BL says "I'm the only songwriter" - Thoughts?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by FerK, Sep 1, 2018.

  1. FerK


    Dec 11, 2011
    Long story short: I joined my band a bit over a year ago, and immediately took most marketing tasks from the BL: promo, re-launch Facebook site, create a brand new state-of-the-art website, create an Electronic Press Kit, designed our first CD label, booklet and inlay, al our gigs posters (they had never made posters, print or otherwise, before), produced on-stage material (roll-up, backdrop, etc), make merch, a bit of booking, etc.

    In the meantime we moved to our own practice space, the cellar in an apartments building, which forced us to buy an electronic drum kit (3.5 grand), which our guitar player financed (doesn't matter why, it made sense). In the meantime I have financed a lot of other things (CD pressing, merch purchases, etc). So far it sounds quite normal, right? Everyone chips in.

    Here's the thing: our BL (who wrote all the songs in our CD) told me that he wants to retain total creative control and be the only songwriter. He would always take our input on his song writing, but that's it. He had problems in the past, and he thinks this is the solution to it. If I want to write, he and I can create another "project", he suggested. I don't have time for that, and I call a bit of BS on it.

    He's a great guy, and everyone in the band loves him. He really is the salt of the Earth. But this came to me a bit out of the blue, and I'm having trouble processing it. I'm torn between living with it and seeing where the road takes us, and waiting until AFTER our CD launch, and raising the topic, probably on a one-to-one.

    What do the collective TB guts say about this?
  2. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    It depends. If he's really good at it -- like Paul McCartney or John Lennon good at it (I'm exaggerating a bit), but truly gifted, I would let him do his thing, support him, and let the success roll in.

    But if he's just about the same as any other cat in the band, I'd not like it at all. In that case, he wants to keep all the fun while you and everyone else do the heavy lifting. The fact that he wants to sideline you into a separate project is also a non-starter for me.

    It sounds like eventually, you'll be booking all the gigs, in which case you'll have the power to decide if he's on certain gigs or not. Remember -- he who spends the gold makes the rules. Unless this guy is helping you achieve your goals, hand over fist, he doesn't have any place to insist that he has full creative control. He sounds like the artist type of musician. I have 3 types I've seen over the years -- entrepreneurs (you), employee musicians (just wanna show up and get paid), and artists. The artists are great for getting good quality out of the band, will often work for almost nothing, but they can be band-wreckers and really hard to work with. Decide if this guy is worth it.

    And remember, good musicians are a dime a dozen if there is money on the table. He may well be expendable.

    And if he's not the Alpha Dog when it comes to creative writing, and won't share the fun, then maybe his idea of a side project is a good idea -- just not with him in it. Start another group, do your thing, and book both groups in different spots. As he sits at home in his little creative world, he might give you a call wondering why the work has dried up, the projects aren't being given full attention, discuss issues, and find the train has left the station without him. In which case, you negotiate and have a "See the light" meeting (an Ex-CEO called it a "coming to Jesus meeting", but I modify it so I don't offend anyone). And you'll be doing it from a position of strength because you have this other side project, as he suggested (kind of), to fall back on.

    Musicians can be their own worst enemies. I had one who tried to push me onto the promoter and business side, while he handled all the creative side of things. Others join five bands because they aren't gigging enough, only to force me to build a call list of subs that eventually push out the non-performers, and leave me with all the choice in the world when I have a gig.

    He sounds like he needs a wake up call unless he's got some rare talent that's going to propel the band to success.
  3. pasmithy


    Jul 7, 2011
    SE PA
    Sounds like you joined a full time backing band. (with administrative duties)

    If you want to tap in and cultivate your creative side, you will probably have to seek a new project. You might want to take in to consideration, you "don't have time for two bands". Because I'd bet that if you offer to do another project with your BL, but will need to back out of "his baby", it won't go over well.
    PauFerro, Conkal, Mr_Moo and 7 others like this.
  4. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member

    "Get PAID? I was BLESSED to be in the presence of GREATNESS...!"

    Basically, seems to me you need to decide what you're in this band for, and this BL needs to ask himself why musicians should play with him. You've taken on a lot of tasks, not just playing but a lot of marketing and admin. It may be that the music is so good and the band is so much fun that it's worth it just to be a part of it.

