I’m not an expert and qualified in any way to speak on this, but I am a dude who has wasted tons of time and money trying to make a name for himself playing in local bands.

General Advice

Optimize and minimize your full band practice time. It’s hard to coordinate everyone’s schedules and lug gear around. In some of bands I was in we wasted tons of time learning and re-learning our own songs. I’d forget parts, the bass player couldn’t remember how a bridge went, the drummer couldn’t remember what beat he played last time, etc. In my most recent band we adopted a better system. We would write together, get a song to where we wanted it, and then record a demo (oftentimes a crappy one recorded on a phone). Then we’d give a copy of each song to every band member and everyone knew to practice along to the recording on their own. That way at the next practice everyone showed up knowing their parts and full band practice time was short.

Don't burn out your friends/Be selective about what shows you play. When you're starting out, you hit your friends up a lot to come to shows. If you're playing every weekend, they'll burn out mighty quick. So don't take every show offered you, ideally play once every quarter.

Record a decent EP. You can record yourselves on a laptop but you’re going to only sound fair at best. Find a studio/producer who can record you for a reasonable amount. It's only necessary to do an EP because no one cares about full albums anymore, especially ones by local bands. You just need a few songs to promote yourself and put on your various social media thingies. Also, don’t expect to make your money back. Music has changed so much in the last 10-15 years that crowdfunding might of necessity be part of the business model of a full-time touring band, but if you’re a local band I’d just save your pennies and pay for the studio time out of pocket (see “Don’t burn out your fiends”). I don't even think “release parties” or pressing physical copies of your music is even relevant anymore.

Go on tour. Your band gets exposure in different areas, but mostly this is for the life experience. I don't even know how to book a tour, the method is changing all the time, but in hindsight I wish we had done it for even a week or a month.

At the end of the day, relationships are the most important. If you want to take it super serious, put out an ad and hold auditions and stuff. Otherwise, you're probably in a band with your friends or siblings and don't let band stuff mess that up. A mediocre player who you get along with and who shows up and memorizes his or her parts is ultimately a better bandmate than some dude who shreds but is mean and/or flaky.

For singers/lyricists/songwriters

Get voice lessons. 
Singing seems like it should be easy but for most of us it's not. Scrape up some money, do a little research, and get a vocal teacher. It will be money well spent when you listen to yourself on a recording.

Get someone else to look over your lyrics. 
A friend or fellow musician/lyricist who will be honest with you and tell when something isn’t working. Sometimes I thought I was writing deep stuff but really my lyrics were awful. Where possible, don't write in a vacuum.

Shut up on the mic. I talked way too much on stage. At a local show people generally don't want to hear what your songs are about, your politics, or your jokes. Have minimal space between songs and limit your talk to: your band name, shout-outs to the headliner (but don’t get too gushy) and other bands on the bill, props to the venue and sound guy, “thanks for coming to see us.”

For guitarists

Use YouTube to get better at guitar. 
There are so many free guitar lessons. If they had YouTube back when I was first learning guitar... I'd be a lot better than I am now.

Don't stress over you "rig." 
Don't let guitar store guys talk you into getting tube amps and stuff. Solid-state is fine. Dimebag Darrell played solid state for the best Pantera albums

For your first amp setup, buy a Line 6 Spider or Blackstar head or any number of "modeling." The type of cab is less important. These type of amps model all sorts of different tones and effects with no noise. I'm not a paid endorser (although I totally would if Line 6 or Blackstar would only ask) but in my opinion modeling amps are cheaper, more versatile, and an overall better value than a tube amp, and cheaper and more convenient than a bunch of noisy pedals. There will be gear head tone snobs who scoff at modeling amps, but ignore them. It sounds fine to most people, and you're not playing for the tone snobs, hopefully.

Buy used gear (with caution). 
  • Buying new gear at a store is easiest but most expensive.
  • Buying used gear at a used music store is not as expensive as new and is still relatively easy.
  • Buying used gear on Craigslist is the cheapest but it is a huge hassle and also has the highest possibility of getting ripped off or murdered.

For any other advice, you can always contact me.