Problems: they happen sooner or later.
Every group will go through some kind of major disagreement that could possibly dismantle the band. Huge levels of success won’t solve those issues; in fact, they tend to sharpen those differences even if you are bound my family (just look at the Kings of Leon or Oasis). So how do you handle those problems or minimize the damage?
Here are some tips to reduce the heat of the situation in your band:
- Get a neutral party: One of the nice things about having a manager is that they’re there to quell situations and ultimately make decisions that are best for the band. If you don’t have a hired manager or attorney, have someone you trust help settle the dispute by acting as a mediator.
- Have a process in place: I can’t stress the importance of having an inter-band agreement enough. It should detail things like money, the process in settling disagreements, responsibilities, and expectations. Often times just discussing those things in the open before problems arise can help minimize the issues. Also, when situations come up (such as the guitarist not showing up or the singer wanting a bigger cut), you can refer back to the agreement that everyone signed. It helps to look back at the agreement every so often to remind everyone why and what they’re committing to the band in the first place.
- Talk it out, in person: It’s too easy to take comments out of context when they’re simply being read. If someone has a problem, they should discuss it within the group and everyone should listen without interruption. Others are welcome to say their piece too, when it’s their turn. A lot of frustration can build up when someone feels like they aren’t being listened to.
- Focus on the opportunities, not the problems: Instead of just focusing on what people don’t like, talk about the things that have led to that point and what would be an amiable solution. Rather than focusing on what we don’t want, re-frame things into actual wants where there change can actually be implemented.
- Accept anger: People get frustrated and that’s fine. Anger is simply a way of expressing that something needs to be different. Instead of just seeing it as something to be avoided, use it as a source of energy that can lead to positive change. It should be something used to find common ground, not a weapon to create fear or fuel dissension.
- Focus on the big picture: It is easy to get caught up in our own personal frustrations; they often blur or get obscure the bigger picture and how it affects everyone else. Talk about what you want to accomplish and how to get there. If there are obstacles, what are reasonable ways to remove them?
- Don’t make it personal: Understand that sometimes things don’t work out for the business of the band. If there is a personal problem (such as friendships), deal with it as one but don’t drag business issues (such as commitment or performance) into personal relationships. It only makes things messy. Making things personal could put someone on the defensive and make it more difficult to find a solution.
- Is it the right lineup?: If the problem is always caused by one individual, sometimes it is healthier for the group to remove that person. No band is perfect but if it improves the health of the overall band, it could be a relief to everyone else – and a good reminder that the show must still go on.
Whatever happens with your band, understand that sometimes things don’t work out…and sometimes they do. But no matter what, you just gotta keep on playing. What about you? Do you have any band horror stories? How did you work those out?
Simon Tam is owner of Last Stop Booking, a full service agency that offers tour booking and music consulting services. Simon has appeared on stage at over 1,200 live events and has traveled North America presenting ideas about the music industry. Simon’s writing on music and marketing can be found at www.laststopbooking.com