Since impulsivity and music often go hand in hand, it can be tempting to make quick, on-the-spot decisions when it comes to how you make, perform, record, and promote your music. Feeling comfortable and confident with the way you make decisions is pretty important in the songwriting arena, but ironically, giving your instincts too much of a say in matters other than music-making could end up significantly hurting your band.
Why wait to mix, master, and release your new single when the demo sounds so good right now in the moment? Maybe it’s time to cancel the rest of the tour because of how bad last night’s show went. Or what about giving away free records and shirts to the crowd after a show went well? In the moment, it might make perfect sense to do any of these things, but you’ll probably experience a great deal of regret if you actually did any of them.
The bands who are truly “making it” these days are the ones who’ve found a way not to break up.
There’s a freedom in creativity that simply can’t apply to other things we do in life. Meaningful music finds us when we’re able to get out of our own way in order to follow and completely submit to our impulses, no matter how strange and primitive they might seem. But the emotional headspace that’s best for songwriting can prove detrimental for just about every other part of being in a serious band. Everything from booking shows and practicing to deciding how you want to promote an upcoming album can only be done well with discipline and following through with pre-set plans. The bands who are truly “making it” these days are the ones who’ve found a way not to break up. And if your band routinely makes hasty, gut-inspired decisions, you most likely won’t be able to last for long.
Living purely in the moment and acting without thinking of the long-term consequences of your actions is not wise in any area of life, but it’s particularly destructive when it comes to bands, which are business partnerships as much as they are relationships. Add drugs and booze into the mix with impulsivity as so many musicians like to do, and you’ve got a powder keg ready to go off at any moment. Acting in the moment is great for reality TV, but probably not for your band if it wants to be taken seriously.
The good news is that with a little effort and communication, your band can avoid acting impulsively. Here’s a few simple tips:
Make decisions together
Rather than making big decisions on your own, wait a while, and talk with your band before making a choice that could end up being harmful.
Be sober when you make important decisions
Don’t make important decisions while under the influence. That could negatively affect your band.
Take a step back
When you feel yourself getting emotional, try your best to approach things with patience and perspective. It’s very rare that choices in the music industry need to be made right in the moment, so feel free to take your impulses into account and to re-think them later.
Patrick McGuire is a musician, writer, and educator currently residing in the great city of Philadelphia. He creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.