1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Anyone Ever Fire A Band Leader?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by BayStateBass, Feb 7, 2013.

  1. Okay, here's a question for the TB crew.

    This might be kinda long, so you have been forwarned.

    Let's just say, hypothetically ;), you were in this band that you really liked. Good music, good opportunities, offers for gigs, etc... But there had been a "revolving door" of musicians since it's inception. Then, the stars align and you get settled in with a group that just "clicks" musically. Suddenly, your songs start sounding better and become more musically "accurate" because the new bandmates are talented and can play their parts.

    Now let's say that along the line, you became the "musical director" for the group because you were asked to do it by the BL. You arranged practices and ran them. You did all of the chord sheets for the guitarists. You became responsible for running the PA. You also bought/supplied portions of the PA system. The BL supplied you with a long list of songs and from the list you chose what was to be played and determined whether or not it was within the technical ability of the group to perform these songs (all of them are covers).

    Over a short period of time you found that the other band members came to you with questions and offered their ideas/input to you versus the BL because you were the one who ran the group. And they typically communicated directly with you and told you that they were most comfortable dealing with you as they found the BL to be far too rigid and unorganized.

    Then, let's just say, hypothetically, you were at practice and everything was going well, for the most part, and your BL had a meltdown because his playing/contributions were being criticized by the others because he was unable to perform his parts. Then he started disassembling the PA, reassembling it, and tweaking all the settings for everyone because he felt his vocals weren't being heard, and he was blaming all the feedback from his acoustic guitar plugged into an amp on everyone else. And he ends the practice by saying "I'm quitting. I'll have my stuff gone in 10 minutes". Then he calls you after the practice to apologize for acting like a 5 year old.

    Now here's the question. If you had a group of 5 musicians who really liked each other and had common goals, but they were assembled by a band leader over time and that's how they met each other, do members ever fire a BL and move on without him/her? When and if it happens, what is the potential fallout? Is this even done? Anyone ever been through this?

    Again, this is hypothetical.

  2. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Can't say I've ever been in that situation, but I know it happens and I appreciate your dilemma.

    You have become the de facto BL, and the "official" BL is seeing that and not taking it well. If all 5 of you stage a mutiny, quit en masse, but continue to gig together under a different name, then essentially you have "fired" the BL. It's somewhat similar to breaking up a band and then re-forming (minus the offending member) soon thereafter.

    I assume none of you signed contracts with the BL or anything so you are free to walk at any time. The biggest issue that will arise is if the BL gets butt-hurt and starts trying to undermine your "new" band's rep by badmouthing you to clients or clubowners or whatever.

    You will also want to tread lightly if you intend to keep the current band's name (or a variation thereof). Even if the BL doesn't have legal ownership of the name, it could cause confusion with potential clients as well as whatever following the current band may have.
  3. Agree with the above. Start a new band with a new name minus the current BL. Most venues will understand the name change, I suspect, so long as you explain it was necessary due to personnel change. That way you don't have to deal with BL carrying on about your stealing the band name. Him whining about his band being stolen when all five other members don't want to deal with him any more is him shooting himself in the foot. Him carrying on about you stealing the band name, other people can see his point. Besides which, if he has managed to upset or p.o. anyone at the venues, good idea to drop the name which reminds them of the BL.:smug:
  4. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    I wouldn't fire anyone on the basis of one bad practice. Everyone has a bad day. Also, who books gigs? Are they through the BL's contacts? If so, you might have a problem.

    But if this is going to be a pattern, I agree - it may mean everyone quits and re-forms under a different name, or that you vote him out as a group. But he can't presume on having the band at his disposal if he's not keeping his end up.
  5. Eric_71

    Eric_71 Supporting Member

    Jul 22, 2011
    ^ I agree.

    You have been handed the mantle of responsibility in the band, but it seems like you might want to be careful to support the band leader vs. letting him flounder and/or undermining him. Part of that is trustworthiness, but also because IME it's really hard to find vocalists.

