Music is a tough gig in large part because so much of it is collaborative––that is unless you purely make music on your own, but that’s rare. A musician might be hardworking and talented, but if they’re not respectful and considerate of others, being in a band isn’t going to be a sustainable situation. Here are five red flags to look out for in a bandmate:
1. When it’s all about them
When someone makes everything about them, it’s bad for relationships whether in a marriage, business partnership, or band. When it comes to music, this sort of selfishness can look like everything from a musician demanding to always be front and center even when it doesn’t fit the music to a bandmate who can’t relate to their band socially.
2. When they aren’t reliable
If getting a bandmate to show up to practice on time or to learn their parts on their own at home is like pulling teeth, then you’ve probably got a bad bandmate. Being in a band is incredibly hard work even when everyone involved is 100% reliable, so if you’re working with someone you can’t completely trust, it might be time to make some difficult decisions.
3. When the band isn’t a priority
Finding success in music has never been harder to do than it is right now. This means that making music with musicians who don’t view your band as a priority will only make your work harder and more frustrating. Band apathy can take many forms, but in general can be defined as someone half-heartedly going through the musical motions. These sort of musicians don’t stick around bands for long because they’re always looking for something better. Fair-weather musicians like this want to skip past the due-paying years of being in a band to play in projects that are more conventionally successful.
4. Substance abuse issues
Sadly, substance abuse and music are often close bedfellows. Substance abuse in a band becomes a major problem when musicians aren’t able to show up in a mental, physical, or emotional sense. In a bandmate, this could take the obvious form of someone missing a show or in more subtle ways like not being able to invest in the band because all their money is feeding an addiction. When a bandmate is suffering from these issues, it by no means indicates they’re a bad bandmate, but it does mean they need help.
5. When a bandmate can’t do anything on their own
Some musicians are needy in the sense that everything from learning parts to getting rides to practice can’t be done on their own. Every musician’s situation is unique, which means that like you, your bandmates will have strengths and weaknesses. But working with someone who can’t pull their weight musically or otherwise can be detrimental for a band because there are so many moving parts in serious bands. If one bandmate is sucking up most of your band’s time and energy, it might be time for a change.
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.