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At a crossroads: is the band or the music more important?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by wafflepower, Jun 19, 2017.

  1. wafflepower


    Jun 19, 2017
    Apologies in advance for the long post, but after my band's latest show I've become so frustrated that I'm thinking of retiring from music. After 10 years of playing live with the same band, I've reached a dilemma. I love the people I play with, which is why I've been with them so long, but I'm growing increasingly dissatisfied with the quality of our music. At this point, I'm beginning to wonder whether the band or the music is more important.

    Here's some background. I started playing with this band when I was 17 and have never so much as sat in with another band. I've played practically every instrument at one point or another, but I prefer bass. All of the other members have been much older and more skilled than me (typically 40s-50s in age), including my dear old dad. Players have come and gone over the years, but right now we have a total of 5 guys who all enjoy each others' company and work well together. We've never lacked for work and average 5-6 shows per month, which is the most any of us want to play. The only problem is that the quality of the music is now worse than it's ever been.

    Some of the issues are based on skill. For many years I was "the kid" with potential, even though I was the weakest link for a while, but I could hold my own with these much more experienced players. This is the first time in my musical career, however, that I feel that I could play every instrument better than the person playing them in the band, the only exception being that I can't play face-melting arpeggio solos like our guitar player can (though his rhythm/riff playing is subpar).

    We also only practice maybe once or twice a year, as we all have demanding day jobs and play shows so often that we have neither the time nor motivation to get together and practice. This leads to lots of major mistakes during shows, some of which I have to own up to, which are embarrassing and demoralizing. Any videos that are taken at shows only point out our mistakes. It's gotten to the point where I'm trying to hide the fact that I play in a band from people at work, for fear they'll come see how awful we are.

    This has led me to a sort of crossroads. I do enjoy playing with these guys, but I no longer enjoy the music, if that makes sense. I can't seem to find the motivation to even pick my bass up and practice on my own during the week. I have a list of new songs I've been trying to get them to learn, but they can never find the time to work up their parts, so we play the same songs every show.

    Concerning finding another band, I've never played with another band or even sat in with someone. Nobody has ever approached me with the opportunity, which leads me to believe that I'm not a valued player in the area and that I would have a hard time finding a higher-quality band to play with. Thus, I feel trapped in my current situation.

    I know any musical ship for me has sailed long ago, but I'd still like to have some quality in the music I play. Has anyone else been in a similar situation? Should I try to make this band better, or try to find another higher-quality band, or is this the best I can do?

    TL;DR: My band has become mediocre in quality, but I love playing with them. Should I try to make it better or leave?
  2. Torrente Cro

    Torrente Cro

    Sep 5, 2013
    Who are you kidding about sailing boats, you are just a kid ;-) Many of us started in your current age and we think about ourselves as bass superheroes :)

    Don't quit band, just find another one. I quit band for similar reasons few years ago, and was sorry for a while.
  3. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD

    Feb 20, 2005
    Seweracuse, NY
    "We also only practice maybe once or twice a year, as we all have demanding day jobs and play shows so often that we have neither the time nor motivation to get together and practice. This leads to lots of major mistakes during shows, some of which I have to own up to, which are embarrassing and demoralizing. Any videos that are taken at shows only point out our mistakes. It's gotten to the point where I'm trying to hide the fact that I play in a band from people at work, for fear they'll come see how awful we are."

    Yuck. This doesn't sound like a good path. We gig a fair amount, and also have demanding day jobs. But we find time to be in a room once or twice a week to go over things. That means either covering stuff that needs brushing up or working on writing new material. For instance, we played Friday night last week, have rehearsal Monday/Thursday then will have 4 gigs this weekend Friday-Sunday.

    It sounds like y'all just aren't that into it.
  4. kesslari

    kesslari Groovin' with the Big Dogs Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2007
    Santa Cruz Mtns, California
    Lark in the Morning Instructional Videos; Audix Microphones
    If you love playing music, don't retire. Reconfigure.
    Bear with me for a moment on a story reframe.
    "When I was 17 I hooked up with an older woman. She was about 40, pretty hot. I'd never been with another woman, and we're still together 10 years later. No other girls have approached me asking me for sex, so I guess I'm not very attractive or cool. 10 years later she's 50 and not that interested in sex, and honestly the sex isn't all that great. I'm not enjoying it, really, and am feeling kind of done.
    Should I retire from sex?
    Or should I get out and meet some other females, reach out and try something new?"