    Maybe have a casual sit-down with him and express some of your concerns and see how you can help. I would recommend not burning bridges unless you absolutely have to, and whether it's to that point is something only you and the other band members know.
  6. Yes, our band did. We fired our singer last September. He just wasn't cutting it as a singer or a bandleader. We're a Tom Petty tribute band, and at rehearsals whenever he'd get frustrated with a song instead of buckling down and trying harder he's fling his lyric sheets on the floor and go off and pout like a 5 year old! He'd tend to sing off key on occasion as well. He's the guy who put the CL ad that got us all together, and we all clicked as musicians from the get go. But as 2012 progressed we could see that he was the weak link in the band. We played a couple of gigs that were well received, but on more than one occasion I'd hear that we sounded great except for our vocalist.

    Finally last September we decided that it was time for a change. We notified him via email that his services were no longer required and that for the good of the band it was time to move on. He left in a bit of a huff but that's the last we heard from him. We now have a new singer who's really good, with a bunch of contacts in the local tribute community, and we'll be playing our first gig this March 9 at an event called Tribute Fest, which is at Tammany Hall in downtown Worcester, MA. The future looks good to us!

    The moral of the story is that yes, you can fire your bandleader and survive as a band, and even thrive afterwards! ;)
  7. MatticusMania

    MatticusMania LANA! HE REMEMBERS ME!

    Sep 10, 2008
    Pomona, SoCal
    Why would you fire yourself? :smug:
    If you havent put two and two together yet, you are the bandleader. "Band leader" isnt just a title that we give to someone while another person does all the necessary leading of the band.


    As to firing the guy I think there needs to be more consideration before that trigger is pulled. You guys need to sit down as a band and talk about whats going on. Where did that meltdown come from? IMO, it wasnt just the criticism at practice. You guys need to find out what the root of that problem is and address it before anyone gets fired. Give him a chance to correct his behavior after the issue is addressed. If he continues after that, then you have cause to replace/remove him.
  8. Thanks everyone, you have all hit on other parts of the "drama".

    - BL legally owns band name, he paid for the name.
    - None of us signed contracts.
    - His contacts and reputation are what got us the gigs we got.
    - He has been increasingly demanding and combative over the last month or two.
    - We all like him for the most part but he is consistently getting angrier and angrier as the music becomes more complex and he cannot keep up with it.

    The BL is a good friend and I like him, we are the only original remaining members from when the band was re-booted the first time. He also fired all of the old players before the re-boot and blamed the implosion on the old bass player and his girlfriend (who was a female vox in the band). The others in the group have no real connection to him. Just to be clear I would not be the one to try to pirate the players, but my gut tells me that sooner, rather than later, the others will either look for him to resign or ask him to leave.

    I would not be the one to spearhead a coup-de-tat, I'm just wondering what will happen when the others decide they no longer want him there.

    He has fired every person that has been in this band with the exception of me. Well, our old singer did quit. Most were justified except one in my mind. They were all fired for inability to perform well or learn their parts. Now it is him who is in that position.

    In firing people and getting new players, he managed to assemble a band where the members have skills that far surpass his and I think that this is the source of his frustration. He simply cannot play the songs or sing them the way he could when the music was dumbed down so everything was G-C-D and C-F-G.
  9. That's exactly the same thing with our band! Man, what the hell is it with Central Mass singers? :confused:
  10. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    If you are working based on him, he is still the BL and you are nothing more than the MD. Don't bite the hand that feeds you.

    If he is actually keeping you from getting bigger, higher profile gigs that is a different story.

    Sit him down and talk to him. He isn't going to like to hear but he has to, whether he takes it like a man and improves or takes his ball and goes home is up to him. A friend tells a friend his flaws to his face.
  11. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    FWIW, IME and IMO it's not terribly uncommon for a band to have a "leader" in name while another member in fact has the most influence within the group. In fact I would say that was pretty much the norm in every serious band I've worked in. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't.

  12. I don't know. I really like the guy and he's like a family member to me.

    At one point we hit a crossroads, so to speak. The decision had to be made as to firing certain people and replacing them with ones that were better, or keeping older members who were not going to be able to perform at the level that was desired.

    He asked me for advice, and I told him that he started the band and it was his decision; keep the current guys and stay at the level we are at (which was good enough for the dive bars we play, nothing better) or replace players with better ones if he wanted to go farther and play better places. I told him it was his call, neither one was right or wrong, but he had to be honest with himself about what he wanted this band to do.

