Ella Hooper’s 10 Tips For Breaking Your Band


It seems every other day another hardworking and talented band is calling it quits after growing frustrated with years spent hovering just below the radar. Sometimes all it takes is a little helping hand. That’s why we’ve partnered up with Melbourne Music Bank to get the inside scoop on what it takes to make your passion your life’s work. And who better to tell us than MMB’s 2014 ambassador, Ella Hooper! Get all the details on what Melbourne Music Bank can do for your act here.

The early days of being in a band and trying to ‘make it’ are some of the funnest, but also the hardest, of a burgeoning music career. People mostly think of my entry into the scene as an overnight success story, but it wasn’t so. It was quick-ish, but not overnight.

I remember feeling frustrated after playing yet another Battle of the Bands back in the day, and wondering if we would EVER catch a lucky break (I realise now we had only been trying for about two years, but that feels like a long time when you’re 13!), which actually leads me into my first tip…


I know it’s a bit of a cliche, but good things do come to those who wait. And by wait, I think I really mean work. Keep steadily at it, year after year, even if no-one’s responding yet. You’ve got to make sure you’re loving what you’re doing, because it can take a really long time to get where you want to be in music.

I’ve seen bands and artists put strict timelines on things and even give themselves ultimatums like, “If I don’t get a deal/get on radio/have a hit/break through this year, it’s over! I’m done with music!” Their frustration and impatience gets the better of them and they quit, and that’s a sure fire way of not getting where you want to go.

So take a deep breath, fill up your patience tank and prepare to plug away for however long it takes.

Be Great

The methodology will be different for every artist, but what’s universal is that people respond to outstanding talents and efforts. You’ve got to be so unique or so damn good at what you do — or failing that, so damn charming — that people stop what they’re doing and take you seriously.

The music scene and the industry surrounding it is more crowded than ever. It takes pretty exceptional skills to stand out. Push yourself to the outer limits of your God-given talent, whether that’s in writing or performing, and try and reach a unique place with it that no-one else can.

And again, that leads me into my next point…

Be Different

The best tip I can give you is highlight your uniqueness!

People love it when they feel like they’re experiencing something rare and genuine. It might be fun to hone a popular style and get really, really good at imitating it, but if you look at major breakthrough acts, they were often considered kooky or fringe right before they became massive stars. They were unusual. Everyone from Nirvana to Amy Winehouse had something unique, strange and inimitable about them. Or several things!

Your quirks and the things that maybe shouldn’t work about you (like a lisp, a bizarre dance, a confronting lyric, or a look that’s not for sale in the mall… yet) is often the thing that makes you stand out and makes people feel like they’re onto something new.

But it has to be genuine. Don’t overthink it. Just let your freak flag fly, sonically and visually. For example, I didn’t even realise that my mixing of pop, rock, goth and raver fashion influences would cause such a stir when Killing Heidi first came out. It was just what I was into, but the combo was a bit shocking and that worked for us.

Play Plus

They say a gig is worth a thousand rehearsals and I tend to agree. But it’s not just how much you play, it’s how you play. I believe in playing as though every gig, busking session, rehearsal and even soundcheck is THE ONE. Bands have been discovered by managers and A&R people in all sorts of odd ways. You never know who will be where, popping in to check out the headliner you’re supporting.

Always bring it. Even if the gig has a terrible turnout, find a way to cheer up and bring it. Murphy’s Law would suggest that the one time you crack the shits and put in a half-hearted performance is the very same gig that your favourite muso or the booking agent you’ve been waiting for catches. Don’t do it. Give 100%. Every time.

Find Your Champions, My Friend

It’s great if you can find other acts you dig to champion you. Of course, if they happen to be a little ahead of you career-wise there will be things you can learn from them. They might even share their connections with you. If you’re at the same level, you can support each other by, well, supporting each other, as well as lending each other gear, making interstate alliances, that sort of thing.

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