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Band Help! Insight and Tips that Breed Band Success — Part 1: Refined Focus

Band Help! Insight and Tips that Breed Band Success — Part 1: Refined Focus

Hey there. How the hell have you been? I know it's been awhile since we last spoke -- a little too long, actually. I want to assure you that all is well on my end of the computer screen, and I hope that the same goes for you.

Last time you were here with me, we discussed some of my ideas on "training the mind" to better prepare you for your ascension. I hope you took the time to really digest and absorb what was said in order to get the full effect and really feel the power of that particular column. Please let me know if you've gotten anything useful out of it by contacting me at dansugarman12@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

Since my last column, I have definitely been getting busy and making good use of my time. Besides finishing out the Never Say Die European Tour 2011, being a part of the almighty Thrash & Burn Tour 2011 (USA) and having a fuckin' blast while doing it, I've started teaching online private guitar lessons through bandhappy.com.

This innovative and forward-thinking website is going to single-handedly change the face of today's music world. It will do this by connecting musicians across the globe and giving anyone the chance to learn from thousands of their favorite musicians. Everyone now has the ability to grow and evolve into an incredible musician with the guidance and helping hand of their own personal influences and musical idols, thanks to this amazing new tool. Five years from now, our idea of talent and virtuosity will be completely different, thanks to BANDHAPPY. Get into it; join the movement.

You can take a lesson with me at virtually any time and date of your choice from the comfort of your own home. Lesson topics can be on literally any subject of your choice, ranging from (but not limited to): mastering the fundamentals and mechanics of proper guitar playing, learning music theory, perfecting the acoustic arts, advanced solo and rhythm techniques, honing your songwriting and creative skills -- all the way to getting personalized band advice and consulting on what steps your band needs to take in order to gain fans, be heard and get noticed by the people who matter.

You can contact me on my BANDHAPPY teacher profile here to schedule your first lesson with me. You will receive a special deal on my hourly rates just by mentioning you've read this column. Make a move. The ball is in your court now!

On top of offering these lessons to those who are interested (Shouldn't you be?), I am also writing the third As Blood Runs Black record, the second Fallen Figure record, as well as starting and writing for various other projects that I have had in the works behind closed doors. One of those projects is called The Ocean Above, another is called Blindlight, and the third one is called CenterSun. Be on the lookout for updates and new music from these bands soon!

To say I'm on an obsessive creative kick at this point in my life would be fair to say, and I won't take offense -- just don't call me crazy! I've been known to write and work on my music at pretty odd times of day and night for hours and hours without even taking a single break. That includes breaks for eating, drinking water, resting my eyes/brain/hands and even just getting up to use the bathroom. Maybe I am crazy?

I feel that once the creative flow has taken over my body and mind that if my concentration is broken, then I will lose the organic flow and momentum of that once-in-a-lifetime moment of creation. That isn't to say you can't jump back into another creative flow, but it just won't be the same as before. In other words, the musical path you take on your second attempt will lead you somewhere else in the end.

Although, sometimes it is wise to interrupt your flow if you've reached a dead end or feel like your brain has turned into mush, but otherwise I tend to commit myself fully to the first organic flow. When this creative mood strikes me and I am possessed by it -- everything, and I mean everything, just kind of falls to the side as my senses shut off. My goal and purpose comes into view, a new level of focus takes over, and then I go into tunnel-vision creation mode. Perhaps I'm channeling messages from another dimension for all I know ... does anybody even know what creativity is or where it comes from? It's a weird thing to be possessed by something so natural, powerful and as unexplainable as music. I'm a slave to it, and I think you are too. That's why you're here, isn't it?

You're here with me now because you're a musician looking for answers -- just like the rest of us. You're here with me right now because you think there is something I might say in the next sentence or two that could help you improve upon your music, or quite possibly even change your way of operating in your daily life. You're still here with me now, reading this very paragraph, because I'm reading your mind ... what? Alright, I'm done with that ... it won't happen again.

