Last updated on March 13th, 2022
There is something so beautiful about the birth of a band. Complementary musical stylings coming together to deliver their musical babies to the masses. Growing together. Strengthening their collective sound as a group. Trying out new things. Pushing their comfort zones. Creating original pieces of work that nobody has ever heard before. That’s why it is such a bummer when bands break up.
It happens all the time. Ever since cavemen would grab their Neanderthal flutes to bust out some rhythmic grunts with their fellow cave dwellers, bands have been coming together, and then, sometimes, consciously uncoupling. And yes, the oldest known instrument is the Neanderthal flute. Here are six reasons that bands break up.
Reason #1: The Pursuit of the Solo Career
In a perfect world, all members of the band would be equally valued and revered. In reality, there may be a standout band member. That one standout band member who is more popular and in demand than their fellow bandmates. One with a manager whispering in their ear about how they are carrying the band and how they deserve a bigger piece of the band pie. Or maybe, just maybe, how they deserve the whole damn pie.
Beyonce. Phil Collins. Justin Timberlake. Diana Ross. Gwen Stefani. George Michael. The road to successful solo stardom is often paved with bitter former bandmates who were ditched in favor of a career focused solely on me, myself, and I.
Reason #2: Infighting Among Bandmates
Personality conflicts exist in every professional setting, so it’s no surprise that these conflicts have been the root cause behind a number of band breakups. Especially given the egos that can exist in the performance world. Oasis and the Everly Brothers are two bands that broke up due to personality conflicts. In both cases, personality conflicts between two brothers. And in both cases, the pent-up sibling anguish manifested itself in public physical altercations.
Guns N’ Roses is another band that can blame its demise on a good old-fashioned feud, in particular between lead singer Axl Rose and guitarist Slash. A toxic professional atmosphere is the root cause for breaking up The Eagles.
Reason #3: New Opportunities Emerge
Sometimes the endless nights of concert tours, the seemingly never-ending partying, and the time away from loved ones can grow old, and a band member may tire of the lifestyle. And when this happens, the band member may choose to grow in a new direction. Like ABBA, when two band members abandoned Mamma Mia in favor of writing for musical theater. Or Simon and Garfunkel, when Art Garfunkel pursued acting over continuing to make music with his duo partner.
Reason #4: Partying Like a Rock Star
Sadly, addiction has broken up more bands than you can shake a drumstick at. Given the tight-knit and public-facing nature of bands, it can be challenging for the collective to maintain a united and professional front when one (or more) band members are heading down a highly destructive path. The list of bands that have addiction to blame for their demise, and the list of musicians who have ultimately succumbed to their addictions, is, unfortunately, a very long one. Jane’s Addiction is one example of a band where all band members indulged in the drug scene in their early days, but then once two band members pursued sobriety, they found it was too temptation-ridden to continue to work together and parted ways.
Reason #5: Creative Differences
This catch-all phrase has been responsible for many a band break-up. Once a band has its big, bouncing, beautiful musical baby, not unlike with parenting, there may be differing opinions on how to raise said big, bouncing, beautiful musical baby. Sometimes certain band members want their baby to appear in a Wendy’s commercial. And sometimes certain band members view that move as the ultimate betrayal akin to mass commercialization and exploitation of their baby. It’s a little hard to “agree to disagree” when it’s your baby on the line. Ya, I’m looking at you, Violent Femmes.
Reason #6: Because of Limp Bizkit
Okay, okay, only one band is known to have broken up because of Limp Bizkit, but the story is well worth sharing. That band is Rage Against the Machine, and Limp Bizkit offended their anarchist activism sensibilities by not only publicly lauding the band as their idols, but then proceeding to beat them for Best Rock Music Video at the 2000 MTV Music Awards. Rage Against the Machine bassist Tim Commerford’s response? To crash the MTV Music Award stage as Limp Bizkit was accepting their award, climb a 20-foot fake palm tree prop against his bandmates’ wishes, and refuse to come down. That televised stunt was the beginning of the end for Rage Against the Machine.
Avoiding the Split
Much like the messy, high-profile divorce, band break-ups are best avoided if at all possible. The first step in a successful conscious coupling is compatibility. Muze is a band matchmaking platform that brings bands together based on availability, musical tastes, age, experience, and preferred genres — leading to a match made in music heaven. That way no one has to say (or hear) those dreaded five little words: we can still be friends.