The 10 Commandments of being in a band

3504 7

The rules of being in a band[This article was written by Dylan Welsh, and it originally appeared on the Sonicbids Blog.]

As fun as being in a band is, it can challenge you in a big way as a musician and a person. Don’t underestimate it – if you’re trying to be serious about your band, then these are the 10 commandments you need to live by.

1. Thou shalt be a good hang

Number one rule of being in a band: be a good person! Be nice and easy to work with, and you’ll get consistent work. Plus, music is supposed to be fun, and it’s hard to have fun when there’s a lot of personal tension among the group.

2. Thou shalt know thy place

Are you a main part of the band that should be contributing and putting in as much work as everyone else? Are you a hired sideman who should just be hanging out in the background and playing your parts perfectly? Somewhere in between, perhaps? Wherever you sit on the spectrum, be sure you know where you are so that you aren’t stepping on any toes or taking too few responsibilities.

3. Thou shalt come prepared

If you’re in a serious band, you can’t be a slacker. If you’ve got parts to learn, learn them before rehearsal. Same if you have parts to write or business tasks to complete. Make sure your gear is ready to roll (i.e., functional) and that you bring all of the necessary equipment to every rehearsal/gig. Don’t be the drummer who has to borrow a drum key or the guitar player who needs a pick.

4. Thou shalt conduct thyself with professionalism

Regardless of how crazy your group’s image/stage persona is, that shouldn’t be something that gets taken off the stage. Just as you should be easy to work with when working with your bandmates, you should be easy to work with when communicating with industry professionals and venue owners. You definitely want to be asked back, and that’s not going to happen if you show up late, get wasted, trash the venue, and send an inarticulate and grammatically incorrect apology text a week after the gig. Don’t forget, it’s the music business.

5. Thou shalt pay thy dues

Almost everybody in the professional world starts from the bottom, and your band will likely be no exception. Yes, the gigs and opportunities will get better, but they’ll never have a chance to if you’re constantly complaining about getting booked on crappy days and not making an effort to really network with other musicians. Hard work will pay off, but you can’t take shortcuts or think that a platinum record is just going to materialize out of thin air.

6. Thou shalt use appropriate equipment

Don’t ruin your awesome gig playing behind a singer/songwriter by dragging your Marshall stack to the coffee shop. Similarly, don’t bring your little three-piece jazz kit when the metal band you got called for wants you to bring your eight-piece. Know ahead of time what sort of gear you are supposed to bring so that you can make it less awkward for the other musicians playing with you.

7. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s gear

Maybe your second guitar player just bought a $4,000 Gibson that’s way nicer than yours, even though you consider yourself to be the superior player. Or maybe the band that’s opening for you is a bunch of high school kids that can’t play well yet, but they have rich parents and are thus rocking vintage Marshalls, Ampegs, and Ludwigs. What do you do in a situation like this?

You get over it. That’s it. Get over it. Gear doesn’t make the player, and just because you think you deserve that crazy expensive guitar doesn’t mean you should get envious or feel rage when somebody else has one, even if you think they “deserve it less.”

8. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s romantic partners

This should be a no-brainer. You ever hear the stories about the drummer getting with the bass player’s ladyfriend? Or the one about Jimi Hendrix dating Keith Richards’ girl? Yeah, that burns bridges and creates a lot of drama. There are plenty of other fish in the sea – don’t start messing with your friends’ relationships.

9. Thou shalt complete the work that lies ahead

If you’ve been reading the Sonicbids blog at all, you might be thinking, “Boy, being successful in a band sure seems like a lot of work!” That’s because it is. And the only thing holding you back is you not doing that work and putting in that time (unless your music legitimately sucks – but that’s an article for another day). So do it. Think of your band as a really, really part-time job. Like, 10 hours a week. Part of that is going to come from rehearsals, gigs, writing, and practicing the material on your own, but what are you going to do on the rest of the days of the week? Well, for starters, you could read through this blog for a few minutes, and you’ll no doubt come across a number of things that you could be doing that you aren’t yet to push the career of your band forward. Now, imagine if every person in your band considered the band a 10-hours-per-week part-time job? Imagine how much progress would be made!

10. Thou shalt always give 100 percent

As a band, you’ll have to have goals. However, what happens often is that a band will set goals that they simply half-ass, and thus, never actually achieve. That could very well work in your favor: if you’re the band that actually busts their ass to meet their goals, you’ll step immediately into a different level from the other bands that aren’t doing the same.

Whether it’s promotion, networking, writing, playing a gig, making a record, or anything else that you do as a band, half-assing it will give you half-ass results. The results you see are directly proportional to the amount of work and effort you put in. Make it happen.

Dylan Welsh is a freelance musician and music journalist, based in Seattle, WA. He currently plays in multiple Seattle bands, interns at Mirror Sound Studio, and writes for the Sonicbids blog. Visit his website for more information.

Free Updates: 
Get Music Promotion Tips and Exclusive Offers Delivered to Your Inbox

Creating Effective Facebook Events

[Image via goodinaroom.com]

In this article


Join the Conversation

  • Rob K Music

    Juice? WTF IS JUICE?!?! Want me some drank. Gimme the purple stuff.

  • Rob K Music

    I guess you didn’t get the reference? My point was that this happens in maybe 1% of 1% of bands out there. The average musician will say they do ALL these things when in reality they do NONE of them. Sage advice though… Imagine how many more success stories there would be out there.

  • Parisjok

    that is what my favorite band the Bee Gees did!!!

  • Dean Calin

    This is basic but GREAT advice! I’ve seen young bands fall into avoidable traps, some of which are listed above.

  • In some extreme cases, it may make sense to break #5. You might not want to get caught up in a dead-end clique that isn’t going anywhere, ever, take away time that could be used for better opportunities, drain your energy, etc. I have actually seen situations where hanging out and performing can do more harm than good to your reputation! (For example, if you’re the only person at the open mic who is not an SSDI recipient!)

  • Rich999

    This is great advice IF everyone in the band is serious about success. Unfortunately, though many may say that they want to be successful, most do not. Most people want to be in a band a have lots of fun, but they do not want to do do the work. Many believe that being successful in music is a pipe dream that could never happen. Too bad for those of us who want to work for that goal – it can take quite a while to identify those that do not.

  • Rhyme Or Reason

    This is dumb. Thy neighbors gear? who gives a fuck?