When you invest the time and energy with the right people, it can be enormously fun and deeply satisfying.
However, much of the time, not so much. Finding the right band situation isn't easy. One or more things won't click -- often out of your control -- and you have to make the tough choice to stick it out, or move on.
Are work situations so different? Not from my perspective.
When it all works and works well, teams in the workplace can be huge fun and deeply satisfying. Other times you have to decide whether to slog through it, and hope for the good stuff down the road apiece.
And if the magic doesn't materialize, sometimes the wise decision is to politely move on and set up shop elsewhere.
Being In A Band
Lots of good musicians out there who do well as solo artists. They have my respect. However, playing in a band requires an additional set of musical, social and -- sometimes -- leadership skills.
Despite that, everyone has to agree on shared goals. Everyone has to buy into a shared target: a sound, an audience, a vibe, a set list. Everyone has to be prepared to invest long sweaty hours: learning individual parts, and then melding together as a unit.
There is no shortcut.
You don't play in a weekend bar band for money, that's for sure. Six hours of labor nets me $50-100 on average. The trick is to keep your bar tab below that. Seriously: you do it for love.
Some gigs completely rock, others not so much. You hope for more good shows than bad ones. When it all works, there is nothing quite like that rush when we're all playing in the zone, and the audience is right there with us.
The experience is completely intoxicating, and you immediately want to do it all over again.
Being On The Team
Modern corporate work is all about teams -- being on them, leading them, and working across them. Lots of folks with good solo chops out there. They have my respect. Being successful at the team thing, however, requires an additional set of skills: intellectual, social and -- sometimes -- leadership.
You're thrown into a situation where everyone is coming from a different perspective. You have to agree on shared goals, and often fill in the blanks on what good might look like. You invest long sweaty hours: not only doing your individual work, but even more effort to make your contributions meld and blend with the team.
Yes, you're doing it for a paycheck, but if that's all you get out of it -- I think you're being short-changed.
Best Practices From The Band
A band is only as good as its weakest musician. Each musician has to listen carefully to what everyone else is doing, bring their individual game, and ultimately blend in for the greater good. There's also this trust thing: you can't be at your best unless you can trust others to do their part.
If one of the musos isn't cutting it, you have to confront the situation, and quickly. If it's temporary and can be rectified, great. If there's no willingness to address the gaps, the best course of action is to quickly part ways and find someone else.
The best decisions I've made are the bands I haven't joined. I go for an audition, they like what they hear, and want me to sign up. I don't suck. The real question is -- do I want them? Will I get what I want from the time invested? Can I make the commitment?
A hard choice -- but an important one. Life is too short to be playing bad music.
It's all about the music you make together, not individually. Sure, we all get a chance to shine here and there, but that's not what it's all about. When we suck, we collectively take the blame and don't name names. And when we rock, we collectively share the credit -- we're all just doing our part.
As I got better musically, I found myself outgrowing one band situation and needing to find more challenging ones. A big part of the enjoyment for me is growing your my own abilities and maturity. It's a satisfying journey, and not a final destination.
There is no shortcut for doing the hard work: individually or together. Nothing kills a rehearsal like a musician who didn't make the time to learn their parts. And if they can't make band rehearsals, well then, you'll be rehearsing in front of your audience. It won't be a good gig for anyone.
Creative differences of opinion are the norm, but you can't let them become an obstacle. Meet, discuss and ultimately defer to the implied leader. Power struggles can be corrosive, and have to be dealt with immediately - although there is such a thing as "soft power": someone who knows some aspect of a given situation better than the others.
Taking Band Lessons Into The Workplace
Yes, of course I want to work with talented people. Who doesn't?
But I also want to be with people who understand that working together as a cohesive unit is far better than any solo act. I want people who are willing to put in the hard work: individually and collectively. I want team members who can trust others to do their part.
We should be willing to share the joys and sorrows together, and see ourselves growing over time.
And when we rock it, people notice and are right there with us.
If someone isn't cut out for the team, we should address it quickly and decisively. If I've personally outgrown the situation, or it's obvious that dysfunction can't be remedied, it's me that solves the problem by politely moving on.
Life is too short to be playing bad music.
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