    But if the music and the experience are not wonderful enough to make this worthwhile just as a hobby, you might be asking how you're getting paid. If your BL owns all the music, then he gets most of the money being made on the music. For a musician, that means that you might get paid a split for gigs and for specific recordings you play on if they sell, but not the songs themselves. And you might ask yourself if that's worth doing the marketing and all over and above your playing, or if that ought to be compensated extra if other band members aren't shouldering similar tasks.

    I don't think there's any rationale to saying that doing marketing should get you copyright ownership in a song you didn't help write. Keep them separate.

    I would study up on how copyright law works in your country (I see you're Switzerland). When it comes to creative control, in the US, in a co-owner situation, EACH of the co-owners of a song have the right to separate use the song, without needing the others' permission. If Lennon and McCartney co-write a song, either of them can go and record it or perform it separately and don't need the other to allow them (though the co-owners both have to get their royalties for it). In other legal regimes, I have found out through past TB threads, you need ALL co-owners' permission to use the piece, which would mean that a co-writer who left the band could then stop the band from playing the song they helped write. It may be a situation like that that the BL is concerned about.

    So basically, you need to clarify what you're getting out of your contribution to this band. Does the BL compensate you somehow, whether in good times and experiences or in money, to make your work worthwhile? If so, great. If not, then it doesn't seem like he has the leverage to say the band can't work on any other songs that his volunteer band mates want to do. He isn't in a position to be dictator.
    Mr_Moo, MattZilla, tradernick and 3 others like this.
  5. filmtex

    filmtex Commercial User

    May 29, 2011
    Annsman Pro Audio Dealer
    Had this same experience last year, more or less. (Thanks @PauFerro for lining it out for me.) When it became obvious to me that I was doing all the heavy lifting to promote the BL’s career, I bailed. Decided I’d been down this road too many times, some of the journeys were fun, most ended up being not so fun, and decided to stick with being one of the others.
    Now I’m either strictly a sideman “Where’s the show, how long will we play, who’s bringing the PA and what’s it pay?” (The hang and the money.) Or, I’ll help with the heavy lifting, but I also get a vote on the music AND I doing some of the singing/fronting. (The music and the hang.) NOT just a “stand in the back, play whole notes and shut up” thing. Not trying to sound bitter, at all, just pragmatic I guess.
    All that to say, I’d probably hit the road in your situation, unless the money was really good. YMMV
    TomB, Joe Nerve, marmadaddy and 4 others like this.
  6. buldog5151bass

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

    Oct 22, 2003
    I would have a discussion with the others bandmembers and see if you are on an island. If you are alone, you have a lot less pull than if the entire band is with you.

    Personally, I would guess this isn't a money making venture, so if he wants it to be HIS project, and you want to write songs, he can handle all the administrative tasks, and/or future financing financing, or he can find another bassist, and you will take what you paid for and leave.
  7. FerK


    Dec 11, 2011
    Well, the project IS fun, and we gig at least once a month. We don't play for free, and we mix very well paying gigs (Saturday next week we open for a national show) with small shows in pubs. After our CD launch event, next month, we will have some pocket change in our band account, and have paid IN FULL our CD production, pressing and the drum kit we bought last year. Some 7K in a year. So all in all it's fine, although we're not in it for the money: except for the BL, we're all weekend warriors.

    Thank you for the your thoughts. I think I need to have a tête-a-tête with him, and make my expectations clear. He can either take care of ALL the band work (and get to keep the creative leadership) or share everything. He's good at songwriting, but he comes up with good songs and some really cheesy ones as well, and I think collaboration would improve that.
    Bunk McNulty, Stumbo, Mr_Moo and 3 others like this.
  8. I’d be mostly concerned about who owns, or would get royalties on the songs. Sounds like it would all be the BL.

    I’ve never been in a band like this, so I may not know what I’m talking about, but if you guys are paying equally to build the band, then you should have equal opportunity to get paid from the band. If the BL wants to own the music, they should pay for everything, and you guys should just be hired guns. If he doesn’t want to do that, then you guys need equal credit on the album.

    I’d also sort this out before the ownership is credited on the album; otherwise it’d be too late.
    Mr_Moo, gumtown and Madhouse27 like this.
  9. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    He wants total creative control - that's not a band and if he was the salt of the earth he wouldn't demand it. IMHO, you need to take a deep breath, take off the rose colored glasses and evaluate your situation.

