9 Reasons Why Bands Break Up

Why Bands Break Up

1) Money

From baby bands to superstars, unfortunately, money is the main reason bands break up. The baby to mid size bands that legitimately cannot survive on the income their band is generating tend to get tired of living well below the poverty line. Each member, one by one, begins to peel off to ‘fall-back’ on their accounting degree and to ‘start a real life.’ Music is not for the faint of heart. For the superstars, it comes down to the perception of fairness. Coldplay famously splits every song equally four ways. Even the acoustic ballad that Chris Martin clearly wrote by himself, every member gets an equal songwriting credit. Some may call this not fair, but if the other band members start to see the lead songwriter sitting first class driving a Ferrari when they’re slumming it in coach, driving a Hyundai, it ain’t gonna end pretty. It’s less messy this way. Don’t try to argue that your guitar riff leading out of the bridge should earn a 15% songwriting royalty, just split every song equally and it’ll work out in the long run.

2) Clashing Personalities

Above money, this has killed most of the greats. Noel and Liam. Sting, Summers and Copeland. Henley and Frey. Axl Rose and Slash. And it happens at every level. These are the acts you’ve heard of, but there are thousands of bands who never broke out on a mainstream level because they just couldn’t get along. Typically, one member starts to take over control much to the others’ dismay. And the resentment settles in. Or one member takes over the leadership position to fill the void of a manager (in the early stages) and no matter how much success they see, it’s never enough and the others’ start questioning the de facto leader – never giving her the recognition, thanks or acknowledgement of the hard work she put in.

3) Allocation of Business Duties

This goes along with the above point. In this new modern age of the music industry, bands are able to grow much bigger without the aid of a manager, label or booking agent. However, if the band members don’t execute the assigned business duties, resentment within the group can become overwhelming. If each member isn’t organized and responsible enough to at least make it to rehearsal on time or cover simple business duties, the band isn’t going to function. A band in the modern industry needs to be run like a startup company. No longer can you be strung out, carried into the venue on a stretcher and thrust on stage. It doesn’t work like that. The modern rock stars (and mid level bands) who are making it work are smart, responsible, hard working and business savvy. And have their shit together.

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4) Ego

Every successful musician has an ego. You have to. If they didn’t believe that their songs (and show) deserved an audience paying the ticket price, they’d never perform live. That takes confidence and a bit of ego. However, when one of the band member’s ego starts to make him believe that he is better than the others, is when the band’s days become numbered.

5) Conflicting Goals

The conversation every band needs to have from the get go is what are the goals of the group. Do we want to have a family life at home or do we want to live on the road? Do we want to take the major label risk, or go at it indie? Do we want to build it online first or live first? It’s surprising how many bands don’t have the goals discussion early on and 3 years into the project, when they finally get a big tour booked, the drummer explains that he doesn’t want to tour – seemingly out of nowhere! Make sure everyone in the band is on the same page before it’s too late.

6) Musical Differences

This is the reason that the band’s publicist always gives out to the press. Most of the time it’s complete BS. However, legitimately, some musicians like to evolve and experiment and others like to do the same thing they’ve done since the beginning – which has “been working.” If the members can’t agree on the musical direction, it won’t work and shitty solo careers typically follow.

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7) Fatigue

No matter how successful a band becomes, sometimes the grind of the road can become too much. If it’s a touring band and the members tire of touring, it’s going to be hard to transition to a licensing/merch/sales/digital-only act. For the digital-only YouTubers, creating weekly videos might get old and exhausting. Luckily, touring is the logical next step – however, it typically takes many YouTube stars a few tours to become profitable.

+This Band Just Finished A 28 Day Tour And Made How Much?!

8) Significant Others

There I said it. Whether it’s Yoko Ono or the husband who wants to start a family with the musician wife, significant others will eventually tug the musician in a direction that is not conducive to the band’s best interests. That is unless the significant others are involved WITH the band. The most successful girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands and wives take active roles in the success of the band. Be it the tour manager, manager, booking agent, accountant, promoter, publicist or social media manager, if the significant others are not directly involved in the band’s success, they will resent their love spending so much time away from them. And ‘music’ then becomes a dirty dirty word in the relationship. Almost as toxic as the ex’s name.

9) Drugs

The list of famous musicians who have ODed is endless. There’s no Nirvana without Kurt Cobain. Or The Doors without Jim Morrison. Trey Anastasio of Phish famously said to his bandmates “If I don’t get out of Phish now, I’ll die.” The band revealed that they had become enablers of each other and it was nearly impossible to get through a tour without serious drug and alcohol use. Only after they got sober could they reunite and healthily continue forward.

