- Having the wrong Band Members - The biggest things to look for in band mates are integrity (Read The Millionaire Mind by Thomas J Stanley), punctuality/reliability, and general likability. Ability to play the parts is a must, but it's much easier to grow the right person into the right player than it is to do the opposite. You will be spending lots of time together, so it is critical that you like your band mates. And as far as punctuality goes, showing up is half the battle.
- Not Having a Cohesive Look - A band is a gang of like-minded people. There must be a unified look, and when the group walks into a venue, it should be obvious to the patrons who is in the band. Pro tip - No bowling shirts, khakis, shorts, or sandals.
- Not Having a Female in the Band - It is very important to have some kind of diversity, and often having a female musician in the band will be a huge plus for making your shows more appealing to women, which in turn brings more men. Band photos will look better, and a female perspective will help with decision making in the band.
- Hacking During Sound Check - Venues love bands who can keep sound check short and sweet. Unless you're playing in a national act, this time should be spent making sure your gear works, and that you can hear the things that are absolutely necessary. Monitors will not be perfect, and it is better to keep sound check extremely brief, and hand signal the sound guy adjustments during the show.
- Imbibing Too Much In Apple Juice or Party Favors - A band can easily fall into the trap of partying too hard and delivering a terrible show. A good rule of thumb can be either no drinks before the show, or a single band shot done together, which is a team building exercise that takes the edge off.
- Not Using Hand Signals - Your Lead Singer is your Quarterback and should be calling the plays. Each of your tunes should have a hand signal that the singer can give to the person who starts the song, or the whole band if you start together. Usually during an instrumental part of the song, the signal for the next one can be given. This allows him/her to read the audience and call the right song, a ballad if they need a rest, a dance track if they're moving, or your crowd pleaser if you're hitting the apex of the evening.
- Focusing on the Music - This seems counter-intuitive, but listen up. Your band is a business. Most musicians are artists, and artists get an icky feeling when it comes to business, and can wear that as a source of misplaced self-righteousness. It's not cool to know nothing about business, and if you don't know anything about it, this should be your first step, not working on writing the next big hit. It doesn't work that way anymore, if it ever did.
- Being Obnoxiously Loud - Part of today's music reality is that venues and patrons no longer tolerate overly loud bands. Unless you're playing metal, excessive volume causes people to leave.
- Pissing off the Sound Guy - This ties in with the last one. The sound guy is your best friend or worst enemy. Immediately learn their name, buy them a drink, be friendly, and I always tell them, "We are going to make your life very easy tonight." This starts things off on the right foot, and they know they are dealing with a reasonable human, not a diva.
- Over-saturating Your Market/Taking Shows With No Upside - Bands get offers all the time for less than stellar gigs. Make sure that you have a good reason for doing each show. The ideal gig satisfies two of the three categories of Money, Fun, and Exposure. See my Blog Post on Making Gig Decisions.
Thoughts About Music and Life from Louisiana Roots Musician Jim McGee