How To Part Ways With Other Musicians

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.

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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.

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Join the conversation
  • crash - January 11, 2018 reply

    hi I own the studio and all the gear. Should I feel guilty about chrging each memeber 10$ / rehearsal? up to maximum of 80/month?
    It bugs me because 1 member feels he doesnt have to pay……thx

    Tom Inglis - March 28, 2018 reply

    I’ve not participated in this kind of business model in the past and would be unlikely to in the future. I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong as long as before auditioning a potential member is informed of how it works, it’s just not a model I’m comfortable with. In short, as long as there is a prior agreement, no you shouldn’t feel guilty. You may be risking band mutiny though. I’ve seen full bands leave one individual and re-form as another entity over an issue of this nature.

  • chrisdbeats - January 11, 2018 reply

    It depend’s with the person you are charging,some people have the ability but they do not have money but if he/she does have money they can pay for hat they love

  • guitarlizard - January 11, 2018 reply

    Well Crash, you are inviting your fellow bandmates into your studio. Charging a rehearsal fee is B.S.. When does it stop? Is it equipment that you are making money with? ( Not just you making money off your mates.) Moving, setting up, tearing down, storing and maintaining? I also own the equipment for the band. It is equipment that is updated or replaced every year. Up front I tell my band mates that the equipment is a part of the band and gets paid the same as a performer. I’ve been doing it this way for several years with no complaints. The issue here is, how long will the members pay to rehearse? Its as bad as paying to play.

  • Beth Crystal - January 11, 2018 reply

    This is advise on how to quit a band. What tips do you have on how to fire a band member?

    withheld - but if you were involved, you know - March 28, 2018 reply

    It depends on the reason. It’s seldom easy but tactful honesty is the best bet, same as when quitting a band. I’ve fired band members for excessive inebriation, late to gigs/rehearsals, failure to prepare. not having congruent goals and just being an unpleasant person. I’ve been fired from bands for not having congruent goals and to replace me with a person whose skill set was more appropriate to the group. In the latter case, I was angry. Not because I was replaced with a more appropriate musician for the band but because no one told me until I showed up at a rehearsal 40 miles from my home and they all looked around at each other and said, “I thought you told him” to each other. Business is business, I get that. Bad business is bad business. For a group of weekend warriors that were all business professionals during the daytime, I was underwhelmed. Still, I was polite through my gritted teeth. I’ve never spoken to any of them again but I’ve not bad mouthed them either. Shit happens.

  • Nelson - January 29, 2018 reply

    For those of you who believe that he should not charge, have never run a business. Who do you think paid for the equipment, electric bill, insurance, rent, and on and on?

    Tom Inglis - March 28, 2018 reply

    I have run a business. Still, I’m risking the time and effort to perfect the act. I’m okay with investing in the general equipment and the space if necessary to make things happen but I want a piece of that investment back to offset my losses if the project is unsuccessful since I’m not going to recoup the time and effort. That’s my personal model and it’s served me in good stead. I don’t disparage anyone who finds that situation acceptable – I wish them the best of luck in realizing their musical ambitions through participating in the opportunities they are okay with.

  • Tis Music lover - July 18, 2018 reply

    Running a band or being part of a musical group with long term aspirations is like a sort of group marriage. It is a strange dynamic that doesn’t work out for many. Each member will contribute in their own way. Some will bring riffs, others equipment, others talent or marketing ability. It seems that we sometimes get caught up on the idea that everyone should be adding about the same value to make it work, but that is rarely the case, and that is ok. The rewards are almost never equally distributed either. One thing is for certain: it is harder to make decisions about the breakup when the expectations of the groups success were not framed correctly at the beginning.

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