    You can:
    Go to clubs. Talk/hang with musicians. Go to jams and play. Put yourself in contexts where you can meet and play with other musicians without being perceived as part of the (not-so-great, as you describe it) band.
    Them's my thoughts.
  5. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    You can't be THAT terrible if you gig 5 to 6 times a month. You must be doing something right, I think. Talk it over with your bandmates before you do anything you'll feel sorry about.

    I've been in the same situation as you, and I had to make the hard call too. I chose the music. Like you, we were spinning in circles, rehearsing the same songs over and over. We talked about it, and nothing changed. Then half the band quit, including me.
    bassbully likes this.
  6. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    I agree 5-6 gigs a month and your terrible? Maybe you are overly critical? Band members can be their own worse enemies sometimes. Can you give some examples on how you are so bad but out playing all the time?
    Nashrakh likes this.
  7. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    Are we talking 5-6 decently paying gigs ?
    smogg and bassbully like this.
  8. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Unless the band is paying your mortgage/rent, it's supposed to be fun. But as others have said, if you are gigging that often, it can't be that bad.

    You have to decide if the band refuses to change what you will do. Another band will not come to you out of the blue - you will have to audition and seek one out. That can take time.

    Once you decide, it's time for a band meeting - in person, not at a gig or rehearsal. Tell them your concerns. Bring examples of gig videos to point out your concerns. If the rest of the band is satisfied with the quality of the music, it's up to you.
  9. i hate username

    i hate username

    Jan 9, 2006
    This is a big problem right here.

    No one having approached you means little or nothing. If you haven't made yourself available no-one is going to ask. I would definitely try and get out and play with another group. It wouldn't hurt to start out something informal like you have now, just with different people, and see how you get on. Put yourself out there son :)
  10. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    This is common in any job, not just music, when you have only worked for one employer. When you have no contacts with other players in your area, you have no way of knowing if you are "valued" or not. If you are able to play multiple instruments well and sing you will be very much in demand, you just need to get your name out there. Visiting jams and open mikes as well as chatting up musicians at local shows can help you do that.
  11. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Is the audience having fun? Is the bar selling drinks? Don't be too hard on yourself or too critical of the band. Definitely get out there and take advantage of other playing situations. Open mics and jam sessions are a great way to get out there.
    bassbully likes this.
  12. Sometimes you can get in a rut by playing the same set list over and over. Enough already! When the frustration sets in and the fact that family members are involved just makes this situation even more miserable. You're 27? You've got another half a century of playing to go, don't give up now. Like others have suggested, get out there and promote yourself. Musical opportunities don't always come to you, you must seek them out (like any other job). Try looking for openings in bands that play the style of music you like best, that will keep you motivated to stick with it. Welcome to TB and I hope this helps.
  13. gln1955

    gln1955 Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ohio, USA
    Your current band is a good as it's gonna get. You guys are gigging as much as you want, nobody else wants to rehearse more (everyone can find time if they are motivated) or learn new songs. It's clear you want to be better and do more, so you've outgrown this band. Nobody's right or wrong here, just different priorities at this point. It's possible that if you tell them you want ot leave and why, they may change, but not likely.

    Unless you are in the middle of nowhere, there will be other opportunities if you put yourself out there. Don't just jump on the first thing that comes along or you may find yourself in the same band with different folks.
    el murdoque, smogg and hrodbert696 like this.
  14. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    You say you are embarrassed to even tell people you are in the band. That says a lot to me about how much respect you have for the group(you have very little). You have grown some resentment toward the group and that might be a hard thing to reverse. It sounds like the band could use a little more rehearsing and a little less gigging if they are that sloppy. But who knows if the rehearsals would help.

