The business of starting a band


File Photo

Seth Guerra and Nathaniel Bauerle perform during “Hot August Night.” Guerra and Bauerle belong to the band Kevin.

For a band to achieve even a moderate level of success, vision and dedication is required.

Bag of Donuts, a New Orleans party band, plays at various venues including festivals and clubs. The band released an original collaboration with Dr. John, a Grammy Award winner.

Bag of Donuts bandmate Jerry “Donut” Christopher Jr. has been involved in the music business for 31 years. He believes persistence is the key to success.

“Have fun,” said Christopher. “Never quit. Never ever quit, and that’s probably the best advice I’ve ever gotten. Just keep plugging away at it.”

Impaired Faculties is another band that has enjoyed local success playing original music and covers, and it contributes back to the community by playing charity events. All the band members are professors at the university.

Dr. Randall Settoon, professor of management and bassist for Impaired Faculties, said a love of playing should be the driving force behind a successful band.

“First, it’s got to be a passion, right?” asked Settoon. “But you can’t go in with the expectation that you’re going to make any money ‘cause you’re not.”

When moving beyond casual collaborations to enter the world of music business, choosing the right bandmates makes a difference.

Settoon said, “So, if you got people together and they get along, they’re good musicians, and they’re all serious, and they’ve all talked about what they’re trying to accomplish, and everybody’s committed, well then, the light’s kind of green to potentially start having a little success.”

Christopher noted the importance of finding someone supportive with interpersonal communication skills when choosing a bandmate. According to Christopher, they should be “someone that you like, someone that you can make up with pretty quickly when you have differences, someone that’s going to challenge you, and someone that wants to have fun.”

Though their music and style may differ, both bassists attributed their successes to treating their endeavor as a business.

Christopher explained how Bag of Donuts changed direction after the lead singer left in 2011.

“We just went out and just took it on like a business,” said Christopher. “We put a plan together. We have a business plan. We have a 401(k).”

Settoon warned that some bands may fall apart at the transition from casual to serious performance.

“You get into it because of the passion,” stated Settoon. “Then, when it starts to become a business or a job, the passion wanes, and unless everybody’s on the same page and has the same goals, moving in the same direction, the band’s just going to fall apart.”

From records to MP3 players and the internet, the way the music industry finds new acts and distributes music has undergone substantial changes since the dawn of the digital age. Christopher and Settoon noted how these differences affect accessibility between new bands and their potential audience.

“When we started, I don’t even think we had emails back then,” explained Christopher. “There was no internet. There was no social media.”

Though social media has created an endless supply of artistry, Christopher stated the contributions of newer bands could easily be drowned out.

“To get your voice out there, I think in some ways it may be more difficult because of all that,” said Christopher. “Even though that stuff adds value, good old-fashioned salesmanship and connecting is kind of lost.”

Settoon urged new bands to play at every available opportunity. He highlighted the importance of creating and maintaining a digital presence.

“If you’re trying to make a splash originally, you got to have music up on iTunes,” shared Settoon. “It needs to be available for digital distribution. You need a slick YouTube video that you put up on YouTube or wherever. You got to have a website. You got to get your friends engaged, have some kind of social media account, and get them to like and share all the media you’re putting up there.”


CORRECTION – the article perviously said that the band collaborated with Jerry “Donut” Christopher Jr. This has been changed to say that they collaborated with Dr. John at 10:42 a.m. on Feb. 13.