I've been playing in bands for ten years now. I work with bands at a recording studio (Clutch Sound) and at a venue (The Frequency) and I help form new ones at Girls and Ladies Rock Camp. My whole life is bands. Here's what they should stop doing. It's like 'What Not To Wear'! Everybody's favorite shame fest.
You have to admit, that gray streak will always be trendy. She's like Rogue. Except Stacy London has a larger potential for destruction.
1. Describing your sound as "indescribable"
Oh my goodness just stop it. If I'm trying to figure out what you sound like from your website or your social media presence, I'm really turned off by vague and hyperbolic statements like "gotham sidewalk defies genre and their sound can't be pigeonholed into any one style" GET OVER YOURSELF. If you have a drummer, you can call yourself rock. All I want to know in the Genre category is if you're folk, bluegrass, country, metal, electronic, hip hop -- if you can't be described by one of those genres then you're either rock, pop, or indie. Pick one and go with it.
It's like having a customer go to your website about literally any other product and on the photo of the soup you just say 'documentaries, fuzzy blankets, women' - I really don't have any idea what that soup is going to taste like. I have an idea about you, that you are funny, weird, and a fucking hipster. But it's in that annoying way that I just want to do my job and now I have to come up with my own words for how to *actually* describe you on our website.
Don't be a hipster jerk.
2. Not putting your songs up for streaming
You gotta have a BandCamp or a SoundCloud site these days. If you don't, important people who can get you gigs and other things won't be able to listen to you. If they can't listen to you, they'll move on to someone they can listen to because they're busy people. It's also ridiculously easy to do, and to integrate with your facebook page. So do it already.
3. Using phone photos for promo
For god sake get professional photos done. Then make a poster template and always send a poster to the venue when you get booked. I'm not as good at the poster thing as I should be, but it's definitely a good habit. A professional photographer is not hard to find. Go find a local band you like and ask their photographer. For a professional shoot with lights and touch-ups and everything you're looking at $250 on the HIGH end. On the low end, get your friend who just got into photography to do it and buy them a pizza. Invest in your band. It's like if you're trying to sell the best burger in town and everyone says it tastes awesome, but the photo on the menu was taken in a bathroom. It's like anything Martha Stewart puts on twitter.
4. Posing in front of brick walls for your band photo
It's time to be more creative. Really? A line? In front of a wall? Whose idea was this? The same guy whose lyrics include the line "fade away"? Because that's equally over. It's like bloomers. Those are never coming back.
Bloomers. I will eat my hat if they come back. No wait, I'll write a song called Fade Away. And it will SUCK.
5. Ignoring social media
If you "don't do facebook" or "don't do twitter" that means you don't care about being successful. Get over it and have an online presence. Have fun with it. Tell us what you're doing. Tell us as much as you can about your band. Inspire us. Make us laugh. Show us something pretty.
6. Writing a novel for your bio
I really don't give a shit if you've been singing since you entered the universe. You and the rest of the world, your mom just called it singing. It's just not going to help you stand out. Include *interesting* things. Were you singing Marilyn Manson when you were a baby? That's notable. It is mind-numbingly as boring as the book of Chronicles to read "Mike met Bob and then they started playing together and then they met Kevin who played the drums and then they started writing and then they met Rita and she could sing so they added her." The How and the Why are way more interesting than the What, Where, and When. And if you do have a long and interesting biography, have a shorter 1-2 paragraph description that promo people can quickly digest and copy.
This was on the first page of google image search for "tl;dr" and god dammit I carpe diemed this shit.
7. Expecting anyone else to promote you
Unfortunately it's not how it works anymore. Actually I'm not sure it ever worked that way if you weren't signed, but it doesn't matter. That's not how it works now. The venue will poster for you and try to get people in the door but if you are touring to a city with NO FRIENDS THERE you better do the leg work to get a local band playing with you who will bring their fans. Rely on making friends with other bands in the area; not on the venue itself.
8. Apologizing on stage
As a regular human, if you're a little awkward in front of me or you mess something up, I appreciate a little "sorry" as much as the next person. But as an audience member when you HAVE THE STAGE the last thing I want is for you to apologize for ANYTHING. I WANT you to succeed. I want you to be a bad ass confident earth-shattering force of nature who will make me feel the same way by being awesome yourself. If you do something less than awesome, own it. Save face. It's only a mistake if you call it one when you are on the stage. The stage isn't a place to be nice. Save that for interacting with your fans *after* you obliterate their minds with your amazing stage-ness.
9. Getting super jealous of successful bands
There is enough room for you!! The only reason musicians get destructively jealous of other bands is insecurity. Let a successful band inspire you. I had to learn this lesson, and I'm still learning it.
One of my favorite quotes. So favorite that I have it tatooed on my arm.
10. Not going to shows
GO. TO. SHOWS. If you want to succeed in any business, you need to network. 'Network' is one of those icky words that artists like us hate using, but it's so important. Think of it like making new friends who are interested in the same things you are: making music. Go to shows and make new friends doing what you want to do. You can learn something from any band, even a "bad" one. In the spirit of learning what not to do, it is just as educational to see a band doing things that you *don't* connect with to make a mental note of what you *don't* want to do in your own act.