How To Start a Band: A Survival Guide


let's get this out of the way right now

most of you watching probably got a

ukulele for christmas or something

you're probably 13 to 17 years old

you've been listening to a lot of emo

bands like my chemical romance

fallout boy panic the disco 21 pilots

you traced all the way back to their

older shows on youtube and you're saying

to yourself man i could probably do

something like that

well i can tell you with an almost

mathematical level of certainty that you

will not end up like any of those bands

that i just mentioned you will never

play arenas

you will never sell at a concert house

you will probably never even get around

to releasing your own music if reality

catches up to you and you realize how


time consuming and miserable being in a

band can actually be and unless you're

like me where you have a massive social

media presence to bounce off and

kick-start your career in music

you're probably not even going to get a

response from a record label

does that make you sad does that make

you discouraged if the answer is yes

i'm afraid you're just not cut out for

music in the first place but but but

if you're willing to bury down all your

hopeless fantasies of fame and fortune

and find enough drive and performing in

front of nine people at a time in some

sweaty basement

you might be able to pull something out

of this video and that is our first and

most important tip

understand that your band is not going

to go anywhere if you're cool with that

we can continue

okay you're still watching awesome first

thing you're going to want to do is

learn your instrument


bass guitar piano drums vocals whatever

it is

make sure that you know a thing or two

about how to play it youtube tutorials

are totally free and they're super

effective to work with

lessons are even better if you can

afford them spend about six months to a

year practicing by yourself and really

get a feel for what you're doing

while you're by yourself how about you

learn a couple popular cover songs

every genre and instrument is different

but most guitar players should know

sweet home alabama

bass players should know seven nation

army drummers should know come together

pianists should know don't stop

believing and also ukulele players do

need to know

every single tournament pilot song ever

written and singers should be familiar

with most of the songs i recommended

now this isn't critical it's just

something good to have on your belt when

you move forward

it's also pretty smart to learn a thing

or two about music theory as well

you don't need to do in-depth analysis

of beethoven or anything just

know the names for the parts of songs

and whatnot is the drummer's time

signature a little bit off

is the bass player playing in the key of

c major while everyone else is in e

minor this stuff is really simple and

you can learn it all in a day if you set

aside some time

and it'll make a world of difference

once you're playing and riding with

actual people but nate the beatles

didn't know music theory so i guess i

don't need to either

well guess what you're watching a

youtube video on how to start a band you


obviously not the beatles sure you don't

need to learn this stuff but at the end

of the day virtually all music written

nowadays has a very basic foundation

it's your job to learn these foundations

so don't get cocky with me punk

i seriously doubt that you're going to

be the next death grips okay another

thing you're going to want to do is get

all the stuff that you need

i'm talking instruments i'm talking

cables amps preamps

pa systems backups everything that you

need nobody likes a leech and

if you happen to show up at a gig down

the road and you don't have what you

need your band may be going home


listen it doesn't need to be brand new

just check craigslist or the facebook

marketplace or something you're going to

find an instrument or whatever you need

that works just fine

and finally the most important thing

that you need to do before you pull the

trigger on starting a band is attending

local shows by doing so you learn the

basics of how to organize a musical


you learn actual musicians who know what

they're doing you gotta make friends

make connections get your name out there

before you've even picked up an


treat these like social events go to as

many as you can i recommend aiming for

attending at least 15 local shows in

your area before you take the plunge

i promise you won't regret it so

since you are watching this and you are

taking what i'm saying seriously do you

remember those friends they made at the

local shows

i want you to contact them invite them

to play with you at like a jam session

or something like that

don't start a band with your dumb

friends that you made in high school who

also got ukuleles for christmas and have

no idea what they're doing

getting members who don't know their

instruments will turn practices into a

daycare really fast and you don't want


make sure the other members know a thing

or two about music theory as well and

make sure that they have similar

influences as you if you grew up

listening to

awol nation and modest mouse you're

probably not gonna mesh with someone who

swears by ac dc and led zeppelin ensure

that you can get along with your members

and make sure they're not secretly white


or red hot chili peppers or any kind of

other deplorable human being

do you like teenage girls

when you say teenage how are we talking

make sure they're the kinds of people

who can show up on time for stuff by the

way i'm talking rehearsals

gigs recording appointments etc people

who aren't exactly punctual with time

will make you want to tear your hair out

down the road


so over a facebook messenger group you

guys need to decide on where to practice

the drummer's house traditionally is the

