sillouhette band

Bands fail.

They fail al­most all the time, be­cause mu­si­cians of­ten throw cau­tion to the wind and have a mind that it’s a sim­ple en­deav­or. I am here to tell you that it’s not. If you’re not tak­ing your mu­sic se­ri­ous­ly, and you’re in a cov­er band or you’re just play­ing with friends, then fill your boots my friend — more pow­er to you. But if you in­tend on ac­tu­al­ly mak­ing mon­ey from your ca­reer as a mu­si­cian and you in­tend on do­ing it with oth­ers, there are some things you need to know be­fore even start­ing. This isn’t a com­pre­hen­sive list, but here are some of the more im­por­tant things to keep in mind on why bands fail.

Get to the know the people you’re with

Like I’ve al­ways said “Joining a band is like mar­ry­ing four or five peo­ple all at once.”

Get to know these peo­ple re­al­ly, re­al­ly well. You’re pos­si­bly go­ing to spend months in a crap­py van with these cats, and it’s im­por­tant to have the right kind of peo­ple next to you in that sit­u­a­tion. It’s very im­por­tant that you avoid join­ing up with mu­si­cians who aren’t tol­er­ant at all, who get in ter­ri­ble moods be­cause of the poor con­di­tions and fly off the han­dle, tak­ing out their frus­tra­tion on every­body else. Keeping a band mate like that is an ex­er­cise in fu­til­i­ty for your ca­reer; you’ll spend five  months on the road and then with­out warn­ing your band­mate has ei­ther left mid‐tour or af­ter­wards, and you’ll have to end the tour pre­ma­ture­ly wast­ing everyone’s time. Or you’ll have to spend even more time look­ing for the re­place­ment and teach­ing him when you get home. I don’t care how tal­ent­ed he is, I don’t care what he can of­fer, if you find your­self with that per­son then avoid them at all costs. Humor and a re­laxed be­hav­ior is im­por­tant here, be­cause you’re go­ing to fail a lot and – while that’s OK – some peo­ple over­re­act and they make a moun­tain out of a mole­hill, and it can kill the morale of every­one.

Drugs

Now, If you’re do­ing drugs and you’re not ru­in­ing your life, I don’t care and nei­ther should any­body else. It’s not our busi­ness, some peo­ple can han­dle their drugs re­al­ly well, they aren’t ad­dicts, and they aren’t a prob­lem. (Editor’s Note: SuperNerdLand does not con­done drug use, but not all laws in the world con­form to a sin­gle stan­dard of pro­hi­bi­tion. Drug use — and abuse — ex­ists in the world, deal with it.) Putting aside hero­in as choice drug for ob­vi­ous rea­sons, I know peo­ple like this and they are fan­tas­tic peo­ple, but if you start to see a bud­ding prob­lem where some peo­ple in the band are ir­ra­tional and vi­o­lent be­cause of this then it’s time to find an­oth­er band. That is a tick­ing time bomb, and you need to dis­tance your­self be­fore you’re caught in it’s blast ra­dius. You might find your­self pick­ing up their habits, and as far as cross­ing bor­ders go, you’re go­ing to find your­self on the sev­en O’clock news whether you were do­ing drugs with them or not. Sometimes a ma­jor — or even mi­nor la­bel — might not pick you up if you’re a bit of a flight risk. I’m not knock­ing drugs, just find some­one who can han­dle their stuff and keep it at home, or in the very least not trav­el across bor­ders with it.

Priority

If some­body has kids and a wife, house pay­ments, a job they can’t take leave of, their school­ing, or a girl­friend, then you’re most like­ly just set­ting your­self up for dis­ap­point­ment. These peo­ple have re­spon­si­bil­i­ties be­yond the band that will most like­ly con­flict with your abil­i­ty to tour, even some­times with reg­u­lar six hour prac­tice ses­sions and stu­dio time. You can rarely find some­body who can jug­gle these things with rel­a­tive ease and if you’re re­al­ly look­ing to make some­thing of your­self as a mu­si­cian, your ca­reer has to be in your top two. My hat goes off to all those moth­ers and fa­thers who still pur­sue the dream, but if all of your band mates have over­bear­ing girl­friends who re­quire all their at­ten­tion, or a job that sim­ply can’t be left for a tour, then that’s an ob­sta­cle you can avoid by just not join­ing up with them. Sometimes it’s a lit­tle eas­i­er to take the safe path and avoid the pos­si­bil­i­ty of the prob­lem all to­geth­er, es­pe­cial­ly when prob­a­bil­i­ty isn’t in your fa­vor.

Safety & Maintenance

Before you hit the road, get all of the equip­ment checked out by a pro­fes­sion­al and fix any prob­lems that arise. Save up mon­ey, and keep spare parts and ex­tra patch cords/XLR ca­bles at all times. When you lug elec­tron­ics from place to place with al­ter­nat­ing weath­er con­di­tions, there’s go­ing to be some wear and tear, and you’re go­ing to have crip­pling prob­lems.

Speaking of crip­pling prob­lems, if some­body steals all your equip­ment out of your van while you’re sleep­ing in your ho­tel room, you are go­ing to be fucked be­yond all mea­sure. Don’t both­er with locks on the van, don’t both­er with alarm sys­tems, fuck that noise and bring your equip­ment into the ho­tel rooms. If you’re all go­ing out to par­ty, leave some­body be­hind to watch it. I don’t care if it doesn’t fit, I don’t care if you’re tired, I don’t even care if your band­mate is pouty about not join­ing the par­ty, make it fit, put some el­bow grease into it and tell him to bite the bul­let or you are go­ing to lose all of your equip­ment. Be ab­solute­ly firm on this is­sue and do not wa­ver.

It’s an industry

The mu­sic in­dus­try is an in­dus­try; it’s not a club or a hob­by. First and fore­most you are sell­ing a prod­uct. Major la­bels don’t pick peo­ple up be­cause they’re tal­ent­ed, they pick peo­ple up be­cause they can make mon­ey for the la­bel. Part of un­der­stand­ing how to make mon­ey with your mu­sic is look­ing at how mod­ern artists write their ma­te­r­i­al, how they struc­ture their songs in a con­densed and palat­able for­mat. That’s some­thing you’re go­ing to need to con­form to whether you like it or not, be­cause while you might love twen­ty minute con­trived as all hell so­los or ten min­utes of noise with­out struc­ture, the largest de­mo­graph­ic to­day does not. They like mo­not­o­nous crap that’s about as pre­dictable as any hor­ror movie to­day, and I get it. I don’t like it — I re­al­ly don’t — but that’s where the mon­ey is and this is your job. I’m not telling you to make Pop mu­sic if you’re a met­al­head, I’m say­ing use their struc­tures and keep it sim­ple and repet­i­tive, so it’s catchy enough to stay in the listener’s head.

You might say that this is sell­ing out, but I beg to dif­fer, I call this “Investing in your Pursuit.” Spend ten years, do three or four al­bums like or whatever’s on your con­tract, and you’ll have enough mon­ey to start your own la­bel. Then you can pro­duce and cre­ate what­ev­er sound you want, and you can tour and shill it all to your hearts con­tent di­rect­ly to your au­di­ence.

Remember, it’s an in­dus­try, so if all of these things aren’t at least some­thing you con­sid­er and you aren’t se­ri­ous — then re­lax — but heed some of my ad­vice. It will  save you a heap of trou­ble in the fu­ture.

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