Fire Your Slacker Band!

Solutions for those who can't take it any more.

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Greetings, rockers! I'm Josh, and I hate musicians. Maybe you do, too.

Now, now, settle down! I don't hate you. I'm just not a fan of trying to make constructive business or creative decisions with a bunch of other people. I grumble enough about the threat of marriage and commitment at least my hypothetical wife would be pretty. At times, band membership can seem like being married to three or four...musicians! Ahhhh!

If you've spent one too many band practices in a smelly basement wondering where the singer is (turns out it might be jail true story!), and you're at the end of your rope, fear not! Step right up, and read why it's a super duper great time to be a solo artist.

I've been playing guitar since I was 13, and I'm in it for the long haul. However, I got tired of always smelling like smoke, crack, weed, alcohol, and lack of opportunity. And all of those odors were secondhand! (Really, officer!)

Bands can be rockin', and awesome, but they can also be a major pain. I finally reached a point where I couldn't take it any more. I come from many different ethnicities, but the German Farmer Archetype seems to emerge when I'm working on my career. Needless to say, it doesn't play very well with slackers, hippies, bohemians, and other such musical types. There ezz no time to relax! Yah yah! I want to go big, bro! To paraphrase one of my least favorite politicians, Only dead fish go with the flow! If you're nodding your head in agreement here, I have some information that just might help.

Through some advice and inspiration from better musicians than me, I found a choice that suits me well: The solo artist. Regardless of if you're a total band player, or in the same boat as me, the lessons I've learned over the past few years could be valuable for your career. Strengthening your personal brand is always great, no matter what your playing situation. Grab a chair, preferably one of those cool guitar brand barstools, and hang out for a few minutes...

The case for solo musicians

As a musician and a businessman (I teach guitar), I firmly believe that we build our own empires. If we don't like the state of our kingdom, we can change it. I was mega-burt out with bands. Could a rock musician such as myself continue to burn down stages without supporting musicians? The answer? A resounding yes!

As a guitarist, I see an incredible array of options present themselves for me. If I were a drummer or bass player, it would be harder. I'd still make it work, but I find guitar and vocals to be my ideal vehicle for taking over the world! This article is written from that standpoint, but I would tell any musician to make it happen, regardless of what they play! The point is as guitarists, we're sittin' pretty.

My main concern when deciding to go solo was - I didn't want to be a Dave Matthews or Jack Johnson. I really respect those guys, and they're great in their style. I, however, am a very electric kinda guy, and I wanted my show to be LOUD! The singer-songwriter label always made me run the other way fast (probably my shredder background.) I needed to figure out a way to make the el electric sound happen. (If you're into the acoustic singer/songwriter vibe, good for you! You won't have to haul as many electronic gizmos into the whole deal, and you can use a much smaller car to get to gigs!)

There were a few things I needed to get together in order to build an act I was proud of. They were:

  • Singing and playing
  • Filling up the stage
  • Songwriting
  • Recording
  • Promotion and business stuff

The funny thing is almost none of it had anything to do with playing guitar! It's been quite a journey over the past few years, and I have a sense it's just beginning. After a while of gigging and writing, I've just released my debut EP Signalman. The learning curve has been wicked, but man, it's taught me a lot.

I hope you'll join me over the next few installments to figure out the easy way what I learned the hard way! There's no better time to try setting up shop as a solo artist. If you've had it with endless auditioning, scanning musician classifieds, and dealing with weirdos, be encouraged. There is HOPE, brothers and sisters! (Sorry, just channeling my Texas revivalist minister side that I didn't know existed.) And even if you're in a band, this can be a viable side project, too. Moreover, it's a heck of a lot of fun!

Come on back next week, and we'll start getting into details of how one can start the metamorphosis from sideman to The very rockin' your name here one man (or woman) band!

Be excited!

See ya then!

- Josh

Josh Urban is a solo guitarist and vocalist living near Washington, DC, USA. When he's not attempting to blow up stages with his iPhone backing tracks and brightly colored guitars, he's busy teaching guitar to over thirty students per week, adding zany videos to his youtube channel, or blogging about music. He just released his first real EP, Signalman, and is responsible for every single sound on it. Check out his website at www.joshurban.com, and say hello!

