I once did some work for a band that told me they never really went to see live bands themselves and that when they went out it was to dance music venues. They could not tell me what made for a good live show as they had almost never been to one!  Amazing, they play in a band but did not go out to see bands.

Go to all of the venues in your area, check out the size of the stage, format of shows, what gear do the bands have, length of sets, who are the audience and why are they there. Get a feel for the other bands. Who are the most popular bands and why? 

This is basic market research. It might help to read a good book on music marketing while you are at this stage.

Identify your target demographic. When I ask a band who their target demographic is sometimes I get an answer of: “Everyone really.”  If this were truly the case then advertising their gigs in the Financial Review would be just as effective as advertising the local music street press - I think NOT.   Once you identify your demographic you can direct some advertising toward them in a media where you are not competing with other music advertising.  eg. your demographic may be the same as Cleo readers.

Demographics are much more than age and gender.  They could include:  social grouping, marital status, employment status, entertainment habits, 'tribe', ethnic group, religious beliefs, political views, hobbies etc.

Know what "Tribe" your market is.  About Tribes:


To establish yourself as an entity in the music world you need:

All of these things have to tie together and support one another.  

Note that two acts can do exactly the same marketing but one takes off and the other never goes anywhere.  You can easily monitor hits on your web site, views of your YouTube videos and size of your e-mail list.  The difference is usually in the quality of your content.  Not so much in the production quality but in how interesting your songs and videos are.  If it is not working I suspect you need new songs and artistically rich concepts in your videos etc.


Initially your gigs will be small free gigs.  They will be band competitions and open mic nights for bands.  If you are an outstanding act you will quickly find this brings other bookings but be prepared to do most of the work making your own gigs.  These gigs are important as it demonstrates a track record of successful live performance.  The historical list of gigs should be on your web site.  Check out how  lists his gigs on his web site.

If you have booked a gig DON'T CANCEL SHOWS!  Very important.  If you cancel stuff, especially at short notice, you will find it very difficult to get another booking from that agent.

Many successful managers and agents are men in their 50's, 60's and 70's.  They grew up in a world where live work was king.  Unless you can demonstrate a track record of good live shows they won't book you. 

It is really easy to get a headline show in a venue on a Friday or Saturday night IF you can pull enough people to fill the place.  But if you take this booking and can only get 2 men and a dog to attend the venue will hate you and never book you again.  Don't bite off bigger gigs than you can chew.

You have to be doing the Internet marketing in parallel with this.  A well managed e-mail list is extremely valuable.  You can't skip this step substituting it with social media marketing.  The trick is to find a way to leverage the small show into a wider impact than the 25 people who saw it.  This is done with reviews, the advertising around the gig, your list of historical gigs that just says you played at XYZ Hotel not that it was a band competition.


Once you have developed some momentum start marketing yourself artist to artist with bands a couple of steps above you.  Have you manager contact the manager and do some manager to manager marketing.  The aim is to get support gigs to expose yourself to a much larger audience.

Once you are pulling paying audience of 200 to 300 people to regular gigs over a wide geographic area record companies will be calling you.  A record deal is almost certainly the step you need to take you to the next level.  You are making enough money at this point to hire a publicist.  A good publicist will have a big impact.

Once you have this sort of vibe going around you then you will find yourself being booked for festivals too.  There are very valuable as they are widely advertised with your name on the bill and thousands of people will see that one show.


There are plenty of clubs and hotels in Australia that have auditoriums that can hold 1,000 to 1,200 people.  If you can fill these with people playing $25 to $50 per show that could gross $50,000 per gig.  Do a tour of 20 to 30 venues from Cairns, down the east coast through Melbourne and across to Adelaide. Multiply this out to find the big dollars.

Have a look at what well known Australian acts are doing.  They advertise these tours on a regular basis.  You can see from their tours which venues they go to then call up the venue to find out the capacity of the rooms.

You can sell the tickets through an on-line ticketing company like Ticketek and TicketMaster.  They will sell and distribute the tickets then transfer the money to you on the first business day after the show.

You will need to pay your manager, agent, accommodation, transport etc.  But if you are smart you should be able to keep 50% of it after all the costs.  Many of the auditoriums have their own high quality PA systems so you don't need to take the semi-trailer loads of gear.  Places that don't have a good PA will have a local company who can provide it.

