  No amps on stage (guitar and bass could have their amps mic'd offstage).  Digital mixing console beside the stage controlled remotely by ipads or other tablets.  I'd also buy awesome lighting effects and a van for loading/unloading.  We'd rent a reharsal space.

        I'd pay everyone (as W-2 employees) a fixed amount for practices and gigs, and I'd cover all expenses.  I'd make all decisions including setlist and hiring/firing. 

        The musicians will only have to worry about learning the songs and putting on a good show.  Everything else will be taken care of for them.  Obviously, they will make less than what they would earn if they did all this work themselves, however, what they get in return will be a busy gigging band with strong leadership, strong organization, good communication, happy audiences, and professional equipment.

         

        I'm sure this idea isn't novel, but it seems out of the norm.  Please let me know what you think of this idea.  

         


        While this idea is hardly novel... it's also a bit naive to think that if you build it 'gigs will come'.   In my experience bands that startup as a business rarely get things off the ground where as bands that are established and start becoming more business like have a better track record. Why do I say that? Well successful bands usually depend on four things: Product, demand, talent and marketibility. As someone who has played in a successful 'band as a business 8 out of 11 years we've been established, there's so much more inbetween stuff that goes on to keep a band business running. So let's knock these out one by one and see where you stand.

         

        Product: The band doesn't exist yet but in your head you are envisioning a big stage show... lighting, professional PA, popular song choices. It takes alot to put that all together... almost a full time job in itself. How do you sell a product that doesn't exist, and how do you get players to be part of a product if you haven't got gigs to support it yet? 

         

        Demand: What's the demand for a band like the what you want to form. Does one already exist on top of the food chain? (established) Will you have to compete for those gigs. Is the a big demand for this type of band in nightclubs, weddings, privates? Who will you compete against? How will you compete... on price, on package... etc? If you see a gaping hole here you may have an opportunity... but most markets have a couple of dominant bands that are first call for everything. Consider them McDonalds against your startup burger business.

         

        Marketability: Your a brand new band with expensive gear... no one has heard you play yet. How will you land your first gig? How will you get paid anything more than top bottom price. Again you will have to fall in line with the rest of the established bands in your market and you are at the back of the line. Here's a catch in the bar/nightclub market... bands don't usually get paid based on how good they are... they are usually paid on 'draw'... how many people can you bring the nightclub to have them spend some money. Even then it takes time to establish yourself from the rest of the pack.  In privates you'll still have to compete against established names and reputations. How many weddings have you done... do you have referrals. It's not impossible but it all takes time... a year or more maybe. Do you have that time to spare while getting this machine running where you have nough calendar dates, money coming in to satisfy your debt?

         

        Talent: To put together a top notch band you have to have great players. Not just players but performers. To attract them you'll have to offer them competetive pay. That comes out of YOUR pocket. Rehearsals, performances etc. This is the area where I see alot of bands fail... someone bankrolls some cash up front and the lineup looks terrific. Then a few stumbles... gigs get cancelled or don't pay as much. Players get nervous and jump ship. Replacement players are not quite as good as the original lineup and the product suffers. "What happened to the blond singer?" "I thought your guitar player with the long hair was terrific... what happened to him?". In so many of these situations I see bands not be able to get smoothly off the ground because they haven't clearly thought out the first three elements. Then people start abandoning ship. 

        Are you just a generous guy? Do you just love to play music infront of audiences no matter the expense? How much are you willing to invest? In my head I'm imagining $20-30K+ in just marketing and equipment costs. You have to pay players regardless if you are getting paid, transport all of the gear, take care of insurance, pay taxes, cover maintenence. If you assume all of the risk then you'll have to assume all of the loss as well. When will you break even? When will you be in the '$ black'? How will you keep good players and talent from jumping ship if you don't have a strong track record or reputation to command good paying gigs. And more over how can you even compete for those gigs without a strong name or reputation. If you are able to average $1500 per performance (that's my band after a decade of established) and net after expenses $500 for yourself ... how many performances will that take to get yourself into the $black$.


        I gotta agree ,, it takes a lot of time.  We are now comming up on 4 years.  The PA is improved but still not at corp event levels but we have been moving the ball with a couple new mixers.   I have just started working on getting some good raw video footage.    We are not ready to go corp, but we keep meeting the goals we have set.   Its kinda nice just to sit back and let someone else do the booking and promo , but  you also have to be laid back enough  about the band that you just go with the flow.  


