The 3 Biggest Reasons Why Bands Break Up

For how much music has changed over the past couple of years, the reasons bands split up seem to stubbornly be the same. The complex interpersonal dynamics in bands can be extremely difficult to navigate whether you’re fresh out of high school and touring for the first time or have been in a successful band for decades. And even though we’re living in an unprecedented time in music where things work and look nothing like they did even a decade ago, there’s nothing new under the sun when it comes to why bands decide to throw in the towel. In no particular order, here are the top three reasons bands break up:

1. Money

If there was some sort of all-knowing musical database out there that kept track of issues behind band breakups that we could log into, we’d absolutely see money as one of the leading culprits. Arguments and concerns over money have the potential to poison any relationship, but they’re especially detrimental to bands for a couple of reasons. In marriages and even many business partnerships, it’s common knowledge that honesty and open communication are important, but musicians typically don’t prioritize those things, even though they should. Throw concerns over money into the mix with a band who isn’t used to speaking openly and honestly about their issues and you can see why money is at the root of many a band’s demise.

Another issue is the unavoidable fact that everything in music costs money, and some musicians simply can’t keep sinking cash into something that never pays off financially. Recording, touring, promotion—the costs never end for an active band, which is why lots of musicians eventually decide they just can’t afford to do it anymore.

2. Lack of fulfillment/compatibility

“Creative differences” has been cited behind so many band breakups that it’s become sort of a joke in music, but the truth behind it is that when musicians check out mentally, the projects they’re a part of either disband or hobble on without them. Being in a band is simply too hard to do unless a musician’s heart is in it 100%. But here’s where things get tricky. Since each person’s version of musical fulfillment is different, bands often experience trouble on this front for a multitude of reasons. For example, one person in a band might be perfectly fine with playing local shows and practicing a couple times a month but another may want to tour seriously and make records. Without some sort of compromise, the visions these two musicians are working towards aren’t compatible. Different musical philosophies and interests can also break bands up, but this typically happens before a band gets very far in their career.

3. Petty arguments, jealousy, and bickering

Force any combination of human beings to ride around in a van together for a month and some unpleasantness is bound to occur. A breakdown in the relationships between musicians spells doom for many bands because, well, it’s insanely hard to be in a band even under the best of circumstances. The mental and physical barriers a couple of quarreling coworkers can erect in an office can’t happen in a band. When the communication and respect between musicians begins to erode, the end is near unless something changes quick and in a significant way.

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.

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  • Clever Mosaics - October 6, 2018 reply

    You are totally right

    latex pillow - October 26, 2018 reply

    Yes, it’s exact like this.

    Norpel Dining Chairs - October 9, 2019 reply

    You’re right. These 3 reasons matter.

  • showbox - October 9, 2018 reply

    The complex interpersonal dynamics in bands can be extremely difficult to navigate

  • Joe Bear - October 11, 2018 reply

    In my experience, the number one cause of bands breaking up is the commissioning, posing for, and production of a real publicity photo.
    I’m only kind of kidding.

    Chuck - October 11, 2018 reply

    You’re not kidding at all. I’ve even paid for a photo session with a member who knew he was leaving at the session.

  • Steve Baker - October 11, 2018 reply

    I run and play in 3 bands.. open and honest relations and good diplomacy skills creates longevity also a good list of deps is also a great thing to have thus avoiding conflicts with members holidays and time off with family etc..

  • Bruce Meyer - October 11, 2018 reply

    Perhaps one should look at the question of why bands break up under a model of small business partnerships management. Why does any small partnership break up? You numbers 1, 2, and 3 certainly sound reliable. Having an MBA or bachelors in business administration is not necessary, “but it couldn’t hurt.” OF COURSE you have to act like artists, but if you’re a band (collective of partners, The Beatles? e.g.) instead of an individual artist who hires associates/musicians (Paul McCartney, deliberately not a band after Wings), the first order of business is business; and content (artistic creation) is second. Otherwise, you may as well play in your garage. Disclaimer: I play for under rates I consider acceptable but which balance the sacrifices I need to make with the market realities. My preferences and market realities are subject to change at any time.

  • Roger Silverberg - October 11, 2018 reply

    You are correct by putting “money”, or lack thereof first. If a band is generating enough income to fuel further investment in the project, a lot of the pettty bullshit items become me less debilitating. Not enough money and unless you’re doing music strictly as a diversion/hobby, the other points will kill a band.

  • Steve - October 12, 2018 reply

    Drankin’. Don’t need to say any more.