Are you in a band looking to take the next step, but you don't feel you have all the pieces that you'll need to be successful? Does your band still have a lot of improvements to make, but you're not quite sure how to do it or where to begin? Maybe you've played some larger gigs, but your band didn't get the reactions or achieve the results that you were looking for? Do you feel like you and your band members put in the time and effort necessary to be the best band you can be -- but you still feel as if there is still room to improve? If so, then this article will help you tremendously.


In today's column, "Band Help! Insight & Tips That Breed Band Success - Part I: Refined Focus," I'm going to reveal some of the biggest secrets about how to turn your band into a marketable product that people will flock to see and want to become a part of. I will also discuss with you in great detail where you need to focus your energy, and how to get the results that you and your band are looking for.

Being in a band -- seeing as you're still reading this particular Guitar World column -- would also mean that you're a musician. But in today's day and age, where the New Music World revolves around social networking, heavy touring, downloads, guerilla-style marketing and merchandising -- being a musician is simply not enough. You must be a true entertainer, and a business man if you want your band to stand out and rise above the rest. More on the latter in my next columns.

Let's kick off today's lesson by talking about what really makes your band stick in peoples' minds and how to stand out from the rest - YOUR LIVE SHOW. You must not forget that being in a band really means that you're an entertainer, right? Playing a show in front of a ton of people means nothing if those people don't walk away with sore necks from head banging, raspy voices from screaming their lungs out, and a hunger for more. If your band can't give solid and consistent performances of your band's music played to perfection, then you have a major problem. If you're not playing those songs with high energy, coordination, and without offering something different visually -- then you and your band are simply out of luck and will fall victim to what every band fears...achieving absolutely nothing. If you're looking to take the next step together -- continue reading.

When your band plays a show, you have to recognize that your music is only about half of what most of your fans are looking at. Whether that decision is a conscious one or not, it is still a fact and it must be attended to. Where does the other half of their interest go you might be wondering? The answer is simple -- it goes into focusing on the visual side of things. They are looking to be entertained by what's happening onstage, and you must to deliver.

If they just wanted to hear your music, then they would have stayed at home and listened to your demo, EP, or album. But no! They've already left their homes hours ago and paid good money to have their ears AND eyes pleased. You need to engage the audience members, fulfill their needs, and leave them feeling like they were just a part of something special -- thus wanting more.

When this is executed properly, these new fans will feel compelled to invite others to your performance the next time you come around their area. If you can succeed in putting on an unforgettable show, then people will walk away with the impression: "Wow! That band sounded incredible AND looked extremely PROFESSIONAL. They must know what they're doing and have something going for them. I want to support this band by doing whatever it takes to become a part of their movement and what they're doing!"

Perception is Reality -- if these people leave your show thinking that you're a professional band because of how amazingly you've executed your show, then you are a professional band. What you present to them on the surface is all that they can see, thus making THEIR perception YOUR reality. Make sense?

In this business, it's the audience who decides which bands make it and which bands break it. Although you can do your part to sway their opinions, in the end it is still up to them. On top of that, people are prone to following the "herd mentality." They often herd together and follow trends, or quite literally jump on the bandwagon. So in other words -- if you put the right amount of effort and ground work into this, then you will have decided the outcome for them. In turn, you will have successfully created a domino effect in your favor. Recruit the right people to your "team", and win over the masses. Simple as that. Well...maybe it's not so simple.


Does luck have anything to do with this? You might be saying to yourself, "Of course it does. Luck is involved in the music business 100%. You have to be in the right place at the right time...right? How else does it happen without luck?" The answer is this -- with the proper planning & preparations, you can do anything that you put your mind to.

Luck is simply a byproduct of those two things -- proper planning & preparation. The phrase "you have to be in the right place at the right time" is incomplete and in this case totally outdated if you take that into consideration. Try this version instead: You have to be the RIGHT PERSON, in the right place, at the right time. What does that mean? It means that you really are in control of your own life, and you are capable of creating your own "luck" -- as long as you take the steps necessary by being prepared and planning ahead.

If you can impress and amaze just a few people from each show that you play, then they will each walk away with your band on their mind. They will go to school or work the next day and tell all of their friends about this amazing new band that they just discovered. Those friends will then turn and tell their friends, who will in turn go and tell their friends, etc. etc.

