The hardest part of trying to figure out if someone would be a good band member is that it’s hard to know a person until you’re around them for a while. A person fine in small doses may be a nightmare once you start to depend on them. Likewise, a person who rubs you the wrong way when you first meet may end up becoming one of your best friends.
An article can’t give you the ability to judge a person at a glance. Some people are like tornadoes: They’ll upend your life without warning, and after they’re gone, you’re left scratching your head and trying to pick up the pieces. That’s just life.
Though, if you take the time to read this article, you can reduce the likelihood that this will happen to you. And, really, aren’t the five minutes you’ll spend reading it worthwhile if you can reduce the odds of someone ruining your band?
Spend Time with the Person Before He or She Joins Your Band
A lot of people rush into joining a band, and because of this, they don’t really know their bandmates until they’ve been around them for a while. That’s fine before you start gigging, but don’t trust new bandmates with any responsibilities until you have an idea of who they are.
Listen to their stories. Do they always play the victim? Or does it seem like this person is always screwing someone over, even if, in their story, the person seemed to deserve it? These are red flags.
+ Learn more on Soundfly: Get more tips on running a successful band in bassist and band leader Carter Lee’s free, video-based course, Building a Better Band.
Learn to Identify an Addict
Many musicians struggle with drug addiction and substance abuse. If anything, musicians are more likely to be addicts than the average person. While every addict may have a story — and usually a pretty sad one — you shouldn’t entrust an addict with a lot of responsibilities. No matter how good a person they are, trusting an addict can very easily lead to heartache.
The most easily identifiable signs of an addict are physical. You obviously can’t pick someone up by their crotch and teeth and examine him or her like a show dog, but you’d be surprised what you can see in a person if you take the time to really look at them.
Lastly, make a note of this person’s friends. Someone’s friends are a reflection of that person, so if all of their friends seem a bit off, it’s possible that they may be, too. Should you meet any of your new potential bandmate’s friends, discreetly check for any signs of addiction.
Trust Your Gut
You ever get a bad feeling about someone, but you just can’t figure out why? That’s your subconscious alerting you to something about that person. While no one’s intuition is fool-proof, the fact that something rubs you the wrong way about someone is generally a good reason to be wary of them.
The hard part about this is knowing how to act on it. Generally, the best course of action here is to trust but verify that trust. Give this person the opportunity to earn your trust, but don’t entrust him or her with anything until you’ve gotten to know them as a person.
+ Read more on Flypaper: “The Five Rules of Being a Good Collaborator”
Remember: A Tiger Rarely Changes Its Stripes
I’m a big believer in the idea that if people want to change, they can. Most people, however, have a hard time acting against their nature. If they’re a liar and/or a thief, you don’t want them in your life.
If you hear stories about how a prospective bandmate has previously treated people in their life, be sure to take this into consideration before you bring them into your band.
Don’t Believe Every Story You Hear (Good or Bad)
While rumors surrounding people can be good indicators of who they are, at the same time, it’s important to consider where these stories are coming from. For example, there are people who are going to be jealous of an up-and-coming musician in your local music scene. And while I wish musicians didn’t treat each other this way, there are musicians who start rumors about each other out of jealousy.
It’s a cliché, but rumors do spread like wildfire. Be sure to really think about who’s telling you a story about a person before you believe what you hear. What does this other party stand to gain from telling you a negative story about someone? Never discount a story about a person, but don’t blindly trust anyone either.
Learning to judge a person is a key part of succeeding in the music industry. The way members of your band act in public will have an effect on your reputation, so make sure that they reflect well on you as a person.
Don’t be afraid to get rid of someone who’s a drain on your life. Life’s too short to spend time with people who make your life worse, and everyone (well, almost everyone) deserves a good life if they’re willing to work towards it.
Managing your art can be a difficult hustle — but Soundfly can help you get ahead of the game. Check out our HUSTLE series of courses to start improving your band leadership skills, touring opportunities, crowdfunding strategy, and royalty and licensing payments.
Mason Hoberg is a multi-instrumentalist and freelance writer. He’s been a regular contributor to a variety of different guitar-focused websites. Mason also regularly gigs around his hometown of Cheyenne, Wyoming.