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Some Tips for planning a healthy , resilient band dynamic

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by mambo4, Dec 3, 2020.

  1. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    Inspired by this thread I'd like to discuss positive ways to prevent poor band dynamics.

    I believe It takes planning.

    I think most band "drama" results from a neglected communication and agreement on general direction. It's funny how much obvious no-brainer stuff is neglected because we want to be "all about the music". If everybody needs to row the boat in the same direction, you must take time to find out what that direction is (and how you'll steer.)

    Note: "plan to" and "agree to " are effectively the same thing, but many resist a push to "agree" to something. "let's plan to..." is simply the jiu jitsu version of "lets agree to ..."

    • try to align musical expectations (but expect disagreement)
    • plan to handle disagreements by in person, respectful communication
    • plan to share musical examples and discuss what you can apply
    • plan to be gentle when giving critique, thick skinned when receiving.
    • plan to give every suggestion an honest try and an honest listen, as if it were your own
    • respect the difference between "I made it" and "it's good" both with your self and others
    • assume hurt feelings are the result of other's ignorance, not malice or attitude
    • respect other's time ( practice your parts on your own )
    • assume your band mates have valuable input you can benefit from.

    • try to align role and responsibility expectations( but expect disagreement)
    • plan to handle disagreements by in person , respectful communication
    • plan who has the final say (if it's a vote, have a tie breaker)
    • plan your load out and load in roles
    • plan who pursues gigs (and how)
    • plan non-musical roles : who handles social media? photography? graphic design? T-shirts? recording?

    • try to align business expectations( but expect disagreement)
    • plan to handle disagreements by in person , respectful communication
    • plan on the kinds of gigs you want, if any
    • plan on the plan to get those gigs
    • plan on the immediate next step toward that, and always aim efforts towards it
    • plan on money: who spends what, who owns what, who keeps what.

    These are ideas to bring up with your bandmates. none of this should be controversial. If an individual is resistant to any, that's an opportunity to explore why that is.

    Other ideas are welcome
  2. MD-BassPlayer

    MD-BassPlayer Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    That's a lot of planning. Maybe a mission statement too?
    Parzival, M0ses, Ostie and 8 others like this.
  3. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    Expectations management. Make sure that happens right from the start. Including anything to do with money.
    dbsfgyd1 and ArtechnikA like this.
  4. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    Step one is make sure no 2 members are dating/married. If so, you're already fired even if they haven't told you yet.

    Airing of expectations and goals is important. As is delineating attainable objectives from dreamland. Not ruling out that you'll be marching across arena stages soon, just that there are steps that some people don't manage well.

    Also be sure to tell the drummer that you don't need a 2 count before every 4 count before you start the song.

    On business matters respectfulness and directness is key.

    And don't stink up the van.
  5. Son of Wobble

    Son of Wobble

    Mar 8, 2010
    Keep drunken guitarist away from hot glue gun and drummer's throne
  6. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member


    per the OP: i think you've done a very thoughtful job! as i read it: sounds like good advice for almost any group of humans who gather to accomplish something together --- the band angle notwithstanding! :thumbsup:
    stretch80, DeepHz, OogieWaWa and 4 others like this.
  7. bherman

    bherman Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2009
    Grand Junction, CO
    Good effort - I would perhaps add something about expectations for communication via email/text (since we all are using it alot now in the COVID era); responding in a timely way, etc.
    PennyroyalWe likes this.
  8. TNCreature

    TNCreature Jinkies! Supporting Member

    Jan 25, 2010
    Philadelphia Burbs
    OP, agreeing with everything you wrote.
    Also, you are giving musicians a lot of credit with expectations of sanity!
  9. charlie monroe

    charlie monroe Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2011
    Buffalo, NY
    Are you a reformed guitarist?
  10. mattj1stc

    mattj1stc Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2009
    Dallas, TX USA
    To the original list, I'd add this note for cases where there are existing relationships outside of the band setting - in the band setting, the outside relationship takes a backseat to the band rules already noted.

    This is based on my past experience playing with coworkers, and some of the band members worked for another band member. This "boss" was the worst guitarist of the 3 guitar players in the band, but the other 2 couldn't talk to him about it because they worked for him. Luckily, I was in a completely different department and senior to this "boss" so it didn't directly impact me. However, I always had to be the one to bring up negative feedback to this guy because the others couldn't.
    Wambemando likes this.
  11. This comes from personal experience:

    Plan to be honest about your current shortcomings, and if you'll be able to rectify and/or compensate for them to the satisfaction of the rest of the band. Expect the same of others.

    Shortcomings can be related to skill, availability, gear, whatever.
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2020
  12. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    That is a good point, I have lost "outside relationships" because of a failure to establish that kind of boundry
    EddiePlaysBass and mattj1stc like this.
  13. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    Further to expectations management and specific to bands, here some areas to set realistic expectations for a performing band:

    1. Musicianship - I.e., come prepared (know the tunes, be able to communicate in musical terms); be proficient on your instrument

    2. Bandsmanship: I.e., be able to perform collectively -volume, dynamics, etc; show up prepared and on time with working equipment; share the load when setting up and tearing down. Limit dead air, use silent tuners,

    3. Showmanship - I.e., be prepared to dress, perform and entertain for the style of music you’re playing and the venues in which you perform. Don’t hog the mic, don’t futz around on stage, keep the show moving (see above, no dead air).

