Can you work with a bandleader you really can't stand?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by lo_freq_geek, Aug 8, 2022.

  1. I'm 1 year into working with a female-fronted, blues band that has a bit of a local following, some VERY good players, and decent frequency of gigs. At first I got along ok with the BL. It became clear soon enough that she is a raging narcissist, a terrible communicator, and a (mostly) functional alcoholic who can be fun, until you call her on any of her BS. It would take volumes to discuss individual problems here, (there are a few gems that you might like though) but I have given up trying to discuss anything that is remotely critical. Otherwise she gets argumentative and shouts down any discourse.

    I get along ok with the rest of the band, like the music, the $, and the venues where we play. I can tolerate the BL in small doses, lately she is icy AF toward me and the vibe is not cool. She has had drummer + bass player turnover in the last 2 years including the drummer who recommended me. The plus/minus tipping point is very close I fear. I'd love your thoughts: do you have to like your BL?
  2. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    Been friends with mine for nearly 40 years. We each know our role and stick to them for the good of the band. This results in very little drama, if any.
    GlennRH, Winton and One Way like this.
  3. You can but its only a matter of time before it will go south straight to hell...
    at least for myself anyways,,,maybe your situation might turn out different.
    Bluesrock, PennyroyalWe, 4SG and 3 others like this.
  4. el jeffe bass

    el jeffe bass

    Nov 22, 2013
    New Mexico
    How much do you need the money? How hard would it be for you to replace the gig? What’s your tolerance for B.S.? As for me, working with a narcissistic alcoholic would be a non starter.
    armybass, smogg, rtav and 13 others like this.
  5. ShadowGroover


    Aug 16, 2020
    Speaking of critical, judge much? The question is are you strong as a supportive musician, accompanying BL to put her in the best light? If not the failure of the situation is complete.
  6. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    Interesting question... I would think I'd not hang around too long, but you never know. I've worked with people who were not folks I'd want to hang out with outside of the band and it's generally tolerable. I draw the line if they focus on me with their antics for whatever reason.

    In this case, how does she attract and keep the "very good players" if she's a toxic personality? And what kind of critical feedback was she less-than-receptive to?
    GlennRH and lo_freq_geek like this.
  7. And I

    And I

    Feb 19, 2009
    Witchtown, MA
    Unless it was my main source of income, nope. And of it was my main source of income, I'd be looking for something else. I can only say this now because I made the other choice while I was in similar shoes and it didn't quite work out...
    el jeffe bass likes this.
  8. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    It would probably depend on a number of other things, including how much I really need, or feel the need, to interact with her in any meaningful way. If everyone's playing well and there are no deep conversations to be had, then I can probably just come in and do my job and go home, if this is truly my job and the money's good enough. But if I need to interact in a way that these issues she has become roadblocks to what I need to do to get my job done, then it's not going to last very long.
    Rootbeer, Jazzdogg, jdh3000 and 4 others like this.
  9. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    so don't be critical.
    It's never going to be her fault anyway...

    i'm in a band with a bandleader.
    i need to know where and when the gig is, the setlist, and what the gig pays.
    i show up, play the best show i can, i pack up, and go home at the end of the job.
    we get along just fine, but i don't try to make him my friend.
    RattleSnack, BEADG63, 74hc and 11 others like this.
  10. DWBass

    DWBass The Funkfather

    Been there, done that. NOPE!!
    smogg, _Obra_, SactoBass and 5 others like this.
  11. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    You have to do a cost-benefit analysis. Are the gigs, hang, money and music worth putting up with her? If not, move on.

    Also, I've done some in-depth study of narcissists and "bad bosses". Here are a few tips:

    a) Don't let them know they bug you. This feeds the narcissist and makes you more of a target for "supply" of all the negative emotional stuff.

    b) Fly under the radar. Be a good musician, and stay out of her way. Do a good job, get paid, go home. Don't object to anything if you can help it.

    c) Ignore. Ignore her narcissistic behavior.

    d) Go Gray Stone. If she tries to provoke you or does something that ticks you off, just stay poker faced and don't show any emotion at all.
  12. Fair point. Not trying to judge anyone, just trying to be objective about what my expectations are from a BL.
  13. Not sure why the guitarist stays around, but even he has less than 3 years with her. Recently: She created a band bio a while back that was straight-up awful. Full of cliches, hyperbole, saying nothing real. It was really bad! The (former) drummer and I objected. Instantly clamped, short with both of us for weeks. The bio remains unchanged from 5 years ago. Regularly makes set lists with the wrong key, but will often start songs in a mystery key.. not the wrong one from the set list, or the actual key. Sends band info across 3 platforms including Facebook messager, resulting in confusion about gig info, rehearsals, etc.

    Maybe I am being too picky!
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  14. This is great advice. Thanks!
    StyleOverShow and Beej like this.
  15. Esteban Garcia

    Esteban Garcia bassist, arranger, aelurophile Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2018
    Portland, OR
    If the music's good, the book's organized, the gigs pay, rehearsals are minimal, and the other players are tight.... Maybe. I'm happy to show up, play, and keep my mouth shut if all that's going on. Like, what is there to even argue about in that scenario? But it wouldn't take much to tip me over the edge.

    I once walked out on a reggae band during rehearsal because the BL was being a buttski. But none of that other stuff was happening, so I didn't miss anything.
  16. Thanks for the collective input. I think I need to take a breath and try not to take it so seriously.
  17. Hambone70


    Jan 31, 2018
    No. Been there. I think I know the same BL! (Initials EO?) Don’t care what the ‘advantages’ are. Life’s too short to work with/for a**holes.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2022
    smogg, David_70 and SactoBass like this.
  18. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    Say something nice. “You really rocked that song tonight!” No follow up. See if the next time is a little less drama.
  19. cosmicevan

    cosmicevan ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Supporting Member

    People don't leave jobs...they leave bosses. Sounds like this gig is more of a job than a passion project so I'd find a "boss" I can tolerate. Ight be worth a discussion tomset some ground rules as a last ditch effort?
  20. 2112

    2112 Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2005
    The hang
    The money
    The music

    Getting all 3 is exceedingly rare. So, the rule is if you got two and can keep your emotions out of getting the third while holding up your end, you'll be fine. If not, then you need to move on.

    In my day hustle, I work every day with tons of people I don't like. I go to work as a professional, do the right thing, and put forth my best effort... which means I keep my emotions out of it. I apply the same philosophy to how I approach my musical projects, and it's served me quite well over the years.