Being in a band is a lot like being in a relationship. With different personalities, backgrounds, ethics, approaches and creative processes, being in a band can be a minefield to navigate.
I remember meeting up with my two guitarists for the first time at a cafe. I was pretty nervous, it was almost like a first date. The two of them knew each other before and we were sussing each other out to see whether we’d be a good fit…like entering into a rock n’ roll plural marriage.
But deciding to form a band is easy. Deciding to end it or part ways with a member, not so much. Here are some signs that you need to go in different directions or…ahem…kick a band member out.
1. There are Creative differences
I feel like this one is the most common excuse many bands put out there as to why they’ve parted ways with a former band member, but it’s definitely real. Many bands come together because of pure circumstances like friendships or past working relationships.
This situation can definitely work out but issues arise when agreements can’t be reached on the style of music they want to play. If someone isn’t into the style of music or trying to push in a direction that no one else wants to go in, that’s that really. At the end of the day, everyone needs to produce art they’re proud of and if someone isn’t liking the music, then it’s simply time for them to move on.
Remember, people evolve and bands evolve and that’s ok. If there are creative differences, it’s important to not let things drag on too long because not only can this unknowingly stall a band’s progress, but the last thing you want it to do is for it to affect your friendship too!
2. There are Personal Differences
These are personality or behaviour traits that could impact the band negatively as time goes on. Maybe your bandmate thinks it’s cool to get fucked up before a show. Maybe they’re a Negative Nancy and kinda kill the mood of the rehearsal. Or maybe you just don’t get along!
If you are having personal differences with one of your band members, you first need to ensure the others are on the same page. But you also need to bring up any issues as they arise and again, don’t let things grind away too long.
I’ve seen musicians leave their bands in a flurry because they couldn’t stand one of their bandmates any longer. The sad thing is, the band could have stayed together if they spoke up and realised that perhaps the problematic member should be the one that should leave!
3. They’re not Pitching in on the Business Side
In today’s modern music industry, being in a band is more than writing and playing together. We have the ability to now take our careers into our own hands and move the needle forward without managers or record labels. If you have a band member that isn’t willing to pitch in on things like social media management, organising shows, coordinating merch or make time for band meetings outside the rehearsal room, I would hazard a guess to say they’re not interested in being a serious musician.
No one should ride for free and there are still many musos out there who think it’s enough to be proficient at their instrument, turn up to shows and that’s it. Mate, that’s the bare minimum. You need each and every band member to contribute to running the business that you do have together.
4. They Can’t Pay for Anything
You need to have a stream of income coming in to invest in your band. It’s as simple as that. It’s one thing for a band member to be going through a hard time financially and if this is the case, you all need to work as a team in order to navigate this. But it’s another thing for someone to have a prolonged period where they’re not able to or willing to contribute financially. Bands need money to progress and we all need to stop bitching and simply accept that fact.
5. They’re Flakey
Got someone who pulls out of rehearsals or even shows at the last minute? Are they constantly late to important activities like video shoots or interviews? 99 percent of the time, someone who is flakey is looking for a way out of the band but don’t want to be the one to make the first move.
Like any relationship, bands are built on mutual respect and trust. If you can’t trust someone is going to do something, they’ve probably lost the respect or care for the band and this is no way a good working relationship.
6. They’re Dishonest About Money
Have you played a paid show but never seen the money? Do you know someone has lied about the merch sold or how much money is in the kitty? Look, local bands generally aren’t the best when it comes to managing finances. I think this is probably because a) Finances aren’t fun and they want to focus on the music and b) They pay no mind because they believe they’ll probably not make a profit anyway. But everything adds up at the end of the day and again, this point really comes down to trust.
7. They’re Not Up To Scratch on their Instrument
Got someone in the band who never practices? Or maybe they do practice but are letting your live show down musically or performance-wise? Whilst I don’t think this point warrants kicking someone out of the band immediately – sit them down and talk about it first – if there is no improvement I’m sorry to say that it’s not going to work out.
The music industry is competitive and whilst there is always room for improvement, musicality is a basic ingredient required for success. That’s not to say every band member should be a virtuoso – definitely not. I’m referring to basics like timing, pitch, and the remembering of parts.
8. Different Goals
Unfortunately, goals are something bands often don’t talk about until a conflict arises. Often, differences in individual bandmates’ visions for the band don’t come up until after a band is offered an overseas tour and someone goes, ‘Um sorry I can’t make it, I can’t take the time off work.’ You need to figure out ASAP (in the first meeting) if you want to treat the band as a business or a hobby.
Many musicians will sit on the fence and I’d be wary of them, to be honest. Either they’re scared to admit they want something more (tall poppy syndrome), they like the idea of being in a big band but aren’t willing to put in the work or they like the idea of being in a big band but still believe in being ‘discovered’ at the local pub (which obvs isn’t actually a thing and never was). Circumstances can change later in the piece and that’s fine. But there’s nothing worse than feeling like your career is being held back by someone else.
9. Their Lifestyle is Becoming an Issue
This last point touches upon many of the things already spoken about. At the end of the day, everyone is entitled to live their own lives in the way they choose. However, if their lifestyle choices are impacting negatively on the group, that ain’t cool. Maybe this person can’t contribute financially because they blow all their money on stupid shit? Perhaps they party too much and have turned into a liability? Maybe their day job is so busy they can never rehearse? If this is the case you first need to talk to them about it and if the issue can’t be resolved, it’s time to go in separate directions.
10. You’re Reading This Post
There are probably many other things to look out for when it comes to knowing whether it’s time to let someone go from the group. But just like an article I read when wanting to figure out if I needed to break up with an old boyfriend said: If you’re reading this blog post, it’s probably a good indication that you want the relationship to end.
Let’s not be too hasty on this last point though. I actually only had 9 points but 10 sounded better!
Oh, and you might want to also check out my post on How to Find Bandmates!