Author Archives: Cactus Joe

Reality Check

How is your band going?

Do you have that one member who never seems to be able to make practice and always does the bare minimum to get by?

Cut him/her loose. Their heart isn’t in it. You can’t change them and they won’t become more motivated or dedicated. They have other priorities.

And that’s OK. But don’t let their priorities get in the way of yours. Many times success depends not on the opportunities you take on, but also the ones you decline. Hard choices, but often very clear cut.

I’ve been playing music a long time, and I’m jaded. I got to the point where in order for me to rock as hard and as often as I wanted to, I had to find session musicians. Even to get those I had to work my way through an army of hacks who simply didn’t have their hearts in music. They’d tell me how dedicated they were, then often bail out even before the first audition. Who knows what they were thinking? But over time I have developed a good screening process and a gut sense of when someone is a hack. I can tell it right away.

If you are serious about your music and want to do it professionally for a living, you have to work with motivated and dedicated people who share the same goals and vision, and for whom music is a top priority. People who share that, show it. You can tell.

If you just want to do music as a hobby and have fun, by all means form a band with your cousin and your brother’s girlfriend. You’ll have tons of fun on weekends and you can buy your equipment from all the money you will make working for THE MAN.

A drummer friend of mine is forming a band right now. He found an amazing bass player that he really wanted to have in the band. But 12-string bass and crazy chops notwithstanding, the guy just couldn’t commit to regular rehearsals. I had to laugh when my friend told me the most recent excuse this bassist gave for not showing up: “The lint in my dryer caught fire, and I had to deal with that.” Yikes. I advised my drummer friend to audition more people. I hope he takes my advice. A musician who can’t clean out the lint tray in the dryer certainly can’t prioritize their calendar or get their proverbial sh*t together to play in a band. The hints are all around you. Just look for them.

You know in your guts when someone is not a good fit for your band. It eats at you and bugs you. Often the inability to pinpoint why the person isn’t a good fit escapes words, and that makes it hard to tell that person you have to cut them loose and why. Often you end up making your own excuses to get away from the person, which makes you look like the half-arsed musician.

The easiest solution is just to set goals and guidelines and be honest up front about what you are looking for. If the other musicians aren’t agreeable to them, or they can’t meet them, then you have your justification to part ways. That simple.

I had difficulty getting a former incarnation of my band to practice regularly. I wanted a minimum of two rehearsals a month (optimally, I wanted weekly practices, but I compromised a little). I didn’t think that was too much to ask, assuming they enjoyed playing music with me and performing shows. Almost immediately this group was down to ONE practice a month, and shortly thereafter, NONE. They said playing gigs was practice enough, but as a result we never learned any new material and the band stagnated. So I made good on my goals and objectives and told them I needed to find players who could meet those goals. I hoped they understood, but didn’t especially care if they didn’t.

Feel free to comment. I would love to discuss this further.

CJ

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