Fresh On The Net’s Rob Ball interviews London based band The King’s Parade about the finer points of going full time.
Being a long time watcher of up-and-coming acts, and having seen bands decide to go all-in and make music full time, I’ve often wondered what it’s really like.
When earlier this year I put up one of my weekly work ‘Because it’s Friday’ playlists, which included Listening Post regulars The King’s Parade (Fresh Faves 69, 165 and 195) one of my team said that they knew one of the band. Through him I made contact with the band and asked if they minded having a chat over a beer or two to talk about what it is really like.
Finally in May of this year, a few days after watching The King’s Parade play a packed Hoxton Bar and Grill, I met the guys; Chris (drums), Olly (vocals and guitar), Tom (bass) and Sam (keyboards) in order to find out about the reality of it all. This what they had to say about their journey so far.
So how did becoming a full-time band happen?
“We were at York University and we got together during Chris’s final year. We were getting some great reaction to our music and started to build some good support. Chris finished Uni and went back to London whilst the rest of us carried on with our studies. We’d get together as often as possible and play gigsand weddings et cetera.
During the year we acknowledged that at the end of year if we didn’t co-locate then we would eventually drift apart and there would be no real future for the band. We had a strong belief that as a band we could make it so we started to think about how we could make it happen, move in together and be a full time band. Then reality struck, we had no money and we couldn’t afford a landlord’s deposit.
We came upon the idea of having a residency as a cover band on a cruise ship. A two week trip to Hawaii turned into three months and whilst it was good money and a nice life, it wasn’t part of the grand scheme. If we wanted to be a successful band we had to give it a full time shot. We were offered another extension by the cruise company, but we decided that we needed to ‘jump ship’ and use some of the money we had earned as a landlord’s deposit for a place to rent together in London.”
So what was the grand scheme?
“Err… Honestly? It was to make it ‘Big’ in a year.”
How did you define ‘Big’?
“To be honest we didn’t really know, and we were quite naive, it was really about making ourselves into a successful band.”
What was the reality?
“It was all a bit of trial and error at first. We got part time jobs and were trying to play as much as possible. We came across promoters who basically would say ‘a gig is a gig, it’s great for you, do it and oh, by the way you have to help sell the tickets, or you get nothing.’ They weren’t really interested in us as a band. We realised, eventually, that we weren’t building a wider network by doing this and at the time we were just happy to get gigs. In retrospect they were using us to make money for themselves.
We had built up a really loyal bunch of fans but we needed to break out into a wider fan base. We all had part-time jobs (and still do) but we weren’t synchronising our time so rehearsals and band time became unstructured and random.”
How did you overcome this?
“We refocused; we sat down and set some new rules where the band became a full-time job and the part time work had to work around that. No part time work after 1pm, so our afternoons were free and exclusively for band time.
We have one day a week where we have no band work and that helps us arrange shifts. We sit down at the beginning of each week and plan what needs to be done and who does what. It’s surprising how much more there is to being in a band than just playing.
We busk three times a week, rehearse, liaise with the promoters etc, it’s full on, However, everything is planned and agreed each week.”
What was the impact of all this extra time together?
“Things started to slot into place, both musically and also running the admin/business side. The busking was going well, we were mainly playing covers to start with. We then started to throw in the occasional original track. Our own tracks were very well received and we were making more money when we played them. This was very motivating and we took the decision to just play our own music. We found that because people could hear our music they were buying more CDs.”
[Interestingly, only two weeks after being named London’s Best Buskers by then Mayor of London, Boris, they were arrested after a playing a busking set in Leicester Square – it’s true!].
“Our gigs were getting higher attendances and the fan base was growing. It was then that we started working with a management company and a promoter. We have a lot of trust and confidence in them and things are working out well.”
What have you learned along the way?
- Firstly you all have to be totally committed to the band and each of you has to do what you say you are going to do.
- We used to try and do everything on the cheap, doing things like graphics, marketing web design etc. ourselves. It just isn’t worth it, it is never the best and it has to be the best and it takes a lot of your time. Now we work with a carefully selected group of professionals and it has made a real difference.
- Flyers actually work! We made flyers for our gigs and distributed them when busking and around the streets and we found that it actually transferred to ticket sales at gigs.
- The job is not just about playing music. We didn’t realise just how much there is to do regarding promotion, networking, marketing, and social media.
One final question to each of you individually. What one piece of advice would you give to other acts thinking of going full-time?
Tom: “Research really carefully the people you are thinking of working with. You will get many offers but they have to be right for you. That goes to gig makers, promoters, web designers, graphic artists and management. In fact, anybody that you’ll be working with.”
Sam: “Keep strong control of your image at all times. Ensure that you are consistent across all forms of media.”
Olly: “Two things actually. Firstly, be very careful who you give your time to, it’s a bit like Tom’s point. There are a lot of people who promise things they can’t deliver and they can waste a lot of your time. Secondly don’t take every gig you get offered, we are now very careful about how often we gig in any one area and which gigs we play.”
Chris: “Play every gig as if it’s the biggest gig you ever played.”
So there you have it, hopefully readers will find some of the advice really useful. It was a real pleasure meeting the guys and many thanks to them for giving me their time.
For more information and advice for musicians, check out the Tips section of the FOTN website.