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As an up-and-coming band, you have to do almost everything yourself | Photo: Jakub Hemala
As an up-and-coming band, you have to do almost everything yourself | Photo: Jakub Hemala
Tonda Buček -

7 Skills a Budding Band Needs To Master

As you probably know, DIY stands for "do it yourself." And if you're a budding band, you're probably actually taking care of everything yourself. From the music to the organisation and the eventual paperwork. You are your own manager, you do the bookings, you pay the bills. I have a lot of experience with this and sometimes it horrifies me to think of all the things I'm supposed to know and be able to do.

Actually, it's only when you're a bit more established and wealthy ( meaning: you have a job, so you have a somewhat normal budget) that you can afford to outsource some things. For example: you get band T-shirts printed so you don't have to batik them at home in your garage. Or have a music video made so you don't have to shoot it on your iPhone. Below, you'll find seven skills you can't do without in the start-up process. I cite from my own experience things I have done, used, needed to learn, or had friends in other bands do for my band. Don't take this as an absolute and exhaustive list. It's more of an outline of what your band can expect at this stage. Of course, it also depends on what and how you play, where you play, what your demands are, how far along you are, etc. And if you're further along, you can now relax about what you don't need to know and be able to do—because, lucky you, someone else will do it for you.

1. Musician, composer

The basic and most important skill is to master your own instrument, to master various playing techniques, to understand the instrument technically, to be able to modify it, if necessary, and to to either know music theory or be a maverick and rely on your ear. These days, it's inevitable that you will have to use a PC or some recording equipment;  you need to be at least somewhat handy with various music computer programs—notation programs, recording programs (DAW)—and know how to use plugins and libraries (VST), music formats wav and mp3, and conversions. Add to that the ability to work with external devices, with various effects and gadgets; to be familiar with midi, quantization, midi controls; EQ; synthesizers, and oscillators.

2. Artwork designer, cameraman, DTP, multimedia expert

You'll need to know some graphics software, whether Photoshop, GIMP, or others; you can't do without layers and transparency (alpha channel); jpg, png, pdf formats should definitely ring a bell; you should know the difference between RGB and CMYK colour spaces and what they're for; basic typesetting, crop marks, bleed, working with text and color channels; burning a CD and preparing for pressing (if you're not satisfied with just a stream), ISO/disc image; red book; for video, it will be useful to know the basics of filming and cinematography; composition; full shots, half shots, close-ups; panorama; editing programs; editing basics; greenscreen and chroma keying; to be familiar with codecs (H. 264) and video containers (avi, mpg, mov) and to know how to convert them.

3. Lawyer

You should know what legal forms a band can take, what's advantageous for you and what's not, and when; know the legalities of running a band (if you're selling merch or tickets, you're in business, do you know that?); know your licensing, i.e. your rights to your music; any representation by organizations such as ASCAP.

4. Booker, promoter, manager

You'll need to arrange gigs, organise rehearsals, find bandmates; everyone knows how to use their phone and email; it's worth mentioning here that politeness is a basic rule; keep up to date with webzines and general media where you can promote your band; radio; magazines; not being afraid to speak up; writing; imposing yourself (sensibly); knowing how to send a letter or parcel even abroad; sometimes you have to deal with customs; someone has to drive you to the gig, so a driving licence is useful; and cars sometimes break down.

5. PR copywriter

It's not easy to formulate basic info about your band in one sentence, so that nothing is missing and it's interesting to read; it's also not kosher to write posts on social networks with typos in them; it's useful to write promotional texts, posts and articles, sometimes in multiple languages; it's useful to write catchy, interesting titles and headlines; if you have ambitions outside your home country, you need to know the language; at least English is very useful.

6. Programmer, IT-specialist

You'll probably want a band website, so someone has to program it; knowledge of at least HTML, CSS, some PHP, or other backend language is also useful; database; it's hard to do without good SEO nowadays; know how to upload a video to YouTube and how to set the metadata correctly; how to increase viewership; relevance; as well as get yourself onto other websites and profiles, preferably making sure that they work together; e-shop.

7. "The band clown" or the relationship expert

Besides all that, a band is also very much about working with people. Having someone who unites the band, who can settle disputes and disagreements, is worth all the money in the world; knowing how to work with people; empathy; management; leadership. . . . 

Well, there's an awful lot more. And it's clear you can't be an expert in everything. The more you do, the more superficially you touch a given area, or it takes an awful lot of your time. So think about how to divide up the work in the band or delegate it to someone else.

If I've forgotten anything else important, throw it in the comments. Or show off what bizarre things you've had to learn or overcome for your band.

Tagy How-To Budding Band starting band DIY musician

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Tonda Buček
I am a guitarist and composer in the Brno metal band ROSA NOCTURNA ( We recently released our fourth album Angels and Beasts, which rides the waves of symphonic-folk metal. You can find more info about me on my webs…