Band Ambitions/Expectations

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by PennyroyalWe, May 17, 2021.

  1. PennyroyalWe


    Sep 2, 2018
    Sorry I’m advance, as this will probably be kinda lengthy.

    About a month ago I auditioned for a band that an acquaintance told me was looking for a bassist. He’s a professional guitarist and vouched for this group, so figured it’s worth looking into. At the time I was starved for an outlet to play bass, but this is the third band I’m in currently, as an old band I was in started back up shortly after that conversation. The new band is: keys, guitar, vox, drums, bass, and a sax player (who plays in several bands and couldn’t make the first audition/practice). The audition went very well, the people seem cool, and the music is fun. I was then added to the group chat without any sort of conversation about if I wanted to join the band. So I guess I’m just in? About a month goes by without another practice because the singer got COVID, so he had to isolate for a few weeks (now he’s past it and we’re all fully vaccinated so it’s not a concern). Also I find out during this break period that there’s a 2 hour gig in mid June. Second rehearsal everyone is there, playing goes well, but the conversation stood out to me. People were talking about what they do for work, and the sax player mentioned how he plays music full time to pay the bills, no day job. The rest of the band fawns over how cool that is, and gets to talking about how we need to rehearse like crazy to get the material tight so we can all quit our day jobs and do this professionally. The singer at one point flat out asked me how much they’d have to pay to get me to quit my job to go on tour, should that opportunity arise. I’ve got a steady, well paying job, a wife, a mortgage, etc., so all I could say was “we’ll cross that bridge if we come to it.” While this is probably the best group of musicians I’ve played with in a long time, very studious, and rehearsals are run productively, I find myself worrying that they may be a bit naive or underestimating how difficult it is to make a living with music, and that this may not be a good fit if they really want to do this professionally. I don’t get too excited by the idea of being a professional musician, as it seems horribly unstable and lots of late nights and time away from home, but maybe I could try it for a while. What level of income are they considering sufficient to quit their jobs? At 30, I’m the old guy in this group by 2-3 years, so maybe I’m just jaded and grumpy? There keeps being messages in the group chat talking about the sacrifices everyone needs to be willing to make to make rehearsals and gigs if “we want to do this for a living”...and I don’t think I do. What makes it harder is how they’ve mentioned several times how they’re very grateful that I showed up when I did because they need a bassist and have had a lot of trouble finding one who can show up prepared and keep up musically. So if I quit, I’d be really leaving them up a creek without a paddle. I’m thinking, no matter what, I’ll stick around to play the gig that’s booked. but if I’m going to leave I’d like to let them know as soon as possible. I’m on the fence here. On one hand these are great players, and fun music, and maybe they could make it on the small festival circuit and it would be quite the experience to be a part of it for a time. On the other hand, there’s the (more frequent IME) possibility that it will go nowhere and everyone is chasing that pipe dream, leaving me exhausted and unhappy. Any pros out there have some wisdom or advice? Honest takes on what it’s like being in a professional working band?

    TLDR: I like the band, but worry our expectations for the band are misaligned. They seem to want to do it professionally, and I’ve got a day job that pays way better than music ever likely will. I don’t want to quit, but don’t want to string them along if it’s not going to shake out in the long run.
    Mr Cheese, Bass4Brkfast and JRA like this.
  2. Jeff Hughes

    Jeff Hughes

    May 3, 2020
    Wow. It is probably just "talk" since they would have done this already if they really wanted to.

    I just watched a YouTube documentary all about indie bands going on tour. For most of them "on tour" meant like two weeks. So it may not be as much time as you think. It sounded like they earned a lot more in the way of good stories and adventures than money though.

    Long term, it sounds like your current course is more sustainable and profitable.
    five7, Aqualung60, equill and 9 others like this.
  3. dalkowski

    dalkowski It's "rout," not "route." Supporting Member

    May 20, 2009
    Massachusetts USofA
    IMHO this is basically what you tell them. Be honest, forthright, and succinct. You won't be sorry and they'll appreciate your not stringing them along. Play the June gig and have fun with it. Beyond that you have serious grown-up responsibilities that aren't negotiable. Good luck.
  4. AceOfBassFace


    Jun 23, 2019
    For the sh*ts & giggles, why not throw a number out there that would make you seriously consider quitting your job and going on tour. For me, I'd say that would be around 1.5X my current yearly salary, and I'd want at least 1/4 of that in advance since I'd be quitting my job and taking on the risk of being in a band. I have mortgage, wife, and kid too, and would likely need to hire them some help if I was gone for extended periods of time on tour - ie cleaning lady, handyman, gardening etc.
  5. PennyroyalWe


    Sep 2, 2018
    The band started up right when COVID hit, so I don’t hold their lack of progress against them at this point. Two weeks of touring is far more manageable, I'm all for a good time and good stories, but not if it means running myself ragged in the meantime. I’m figuring I’ll side bar with them and lay out where I’m at. If after that they ask again what my tour pay rate would be, I’ll respond with my day job wages.
  6. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    It's all fantasy.

    They have "A" June gig.

    You start talking about quitting the day jobs when you're playing, for real money, at least 3 or 4 times a week. That's when you START talking about the financial impacts and whether it could be made to go. No one even knows, post pandemic, what the performing music world is going to look like. I have not been a full timer, never even close, but I can tell you that I've played in some hot bands full of guys with day gigs. I have known very few true blue full time musicians who didn't have a full time employed spouse with good salary and benefits, except for folks in their early 20s living in poverty and taking frequent draws from Mom and Dad.