It really pays to have a act that can scale up into an auditorium holding 1,200 people.  You need a big sound to fill these rooms.  (BTW a big sound does not necessitate rock music.)


The chances that your songwriting, singing, stage shows, performance and musicianship are all world class today is not high. You should not be a perfectionist as nothing will ever be perfect but you can strive for excellence and try to get better every day. There is a management process of used by major companies and dynamic small ones to foster continuous improvement in products and services.  It is in 3 parts:

and this process can be used for improving the act.  These 3 items are a continuous loop.  Start at the top and repeat over and over.

The Performance can be any part of the process from a gig to songwriting.

The Feedback could include watching a video tape of your gig (always and interesting thing to watch).  It could be a particular song filling the dance floor, or emptying it.  It could be an increase in traffic to your web site after posting a video to  It is something that can be observed or measured.  Comments from your tone deaf maiden aunt are not good feedback.

Feedback that was totally unexpected is often the most valuable.

Review  Based on the feedback you got what can you do to improve things?  More of the good, less of the bad or ineffective.  For example, less talking between songs and more vocal harmonies.

The immature artist finds the feedback part too difficult so will never sufficiently engage in the review to make real improvement.


You can't start and run a business on no money.  A band is a business so you need some capital and the business skills to run a small business.  There are expenses that include:  rehearsal rooms, a web site, some sort of demo CD to send to agents and bookers, registration of a business name, registration of your Internet domain name, equipment, merchandise, graphical design, advertising and other promotional activities.

There are ways to cut costs by doing things like:  rehearsing in your parent's rumpus room, doing your demo in a friend's home studio and getting the graphic design is done by a friend studying it at TAFE.  You are still going to need thousands of dollars and lots of friends willing to help.

If every person in 5 piece band contributed $20 per week to the band account then you would have something to work with.  Over a year this would be about $5,000 for a 5 piece band.  Just make sure the band book keeper doesn't spend it on drugs or getting his car fixed.  "But I needed it!"

Money invested in bands is very high risk investment.  There is no guarantee of a return.  


Have a day job, move in with your family to drastically reduce your expenses and save money while you work hard practicing your instrument, singing and writing songs.  Live like you are on the dole, work like you have a big mortgage and save while you prepare yourself and your music.

Performing music.  You could play in a duo doing covers in RSL's.  Not an exciting gig but you will become a better player doing it.  These duo gigs are the best paid performances for an average working musician.  The quickest way to make this a money maker is to join an agent backed working duo.  Savage Garden were in a covers band before they started doing original material.


Check out the page about the Internet.  I am not going to repeat it all here.  But have your own web site, work a couple of the social networking web sites that have a demographic appropriate to your music and work the Internet into your business model.   


So how much money are bands around Sydney making?  A capitalist would say:  "Exactly what they are worth."  After all, in a door deal if you can pull 500 people to every gig each paying $20 each then you are grossing $10,000 per gig and even after GST, agent, manager, promotion, PA and support acts you are doing well.  However, you may need to have had a few hit records to get this sort of pulling power.

If a venue has 150 punters go through the door each paying a door charge of $10.  Total collection is $1500 from which the venue may take $1 per punter to cover costs such as advertising. So there is $1350 for the bands, from this we deduct:

GST net of GST rebates $31
Booking Agent 10% $135
Manager 15%
Pole or cafe posters $150
Sound Engineer $100
Door Person $50
Support Act 1 $300
Support Act 2 $100

From the $282 net to the band you have to divide that between the members after paying PAYE tax, superannuation, workers compensation etc. 

I bet you are wondering why the GST is only $31.  Your net GST figure is $135 less the GST you claim back on the invoices of the agent, manager, posters, support acts etc.

Did I mention your band will probably need an accountant too?  The days of pubs paying the act in cash from the till with nothing declared to the Tax Office or Social Security are long gone.


Think up a name and do a search for it using several search engines on the Internet.  If it comes up then you may not be able to use it.  Go to and check whether is available.   There are other options like or too.  