Copyright 2010 Josh Urban, all rights reserved.

46 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Seref
    IrishSeann wrote: wheres the fun in that?
    In jail, with your drummer who got found snorting coke off a hooker's ass.
    krypticguitar87
    HavokStrife wrote: This is some pretty good stuff. I'm curious to see what else you're gunna write up. Though, I can see every 18 year old kid that loves his/her band saying you're full of it, and being in a band is where it's at. But, coming from a 27 year old whose been in 5 bands with a lot of shady members, yeah, this whole idea is definitely worth a thought. I mean, why else do so many successful musicians in bands do their own side projects? Probably cuz they're tired of the other guys and want a break for a while.
    hey man, alot of musicians do side projects, not because they are tired of eachother (im not saying this is never the case), but to try something different. when the band i jam in seems to be playing the samething over and over we typically will go off on our own to jam with others. it gives a musician a fresh look at things and gets you out of the box created by a band. when a band gets together, they tend to work to eachothers advantages. like my band likes to play straight up rock... we typically don't do much for metal or thrash or anything, so i'll sometimes jam with someone else that likes to play thrash. not because i don't like the people in my band. I can see the merits of being a solo act if you are super egotistical, or have no friends that are musicians(that actually care). personally I would much rather stay with my band, we all know eachother really well, and all seem to have the same amount of determination when it comes to wanting to play, but i can also see where the author is coming from since i have jammed with poeple i don't really know who are extreamly hard to get along with. people who would rather get wasted on whatever drugs they happen to have at the time, or just show up less often for practice than jesus does(which pretty much means they only showed up once)... one singer that my band had, before finding the one we got now(who kicks ass if i do say so myself), was a great singer but would only show up if we had tequela, and alot of it.... then he would get so drunk that he couldn't even pronounce the words.... he could hit the notes but everything was soo slured to gether it was rediculous.... it was like listening to the pot by tool, but instead of "who are you to wave your finger?" he would sing "hhhhhoooarryeeaowtooooowyveyaarfeeengar?" so from that perspective I can totally get where hes coming from
    guitfiddleRR
    being in a band can be a pain in the ass but having several creative minds in on one thing usually turns out better than any solo work. Im willing to endure the hell
    guitfiddleRR
    although i do understand this. One time a few years back, me and my band were rehearsing and our singer didnt show up at all, even 8 hours later...turns out he had actually been arrested and put straight in jail. yup, its happened to me too
    guusw
    krypticguitar87 wrote: HavokStrife wrote: This is some pretty good stuff. I'm curious to see what else you're gunna write up. Though, I can see every 18 year old kid that loves his/her band saying you're full of it, and being in a band is where it's at. But, coming from a 27 year old whose been in 5 bands with a lot of shady members, yeah, this whole idea is definitely worth a thought. I mean, why else do so many successful musicians in bands do their own side projects? Probably cuz they're tired of the other guys and want a break for a while. hey man, alot of musicians do side projects, not because they are tired of eachother (im not saying this is never the case), but to try something different. when the band i jam in seems to be playing the samething over and over we typically will go off on our own to jam with others. it gives a musician a fresh look at things and gets you out of the box created by a band. when a band gets together, they tend to work to eachothers advantages. like my band likes to play straight up rock... we typically don't do much for metal or thrash or anything, so i'll sometimes jam with someone else that likes to play thrash. not because i don't like the people in my band. I can see the merits of being a solo act if you are super egotistical, or have no friends that are musicians(that actually care). personally I would much rather stay with my band, we all know eachother really well, and all seem to have the same amount of determination when it comes to wanting to play, but i can also see where the author is coming from since i have jammed with poeple i don't really know who are extreamly hard to get along with. people who would rather get wasted on whatever drugs they happen to have at the time, or just show up less often for practice than jesus does(which pretty much means they only showed up once)... one singer that my band had, before finding the one we got now(who kicks ass if i do say so myself), was a great singer but would only show up if we had tequela, and alot of it.... then he would get so drunk that he couldn't even pronounce the words.... he could hit the notes but everything was soo slured to gether it was rediculous.... it was like listening to the pot by tool, but instead of "who are you to wave your finger?" he would sing "hhhhhoooarryeeaowtooooowyveyaarfeeengar?" so from that perspective I can totally get where hes coming from