    • #4
      That's not bad advice. If you were going to start out in a completely new industry, you wouldn't just hang out a shingle as CEO looking for underlings. The music world is different from when you were last in it, and you should serve an apprenticeship before you open your own shop.

      Join the best band that'll have you, serve for 2-3 years, and then correct all of their mistakes in your own group. You'll meet people you can recruit later, meet bookers and managers, and size up the region.
      Jukejoint Handmedowns (my band)

      Find our album on iTunes!

      A Month of Songs (Songwriting blog)







      Originally Posted by gennation


      Neither of us is gay or anything, it just happened.

      Comment


      • snowbird122
        snowbird122 commented
        Editing a comment

        Thank you very much for the advice so far.  You are all probably right that the most prudent path is to play in another band for a while to get back into things.  I'm just not sure I have the patience for it.

         

        My thought was that I wanted to try to optimize the business for the musicians and let them focus on what they were good at (learning songs and performing) and remove responsibility from them for things that musicians typically aren't good at (business, load in/out, PA financing, van financing, rehearsals, and democratic setlist building).  

         

        Now that our kids are getting older, my wife is considering getting a job for the first time in a long time, and we're thinking that running the business of the band would be a good use of her time.  She'd be the one ultimately responsible for getting gigs.

        As I browse gigmasters, I can't believe the lack of quality in the audio and video of the bands that are so highly ranked and have so many reviews.  I have no doubt that we can assemble a better promo kit than most of the top ranked bands there.  If we have great recordings and videos, won't we be able to get gigs?

        From a musician standpoint, I'm wondering how much $$ people would be willing to give up in order to have everything taken care of for them in a professional manner.  As a musician, I think it would be great to show up to a gig, have all my stuff already set up, play the gig, and leave immediately afterwards.  That is the kind of band I want to play in, and if I can't find one like that, I want to create it myself

        I agree it would cost 30K-50K to get this going properly.  

          

         


    • #5

      snowbird122 wrote:
      My wife would be the manager and would handle the business aspects like getting gigs, promoting, managing vendors (accounting etc).

      As a perspective side man, this honestly makes me cringe more than anything else in that post.   I don't know you or your wife, but as someone who been thrust into the position of including some guys wife/girlfriend/both because she wants to be included (or has trust issues) and not because she can book or run sound or bring anything else costructive to the table, it's generally a matter of when, not if, it will self destuct.  I know of a few exceptions.  Generally a couple that has been very succesful in the music industry on their own, before they got together.  But I know of many, many more that strayed right down that path.  And frankly, I'd tend to avoid that situation, especially without any kind of track record.  Just another perspective to think about.

      One more time kids; equalizers are not cross overs, vocal mics are not cymbal mics and pan knobs are not three position switches. As you were.

      Comment


      • #6
        Maybe join an existing band and have your wife take over booking/promotional details...

        Then work from there.
        PA Unity15's over LS800p's. YX15's, YX12's IPR power, RM32AI

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        Comment


        • #7

          What you're describing (in the OP) is pretty much what we do. We have a band leader who centrally controls many things and pays us as independent contractors. I think you might want to start by talking to someone in a large booking agency. Our bandleader has connections with East Coast Entertainment, who pretty much asked him to put together a band, or at least that's how I understand it. So, I would think you would want to start by lining up some connections if possible. 

          Check my band: SoulPlay - > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TH9-e4FmaE
          Key Rig: Alesis Fusion 8HD; Roland A-800 Pro; Toshiba i7 laptop running Cantabile VST host with IK Multimedia Total Workstation Bundle, NI Vintage Organs, Tyrell N6, Sylenth1, XLN Addictive Keys, NI FM8; Tascam US-1641 USB MIDI/Audio Interface; 2 x RCF Art 310-A MK III series monitors.

          Comment


          • Howie22
            Howie22 commented
            Editing a comment

            I think you'd have a hard time finding players that want zero creative or business input. They probably would also want to know more about how much of a cut you are taking for you and the wife for your "services."

             

            I know because I run my band a bit like this. Even though I pay above average for band players, there is still some level of disgruntlement about being in the dark about what the entire band is making (and how much more I make than the other members). 


