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The seven most common causes of band implosion

October 29, 2014

It’s a near-scientific fact: 80% of bands implode within a year. Of those that stay the course, 50% will have turnover of personnel within the next two years. Here are the 7 most common pitfalls for band implosion, along with some preventative measures you can take…

1) The Perfectionist’s Trap – all musicians are perfectionists in one form or another. Sometimes they will disqualify themselves from the band out of a lack of confidence, or a sense of overconfidence. Constant insecurity is an undying trait here. The annoying, persistent desire to please is also a symptom of the Perfectionist’s MO.

Prevention tip: reassure your band mates that they are doing a great job. Let them know that you too are a perfectionist and just trying to do the best you can. Try to communicate unconditional love and appreciation for their contribution to the band.

2) The Flakiness Factor – most musicians are struggling in one way or another, and thus have flakey dispositions. Sometimes the cause is clear-cut, like drug or alcohol abuse, un or under-employment, or even homelessness. Other times, it’s a result of their upbringing and poor sense of responsibility.

Prevention tip: the best prevention here is to avoid taking on flakey personnel from the start. Prequalify them carefully. But if one slips into your band…

Let them know that you won’t be tolerating irresponsible behavior. Get them help if it’s one of the first three causes above. And finally, decide how many acts of forgiveness you can take – three strikes are more than enough.

3) Drama Kings & Queens – OK…everyone has life issues that crop up from time to time. The economy can be a bitch. Illness, divorce, death and the occasional unforeseen turn of events can hit you from behind. But when drama is creeping in week after week, sometimes it’s a little more than bad luck.

Drama can come in all shapes and sizes...

Drama can come in all shapes and sizes…

Prevention tip: a band rehearsal room should be a sanctuary. It’s the place where you leave the drama at the door; might as well leave politics and religion there too. After all, why did you join a band in the first place? To argue about abortion and gun control?

4) Ego Antics – these are often related to the Perfectionist’s Trap and sometimes alcohol abuse will also play a role. A player may be so good (or think they are) that they become difficult to deal with or incredibly moody. They may start to make demands, act unreasonable, or even threaten to quit each week.

Prevention tip: this is a tough one to spot ahead of time because chances are you are trying to find the best talent possible for your band. But once in the door, you’ll have to decide how tolerant you can be of their games.

You might try to remind them that they are part of the whole and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. You might try to appease them until your hair falls out. But sometimes it’s just best to show them the exit.

A studio can sometimes induce sweaty palms.  (Thor Shredsteen shown here).

A studio can sometimes induce sweaty palms. (Thor Shredsteen shown here).

5) Recording (aka the Day of Reckoning) – there will come a time when the group wants to record. This is your most objective feedback for the quality of the band and for what needs to be tweaked. This is also a time when band members freak out. It’s amazing how little band mates listen to each other while playing their parts.

Prevention tip: start recording early and often. Take time to listen to recordings and talk about things (like dynamics, tempo, volume, tone, etc). Just make sure that everyone’s defenses are down and they realize that all criticism is intended to be constructive, clearly for the good of the band.

6) A Leaderless Venture – no band can afford to have ineffective leadership. There needs to be a clear vision for where you are heading. Without this, the band will most likely run in fits and starts. But if you look back on the earlier reasons for implosion, you will also notice that most of these types get out of hand when there is no clear leadership.

Prevention tip: if there is no clear leader, elect (or hire) one, give them your full support, and move directly on to creating the business plan…

7) No Business Plan – a band is a business, regardless of whether you are aware of this. It may not be a very good business. It may seem like a hobby band or a nonprofit. But make no mistake, a band is a business and the business will fail without a solid plan.

Prevention tip: create a plan…now! The moment you start treating your band like a business, you will realize your obligations to yourself and your band mates. The plan will inform everyone of your strategy for being successful. The plan will explain your brand, exploit your talents, clarify your target audience, identify your competition (and advocates), express how income will be distributed, and include various exit strategies. It’s never too late to create a plan…

Do you have a strong leader and a clear plan?

Do you have a strong leader and a clear plan?

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