There is a band I loved, featuring the fabulous guitarist Chris Peterson, but they called themselves The Next and it was impossible to find anything about them on the Internet.  These 2 words are so commonly used that it was impossible to find them among all the other clutter.

Domain Name registration has emerged as a cheap and modestly effective way of securing a band name internationally. Certainly much less costly (but not as effective as) international trade mark registration. (Less than 1% of the cost).


Early in the life of your band you have to get together with the key members. The key roles are: 

These roles can be all held by one person or several people.  Until you have this core group you don't have a band you have an idea.  The act will be much more stable if the key members are brothers/sisters or at least friends who have been close forever. The key members should have a shared commitment to a common goal.

Just look at how many successful bands have two brothers at their core.  Oasis, The Angels, INXS, Van Halen etc.

It saves time if you write and record a simple demo of your first group of songs with your key members before recruiting the rest of the band.  If you recruit first and the writing period takes too long people will lose interest.  If about 15 songs are written and there is a basic demo when people join they will have a better idea of what they are joining and will know if they share the same artistic vision.  The new band members will be able to build their instrumental parts around the skeleton of the song you have written.


Look for reliable people with a similar artistic vision and skill levels.  Set their expectations so they are not expecting instant success.  Working an act up, doing your first gigs, building a reputation for the great show you are doing, recording and releasing material all takes time and money.  I have seen people quit bands after 3 months because things weren't moving quickly enough for them.  Getting a new band started from scratch takes time but if you get everything right things can move very quickly.  You might still be playing the local hotels after 4 years and 3 months later be playing a stadium like the Superdome - such is the effect of a hit or two.

Before recruiting the band I would do the following to get things started quickly:  

  1. Write the first 15 songs and produce a basic demo of them.  It is very important that the demo just be the bare bones of the songs.  If you are trying to recruit a guitarist only put down a basic guitar line down so he feels he has creative input to the product rather than feel like he is playing in a covers band.  Let vocalists change words around too for the same reasons.

  2. Have an "audition kit" consisting of a CD with your 15 demo songs on it and "lead sheets" or chord charts with words, chords and melody on them.

Other things that make for a good band member are:  excellent interpersonal skills, high emotional intelligence, quality equipment, transport, a day job, being a 'stayer' not a 'quitter', and being emotionally robust so they can bounce back smiling when shit happens - and it will from time to time.  Drug users, drama queens, people who are broke, shift workers and people who join and want to change everything can cause big problems.

If your band is chasing success in the charts then you should think about investing most of the earnings from the band and more back into the promotion of the band until you have a hit.  Playing in a band is NOT a good way to make money until you have a hit.  If you want to make money from performing music - form a duo and play covers in RSL and football clubs. 


It is a tough world and you have to be good to survive.  Much of live band music market share has been lost to the DJs with the doof, doof music.  Two guitars, bass and drum bands where the guys just stand on stage looking at their feet are boring. Give the punters something with a decent groove we can dance to.  Give the punters a stage show we haven't seen before.  Give the punters some new sounds using samples, computers and electronic percussion.  You, yes YOU, should be at the cutting edge of modern music bringing the punters the sounds of tomorrow.  Push the edges of the envelope musically and culturally.  Otherwise, the punters may as well stay at home, watch MTV and get cheap beer from their own fridge. 

The pop stars of tomorrow will sound nothing like the stars of today.  The big stars of tomorrow will have new sounds not just repackaged old sounds.  How long will it be before I can see a band that only plays virtual modeled instruments on computers controlled by guitars, keyboards, electronic percussion surfaces, laser harps and sensors on dancer's bodies?  When will a band permit an audience to control filter sweeps on instruments by putting their hand through light beams above the crowd?  We live in an age where new music technology is coming out every day and yet I still see young guys trying to make it with tired old sounds and crap vocals.

Innovate or die.  Sydney band Toy Death showed us you can push the edges of the envelope a long way and still get gigs.  It has to be musically relevant not just weird.  It has to be good music.

If you play shows before you are ready they may be bad shows that haunt you for years.  Get a good show together, video a dress rehearsal and watch it for things that can be improved.  Record and listen to rehearsals.  It is amazing how different the experience of listening to a band is to actually playing in one.