If performing live isn’t enough of a high for you then you really should pick another profession.

Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and the creator of the music biz advice blog, Ari’s Take. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake

Photo is by Freshwill on Flickr and used with the Creative Commons License 

About The Author

Ari Herstand
Writer, Musician, Whiskey Drinker

Ari Herstand is the author of How To Make It in the New Music Business (Dec 2016 - Liveright / Norton). He has been a DIY musician for over 10 years, has performed over 600 shows around the world and released 4 studio albums and 2 live albums. He has had songs featured on multiple TV shows, commercials and films and has shared the stage with Ben Folds, Cake, Matt Nathanson, Joshua Radin, Eric Hutchinson, Milk Carton Kids and Ron Pope. He created the music business advice blog, Ari’s Take in the Spring of 2012 to help DIY musicians navigate the independent world of music. Herstand was born and raised in the Midwest and got his start in the Minneapolis music scene. He rose to prominence locally and consistently sold out the 800 capacity Varsity Theater. He became the go-to musician in the scene for music business advice before he moved to Los Angeles in the Summer of 2010. Currently residing in West Hollywood, Herstand still spends a good portion of his time on the road touring. When at home he splits his time writing music, writing articles, writing his book (out December 2016 with Norton Publishing), playing shows at the Hotel Cafe and acting in TV shows (see him in his co-star appearances on Mad Men, 2 Broke Girls, Aquarius, Transparent, The Fosters, and others)

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19 Responses

  1. Avatar
    Vail, CO

    “No longer can you be strung out, carried into the venue on a stretcher and thrust on stage.”

    Hilarious, because it’s happened. Many times.

    • Avatar
      Willis

      It still happens. Amy Winehouse did it consistently and she made millions, had hit songs, and a future.

      • Avatar
        hoodgrown

        yes.. and then she died. @ “…had hit songs, and a future.”

          • Avatar
            @supriyag603

            actually she died from trying to quit alcohol cold turkey so the moral of the story is uh … i dunno

  2. Avatar
    Anonymous

    If performing live isn’t enough of a high for you then you really should pick another profession.

    Everything in moderation…

    When you get a disease or start suffering from severe physical pain or have certain ailments, youll probably start using drugs medicinally, in order to maintain some sanity and make life liveable and as enjoyable as it can be…

    So there needs to be some balance, they can be a problem, but they dont have to be, but this if you are not with me you are a terrorist, if you are not fully sober all the time then you are an evil devil lazy loser douchebag propaganda b.s. is a bit much, lest we forget, in the states the war on drugs was merely a money making endeavor by shady laws being made and then enforced and never really anything other then ego and career focused people on their hitlering…

    anyways, music/art and drugs, at least the best music/art and drugs, often go hand in hand, at least the psychedelics and not so much the coke, that coke gets some of those people just right tony yayoing it isnt even funny, scary stuff sometimes…

  3. Avatar
    Nina Condron - Horus Music

    This is a great article, definitely a lot of truth and I can think of hundreds of bands that this is true of.
    One other thing that I think is really key and one of the main reasons why bands fail is due to commitment, or to a band member loosing belief. One of the main reasons that bands fail is because they get disheartened at the set backs they inevitably face and don’t have enough belief that they can make it and give up.

  4. Avatar
    Jeff Robinson

    11.) Boredom. Bands that have nothing going, no shows booked, no recordings, etc, tend to in-fight. Unfortunately, this kind of in-fighting is a ‘creative endeavor’. I’ve seen a lot of bands and their members turn their energies inward and do this. I usually provide feedback to them that before they make a negative comment and try to tear down the band, they should turn that energy outward and do something positive to help build up the band.

  5. Avatar
    Shaye

    I don’t agree with #8–unless a bandmember’s SO has some expertise in one of those areas, it’s probably best if they keep their noses out of band affairs.

    But, those same SOs need to understand who they’re getting into a relationship with–if you are going to be whining about not having your man/woman at home, you should probably find someone who isn’t a musician. It sucks sometimes when they’re away for a long time, but are you going to support him/her or not?

  6. Avatar
    watergrass

    Bonham and Keith Moon didn’t do drugs. They both died from heavy drinking. No Moon no The Who, no
    Bonham no Led Zeppelin

    • Avatar
      errbt

      Last time I checked, alcohol is a drug…and one that’s just as damaging, if not more so, than many illegal drugs.

  7. Avatar
    Adam

    My band broke up 18 months ago.
    it sucks when it all ends 🙁

  8. Avatar
    Gman

    #3,
    I hate doing the business side of things.
    I’m a bloody musician not a secretary.