easiest bet because they more than

likely already have a practice space

where you don't need to worry about


other alternatives to consider are

garages rentable studios or any other

properties where the cops won't get

involved if you're making too much noise

pick a few songs for everybody to play

traditionally everyone plays a few

covers so you get a vibe of how you guys

play together

find out who's proficient with their

instrument who is out of their element

and who needs a little bit more

one-on-one practice

by the way when the day of the actual

practice comes and everyone arrives make

sure that you guys

actually get around to practicing a lot

of these first practices devolve into a

hey let's all hang out

talk and watch tv event instead of

everyone actually putting in effort

sometimes you just need to break the ice

stand in the middle of the room and say

okay has everybody learned their parts

you got to pick up your instrument and

start playing everyone will catch on

once you guys start playing you're going

to come to a sudden realization

your band sucks horribly everyone's kind

of doing their own thing the sounds

aren't exactly meshing nobody has any

idea what they're doing don't don't

worry you guys are only gonna suck for a

few more weeks

oh yeah and uh don't forget to give the

drummer a few breaks that kid is killing

himself over there while you other guys

are literally twiddling your fingers

moving back and forth

at the end of every practice it's smart

for you guys to just make a habit of

going through every song that you went


treat it like you're on stage or

something like that where you guys don't

stop from mistakes you just gotta keep

on going

chug through you're probably gonna be

impressed by how much better you sound

after doing that

i don't know it's magic or something


well that train wreck is behind you now

and i'm assuming that none of you guys

have either committed suicide or quit

the band

congratulations you've made a lot

farther than most kids in your boots

a good goal to shoot for is one practice

every week which you're going to find is

near impossible in the facebook group


everybody's gonna start spouting off

their ridiculous employment shifts and

you guys just need to figure out how to

make it work

in the preceding practices hopefully you

guys include an element of songwriting

um here's a quick note if you're

watching this plan on starting a cover

or a trivia band i just want you to


off right now i understand that nobody

likes you bands like yours are trash

tribute bands are a thing of the past

cover bands take eyes away from groups

to actually try and they have this weird

thing called dignity now that we have

that out of the way let's talk about how

real bands write music there's two ways

that people normally go about this

number one the guitarist normally says

hey guys listen to this and they play

some riff they made up over the week

everybody starts playing along and

improvising the vocalist makes up some

of the worst lyrics you've ever heard in

your life

everybody goes home they revise it and

when they come back boom you have a song

pros of this method are is that you can

write a lot of songs really quickly and

a lot easier the cons are

that the songs rarely have dynamics and

they sound a lot less inspired

or number two you go home write full

songs by yourself

and then you bring them to practice pros

of this method are is that songs tend to

have a lot more dynamics

more inspiration and they feel a lot

less scattered the cons

is teaching the band whatever's in your

head in the first place and you end up

babbling like a madman

there may also be creative differences

with other members so

you know it's also really important to

practice at home as well you want to

make sure that you're keeping up with

the band and you don't get left behind


okay so once you have 30 minutes of

material ready it's time for you to

start looking for your first gig

generally try to shoot for 25 minutes of

original material and only one cover

please only one cover if anybody wanted

to listen to three blink 182 songs in a

row they'd probably stay home and listen

to enemies of the state or something

like that you gotta message smaller bars

restaurants local venues and see if they

have any opening slots for your group

and by the way don't even think about

opening for a big signed band with a

hundred thousand monthly listeners on

spotify or first go you're more than

likely going to be playing for an empty


when you start off with your band it's

generally smart to plan out some kind of

wardrobe scheme

it doesn't have to be anything crazy

just ask everyone to stick to earth

tones or something like that

this is a controversial statement but i

hear a lot of people saying that it's

always smart to stay away from logos

on stage two although i'm not here to

tell you how to live your life you just

do whatever you want oh and here's

something to remember um

you're gonna suck you're gonna be awful

your band is gonna make fools of

themselves on stage

this is gonna keep you up late at night

for months and months just think about

how bad your first show was

it's okay nobody is ready for the first

gig take it with the grain of salt and

treat it like learning experience

oh yeah i don't bring merch to your

first gig

nobody likes a band that royally blows

up and sucks on stage and then they have

the audacity to ask them for money for

the privilege of wearing their logo on

their boobs

the first few months you're gonna want

to play as many gigs as you can your

first gig

sucked but your next few aren't and once

you get a feel for playing live you'll

seriously improve as a band and get your

live performance sea legs ready you will

definitely improve with repeated shows

while you're opening for bigger bands

than yourself always watch on stage