Triple J Unearthed

Triple J Unearthed is an ABC sponsored program for promoting young bands etc.  It is a great way to get exposure and acts that have done well here get a lot of interest.  Get on to the site, upload your music and put in the effort to do well.  There are heaps of original bands on their web site you can listen to.  This is also a good place to find similar sounding acts to partner with for gigs.


So many times when I have done a consultancy for people I deliver a set of recommendations only to be told:  "I already know all that."  or  "We are already doing all that."  of something like that.  When I say "put interesting videos in"  and the artists video only gets 400 views in 6 months then he/she has missed point.  It has to be interesting to hundreds of thousands of people out there.  YouTube is a fabulous market research tool.  If a punter can't be bothered forwarding a video to a friend saying:  "Check this out..."  then they certainly won't be coming to your gig or buying your music.

When I have asked about e-mail lists and been told they have 10,000 people on it I am seriously impressed, until I hear they weren't people who subscribed to the band's list.  It was "borrowed" from someone else and they are spamming the list without an unsubscribe link.

The best one is:  "We have tried playing live and it doesn't work."  All of these things have to be done well or they won't be successful.  When you do good songs, played well, promoted well, accessible to your audience then things will fly.  These guys are not telling me why they can't play live, they are telling me why their music career failed.


First you need thousands people out there who have had a positive EXPERIENCE of your music.  People can EXPERIENCE your music via gigs, radio, TV,, or from your web site.  Without several thousand people with a positive EXPERIENCE there will be no one interested in buying your music.  Advertising can't sell music.  People become interested in buying your music from the positive experience of it.

Once you have a vibe happening in the media from your live work you have a chance of selling a reasonable quantity of music.

Because you have the vibe happening radio music directors will listen.  It will get you in the door but it has to be "radio friendly" for radio to play it.

The bottom line is YOU have to sell your music.  Not the record company - YOU.  Just like actors doing interviews before a new movie comes out.  They are selling the movie.  You have to go sell your music through gigs, interviews, press releases etc.  This is actually the main reason why the record company signed you, not what it sounded like but, YOUR ability to sell YOUR music.


Firstly radio is declining in importance to musicians.  There are heaps of other places that people can go for new music, especially the Internet.  Commercial radio is profit motivated and the music they put on is research driven.  They don't care about you or your music, they care about ratings which leads to advertising which leads to profits for share holders.  They might play music but they are not part of the music industry they are part of the media industry.  With all their talk and advertising they don't actually play that much music.

The Research they do includes includes:

It has to be commercially viable for the to play and fit within their format.

MMM will be rock
FBi is Indi.
2 DayFM - Chick music

At community radio it is the announcers that make the decisions of what is played. At commercial radio it is the Music Director that makes the decisions.  Notice each radio station has its own music format including the tempo of the music. For example: "We only play music with a tempo between 105 and 120 meats per minute."

For public radio send the material to each announcer by name. Address packages to them individually.


You have got to have some sort record label or distribution deal behind you so people can buy the song if they like it.  Without that the radio station will find it pointless playing your song.  They don't want to get a pile of calls saying:  "I want to buy that song, where can I get it?"  to then have to say they can't.  A digital distribution deal that gets you on to iTunes will do the job.

If you have a record company they should be doing the distribution of your material to radio stations so you don't really have to worry about it.  Most distribution to radio stations today is done via digital means.  You might have to do some marketing to key people in the radio stations to get them motivated to play it.


Record labels service radio stations from special distribution web sites and it loads the song and all it’s details straight into their Music Maestro system (a type of software to manage their music royalties and rights management.  They don't play CD's very much anymore.  They program the radio station using something like iTunes on steroids.)  The ABC, BBC, SkyNEWS, Radio France and others use Netia

Satellite radio is taking off in the USA. This gives people access to 50 or 100 different radio stations on a subscription basis. The leading network is Serious network and Howard Stearns is on it.  Digital radio has started in Australia and gives access to many more stations.  More info here and HERE


These are people who are best mates with and have real influence with all the relevant decision makers … BULL $H!T
There are a few good ones but most are of dubious value. Many of them charge big money but they are just considered pests by the people who count. They are often worse than useless.  I have met people who have spent thousands of dollars with radio pluggers and have nothing to show for it. (In the 1970's the Mafia guys in the USA were effective radio pluggers...)


