Five Ways to Sabotage Your Own Band
By. T. Perry Bowers
I have a little over twenty rehearsal spaces in my facility in Saint Louis Park, Minnesota. The average turnover on my monthlies is about one per month. Bands are required to give me thirty days notice when they want to move out of their space. Receiving that phone call is always interesting — I’m concerned about the way people experience my business, so I’ll ask them why they are moving. (I really want to know if it had anything to do with me). Nine times out of ten the reason is internal difficulties within the band. Here are some of the reasons I hear — just a few of the many ways artists sabotage their own band.
It’s a creative endeavor being in a band. Creative people like things that inspire them and make the creative juices flow. Drugs do this. Sure, it’s an easy way to get into the creative mood. Just take a drug and suddenly you want to be at practice. You want to write a song and spend five hours working on a riff. The problem is that drugs wear off. And when the drugs wear off, you are moody, sick and tired.
I watch guys come to their practice spaces with a ton of beer. It’s one thing to have a six-pack. It’s another to bring in a few cases. I have a couple of bands that fill the trash cans outside their room with beer bottles every time they practice. They practice for a couple of hours at a time. I’ve been outside their rooms across the hall for their entire practice. After about an hour, the quality of their rehearsal is significantly reduced. They play poorly. They take long breaks and talk about non-music things. Then, they literally come out of their practice space stumbling. Those bands aren’t going anywhere.
Not Prioritizing Music
My band Silverseed has been looking for a permanent bass player for most of the time we have been a band! Sometimes bands are like that. One position just isn’t solid. I’ve come to terms with it and I am grateful for the members that are committed. Eventually we’ll find the right bass player, but for now, we get to experience a new guy every few shows. It’s interesting; the excuses people give to not show up to practice. At first glance, they seem legitimate. Their kids, wives, or parents spring something on them and they feel obligated. “Emergencies” like “my insurance adjuster needs to come and look at my roof today” happen. Or, “I need to get my oil changed”. Yeah, I’ve heard that one, too. It’s almost as bad as the classic, “I need to wash my hair!”
The point is that if music isn’t top of your list, then you’re going to have a difficult time making progress. Girlfriends will constantly pull you in different directions. Your kid’s baseball games will sometimes be scheduled during band practice. Your friend’s birthday party will interfere too. But, if you make music a priority and the people in your life who are important to you know that your music time is off limits, you won’t have to constantly negotiate. Your loved ones will know not to mess with your band stuff. It might seem juvenile coming from a forty-five year old man who still has a rock band, but it’s what makes me happy. And, for other parts of my life to be good, I need my musical life to thrive. If I can’t make music on the regular, you might as well put me in the ground because life just isn’t worth living without rock and roll, right?
You need a certain degree of confidence when it comes to making music. But there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Confidence is speaking up when you know something isn’t right. When it comes to song-writing I know how the song needs to go, but I didn’t always have the courage to tell my band mates how I wanted them to play it. I know what turns the audience off, but self-doubt sometimes stopped me speaking to band mates to tell them to stop doing certain things on-stage. However I’m over most of that now. I will usually speak my mind. That comes from self-confidence gained over the years. However you have to be tactful when presenting your idea — which leads me to the next way to sabotage your band:
Not Having Finesse
I’ve lost band mates over the years by being too blunt! Often, I regret the things I say. I’ve spent many months searching for drummers and bass players because I lost band members due to something I said. Sometimes things do need to be said, but if possible, take a breath before you do something inflammatory. Being in a band requires perspective. Think of all the bands that are no longer together because of petty disagreements. Before saying or doing something rash, take a moment (or a week) to appreciate what you have. It’s a rare thing to have four or five guys playing in a band together and getting on. Don’t take it for granted. When you do need to confront an issue, use finesse.
Not Having Direction
There are a lot of ambitious bands out there. Some spend hours on social media promoting themselves every day. There are songwriters who wake up before you to go into the studio to craft a hit song. No matter how hard you think you work, there are people in New York and Los Angeles that would put your work ethic to shame. On the other hand, there are the bands who think all they have to do is look good and play a show once in a while and everything will be handed to them. Don’t be that band. Take control of your career from the beginning. Decide where you want to be and how you’re going to get there.
Be creative with your songwriting and with your business. Look for new ways to get your name out there and bring in revenue. Keep thinking about how to get your band in front of new people and capture their contact info while you’re in front of them. Be smart, be creative and be relentless. And don’t sabotage your own band!