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Tips for balancing commitments to two (or more) bands

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Govner22, Mar 1, 2019.

  1. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Maybe I was unclear. If you cannot be prepared for every rehearsal, recording session, and gig, you are in too many bands. It's none of my bands' businesses how I spend my practice time. But I've been playing in bands for over 30 years. I've never been unprepared.
    lokikallas likes this.
  2. larryatravis


    Dec 30, 2014
    Generally agree about not talking about one band while you're with the other band, just due to the fact that when you are with one band, you should be "in the moment" and not thinking about your other band. Unless, something comes up where your experience with the other band is relevant to the issue you are currently dealing with.

    Playing a song in both bands is OK, to a limited extent, IMO. Played Green Day's "Holiday" in two bands at once. One was played in the original F while the other was transposed to E, which made things interesting (lots of open strings in E vs lots of 1-4 stretches in F), but was a good learning / training exercise for me. The real problem was, the singer's voice in one band did not suit the song AT ALL, so every time we played it, I was wishing I was playing it with the other band. Sort of like thinking about your other girlfriend while making out with the one you're with... lol.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2019
    Govner22 and Methaneman like this.
  3. Charlzm

    Charlzm Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2011
    Los Angeles, CA
    Only being in original bands, I have very rarely had this problem. On the very rare occasions I have played in two projects at once, the material is completely separate.

    Our singer is however currently in three bands (ours, an all-female Led Zeppelin tribute and an original metal band). Our drummer is in three bands (ours, the same metal band as the singer and another metal band that lives out of state - he only plays when they come to town for a show and they never rehearse with him) and the guitarist is in two (ours and a King Crimson tribute).

    We have found that having all these acts on the same family tree helps tremendously, as we are all constantly in touch and have often gotten gigs piggybacking on the others.
    Govner22 and larryatravis like this.
  4. twinjet

    twinjet GE90-equipped Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Sep 23, 2008
    Be on time.
    Have good time.
    Have a good time.

    These three will keep you employed, in my experience.
    mike o, Govner22 and larryatravis like this.
  5. larryatravis


    Dec 30, 2014
    For the times of your life.
  6. LBS-bass

    LBS-bass Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2017
    For you that's too many bands. Others prioritize well in these circumstances. It's a skill I learned in the academic world where you'd literally have more than a half-dozen projects going at once, all with different due dates, and communicating with your work partners about what's on the hotplate at any given time is key. You prepare for what you're expected to be prepared for and you touch the rest as you go along. A band with a commitment a month out is not the same priority as the one that's playing this weekend. Meeting your commitments is what matters.

    ETA: I would also say that if you aren't effectively meeting your commitments, you are in too many bands. If you are setting one commitment aside in favor of another regardless of schedule, you might want to revisit your commitment to the one that's getting set aside, because there's a reason you don't want to spend time with it.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2019
  7. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Sorry. If I were BL, and a member was not prepared for an event because he/she didn't have time to work on our stuff because of another band, I would tell them it was unacceptable. I play in/with 4 bands:

    - classic rock (Steely Dan, Joe Cocker, Pat Benetar, Beatles, etc.)
    - modern/classic rock (Boston, Muse, Three Doors Down)
    - modern country (Jason Aldean, Carrie Underwood)
    - jazz standards

    Give me a week, and I will have the entire setlist for any or all those bands ready, bass and vocals, whether or not there is a rehearsal.
  8. Govner22


    Jan 19, 2013
    Thanks for all the great advice! Honest communication regarding the calendar is huge for sure.

