20 questions every band should answer

By Christopher Harding
Salt Lake City, Utah


Want to know if you’re cut out for a full-time music career?  Would you like to know at what level you’re best suited to play?  Well, hang tight because that’s exactly what you’re about to have the opportunity to explore.

After reviewing the successes, failures, exciting stories, and disappointments of a variety of artists and bands, I compiled a list of some of the key characteristics and habits of those who have punctured their local and regional envelope and dashed out onto the national scene.  I also reviewed interviews and coaching sessions I’ve done with artists or bands who came to the realization that they were really better suited and more aptly served by keeping their efforts closer to home—in their city, state, or region.

The following is, in a very real regard, a list of twenty elements or ingredients that successful acts follow.  Whether your dream is local, national, or international, applying these elements will be required if you want to truly maximize your opportunity.  Some of the last questions in the list are also indicators of what else will be necessary if you want to seriously expand your territory beyond your own local scene.

The following is a 20 Question Artist Evaluation that you (and possibly your band mates) may want to take.  It could give you some insight as to where you are on your pathway.

Simply answer “Yes” or “No” to the following questions (and by the way, if your answer isn’t a solid, unequivocal “Yes,” then it’s “No”—and remember, honest answers will give you more valuable feedback, so tell it like it is):

1.  Can you take genuine feedback easily and are you willing to hear ways you could improve without becoming defensive (i.e. are you committed to continual improvement)?

2.  Are you willing to push beyond your limitations even when it’s hard and very uncomfortable?

3.  Do you talk about how awesome it is when other bands reach a level of success you haven’t yet reached (does it inspire you and stoke you up to do better)?

4.  Do you (or your band) regularly write songs that people (beyond your friends and family) are hungry to buy (in whatever format you have them in)?

5.  Do you practice at least 3 times a week (for periods of 3 hours or longer)? And yes, gigs can count as practice.  So if you’re out gigging multiple times a week and are constantly improving by doing so, great!  Just make sure you are also spending the time outside the gigs to improve your performances where needed.

6.  Do you regularly rehearse your established sets as if you were doing a live show in order to perfect your entire performance (and get it embodied at the cellular level so you have the freedom to effectively improvise)?

7.  Are you fully committed to blowing your audience away every time you perform regardless of where you are and how many people are there (i.e. do you perform full out 10 times out of 10)?

8.  Do you regularly make wise, well thought-out decisions in life (do you seek advice from people who are more experienced than you)?

9.  Do you have a strong, viable, grassroots fan base that promotes you and serves as your Street Team and your die-hard advocates?


10.  Are you accumulating a fan info data base that’s in a useable format (including email addresses, phone numbers, addresses, whatever you can accumulate from mailing lists, fan clubs, social networks, etc.)?

11.  Do you create opportunities to interact with and associate with your fans in ways that also allow you to celebrate who they are and what they’re passionate about while still leaving them wanting more?

12.  Do you have a website, Facebook site, MySpace site, and a Twitter following that you regularly update and utilize to build fan loyalty and interaction (a key ingredient of successful communities)?

13.  Is destiny calling you so strongly that you are convinced an essential part of your nature has to do with bringing your music to as many people as you can reach?

14.  Is your musical career at the top of your priority list (right after your ethics and your key relationships)?

15.  Are your ethics aligned with and key relationships enthusiastically and unrelentingly supportive of your dream and goals about a career in music?

16.  Do you regularly get into the studio (how ever large or small) and record your music, work out arrangements, master the art of studio performance (vs. live performance) so that your recorded music captures the verve, vitality, and vibe of your live performances?

17.  Is your passion for music and success greater than your ego (i.e. can you drop your sense of self-importance or your story and become results driven vs. ego driven)?

18.  Are you comfortable not being home and being on the road in far less than elegant circumstances?

19.  Do you have a job(s) and/or the lifestyle that enables you to take time off and hit the road?

20.  Are you an incredibly dedicated, tenacious, hard working person (or group) who never gives up?

If you answered “Yes” to at least 18 out of 20 questions, your commitment level and your chances of excelling are high (if you’re in this category and also answered “Yes” to Questions 13 through 20, then your odds of expanding beyond a local and regional level are greatly increased).

If you answered “Yes” to at least 15 out of 20 questions, your commitment level indicates that you have a moderate chance of excelling (and you may likely be better served to stay local or regional).

If you answered “Yes” to less than 15 out of 20 questions, it’s likely that you are either not ready to “go for it” or may not have the level of passion needed to take your talent beyond friends, associates, or regulars at the bar or local hang out (and that’s fine, by the way—you can still have a very enjoyable experience sharing your music at the level that works for you).

Now, if you scored lower than you’d like, take a look at the questions you answered “No” to and ask yourself why you didn’t say “Yes.”  Is this something you’re willing to work on, learn from, and improve?  If so, naturally you can increase your score over time and your odds of taking your musical dreams to higher levels.  If not, and you think this questionnaire is bogus, that’s okay too.  There are exceptions to every rule and I’d genuinely love to have you prove the survey wrong.  Just one thought about that approach, however.  In a business that’s already got one in a million odds, do you really want to make the odds even more difficult?  Okay, so that makes 21 questions, but you get the point.

Great quotes: Long-time friend and music industry executive, Coby Regehr, commented in a recent email, “In the many years I have spent surrounded by the music industry, I have drawn the same conclusion as you state in your articles.  Success has only happened to the ones who truly believe in music, the roots of music, and the sheer love of playing music.”  He went on to share a classic quote from Waylon Jennings, who once laughed when asked what it was like to be a big star. “Don’t kid yourself,” he told the reporter. “Being a star in the music business is really just one long, glorified bus ride.”

Added Tip: For a phenomenal education on an artist’s relationship to the music business, take a look at Donald Passman’s “All You Need to Know About the Music Business.” It’s the like a college level course on the biz that everyone who’s serious about stepping up to the next level should be fully conversant on.

Permission to use this article was granted from Author @ Examiner.com



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