[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Patrick McGuire. As we continue to live in and watch the ‘new normal’ unfold, TuneCore is continuing to provide articles that touch on how artists, producers and songwriters can continue to thrive. Be sure to check out our Life During Quarantine series.]

Under the best of circumstances, maintaining collaborative relationships in music like the ones in bands and between songwriting partners can be tough. I don’t need to tell you that we’re not living through normal circumstances.

The modern music industry is facing one of the greatest challenges of its existence, with virtually all shows, festivals, and tours being canceled and countless musicians and audio engineers suddenly finding themselves out of work. Things are tough out there right now, and they’re probably going to get significantly tougher before things start to change for the better. 

Keeping collaborative relationships in music healthy isn’t just helpful during dark times like these; it’s absolutely paramount. For musicians intent on keeping their songwriting partnerships and bands intact through the pandemic, ensuring that these unique relationships stay healthy right now isn’t an option. 

Recognize that previously unresolved issues will only get worse during times of uncertainty 

If your musical relationships were constantly bogged down with arguments about money or a lack of communication, life during the pandemic isn’t going to do you any favors.

In fact, it’s safe to say that this crisis is hitting musicians so severely and in such a unique way that even issues that were modest pre-Covid could now be relationship-enders. It’s important to put things into perspective and to display grace, humility, and patience in your relationships as much as you can right now.

Something like a canceled summer tour or even just the inability to get together and create music in person can put a huge strain on a musical relationship. When old issues rear their ugly heads, remember that there’s no guidebook for the terrible thing you’re experiencing and try to treat the musical people in your life the way you’d want to be treated. 

Invest in communication

Being able to communicate clearly and listening has never been more important than it is right now for musicians. With passions running high because of the perpetual uncertainty many musicians are currently faced with, clear, respectful communication is probably taking a backseat for many musical collaborators right now.

Unfortunately, communicating in a reactive manner is the sort of action that has the potential to tear apart partnerships and break up bands. There’s never been a better time to set ground rules for how you and your musical collaborators speak to each other. This is something many musicians didn’t do before the pandemic that would’ve helped them prepare for unforeseen and circumstances like album releases getting delayed and dwindling revenues. Whether it’s safely in person or remotely, meet with your collaborators frequently, and make every effort you can to listen and communicate effectively. 

Adapt the way you work

Even if you could return to normal when it comes to the way you work with collaborators, why would you? Preparing for live shows, for example, is something that takes a massive amount of time and energy from bands. But with Covid canceling virtually all conventional live performances, most musical collaborators are better off pivoting their efforts to focus on things like songwriting and strategizing for what to do over the short-term.

Don’t stop at changing the sort of work you engage in, but extend your thinking to cover how you work together as well. This covers both creative and strategic ways of working. If you don’t think getting together in person is safe, you’ll need to shift your process to remote settings for the foreseeable future. Band members who might not have contributed much creatively in the past might feel urgently motivated to share ideas right now.

Do your best to be open-minded and patient in the way you work with your collaborators right now.

Be honest, kind, and forgiving

The pandemic is forcing many musicians into situations they probably never thought they’d be in. Keep this in mind the next time you want to bite off a collaborator’s head for saying the wrong thing or for acting in a way that hurts or frustrates you.

We’re a universe away from where we were even a couple of months ago, so business as usual doesn’t work when it comes to how you treat bandmates and writing partners. Small acts of kindness and forgiveness go a long way right now, and they’ll help you keep your relationships fortified throughout the tough times ahead.

To do this, you’ll need to be less reactionary and more proactive in the way you interact in your musical relationships. You should fully expect friction between you and your collaborators right now, whether it’s unresolved tension from before the pandemic or rooted in current problems. Instead of reacting impulsively, try changing the script ahead of time with patience and perspective.

It’s not easy, but trying to forgive the shortcomings of those you work with will be a lifesaver when it comes to the health of your relationships. And when all else fails, try bringing back the focus to what you’re trying to accomplish with music. There’s always hope to be found in creating something new, even during dark times. 

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