How to Handle Band Disagreements


Are you a musician? Is your group having issues? Ask Fan Landers! Critic Jessica Hopper has played in and managed bands, toured internationally, booked shows, produced records, worked as a publicist and is the author of The Girls’ Guide to Rocking, a how-to for teen ladies. She is here to help you stop doing it wrong. Send your problems to her–confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame.

Dear Fan,
I sing in a band whose name starts with “The.”  Everyone in the band ignores it except me. I guess the question is how do you deal with disagreements in a band in general?  The or no the in the name doesn’t matter.

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Dear The Gregory,
It’s “funny” how a creative group context can turn an otherwise manageable disagreement into a situation that ends with someone screaming “I Hope All Of You Eat Shit And Die!” Band practice is where we have on our tender baby-skinned egos and it’s all vulnerability and begrudging artistic negotiations and tepid compromise. It brings out all this feeling and need for things to be YOUR way because this is the very expression of your soul. In that sort of environment, it’s hard not to take someone’s excessive drum fills personally.

So, this petty disagreement, about the “the”–you are outnumbered. Unless you can come up with a really compelling reason why the rest of the band should take heed of it, I mean, aside from it perturbs you on a personal level–you are going to just have to forget about it. How important is this beef of yours? Do you feel like you need to be right this time because the bassist is always getting her way and rewriting the parts you came up with? Untangle what is your ego from the equation and get to the heart of whatever it is before you dive in and try to fix it. Because ego and resentment and artistic power imbalance is going to color your approach and your resolution.

However your band works, make sure that you honor people’s feelings, time and skill. In trios and quintets, it’s easy for the odd person out to feel ganged up on, you being democratic is that much more important. If it’s an actual big-deal issue showing up in some minor “that verse sucks” quips, table it until everyone cools down–have a sit down over food (not drinks, drinks could make things worse) after practice. Try to hear everyone’s case, don’t get off in the weeds, don’t bring up old resentments/problems to aid your point and don’t talk about your bandmates to each other behind their back because that’s really poisonous. A band is like a creative family–you never wanna do anything to sell another member out.

The Fan

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