It’s not true. There are most definitely good bands in the world ... nay, the area. Even terrible bands get better, and graduate into “tolerable” and even “listenable” territory. Hell, my buddy Brandon Jazz played me a track the other day that sounded almost like a real song. Anything is possible.
Moreover, your band is probably still terrible, but that doesn't mean you can't be awesome. In an effort to rectify my gratuitous cynicism, I’m throwing out a few tips to make your band awesome.
1. Pick a name.
Picking a name is hard, y'all. Don’t even bother Googling the really good one you thought of, because it’s already taken. If you want to stake out an identity in this cutthroat, over-crowded virtual scene, you need something with ZAZZ. Check out Here We Go Magic, or I Believe in Hotpants. Seriously, how can you not know that’s a band?
It’s really all about keywords, and adding more specific ones like numbers (Blanks ’77), names (Daphne’s Operation) and places (Alabama Shakes) will definitely help. Getting creative with the punctuation doesn’t hurt either. Like, how can you spell fIREHOSE without the lowercase “f”?
2. Play as a two-piece.
Notice how EVERYONE has a bass player? Why don’t you just be that band that doesn’t? Treble is the new bass.
3. Write lots of songs and play them at every show.
To paraphrase the late Mitch Hedburg: You want to start strong and end strong, unlike pancakes that leave you sick of them halfway through. Don’t be pancakes (unless your band is called BE PanCAKES — that’d be pretty awesome). Start with the good shit, end with the good shit. But honestly, if you don’t get around to playing the other stuff, no one is going to want their money back.
4. Find a gimmick.
You know how DEVO wore those yellow jumpsuits, funny hats and based the concept of their whole band on the theory of De-evolution? That was totally a gimmick. The White Stripes in red and white motif? Gimmick! Ramones in leather jackets, GWAR in crazy costumes, Sonic Youth being all badass and shit — all gimmicks. Gimmicks are like rocket science (when they work, shit explodes), but rocket science isn’t a gimmick (nerds).
5. Talk about your band.
Always. Let folks know you’re doing that thing you’re doing. They might come out to the show. Here’s the thing, though: If you’re going to talk about your band, approach it like you’re telling someone about a dream you had. Keep to the specifics and if anything about it is kind of vague to you, just make something up that isn’t.
6. Get feedback.
Put your bros on the spot after the show and ask them what they thought of your set. They’re always going to say positive things, because they’re your friends and they totally just watched you expose yourself to public ridicule. They’re being sensitive and polite and their input is worthless. However, the people you don’t ask, who just come and give you unsolicited comments, are probably more likely to avoid eye contact if they didn’t like it. Listen to those guys.
7. Pay to play.
Science suggests that playing more shows makes your band better at not sucking. There was also a study somewhere that proposed opening for bands bigger than your own will expose you to larger amounts of people. Find those bands and pay them to let you open for them. It doesn’t have to be money. Sometimes drugs or “please” works just fine.
8. Sign up for a “battle of the bands.”
Stay for the entire show and study both the bands and the fans carefully. These are not bands you want to sound like, and these are not people you want to sell records to.
9. Social media is your best friend.
Sadly, most folks aren’t going to come see you unless they know what you sound like, or if you’re opening for someone they already like (see No. 7). Put some shit on Facebook and Bandcamp. And, if you want to pretend you’re Paramore and pretend the fans you don’t have yet adore every little detail of what your band is doing, start a Twitter.
10. Talk about what your songs are about.
When Makenzie Green told me her band Birdcloud’s songs were about “drinkin’, doin’ drugs, Jesus, birth defects,” there wasn’t much that was going to stop me from listening to it. Also, if you want people to stick around during your set, say things like, “This song is about taking acid on the moon because you don’t have any arms.” People might just stick around for that, even if your song is just about your mom or something.