Posted: Nov 13, 2017
Category: The Musician Business
**Guest post written by Joe Hoten of Bands For Hire.
"When your band breaks up, it's like losing your family, your job and your favourite hobby all in one fell swoop. It feels like your whole world has come crashing down around you, the colour has drained out of the world and nothing will be the same again.
This is of course a feeling best avoided at all costs, so here is a list of ten reasons explaining why it happened, and how you can hopefully prevent it from happening again.
Being in a band is not just about learning your parts then showing up and playing them. Chances are you're not going to have or even need a manager until you're more established, so the boring stuff is going to be down to you. One of you may have more of a natural flair for organisation than the others, but that doesn't mean to say there's nothing you can each do to help.
If you find yourself making most of the band's decisions, you need to get into the habit of delegating tasks (like booking rehearsals and gigs or checking the joint email account) to other members early on, because, if you don't, they'll get too comfortable with their comparatively limited role, which will almost certainly breed resentment for as long as it's allowed to continue. On the flip side, delegation demonstrates trust. If you don't let anyone else man the Facebook page in case they mess something up, you're showing the other member that you don't trust them, which will likewise degenerate into bad feeling.
It requires a certain amount of confidence to walk onstage in front of a crowd people and play your heart out. It's what separates the good performances from the great. But the stage is where you should hang your ego up, because there's no place for it in the practice room. We all started somewhere, and it's important to remember that when you're confronted with differences of opinion. Try to bully your band mates into agreeing with you and you'll soon render yourself a solo artist.
Once in a while, you need to remind yourselves – and each other – that, although you're working on something that feels bigger than all of you put together, humans are sensitive creatures. Thoughtless comments rarely go unheeded. So much can slip your mind when you've got so much else to focus on, like forgetting to discuss with everyone which songs are added to or dropped from the set list, or accepting a gig offer for less money than your agreed minimum. You could be creating tensions that'll run beneath the surface until they erupt in an angry outburst, and by then it'll be too late to repair the damage.
Being in a band is a huge commitment, and a costly one at that. Not only do you have to purchase and maintain your own instrument: you must also take into consideration the costs of travel, rehearsal room rental and studio time. These, as well as the general cost of living. So, with this amount of pressure bearing down on you, it's vital that you're sensible and fair when apportioning out each member's earnings. Many bands start out dividing any earnings equally between each band member, with an additional equal portion paid into the 'band fund'. This way, nobody feels left out, and you all feel as though you're building towards something together.
This all goes out the window when certain members feel as though they're owed more for whatever reason (like, if they also manage the band, or write the majority of the music you play). Rather than resorting to the threat of payment cuts to the less active members (remember – a true musician is never in it for the money), try reinforcing definite roles within your band to make it clear who does what – that way, if certain members are responsible for more or less than other certain members, it's at least clearly defined, and it won't seem unfair if payments need to be reshuffled.
Not wishing to belittle anyone's role in your band, it's nevertheless common to have one or two members who provide more than just a fraction of the music. These members could be songwriters, or have a distinctive sound or style of playing that others would struggle to replicate. They could even have the drive that got you off the ground in the first place. At any rate, this person will leave an obvious and gaping hole in their absence, and if you can't fill it with something even better, that hole is going to leak all the magic out. Your deflating balloon of a band will lose its substance and shape. The best way to avoid this is, even if you have the hottest guitarist since Hendrix in your musical arsenal, you need to make every show and every decision about the band, and not just make it a vehicle for your star player. Similarly, don't leave songwriting or business responsibilities to one person – make sure you all know what you need to do to keep your band afloat.
Conquering the stages of your local music venues might seem like the triumph to top all triumphs when you first manage to pack them out. And it's no mean feat by any stretch of the imagination – you deserve a hearty pat on the back for drawing a crowd of any size on your own terms. But don't get comfortable being a big fish in a three venue pond. The regulars are going to want something new, so your bookings at these particular places will become fewer and farther between to make way for different acts.
If you don't make the leap to playing in other towns, you'll lose momentum and find it harder to bother pushing yourselves. It can be daunting to travel to strange places and playing before strange people, but if you've got even a shred of drive about you, you're soon going to become stir crazy staring out at the same twenty to thirty people each time to play. And they'll probably feel the same way.
We all need our outlets, and, particularly if your principle band plays a different style of music to your preferred kind, it can be healthy to explore avenues. It can even introduce your principle band to fresh ideas, which is an integral part of your development. But it can also pull focus, not to mention stretch you pretty thin. If you find yourself struggling to divide your time fairly between multiple projects, you're going to have to be prepared to let one go – and it might be the band that started you off. Don't take on more projects than you can handle, else you won't be able to afford each of them the time they deserve.
There's such a thing as too much, too soon. It's incredibly difficult, when things start picking up for your band, to resist the temptation to take every opportunity that comes your way. But it's just as important to know your limitations as it is to push them. If you're trying to cram in multiple gigs every day, you're going to wear yourselves out. By all means promote a good work ethic in your band, but don't lose sight of the fact that you are only human. Set your sights too high, and you'll see your band mates crumbling.
My my, hey hey. You may be rock 'n' roll, but you won't be here to stay unless you can maintain public interest. A band that truly stands the test of time ages gracefully, taking each new trend in their stride. The greatest fear of many a great artist is becoming irrelevant in their own time, and it happens more often than we'd like to think. Stay true to your guns too literally and refuse to adapt your style, and the best you can hope for is a niche audience of ageing purists who'll turn your shows into portals to a dim and distant past.
The ultimate nail in your band's coffin is not being able to agree on which direction your music should take. You might have assembled the most talented team of musicians your town has to offer, but if you don't share the same vision, you won't share a happy ending. Compromise is key here – everybody's voices must be heard for everybody to feel fulfilled creatively. And it might be that hearing everybody's voices results in a confused, diluted mutant of a sound that none of you are satisfied with. If this is the case, then it's time for each of you to go your separate ways and find musicians who you can really see eye to eye with."
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