If you’re looking to start a band in a small town, you’ve certainly come to the right place. Whilst it’s going to be slightly more difficult than starting a band in a more populated area, it can be done. When living in a small town, you essentially have three options for starting a band:
- Option 1: Start a band within your town
- Option 2: Re-locate to a larger town or city
- Option 3: Start a band online
Having grown up in a tiny village on the border of England and North Wales, I’ve successfully taken all three of these options. Keep reading for detailed guidance on each one.
OPTION 1: START A BAND WITHIN YOUR TOWN
This is the simplest option of the three. It’s most-suited to those who:
- Just want to play for fun (ie. not to build a fanbase or a sustainable income)
- Are unable to travel or re-locate
- Don’t mind being flexible
- You’ll be more resourceful: Starting a band in a small town forces you to make do with what you’ve got. This can often make you much more successful and productive as you won’t be wasting time on trivial things.
- It’s low-cost: Relocating to a larger town or city will more than likely cause your living and/or travel expenses to increase. In addition, dedicated recording and rehearsal space may be more expensive in a populated area. Staying in your own town will prevent the band from affecting both your living and travel expenses. If you’re living in a more rural area, you should be able to rehearse and record in a member’s house without any fear of noise complaints.
- Access to a tight-knit community: In a small town, there’s often a strong sense of community as everyone knows each other. Therefore, you might find that other residents will be much more willing to support the band.
- Scarcity of potential members: Potential band members often have to met a wide range of requirements. These can include technical competency, similar age bracket, shared enthusiasm, shared personal traits and a similar music taste. Finding a member who ticks all of these boxes is difficult enough in a large city; it’s near-impossible in a small town. If you’re forming a band where you are, you’ll have to be much more open-minded when choosing members.
- Limited access to facilities: Whilst dedicated recording and rehearsal space might be cheaper, it’ll often be poor quality. If your town is small enough, there might not even be any dedicated recording or rehearsal space. Furthermore, it’s going to be much more difficult to find venues to play at.
- No scene: Bands and artists often rely on each other for a strong live draw as well as industry opportunities. Without a bustling local music scene, this will be much harder.
- Be willing to compromise: With limited access to potential members and facilities, it’s important to learn to compromise. This might mean changing the genre, recruiting members in a different age bracket or playing at less-than-ideal venues.
- Consider branching into neighboring towns: Don’t feel you have to be completely limited to the town you live in. Branching out to neighboring towns can aid your member search and present new opportunities.
- Don’t be afraid to travel: If you’re looking to either record or play live, you might have to travel to a larger city. Most small towns will have a much more populated area within an hour’s drive, meaning you’ll be able to get there and back with minimal hassle.
- Where to find members: I’d recommend using a dedicated online resource such as Bandmix. If you’re at school or college, see if there’s a music society which you can join to find like-minded musicians.
OPTION 2: RE-LOCATE TO A LARGER TOWN OR CITY
If you’re looking to start a more serious project, it’s likely that a small town simply won’t be fit for your aspirations. Re-locating to a more populated area will give you access to like-minded people, adequate facilities and a thriving music scene. For me, taking option two was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. This option is most-suited to those who:
- Are looking to make a career out of music
- Are highly ambitious
- Abundance of potential members: Large cities often have thousands of like-minded musicians. This makes it much easier to start a band with a fully-formed sonic and visual identity.
- Abundance of opportunity: Larger towns and cities will often have a wide range of dedicated venues to serve a thriving music community. In addition, populated areas are great for connecting with the rest of the industry.
- Ample facilities: Populated areas will have fantastic recording and rehearsal facilities. They’ll often include full-backline and many are open 24/7.
- It can be more expensive: Moving to a more populated area (or traveling to one on a regular basis) will most-often see your expenses increase. You’ll also more than likely be living in an apartment, meaning you’ll have to pay for a dedicated rehearsal space.
- It can impact your other commitments: If you’ve got other commitments (such as work or family) where you currently live, it might be difficult to suddenly uproot everything. Even if you’re simply traveling to a more populated area on a regular basis, it can still impact your commitments.
- It can be more distracting: Moving or traveling to a new place can present all sorts of distractions. In addition, abundant opportunities and facilities can mean you waste time being picky instead of making a decision and getting to work.
- Don’t feel you have to move somewhere expensive: You haven’t got to move to LA or New York City in order to start a successful band. There are many populated areas with a reasonable cost of living.
- Put the work in: Simply re-locating to a new place does not mean opportunities will fall into your lap. It’s still on you to put the work in and make it happen.
- Consider staying in/returning to education: If you’re really serious about a career in music, it might be worth going to school for the subject. Going to school for music will not only allow you to move to a populated area, but also meet like-minded individuals.
- Where to find members: I’d thoroughly suggest immersing yourself in the local music scene. Meeting people in-person is a much better way of networking than simply staying online. In addition, immersing yourself in the local music scene will give you a good idea of what opportunities are available to you.
OPTION 3: START A BAND ONLINE
This is a fantastic, yet widely underused option. Starting a band online means being a part of a project that doesn’t require a centralized location. This allows you to collaborate with like-minded musicians without even having to set foot out the house. This option is best suited to those who:
- Prioritize writing and recording over playing live
- Have strong social media skills
- Are comfortable creating video content
- Low-cost: Whilst you might have to invest in a few extra pieces of kit to record and produce videos, it’s nowhere near what re-locating might cost you. In addition, you won’t have to pay for a dedicated rehearsal space.
- Huge abundance of members: Instead of being limited to your geographical location, you’ll be able to pick and choose from musicians located all over the world.
- Highly-prolific: As an online band, you’ll primarily be recording music and producing video content. This means you can often produce a huge amount of material.
- It can be complicated to run: When writing and recording music, you’ll be sending files back and forth to each other. This can get complicated if you’re communicating over instant messaging platforms. In addition, differing time zones can often complicate things.
- Difficult to sonically ‘gel’: When a band spends hours upon hours rehearsing with each other in-person, it comes across in the music. This is more difficult to achieve when running an online project.
- No opportunity for live performance: Live performance can often serve as the heart and soul of a band. When running an online project, you might only get to meet up in-person a couple of times a year.
- Use video chat where possible: If you’re going to be writing original material, it’s best to do it over video chat. This will allow for easy communication.
- Promote on YouTube: Studies have shown that YouTube accounts for almost 40% of all online music discovery. In addition, YouTube allows you to produce collaborative, multi-cam videos. Multi-cam band videos can be hugely entertaining and often reap tens of thousands of views. If you’re looking to get started on YouTube, it’s worth investing in a decent camera. The best value and most-suitable camera I’ve found is the WEILIANTE Digital Camcorder (link to Amazon). It’s able to store up to 30GB of data, which will be more than enough for collaborative videos.
- Where to find members: Again, YouTube is a fantastic way of finding musicians for an online project. Look for people who are doing instrumental covers of songs you like, then message them asking if they’d be interested in starting a project. In addition, unsigned Facebook groups can be a great way of finding members for an online project.