Tips for keeping a band together

By Mike Ludwig

Breakups are a fact of musical life. Ego clashes, artistic differences and even petty arguments over whose should pay the bar tab can make it all too easy for band mates to become frustrated and quite. Success in the music world demands consistency and dedication, however, and investing time in communicating with band mates about key issues before disagreements arise is the best way to avoid a breakup.

Open and direct communication

Bands mates get together to make music, not bicker like contestants on a reality TV show. Band mates must be able to communicate both their musical and personal desires to each other openly and directly. Disagreements ranging from musical approach to what venues to play and when to practice are completely natural and should be discussed immediately before emotions run sour. Band mates should never talk behind each other’s backs or make decisions without the consent of everyone involved. If band mates can’t take time to listen to each other, discuss their common goals and deal with disagreements in an open and civilized manner, then they probably should not be playing together.

Avoiding “artistic differences”

We often hear of bands breaking up over “artistic differences.” Sometimes this infamous phrase is a scapegoat for issues that have nothing to do with art, but often musicians will eventually disagree with each other over basic issues of style and workmanship. This can naturally happen over a number of years as musicians evolve artistically, but a young band can avoid a more immediate breakup by simply sharing and discussing individual tastes and stylistic goals from the outset. Band mates should take time to talk about common influences and collectively decide on the type of sound they want to create. This will helps bands take advantage of a different dynamic: artistic similarities.

Taming the egos

Art and music are natural extension of the artist’s ego, and because a band is forced to create music together, ego battles can quickly become a problem. This is why it is so important for bands to establish a common understanding on the subject of songwriting. If the front man of a band wishes to be the sole songwriter, then he better clear that with his mates before demanding that they answer to his artistic demands. The same goes for supporting members. A bassist who wishes to do more than hold down the bottom end should mention that to his mates before practice even begins. If a band wants to take an impromptu, experimental or collective approach to songwriting (an approach that has been gaining steam in noise, jam and punk scenes for years), then each member must be able to be able to put their egos in check, listen to their band mates and share ideas with an open mind.

Drugs and alcohol

Let’s face it: many musicians use drugs and alcohol. Substances can both boost a musician’s creative potential and destroy cohesion and communication. Band members should all agree one whether practice session and performance are sobre affairs, or if a bit of healthy partying will be tolerated. Rock ‘n Roll history teaches us that drug and alcohol addiction can be deadly to a band member and the band itself, so bandmates that party must be prepared to confront each other about substance abuse.

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