        • #8

          snowbird122 wrote:

          I've taken a 15 year break from playing music in bands to pursue a more professional career.  Now that I've reached a decent place in my company, I've been getting the urge to play music live again.  I found a group on craigslist and started playing music with them, but I find myself frustrated with the disorganization and unproductive practice sessions.  I've realized that I want to run a band like a business and I'd love to get your feedback on this.  I have a strong background in starting companies and managing people in a professional environment.  I want to create a well-payed cover band.

          I want to play in the band (keyboard and rhythm guitar) and hire 5 other people (male vocals, female vocals, lead guitar, bass, drummer) to play in the band as employees.  We'd focus on playing cover songs that people liked with the goal of lots of crowd interaction and the audience having a good time.  

          My wife would be the manager and would handle the business aspects like getting gigs, promoting, managing vendors (accounting etc).  We'd hire a sound person to be present for every gig.

          I want to buy a very professional PA system:  custom in-ear monitors and personal monitor mixes for every member.  No amps on stage (guitar and bass could have their amps mic'd offstage).  Digital mixing console beside the stage controlled remotely by ipads or other tablets.  I'd also buy awesome lighting effects and a van for loading/unloading.  We'd rent a reharsal space.

          I'd pay everyone (as W-2 employees) a fixed amount for practices and gigs, and I'd cover all expenses.  I'd make all decisions including setlist and hiring/firing. 

          The musicians will only have to worry about learning the songs and putting on a good show.  Everything else will be taken care of for them.  Obviously, they will make less than what they would earn if they did all this work themselves, however, what they get in return will be a busy gigging band with strong leadership, strong organization, good communication, happy audiences, and professional equipment.

           

          I'm sure this idea isn't novel, but it seems out of the norm.  Please let me know what you think of this idea.  

           



          snowbird122 wrote:

          I've taken a 15 year break from playing music in bands to pursue a more professional career.  Now that I've reached a decent place in my company, I've been getting the urge to play music live again.  I found a group on craigslist and started playing music with them, but I find myself frustrated with the disorganization and unproductive practice sessions.  I've realized that I want to run a band like a business and I'd love to get your feedback on this.  I have a strong background in starting companies and managing people in a professional environment.  I want to create a well-payed cover band.

          I want to play in the band (keyboard and rhythm guitar) and hire 5 other people (male vocals, female vocals, lead guitar, bass, drummer) to play in the band as employees.  We'd focus on playing cover songs that people liked with the goal of lots of crowd interaction and the audience having a good time.  

          My wife would be the manager and would handle the business aspects like getting gigs, promoting, managing vendors (accounting etc).  We'd hire a sound person to be present for every gig.

          I want to buy a very professional PA system:  custom in-ear monitors and personal monitor mixes for every member.  No amps on stage (guitar and bass could have their amps mic'd offstage).  Digital mixing console beside the stage controlled remotely by ipads or other tablets.  I'd also buy awesome lighting effects and a van for loading/unloading.  We'd rent a reharsal space.

          I'd pay everyone (as W-2 employees) a fixed amount for practices and gigs, and I'd cover all expenses.  I'd make all decisions including setlist and hiring/firing. 

          The musicians will only have to worry about learning the songs and putting on a good show.  Everything else will be taken care of for them.  Obviously, they will make less than what they would earn if they did all this work themselves, however, what they get in return will be a busy gigging band with strong leadership, strong organization, good communication, happy audiences, and professional equipment.

           

          I'm sure this idea isn't novel, but it seems out of the norm.  Please let me know what you think of this idea.  

           


          One potential problem I see is hiring the players and paying them as W2 employees. Most musicians don't want to work for someone formally and why go through the problems associated having employees? Hire each player as 1099 independant contractors. This is there's no requirement for insurance, no withholding etc...

          Also, you're coming out of retirement..ARE YOU ANY GOOD? Now, judging from what I've seen you don't need to be good at all to play Top40, classic bar rock/Dance or new music and many out there aren't. But unless you have an original vision and a schtick to sell like those NERDS type bands for instance, how are you going to get players to join you? Usually it's either established band with gigs or a great player that attracts them. Something to think about.

          Finally, I can think a lot of better businesses to start than a bar cover band. 

          Comment


          • RoadRanger
            RoadRanger commented
            Editing a comment

            sventvkg wrote:

            Finally, I can think a lot of better businesses to start than a bar cover band. 


            A "hitting yourself in the head with a hammer" business comes to mind as being less painful and less likely to lose huge amounts of $$$ .









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