By: Mike Schulte
Hi, I’m Mike from The Pork Tornadoes. I have been playing drums for nearly 30 years. I am a self-taught drummer and have recorded and toured with numerous original projects including Brian Jones, William Elliott Whitmore, Hallways of Always and Dope Walker.
Being one of the most talented drummers in your area is a really good thing. It opens doors for high-dollar gigs/sessions and you certainly have your choice of what band you want to play in. Let’s be honest here, the majority of us are good at playing drums, but we will never be the best in our area, no matter how hard we practice. This is true of me. I am an extremely solid drummer and have been playing for nearly 30 years, but there are many, many others in my area who are much more talented than I am. However, I’m the one who holds an irreplaceable spot as the drummer in one of the most popular cover bands in the United States.
How did I get this position without being the best drummer? I believe that developing and improving skills in other areas is more important than your overall talent level. Even the most talented drummers can quickly find themselves kicked out of bands for reasons other than their playing. The reason I hold the position that I do is because I was skilled in multiple areas. Here are some things you can do to make yourself irreplaceable Let’s dive in.
Become a Social Media Guru
Someone has to do this job in your band, and let’s be honest, most musicians either don’t want to do it or aren’t very good at it. Your band’s social media presence is one of the most important tools to help your band gain more fans and in turn, make more money. If you like spending time on social media and/or genuinely enjoy building a brand from the ground up, ask to take over as your band’s social media director. Take over the FB page and all of the other social media platform accounts. If you don’t have a band FB page, TikTok or Instagram account yet, take the initiative and start them. Dedicate yourself to creating regular posts, adding content, updating events/tour dates and answering messages from your fans.
Bonus tip- Just because “Bob” has been handling your social media accounts for the last few years already, doesn’t mean he should continue if he isn’t passionate and/or good at it. Might be worth a band meeting to decide who has the best chance of succeeding moving forward and implement it.
Develop Website/Graphic Design Skills
As your band’s social media presence grows, the need for a good website and top-notch graphic design will continue to grow. Most of the time, a good website and graphic design will go hand in hand with an increase in popularity. Most booking agents and higher paying show opportunities will skip over your band completely if you don’t have good promotional materials and a legit website (a Facebook page does NOT qualify as a website). If you have web design skills or perhaps Adobe Photoshop experience, this might be a role for you in your band. Take the initiative to not only create the website but to also continue with it’s upkeep. From there, continuous creation and updating of new poster designs, logos and promotional materials will be used to keep your presence fresh and professional.
Bonus tip– This job can include getting posters printed and hand-delivering to all of your gigs at least 4 weeks prior to the gig date.
Buy the PA/Lights and Become the Production Master
Most bands don’t have the luxury of hiring a sound company for shows and many venues/clubs don’t provide a house PA anymore. If they do, it likely isn’t something you actually want to use. The answer is to buy a quality sound system that the band can use. If you have skills in sound production, this could be a great external job for you in your band. Owning the PA system, storing it and maintaining it, are important tasks that not everyone can do. Same goes with light design. Programming a good light show and knowing what looks good are huge skills to further the success of a band.
Bonus tip– What good is a sound system that isn’t used properly?! There are so many great tutorials on Youtube about the use of equalizers, compression, gates, mixing techniques, etc. Study this craft and you won’t only become an irreplaceable asset of your own band, but you might have a high-demand side business on your hands.
Take Over The Role of Band Manager
Booking shows, finding new markets, negotiating with venues and settling up at the end of the night are important tasks. Often, musicians are not good at these duties, which is why band managers are hired. If you aren’t to the level of employing an external band manager yet, someone in the band needs to do these things and it should be someone with a cutthroat and fierce mentality. This role can’t be taken over by the nicest person in the group. It needs to be someone who isn’t afraid of being an advocate for the band if particular conditions are not met. Sticking to your guns as far as what payment is required when booking shows, negotiating what you require from the venue as far as production, power requirements and asking for your money, are so important. Most musicians are either not good at this or don’t want to do these particular jobs. Take over this role for yourself if you fit the mold.
Bonus tip– This member can also add “advancing” to their role. This would include making calls to the venue or promoter a few weeks prior to the show to make sure all parties are on the same page. On top of that, they can add all of the load-in details, set times, hospitality items, etc into your joint band calendar, so each member knows all details prior to the show.
Be the Smartest Musician in the Band
You can take this one of multiple ways. Maybe you are continuing to study music theory and can provide thoughts on particular arrangements. Maybe you are a multi-instrumentalist and can offer tips to other musicians on how to play a particular part. Or perhaps, you just love studying up on music gear and you can be the one who is always informing other band members of particular gear items that would be helpful moving forward. All of these roles can be great assets for furthering the skill and professionalism of a group.
Bonus tip– There is a difference between being helpful and being a know-it-all. Be careful when trying to implement your knowledge onto other band members. Some may take longer to comprehend and some may not have the smarts and understanding that you do.
Be a Well-Liked Person Inside and Outside of the Band
This might be the most important one of all. We have all know a band that has that one member who is not well-liked. They act like an asshole on social media and emit an elitist mentality. Overly-opinionated about divisive issues like politics, pandemics, etc. You may love everyone else in the band, but that one terrible band member keeps you from coming around to watch them play. It’s not just you. Everyone who knows that one dreadful band member, will likely be avoiding the band as well. If you have a member in your band like this, the situation is detrimental to your ability to become more popular and get better gigs. When you are in a band, your actions not only reflect yourself but they reflect everyone else in the band. If a member has a bad reputation, it’s time to let them go. Don’t let this member be you.
Bonus tip- The same goes for a band member who treats bar/venue staff poorly. The number one advocate to have on your side when continuing to book shows and/or ask for more money, is the bar staff. If you are acting like a prima donna, expecting free drinks, demanding fast service, not tipping excessively or saying nice things about the bar staff in the microphone, you are doing it wrong.Mike is the drummer for one of the Midwest’s most popular cover bands, The Pork Tornadoes. Mike’s steady, energetic and rock-infused drumming style gives this pop cover band a contagious edge to it’s sound. He also is the driving force behind the band’s social media and video content. Taking the band to new heights with over 90,000 social media fans world-wide and more than 13 million views on the band’s videos, Mike is the guy to talk to when it comes to perfecting a social media brand and getting it out into the world. He is always heard saying, “Don’t worry about being the best drummer. Put your focus into being irreplaceable.” To learn more from Mike himself, here’s how you can get in touch: Mike Schulte Artist Profile | Instagram l Youtube