    As for the sax player who "plays music full time to pay all the bills", you haven't seen his personal income statement. How much comes in from the RN wife? How much comes in from the First National Bank of Mom and Dad? Is he defining "junior high school band director" and "teaching 20 students a week" as "full time music", which it is, kind of, but not really?
  7. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    LBS-bass likes this.
  8. Gustopher

    Gustopher Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2018
    I'd just be up front with them and let them know it isn't your desire to do that and see how it goes. If they move on, then no loss on your part because you didn't want the same things anyway... if they don't then you will know it was all talk and you can have a good experience playing music you like with talented musicians. Win/Win... if you just tell them how you feel.
    PennyroyalWe likes this.
  9. sean_on_bass

    sean_on_bass Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2005
    I say just speak honestly to your position anytime the topic comes up. I don't think you need to quit if you like the group, as you know full well that all the things they are saying are not likely to come true. The second they start talking tour plans, you need to be the voice of reason for yourself(and potentially the group!). They have no way to pay you for touring if you think about it, and any touring done is going to be an expense, not income. If the gigs are paid, they need to be high enough to offset the travel/boarding expense, as well as offer enough profit to justify taking time from your day job and spending a couple weeks away from your family. That is just not going to add up.

    Also, they need to realize that making a living from music is not being in single successful project. It involves a diverse range of income streams that add up to a living salary. That might mean being in multiple groups, teaching a bunch of students, working as a church musician, creating youtube content, and hustling your own gigs. Thinking that one project will translate to a living salary for even a single adult is simply delusional.
  10. J Gold

    J Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2011
    Originals? 5 guys ? You better write songs that rival whatever is on the radio these days.

    Covers? Good luck.

    Tribute? It’s possible but not likely!!
  11. RichardW


    Feb 25, 2016
    near Philly
    If this is the most enthusiasm you can generate, you already know the answer. It ain't for you.
  12. jerry

    jerry Too old for a hiptrip Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 1999
    Last years covid entertainment shutdown should remind those guys how quick that plan can turn to mud.
  13. PennyroyalWe


    Sep 2, 2018
    You’re probably right, but you’d be surprised how long I last something that isn’t for me. I lasted 3.5 years in the army and 2 years at Starbucks! lol
  14. arbiterusa


    Sep 24, 2015
    I have done this for a living. You will not make the money you need. Period.

    Tell them you can’t cover your financial responsibilities by playing music and they need to find someone else that (don’t use this wording, but it’s the truth) can commit to being poor.

    I wonder if they’re even aware that the way you make money in the biz these days is via a monetized YouTube channel, and not via recordings, contracts or record deals.
  15. arbiterusa


    Sep 24, 2015
    Damn. I did that. Respect.

    Nothing can destroy any love for humanity you may have had better than a nice long stint wearing a green apron. I’m not going to say it’s the worst job I ever had, but their customers were definitely the worst people I’ve ever dealt with, far worse than I thought people could be to be honest, with a few notable exceptions.
  16. QweziRider

    QweziRider Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2008
    Northern Nevada, U.S.
    I think you've answered your "question" several times, OP. You know well the reality of "making it". Especially from the ground-up and on the "small festival circuit." One show booked in June doesn't add up to "Let's do this for a living!"
    SemiDriven, J Gold, pcake and 2 others like this.
  17. MCS4

    MCS4 Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2012
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    It sounds like you already know what to do: Tell them that you would love to play with them, but you do not think you would likely be willing to quit your job just for the chance to "make it." They can decide whether they would like to continue working with you for the time being, or if they think it is important that they start from the beginning with someone who is "all in."
    Shalto and DeltaDelta like this.
  18. Element Zero

    Element Zero Supporting Member

    Dec 14, 2016
    $50k a year no less
    PennyroyalWe likes this.
  19. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Inactive

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    Not your problem. This isn't a marriage, where you vow to stay together for life.

    I wouldn't worry about the whole "full time" fantasy. The chances of making a full time living (or anything even close) playing in a band are so remote it's not even worth thinking about. If they do want to do a two week "tour," I'd let them know that I wasn't interested in some vanity, fantasy band camp where at the end of the "tour" you owe more than you made (in a diplomatic manner of course).

    Meanwhile, enjoy playing with good musicians!
    Crash 56, filmtex, 31HZ and 8 others like this.
  20. dan1952

    dan1952 Commercial User

    Jun 27, 2012
    Anderson IN
    Artist Endorsement with Supro Huntington Basses / Owner, Dan's Music, Inc..
    I was a "full time " musician from 1974 through 1985. This was back when bars, hotels, etc. still had live entertainment 5 or 6 or 7 nights a week, so I took every gig like that that came up. I taught 50 students a week. I played every hippie wedding in the park, every bar mitzvah, every family reunion, every birthday party, anniversary etc., etc., etc., that came up. I took every vanity record recording session, every chance to transcribe someone's horrible original song so the "composer" could get his song copyrighted, guitar repair job, on and on...
    I made a pretty good living, but had no insurance, paid vacation time, or pension plan. Tell these wannabes that they have no clue what they're talking about...

    Oh, too harsh?
    Last edited: May 17, 2021

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