    This.
    thetimmster
    FINALLY SOMBODY ELSE GETS IT!!! Funny thing is, as I read this, I'm sitting on a washburn stool with a dean V im buying soon.
    Ninja_Sandman
    I'm looking forward to this series because I've pretty much gone through the noncommittal but talented band situation. On the other hand, even if the band thing worked, it would still be nice to have the ability to play independent of the others.
    ruletheneck
    hahaha i dont have these problems with my singer or drummer, but our bassist switched to rhythm guitar, and since then he hasnt been learning the songs or turning up and now we dont have a bassist (we're just covering and improvising - first band for all of us) and now my singer's voice is breaking. wonderful. i can sing better than him now. me and my drummer will make a singing-shredding duet! yay! hilarious article though
    willBoyd
    this article is great! I can totally relate caus eive fired so many bands its funny
    KlinikaNekros
    marshmellow666 wrote: this is like saying "tired of sex with women!? try MASTURBATING!"
    Well kinda true.In most bands,sooner or later somebody gets ****ed.
    Danjo's Guitar
    Just so you know, you're f*cking retarded. Solo artists aren't guitarists or singers who go up on stage all by themselves. Solo artists are people who are 100% in control of their band and what they play. They aren't by themselves, they're just the boss. Dave Matthews and Jack Johnson play with bands, they're just their bands. You can get away with playing all by yourself in a coffee shop, but thats about it.
    CoreysMonster
    Danjo's Guitar wrote: Just so you know, you're f*cking retarded. Solo artists aren't guitarists or singers who go up on stage all by themselves. Solo artists are people who are 100% in control of their band and what they play. They aren't by themselves, they're just the boss. Dave Matthews and Jack Johnson play with bands, they're just their bands. You can get away with playing all by yourself in a coffee shop, but thats about it.
    Ever heard of Cloudkicker and Keith Merrowa? Both solo artists, both playing everything on their own, but recording music instead of playing live.
    twistyzybe
    i have to say i have been pretty lucky so far, the band i am in we started as friends before creating a band. But i can agree with the drugs thing, our bassist is perpetually stoned and can't find it in himself to be straight for practice.He learns the songs though makes very few mistakes, so why would we sack him? We have sacked one member though, mainly because he could'nt keep time on drums
    NuclearPanda
    marshmellow666 wrote: this is like saying "tired of sex with women!? try MASTURBATING!"
    I lol'd
    Jyrgen
    marshmellow666 wrote: this is like saying "tired of sex with women!? try MASTURBATING!"
    i lol'd It's not that simple though
    CBannerman
    Thanks for the article, Josh. I've encountered a lot of the things you talk about. Auditioning weirdos, arsehole bandmates who don't bring money for practice or turn up hungover..so true. Inspiring article.
    Jyrgen
    IrishSeann wrote: wheres the fun in that?
    You get to play dictator and guide the musical direction of your act completely by yourself. Good article.
    von gelb
    weirdos, arsehole bandmates who don't bring money for practice or turn up hungover
    Been there too... But couldn't you just let them know that you don't accept that kind of behaviour? We do that now in our band at auditions: the weirdos you pick out easily, and to the rest we explain the rules. If they don't follow a few simple rules we kick them out.
    loaded_
    It sounds to me like you're here just to promote yourself. I didn't find anything very interesting here except the discouragement of musicians getting together to play. I agree that there are a lot of 'musicians' out there that are pretty useless to work with but going solo is not some kind of divine path to fame.
    JoshUrban
    Hey hey, calm down, good people! Just gettin' the intro and groundwork in place. Working on part II - and it will actually have information! Woohooo!
    Hp312
    Seems like the message here is just "GO BE A SOLO ARTIST!!" why try and make bands want to disband rather than finding other, less detrimental solutions?
    blkdtr
    i would love to start a solo project on the side (still love playing with my band)...but unfortunately i can't sing
    wicked_hobbit