    You can stay in the band while you shop around for another if you'd like. Then once you've established yourself in a group that suits your needs, break the news that you're leaving.
    five7 likes this.
  15. tbplayer59


    Jan 20, 2013
    If you're not rehearsing, you're not really in a band. Being in a band means putting in the work. It's like a job.
  16. Johnny Crab

    Johnny Crab ACME,QSC,Fame/Hondo/Greco/HELIX user & BOSE Abuser Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2004
    South Texas
    @wafflepower : you could do what I do.
    After doing cover tunes for over a decade and gigs in the frequency of your band, the music I listen to and learn for fun and challenge is NOT on our 400+ song "know these songs" list. We do not cover Rush, Yes, Billy Sheehan, Sabaton, Crack the Sky, Alice Cooper, Satriani, Wishbone Ash, Stratovarious, Nightwish, Jamerson, Ray Brown, and hundreds more so I learn them on my own. The "feel" and "ability" from what you make yours through learning makes you a better player and becomes part of your bass vocabulary. No one really knows that a Chris Squire-sounding/feeling bass line got tossed into Van Halen's "Pretty Woman" or that you tossed a bit of Geddy Lee in "Brown Eyed Girl". You can have fun with it. After playing songs hundreds of times, play them over the top of the fretboard or with only your pinky or 2 weakest fingers, etc....just for fun, exercise, mental stimulation, and (sometimes) to give the audience a show. Even Jaco did the "play over the top of the fingerboard" trick....there are pics.
    Johnny Crab LOVES playing live and loves music so it is what it is.
    Wifey told me: "As long as you enjoy it, keep doing it. If it becomes a job and you start getting Crabby about it, then it may be time to move on".
  17. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Your band didn't *become* mediocre. Your band just never got better, while you did. It's called growth, and that's the fuel that feeds the fire. You're ready to move on to something more challenging. Honestly, congratulations!
  18. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    There has got to be a middle ground. You rehearse TOO much....by a LOT.

    Welcome to TalkBass @wafflepower !!!!

    Two things.
    1) Find another band to play in as well as dad's band.

    2) Talk to dad about the quality of the music

    Good luck with it!
    Bassngtr and hrodbert696 like this.
  19. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    A woman once told me that she knew it was time to get a divorce when she wasn't upset about not being with the man anymore. She was done. I got that way when I quit a band I started with two other dudes. One was a self-confessed narcissist who made it hell for me. When I quit, I felt no remorse. It was time and it kickstarted the most wonderful experiences in jazz that I've had in my entire life....

    If you aren't there yet, try a few things a) tell the band how you're feeling about it and ask for an improvement in musical quality b) record the band and show them how awful they are. c) ask for more rehearsal on spots that need it d) if you have connections, get someone with a good ear into a rehearsal and have them give you feedback -- someone with credibility.

    Give them a chance to improve if you haven't already done so.

    If they don't listen, then I would find another situation. Be prepared for it not to work out unless you really scope out the band for a) musical quality b) personalities that gel and c) good band leadership -- and that includes salesmanship and promotional ability. If the band you plan to join doesn't have all these things then you may find yourself as a musician without a country. They key is gigs, gigs, gigs, and if you aren't a gig booker, then you need to be in a band that has such a person. Absolutely critical and often the last thing newbies look at when they consider joining a band. They look at hang and musical quality, but not the business side. And then find no one has the balls to do it or they except you and other members to do it all as a joint effort (which, in my experience, rarely happens).

    As far as quitting goes -- when you do find that new band, and are convinced it's a good deal, then don't quit your Dad's band -- ask to become a sub for them when they need it. Keep that door open. You'll probably enjoy being with them occasionally and the extra cash might be nice if that is important to you. Plus they might retool with better members at some point, and you might want to be part of it.

    Good luck -- sounds like you have hang, and gigs with the existing band, but the musical quality is a problem..throws out the hang/money/music theory that you need 2 of the 3 to retain members...
    Nashrakh likes this.
  20. DavC

    DavC Supporting Member

    May 17, 2005
    Tallmadge , Ohio
    if you're not playing music " for a living " ... then it really needs to be FUN ... first and foremost ... !

    mistakes can be corrected if arrangements are well laid out for all to follow ... and if you never practice , then communication and especially ' listening ' is paramount .. !! nobody can ' zone out ' .. !

    have fun , or move on ..
    Odinbass likes this.