It’s so cliché that I hate to say it, but being in a band is like being in a long-term relationship.
You work on something consistently over time, you have a shared vision that you work towards, you see a lot of each other, you deal with setbacks and difficulties, and share some beautiful moments.
Out of all possible relationships – friends, family, romantic, work, and otherwise – I would argue that band relationships are instantly special.
Finding a group of people that can be in a band, work hard, make great music and get along is special. It’s hard to find group of people like this, and when you do, it’s amazing.
I had that for a long time. It was the best. My two best friends and I started a band in high school that allowed me to tour 150+ days a year from the ages of 17 to 22.
We worked super hard. By the time we broke up, we had an agent, a manager, labels, international tours and we were pocketing a little bit of money.
On top of that, these are my best friends in the world.
It’s so rewarding and so much fun to pursue something like that.
Needless to say, when the band began to split, it threw me for a loop. Big time.
It felt like I was losing the best job I’d ever had and my two best friends to boot.
At times, it was comparable to breaking up a long-term relationship. And, that's something I also went through the same year… it was a tough one!
That said, I made it through and am much wiser and better for it. Here is what I learned from breaking up the band – the good and the bad – and how to move on.
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Things to Consider When Breaking Up Your Band
There’s a lot to think about when the band breaks up, especially if everyone was taking it seriously and had been at it a while.
First, there’s always going to be financial questions. Then, there’s going to be disagreements and fights, and somebody will be hurt. Then there’s questions about lingering shows, loose ends and how to send the band off right.
Well, here’s my experience.
To Remain Friends, You Need Open, Honest & Clear Communication
When my band was breaking up, we all agreed that above all else, we wanted to remain friends.
We are best friends first and a band second. Or so we thought.
Unfortunately, due to a decided lack of open and clear communication, we had trouble with this.
If someone feels lied to, they will be upset.
When you are quitting a band or moving to break up the band, you need to be 100% clear about why you are doing this and explain that to the band.
Whatever your reason, if it’s genuine, your friends will get it. They may be mad at first, but ultimately, good friends want what is best.
Throughout this process everyone needs to be honest at the expense of being nice.
Be honest about financial matters. Be honest if you think you deserve more of a cut of the savings because you did all the work. Be honest if you’re quitting to join another band or go solo. Be honest if you just don’t want to do it.
The point is, without honesty, you’re just going to be discussing half-truths, and that will feel pointless.
On Financial Matters, Be Scrupulous, Fair & Open To Compromise
Have someone, whoever is best at it, tally up any debts the band has – to members or otherwise – any outstanding or upcoming expenses, and any income/savings.
Write this out in a clear manner, and present it in an email to the group.
Unless there is a good reason to do it otherwise, I think it’s best to split everything between all permanent members. If there’s debt, everyone is responsible. If there are savings, split it equally.
Specify in the email that if anyone has an issue with this or wants to do it differently, they need to say so as soon as possible.
Don't Take Any More Gigs Until You Have The Breakup Sorted Out
Even if good gigs come through while the band is considering breaking up, don’t take them.
You do not know how you are going to feel about getting together as a group in 6 months, so don’t risk it.
My band had to do a hodgepodge of gigs with weird lineups, and it was bad. I did not enjoy it. I wish we had cancelled everything.
We honored whatever commitments we had to honor and then put a hard stop on shows.
IF you want to do a final show blowout, that’s great. You can discuss that separately and make it a good experience for everyone. Forcing yourself to get together when you don’t want to isn’t fun for anybody.
Do A Final Show & Release Your Unreleased Material
My band had an EP ready to go when we broke up.
We still put it out and promoted it a bit. Not nearly as much as we would have if we were still a band, but enough to feel good about it.
We also did a final show, and it was great. It’s just a nice way to end things, and our families got to come hang out. And, it was in our hometown, so it was a well-attended packed show – it was nice.
Just do it. If you feel like you should, you probably should.
Post To Social Media
For a while, people would ask if the band was breaking up, just because they’d heard rumors and such. This is annoying.
As soon as we made an announcement about it and planned a final show, it was great.
People would instead just say that they were sad to see it end, but that they enjoyed seeing us – that sort of thing. It was encouraging and validating.
It also felt nice to properly tie a ribbon on it for a time. It made it easier to move on.
Discuss Whether The Band's Songs Can Be Played Outside Of The Band
Even if it seems weird to discuss whether people are allowed to play the songs outside of the band, it’s worth discussing. It would be weird to go see your band mate play your old song in a different band.
It’s not illegal, it happens. So, talk about it!
Also talk about what you want to do if someone offers the band a good gig. Do you take it?
Talk to the band about your future plans.
Again, this is all a part of having open and clear communication.
How To Move On From A Band Split
Moving on ain’t easy.
Initially, I was completely lost when I thought about the prospect of my band breaking up.
But over time I felt freedom.
I still had tons of creative ideas. I certainly didn’t stop writing.
And then, all of a sudden I had an album, I had written some grants, made some videos, put together a band, and now I have several tours booked and an album getting released. Whoops!
What surprised me was how much I enjoyed doing everything myself.
I made all the calls, owned all the mistakes and all the wins. It’s more work, but I find it satisfying.
Look At It As An Opportunity
Having put a bunch of effort into a band for a time is probably not going to hurt you. Not if you don’t let it.
I made a ton of connections with my band. I was worried they wouldn’t translate into a connection with a new project, but I was wrong.
Booking tours is easier, reaching out to industry is easier and people take me more seriously.
I had the opportunity to do anything.
I’ve had friends go into cool music industry jobs after having a band breakup.
Other people stay in the scene, but move into different areas – music production, promoting, etc.
Regardless, if you keep making music, you can keep the passion alive.
Keep Making Music
Music is therapeutic.
So, your band broke up and you’re upset and stressed out.
Go write about it. Go jam about it. Go make something in your basement about it. Do something, don’t mope!
Music is always there for you and it will always feel amazing. Music is the best.
You’re going to keep playing, you’re going to keep writing, and now you have the opportunity to decide exactly how you want to do that.
Do you want to try a solo project? Start a new band? Take a step back from playing? Start a cover band and make money? Switch genres?
No problem. Do it. Make music, it’s fun!
Stay Buds With Old Band Mates
Old band mates are a good time. You can get into some time-specific nostalgia with them. You can pull out some weird inside jokes that only work with band mates. It’s nice.
Keep in touch and support each other.
It’s hard on everyone having a project come to an end.
I put effort into being a supportive and loyal friend to my ex-band mates. I love watching them make music on their own – it’s interesting and they are amazing at it.
It’s fun to get excited for their victories. Sometimes, it’s a little sad, because that victory should have been shared. But, mostly it’s exciting.
Try To Relax
I’m only starting to relax now, but I was stressed when my band broke up.
I am driven and only feel good when I have goals to work towards.
Starting something new is exciting but it’s also daunting and slow. So slow.
Breaking Up The Band Conclusion
I’m learning to accept that with my current project it’s going to take a couple years to get to the place where my band was. It’s starting to feel comforting. I have two years to work hard and make a ton of music with absolute freedom.
Most of all, life goes on. As with any breakup, it feels like the end of the world at first, but it isn't.
There’s a lot of music to be made. There are a lot of friends to be met. There are a lot of shows to be played.
It never stops, so have fun!