At the end of year, you may have noticed that Craig’s List turns into a hotbed of musician postings: old people looking for new projects, young people looking for “working” bands, neophytes demonstrating first attempts at networking with poorly worded ads. Plus lots of ego, enthusiasm, ADD, and cynicism clearly worn out on the sleeve. But the common denominator is that everyone is searching for something new.
In some ways, this is similar to the craze every weight loss and fitness center experiences; lots of people coming out of their caves, mid-winter, to try to shed some pounds. In January, they sign contracts in droves, packing the treadmills, and then dissipate by the end of February. So too with many musicians…and here are some of the main reasons behind the spike in activity:
Our Winter of Discontent
In Colorado, the dark, snowy months mean retreat to warm houses. Social activity is generally limited to the “social networking sites” and people forget they are living in bubbles. The term for this in the mental health world is “Isolating,” and it’s not at all healthy. This is the time when people start talking to themselves more and more, listening to others less and less, creating self-delusion and convincing themselves that the grass is greener somewhere else.
If a person feels powerless with their role in the band, they might amplify that victim mentality without a proper sounding board. If a person thinks they know better than anyone else, they might stay up all night replaying arguments, creating victory in a parallel universe, or at the very least, getting sleep deprivation that will surely cloud future judgement.
This is also a time of year when people switch jobs, have stressful obligations (also known as “Forced Family Fun”), and get seduced by the boob tube. Add to that a lack of vitamin B and an extra contentious election year and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
Magnetic Poles and the Strong and Weak Forces of Nature
A band is a clump of matter. And all matter is basically maintained by gravity, electro-magnetic fields, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. There could be other energies at work as well, but at this time that’s about as much as scientists can wrap their head’s around. We are all subject to gravity, but take a look at the other influences…
Betchya remember this from grade school: like poles repel and opposites attract. When you encounter a band mate that you’d love to run away from, or punch in the face, remember that you are probably looking in the mirror. Every weakness you see in another human being is most likely a flaw you know exists in yourself. Take that to the negotiating table when it’s time to talk turkey.
The strong and weak forces are harder to discern – even our best scientists can’t get a good handle on them. But in band life, it’s good to remember that every member is a force of nature, with aspirations, dreams, goals, likes, dislikes, triggers, and personal agendas (we’ll talk about this more in a moment). All of these forces are interacting and developing subtle bonds. This is how new matter is created.
Now let’s go back to gravity – we know for certain that it takes a lot of energy to attain orbit. The term for this is Escape Velocity, and every human being on the planet is trying to escape gravity’s pull, to reach their dreams (effortless effort out in space). But another word to think of for gravity is reality. Gravity pulls matter together and ultimately destroys it, creating black holes. A band will need to work extra hard to beat this force.
Interdependency = Maturity
In Stephen Covey’s famous book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he describes the first three habits as efforts to bring a person from a state of childlike, victim mentality (dependence) to a more grownup mentality (independence). But then the next three habits stress the amount of maturity needed to move from Independence to Inter-dependence.
If a band is nothing else, it is a product of Inter-dependence. The whole is without question greater than the sum of its parts. But people forget.
And that’s when they get on Craig’s List. They might think it’s easier to find new projects than maturely talk it out with old band mates. They might convince themselves that they won’t repeat the same old habits with these brand new strangers. Yes, people forget.
One last reason for discontentment comes in the form of Deadly Hidden Agendas (or DHAs). Make no mistake – everybody’s got ‘em. The truth is, every musician is a perfectionist in one way or another and everybody has a dream. And so ultimately, everyone has an agenda. This can be very, very bad for a band. Or not.
Once recognized or acknowledged, a DHA is no longer hidden and can be talked about. More often than not, you may find that your agenda could actually help the band better achieve orbit. Or perhaps you’ll find that your agenda does not match the band as a whole and you’ll realize that you were not honest enough with yourself (and others) when you signed up for the project. That’s on you.
So the take-aways are: 1) evaluate your discontentment, 2) don’t make decisions in a vacuum, 3) history does indeed repeat itself, 4) band mates are mirrors, 5) seek first to understand then to be understood, 6) be kind – because everyone is dealing with demons (or perfectionism) in one form or another, and 7) own up to your DHAs. Good luck out there!