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Strategies for nurturing a bond that will withstand all the hardships
Your band mates are more than people you play music with. In a sense, they’re your family, and you need to be able to get along with the people whose hands you put your heart in. This family you’re creating is going to go through a lot of ups and downs, but there area few important strategies to always coming out on top. For the sake of your music, your happiness, and your future, invest some time in strengthening the relationship with the people in your band as you prepare for what you hope to be, a life long journey with them.
1. Make the right decisions from the start. Sometimes people tend to be so anxious to start a band, that they let anyone that can play an instrument join. Although this is a faster way to put a band together, there’s much less chance for longevity. When trying out members, have two separate segments. Obviously, make sure they can play their instruments first, but after you’re done with the try out, hang out with them. Even if you’re grabbing a slice of pizza, you need to know how the band gets along as people, not just musicians. Think of it as a relationship- dating someone that’ll never be right for you and having to go through a break up is much harder than waiting a little bit longer until you’ve found the right person.
2. Keep communication open. Music is something that comes from people’s souls, and having to compromise your vision can sometimes lead to tension in the band. Every member is creating something new together, and there’s no way everyone always hears the same exact thing before it’s written. The most important aspect of getting along as a band is to have open communication. Creating a comfort zone where everyone can put their ideas on the table without worrying about being criticized or criticizing someone else, is imperative. If this atmosphere is created from the start it will be much easier to compromise, and guarantee a stronger band.
3. Make lists. One very effective way of keeping communication open and progressing as a band is to make lists. A good exercise is for everyone to take a piece of paper and jot down what they think can be worked on to help the band progress. Whether it is to correct bad habits at practice, or to work on stage presence, everyone can get their thoughts off their chest and move forward. Once everyone shares their list, create a master list; this can be a combination of musical, business, and personal goals. Keep this list in your practice area, so you can be conscious of the things you’re working towards, and cross them off together as they’ve been accomplished.
4. Learn to keep personal life separate. Ideally, your band mates should be your best friends. However, there is an art to keeping the lives as friends and as band mates separate. When discussing musical matters, there will be times where you and your band mates may disagree. You may be expressing what you think is best for the band, while your band mate feels something different. Leave the discussions that occur in the band behind when you spend personal time with your friends. At the same time, keep any personal matters that happen between you outside of the musical world that you share. It is possible to keep the two separate, which proves to be much healthier for both the band and the friendships.
5. Designate hang out time. All work and no play make it very hard to keep the band fun! At the same time, goofing off throughout practice won’t get your band to the level you want it to. Keep practice productive, and designate time when everyone can hang out. Plan trips together, go to shows and observe other bands, do a photo shoot. Especially if the musical aspect in your band is rigorous, make sure you take time to keep your ties together positive. This personal connection you maintain gives you more strength to make it through the other, more difficult aspects.
6. Go to shows together. One thing that makes a huge difference in the interaction of a band is going to shows together. Loading the equipment, driving together, and getting hyped for the show is a bonding experience that will show on stage. The band is made up of all members together, so having everyone work together is crucial. Showing up separately before you go on stage has no inspiration, and will eventually take out the personal aspect of playing shows. Sit at the merch table together, help one another set up equipment, and work like a team. The closeness you feel throughout the day will transfer into your performance, and your audience will see that.
Nina Chiminec is the head of New Media and a publicist at SPV Records. Her clients include Motorhead, Type O Negative, and Skinny Puppy. She also spent 8 years recording and touring with the NJ rock band Avery. In her free time she is a contributing editor for BandsOnABudget.com. She can be reached at nina [at] bandsonabudget.com.