and see what they're doing that you

aren't do the headlining bands have a

tighter sound

are they funny do they dress up take

note to yourself and see what you can

carry over to your sound to improve

oh and this also feeds into my next

point think about your stage presence

hearing live music is cool but people

came for a show

man it's music as well as visuals

if your band is just standing around

doing nothing nobody's gonna remember

you and your show's gonna be super


all right here's a fantastic example

here's a clip from 21 pilots

oh okay okay calm down listen you can

say whatever you want about tournament

pilots but

this is bigger than that okay delusion

come back please come on just listen to

me okay so this clip is from 2011 when

21 pilots was still

underground so they're playing at a high

school during a cd release show with a

relatively small

crowd tyler joseph relays some

instructions to the crowd and preps them

before they start their song

there's gonna be a point where you split

down the middle again i always want you

to be a part of what we're doing

not yet i'll tell you what then one

side's gonna sing something you're gonna

sing with josh

the other side is going to sing with me

we're going to sing at each other you're

going to crash back together

we're going to go nuts the key word is

jump what's the key word

so a few neat psychological things are

happening right now so the band is

creating an expectation a norm for the

crowd that everyone is kind of expected

to fall into nobody wants to be the odd

man out so they're more likely to

participate at risk of making it awkward

oh shoot i see we're trapped by societal

convention it's in the back of

everyone's mind too which causes them to

build anticipation and dial into the

song much more effectively the band

plays their song normally and everyone

is magnetically fixated on them even

though they're not doing anything crazy

once they're nearing the end of the song

they have the audience participate in

singing back and forth in a harmony

josh's side on the right side you're

gonna sing this he goes like this


tyler joseph marches right into the

middle of the crowd with nothing but a


and a flashlight in hand he stands up

elevates himself on top of everybody

completely changing the dynamic of the

show itself he instructs

everybody to participate with him in

that moment

he turns on a flashlight shines it in

people's faces for cinematic effect

and once momentum is reached a peak he

launches himself on top of everybody the


loses it he managed to hypnotize a whole

crowd with just a ladder a flashlight

and a little bit of charisma

again say what you want about the

quality of their music but as performers

this stuff is brilliant

once you start getting creative and

playing with your live shows and their

dynamics you're more than likely

gonna start getting a local following

once people start asking for merch go

ahead and make some

go to a local print shop with a large

original design and order bulk

listen it may be a lot of money up front

but the turnaround profits are

spectacular and don't forget to make at

least half of the order large

i found this out the hard way oh and

something else uh don't

play and dash show up at the beginning

of the show and leave at the end unless

it's a family emergency or something

like that

in which case you congratulate all the

other performers give hugs

apologize profusely and then leave with

your tail between your legs there is

nothing lamer than an opening band who


only for their own set and then they

leave that is a fantastic way to lose

friends get kicked out of venues in the


and to reiterate please keep covers to a

minimum and never

ever under any circumstances do you

cover smells like teen spirit by nirvana

if any shady promoters happen to

approach you and offer you a spot on a

gig that you have to pay for

spit in their face and tell them to go

away tell them that you have too much

self-respect to pay

them money for the privilege to play at

their show that they are directly

profiting from

sounds atrocious you're darn right but

this malpractice is rampant in smaller

scenes especially in the hip-hop realm


stay alert when writing up set lists

keep dynamics of the songs in mind start

the show off with a banger

keep momentum going for a little bit

slow things down so it doesn't become

exhausting throw on something unexpected

pick it up again and then end on your

highest note that's traditionally how it

goes but you'll find your own vibe as

you continue performing

while you're playing gigs why not hire a

local photographer to take pictures of

your set as well

you look cool as frick on your facebook

page and that will come in handy when

you start looking for larger gigs down

the road like music festivals and

whatnot and they want pictures


okay kid watching from home in their

pajamas with their out of tune ukulele

within reach

i'm gonna level with you there's a good

to fair chance that you're not gonna

reach this phase

most bands i see get stuck around the

practice and first gig area but

if you're really gosh darn serious about

this band thing this is where things get

tricky and sometimes stressful there are

much better in-depth youtube tutorials

on this specifically so i'm just going

to keep it brief once your band has

about 10 to 14 songs ready to go

play them put a cell phone in the middle

of your room and record demos they don't

need to sound pretty they don't need to

sound professional they just need to get

the basic vibe and structure the song

down if you want to get fancy you can

use pro tools logic or even audacity for

nicer sounding recordings

this is a great time to ensure that

everybody knows their parts inside and


now save up money as a band book studio

time at a local establishment once

you're there you're going to record

