Starting a Band: Part 3 — Decision Making for Petulant Children

Failure machine glanceEditor’s note: This is the third story in a series by Spencer Kilpatrick about starting a band.

Bands love to argue. LOVE IT. In fact, on an all-time list of things bands love to do, arguing probably falls right below talking shit about other bands and right above drinking beer. After a few weeks of grinding it out in the practice room you’ve probably already noticed this, you’ve also probably noticed that one or two “leader” types have risen above and started handling a lot of things (practice scheduling, writing, etc.). Since you’re the one reading this, I’m assuming that you’re one of those “leader” types. It’s important to remember that handling the booking and obsessing over day-to-day minutiae doesn’t make your opinion any more or less important than any other band member’s.

Don’t be the guy who thinks he can talk down to everyone else just because he’s writing the songs. The simple fact that you’re all musicians means that, on some level, you’re all comparably sensitive babies who see every suggestion as a premeditated jab at your very being. Here’s a list of things to keep in mind when navigating your petty shouting matches:

Everything is fine

Disagreements are good, they show that everyone is engaged and willing to participate. The alternative is having everyone just blindly go along with what you want to do and, while that may seem awesome, let’s face it, you aren’t that smart. If you were you wouldn’t be in a rock band in the first place.

Quick Tip: “We specialized in a quiet turbulence. We fought because we were passionate about the band” — Glenn Frey

Majority rules

This one is common sense and is perfect for quick disagreements that have been narrowed down to two choices.

A simple vote will come in extremely useful when it comes to arguments over song arrangements. Can’t figure out whether to play the chorus again or just go straight into the bridge? Try them both — one right after the other — and have a quick vote. Done.

Pros and cons

After a while, you’ll be able to see little tiffs coming from a mile away. Have a list of pros and cons ready. I’ve found this works best for deciding which shows to play. You can even send out a text or email with a quick rundown that looks something like this:

Hey idiots, Jim at The Red Peach in Salinas just asked if we’d play this Friday. Pros: pays $300 guaranteed, free beer. Cons: 2 hours away, short notice (Steve, can you get off work?), shitty sound. My vote is yes, we could put the cash towards time at Overpriced Local Studiotown and finish the EP. What you guys think?

See, nothing crazy. Just a quick run down of the situation and a realistic assessment of the repurcussions. Putting a little thought into something goes a long way. Also, presenting your opinion as “your vote” presents a sense of equality and keeps you from sounding too much like an ass.

Be prepared to lose (it really doesn’t matter)

Even though you may be the one putting the most thought into these silly band things and even though you may be able to clearly support your opinions, you’ve got to be prepared for things not to go your way.

This will be easier to deal with if you keep everything in perspective; whether you record the song’s extended intro, whether you play the charity gig down the street, where you eat after your show in Phoenix … none of these things are really going to matter in the long run. Besides, being a gracious loser will help set the tone for future moronic spats.

To the coin!!!

Eventually, you’ll all be too quietly furious with one another to sensibly make any decisions. Recognizing that you’ve hit that point will allow you to save those 45 minutes that you would have spent passively cutting each other down. Flip a coin and move on. Make sure everyone agrees and understands that the coin is the absolute final word before flipping!!

The bottom line is that fights happen and the sooner you learn to work your way through them the better. Be mindful of the fact that you’re all in that sweaty rehearsal room/cramped Astrovan/hick bar for the same reasons. You’ve made it this far, gun it.

Related story: Starting a band Part 1 LINK
Related story: Starting a band Part 2

About Spencer Kilpatrick

Author Spencer Kilpatrick graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in English. He hates the Lakers and his top three emcees are Blu, Earl Sweatshirt and Nas.

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