In a chaotic world full of trouble and strife, it’s important to keep a positive mindset, especially when embarking on any sort of musical project. As I wrote in my article of December 1, 2021, patience, practice, and perseverance are critical to success in a band setting (or solo project), but there are other factors that come into play. Below is a link to that earlier article.
The following is my somewhat idealistic philosophy for success in a cover band setting. Admittedly, I don’t follow this process to a tee but these are concepts I try to adhere to in my business life, and try to adapt to my musical life.
Borrowing from the world of business, three other main tenets should be adhered to in your musical projects: goal-oriented focus; proper planning; and productivity.
GOAL ORIENTED FOCUS
To get anywhere you must have a destination. Goals are just like a destination when you are traveling. You can’t just jump on the road and expect to get somewhere without a destination in mind. Musical projects are very similar. Having an overall goal, and several sub goals, will ensure you and your bandmates are rowing in the same direction.
It helps to break your goals into smaller goals that lead to your overall long-term goals. Those smaller goals act as guideposts along the road and act as building blocks to achieve your overall goal. Just as in personal development, not all goals will be reached, and many are only half accomplished, but the mere act of setting them helps organize thoughts and actions. Having something to strive toward gives you direction.
“Plans are useless, but planning is essential,” a quote usually attributed to Dwight D. Eisenhower.
It’s one of my favourite expressions and describes the essential process of planning your next steps. The actual steps may – and probably will – change, but the process of planning, like goal setting, helps organize your thoughts and that of your team. Organizing your thoughts will organize your actions. Good thoughts lead to good actions. Good actions lead to good outcomes. Repeated good outcomes lead to long-term success. Success to me, is doing something proficiently that you enjoy doing. And if you get paid for doing it, that’s a bonus.
Planning takes vision. Your group’s vision helps to establish its mission. Its mission helps develop strategy and strategy helps develop tactics.
The two previous topics help you to achieve productivity but are not enough on their own. Productivity requires focus, avoidance of distractions, communication, and support. As mentioned above, perseverance and passion are also key.
As Simon Sinek says, “hire for attitude because you can always teach skills later.”
A band of mediocre players with passion and chemistry for playing together will usually outshine a loose cabal of prima donnas. It takes teamwork and support for successful outcomes in music projects. Refer to my interview with Mike Lanteigne below, where he describes the concept of finding support from one’s bandmates very clearly and concisely.
I laid out above overarching guiding principles, but in practical terms, I would rather play 10 or 15 songs really well – practice, rehearse, and truly master them – than try to jam 40 songs into every practice and show. Fake it to you make it might work in some instances but on stage, your audience will likely know within about 30 seconds if the band has mastered the song it’s playing or not. As the adage goes, if you’re going to do something, do it right. That is what I mean about goal setting. The songs you want to add to the setlist are your goals in support of your overarching goal of what you want your band’s sound and identity to be.
Ideally, you agree on say 10 – 15 songs and only practice and rehearse those songs until they have been mastered. It will take repetition, which will take focus and patience. It’s far more satisfying in the end and you will sound so much better when playing live. Avoid a situation where you just gloss over a bunch of songs and never really gel on a solid setlist. You should only add more songs to the setlist when that short list of songs has been mastered.
It’s a slow and iterative process that will test your band’s resolve but as a gardener tends to his garden, patience, passion, dedication, and focus will help your sound flourish. By focusing on mastering a fewer number of songs, you will develop better groove and feeling in the band. You will have rehearsed the same tunes so many times that you will develop a second sense for them and for each other as a band.
Treat your band, music project, and music career as a business. It requires vision, definition of your mission, planning, and structure to achieve your desired results. Move quickly but in the right direction. Movement without direction is just a frenetic waste of time. Grounding your band’s approach in solid structure will move you toward greater success in a shorter timespan.