  • Paul - October 12, 2018 reply

    Another notable reason for band breakups or at least individual members quitting-in my 40 years experience- is family conflicts. The spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend doesn’t like the competition for quality time or feels threatened by a partner being out on stage in front of other potential romantic connections, that’s one I’ve seen more than once. Another version is the bandmate who’s really just in it for the girls (or boys) meets someone they’re serious about and quits. Seen that one more than once also. Either can break up a band, or at least make a serious roadblock of downtime recruiting and training a new member.

    SS - October 12, 2018 reply

    Truth! The girls want a musician until they get one. Then they want them out of the band ’cause that’s how they got him! (or her)

  • Greg Fox - October 12, 2018 reply

    I have five reasons…
    Drugs and alcohol… A no-brainer… literally!
    Wife and kids… Just can’t spend the time to be in a band.
    Prima Dona… Too good for your band! (usually turns out to be too good for any band) In their own head.
    Money… Well covered in this article.
    Grandchildren Syndrome (subtitle: Bragging Rights)… This one is subtle. As I got older I discovered this one but I knew it all along intuitively. The person that this describes will work with you until you attain some benchmark, like playing a certain place or getting a recording out. Then when this item is checked off on their “bucket list”, they’re gone. When you run into them later they will always start out with, “Wasn’t that great?” If you’re in it for the long haul, if you’ve stuck with it, I consider it a duty to shut them down with, “Yeah, but then we did something better.”

  • Barefoot Skinny - October 12, 2018 reply

    Being a full time Solo Entertainer or Duet seems to work best as you can add or subtract other players based on the business model you have. Still, the money is always a BIG factor. We have all played for free and will anytime it suits us, but if you can’t make enough to keep your gear up to Pro standards, and your pickup players happy, things go downhill quickly and you’re back in Amateur Land. Or, playing for your own enjoyment.

  • Chuck Hughes - October 12, 2018 reply

    The Stones hobbled on without Brian Jones, Beatles without Pete Best, AC/DC without Bon Scott, Judas Priest without Rob Halford, Eagles without Bernie Leadon, Van Halen without David Lee Roth, G&R without Axl.

  • Eli - October 12, 2018 reply

    Money for sure. But another big reason is the pure lack of business acumen. Your band mates expectimg you to do all the work and assume all of the expense. Then there is the lack of respect for what it takes to obtain and then maintain relationships with venues. They j uh st show up with their hand out for the cash and never attempt to contribute to finfing gigs. Just not worth it. Happens in Tampa.

  • Dwayne Campbell - October 12, 2018 reply

    this is 100% accurate…i always paid my band more money than i ever made, just to try and keep them happy. it also never helps when you get home from a road trip and someone gives you a receipt for reimbursement, and it’s for Little Debbie cakes and a Coke.

  • Phil - October 12, 2018 reply

    The reasons behind the band breakups in which I have been involved have all been the same. A combination of drugs and alcohol, and varying levels of commitment. One member wants to just practice in the basement once a week for fun, and get drunk and stoned. Another wants to play a couple gigs a month and practice once or twice a month, due to family stuff, i.e. wife, kids, job, etc… Another wants to practice frequently and gig a lot. All members get along and play great together, but the goals for doing it are too disparate. Now I just do solo.

  • Ricky J Rodriguez - October 12, 2018 reply

    And reason #4) LIFE – As young musicians come of age in their 20’s and 30’s they encounter life. Aside from the expense of juggling a band schedule people may find their living situation changing, or accidentally or purposely starting a family, death of a loved one, death of a band member, or even the shutdown of a record label. Like Rocky Balboa said “Nothing hits harder than life!”

  • John Morton - October 12, 2018 reply

    You didn’t say anything about management.
    To me that’s a big factor. Trusting what they’re
    doing is right. Television appearances, what clothes to wear, what you should and shouldn’t say, what songs to perform, gigs gone wrong,
    promotional advertising, no girlfriends at rehearsels or recording, no arguments with fans,
    keep up a good face and strict professionalism and above all no drugs. Now if a musician can keep their sanity with all this and get along with his bandmates it’s a slight miracle. Oh and another big one signing contracts.Putting your trust to have a manager steer you in the right direction grooming you for stardom is a slippery slope.That’s why most bands and artists never make it to that point. It doesn’t matter how great your band is—if you’re not promoted correctly
    you’ll never make it. Superstardom is only for a lucky few.

  • Barbara - October 14, 2018 reply

    I was a singer in many rock bands over the years. We had to play clubs that did not pay unless you draw enough people. I am currently forming another band and it has been hard. If anyone is looking for a female rock metal singer from Brooklyn NY please contact me.

  • Austin Richman - October 15, 2018 reply

    Got the problems here for sure, now list some solutions!!!

