What to Look For in Your Bandmates

As strange as this may seem, bands are extremely similar to marriages: They are loaded with creativity and emotion, they can be extremely volatile, and they form and break up all the time! So what can you do to ensure that your “marriage” with your band mates is everything that you want it to be and more?
I’ve been playing for over 20 years, and the majority of that time has been spent with other musicians. Here are a few things that I look for in my band members . . .

Just like in a marriage, it’s way easier to get along with other musicians when you can agree on stuff. I know what you’re thinking . . . “DUH!” But you would be surprised how often this comes up as a problem in bands. This means knowing precisely what you need and want as an artist, and what you expect of the artists that you work with. This can be broken down into 3 main parts.

1. Goals—what are the main things that drive you as an artist? What are you trying to accomplish long-term as an artist?
2. Purposes—what are the “sub-goals” that will lead to achieving the things that you want to be, do, and have as an artist. What drives your goals? Maybe your goal is to create positive change and motion through your music, and one of the purposes behind this is that you want to write music that sends a positive message and inspires people to become artists themselves. Maybe your goal is to make your family and friends smile, and one of your purposes is to learn how to write songs for children. Whatever the case, your purposes should push your goals forward, and they should jive with the purposes and goals of your band mates as well.
3. Policies—these are your core expectations for yourself and all other members of your band. Really be honest with yourself about these, and don’t be afraid to let potential band mates know about them up front.

The moral of this part of the story: If you want to tour the world and be a household name, and Nailz over there on the drums wants to get high and play dive bars every day for the rest of his life, perhaps Nailz is not the best guy for the job . . .

It’s great to have someone in your band that can play his guitar so fast that flames shoot out of his fingertips. However, if he’s never at practice on time and shows up to all of the gigs drunk, as far as I’m concerned, he’s a waste and entirely not worth the hassle. Playing an instrument and being a musician are 2 very different things. The line in the sand is professionalism in my opinion. This includes everything from being on time to rehearsals and gigs, showing up clear-minded and ready to jam, not missing rehearsals, practicing on your own outside of rehearsals, etc.

Can you imagine being married to someone that you hate (this is not a trick question!)? It’s no different in a band. MAKE SURE THAT YOU LIKE THE PEOPLE THAT YOU ROCK OUT WITH! Chances are, if they aren’t the kind of people you could see yourself hanging out with outside of the band, you won’t have the best relationship with them within the confines of the band either.

Might seem obvious, but keep in mind that communication is not one-way. Can you get ideas across to the people in the band and have them really “get it”? Can they do the same with you? It’s way easier to be productive with people that you can communicate well with as you guys don’t constantly have to explain and re-explain your ideas to each other. It’s also waaaaaaaaaaaay less boring when the band is talking to each other and really getting each other!

Kinda sucks when you come home one day and find your wife boinking the pool boy, or you find out that your husband has been the one stealing money out of your purse all along—it has a way of outing the flames out, if ya know what I mean. Likewise, it’s kinda tough to stay in create mode with and be positive toward band mates that can’t be trusted. No-brainer, but often overlooked from what I’ve seen. The people that I play with regularly are people that I know would never steal from or lie to me. I know they won’t leave me hanging if I need help, and I know they’ll be honest with me all the time—even when it means telling me that I’m being really whiny and that I need to knock of the drama and get to work! And the same is true in the other direction.

I NEVER have musicians that do drugs in my band. Adds way too much volatility and does nothing for productivity or (contrary to popular opinion) creativity. Drugs usually just make people more annoying to be around more than anything . . .

In a nutshell, really be honest with yourself about what you want, and really take care in selecting the guys and gals that you’ll be tying yourself to artistically—as much care as you would take in choosing a husband or wife. You may end up being with them just as long as (if not longer than) your better half!

Johnnie Ferro – Artist Synergy

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