Remember Captain Planet? If not, I recommend taking a moment to familiarize yourself with the eco-friendly super hero. The point is, he had this amazing team of friends who brought different powers to the table that allowed them to start tackling crises before the big guy even showed up on the scene. Well, I’m going to go ahead and say that when it comes to community building, you and the other musicians in your band should aim to be Captain Planet. You guys may be the main event, but where would you be without your Planeteers? Here are a few roles for unofficial band members you may want to fill in your quest to assemble Earth, Fire, Wind, Water, and yes, Heart.
1. The Photographer
Remember how a band picture’s worth a thousand words? All the more reason to invite a great photographer into your band’s inner circle.
Having a strong online presence can really simplify the business side of things, and in that world, social currency is king. While an image shows up directly in Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds, audio tracks and videos require an additional click, so they’re easier to ignore. Try to build a relationship with a creative photographer who understands the image you are hoping to portray. Offering fans a visual representation of your music can even inform their interpretation of your songs, as it gives them a better sense of your collective perspective as storytellers.
In many ways, a band is essentially a lifestyle brand, so keep your fans up-to-date and interested in both big events and day-to-day activities. Of course, every artist should be properly compensated for their work, so taking a professional photographer to every gig may not be fiscally responsible. Sometimes, you may just want to ask a bandmate’s best friend or paramour to take some Instagram-able phone pics in exchange for picking up their tab or putting them on the guest list.
2. The Manager/Team Parent
Have a responsible friend around who can help you take care of things both big and small — like making sure cables aren’t missing or schmoozing with the big dogs in the crowd while you play your set. Of course, if you officially have management, they will probably handle most of this. Just make sure you have someone around you can trust with the things the musicians shouldn’t be focused on.
For a while there, I was the only girlfriend tied to a nine-piece band, so I sort of fell into this role by default. I printed charts, fed parking meters, video taped sets, and chatted with sound guys. About that last one: I was always careful not to be the annoying girlfriend who complains she can’t hear her boyfriend in the mix. If you are put in a position where the band wants you to say something, be kind and humble. Introduce yourself to the person handling sound, and don’t be a know-it-all. The band can’t hear themselves from the audience’s perspective, so having someone around who is familiar with their likes and dislikes standing in the crowd can be a huge help if your advice is constructive.
3. The Artist/Designer
Posters, album art, merch. I’m definitely guilty of faking my way through a flyer design using Microsoft Word and iPhone photos, but I’m pretty ashamed of that admission. Since merchandise and promotional items are an investment into your band, be prepared to spend time and/or money on someone who knows what they’re doing. Having a proper artist design your flyers can make an event feel special before it even happens, while something sloppy and poorly constructed can feel like an invitation to a backyard birthday party — not a great look unless you’re making cupcakes and hiring a magician.
4. The Super Fan
If you manage to create one of these, don’t lose them! Reward them for engaging with the band by offering them merch, online shout outs, guest list spots, and opportunities to be a part of things. Bragging about your own band is tacky, but letting someone else do it for you is fantastic. Also, super fans can be a great “test group” if you’re looking for opinions about things like new material or potential venues.
5. The Sub/Special Guest
This is at tricky one. There are many bands who simply don’t use subs. If you’re an all or nothing situation, subs don’t really apply, but it doesn’t hurt to consider. Having someone in mind who could easily cover for someone will allow you to take gigs you would otherwise have to turn down.
Of course, people who know your music don’t have to be silent understudies. Special guests liven up just about any show or album. I’d insert a reference to a Captain Planet crossover episode here if I could. Sadly, both my memory and a Google search failed here.
If you know something I didn’t mention regarding Captain Planet crossover episodes or auxiliary band members, share your thoughts in the comments!