If you’ve ever been in a band, you know how difficult it is to keep one together. Anyone who’s in a band will tell you, it’s like a marriage between (three, four, five ten, twenty, insert number of band members here) people. And if it’s hard to keep a marriage together, imagine how hard it is to keep a band together.
There is no 100% guaranteed way to keep a band together and that’s because band members leave for different reasons. Sometimes you can have a great relationship with a band member but they turn around and leave because they don’t want to be doing music anymore.
Or maybe, they decide to get married and focus on their family, or a career, or move to another state.
We can go on and on about why a member would want to leave a band but instead of focusing on that, let’s think about how what you can do to keep a band together. Here are some suggestions.
It Starts with Finding the Right Members
Typically, a band will start with one person or a few friends with similar tastes in music and a desire to be successful in the industry. It’s unlikely that they will all play the necessary instruments, so they will need to start the process of finding other members.
When looking for other members, there are certain things to consider including the following:
- Taste in Music: The band member should have a taste in music similar to the existing members.
- Skill Level: The member should be able to play their instrument well enough so that he or she can keep up with the existing members when performing. If the member in question is significantly better than the other members, this can be a problem too. They may get frustrated by playing with musicians below their skill level and end up quitting.
- Availability: New members should have enough availability so they are able to attend rehearsals and most gigs.
- Attitude: The person you are considering should be easy enough to get along with and have a good attitude towards working with other people. They should also realize that not everything will come easily and they should be able to roll with the punches.
- Experience: Unless all members of the band are complete newbies, it’s good to find a player that has an experience level that compares to the existing members. That way they will know what the industry is like and they will be prepared to deal with gigs, recordings and whatever else comes up.
- Gear: Band members should own gear that is adequate for onstage performances in the venues you typically play.
- Transportation: The musician you are auditioning should have transportation to get to and from gigs and rehearsals with their gear.
- Drugs and Alcohol: It can be hard to determine whether someone has a drug or alcohol problem based on their audition, but if they show up with a bottle of beer or start asking you if it’s okay to rehearse high, that’s definitely not a good sign!
When auditioning, don’t expect to find someone perfect. You may have to make compromises. For instance, maybe the person you go with is saving up for an amp and doesn’t have one to use at shows.
If someone in the band can provide an amp until they get their own, that’s a workable situation. However, you will want that person to get their own amp somewhere down the line.
But if the person you are auditioning has too many strikes against them, it’s best to move on.
It’s difficult to find band members and you may be tempted to take in anyone who seems up for it. But if you start playing with them, it could end up harming your band’s reputation. And once you develop a relationship with them, it will be harder to kick them out.
It’s advisable to reject musicians that are not a great fit from the get go. And if you’re in the ‘looking’ stage, it may not be too difficult to get a lead on someone better.
Make Them Feel Like They’re a Part of Something
In a band situation, there’s typically one or two people who lead the band and others that have been added to the lineup later. It can be hard for these people to feel like they are really part of the band, but the more you integrate them, the stronger the bond will be.
Encourage them to contribute to the song writing process. Ask their advice about things like artwork for albums. Spotlight them on stage during songs to give them a chance to show off their skills. Introduce them to the audience during stage shows.
If you get an interview opportunity, ask all members to join in so they can give their opinions and answer questions.
You should also try bringing them into your social circles. Ask band members if they want to hang out at a local show or call them every once in a while to find out how they are doing.
Set Ground Rules
While being in a band means fun and games, there are also ground rules band mates should follow. Not everyone is comfortable dictating rules, but when a band member knows what’s expected of them, it will lead to fewer battles in the future.
Examples of ground rules include the following:
- No drinking at rehearsals and before shows
- Set rehearsal times with minimal lateness and cancellations
- Show up for gigs on time
- Learn songs in time for gigs/recordings
- Pitch in for rehearsal/recording fees
- No friends/girlfriends at rehearsals
- Everyone has to do their part promoting for gigs
The rules you lay down will vary depending on your personal situation and what works for your band but these are just a few examples of what you might include.
Rules can also change according to things that happen. For example, if a band member does something that you think crosses the line, you can add that behavior to your rules to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Pick Your Battles
This is pretty much the number one rule in making any relationship work.
If you’re going to get along with someone, you have to expect that at some point they are going to do something that disappoints or hurts you.
It’s good to communicate about your feelings, but if you get mad about everything, it’s going to interfere with your relationship and these are exactly the things that can make an entire band fall apart.
When you’re in a band situation, it can be hard to express your feelings to one another. Lists are a useful tool.
Allow everyone in your band to make a list of the things they feel need to be worked on, whether it’s a musical issue or a personal issue. Then have everyone share their lists in a nonjudgmental environment.
Everyone’s issues should be worked on within a period of time.
Making lists makes it easy for people to express their feelings and it gives your band common goals. Once the matter has been cleared up, it can be crossed off the list.
Get Everyone to Help Out
Every band member has to do their part. No one should be lugging all the equipment or doing all the driving. These should all be group efforts.