    Another issue is keeping on top of all the material, though I’ve been able to thus far. I try to insist on an agenda for each rehearsal. Also I learn songs much quicker by playing them up an octave so I can better hear the original bass line.
  9. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    Not the direct question, but i balance things by not being married to a particular group and only being married to scheduled, agreed upon gigs. I essentially take jazz pick up gig calls as they come in, and am on 4 or 5 band leader lists for jazz bass players. Due to this arrangement, i only take the gigs i like, don't overcommit myself, and can take a couple month breather whenever i want to. It also means i am consistently playing with different people which can be exciting. Rehearsals are nearly non-existent, so everytime i go out to play i generally come home with money.
  10. delta7fred


    Jul 3, 2007
    I've been in multiple bands for the last 40 years and find that honesty and openness are the best policy and having an established pecking order avoids a lot of conflict. A band that gigs every few months knows that it doesn't have the same pull on me as one that is out most weekends.

    I only once had a problem where the guitarist's wife (self appointed dictator) was rather vocal that I should be in only one. I actually took her advice but it was her husband's band that I quit (there were a lot of issues with that band).

    Bands are hardly the most stable of entities so I like to have a side project or 2 on the go just in case the main band goes belly up, it makes for a smooth transition when the inevitable happens.
    Govner22 likes this.
  11. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    I think it's important to remember that all a "band" is, is a group of people who happen to be playing music together. Ever since the Beatles or so there has been this mythology of "the band" like it's this sacred brotherhood that defines the identity of everyone concerned. Then every slob who has some buddies jamming in his basement thinks that they have to serve "the band" like it's the Holy Grail. At one point, I was inviting a drummer friend of mine to try out for a group I was in, and when he came by, he was careful to say that he didn't like to think of himself being a member of a "band," he liked to think of himself as a musician who was working on various "projects" at any given time. I think that's a healthy and practical outlook.

    Early in my playing career, I had a frustrating (and ultimately unsuccessful) effort running to get a group launched with a singer/keyboardist in one town, and meanwhile joined a group in another town. I was in a guitar shop with my wife when we ran into the guitarist from the second group, and I introduced him as "the guitarist from the Manchester band." He looked at me like I'd just spit on his mother and said, "You mean THE band. I'm the guitarist in THE band." I hadn't been keeping any secrets, but the other project had simply never come up, and had never gone anywhere anyway. But I hated that possessive attitude instantly. I didn't stay in "the" band much longer.

    As far as handling having multiple projects, I'd mostly repeat things that have already been said.

    Keep your calendar organized, and have regularly-scheduled practices so the groups don't interfere with each other.

    Don't make commitments you can't keep. Keep all commitments you make - that includes being prepared, etc.

    First-come, first-served. Keep all projects informed of your commitments and scheduling conflicts, whether from the other projects or anything else. Nobody gets to override a commitment you already made elsewhere.

    Something I haven't really been busy enough to need myself, but probably should - cultivate a sub, someone whose skills you respect and who's willing to get familiar with your repertoire, so that they can step in if, say, one of your projects has an opportunity that conflicts with an existing commitment you have.
    mike o, Govner22 and delta7fred like this.
  12. colantalas


    Mar 26, 2014
    I've been in my "main" band for close to a decade. In that time, I've participated in other projects in a few capacities - some gigging, some just studio. It's always been based on the activity level of the main band. From about 2013-2015, I was in a second band and both were gigging regularly, but it was becoming difficult for me to juggle things so I eventually bowed out of the second band. From about 2015-2017 the main band entered a period of less activity as one member was finishing school a couple hours away, meaning we were taking fewer gigs and rehearsing less, so I started a studio project with a friend to keep engaged with music. The main band ramped back up from 2017 to present and that has been my focus, but we recently decided to play fewer shows and focus on writing and recording, which based on life changes in some members is the way I think things will be for the forseeable future. At this time I got an offer to join my friend's band, who goes on short runs out of town a few times a year and plays a couple of festivals around the country, and I decided to accept, since the main band will be slowing down. It really comes down to the ebb and flow for me and what's happening in my life both within and without the bands. I realize this is more of a ramble than advice but I would say you need to be organized with your time and be willing to recognize when you've bitten off more than you can chew.
    Govner22 likes this.
  13. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    Get a sub. I freelance and am an alternate
    for another band. With so little work available a lot of players
    run multiple projects.
    Good luck.
    Govner22 likes this.
  14. trailer

    trailer Thumper Supporting Member

    Jan 18, 2008
    Guntersville, Al.
    For years I played in several bands and was always open to new projects. And then I started my own band, once we got it off the ground and booking it was easy, I slowly started extricating myself from the other bands. I stayed with them all until they either petered out or I could find a replacement for myself. My life is soooo much simpler now.
    Govner22 likes this.
  15. mrcbass


    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    I'm very upfront with both my bands regarding the other's schedules and activities. Each has either been to the other's gig or has expressed interest in doing so.

