Written by Patrick McNamara
How to Be a Buzz Band
You’ve rustled up a capable crew of players, came up with a really great name (maybe involving no vowels/vwls, ALL CAPS, celebrity puns, or bodily functions such as vomit, barf, diarrhea, and fart), and now want to know what it takes to turn your regular band into an exciting new buzz band. It’s an admirable goal. Buzz bands live a life of leisure, basking in the splendor of never having to wait in a line, pick up a check, or feel sad and/or inadequate about anything ever again. But how does one get there? How can you bring this elusive buzz to your band and instantly scurry all your worries away? You’re asking the right questions of the right guy because I’ve been writing about exciting new buzz bands for over ten years. I’ve seen the trends and know what it takes to make your band really hum. These closely guarded secrets I am giving away to you right here, right now, today, for nothing, free.
#1. Write songs other people might enjoy listening to.
This one has tripped up many an aspiring buzz band so it’s very important you remember to first think, “would anybody living in existence on earth other than myself and the liars I’m related to enjoy listening to this” before finishing any half baked song. The “I make my music for me” credo is cool if you’re a true artist and also cool with never having any fans besides your family and once-in-a-lifetime friends who just want to see you happy. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Family and friends can really prop you up when you’re feeling down as many popular songs in contemporary culture have suggested. But for your band to buzz you’ll need to throw down the sounds that even complete strangers can appreciate, respect, and choose to listen to every once in awhile. If your band is into making, say, carefully crafted fifteen minute “post-something” noise missives that take their precious time to drone nowhere, well, you can still have a good time being in a band like that, but the buzz will be busy humming for somebody else. Write songs and play them for whoever in your life will tell it to you straight - a mentor, co-worker, the dude at the liquor store, etc. (forget family, they’ll love whatever you do, and want nothing more than to see you succeed, and therefore are always holding you back). If you hit on a few jams these trusted personnel say they appreciate, respect, and would even maybe listen to the again sometime without you standing there forcing them to, you’re one step closer to the buzz.
#2. Record your best songs.
It is now time for you to take your very best cuts (music industry buzz speak for “songs”) and bring them to the studio to record for posterity. If studio time sounds expensive, it’s noble you’re being so cost-conscious about your dreams, but laying down hot tracks (that’s more buzz speak but now’s not the time to get into translations) doesn’t have to break the bank. Luckily in 2015 A.D. there are many affordable DIY recording options, all fully programmable, that can deliver a stunning high-quality product - or shitty, depending on your calculated artistic method of choice - without you ever having to leave the “bless this mess” that is your own subletted bedroom. Ask about the leading DIY recording kits at any of your leading big box e-commerce retailers today!
#3. Get recorded songs on the World Wide Intrasphere.
You’ve received positive feedback from a few friends and you now have your greatest songs living and breathing as robust digital files. It is now time to upload your future hits (fingers crossed) to the WWI’s vast network of leading digital listening platforms. It’s remarkably easy to do this in 2015 A.D. and if you started the process at the beginning of this paragraph you could have already been done by now. From your head to your bedroom to the world just like *snap* *snap* that. It’s nice living in the future. But guess what? Just because anybody on this slowly burning planet with access to a wire or a cloud can now play your songs if they want to (to be clear, at this stage, they don’t) you’re not done. Your band still doesn’t buzz. Not yet.
#4. Get your digital ducks in a row.
It is essential you now provide dynamic supplementary materials about your band and post them to the WWI in the event a tastemaker (perhaps they run an important music blob) happens to stumble upon your band’s Intrapage and somehow impossibly decides to press play because they have absolutely nothing better to do that day. And just for the sake of hope, let’s say your songs blow the important music blobber away like they did liquor store Steve. It still doesn’t mean they are now willing to whisper up some initial buzz for your band. A tastemaker will be much more inclined to write about you if you write about you first, thus make their jobs significantly easier. Therefore, you must also provide a detailed bio alongside your songs that clearly states your band’s intentions - a mission statement, if you will. If your band represents all that is dark and discouraged in this decaying world, find a way to sneak that in the first sentence. Or, perhaps your band just wants to have fun and fuck around because everything in this life is just an illusion and a grand game anyway. That’s fine but be sure to highlight this in red. Tastemakers aren’t mind readers and might take your band’s obviously playful vibe super seriously. Also (and please don’t forget this part) you MUST reference the right buzz bands of the past in your bio to allow tastemakers to connect the dots of musical history and make the same easy comparisons. But distance yourself from your own name dropping a touch so it doesn’t appear you’re reaching too hard for the low hanging fruit (which you are). “It would be easy to say that our band sounds like early _________ meets late _________ meets Fugazi, but such comparisons don’t quite get to the heart of why we’re so good.” Finally, provide a hi-res band photo, preferably one in which at least one band member is scratching the back of their head at the exact moment the picture is snapped. Even though it’s a phantom itch, this is a look that consistently suggests buzz.
