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Being in a Band is Marriage

I was talking with another musician about dealing with band issues, and he let slip this little gem:

"Pfft, that's not bad. The only time my band gets along on stage. We're always fighting!" Then he smiled and laughed.

Wow. Isn't that appalling? Only on stage?

A few months back I watched as a strong, decent-pulling band imploded.  All the sweat, callouses, and brilliance poured into the band evaporated in a flash. It was band dynamics; corrosive personalities ate the band alive. It was terrifying.

This can happen to any band at any time... You can lose everything at any moment. This is a truth. 

A band is an artistic vessel that requires the strong cooperation of personalities. But creativity is disruptive by its nature. There will be conflict. And it is how you handle these conflicts that will determine your success or failure as a band. It's about relationships.

When you join a band, you're married. Instead of a wedding ring you get cheap beer, but it's a full-on wedding. You must understand your partner to have a successful marriage. Does your bassist have trouble with directions no matter where he's going? Does your guitarist get touchy when you talk badly of a band he likes? Does your singer smell really bad and scare off fans? Every person has their own personality quirks and habits that range from mildly irksome to a full on terror. Your decisions and actions must take these issues into account. The only security you have against a band breakup is how well you manage your relationships to keep everyone happy.

How do you get better at this?

1. Outside Learning

Start reading relationship advice and management columns/blogs. Study books on keeping your marriage strong (I'm not kidding!). Take a class at a community college on organizational behavior to learn the psychology of how people behave in groups. Anything to help you decode the dynamics of people interacting with one another can help you learn how best to handle drama when it shows up for a visit.

2. Inside Learning

Every issue you have is an experiment. You respond according to your hypothesis, and the result either confirms or disproves your hypothesis. Take notes on band issues, how you handle them, and the results of your actions. This is a fantastic opportunity to learn how to best manage your band mates, but it's sooooooo easy to ignore. If your bassist doesn't respond well to a direct criticism during practice, you now know you'll have to adjust how to talk about issues with them. Keep tinkering until you get the response you want, then take note of what works for future purposes.

A band is a marriage. If you want it to last, learn everything you can about your spouse and your relationship. It's all you've got keeping the ship afloat. 

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