Very few rock bands possess the chemistry necessary for long-term survival. With only a few notable exceptions, such as U2, REM, and the Rolling Stones, most rock bands break up as often as teenagers in high school. Usually a band breakup can be attributed to five major reasons.
1. Artistic Differences
This excuse is the one most commonly used by rock bands who decide to break up. “Artistic differences” can mean just about anything; it is a professional-sounding way of describing a breakup that could have happened for any reason. In its truest sense, this excuse means that one or more members of the band aren’t happy in a band’s overall musical direction.
The life of a touring musician is not recommended for a person with a spouse and children, due to long stretches of time away from home. Most rock stars reach an age where settling down and raising a family is more appealing that living on a bus with several other men. When a musician decides to get married or start a family, a band breakup is usually not too far down the road.
3. Disputes With Record Labels
Financial support from a record label is what allows a band to stay in the best hotels and to have access to the best producers and studio equipment. A record label is happy to throw tons of money at a band which sells albums and fills seats at concerts. However, once a band stops bringing in the money, the record label looks for another band to support financially. In a worst case scenario, a label will “drop” a band altogether, which in the music industry is the equivalent of being evicted from your apartment and having your car repossessed. This is the end of the road for most bands.
4. Changes in Popular Taste
Very few bands are capable of producing music that doesn’t eventually sound outdated. Every few years, new trends come along in music and a band can only stay relevant in the eyes of the general public if they embrace these changes. If a band continues to write and record music that went out of style a decade ago, it won’t be long until they are reduced to playing unimpressive venues like county fairs, birthday parties, and bar mitzvahs. When a band that used to fill 10,000 seat arenas is reduced to playing in front of a few dozen onlookers, then a breakup might be on the horizon.
Fame and fortune often bring out the worst in people. Once a rock band is thrust into the spotlight, it’s usually only a matter of time until some members feel as though they are not getting the recognition they deserve. At best, this can lead to feelings of jealousy and fighting among bandmates. At worst, the offended musician may feel the need to go solo, which is seldom a good thing for the musician, former bandmates, and the general listening population at large.
Of course, there are many other reasons a band may break up. However, most band breakups can be attributed to one of the five reasons listed above.