A fictitious scenario: a young band is playing more and more concerts, including outside its hometown. For the joint departure, the drummer usually turns up late at the rehearsal room. Faced with this, he says: "In my spare time, I don't want to rush around every second of the day." There is a big chance that not every band member sees the band as a mere leisure activity. A punctual setup and a smooth soundcheck in particular make bands popular with other bands and promoters. Regular rehearsals are important, too: How long do you want to rehearse and what expectations do you have? Do rehearsals also include hours of songwriting or really just live rehearsals?
It is often minor differences of opinion which cause deep rifts within a band in the long run. We have asked around and found 6 reasons why bands usually break up and considered how to prevent it.
Determine at an early stage how professional your demands are on music and concerts and if you all agree on that. Do you know where the journey is taking you?
If your band is a project close to your heart which will let you grow together, you will soon realise that it is not sufficient to just 'work together'. Band members have to absolutely trust each other and speak very openly with one another. Those talks will not only be about notes and chords but also about expectations, wishes, money and future plans. Each band member earns different amounts of extra money beside the band, yet still uses the rehearsal room, the technology in it and the band sprinter to the same extent. Thus, it needs a lot of trust in each other.
"We all grew up together and have learned to talk to each other. A band is like a relationship which you should take good care of and talk about your needs."— Maurice Klinge, singer of REDNIGHT
However, what Maurice describes is the ideal state. If people grow up together as friends, they usually trust each other. For band colleagues who are already friends, it is usually easier to reach to a joint decision, even with money matters. For everyone else: do something together that has absolutely nothing to do with music. Learn something about the others and become familiar with each other.
If the band is to be a long-term thing, you should be organised. Use a cash box for the band's proceeds from merch sales and fees and then put a small amount into a bank account each month. If you have a set rule, it makes it easier to cover band expenses: backdrop, press shop, new merch, money for artwork, studio time, acoustic measures in the rehearsal room. If you notice that certain procedures never work, then just organise them. To protect yourself from disputes, establish clear operating rules.
Max Meissner (KESH, rapper): "Decide together who you want to be."
"The majority dream of playing a few songs, be discovered and off they go. However, this is no longer the case nowadays. The record companies are specifically looking for musicians who have already made a name for themselves, who have got enough clicks and likes and who fit into the current time frame. However, it does not mean that you should work towards clicks and likes. This is exactly what many artists are working on and only do what thousands of musicians have done before. They do what they think is expected of them. Thus, you would restrain yourself. On the other hand, if you have worked your butt off every day for the last 5 years without having a sufficient amount of clicks or likes, then please do not give up and keep on going."
Band members often get together at a young age. Not always, but very often, the shared journey starts as a young adult or even as a teenager. You write your first songs, record your first album. However, this phase of life is also a phase of musical discovery. You will hardly hear and love the same style of music all your life. 'Punk rock' could mean Ramones but it could also mean Sum 41. Even though it is the same genre, they are two different styles of music. Especially when there is not every band member involved in songwriting, you may slowly move into a direction not everyone agrees on. You should think about the band's style of music from time to time. If you are not comfortable with your style anymore, talk about elements which are missing or things that are bothering you.
You should neither push the songwriting into 'your' direction, nor should you simply put up with a new direction.
Max Meissner, (KESH, rapper): "Only if everybody wants the same thing, you will move into the same direction."
"There should be no democracy in a band. You need one, maybe two at the most to set the tone. With six people, you will get eight different opinions. The focus is quickly placed on egos and money which consequently leads to arguments. Rather than looking for people who want to build a ship, you should look for people who love the sea. That is what my dad used to say to me. If everybody wants the same thing, they pull together and follow someone who leads them."
Sebastian Dracu, guitarist: "My recipe for success: dictatorship."
"Most bands break up when reality catches up with them. When you start making music, you cannot imagine what you are getting involved in. The romantic idea of four friends against the rest of the world quickly fades away. Even small hurdles can often turn into a major problem nowadays, e.g. "What do we call ourselves?" or "What do we post on Instagram or Facebook?" Then there is song writing, looks and sound. After all, there are several heads with only one result at the end: someone's feelings are gonna get hurt, kids. Therefore, I write, I have got the plan. So, whoever is with me, will be part of it and whoever is not with me, will not. Nevertheless, my boys get every space they need, they can let off steam and can do the coolest job in the world: to be rock musicians on stage. My recipe for success: dictatorship. Pay a fair wage and don't be an asshole. At least that is what I try to do."
Axel Öberg, singer of the Swedish band The Bland
"It is a democratic decision which songs we record, for example. For the last album, we were usually in the studio with four members of the band. Most of the time, we were able to pick songs that all four of us liked. Sometimes, we chose songs that only three of us approved of. However, if only two of the four band members thought the song was cool, we dismissed it straightaway. Regarding song writing and sound decisions, we always try to let the person make the decision who has a strong emotional link to the song. If someone feels a strong connection, that person should make all the important decisions regarding the song."
This may sound a bit bourgeois, but if you keep trying to deal with musical appointments and non-musical appointments together, neither of them will receive the necessary attention.
In any case, it is beneficial to hold strategy meetings at a different location than the rehearsal room.
Otherwise someone is always interrupting by playing the piano, trying his/her wah-wah and testing a new cymbal. This kind of interference stops you in your tracks and is incredibly frustrating. Maybe it annoys all of you or maybe just some of the band members. If you want to make sure, why not hold your monthly meetings in a café, beer garden or at one of your homes. Make a list with agenda items: wage claims, new songs, new purchases for the rehearsal room. And go through with it, it works wonders for the band's structure.
Some musicians make progress very quickly, others stagnate. What do you do if the guitarist, bass player or drummer cannot keep up anymore? Even worse, how do you react if it threatens to destroy the band's chemistry because in the end, it is also all about friendships? One possible solution could be to take lessons. If your bandmate is important to you and you want to keep that member in the band, just pool your money together for lessons. After all, being a musician is not a compulsion; motivation should at least be there. Another way to reach an equal technical level: individual two-man practice at a lower speed (BPM). If it is your guitarist, for example, he/she could get some extra practice in with the drummer. You can start off by playing a riff at half-time (BPM) but extremely precise and tight. Then, you will become faster together. It is important to practice together and not to ignore the problem.
Basically, everything boils down to talking to each other on a regular basis. Thus, differences of opinion can be clarified quickly and senseless break-ups can be avoided.
Maurice from RedNight already said: "A band has to take care of itself, wishes must be clearly defined. Otherwise, you will get a big bang. Maybe this will not be tomorrow, but eventually. And then, you not only have a group of artists splitting up but often friendships are destroyed, too."
Photos ©The Bland