Thought Experiment: Imagine another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind… (Just kidding. Let’s avoid the Twilight Zone and whatever sparkly vampires may be lurking there.)
Thought Experiment: Imagine – for real this time – that you are a musician. Maybe you play the guitar, or the piano. For the windier among us, perhaps the harmonica or saxomaphone. The instrument doesn’t matter; what matters is that you are a musician.
It is part of who you are, something you have loved and developed since childhood. You practice every day, you study other musicians, read histories of music, and broaden your knowledge as much as possible. Along the way, you find examples of greatness to emulate, and many more examples of not-so-greatness to serve as cautionary tales.
As a solo artist, life is good. Simply making beautiful music is fulfilling and enjoyable. But you also see and envy those truly great bands – The Beatles, The Who, the E-Street gang, and other bands that are more current than the ones I love because of my parents. Someday, you think, I’d love to be a part of something like that, too.
So now you have a choice. Two roads diverge, as they say. On the first path, you go for it; go make yourself a band. You put up flyers at local music stores and concert venues, you go to gigs to see what musicians are out there, introduce yourself left and right, and tell everyone that your proverbial drummer is indeed wanted.
This is a tried and true method of forming a band, and it will work. Every drummer within reach will audition for your band. Some will be terrible, some will be assholes, one might be Animal (if you’re lucky). A couple will probably be good, maybe even great, and that is who will end up in your band.
Will it make you Nirvana? It’s possible, but not likely. Maroon 5 is probably a more reasonable model to shoot for, and the odds are you will be just as good as that cool band we all knew in college. Which band? Exactly. Still, you will have your fun.
On the second path, you keep doing what you were doing all along, but turn your band-mate radar on. (Play-dar?) Practice, play, create, grow; attend shows, find new music, meet people. Do your thing, and all the while be ready for the McCartney to your Lennon to present himself. When someone’s music seems to work really well with yours, suggest a jam session, and explore.
Is it possible you never find that magical partnership? Sure. You could walk right past each other, or he could be serving 5-10 for murdering J.K. Simmons (topical reference to a current indie film almost no one will see), or you could find that ideal counterpart right away – but those scenarios are all outliers. At the very least, you will surely be inspired by several people along the way, and grow into a better artist in your own right.
Of course there IS a third path – doing nothing, while you sit around and mope about not being in a band. But that one is a clearly marked Dead End.
Which road do you choose? Neither is better, they just focus on different things. Is your goal to be part of a band, or to be prepared for great collaboration when the opportunity knocks?
We are each our own instrument. Life is our music. Some people seek their band, find it, and it’s good. Others hone their craft, watching for potential partners along the way, and have a fulfilling journey regardless.
The choice is personal. So stop asking me why I’m not on OK Cupid – but do remind me to look up from the music once in a while.