In business terms, this idea is called exponential growth, and is also known in the musical world as "word of mouth". It is one of the keys to getting your band's name out there and to having your music spread like wild fire. It's like a highly contagious, incurable disease that people actually want!

What does the idea of "exponential growth" mean for your band? It means that next time you play a show in the same area that you'll have 10x as many people there to see your band perform. Quite an awesome thing to witness right? Well, it is -- except that it's not really about how MANY fans you have as much as it's about how FANATICAL those fans are. You want the type of fans that will be in the front row screaming your band's name, singing your lyrics back to you, banging their heads, throwing their hands high in the sky when you tell them to, and air drumming every single snare hit and drum fill that is played.

You see -- those are the people that will go to all of your shows, buy your t-shirts as well as all of your albums (even though they thought your previous album was better). They'll cheer louder for your band then they will for X-Band, they'll tell every person that they walk by in the streets about you after the show, and they'll support you and your band until the very end - no matter what. These people are your loyal supporters -- your super fans. They are the fuel to your fire. The oil for your machine. The air that your band breaths. They are what your band's career is dependent on. You must take care of these people in return for them taking care of you.

Offer these true fans exclusive experiences to show your appreciation and to remind them of how much you really do care about them. Maybe offer them incentives to help your band grow as well. You can do this by asking them to help promote your band in their areas, and in a sense you will be creating a "street team" for your band. You can do this in every city that you play in -- get creative with it.

You can offer them exclusive experiences such as free tickets to shows, backstage passes, one-on-one lessons with members of the band, exclusive video content that only THEY will see, as well as merch contests & giveaways -- all in return for supporting & promoting your band. You'd be surprised at how willing your fans are to trade their time for yours. Why? Because they are just that -- fans of your music and what you do. Just remember that if you want to prolong the life of your band that you must treat your fans with respect, hospitality, honest appreciation, and a true sense of caring. As long as you know how to interact with your fans and deepen the connection that they already have with you, then your fan base will continue to grow, and you will begin to harvest the fruits of your labor.

Take time out of your day to really learn about them and what makes them tick. Take every chance that you get to talk with your fans so that you can strengthen the bond that you already have with them. Doing this will prove that their is no difference between you and them. It will show them your true character and give your fans even more of a reason to love what you do. Remember, you're just another human being playing an instrument -- it just so happens that you've taken the steps (preparation & planning) necessary to be where you are today -- something that they look up to. This genuine interest that you have in your supporters will bring them even closer to you and your music, and it will also inspire your fans to continue their support for you. It might even inspire them to chase after their own dreams and aspirations -- my personal fuel for doing what I do.

When someone approaches me and says that it was my band that got them into metal, or my solos that inspired them to pick up a guitar, or my lyrics that kept them from taking their own life -- THAT is the reason why I do this. It is one of the most rewarding and powerful feelings I've ever felt to know that my music's message has been received and taken to heart. You guys are the reason why I put myself through hell -- I do this all for you.

Keep these ideas in mind and be sure to exercise them daily. Remember that knowledge ISN'T power. It's the APPLICATION of that knowledge that gives you power. Keep going, stay true to yourself, and stay inspired.

Well, that concludes Part I of "Band Help! Insight & Tips that Breed Band Success". Thanks for taking the time to read all of this through until the very end. I hope that you've learned a few things here and are willing to put the time and work that's required into making your dream a reality. Think ahead and take advantage of the tools that you have available to you so that you can leverage your way into the spot light. Take your life into your own hands and forge your own future. You have no excuse not to at this point!

Stay tuned for my next installment of "Band Help!" as I will be discussing the proper way to practice as a band, as well as performance advice & tips.

But until then, this is Dan Sugarman here, signing out.

You stay classy, planet earth.

(Contact me for guitar lessons & band consulting at www.bandhappy.com/profile/dansugarman if you are interested in receiving guidance along your path to greatness. I am accepting students of all levels, ages, and styles. Don't hesitate! Contact me today.)



Ride Along with Jimmie Vaughan in Oak Cliff Mardi Gras Parade