We’ve all heard stories of huge bands breaking up seemingly out of the middle of nowhere. For aspiring musicians, it’s hard to imagine why bands who experience so much success explode and fizzle out, but there’s always hidden dynamics and unhealthy patterns at work in the frayed relationships in these bands. Bands who haven’t achieved major success are often plagued by the same sorts of relationship issues on top of challenges like worries about money and whether their hard work will ever pay off.
So many of these problems are centered around trust and respect. You could be making incredible music, selling out shows night after night, and signed to the label of your dreams, but you’ll be miserable if there’s turmoil within the relationships in your band.
Keeping the relationships in your band healthy
A band is a finicky thing. Equal parts business, creative partnership, and marriage, there’s nothing quite like the relationships found in bands anywhere else in our world, which is what makes them so difficult to navigate. Making sure you and your bandmates are happy, fulfilled, respected, invested in the project, and listened to is difficult work that’s probably not on the top of the list of your priorities, but it should be. When people talk about maintaining a happy marriage, they usually say something like “it takes a lot of work.” So many bands could benefit from the hard work of learning to better communicate and listen to one another. Once that work begins to happen, the issues of trust and respect can be addressed.
Why trust and respect are so important
You probably have to trust your bandmates more than you think. Whether it’s falling asleep in the back of the van while your drummer takes the wheel or not thinking twice about your singer remembering your song’s lyrics on stage, you can’t be in a band with people you don’t trust. So if trust has broken down between the musicians in your band, it’s time to drop everything else and talk about it. You can get away with ignoring it for a little while, but the issue is bound to come out whether you like it or not. And when it eventually does, it might be somewhere public and embarrassing, like on stage.
The same goes when it comes to respect between you and your bandmates. You can chug along for a while if your band has respect issues, but when resentment builds and eventually comes to a head, things will get ugly. Like most things in life, it’s hard to do preventative work now to stave off problems later––think exercising and buying healthy food for the week ahead rather than picking up fast food when you’re hungry––but it’s absolutely necessary for serious bands. Preventing a fire before it gets started is a whole lot easier than putting out a major blaze, and if your band is set on making music seriously together over the long-term, you’ll have to work preventively when it comes to keeping the relationships in your band solid and sustainable.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.