Whether you play in a 7-piece band or make music alone, musical relationships are crucial. From having access to opportunities and resources to simply having another person to talk to who knows what it’s like to be a serious musician, we need musical relationships to help us in our careers. But for as important as these relationships are, they often fall apart in spectacular fashion.
Maintaining strong musical relationships can be a challenge
Musical relationships are like nothing else, which makes them tricky to figure out. A band, for example, is equal parts friendship, business partnership, and creative collaboration. Everyone knows the challenges that come with keeping a friendship strong and healthy, but, in a band context, things can get complicated in a hurry. Sure, you might love your friends, but do you really want to spend two months in a smelly van with them? Do you want to go into debt with them over a creative effort that has no guarantee of succeeding? The more you think about it, the more bizarre band relationships are. Relationships can also be tough for solo artists, whether through a fear of connecting stemmed from working alone all the time or navigating paying other musicians to tour and record.
Musicians need each other
Musicians need to be around other musicians in order to be healthy, challenged, and resourced. There’s the obvious perks of having access to the resources and opportunities that local music communities have to offer, but it goes a lot deeper than that. Making music seriously can be thankless, isolating, and frustrating. You might have the greatest spouse, group of friends, or coworkers in the world, but if they’re not in your shoes, they won’t fully understand what you’re going through. We need to take care of each other because doing what we do is so unique and challenging. Supporting and being supported by each other keeps us healthy, engaged, and challenged in our work.
And then there are the creative benefits of collaboration to consider. No one, even the most talented music-makers, contains the whole picture of what good music is and how to create it. We all have unique, disparate perspectives to share, and that’s incredibly powerful. Being close to other musicians gives you the chance to get feedback for your work and to create new ideas you couldn’t have come across working by yourself. Not every musician needs to collaborate, but we can all benefit from having trusted friends critique our demos, mixes, and performances. You and your music aren’t perfect, so you stand to benefit from other musicians helping you be your best.
Like a long tour or making an album, keeping the friendships you have with other musicians requires hard work. You might find yourself swallowing your pride over and over again and being the first one to call or text, but it’s worth it. If you’re committed to being a serious musician, you aren’t going to be able to do it without support.
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.