Art by Committee

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Art by Committee

Playing in a rock band is art by committee. That can yield an incredibly potent result, but also comes with a lot of baggage. I hate making decisions by Robert's Rules of Order . And just the logistics of getting four or five people who all have jobs, spouses, and self-will in the same place at the same time can be a Sisyphean task.

This week, as I am writing this chapter, I am also booking a fall European tour to go over and present my movie all across the UK and the continent . And I'm gonna play a little music (solo guitar and vocal) at some of the shows. And it's literally easier for me to book a solo tour in Europe than to book a show or sometimes even a practice here in LA and get everyone to show up. And my band isn't even flaky by band standards. That's just the nature of art by committee.

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Why Bands Break Up

Basically, bands break up when they get to the point where it's easier to do that than to stay together. Usually this means that people have unrealistic expectations that are not being met. I have a saying I made up: "Expectations are appointments with resentments."

Fighting Over the Publishing Split

Publishing, which will be dealt with later in detail in Chapter 13, "Business," is an amorphous, Old Testament-based agreement between people who administer music and the Universe. It's a synthetic construct to pull money out of the sky, on behalf of administrators, and occasionally, a little of it ends up in the hands of the musician. It's often where the bulk of a pro's paycheck comes from. It is payment for use of the song , not the playing on the song, so the singer who writes the lyrics and the guitarist who writes the chords and melody get a lot more, usually, than the drummer who "just" keeps the beat. It is often a huge source of resentment, when a band sells a couple million copies and the singer is buying a house and his third sports car, while the bass player and drummer are still driving their lemons and rooming with roaches sharing a one-bedroom.

This is what broke up Jane's Addiction, according to the manager who managed them and later my band. It also broke up a lot of other bands.

The Doors split it four ways. So it didn't break them up. ( Jim's insanity did, or his death, depending who you talk to, but that's another story.) A lot of more recent bands make a compromise somewhere in between, giving non-writing members a taste of the gold, but not an even split. That makes sense to me.

Artistic Differences

Officially, most bands say they break up over artistic differences. That's sort of a catch-all phrase for everything from, "I don't like that guy and didn't like being in the same room with him" to "He was addicted to different drugs than me," to actual musical differences.

Basically, keep in mind that when you start a band, you are entering into a marriage . Be careful and picky and suss people out. "Date" a while before you get swept up into rock and roll dreams and say, "We're gonna be this band forever ." Take it one day at a time. That's all you can ever really have of anything, and sometimes it's easier to make something last that way than by selfishly demanding that it last forever.

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Conclusion

The bottom line is that we play music because we love music. It moves us harder than almost anything. Try to remember that when the bullshit gets in the way.

If you're all messed up over your band , download Jeff Buckley singing Leonard Cohen's song, "Hallelujah."

I don't care how fucking tough you are. If you've got a soul, it's gonna make you weep.

That's why we play music.

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