The Five Most Common Reasons Why Bands Fail

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Having been in a number of bands that have failed, while being friends with plenty of people whose bands have done well, I’ve started to pick up on a few things that bands often do wrong.  Let’s be clear from the start though: there are no steadfast rules and sometimes one thing will spell success for a band, while breaking another.  But this is a general list for why bands fail.

The following guest post comes from Joshua Danton Boyd, a graduate of Brighton Institute of Modern Music and a veteran of several bands you’ve never heard of.  He’s currently part of Crunch, a freelance accounting startup.

Success is not simple, that’s clear, but many bands blindly walk into the industry and set themselves up for failure from the start.  Some get through, but they’ve usually got a rich family member nestled in the bowels of Sony.  And these are the most commonly committed sins.

Reason #1: Your Band Name Is Difficult, Inaccessible, or Stupid

An upside down question mark? How worldly of you. Named after an obscure Serbian poet with an impossible to sell surname?  You clever bastard. Intentional misspelling? Take that, dictionary nerds!

As smart as you think you’re being and as much as you enjoying making that one pretentious guy in the coffee place smirk when he sees your poster, you’re actually alienating a lot of people and making it really hard for people to find your music and spread your music.  Sure, !!! has done alright, but I’m pretty sure everyone hated them for it.  No one wants to say they like a band with a name made of punctuation that actually had a real pronunciation (also try searching “!!!” in Google and see what comes up).

Names are massively important to a band’s character and what they’re about.  Rage Against the Machine couldn’t have gotten away with being called Zach and the De La Rochas.  If you really think using Elvish for your band name is important go for it, just don’t moan when you play a show and people are faced with a bunch of weird Lord of the Rings fan fic rather than your Soundcloud when they try to look you up.

Reason #2: You Have a Manager Before You Need One.

Having a manager means you’re getting serious, right? Some person floating about in the backstage ether endlessly gassing about big gigs, marketing opportunities and success just round the corner. They’ve always got ‘contacts’ with more influence than Dalai Llama. You just need to leave it to them, they’ll get you in shape and they’ll get you down the right path.

What you should ask yourself is do you need a manager? If you just think you should have one then you don’t need one. A manager is meant to be an asset not an accessory to your vanity. If you’re still playing small gigs this is something you can handle yourselves without losing 15% on the rare occasions you get paid. Doing stuff for yourselves for a bit also gets you lots of decent contacts.

Managers are there for when you’re ready to take the next step, not to start showing up at your second band practice.

Reason #3: You’re Lazy, and Think You Have Magical Powers

Success does not rain from the sky and reward those with talent just because.  Sure, a few slip through on complete chance and, to be honest, they should have their contracts taken away and be forced to play piss-soaked venues and have beer hurled at them for a year before they’re given back.

Success takes a lot of hard work.  If you think you’re doing enough by having a practice every couple of weeks and sending out a few emails to promoters then just give up.  Once a week practices are the bare minimum for a start.

Reason #4: A Simple Lack of Self-Promotion

You need to be getting yourself to every local promoter you can think of.  Get in contact with blogs and local magazines.  Anything to make the people that matter aware.  Then, when you’ve got a gig, practice three times as much and promote the hell out of it.

Reason #5: A Simple Lack of Patience.

No one is going to give you a handout, you’ve got to work for it and that’s just the start.  Don’t expect to reap the rewards of your effort for a long, long time.

Image by Suzy Lagasa, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0).

17 Responses

    • KKK

      Hahaha… that’s a good one. Unfortunately 10-15% of artists may have what it takes… then of those… yada, yada!

    • Marmuro

      GGG… that’s your story, right? It is clear you are a frustrated rockstar that lets all the anger out every single word you type. Period… say what you will, you have proved it over and over in each post.

      If you resent music so bad, you should just stop listening to it and speaking about it, you do no good to music and every single opinion has some bitterness involved.

      • GGG

        Not my story. And I don’t resent music at all. I love music more than anything. I will, and quite often do (just not so much on this site) give all the respect in the world to talented, deserving musicians. For instance, I only work with bands I legitimately love, which has actually cost me some money in the past by choosing not to work with a couple bands that went on to make quite a bit of coin. I’m not going to represent some act I can’t talk about passionately without lying.

        But yes, there is bitterness. Bitterness that appreciation for spectacle and personality and tits and ass outweighs any appreciation for musicianship 99 out of a 100 times. Bitterness that that word “artist” has lost all meaning because god forbid we tell anyone they aren’t good (as you are proving here). And before you say I’m asking for a return to unpopular music, I’d gladly take a Top 40 radio filled with Your Body is a Wonderlands if even half the people behind the songs were half as talented and knowledgeable about music as John Mayer is.

        Also, Paul probably loves having me, and jw, etc on here. If it weren’t for us the comment sections would be barren or a giant boring circle jerk of people agreeing with each other.

  1. obviously

    #6 they are logged in their “social media” all day, talking to their “friends” and “followers”. But they have no fucking idea what SEO means and they never share links to their official website. They just love making more money for Zookeeperberg and nsaPage…

    • Really?

      ….because their bounce rates are hovering around 90% because outside of purchasing goods no one cares to poke around the rest of their site. Not to mention it’s not nearly as optimized for mobile as any of the other outlets. Like it or not 80% of the 18-35 demo check FB before their email and all socials.

      If you’re worried about the NSA I’d move it back to a snail mail fanzine.

  2. tippysdemise

    Interpersonal problems / family pressures should probably be in the top 2.

    • hippydog

      I would say abuse of Drugs (including alcohol) should be def. in the top 5

  3. somemusic

    This is just a really lazy, poorly thought out and un-researched article. Surely DMN has had better guest submissions than this.

    Also, what GGG said.

  4. myspiltmilk

    I agree with tippydemise. Also, when bands are hacking around their home cities, playing is relatively easy. When they start touring and making inroads into an actual career, they find out how time consuming it is, and how much joyless activity goes into the business. That’s when musicians discover how badly they really want careers in music. They learn that wives and girlfriends who were good with a three-week tour aren’t as happy with the next three-week tour, followed soon after by another tour along the eastern seaboard. That’s when they wonder if they wouldn’t be happier finishing their degree or working at dad’s lumber yard. That’s when the bass player’s cheesy feet become impossible to deal with. A lot of bands do suck, but most fail to get big for reasons that have little to do with music.

    … but names that can’t be efficiently googled? So dumb. I couldn’t agree more.

  5. danwriter

    Bands fail for the same reason many marriages do: what looked good at the moment simply can’t hack the long haul. Although “fail” may be a misleading word here. Every “failure,” if properly considered, is one less mistake you make the next time. You only get one life but you don’t only get one band — or spouse.

  6. Ms. Poon

    “The Five Most Common Reasons Why Bands Fail…”
    Fail to do what, exactly? There’s not one suggestion here about how they can make good music and create a cultural legacy.

    So here’s “One Most Common Reason Why Bands Fail… To Make Good Music”:
    Concentrate on making art and establishing a musical relationship with your bandmates for a few years and forget about garnering attention for your posturing.

  7. RyanGlaspell

    It may not be a thoroughly researched article, but I think it does speak volumes for people yearning for a music career. All five things noted are huge reasons why people can’t seem to get off of the ground. There are more than five reasons, but these are good general tips. The “poor band name” reason is contentious. Sure, if your band is really wacky then it may throw people off, but it could be an eye-catching thing. Nonetheless, I think this is a good, general article.