“All things must pass / All things must pass away,” George Harrison once sang. And while that may be true for all of us in a final, existential sense, not every band’s days need to be so shortly numbered. Some band breakups CAN be avoided — though if you’re like me, you’ll probably learn a few of these lessons the hard way.
Here are 7 tips to help you keep your band together
1. Sign a band agreement —
What is each member’s role? How do you split profits and ownership of publishing rights, trademarks, etc? What are your goals and expectations? What happens if someone leaves the band? How do you dismiss someone from the band?
Get all of this stuff out of the way up-front so you can move forward within a framework everyone on the team has agreed to. It may be a sticky process negotiating the terms of this agreement, but you’ll be happier once it’s behind you.
For more detailed info about drafting a band agreement, check out our article “Want Long-Term Success? Create Your Band Agreement TODAY”
2. Meet once a month outside of band obligations—
Yeah, I know — after all that touring and gigging and recording you’re plenty sick of each other already. But meeting on a regular basis outside of those events will help you stay more connected as people — and you can discuss band matters without the time-crunch of a practice, gig, or recording session hanging over the conversation.
Are you happy with the band’s musical direction, the types of gigs you’re getting, the attitude and input of the engineer or producer you hired recently? Now’s the best time to talk about it.
3. Avoid factions —
Even within a single band, it’s easy to form little cliques. That’s natural; but you should try your best to minimize the effects. Don’t let strange power-dynamics, passive aggression, or gossip eat away at your band from the inside.
If you split up into smaller groups during the day when you’re touring, make sure to rotate and hang out with a different band member in each city. If you’re accustomed to sectional rehearsals (drums & bass, guitar & vocal, etc.), switch up the instrument pairings every once in a while. Change your carpool arrangements for practice every other week. And so forth.
4. Give everyone a voice —
In order for everyone in the band to continue working hard, they need to feel a sense of ownership. One of the easiest ways to encourage this is to make sure everyone feels like they’re free to give input about the band’s business, music, performances, aesthetic, and marketing.
You don’t always have to agree, and you don’t always have to act on every bit of input from each member (that’d drive you crazy real fast) — but make sure everyone has been “heard.” The process for HOW to make a final decision based on differing input should be a key item in the band agreement mentioned above.
5. Have a solo side-project —
On the flip side of things, sometimes you just won’t want to compromise. Maybe you introduce a new song that your drummer really hates — but you insist on playing it, or you want to do something really innovative with your website that the rest of the band is confused by, or maybe you want to replace the bass player with pre-recorded synth tracks. Don’t!
Save all those ideas for your solo side-project, where you have complete control without the risk of offending anyone (save yourself). In the interest of band longevity, don’t force something on your fellow members that they’re overly uncomfortable with.
6. Discuss and limit drug-use —
I’m not going to say “Just Say No.” Nancy Reagan tried that and look how well it worked. It’s the music industry, after all. You’re probably going to be surrounded by alcohol, and frequently brush up against a number of other substances. How you partake or abstain is up to you, but your band SHOULD have some say in the matter. You’re investing in them and they’re investing in you. Musicians in danger of letting a substance rule their lives are a bad investment. So, in all things — moderation.
7. Be nice, be nice, be nice —
Try to stay sensitive to one another’s emotional, professional, and logistical needs. A band is like a family — warts and all. So be ready to support, love, fight, and hopefully forgive.
Have you kept a band together for more than 5 years? What’s your secret? Learned any lessons from bad band breakups? Let us know in the comments section below.
[Band photo from Shutterstock.]