There’s something about making music that has the ability to bring out hard-line attitudes within a person. Maybe it’s because the process of writing music is often jarringly intimate and revealing for some of us, like an urgent accounting of how we truly perceive the world as human beings. Or perhaps the competitive you vs. the world mindset born out of an industry fueled by an obsession with clicks, plays, and views is somewhat to blame. No matter where it comes from and for better or worse, we often associate music-making with potent and extreme emotion, but approaching your craft with such a high-stakes attitude towards things could be detrimental.
Emotion in music is typically a really good thing, but being emotional in the way you make, perform, or promote your music isn’t.
Having an all-or-nothing mindset about anything in life is a bad idea because you could end up with, well, nothing. But having an over-emotional approach when it comes to being in a band can be especially destructive. Emotion in music is typically a really good thing, but being emotional in the way you make, perform, or promote your music isn’t. This might seem counterintuitive if you’re used to sacrificing everything for the good of your band and the music that it makes, but it’s a mindset that could end up stifling your potential or ending your project altogether if you’re not careful.
A band’s ability to navigate difficult situations through concerted compromise doesn’t typically make for a sexy bio or press release narrative, but it’s an important skill you’ll absolutely need if you plan on making serious music long term. Want to extend your summer tour through the fall and winter? Sounds fun, but maybe your band will be better off heading home and taking some time to rest and regroup. Are you tempted to say yes to each and every show someone offers you? It’s great your band is getting attention, but jumping at every opportunity is a surefire way to tire out your band and drain your resources.
Opening up the lines of communication and comprising is helpful not just for booking tours and shows but also for making music. If your band is truly a collaborative effort, there will be plenty of times when you’ll be forced to accept musical ideas you don’t like and give up on some ones you believe in in order to make things work. If everyone in your band comes into writing sessions with an all-or-nothing attitude, you simply won’t be able to make music together. And if you can’t make music together, you won’t have a band.
This advice transcends the realm of making music and applies to most everything in life, but don’t misinterpret this message and think it’s wrong to be passionate about your music. If you plan on making music seriously with a band, you won’t last long without passion. But being able to express your passion and ambition in a thoughtful, realistic and somewhat measured way about it will end up paying off in the long run.
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.