  • adam morse - October 16, 2018 reply

    I don’t see how DRUGS didn’t make the list, it’s probably number 1, or at least 1-B (as a secondary piece of the money puzzle). Musicians drink and use drugs at a pretty astounding rate, and that can fuck up just about ANY pursuit, and the relationships between musicians are delicate and fragile to begin with. I was lucky enough to get 2 decades out of a 3 member band (fewer members means fewer moving parts, less to go wrong), with two people I really loved, but a good chunk of that time was “on hiatus” because at least one of us was always locked up, and now only the bassist and I survive, and I am honestly terrified for him. Jesus, I probably shouldn’t be posting this. Well, Mike, please stick around. I know I’ve been holed up for a while, but when I finally crawl out, I need you to be there. Please.

  • Éric Barouti - October 17, 2018 reply

    Very interesting, one reason I see is lack of knowledge about where the money really is: more than 60 per cent of income is in rights, not gigs. So when a song is commercially successful, the songwriters get a lot more money than the rest of the band. Consequences are quite easy to understand. Think of any successful band break up : for the authors survival is possible because they own the The Police 95% of the material are songs by Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland s revenue in that band were nowhere near his.

  • Tapping Center - October 19, 2018 reply

    Well said, I agree

  • ESD Goods - October 23, 2018 reply

    Thanks for your information, yes, you are right.

  • ESD Products - October 23, 2018 reply

    The reasons behind the band breakups in which I have been involved have all been the same.

  • Andrew Smith - October 24, 2018 reply

    Music is a romantic activity, and like romances, some have a short life but are real intense while others are more practical and less passionate–but last a long time. I think we are looking for those rare magic moments that come from making music together, but there are all sorts of practical issues that can keep the enterprise from getting off the ground. I’ve heard some of the most fantastic originals from several band leaders over the years, songs that could hold their own with anything, but they probably never will be heard by more than a few people. The commercial forces at work at any given time can work against such originality, but also the writer/musicians of the great music don’t always put it all together to get their music across. I love Sandy Denny of Fairport Convention and Fotheringay fame, but she couldn’t even capitalize on singing on The Battle of Evermore to advance her career before her premature death. You might have a rather average band doing well, because they just work so hard and play at any opportunity, but on the other hand never even hear a near-genius who spends months (or years) on her or his music, can’t keep Craigslist musicians around for all that time, rarely plays out, and seems afraid to just put it all down in the studio whether it is precisely how they pictured the song sounding or not. Or they push musicians away who believe in their stuff, but just can’t hang in there forever waiting for the bandleader to get it together. Who is the bigger hero? Maybe the hardworking, average band, but I always feel like, if the great music of the reclusive musician could just get a chance to be heard, it could catch on and be a cultural event. Finally, I’d just point to one person as a possible model for how to deal with these challenges, though there are many I’m sure: Frank Zappa. Compared to his talent, he was not as commercially successful as he should have been. He always seemed to have to struggle to get his music across, except for a few records that sold more widely. But he had this work ethic that kept him producing and touring his entire adult life no matter what was thrown at him (nearly killed by an audience member and the ‘Smoke on the Water’ equipment fire, yes, but also just a that career-long marginalization by radio programmers and even large parts of society as a whole). He was true to himself and appeared not to compromise much for “commercial potential.”

  • Ericsson He - October 26, 2018 reply

    Creation is also a good factor

    Ivan Chung - November 8, 2018 reply

    He is right.

  • Deez Nutz - November 5, 2018 reply

    The music industry has been ruined by those that run the business, which why no new good bands emerge anymore, because it’s damn near impossible to make a living at it or much less break even. It’s basically been downgraded to a hobby that you have to be in a flexible profession to even engage in.

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  • alufoil - January 21, 2019 reply

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  • Sean Wu - February 20, 2020 reply

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  • Sean Wu - February 23, 2020 reply

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  • theater chairs - March 30, 2020 reply

    some bands are good for being together at the first beginning but later someone of them think they may be better if being alone.

  • technorazor - April 6, 2020 reply

    The complex interpersonal dynamics in bands can be extremely difficult to navigate

  • Andy - May 3, 2020 reply

    Music is a medium to show the creation and teamwork. Nice article. thanks.

  • acsr conductor - June 24, 2020 reply

    Nice article. thanks.Thanks for your sharing.I like your words

  • Aptiplus - November 17, 2020 reply

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  • One Uttrakhand - January 30, 2021 reply

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  • techitop - June 18, 2021 reply

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  • Filters - November 18, 2021 reply

    Truth! The girls want a musician until they get one. Then they want them out of the band ’cause that’s how they got him! (or her)

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