How to Keep a Band Together

Every successful band at any level in the game fights the nemesis.  Bands don’t last forever.  People don’t stay together.  Egos flex and tempers flare.  Forming a band is hard enough, but keeping a charismatic group together usually proves even more difficult.  We here at Just Guitar Talk are going to take a moment to look at how to keep a band together if you are fortunate enough to have found a group that has what it takes to succeed.

Be Inclusive

Whether you are a major recording band that puts out albums and world tours or a primo cover band in your own neck of the woods, being inclusive is a huge part of keeping a band together.  What exactly does that mean?  Easy.  A band is a group of people with different skills sets and tastes that are working toward a common goal.  Don’t let any one member of the band fully dictate everything.  Yes, there is going to be a leader.  That is not unhealthy at all.  We need leaders.  However, we want a leader that is including the views of everyone in the group and not just being a dictator.

That doesn’t mean that just because one member of the band likes reggae, for an example, that you have to turn into the next incarnation of Bob Marley.  It means that maybe you can throw that member of the band a bone and play a tune that is in his or her wheelhouse once in a while.  If your lead singer can’t pull it off, maybe you let someone else take the helm for a song or two, or better yet, go for a soulful instrumental.  Don’t let anyone get bored with the material and keep it fresh.

Understand Obligations

If you’re not a full-on professional band, everyone in the group probably has day jobs.  This is pretty normal.  Be understanding that people have jobs and families, and not everyone is going to have the same schedule of availability.  Now when we say that you need to be understanding, we mean it to a point.  If someone is clearly not available enough to fulfill their duties, then it may be time to think about a change.  Generally speaking though, members should understand each other’s obligations and pledge to work around it, especially for rehearsal.

A lot of bands have to spend a lot of time in very close proximity to each other, so getting along can be difficult.

While the focus of this article is keeping a good band together, we can’t stress enough the importance of having backups from time to time.  It’s very healthy for everyone to have some alternate players that can step in when there is an emergency or when someone just needs a good break.  Having some play in the schedule can be a big factor in whether band members stay or go.  Having backups also is a great strategy because it means when someone does bail out, the replacement is a very natural foregone conclusion.  Like a sports team, the second string moves up and gets the start.

Keep Your Finances and Equipment In Order

Many a band has broken up over money or equipment.  If you are pooling band revenue together for things, make sure it makes sense for everyone.  No one wants to pool their money into the band fund so the guitar player can get his dream axe.  That’s not a community investment.  That’s a personal one.  Understand what the community funds are for and stick to the plan.

For example, things relating to the show would be community fund situations.  Think speakers, subs, monitors, cables, and PA-related items.  These are the kinds of things that the pooled money can go for, and more importantly, there needs to be an understanding from all members that community items belong to the band and if someone up and leaves, they forfeit that item, or their stake in it.  Some bands deal with this by buying out a departed member.  Whatever the deal is, you need to stick to it and make sure that there are no exceptions.  Keep the money on the up and up and your band will always be happier.

Take a Deep Breath Sometimes

Everything always looks great on stage, but it’s off the stage where relationships suffer.

Tempers are going to flare, both on stage and behind the scenes.  If you are really angry, take a deep breath.  Remember these are your friends and co-workers at the same time.  Think about what you say before you say it.  Is it really worth it?  Is everyone just a little short because everyone worked long days at their normal job and then showed up for a three-hour rehearsal on top of it.  Sometimes a little restraint can really save the day.  Let it breathe, and don’t take every little thing that gets said to heart.  Remember how fun it is when your band is in the pocket.  Is whatever you are angry about right now worth ruining that potentially for good?  Usually it’s not.  Take a breath.  Go out for some fresh air.  Call it a night.  Do whatever you got to do, but watch out before you say something you’ll regret in the morning and in ten years.

Split the Work Like You Split the Money

It’s typical for some members of a successful band to know exactly what chunk of the take they are supposed to have in their hands when they leave, but don’t think they have any other duty to the band experience but to pick up their own guitar or amp and make for the exit.  Someone has to load all the stuff up, and some members are going to have more of their own stuff than others.

If you are a guitarist, bassist, or lead singer, realize that the drummer has a heavy load.  Don’t put your mic up and then act like you don’t see him back there.  Offer to help.  Don’t let anyone in the band become the roadie by accident.  Everyone should be jumping in and helping load the heavy equipment.  Do your backs a favor too and put it on rollers.  Don’t wear out anyone carrying heavy loads all the time.  Those kinds of things to make it easier can come out of the community fund.

The Verdict — Be Nice

At its heart, it’s not really that profound of advice we are giving here.  Be nice to your bandmates.  Be helpful.  Include everyone and listen to everyone’s ideas and opinions.  Don’t let anyone feel like they are being taken advantage of.  Keep business business and personal personal.

Actually, most of the tips here will go pretty far in helping you in general life as well, so please take it to heart.  Thanks for reading.

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