Tune Up or Blow Up: How musicians can survive artistic conflicts

“You done me wrong, and that ain’t right.” – Song lyric written by Pat McLaughlin, performed by Trisha Yearwood

Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves.”  – James 4:1 (The Message)

“Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast,”  the saying goes. However, music doesn’t seem to soothe musicians when they don’t see eye to eye.

Sting and Andy Summers of The Police on their reunion tour. The band broke up when Sting and the other members could not agree on artistic direction. (Wikipedia)

Sting and Andy Summers of The Police on their 2009 reunion tour. The band broke up in 1984 when Sting and the other members could not agree on artistic direction. (Wikipedia)

In fact, music can bring out the worst in artists that were once in solid relationships. The perils of artistic control, musical disagreements, and miscommunication can turn a once productive partnership into a minefield of accusations and hurt feelings. The wreckage of messy musical breakups often creates rifts that can take years or even decades to reconcile.

How should the working musician respond when relationships go bad?

First, check yourself. The Bible advises us to clear our own eyes of debris before we attempt to take something out of our neighbor’s eye. You cannot see the problem clearly until you acknowledge that you may be part of the problem.

Second, check the source. Where did the disagreement start? In a rehearsal? In a misunderstood comment? Is the problem relational, musical, or financial?  You can’t fight a battle if you are on the wrong battlefield.

Third, consider solutions. Communicating directly and honestly with your partners can defuse many issues. Even if the problem cannot be resolved easily, your sincerity and integrity can salvage the relationship.

In every conflict, be willing to concede if the cause is not worth fighting for. Maintaining relationship is sometimes more important than being right. 

Don’t let differences of opinion become stumbling blocks in your musical relationships. Make every effort to maintain peace on and off the stage. It will pay off in the long run.

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