My friend who worked with U2, Tony Michaelides, told me one of the main reasons for their long success is they sorted the money out first—it was a simple agreement: it’s all equally shared. So when your bass player tells the songwriter that without his thumping bass line the song wouldn’t be the same, and he wrote that line so why isn’t he getting the same royalties? you know this is the start of a long run in on possible arguments and turmoil—an agreement has to be made before you release anything. I once did an interview with Woody Woodmansey, and even after 30 years he is still disgruntled with David Bowie, and the words he used I could not put out on my show! It doesn’t have to be equal percentages, but it has to be that everyone feels happy with their lot—get a basic contract sorted out ASAP.
How many times do you hear that the use of drugs benefits the music, and that you can think out of the box? If I had a penny for every time I heard that I would now be driving a 70s Honda z750. Whether or not this helps the musical process, I am not sure, but what I do know is, if you have a band member who cannot turn up to a gig or make rehearsals or do a live performance half cocked, the drugs have an effect on the band, and if this is the case it’s time to look at the situation—I personally have never seen a band improve in any shape whatsoever with the use of any drugs. To be honest, all I have seen are poor performances, lying, and a clear know-it-all attitude, which eventually destroys a band—or at least does not allow the band to progress to any level other than the local clubs and bars. And to add, it’s usually when the band or artist has already achieved the success that say certain drug use becomes public, then you will always see the downfall—if it’s serious get help for that person. It could save their life.
Relationships and touring generally mix like oil and vinegar; they work for a short period and then separate. Marriage increases your responsibility, which makes it difficult to maintain your level of commitment to the band. To say nothing of infidelities and divorces—remember Yoko Ono? The general consensus is that no one wants to have a significant other around for too long while on tour. They are outsiders to your sacred musical order. While every touring band has different philosophies on this, it’s advisable to designate a stretch of tour to meet with your better half and then keep it moving.
Work ethic and planning
All successful bands and organisations have a vision, and work to achieve that.
Working isn’t just about rehearsals and learning your own instrument, it could be learning and being knowledgeable about publishing or royalties; it could be working on merchandise or sorting out the right studios. It could be about trying the get the best agent or management to work with you—but it also could be the more basic work that could be making sure your rehearsals space is paid, or the local radio stations and promoters know about your band. It’s all work that needs planning on a regular basis and needs clear and regular COMMUNICATION with all the members of your band.
The old adage of failing to plan is planning to fail.
They’re part of every great organization. If you don’t have the vision or the work ethic, you will never succeed. Schedule weekly meetings in your band to discuss merch sales, performances, touring, recording, rehearsing, etc. and perhaps twice a week while on tour. Also, be sure to schedule a time to discuss what has been working and what needs to be ironed out. Don’t exclude personal issues! There should be a time to let off some steam and that time should not be just before a gig.
A professional is a person who is engaged in a certain activity, or occupation, for gain or compensation as means of livelihood—such as a permanent career, not as an amateur or pastime.
Imagine if you worked in an office or factory and you tell your co-worker to piss off, or you decide you will turn up late for work as not in the mood, or busy in the pub. How long would you last in that workplace really? A word that is used all the time in the workplace is teamwork. If you are to achieve your goal your success will depend on it— being a musician is a profession and a business, and you should approach playing in your band with that in mind. This isn’t always easy, as being in a small team sometimes the slightest transgression can send everyone over the edge. The phrase used to describe this in action I suppose is, ‘the band broke up due to musical differences.’
The Knob Head Factor
However laughable this may seem, it’s a fact. However, there are various forms of knobs that frequent bands, the two main ones being:
1. The knob that comes across as a knob in public, but behind the scenes he is just a shy person, however fragmented that may be.
2. The proper knob that is a true knob on every level.
For this purpose I am talking about the latter.
I have found that the majority of knobs in bands tend to be either drummers or the frontman/girl—it’s not exclusive though.
Remember, a knob can seriously mess up any relationship you have formed with the media, a potential label, promoter, publisher, agent, manager, or worse still—any potential fan. A knob can ruin many years of work and no matter how good or how much potential you may have it will blow the deal. Cut them loose before they poison the entire band.
Or worse still your manager is a knob and everyone knows it except you.