Image by NileRodgersProd via Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0
A band is simultaneously a friendship, a collaborative partnership and a business. Although it might be less personal and intimate than a romantic relationship, it is quite possibly more complicated. That's because there are usually more than two people involved, and everyone has an opinion. We are artists after all, so being sensitive and having opinions come with the territory of creating things.
It goes without saying that it can be challenging to keep balance within the group dynamic. In order to keep things smooth, fun, purposeful and positive, it's best to have a clear direction and communicate openly as a group. It's also important to make sure that you're personally doing your part to help the band be the best it can be. Here are a few guidelines you should follow to optimize the experience for yourself and everyone else involved.
1. Practice your music
Know your parts inside and out before group rehearsals. That way the band can actually focus on the finer details or the big picture together and have more fun in the process. If you don’t understand a section of a song, talk about it and make sure to smooth out the kinks sooner rather than later. You don’t want those doubts to linger until it's too late to ask or you get on stage and the nerves kick in.
2. Know your role in the band
If you don't know your role, talk about it. Are you a support musician? Are you a band leader? Do you have a say in the creation and selection of the material? Or are you supposed to just learn your parts from a chart and do what you're instructed to do? Once you know this, you'll be able to make sure that you're not stepping on any toes, and you'll also feel more free within your defined role.
3. Help out
Whether it's carrying equipment or promoting the band, always help when it's needed. Depending on your forte and interests outside of music, find a way to contribute to the management of the band. Maybe you're a good driver and can get the band to gigs, or you love to design and can make the T-shirts and posters. Maybe you have a big social network, and naturally will be the promoter. Or maybe you host the rehearsals. What ever your part is, make sure you share the legwork, because it's way too much for one person.
4. Place equal value on each musician
Even if someone is not the lead musician, they are of essential value – everyone contributes to the band's unique sound. Each instrument has its own details and complexities on which to focus, and each individual deserves respect. Every member should be included in band discussions and practices, and everyone should feel welcome to weigh in with suggestions when appropriate. This gives ownership and builds commitment.
5. Be on time
The band members depend on each other to make “it” happen, so be respectful of each other’s time. Don’t be the one to hold everyone up when people are already making sacrifices to make time for the band between their jobs, families and possibly other musical projects. if you're too flaky, you might just lose your seat in the group.
6. Plan in advance
Schedule rehearsals and gigs in advance. If a show is booked and you've committed to it, don’t miss it unless it's a true emergency. It reflects badly on the whole band if they have to cancel or cannot produce what's expected. Also, give a heads up if you're going out of town so that your bandmates know when to book practices and shows, or have ample time to get a sub for you if needed.
7. Do social things together
Hanging out together is inevitable if you practice a lot or go on tour together. Whether or not you're friends outside of the band, try to find times after rehearsal to get food or drinks, or go to a show together for inspiration. Being social creates a bond. A real friendship and understanding of each other shines through in the music. Building a relationship as friends places importance on the art rather than the business side of things and keeps things in perspective. Also, the more you know each other, the more you can read each other and mend mistakes on the fly during a performance!
8. Discuss style
Details make a band unique and stand out. This includes fashion! It's embarrassing to witness a band where everyone is dressed up except for that one person who rolled out of bed and looks downright slovenly. If you're going for the “I don’t care” or “grungy” look, that's fine – just be on the same page as everyone else. Prepare and discuss it in advance – maybe you want matching outfits, or you just want to be casual, or maybe dressy. These details matter. Your shows are a presentation of your art, sound and appearance all together. Paying attention to all of these aspects shows that you care about your presentation and your audience.
9. Work on your stage presence
Being a musician usually means that you're also a performer. This requires stage presence. Enjoy it, and give a little love to the audience. This can be as simple as smiling, or thanking the audience for coming, or even creating choreography. Just make sure that you and your bandmates work together to always give good energy to the audience. This will increase your fan loyalty and it will also enhance the music.
Part of being a good bandmate involves putting effort into not only the music, but also the promotion of it. You've done so much work to get to this point, so now it’s time to share it. Invite your friends to shows and put up posters (in appropriate locations). If you're playing a lot of shows, just send out one list of upcoming gigs so that your friends don’t get overwhelmed.
11. Be transparent
I'm talking about money. If you're performing together as a band, there is money involved. The group as a whole should be open about it. Ideally, the group should decide together what to do with the funds. It could be small enough that you all go out for dinner together, or you pay a member back for the time they bought gas. If it's large you can divide it up, or put into a band fund, or towards your next album, etc. Also, unless someone has signed up to be a sponsor for the band, always pay them back if they fronted the group.
12. Speak up
When things that matter are bothering you, it's important to voice your concerns as soon as possible. Certain things will blow over, but if you have any nagging thoughts that continue to bring you down, that means it's time to talk about it – no matter how small of an issue it seems. Nothing is too small to talk about if it feels important to you. For big issues, like who owns royalties, and what to do if a member quits, it's a good idea to create a band agreement to straighten out any kinks that might need clarification early on. Don’t be afraid to be the one to suggest that these conversations be had.
Be willing to learn from mistakes. After a rehearsal or performance, talk about what worked and what didn’t. Be open to feedback and chime in with your thoughts. Music (and life for that matter) is an endless learning process.
14. Have fun!
You probably chose music because you love it. Don’t lose sight of that passion, and be glad that you have bandmates to share it with. It's an honorable role to be an entertainer, so spread the love and have fun with it!