    He decided that having a good band and an opportunity to play larger venues and better shows was more important. You see, he's an older guy now, but when he was younger he was quite talented, had a vocal recording contract, and actually played/sang with a famous Country performer once upon a time. He's lost a couple steps over the years but his whole reason for doing this was to have a shot at getting back up on a big stage at least one more time before he dies (his health is not the best).

    He roped in higher level musicians with the story (which is true) of gigs lined up, group work ethic, a good practice space, a pro level PA system, and dedication to creating a high-level performance. I wrote all of the ads, evaluated the auditions, and selected the players from those who tried out. So, in reality, it's no surprise we get along, after all I actually did pick them when it comes down to it.

  13. Thanks! Yeah, we've had some of these discussions, he and I, and although he doesn't like what I often have to say to him he does listen for the most part.

    The only way he would hold us back is actually in his playing. From a promotional point of view, he's phenomenal. I've had to convince him to play less and less, and he's been struggling with that.

    This is why I asked the questions, I really want to see how others would see it and what their opinions are. I'm more than willing to listen and learn, especially if my thoughts aren't on the right track.
  14. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    If he's just recently been starting to flip out and that's never been his character before... there may be more than just band dynamics going on. Has he started exhibiting any other "changes" that aren't like him? Is he having issues with keeping commitments, being on time or handling his money where those weren't problems for him before? Has he gained (or lost) a lot of weight recently or any other changes in his appearance?

    I ask all of this on the off chance he may be slipping into depression, substance abuse or even, given that he's older, the initial stages of dementia. You said his health is not the best anymore and that wouldn't surprise me as it sounds like he's a guy who has "lived the life" for quite awhile by now. Oftentimes chronic physical ailments can alter one's mental state over time... usually for the worse and sometimes significantly.

    It sounds like you and the BL have had a long and successful partnership and while unpredictable, dangerous and/or disrespectful behavior should never be tolerated in a "professional" band environment, I wouldn't be so quick to throw the relationship away just yet.
  15. Maybe his involvement in the band could be more administrative and less musical. Probably a tough sell, but could he run sound and lights or just book gigs and do promo etc.?
  16. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    I know a BL whose whole band quit him and formed a new band without him.
  17. Thick McRunfast

    Thick McRunfast Not just good, good enough

    Sep 30, 2012
    Portland, Oregon USA
    Congratulations. Sounds like you've discovered the difference between "boss" and "leader"
  18. jungleheat

    jungleheat Banned

    Jun 19, 2011
    So he went to The Band Name Depot Warehouse on a tuesday afternoon after work and picked it up? Or maybe he logged onto www.bandnames.com for deep discounts on overstock band names? Did he buy it in a back alley from a shady fellow in a brown overcoat?

    Seriously though, what do you mean he "paid" for the name. Who did he pay and why (and how much)? Is the band name just the guy's name? Please elaborate. It boggles the mind sometimes the important details people leave out when asking for advice.

    LOL. EVERYONE described in one of these threads who does ANYTHING remotely out of the ordinary or even slightly flaky gets accused of being a drug addict.

    I have to say, in all my years of playing music with random people, most of whom I found through ads (craigslist, local weekly paper, etc...), I'm not sure I've ever encountered someone that was a legitimate drug addict, although it's been rumoured/joked about a former guitarist in one of my bands. But as far as I know, the guy holds down a good government job and his worst characteristics were mainly being 30 minutes late to practice and being generally douchey.

    Maybe I've just been lucky, but it seems a bit ridiculous how fast people are to shout "he's a drug addict, stay away!" on just about any thread on here, whether there is realistic reason for it or not. More likely, I think the few that have had bad experiences with those things are probably just "expecting" it to be everywhere now.

    Anyway, to get back to the OP, I think a discussion is in order, either between you and the "BL" (in title only apparently) or with the full band. Figure out what is actually going on with this guy. Honestly, he doesn't sound like the total lost cause that most subjects in the BM forum usually do.

    I agree maybe his role can be reduced (in a compassionate way, hopefully) to better fit his declining abilities. Like hire a hot new lead singer, but still have the main guy come up and sing as much as he can. Then he can handle the business side of things if he's good at that (sounds like he is).

