In talking with most newer bands out there, it seems that most of them really don't have any plan to follow in an attempt to become successful. I have been in these bands before. Look at it this way, you don't get in the car normally without having a destination for your trip in mind and without having any idea how you are going to get there. I am not saying that you may run into road blocks and your plan won't need to change, but you need to have an idea of what you are doing and how you want to get there. Here is a list of a few things that you need to think about.
1. If you are writing songs with others, how will you split any income if lightning strikes? When publishing a song, the music is one half of the composition and the lyrics are the other half. Some bands split songwriting between all the members of the band equally (Gravity Kills did it this way.) The advantage to this is if there are multiple song writers in the band, you can eliminate ego and competition for people in the band trying to push their song to get recorded and released. Also, if you have a band lineup that you think is stellar and you want to make sure that everyone feels like they are a part of the reward of the band's labor. On the flip side of this, there are band's out there that have one or two primary song writers that don't split publishing with non-writers in the band. It is really up to each individual band to figure this out but I recommend having this discussion with your band as soon as possible. This will not be an easy conversation to have but everyone in the band needs to have this sorted out.
1a. Aside from publishing splits, your band needs to figure out how all the revenue in the band will be split. This includes merchandise, CD and download sales, live revenue etc.. Most bands split the profit from these revenue streams equally between all the members. There are some that split differently depending on who in the band is spending money on sound, buying the merchandise or CD's etc. out of their own pockets.
2. Are you and your music compositions (as a writer and publisher) affiliated with a performing rights organization such as ASCAP, BMI or SESAC? You need to do this if you ever want to get paid for having a song on the radio, TV or film. For streaming music you need to register the songs with Sound Exchange.
3.. How will you record music? Will you pay someone else for studio time or will you invest in gear where you can record at home/rehearsal studio/garage etc.. I am not saying the paying for studio time in a proper studio at times is not worth it but I would strongly urge a band to get into recording their own material. There are so many great DAW programs (Pro Tools, Logic, Cubase and even Garage Band) out now that if you really want to invest in your career and not someone else's studio, learn how to use a DAW program. I am not saying that you will be making pro sounding recordings the first go around, but think of the possibilities your band or you would have without the meter ticking in someone else's studio.
4. Do you have a Website/Social media strategy? Most bands these days simply put up a facebook and myspace page and move down the road. Do you have a youtube page? Did you know that youtube is the second largest search engine in the world? Here are the places you should be quickly (remember that your content needs to be updates as much as humanly possible.)
a. Your own website (this needs to be the hub in which all your social media directs back to.)
c. Myspace (yes, you still need to be here. The last article I read said that they are still getting about 24% of
all social media traffic.)
All of these places need to link back to your own website. Your website is where you will create a community of your own. I still think you need a message board on your own site.
5. Once your have recorded music to release, where and how are you going to release it? If you are a live act, you need to have a CD for sale at your shows but with that said...Consider releasing new material as you finish it. I would also strongly recommend that you GIVE your music away before it is released. Think of it this way. If you are playing shows and it is before you have a CD ready for sale, how will anyone know the material. If you are between CD's and playing shows, having new material that people will know will give them a reason to come out and see you again (this particular subject is a very deep and lengthy topic that we will examine more in depth later down the road.) For digital releases you should always offer your music for free and for sale from your website. There are also many digital aggregators like Tune Core and CD Baby that will get your music on itunes etc.. CD baby is also necessary if you want to get your music streaming on places like Pandora. Music streaming is not going to make you rich but it could certainly get your music heard by a much larger audience.
There are a multitude of questions a band needs to ask itself but these will give you a place to start in formulating your plan for success.