Get your fans and street team to ring the radio stations and request the song. Ask them to ring radio stations on a list you give them once per week and request your latest song.  Ask them to pass this request on to friends and have them do it too.  Too many calls from the same people are obvious.


What will make you different to the other bands?  Or what makes you different from any other pretty girl/boy who can sing?  Think about what will set you apart and why people will want to see your act over all the other entertainment alternatives.  A good creative answer here will make a big difference to the long term success of your band.  Great examples of this include:  Kiss, Slipknot, Marilyn Manson, Spice Girls and the Blue Man Group. 

If you can't think of a really good answer to this question, one that you are passionate about, I would have to wonder if you are in the right business?


Sorry, but pretty girls with nice voices are a "dime a dozen".  What makes you different?  Many follow a similar path:  Spend a lot of money getting a producer to make a product for them, have a few glamorous photo shoots by a professional photographer, have a web site made for them, have a video or 2 made, do a few showcase gigs with hired session musicians and then; send out their package to record companies, Foxtel, managers and agents then wait, and wait, and wait ... for the offers to roll in.  At this point they often decide to independently release and self manage or move overseas due to the "lack of vision by Australian record companies".


Just wear jeans, runners and a dirty t-shirt.  Then stand there like posts.  That will get great reviews in the media, get the word of mouth happening and propel you to success NOT!


The Music Business is more about effective self promotion than singing or playing an instrument.  If you are musically challenged but a great a promoter of music a record company will more than happily help out musically if you can sell it.  

If you don't self promote no one else will do it for you and no one will end up hearing your music.


You should have an artistic designer who designs your graphical images.  It should be a consistent visual image designed by a professional graphic artist.  You can have it done as a package deal that should include:  Logo, posters, CD covers, fonts, T-shirts, business cards, stickers, web site, stage signage, stage image, costumes and everything else.

Don't have your photography done until the artistic designer gives the photographer a brief of what he or she needs.  Get your artistic designer to choose and talk directly to the photographer.  Have interesting photography done not the usual 5 people standing there like a police line up.  Make your posters so cool people will want to take it home and put it on their walls.  Check what size poster your agent wants before printing them.  A2 is common in Australia.

I can't tell you the number of times I have seen bands only start to think about what they will wear, how their photos will be composed or any part of their visual image until they are actually at the photo shoot.  The photographer asks them what the want and they reply, "I don't know."

See the page called Artwork Package for a checklist of what needs to be created.


Your web site is a highly cost effective promotional tool and should include:  News, copies of press releases, MP3 versions of your songs, your bio and high resolution photos of yourself for use in the media. Have B&W and colour options of photos. Your bio, press kit and demo could be nothing more than a business card with your web site on it.  

A web site is useless if no one can find it so there is a technique that can be applied to both your web site and your other sites called Search Engine Optimization.  It is fairly technical so enlist the help of someone who can do it properly.

How easy is it for journalists to cut and paste from your web site into their story making a few changes as they go.  Then download a high resolution picture of the band into their article.  The easier it is for them to do it the more likely they are to do it.  Have a 'secret web site' just for the media like this:    Perhaps have a password for this page.   Don't have a link from the main web site to the media site because media don't want to print things that are already public knowledge.  Put a bunch of very high resolution photos for media use here too.

Use your web site to collect e-mail addresses of people who would like to be notified of upcoming gigs. Sell merchandise from your web site. Record the traffic on your web site as it will be of interest to agents and A&R.  Like I said before, don't settle on a band name unless you can get the matching Internet Domain Name eg.


Have attractive, designer quality merchandise. A cheap t-shirt that looks cheap, will never be worn and makes you look cheap. Something that is quality, sexy and attractive will make that person a walking billboard for you. Other merchandise can include: coffee mugs, caps, candles, signed photos & posters, stickers, fridge magnets and calendars.  I was working with a female artist who made more money from selling posters than CD’s.

If you are giving away your music for free as MP3 files on the Internet then perhaps the merchandise is the product you can make money out of.

INXS made more money for themselves out of selling T-Shirts than records.


I am interested in your feedback.  Please feel free to e-mail me on:

Copyright   2012, 2014  Mark Ellis