As the year comes to a close, many people tend to do a bit of introspection and planning for the future. As a musician, there are many goals one can set for the year ahead. One of these, for the solo artist, could be to start a band in 2010.
Working alone can be fun, but collaboration brings on many different rewards and challenges. Creating music, like any art form, is about taking a chance, and working with others can be a very big chance indeed. However, keeping a few things in mind can make the decision to start a band much easier.
Clarity: One of the first and most important things to consider when forming or joining a band is the establishment of clear and well-defined goals. What sort of music will this band play? How many people will be involved? What about a band name? These are all things that can be decided as a group or by an individual band "leader".
Which brings up an important point... whose band is this, anyway? It might be nice to imagine a band as a socialist organization, where everyone has equal say and weight, but this may be unrealistic. In order to move forward and achieve goals, often an individual needs to take the reins. As a member of a band it is important to decide who this figurehead is, and what their duties are. Having a band leader doesn't mean that the rest of the members are at their whim—it merely means that when it comes time for a decision to be made, everyone knows where to look.
Chemistry: Vital to any partnership is good chemistry. Bands spend a lot of time together, in the close quarters of a practice space or recording studio, and the even closer quarters of vans and hotel rooms as they head out on tours. Just like a romantic relationship, there are ups and downs, heated discussions about money, and endorphin-releasing moments of solidarity. In forming a band, the leader needs to be realistic about what to expect from their band mates. In joining an already existing band, a musician must understand that they are coming into the relationship at a disadvantage: the other members already know and (hopefully) trust each other. A new member will have to prove their skill and earn the respect of their band mates.
If everyone starts out on good footing, it is important to remember how this works, so that as things change and evolve down the road, tension can be avoided. As one forms a band it is a rule of thumb that if a relationship starts out as adversarial, it is unlikely to get better in time. Do not settle for personalities that don't mesh well, even if the musician in question is highly skilled.
Commitment: If it is the goal of a musician to play live regularly and record an album every year, then this must be the goal of the entire band. Playing with others takes a lot of practice, and if the bassist can only be there every other week, maybe he/she is not the right fit for the band. It may take regular motivation to keep all members of a band focused and on track.
Even for the most casual bands, the act of collaboration is a commitment, and understanding that everyone is putting in their all is key to keeping everyone happy.
Have Fun! At the end of the day, as cliche as it sounds, each person has to love what they do. Being in a band is all about the positive energy of creating music with others and performing for other music lovers—otherwise, it might be better to just go it alone.
The challenges and compromises that go into working with others are half the fun. Coming up with a sound unlike anything that a single person might choose to play is a true rush.
As the next calendar year begins, find a committed, passionate group of musicians and start a new band. Just be sure to pick a good name!