    Maybe a time limit is in order. Is this guy just planning to gig until he dies on stage? A valiant ideal, but not really practical, and not fair to the rest of the band or the audience or the venues doing the booking hoping for a killer show (no pun intended). Something like, "Look, Bud, let's give this thing 6 more months and then you can move more into the background, continue helping with gigs if you want, but give us your blessing to continue on without as a major performing member of the group.

    On the other hand, if the guy has just become intractable, you might have to fire him. Nothing wrong with it. It would be somewhat ironic if his quest for constantly improving the band members is what gets him kicked out of his own group for not being able to cut it, but I'm sure it's happened before and will happen again. I'm skeptical of your assurance that he "legally owns the name and paid for it" because that doesn't really make sense.

    But lets say that you couldn't take the name. So? Get a new name (please choose a good one, it's important), and include a blurb in your marketing materials, websites, etc... that you are "featuring former members of Cowpoke Suicide Squad" or whatever. In the meantime, you should start networking with all the booking folks, venue owners, etc... that you guys have been dealing with. The guy might have connections, and those are great THE FIRST TIME. After you gig somewhere, getting repeat business is about being a great band, not having a phone number or email address (which by the way, usually anybody can get).

    Anyway, it sounds like the relationship in question is too valuable to throw away lightly. Talk to the guy, try to figure out a solution that works best for everybody, but definitely prioritize yourself and the band (without being dicks about it). Otherwise you may lose the band anyway as they all defect for greener pastures (which if they're all good players shouldn't be too hard to find). Good luck.
  19. Yes, Yes, and Yes.

    He is not a drug addict. But having survived cancer, two tours in Vietnam (having been shot), recently having cardiac surgery, and finding out his wife now has to be on oxygen due to being a longtime smoker has been a lot for him to handle and it's probably taking a toll on him, so I ave to be compassionate about that.

    He is also a retired Army 1st Cavalry First Sergeant so he's used to being in control I suppose.

    He contacted his lawyer and paid $300 dollars to draw up some sort of paperwork to hold the rights to the band name. He did this after searching the internet and determining that, within reason, there were no other bands that had that name. According to him he did this after the first band breakup so the old members would not take the name and use it. This is his story, anyway.

    He is not our main vocalist, we have a hotshot younger guy in that role who recently joined us after singing for a tribute band for 6 years. And this is some of his frustration. Our singer and him don't see eye to eye a lot, and honestly our singer is dead on in what his views are. The BL also has an axe to grind with one of the guitarists. Some of it is justified, some is not.

    I did call him yesterday about some issues the guys were having and some ideas I had to try to resolve some of these problems. They include timing/frequency of practice (two days a week, a total of about 6 hours), new song load (we are always asked to learn 3-4 songs per week), and trying to get individual access to our practice space (it's a rental, he holds the key, and he tells us that the property manager demands that the BL be on site if any of us are there, so we have to call the BL to get in if we want to get our toys). I want to go to one day a week practice for 3.5 hours, limit new songs to 1 or 2 per week, and would like to see more flexibility for practice space access.

    -No on cutting down to one day
    -No on cutting back on new song assignments
    -Call him anytime you want to get in and he will meet you there to let you in

    It was a very normal, adult conversation, but he did not agree with my ideas and told me we would not be changing what we are doing anytime soon.

    I told the BL that at some point I would burn out with what I am doing if, at the very least, the new song load was not lightened.

    I also talked to him about his antics from our last rehearsal and he again said he was sorry, but explained he was irritated at our singer who would not commit to offering up a Saturday to go for a photo shoot/promo photos at a local recording studio that was willing to let us use their space for the shoot. He also said he was mad at the previously mentioned guitarist for not being "all in" on this project (the guitarist has mentioned he's interested in starting a side project as well, a blues band).

    Interestingly enough, when he fired our last drummer, evidently the old drummer told the BL that he was the weakest link in the band and had the least to offer the group, and asked him what he was going to do when "the bank fires you".

    Interesting times. Interesting indeed.
  20. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    6 hours of practice every week for a regularly gigging band is ridiculous.

    Especially if you're doing mostly or all covers and your band has been together as long as it has.

    If you want me to spend 6 hours a week rehearsing with your band you had better be paying me for it.

    I suspect your BL's unreasonable expectations in this regard are a big factor behind your guitarist wanting to start a side project.