    It's kind of wierd that my gigging band is actually my second band - at least in terms of seniority. I let my first band (#1 original jazz fusion, not yet gigging - what a surprise!) that I would be very busy getting up to speed on the second band's (#2 regularly gigging cover band) material and they were fine with it. Besides the gigging, #2 took away one of our rehearsal days form #1 (almost a deal breaker for me), so that's down to once a week - if lucky. We have calendars for both bands and for gigs (if it is ever an issue) first booked first served. #1's drummer plays in a couple other bands so we need to be aware of each other's schedules.

    Being completely different genres, there no worry at all about cross polinating set lists and wouldn;t really care if there was some. Agree to the concept of not borrowing specific concepts (mash ups, variations on a song, etc) from band for use in another - even if it was my idea to begin with.

    It's very importatnt that you work out this stuff with any new bands you join - don't spring "other band confilcts" on a BL down the road. Let them know what your commitments are - it might change the "fit factor".
    Govner22 likes this.
  16. Retired Guy

    Retired Guy

    Mar 10, 2019
    I'm in 2 bands...one of them for 30+ years (but only regular gigging the last 10) and another band for 10 years. I joined the 2nd band telling them that Band 1 was my priority and they were good with that and band 2 was a start up. But now both bands are gigging and in demand so I now balance between both bands trying to be fair. Basic rules:

    - regular practice nights that don't vary much. All band members have busy lives outside of the bands and other commitments so they understand not being available on occasion.
    - gigs booked well in advance at venues and often we gig at the same place so there is rarely a conflict.
    - both bands know of each other and have seen each other, we all get along. The guitarist in band 1 once filled in for a gig with Band 2 when the guitar player had to go out of town last minute.
  17. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    I play with people who also play with several bands. My number one rule is first come, first served. Book me early.

    I actually had a BL get upset with me because I wasn't available for a NYE gig when I was contacted in late October. We had done maybe five gigs that year so the idea that I would hold a NYE date until damn near November was silly and they admitted as much after the initial huff.

    As far as not talking about one band with another, this isn't Fight Club. We discuss whatever we want.
  18. Space Pickle

    Space Pickle

    Apr 15, 2013
    actually, all my bands are some form of fight club
    catcauphonic likes this.
  19. filmtex

    filmtex Commercial User

    May 29, 2011
    Annsman Pro Audio Dealer
    I've been working four or five bands for many years now. One works two or three dates a month, the others one or two, and I do two nights as jam/open mic co-host with two different groups. I'm an absolute stickler about the rules mentioned above, and I have a couple subs I can call on. Once it's on my calendar, it's a firm deal. No exceptions. When I have family commitments I let everybody know well in advance. I'm in El Lay the week after next and everyone knew about it the same day I did. Being up front is absolutely the best way.
  20. First come first served...it's the only way - if you get sacked from 1 or more bands, so be it (especially if the bands all know about each other).

    I was sacked from a band a couple of years ago for getting a paid job and giving them a months notice that I was unable to do a gig we'd committed to over a year beforehand (before I even had a "day job"...) - the gig was a 3 day gig, and (sod's law) we were playing on the one day I was unavailable...I'd completely forgotten about it and they didn't even try to change the arrangements with a months notice. (the gig was mentioned in passing maybe 3 times in the 4 months before I told them I was unavailable? At least half of them were before I even applied for the temporary Christmas job which thankfully had just become permanent...)

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