Recently, while I’m out and about, I’ve been getting more questions about what playing in a band is like.
Sometimes the questions are more general, about the experience of playing in a group. Most of the time, they are more specific about the dynamic and function of one. There is a lot of information about general band principles that can be easily found.
Beyond that, it is hard to find information because not only does music change on a societal level, every group dynamic is different.
Everyone is dropped into the jungle with a backpack and a machete. As you go, you are also responsible for crafting the map. Before getting into the rest of this column, I must preface this by saying my map is nowhere near complete.
Even the most professional musicians I have been fortunate enough to work with aren’t done crafting their maps. Everyone is still a student in one capacity or another.
To begin, I must say that chemistry is the key to the whole experience.
In today’s music world, it has become focused on providing a live experience for the audience. It is absolutely critical on any level of the show, from a local band at a bar to an arena, to provide exactly that — a show. That doesn’t happen without chemistry.
In a band environment, the definition of chemistry is close to Merriam-Webster’s. The difference is taking what is created on stage and transferring it to the audience.
A pitfall to avoid as a band, is having three or more people simply just playing a song together at one time. It truly becomes a band when everyone is locked into that live moment together.
After the gigs, during the part of the grind only witnessed by the band members themselves, there is the working process of how a band keeps its momentum going. Everyone will have defined roles as to what instrument each person will play. What is not always defined are the business roles of each member.
Who is in charge of booking shows? Is there someone who is visually inclined that can design art for the band? Who will be in charge of selling merchandise? The list of questions goes on and on.
A good example would be taking a look at an established band and the infrastructure that goes into making them into a successful business. All the jobs in the music business, before it collapsed, existed for a reason. Your band must determine what positions are needed. Even successful artists and bands are having to multi-task more than ever to keep things moving.
Another key factor that doesn’t always get covered is maintaining relationships. There are many articles with a focus on networking, but less on maintaining the connections people make. Also, the root of where these connections come from.
In any environment, are you trying to befriend this musician or industry person because there is a genuine connection or because it is a good career move?
Once a connection is established, usually trading skill sets is a good way to maintain them. Maybe you can help a band record their next EP in exchange for booking shows together in the future?
Having something to offer is also critical, you can’t ask someone for an opportunity if you have nothing to give back.
Any of the progress I have made toward my career goals is derived from being around genuine people in the music business. These are people I have clicked with on one level or another.
Good friends of mine I attended music classes with are now working on large-scale gigs in the industry. The intern taking coffee orders, who’s name you forgot, now manages the company. They haven’t forgotten about you. Especially if you treated them like an intern.
A double-edged sword of the music industry is the community. Jobs can be obtained without a resume, interview or application, based entirely on recommendation and reputation. That is largely a positive.
The negative is pressure to maintain that reputation more so than most occupations. Eventually, most people you meet will come back to haunt you. If you treat people how you wish to be treated, hopefully it will be a Casper situation and not like “The Conjuring.”