Keeping a Happy Band in a Sad Industry
By: Andrea Jasek
When I lived on Loma Crest Street, there were many 4am’s where I would sit on the hood of my Honda Prelude and stare off into the Los Angeles skyline. The smell of skunk and smog surrounded me in a very comforting way, and the buzz of the Glendale Freeway, even at 4am, was quite soothing. I would wonder about what had to be done to make a career out of music, what it took to fight the same demons that I’m sure someone in the hills next to me were fighting, and most of all, what it took to be happy…truly happy…in band. After all, this is something I want to do forever…and that’s a mighty long time.
As a lot of us know, it is usually really hard to make money as an artist. There are constant concurrent obstacles that must be dealt with, all while trying to stay creative, positive, and productive. The topics that I chose to discuss are ones that have come up in more than one band that I have been in. There are a million other things to add to this list, as every band is different, but these particular issues seem to be commonplace both in my experiences, and experiences of close friends. I know that some of this material is extremely obvious, but I am shocked by how many people hear about this stuff and are completely unaware of the destruction it can bring.
Finding the right band-mates.
It’s hard and it takes trial and error. Period. The Romeo or Juliet that plays the band’s twelve songs like a champ and has the best attitude in history, can become Cruella Deville who can ONLY play the band’s twelve songs, and that’s it. I’ve noticed that it’s usually around the three month mark when these traits come out and everyone begins to regret their decisions.
A friend recently reminded me that almost every band has the creative director, the mediator, the control freak, and the slacker. He couldn’t be more on point. These are four (or more) people with different personalities, with different visions, and with different ways of dealing with things. This type of working relationship requires a tremendous amount of understanding, respect, and communication. How the hell is this ever going to work? Well, honestly, the odds are against you. BUT, if you want to make something work, you will find a way, and you’ll find the right people for your band. Even if it means using the Rorschach Test as part of the audition process.
The Band Agreement
It sounds legalese and stuffy. It is. It’s definitely no dueling behind-the-head guitar solo. It is the most boring of the contracts that your band will encounter, I guarantee it. It’s also the most important. This document is the backbone of keeping things from going awry if and when, 1) the band is goes through serious changes such as breaking up or replacing members, and/or 2) the band begins making a ton of money. (Let’s hope for the latter). No one wants to feel burdened by a contract, but if this Band Agreement is drafted correctly, it shouldn’t feel that way. It should act and feel as a very fair aid in the event that uncertainty arises.
|The Adarna in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho|
Girlfriends (and boyfriends)
Your significant other is not in the band. If they are, I wish you the best of luck on your endeavors. That is a whole other topic in itself.
I’m going to label the significant other as “girlfriend.” It rolls off the tongue easier and unfortunately, it is truly the case more often than not. (But believe me, boyfriends can drain you and the band, as well).
The band likes that the girlfriend likes the band. Shit, the band likes it if anyone likes the band. However, the band does not like when the girlfriend acts as if they have the authority to act as the band’s manager. Or artistic designer. Or counselor. Or cock-blocker. Or tag along. Girlfriends, please…do your significant other a favor: just be cool and not be up anyone’s ass. Yes, people are going to hit on your boyfriend. He’s in a band.
If you smell like a mix of feet and turd while crammed in your little tour van, your band-mates are going to hate you. Can you blame them? Touring is hard enough as it is, and a stinky band member definitely does not help the situation. There are plenty of hygienic things you can do when time is limited on the road. Baby wipes, sanitizer, dry shampoo, dryer sheets in your shoes, and for the love of God, deodorant and clean socks. It’s not rocket science.
Band meetings and band night
If your band does happen to have a smelly member, or any other issue (which you will), there is a place to lay it out on the table: the band meeting.
Band meetings have such a negative connotation. I don’t understand why. Every relationship needs to have open communication in order to work. Especially a band. Sure, the egos will fly, mean things will be said, and someone will be defensive. That’s how you work things out and move forward.
With that said, you should also have meetings about the good stuff. As we know, it will be different for every band. For one band it might be a band meeting of “Holy shit! We have a song!” For another it might be “Holy Shit! We just went Triple Platinum!” Although the music industry tends to be an aggressive and depressing place, the good stuff is there…remember to celebrate it.
Sometimes it is easy to forget that you are friends with the people you are in a band with. If you aren’t, you may want to reconsider your situation. One thing, in my experience, that has really kept the importance of friendship in unison with the working aspect of a band is band night. It’s a night where you go out and have fun with not only your band-mates, but more importantly, your band-mates as friends. I truly believe that it is absolutely imperative to make an effort to hang out and check-in with each other in an environment that is not music-related.
The band is so fragile, and I think it’s very easy to take things for granted. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves why it is that we do this. As with most things in life, it’s not going to be happy all the time. In fact, I personally believe that being an entertainer is probably on of the most depressing industries to be in. Even when you’re at the top of it all with multi-platinum records and a very comfortable income, the time at top is usually limited and it flies by. So no matter what level your band is at, enjoy it.