Band Tips: How To Stay Together

Being in a band isn't easy. Here's how to deal with typical problems that arise.

Anyone who has ever been in a band, particularly a band that's enjoyed some longevity, will tell you that "a band is just like a marriage". The main difference is that the love is for the music, not necessarily for each other. Nevertheless, the principles are the same when it comes to staying together. Here are a few typical dynamics that you'll encounter and some practical ways to deal with them.

#1 - The "Big Ego" Syndrome

Typically assigned to the lead guitarist or the lead vocalist, the "Big Ego" syndrome can be deadly to a band. It can take the form of tantrums at the severe end or passive-aggressive control at the low-key end. The question here is - how do you want to deal with it? When faced with such personality conflict, the best thing to do first is to evaluate your personal gut reaction. Listen to your self-talk. Listen to the things you don't say. Is the other person's big ego competing with your ego? Since you can't control the other person (number one rule), how can you best control yourself? There are a few stances you can take. One, you can simply blow it off, ignore it, chalk it up to the other person's immaturity and play on. That's fairly easy to do if you have your own ego together and in perspective. That means that your heart and ego are with the music and for music's sake and nothing else - assuming the band you're in is really where you want to be. Anything that happens outside of that is peripheral and inconsequential. That's hard to do sometimes but there will always be times when the friction seems less than worth it.

The one afflicted with the "Big Ego" syndrome may have good reason to be so. Are they a leader with a clear vision? Are you there to support that vision? If the answers are two consecutive yes's, then you're probably in a position to resign yourself to dealing with the Big Ego. Do you have a clear vision of your own? Then perhaps the conflict is deeper than mere irritation. If what arises from your self-talk and an honest assessment of your own needs and desires is that your vision conflicts with their vision, then you might do better to move on. Sometimes we endure the tension and tantrums because we think we have to and sometimes we endure because we don't know better, and sometimes we endure because we fear moving on. Which is it for you?

#2 He/She is not committed

Here's an interesting problem. There's one person in the band that, for some reason that no one can discern the closer you get to your goals, the less they seem interested. Just like in a marriage, communication is key. A band has to constantly communicate their mutual goals and renegotiate their goals every step of the way. Some members might believe at the outset that they are in it to "go as far as (they) can". But when it comes down to it, and play becomes work, they're no longer as committed. Honest and open communication can settle this problem as soon as it's detected. That goes for problem #3.

#3 - Pressure to "Make it"

Once a band has acquired a local following and things really begin to heat up, one or some members might jump the gun and quit their day jobs in order to commit themselves entirely to the music. Usually this happens because the money's coming in from steady gigs and that's so much more attractive than the mundane day job. Things look good, but that's when the trouble starts. The pressure is now on to gig continuously and for good pay, in order to sustain those otherwise unemployed. What started out as fun is now "work". This creates undue tension and breaks a band that has already been through much and gone far. Decide as a group to decide when to make what moves. It's not fair to other members to put that kind of tension on the group. The best thing to do is again, to communicate and decide together, as a group, when and if the group wants to strike out and go fulltime.

There's no way around it. You are responsible for your personal decisions and the effects they have on the group. The smart thing is for the group to make all decisions together by continuously communicating mutual goals. The bands that make it far are the ones that communicate and agree as a group.

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