    There’s a lot more to it, but this is a start....

    In my experience, if someone is not at least “average” in all of the above, I’m not going to be working with them for long. I’ve been in bands with amazing musicians who just could not function in a band setting nor could cope with putting on a show. They were sent on their way quickly.
  14. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    Make sure there's a band leader who is not afraid to make decisions.
    DirtDog, instrumentalist and mambo4 like this.
  15. As a Manager in my real career- I can tell you the #1 worst employee characteristic- the employee who agrees to everything and says they will deliver, then consistently falls short. Bands are similar- "Can everybody learn these 3 songs for next weeks practice?"- Sure- next week comes along- its ALWAYS the same old folks, "well... I started to work on the song then... excuse, excuse"- and they NEVER change...
  16. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    the flip side: make sure the band members are not afraid to accept said decisions.
    (then again: building a team that does so is the leader's responsibility)
  17. jefkritz


    Oct 20, 2007
    iowa city, IA
    Great thread, especially the first post! Can we sticky this?

    Also, I know you were joking MD-Bass, but I do love me a good mission statement! Might as well do a full strategic plan while you're at it, with goals, metrics, action plan, SWOT analysis, etc :D
  18. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    HAHAHAHAHA!!! Good luck with that one! Even bands where everyone becomes multi-millionaires don't always have a good band dynamic.
    awakefie, 75Ric, RichardW and 6 others like this.
  19. Son of Wobble

    Son of Wobble

    Mar 8, 2010
  20. AceOfBassFace


    Jun 23, 2019
    My biggest piece of advice would be to agree on how things will run before you even begin. How will the money be shared? Songwriting credits? Set achievable goals - cover/bar band or major label stadium act? Be realistic - if you're all in your 50's, drunk, overweight, goofy-lookin', and play atonal avant-garde free jazz you are NOT going to get signed to a major label. Be honest and up front with each other. Communication is key.

    Some other random stuff:

    DON'T CHEAP OUT ON PROMOTIONAL MATERIALS - your mom cannot make your band a cool flyer with Word and MS Paint. The guitar player's girlfriend is not going to take professional-looking photos of you with her iPhone. Hire a real photographer & graphic designer to make your band look as good as possible.

    HAVE A DAY JOB - you will need money. Broke bands miss out on opportunities because they can't afford to do anything. Re-invest gig money into the band if you can. I've played with enough guys whose attitude was "I'm such an amazing musician, a real job is beneath me". Unless you have super-rich parents who don't mind paying for everything then your life will suck without money. You need to get out to shows, buy people drinks, be able to afford good gear, not starve, etc.

    PRACTICE YOUR INSTRUMENT, REHEARSE AS OFTEN AS YOU CAN - a well rehearsed, tight band will blow people away and differentiate themselves from the other 99% of mediocre bands.

    AVOID LAZY, IRRESPONSIBLE PEOPLE no matter how good at guitar or how cool they look. A successful band requires EVERY member to put in a ton of effort. Promoting the band, moving gear, showing up to rehearse, writing songs / learning covers, and the business side of things are equally important. The lazy guys in the band will cause resentment and drag everyone else down. The only exception to this rule is if the person in question is SO EFFING AMAZING AND TALENTED AND WRITES GREAT SONGS that it would be worth picking up the slack for them in other aspects of the band.

    AVOID GREEDY PEOPLE: If one person writes all the songs, then he or she will make all the money. So negotiate for a cut of the songwriting, or get paid hourly as a sideman. Get it in writing. A band I was in had a verbal agreement to split everything 4 ways. We were all friends so we trusted each other. When the major label offers started rolling in, the main songwriter decided he wanted 100% of the royalties since he wrote the songs. Never mind that the rest of the band worked our asses off for two years for free. Guess what happened - we all quit, the labels lost interest, and songwriter dude ended up with 100% of nothing.

    AVOID DRUG ADDICTS/ALCOHOLICS: Not worth the drama, DUI's, stolen gear, missed gigs, forgotten parts, bad PR etc. In my opinion, a few drinks or a joint are fine - if used responsibly and the band is in agreement as to what's acceptable.

    HAVE A STYLE MUSICALLY - no matter your influences or what type of music you're into, try to narrow it down. A cohesive sound really helps you find a niche. There are no reggae-metal-jazz-funk-folk bands out there worth mentioning. If you want to combine genres, combine them on every song so there's continuity in your material.

    HAVE A STYLE VISUALLY - Try to look like a band. Seriously, put some effort into it. It doesn't matter how good you are if you look like a bunch of schlubs. Unless of course you're a cover band playing the local pub to 10 people, then nobody cares since it will be your friends at the show anyway.

    GET AN ENTERTAINMENT LAWYER to review any contracts you enter into.

    DON'T GET A MANAGER until you're ready to hit the big time. Then shop around and try to get the best, not the cheapest.
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2020
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    Primary TB Assistant

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