As a band leader, you may want to designate certain tasks to certain people. For instance, if you have a band member that’s strong, maybe he or she can carry the amps while other members carry lighter drum parts.
If you have a band member that’s good at design, ask them to design your fliers but leave the social media posting to someone else.
It really doesn’t matter how you divide the band responsibilities. The point is, everyone should be doing something so no one feels left out or put upon.
Work on Band Style and Stage Presence
No matter how different your band member’s tastes may be, you should come off as a cohesive unit on stage. That means band members should be dressing in a similar style and no member should be upstaging any other member or projecting an image that’s not suitable to the band.
This may seem more like an image problem than a personal one, but if you are not happy with how a band member looks or acts on stage, it can start manifesting in other ways.
Just like every other matter, expectations as far as what a member should wear and how they should act on stage should be made clear early on.
Keep in mind that this should also be a collaborative effort. The direction you want to take your band in image-wise will require input from every band member. But in the end, it is hopeful that everyone decides on something agreeable and no one deviates too far from ‘the norm’.
When coming up with style, give every band member a chance to express themselves in a unique way while keeping to the theme. Kiss is a great example.
In Kiss, every band member wore the suits, makeup and high boots, but they also had their own personalities, those being The Cat, The Demon, The Starchild and The Spaceman.
Come up with a centralized theme but allow each member to develop their own personas so you can project a cohesive image while still allowing everyone to be unique.
Be Transparent About Money
Money can be a real sticking point for band members. In short, most bands don’t make a lot of it and the little they do make typically goes back into expenses for merch, recording and so on.
However, if band members see money coming in and they’re not getting a cut, they may feel like you’re pocketing their share.
Just like everything else, it’s important to be transparent about money. Tell members things like, ‘hey, we got paid $100 for the gig last night but our recording is going to cost $500 so I’m putting it towards that.”
You can even create a central board or document that everyone can access with recordings of all financial transactions so they know exactly where money is coming from and where it’s going. This will help prevent feelings of distrust.
Keep Business and Rehearsals Separate
Everyone is short on time so it seems like a rehearsal is a good opportunity to talk band business. Band business can include anything from personal problems to the short term and long-term goals of the band.
However, it’s important not to let a band meeting get in the way of rehearsing. If you decide to talk band business at a rehearsal, you might end up not getting to rehearse at all.
If you really can’t find opportunities to get together for both band meetings and rehearsals, see if everyone can meet up a half hour early or stay a half hour later when rehearsals are scheduled. Hopefully this will allow you to take care of business and still get in a full rehearsal.
Establish Roles Early On
Bands tend to have a leader, usually a charismatic front person and/or lead guitarist. It’s easy for background members to become jealous of that person and want the spotlight for themselves. This can make for tension during rehearsals and band meetings and it can end up negatively affecting live shows.
The best way to handle this is to address it outright. Band members should understand that their role as a drummer or bass player is to stay in the back.
Of course, you can give them a nod by spotlighting them for a solo or posting about them on social media. But ultimately, every band member has their role and they need to understand that early on to avoid hurt feelings in the future.
How Should I Deal with Throwing Out a Band Member?
No matter how hard you try and get along with someone, sometimes things just don’t work out.
If you’ve been having the same problem with a band member and you’ve already communicated your feelings countless times but they still don’t seem to be improving, you may just have to kick them out.
Now, there are some musicians out there who have reputations for being difficult to get along with and those musicians probably go through band members like they go through underwear. They might kick out a band member for looking at them funny.
So before you do something you might regret, ask yourself if that band member has done something that you really can’t work around. Here are some examples.
- Excessive drinking and alcohol getting in the way of performances and rehearsals
- A bad attitude
- Sloppy musicianship
- Not showing up for gigs, rehearsals, recordings, i.e. general unreliability
- Not taking the band seriously
Once you have decided that a band member has to go, you’re faced with the task of actually kicking them out, and this isn’t easy.
The first thing you will want to do is talk to your band mates. If you fire someone without them knowing about it first, and agreeing to it, you may stir awkward feelings with them as well.
Hopefully everyone will be on board with your decision.
It’s also a good idea to have someone waiting in the wings to take over. Sure, this may mean two timing on your band member for the time being, but you have to keep your best interests in mind.
It’s important to remain professional during the break up process. Don’t text your band mate telling him or her it’s not going to work out and don’t try to ghost them.
Work out a meeting space, sit down and rip off the band-aid. Make your explanation as brief as possible. Don’t drag it out and don’t lose your temper. Be nice and tell the person that you hope you can continue to support each other in the scene.
Remember, what comes around goes around. If you kick someone out of the band and you’re rude about it, they can make trouble for you in the future and that can be damaging to your career. That’s why it’s important to be as nice and professional as possible.
If you have any financial contracts in place with that person, pay them what you owe them. Any other details can be worked out via a virtual platform.
Being in a band isn’t easy. The tips in this article will help you develop an open and trusting relationship with minimal conflicts and miscommunications. Good luck moving forward with your current lineup.