#5. Play a bunch of shows.
Maybe by now you’ve managed to get some important music blobbers to write about your band based on the strength of your digital sound files, band bio, and hi-res photo. The buzz has awakened but it hasn’t fully stirred. Even though it’s 2015 A.D. and we’re all living comfortably in the future, your band will now unfortunately have to start playing your best digitally recorded songs in real life. It’s one of the antiquated quirks of the system. You’re going to want to be smart about your show strategy here because you are a reasonable person who understands that being a buzz band isn’t a game and with great buzz comes great responsibility. But don’t overthink this step. Simply beg, plead, scheme, and conive to get your regular old band added to any show that will have you, because getting even one booker or promoter to care about your band at all is a miracle and a privilege and anything but a right. Beware the folly that is the new band who says “we’ve decided not to play any weekday shows - only weekends - and we don’t always have to headline - but we’ll never open.” Kill that noise. Play shows early and play them often, wherever and for whoever. If that means playing the baggage carousel gig at the Austin Airport during SXSW, so be it. You never know what important people might be among the tired, frustrated travellers waiting for that goddamn little light to start flashing so they can grab their bags and rush to sign buzz bands at whatever buzzy show is closest and also has free tacos and plenty of places to sit down. The more shows you play, the more people will hear your highly relatable songs, the better chance someone will like your band and say something to someone who will then say something to someone else who has the power to reach a person with the wherewithal to summon buzz.
#6. Ingratiate yourself with other buzz bands.
Now that your live set list is tight from playing so many shitty shows you’re going to want to try and buddy up to some other buzz bands. Who knows, if you play it perfectly, maybe a buzz band will invite you to do, say, a short East Coast tour in February together. But let’s not daydream just yet. Getting access to buzz bands can be tricky. It’s not as if buzz bands are just regular people who are open and available and just trying to make sense of the void of the world too. They are are often sealed off behind heavy curtains and sturdy ropes. But sometimes even the buzz bands emerge from behind their marble doors to walk around us regular people. Probably the best time to catch them is after their own shows while they work their own merch table and make approximately $37 for a full night’s work which later slightly reduces their guilt for buying the large coffee instead of small at the sad gas station in the middle of the night off the mostly quiet interstate that still somehow seems menacing. Should you be fortunate enough to meet a buzz band, be friendly, make yourself known. Careful though - bend - don’t break. Don’t shove the Uniform Resource Locator to your band’s unique Intrapage on the WWI in the singer’s eye and demand they listen to your band’s songs because you’re pretty sure you’re both pulling from the same influences like early ________ meets late ________ meets Fugazi. Keep it cool. Keep it chill. Your smile and winning personality will do just fine. And if during the course of your friendly conversation with a buzz band it becomes known that you too are in a band and that leads to a stimulating conversation about your band’s buzz goals, so be it. Let it happen naturally. Dance with the buzz bands - never wrestle.
#7. Don’t be a dick.
Perhaps up to this point everything has impossibly fallen into place for your new band. You’ve got the songs, some press on the music blobs, you’re starting to get added to bigger and better shows (you’re done with the daytime convention hall circuit), and people are starting to give you several shots to showcase your band’s unique skillset that the music world has never quite heard a million times before. The buzz has begun to flow but has yet to fully explode. These first initial opportunities need to lead to other opportunities which will lead to the future opportunities that will finally ignite the buzz that will ultimately burst your band into flames. For any of these exciting opportunities to happen, however, you have to be invited back to shit. So don’t be a dick during your first sniff of success. Finishing a triumphant short East Coast tour in February with another buzz band is not the time for you to expect the best of everything from now until the world dies due to human greed and opulence. Be nice to people who like your band, no matter how many times you’re told - reassess if you think that’s getting old. Be nice to people who book your band because they don’t have to. Be nice to people who promote your band because they don’t have to. Be nice to the sound guy just because. Be nice to anybody anywhere that recognizes your band as existing in any way and you’ll store up the goodwill necessary to steal the buzz from some other band who’s been working just as hard as you to keep it and you can then sit back, relax, and watch everything burn.
If, thanks to these guidelines, your regular band somehow impossibly becomes an exciting new buzz band and you are able to bask in living a life free from obligations, inconveniences, or pain, enjoy it, enjoy it all, but please remember to also prepare for the comedown when people unrelated to you stop caring about your exciting new buzz band (not to bury, the lede but they always do) and your band reverts back to regular again. This WILL happen. The buzz giveth…. the buzz taketh away…. Sic Transit Gloria…. dust in the winds, dudes. But at least you can take solace in the fact that you played the game the right way, met some nice people during your journey, and for a fleeting sliver of a moment on the spectrum of time you were the luckiest asshole alive.
*and in ten years there’s always the short East Coast reunion tour in February to look forward to
Follow Patrick on Twitter @ohmyrockness