Moving the Startup Band Forward: How to Avoid a Massive Time Suck

One of the things that can create quite a bit of frustration is when you have all of the musicians and resources needed to start a killer band, and you end up spending weeks going over a very few not so difficult tunes without making substantial progress. Supposedly, one of the benefits of having quality troops in the group is that you should be able to make rapid progress, ultimately leading to getting the band out performing in short order. Even if there are scheduling conflicts regarding rehearsal times, when the band does get together the members should be sufficiently prepared to put the polish on pieces, establish arrangements and move on, quickly amassing the catalogue required to start booking and performing. When this doesn’t happen, what could be a golden opportunity starts feeling like a massive time suck that isn’t going anywhere, and all too often it doesn’t because the members start drifting away due to varying levels of commitment to the project and frustration with the project’s feeling of stagnation. There are several contributing factors to this situation, and, of course, there are ways to deal with them. One of these factors is a lack of commitment in one or more of the band members.

Lack of commitment is something that is usually quite easy to identify, but can be difficult to deal with for a variety of reasons, from established friendships to having a positive past history with the individual which can complicate the situation. Sometimes the issue is simply that the person is overcommitted otherwise, which is understandable. We all end up in that type of situation from time to time and try to weather it out; however, when the band’s goal is to run as an entertainment business this can have a very negative outcome for the band, particularly in the start up stages because in order for a business to move forward successfully the founders have to be on the same page. If the band member’s head isn’t in the game, and all indications are that he or she isn’t going to remedy the situation, then a change needs to be made in personnel in order to keep things moving forward, regardless of whether or not the individual is counted as a friend.

Another factor that often comes into play is a lack of organization. Successful bands require organization to even get started. Clear goals need to be created and agreed upon, as well as placed on a time line. Set a date where you expect the band to start actively playing and book something for that date. There’s nothing like having something on the books to motivate people to get their collective butts in gear.   However, simply doing this won’t make it happen; someone needs to drive the bus otherwise it will never get there. Bands, like anything else done as a group, do require leadership, even if the leadership responsibilities are split up among the band members. Determine what tunes are up for work and indicate who is running the rehearsals. If someone naturally gravitates to this job and has the abilities to do it effectively, turn the reins over to him or her and get the work done. And if everyone does his or her homework, rehearsals will be able to cover a lot of ground without any significant stress. If this doesn’t happen then folks will start feeling like nothing is moving forward, and indeed, nothing will.

A related thorn that can really cause issues is when band members fail to do the preparation work required in order to have really productive rehearsals. If people don’t do their homework, then valuable time is wasted while people learn the material during rehearsal instead of doing the polish work noted above. This can become a massive time suck that significantly slows the progress of the band and can even effectively bring the group to a standstill. If you think about it, this is not a difficult concept to concede to. If a band is going to play live and get paid, it needs to have a minimum of three sets of material, so depending on the type of music being performed one can safely estimate a catalogue of anywhere from 45 to 60 songs. If the band members are relying on a three hour rehearsal every week and people are doing their homework being ready in two months, or even less, is not unreasonable, but if the members are using only that time to even simply learn the material, 45 to 60 tunes is going to take months longer, particularly when one factors in forgetting the earlier material learned because it hasn’t been rehearsed in favor of newer tunes. This situation creates a cat chasing its tail effect and will spell doom for the group in most cases. Good musicians generally don’t want to spend a lot of time in someone’s basement or garage “getting ready.”

If you have a good group of folks together and you really want to keep them together then organization, commitment and a solid work ethic on the part of the players are the three keys to making things move forward, particularly if you are viewing the band as an entertainment business as opposed to a hobby. If commitment levels fluctuate from member to member, then the outcome will never meet its potential. Likewise, if the organization, from goal setting to business planning and then down to rehearsal management, isn’t discussed, set up and implemented, once again the time suck will commence and it’ll only be a matter of time until either things fall apart or the band becomes a permanent resident of someone’s garage. Don’t waste time; take the time to have the meetings to set the direction and allocate responsibilities, and then really do the work that’s required to move forward. By doing so the chances of having a successful band are greatly enhanced, as well as the chances of having satisfied band members.

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