drums and bass first

rhythm guitar piano synths and horns or

whatever for the meats of the song

lead elements like vocals and guitar and

then finally you're going to add like

the weird quirks and flourishes or

whatever at the end

yeah this is really bare bones but if

you've reached this stage you

probably know what to do or you're

friends with someone who does

you know i'm not worried about this

do not skimp out on cover art a cell

phone picture of an awful colored pencil

rough draft will not cut it

you want to get someone who actually

knows a thing or two about photoshop to

design it for you pay them a little bit

of money if they do a good job you're

going to be making a cash back anyway

when making announcements make it a

habit to always have a link for folks to

go to

if you're announcing a show add a link

for an rsvp page

if you're announcing an album link a

song don't make hollow announcements and

not have anything to back them up with

they will be buried and forgotten have a

few local photographers get photos of

you and your band looking serious or

something i don't know

all these pictures look the same try do

something different or whatever

just so you don't look like these

endless boring metal bands look up some

famous music videos and take notes for

when you want to start making your own

you guys playing instruments in a weird

spot just doesn't cut it anymore throw

in some blood throw in some costumes

make it fun god forbid you try

it's also important to get a consistent

aesthetic for your band

have your facebook logo be the same as

your twitter logo be the same as your

instagram logo i have a professionally

designed logo that doesn't have this

stupid bloody

cowboy font i hate this this is cancer

for my eyes please make it stop

finally for bonus points if you really

want to look professional

let the promo materials carry into your

live shows is your cd cover a bunch of

guys and gas masks or something

why not walk on stage with gas masks and

peel them off before you start how about

a few props to liven up the stage a

video intro

think outside the box and set yourself

apart from all these other bands you're

playing with

i can't reiterate this enough youtube

has all the information in the world at

your fingertips

use it to improve your instruments your

stage presence media creations

anything at all do not sleep with fans

this never turns out well

there's also really gross power dynamic

that makes it icky and a big

no no you know this whole consent thing

going on watch what you say on social

media as well

dumb stuff will always come back to bite

you or even worse

appear on a reddit thread and go viral

lots of local venues and musicians check

on what you're saying as well and you

could end up on a blacklist if you or

your bandmates are caught spouting off i

don't know kkk propaganda or something

like that and never be afraid to cut

someone out of the band if they pose a

pr nightmare your group's future is a

lot more important than whatever dumb

racist tangents the bass player may go


always push for all ages shows whenever

possible bar shows are easy to get

but they may alienate some of your most

loyal fans support accessible venues and

support your local music scene dog if a

record label happens to contact you

have a lawyer or legal friend look over

everything and make sure that you're

safe before you sign your life away

make sure that you're in the clear and

your material and rights aren't in


oh and speaking which pass up on major

labels entirely they're gross

they're bad stay independent and go with

smaller labels with fewer groups that

stick by their artists

do tons of research with whoever you're

considering signing with they're more

than likely gross and icky

and have a banned facebook account so

that local booking agents can find you

and contact you easily and

always have your links available spotify

bandcamp etc they shouldn't be hard to

find there are way too many morons who

don't take four seconds to add links to

their stuff and they suffer in the long

run because of it and finally have a

dedicated banned email when you're

messaging industry folks

thrabinsoncaruso69420 is not

gonna look nearly as professional

as taking back sunday it's

super simple

just do it

okay did you listen closely did you

learn a thing or two just follow these

instructions and you'll be playing in

greasy dive bars full of stone teenagers

in no time and truth is playing in a

band is a lot lamer than it appears in

movies and tv shows

actually performing gigs is a bit of a

reality check for most people

as long as you're upfront with yourself

and you understand that you're not gonna

be arena rock gods or headline

bonnaroo or something like that you're

probably gonna have a little bit of fun

you're gonna make lots of friends learn

awesome social and management skills

and you're gonna have a lot of cool

stories to tell your nieces and nephews

down the road

approach this with the mindset of having

fun and going on adventures and that's

the best thing you can do

keep your expectations in check and you

just might go somewhere so quit watching

my garbage and pick up your ukulele gosh

darn it

tune it for once there's tons of free

phone apps watch some tutorials get

going you fail 100

of the things that you don't do kick

butt take names make awesome music and

stay spicy i'll see you later

also lots of love to ethan land gabby


is this happy hour max moore and my

friend sarah joe simper and spencer

purcell for supporting me

on my patreon shout out to otto zagala

he's like 90

of my fan base and just some 13 year old

kid from australia

and harry phillips who is paying me 15 a

month so i can plug his channel

his valentine's day song is pretty

pretty cute i buried it in the


somewhere go find it plebs um enjoy the

end card i worked so hard on it