The past few months have been pretty enlightening with Muze’s “10 People in Music You Need On Your Side” series. Gerard and I searched far and wide to acquaint you with every type of person you absolutely need to know as you trudge the road of happy musical destiny – though of course, destiny has nothing to do with it. It takes hard work and strategy. Also, it takes people skills.
This week, I’m going to devote some time to explaining what we’ll call interpersonal strategy. Of course, placing the word “strategy” beside “interpersonal” sounds rather insincere, but that’s not what I mean. Look at this as a guide to augmenting your friendships and personal connections with people – in particular those you hold with your bandmates. More than anything, it’s a crash course in maintaining strong relationships with people you value and trust, because at the end of the day, you have to trust the people you invest your time and resources into. In turn, they have to trust you as well. We’re all in this together, people, so let’s act like it.
After enough matching, chatting, and meeting musicians via the Muze app, you’ll eventually find yourself in a rehearsal studio/on a stage with a group of people who you’ll call your band. Excellent. Time to start manufacturing some melodies. Except there’s something you should bear in mind: those aren’t little soldiers placed before you to heed your beck and call and do everything you tell them. They’re human beings.
They’re also human beings you’re going to be spending a lot of time with. How else are you going to develop musical chemistry and find yourselves on an equal footing? It probably goes without saying that the better you get along with these people on a personal level, the more effective your work together is going to be. The beautiful thing about music is that we get to create something great with other people who share our passions, and that’s a part that shouldn’t be taken for granted. As a result, you’re going to make some incredible friends along the way, and if there’s one thing I’ve observed in all the time I’ve spent amongst musicians, it’s friendship that builds the most reliable and fulfilling collaborations.
That’s not to say that you have to be best friends with every person you step up onto a stage with or that differences won’t inevitably arise between you and certain individuals, but you can and should always practice good faith with others. Trust me, most everyone sees through the whole, “I’m going to pretend to be your friend just so I can get something out of you” façade, and there’s no shortage of that kind of insincerity lurking behind the corners of god knows how many fake smiles out there. Leave the cloaks and daggers behind and go make some true friends.
Here are a few ways you can strengthen and maintain close relationships with your bandmates.
Show A Vested Interest In Them
You might be the type of person who has the overwhelming urge to talk about themselves upon meeting someone for the first time. This doesn’t always mean that you’re an egomaniac; there’s a decent chance you’re just trying to make a good first impression and, in situations involving musicians, make sure someone knows they’re not wasting their time with you. All the same, if you don’t come up for breath and give the other person a chance to speak as well, you’re going to come off as baggy or self-absorbed.
Don’t make this mistake. Take a beat, look them in the eye, and ask a question about them. Where are they from? How long have they been playing music? Who do they like do listen to? Are they a writer as well as a performer? Do they play any other instruments? We all feel socially anxious at times, and fluid conversation comes easier to some than it does to others. Regardless, bear in mind that these are just people like you and me. Odds are they’re anxious as well, and when all is said and done, what’s the most that can happen? An awkward moment passes, you both laugh about it, and you pick up your instruments and let them do the talking.
Don’t Be A Stranger
It’s always a nice gesture to follow up with someone outside of the rehearsal space on matters that aren’t music related. Check in and say what’s up. Wish them a happy birthday. Send them a funny meme or video. Anything within that vein carries a simple and effective gesture: I enjoy your company and I appreciate you as a person as well as a bandmate. You should do this even (and especially) when someone is going through a hard time.
Let’s say your bass player’s mom is sick and he calls you to let you know he won’t be at practice this week. Instead of wishing him well and waiting to hear from him/see him at the next practice, give him a call or throw him a text letting him know you’re thinking of him and to reach out if he needs something. Really, you have no idea how much people actually appreciate small gestures like that. In reality, letting someone know you’re thinking of them during trying times is anything but a small gesture – it’s huge. And just to be clear, none of this is intended to produce the illusion of caring about someone. What I’m trying to do is help you to not miss out on some great friendships in your professional life that make playing music worthwhile.
Show Them Some Support
There’s a good chance that some of your bandmates will have side projects or alternative prospects that they’re juggling along with the one you share with them. As long as you’re all on the same page as far as priorities go and there’s a general understanding amongst everyone of what you all want, this is totally fine and should pretty much be expected.
To that point, you should make an effort to support them in all of their endeavors, including the ones that don’t involve you at all. It could be as simple as reposting something they share on Instagram or Facebook, or maybe you can set aside some time to go watch them perform at that writer’s round they’ve been talking about. This is a gesture of good will that shows you aren’t jealous and believe in their talent no matter where it’s being displayed. Plus, wouldn’t you want other people to see how talented the people are who you’re musically engaged with? I’d like to think so.
Offer Them Opportunities That Might Not Involve You
The list of different gigs a musician can pick up here and there are really endless. Someone could need a fill in for a gig, maybe another person is in need of an experienced cowriter, or perhaps there’s some independent artist in town who needs a skilled musician to step into the sound booth for a few hours. In any case, you should keep your bandmates in mind for recommendations to others in need of professionals, because after all, aren’t they some of the best musicians you know? Why else would you be collaborating with them? In this regard, you’re helping out both your bandmates and whomever is in demand of their services, so it’s a consistent cycle of backscratching in which everyone benefits.
There’s also a good chance they will return the favor someday as well, so everybody wins. If one of your bandmates is able to pick up a gig and earn some quick cash on the side, they’ll likely have some more autonomy and availability, which more time for band practice and such. Also, bear in mind that whoever your bandmates work with outside of your time with them is someone who could become a close friend, a fellow collaborator, or another face in the crowd at one of your shows. Cast a wide net, people. There are a lot of fish out there.
Listen To Their Ideas
We all have a vision, but not all visions are going to align. Compromise is everywhere you look in music, so if your lead guitarist has a different idea of how the song should start, pay attention to his or her wishes. Bear in mind that there’s a good chance that their advice will actually make you a stronger musician as well. If you’ve settled on this particular group of people as your band, you should trust their judgement and be open to their ideas. Don’t be stingy.
The only reason I didn’t put this one at the top of the list is because I’ve gone over it multiple times in previous articles. Regardless, it can’t be stressed enough – you HAVE to pay your bandmates. As we’ve already discussed, this is entirely contingent upon the situation at hand. If you’re collecting a group of musicians to perform your own original music and they aren’t your usual collaborators, be ready to shell out a little bit of cash for their hard work. If you guys are all part of the same primary project with the same goal, money will come when money comes, and when it does, you’ll divide it up accordingly. Either way, understand that any gesture of appreciation you can show your bandmates goes a long way. Again, these are more than just your business partners – they’re your friends, and friends look out for one another.