In a perfect world, the musicians we choose to work with will be thoughtful, helpful, and encouraging when it comes to the music we’re making. But like any relationship, the interpersonal connections between musicians in bands and other musical projects can often be as complex and dramatic as music itself. Sometimes the answer is to dig in, find common ground, and to do the hard work of maintaining these relationships to keep them healthy. But when relationships between musicians become damaged past the point of salvageability, there needs to be a major change.
How to know it’s time to for a change
Tons of things have the potential to come between you and the musicians you work with, so there is no catch-all way to know when it’s time to stop working together. But as a general rule, if you find yourself unable to create or perform music with the musicians you surround yourself with, it’s time to make some serious changes.
Making music over the long-term––and by “long-term,” I mean longer than a year or two––can be incredibly taxing and thankless. Add in complications like finances, creative struggles, and an industry that’s harder to succeed in by the day, and you get pressing challenges that even bands and projects with healthy musician relationships struggle to contend with.
It’s time to end the musical relationship you’ve formed with bandmates and other musicians when you feel like there’s not a path forward toward reaching your musical goals, but getting to that point is different for everyone and it’s not usually an easy or simple conclusion to come to. But once you know for sure that you need to make a change, you’ll have to figure out the best way to move forward.
Tips for parting ways with musicians
Respect is the biggest thing to keep in mind when thinking about how to make a change when it comes to working with musicians. A respectful person wouldn’t announce the decision to leave a band over an email or text message. Meet in person, speak honestly, and do your best to be kind.
The reactions to your decision could range anywhere from relief to complete shock, so keep that in mind before you talk. With serious egos, money and hopes pinned on so many musical projects, the musicians you sever ties with might be deeply upset with you no matter how you break the news, so be prepared.
You might be the problem
Sometimes bands need to break up in order for each of its members to move on in a positive way. But if you find yourself running into the same problems over and over again no matter who you work with, then the problems you’re trying to get away from probably have to do with you and not the musicians you’ve been working with. It can be easy to point out mistakes and problems in other people, but sometimes the best way to reach our goals is to look inward at the flaws and shortcoming in ourselves.
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.