Yesterday’s blog felt so good. I’m not even bummed that some of it was a little on the mean side. Maybe it is because I think musician’s have a certain responsibility to be adults (if they are over 18). Even the ones who are just starting out should be, at very least, respectful of the privilege they have been given.
I do see being a musician as a privilege. For one thing, some people just don’t have the spare time it takes to be in a band. They must work, pay the bills, take care of family members, and worry about things that are life and death matters. I have to do those things, too, but I figured out a way to make the time and have available resources to make the music happen. It took a lot of work to get to the point where the hobby usually almost paid for itself and every once in a while, exceeded that lofty goal.
So, it is a privilege and should be viewed as such. It is also a way of life for a lot of people. A lot of people I know, myself included, do bands because we must do them. These are the ‘lifers’ in music. I would make a terrible solo musician. I’m better being part of a team and I have to make music because it is just a part of who I am. Some people make music because they like the idea of being in a band. These are the ‘visitors’ in the music world. There’s nothing wrong with this if you are willing to dedicate time and effort into being the best bandmate you can be. If not, trouble awaits, dear visitor, and you might end up out of the band or worse.
You might get your feelings hurt.
For those folks who are the latter, the visitors, and just like the idea of being in a band, know this going into your music career: You will, at some point, piss off your bandmates who are the former type (lifers) and have to do it to stay sane. It is, sadly, inevitable. If you’re reading this and have never been in a band, imagine whatever it is that you do to keep sane and think of how you feel when you are around people who pretend to like what you love to do.
Occasionally, you want to kill them, right?
If you are thinking of being in a band, ask yourself what level of commitment you feel about making music with other people. If you’re sitting there thinking, “hey, this sounds like a lot of fun and I’ll probably get dudes/chicks/dudes who dress like chicks/etc., to want to fuck me if I do this,” then you might be one of those people who just likes the idea of being in a band. If you are worried more about the way you look than how you sound, then you might be one of those “idea of being in a band” people.
This is okay. You can still be a good bandmate and be this person. You can still get your kicks and such if that’s what you’re interested in. People like people who are in bands and want to hang out with them, regardless of whatever level of notoriety or lack there of you get to in your music career.
There is a certain willingness and humbleness that is necessary to be in a band, whether you are a lifer or just a visitor. I even know some people who have been both. A lot of lifers start off as visitors and realize, along the way, that they are in it for the long haul. This is often as a result of some level of success or being humbled a bit.
A lot of ‘visitors’ are killer players. There are tons of people with natural and/or hard-earned talent and skill that just like the idea of being in a band. If they are somewhat empathetic and willing to listen and like being part of a team, you can have a great time playing music with these people. There are a bunch that I know of here in the Phoenix music scene and people generally like jamming with them.
There are also lifers who kind of suck at what they do. That’s okay and very frustrating if you don’t suck. It can be torturous to deal with because you want them to get better and grow with their craft, but for whatever reason, it just isn’t going to happen. My advice here is to cut ties as quickly as possible. We can all only handle so much tension and frustration and if you are worried about keeping a friendship, nothing kills one quicker than lying.
Bands are relationships. You gotta treat them as such. They need all the same things that any other type of relationship needs. Respect, communication, trust, boundaries, equality, responsibility, and a good dose of healthy self-esteem. If you have those things going on in your life or your band, you’re going to do okay when it comes to handling the stress and frustration that lingers around every corner, especially in the music world.
In the best situations I have been in, we did a lot of talking about what we wanted to play or accomplish or just got to know each other as people. You don’t have to be best friends to make good or even great music together, but understanding each other’s wants and needs, likes and dislikes, can make a huge difference.
Wanna be in a band? Well, it’s kind of like getting married to two or more other people. What you want out of the marriage should be discussed up front and if and when that changes, that should be discussed, too. Your thoughts about the band are going to change while you are in it, just like your thoughts about the songs or what you want to play or why you want to play are going to change, too.
You just might become a lifer or a visitor during the life of the band.
See you tomorrow.
Probably easier than joining a band.