    I can tell you where this takes you - in the extremely unlikely event that the CD takes off, this leaves you and the rest of the band with NO leverage, reduced to hired hands or out on the street.
  10. Exactly, worst case scenario, imagine a record company is interested in your music, but would rather just have him (since he is the owner/creator/artist) but they want their own musicians.

    You guys have lost lots of money and no one will know your names, while this guy is driving Ferraris and dating Taylor Swift?! No, no, no. You need to get control back.

    It also sounds like this ownership he’s staking is a fairly recent claim, and if so, it’s a d*** move on his part after you guys have put so much into the band.
  11. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    This is about as far as i had to read to see problems(and i didn't even get to your actual problem statement). This sounds like a horrible arrangement that will surely result in massive financial loss and resentment, on varying degrees among band members. Just no. Who in their right mind would finance someone else's electronic drum kit, and apparently a nice one at that($3,500?!?) Is he expecting to somehow get that money back?
  12. two fingers

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

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    The huge problem only comes if one of the songs becomes a hit.

    That's when the money comes in (not as much as it used to.... but still significant).

    You won't make millions on T-shirts amd nice websites.

    But you could on a hit song.

    I would start by doing the business-like version of "Who hurt you, bro?"

    Ask him what the problems were in the past.

    Tell him how impirtant it is to you to have at least some creative input.

    My best friend (guitar player) is married to a singer in Nashville (not famous). But she is getting into writing. He's helping her write because she doesn't play an instument. I asked him about a year ago of he was getting writing credits. I was relieved when he said yes. They had sat and calmy talked it out. It jist pritects everyone. Hopefully both of their shares of the writing will go into the same bank account "until death do is part".

    But things happen. Divorce. Band breakups.

    Wait until after this album drops. Then have a one-on-one with the guy. Be both nice and business-like. Be understanding but stick to your guns.

    If you guys are doing bice websites, merch, marketing, buying things for the band, and releasing albums there needs to be A LOT OF CONTRACTS SOGNED BY ALL.

    Get to the paperwork ASAP. You guys are grown. You are running a business together. Act like it.

    Best of luck.
    Mr_Moo, noodler, FerK and 5 others like this.
  13. FilTurd


    Dec 13, 2015
    Pacific Northwest
    So well put!

  14. mcarp555

    mcarp555 Guest

    Jul 14, 2013
    I'm a little confused - is the BL saying you can't contribute your own songs, or that he won't credit the band for the songs he's written? If the former, have you played him any of your songs? Are they as good? Better? Worse? If the latter, why should he share credit if he wrote them? Adding bits and bobs to a song (or designing the posters) does not guarantee you a piece of the copyright.
  15. gln1955

    gln1955 Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ohio, USA
    He has every right to keep total creative control. How you deal with that is entirely up to you. If the band is fun, then keep playing and find the time for another creative outlet (not involving him). I wouldn't keep doing all of the business chores and I certainly wouldn't put up any more cash for recording projects or equipment. Since he is getting most of the benefit, he can take the risks by himself as well.
    Mr_Moo, red_rhino and matante like this.
  16. Doctor Intrepid

    Doctor Intrepid

    Dec 27, 2017
    It's not a situation I would put myself in. Basically, he is talent, or the face, and you and the others are merely backup. That may take you some places, but you will be expendable. It won't be your band anymore. If your cool with that go for it.
    Bassbeater likes this.
  17. Bassbeater

    Bassbeater Guest

    Sep 9, 2001
    Write some songs, register them. You are now a songwriter. He is powerless to impede your progress.
    Mr_Moo likes this.
  18. I’d flip it around on them and say ok if that’s what you think how about we use this band to collaborate and write together and we can start another project that is all your material?
    See what they say. Actually I’d probably just say deuces
    Mr_Moo and Herrick like this.
  19. Bassbeater

    Bassbeater Guest

    Sep 9, 2001
    This bass panda is getting totally bent over and BL'd.
  20. QweziRider

    QweziRider Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2008
    Northern Nevada, U.S.
    This makes you a defacto hired gun. Without the hired pay part. I'd be out in a heartbeat with that treatment.
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