    JoshUrban wrote: Hey hey, calm down, good people! Just gettin' the intro and groundwork in place. Working on part II - and it will actually have information! Woohooo!
    Must admit that at first I was "Yeah, right" since this piece reads like an advertisement. But then I noticed that you wrote The Crusade, which I really loved when I was starting out. That convinces me that you'll really come up with good stuffs in the next parts.
    Axe_Burner
    Yeah, it did come off as self promotional, but I think you've got a point. I've gotten to the point where I'm sick of trying to put a band together. I like people and all but My last few bands have been such colossal flops that I decided to do my own thing; write my own tunes, record them myself and all that. For me, in my situation, it's working out a lot better than collaboration ever did.
    HavokStrife
    This is some pretty good stuff. I'm curious to see what else you're gunna write up. Though, I can see every 18 year old kid that loves his/her band saying you're full of it, and being in a band is where it's at. But, coming from a 27 year old whose been in 5 bands with a lot of shady members, yeah, this whole idea is definitely worth a thought. I mean, why else do so many successful musicians in bands do their own side projects? Probably cuz they're tired of the other guys and want a break for a while.
    thetimmster
    The funny part here is that as I read this, Im sitting on a Washburn barstool with the Dean V Im about to buy, taking a break from writing my solo record. THANK GOD SOMEONE ELSE GETS IT!!!
    z4twenny
    having been a "solo artist" for years now i look forward to reading what you've learned in the process.
    Disturbed_EMG
    loaded_ wrote: It sounds to me like you're here just to promote yourself. I didn't find anything very interesting here except the discouragement of musicians getting together to play. I agree that there are a lot of 'musicians' out there that are pretty useless to work with but going solo is not some kind of divine path to fame.
    This, seriously. It's so much more accomplishing to play in a band.
    Doonan
    marshmellow666 wrote: this is like saying "tired of sex with women!? try MASTURBATING!"
    i lol'd but srsly, i am interested to see what you have to say, but i can see where everyone else is saying "kinda promoting yourself." and i dont think solo artists are always better. i much preffered black sabbath to ozzy osbourne. i thought this was gonna be how to actually fire members of your band. either way, you have my attention. dontchu dare waste it.
    Gyoung1991
    Doonan wrote: marshmellow666 wrote: this is like saying "tired of sex with women!? try MASTURBATING!" i lol'd but srsly, i am interested to see what you have to say, but i can see where everyone else is saying "kinda promoting yourself." and i dont think solo artists are always better. i much preffered black sabbath to ozzy osbourne. i thought this was gonna be how to actually fire members of your band. either way, you have my attention. dontchu dare waste it.
    I think you are missing the point. He is stating cases where you can't find a good group of reliable capable people to play with, it's ridiculous to say well I like Black Sabbath more than Ozzy so solo sucks!
    Slash_is_a_God
    I mostly agree with what is said, however I don't see the huge advantage. If you're planning on playing live, you need a group, unless they perfect human cloning. Why would it be easier to find competent musicians when you're calling all the shots? Granted, I suppose it would be easier getting people to follow suit with you, however I don't see it being more effective than forming a band and establishing yourself as the primary song-writer. Not necessarily less effective either, but certainly not more. Regardless, I am interesting to see continuations of this article.
    CoreysMonster
    I've been in about 3 bands so far, and having to deal with musicians who are less inspired and lazier than you (or constantly show up wasted or high on god who knows what) is VERY annoying. I'm very selfish and egotistical when it comes to my music, so having a solo project has been the most fulfilling way of writing and producing music for me. The only thing that's missing is a way to play live, but I'm trying to fix that by putting together some visuals to accompany the music. It's lots of hard work, but I think it'll really pay off in the end. And there's nothing wrong with promoting yourself a little, in my opinion. At least you're not like certain other article writers who really ARE obviously only promoting their website. I'm really interested in seeing what else you have to say on this subject. OBLIGATORY ADVERTISEMENT!! http://artists.ultimate-guitar.com/kaliu... ^
    NiCk_FuRy
    "And the vapor from our breath seems to freeze in a question mark" MUAHAHAHAAAAA
    fastlanestoner
    I'm doing the same thing. Check out Fastlane! I can't wait to see where this guy goes...he's from my neck of the woods too.