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A Rockstar’s Guide to Teamwork

by Topher Kelly
featured, music & audio

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When we think of rockstars, we rarely think of  great “team players.” Who can blame us? Think of all the great bands — like The Beatles, Guns and Roses, Pantera, Oasis, The Replacements — who stalled or ended great careers due to internal band issues. It happens so frequently that it warrants parodies like Spinal Tap. On the other hand, rock bands that do stick together are worthy of praise. They’re teams that are forced to live, perform, eat, and even sleep on the same bus. In fact, businesses can learn a whole lot more from a successful music group than how to play a face-melting solo.To find out a few tips on playing well with others, we spoke with award-winning drummer of Periphery and founder of Bandhappy.com Matt Halpern to find out 3 lessons he’s learned on the bumpy road to rockstar success.

“You must collaborate in your community.”

The music industry is made up of thousands of smaller communities, like the rap community and the metal community, to name just two. There are only so many national tours, concerts, and venues who tailor to those crowds, which makes competition intense. Halpern runs into this problem frequently, when he ends up competing with his former band Animals As Leaders.  “Our guitarists compete for attention from guitar sponsors, and our bands compete for attention from our record label.” But instead of heating up the rivalry, Halpern chooses to use the close connection to his advantage. We always help promote each others’ albums, side projects, and business ventures — and that collaboration enables us to partner faster and easier than businesses who have an old-fashioned, zero-sum perspective,” Halpern says.

If you find yourself in a small, competitive industry, spend some time thinking about ways you could partner with your competitors to cross-promote your products and services. Together, you could make a greater impact at trade shows, and really any marketing-related events.

“Trust is essential to rapid growth.”

Just like well-organized businesses, bands have a clear division of labor. Onstage and off, everyone must do their part to keep things running smoothly. The key to achieving this is unwavering trust. “We don’t waste time second-guessing each other’s decisions, but instead make sure each member can justify and communicate their reasons for their decisions,” says Halpern. “We have to trust our bandmates, respect their decisions, and keep moving forward for the greater good of the band.”

What’s the bottom line? Trust issues cause you to spend too much time debating past and current decisions, and eventually turn into a detrimental process that cripples your business’s ability to grow. Head them off by getting everyone on the same page early on, and streamlining communication so that all feel — and are — heard.

“Don’t burn your bridges because of a lack of patience.”

Whether you’re waiting for a label to get back to you about a record deal, or waiting for a marketing budget increase from your boss for that game-changing project, exercising patience is always crucial. “I can’t count the number of young musicians I’ve seen shoot themselves in the foot by hitting send on that ‘f*** you’ email or text when they should’ve taken a deep breath and walked around the block,” notes Halpern. In the business world, deals that seem to have gone awry simply need more time or a new approach.

Next time you’re steaming after a tough meeting, take some time to gain perspective. Things could always be worse, or more ridiculous. You could be dealing with some vocalist who’s throwing a tantrum because there was a brown M&M in the green room. The key here is to know that patience is all part of the game — and an essential tool that you need to use on a daily basis. It’s never productive to react out of frustration; wait until you’ve calmed down enough to be able to think and communicate clearly. “Don’t burn your bridges because of a lack of patience — you’ll regret it,” Halpern cautions.

More on Matt Halpern:

Matt Halpern is a CreativeLive instructor, drummer for Periphery and the founder of Bandhappy.com. He’s a multiple time winner of the Modern Drummer Magazine readers’ poll in the Educator/Clinician and Metal Drummer categories, and one of the most respected names in rock drumming.

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Topher Kelly

Topher Kelly is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and editor at CreativeLive. Follow Topher on Twitter@Topher_LIVE.