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The Life of a Band MemberSeptember 22nd, 2010 | Alex Tironati
The life of a band member can vary greatly depending on individual personality, the chemistry between band members, how famous you are, and your particular style of music – but there are many aspects to being a band member that are somewhat universal. I’m going to break this down into two different kinds of bands here, drawing experience from one type and speculating on the other as best as I can. Before I break down the types, however, I’ll start off with a list of attributes relevant to both, as well as values that I believe should exist in every quality band no matter what.
- Creativity is obviously one of the most essential elements to being in a band. You need to be creative enough with what you know (depending on the instrument this can vary) to be able to apply your knowledge in a unique and expressive way. You need to be able to turn the mundane exercises and individual pieces of your knowledge into a larger scale that is reflective of your personality or lifestyle, or is at least recognizably different.
- Collaboration is also very important. Working with band-mates in a smooth and efficient way is key to making sure you come out with something meaningful to all of you. This means you will most likely need to compromise and use constructive criticism so that a band member isn’t left in the dark. Every member is going to have their own tastes, influences, and ideas and the best bands are able to combine these in a harmonious way. Fighting, although tough to avoid, should be minimized, as it slows down the creative process and creates tension within the band.
- Showmanship is an important piece because it is one of the major defining factors of a band, other than the music. Your on-stage persona is a reflection of the band and it’s lifestyle and you should try to convey this to the audience. This doesn’t mean that you need to be doing flips and crazy stunts (although those do help), but you should make your show interesting so that it is memorable.
- Energy and excitement about the music you create as a band is also a strong quality that should be present in a band member. At the very least there should be some emotion in your work and performances. If you can’t get excited about your own music, then why are you doing it in the first place?
Being in a Small Time Local Band
This is where my experience is relevant. I’ve been in the local band A.Tornado for almost two years now. Small time bands do not have it easy, to put it bluntly. One of the hardest things about being in a local band is finding fans for your music, especially when your style is so different from all the bullshit that passes for music these days. It is even harder when you live in a geographic area that is pretty dead as far as local music is concerned. Finding shows is then even more difficult as you need to look for clubs/venues that are significantly far away. This means that the few people that do enjoy your music are mostly likely not going to come, because they have better things to do than travel for an hour to see a no-name band play a 40 minute show. The solution to this is to find bands you can play with and become friends with. This way you can share fans and help each other out as you go along. But these are also scarce in places where there is no real music scene.
As a member of a local band, then, I spend a good majority of my time either making music or trying to find people that enjoy it. Unfortunately local band members do not get to live the glamorous carefree lifestyle portrayed by larger bands. This becomes even harder when the demands of a busy life weigh me down and suck up all of my time. This means that it takes a large amount of dedication to juggle the various aspects of your outside activities, and still keep your band in mind. Sometimes local bands take long leaves of absence, or can’t find time to practice because of everyone’s busy schedules. But this is no reason to quit or give up, because if the band is something you really believe in then you will get nowhere by quitting. You have to be able to cope with the ever-changing pace of the local band lifestyle, and handle it with grace and a renewed source of energy.
Being in a Big-Time Famous Band
As we all know, most members of big time bands enjoy lots of crazy parties, good times, beautiful women, and copious amounts of drugs and alcohol. Actually, while this may be true in many cases, this is almost certainly an over-stylized image of the life of a famous band member. In many cases, these members live lives very similar to that of the small time band member. At least in comparison to the musical work, if they are a member of an actual band (and not some fake band that doesn’t write their own music), the way they work on their music shouldn’t change. Maybe they will improve their methods, hone their skills – but they should still remain true to their values. What will be different is what happens in their free time.
If you ever do become a member of a famous band, you can expect things along these lines:
- Your lifestyle will change, but you will still probably do the things you used to
- Many opportunities will open up: parties, events, new friends (including celebrities and other bands), and much more. In these aspects your life will change, because you will be able to do things you couldn’t do before
- If you become a well-known public figure you will have a lot of privacy and media issues, and even if you aren’t you will have to deal with these in some way
- You will most likely feel self-confident because of the large number of people who now love and/or appreciate you
- You will still have to work just as hard, but you can find comfort in knowing that most everything you work on as a band will be recognized and turned into something that gets put out to the public
- Chances are there will be lots of traveling as you tour across America and possibly other countries. Many people don’t realize how exhausting touring can be. Don’t be surprised if you have to wake up at 4 in the morning to board a long flight to play a show an hour after you land, and then pack up afterwards and get on a bus to spend 7 hours moving to the next area for another show the next day, where you will be expected to be just as energetic and exciting as you were at the last show. Also, don’t expect to see your family, significant other, or friends from home as you will be on the road for months at a time
When all is said and done, the life you lead is your own. There will always be general guidelines and certain aspects that are predictable, but everyone lives their life in a unique way, and can expect that way of living to translate into their work as either a small-time or big-time band member. Sure, things might change – some for the better, and some for the worse – but that will happen no matter what path you choose in life. If you can learn to adapt to the challenges presented by these lifestyles, then your life as a band member won’t be so mysterious after all.
I hope you found this informative and interesting! Feel free to discuss below, I am certainly no expert and welcome feedback and discussion.