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Design dispute causing turbulence

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by BryanM, Jan 24, 2013.

  1. BryanM


    Dec 15, 2007
    Seattle, WA
    The main question that I have is whether anyone here has had disagreements with band members of non-music related differences or aesthetic differences and how they were resolved?

    My band is in the process of ongoing studio sessions to put together an EP and an album. Our drummer went to school for product design and does some freelance design, but his schedule is weighed down with the band, two jobs and the drum line that he participates in, so if he works on design it's at 4am without any input from anyone else.

    He's been working on and off for about 4-6 months and hasn't shown a ton of work, so I hired a designer that I know to come up with at least the EP layout, presskit design, website design and possibly album layout. The conditions were that she allow input from all of us so long as she's not inundated with requests (overbearing client syndrome.)

    A good bit of the funding for the recording as well as all or most of her design fee will be funded by myself because I have the most discretionary income of the four band members. Others will be contributing as they are able and I'm okay with this arrangement.

    The drummer's been a bit avoidant lately when discussion of the recordings and surrounding marketing and I feel as if he's feeling marginalized. He's been going ahead with designs and if I comment on them whether I like them or not, he'll quip something passive-aggressive like "It doesn't matter, ***'s doing the designing anyways."

    Aside from this issue there are no confrontational or directional issues in the band, we have a solid conglomeration of styles drawing from everyone's influences equally and we share in the management duties, but I don't want this to drive a rift between band members. I like some of his designs but they don't make up a cohesive whole. They'd best be described as a hodge-podge of ideas. We've been making some waves locally and I feel like it would be best when we launch the EP to have a cohesive image and marketing campaign to put up as the face of the band.

    He is very into the punk rock/DIY ethos and feels that it's better to have a large quantity of work that nobody else had a hand in than a selection of well-prepared work and a controlled public image.

    I've spoken to him at length about my concerns and he's just been a bit dismissive.
  2. It never ceases to amaze me... Nobody tells a mechanic how to fix their car, or a plumber how to fix there sink, but everybody's a freakin' artist. :rollno: An artist wouldn't tell you how to play your instrument.

    I happen to be an artist in my day job and I will tell you... when it comes to band logos/CD covers/posters... if EVERYONE has input into the product it will take forever to get done, cause rifts in the band and look like crap in the end. People are allowed their honest and objective opinion when it's done, but too many chefs equal disaster.

    First, it would seem to me your drummer should have first crack at it since he's an artist, in the band and the cheapest option. If he can't or won't make time, then you all as a band need to hire an art student, pitch your image and what you're trying to say, give them a deadline and let the artist do their job. They'll come up with a few pencil sketches, vote on the one you like and let the artist run with it.

    IMO, too many bands get crappy artwork because they think they know art and can't put their egos aside. Leave that to the pros. Concentrate on the music.

    I've been in bands where I haven't been the one in charge of the artwork. In that case, I'll just state my opinion and then stay out of it. I have better things to do than to fight battles that can't be won.
  3. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    This is a good example of why it's sometimes a good thing to have a "band leader" or a partnership of perhaps two people who really take the reigns on this type of stuff. Getting three, four, or five people on the same page with a lot of this type of stuff can be incredibly difficult. Sometimes, it can feel a lot like herding cats, which leads to nothing getting done. OTOH, it's important that everyone have something that they feel they can stand behind. My last band, which I played in for about 8 and a half years, had what I thought was a horrible name. I wasn't a founding member, though. I told the guys many times over the course of the years that if I had been a founding member, there was no way I would have allowed the band to be named what it was.
  4. BryanM


    Dec 15, 2007
    Seattle, WA
    We have no defined band leader but for much of the management and marketing type things he and I are on equal footing a step ahead of the other two, not by design, but more out of pragmatism. The other two handle some of the more charismatic aspects, social media, grassroots promotion and such.

    The designer that we're in talks with is a friend of mine and giving a very good rate. I don't want to step on her toes by insisting that the drummer be viewed as an equal collaborator, but I also don't want to cut him out of the process completely because he does have some good ideas. I'm just not sold on his general aesthetic plan.

    Muttley, thank you for weighing in. I think your recommended approach is sort of what we took. We've come up with some very good ideas that we all agree on for the general design approach, what we're butting heads on are the finer details.
  5. john_g

    john_g Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2007
    I agree with this. I am a graphic designer, have been one for 17 years now, have my own business, and teach graphic/web design at a local college. But, I have had bandmates that design stuff on their own because they have a little photoshop knowledge.

    It was a sticky issue in my last band as the singer wanted to start sending out marketing materials she put together (and she had no experience or even the right software) because I guess things werent getting done fast enough for her. She was unemployed and I am overemployed so no, things for the band were not going to come before paying work.

    I have tried to assert this fact in my current band and so far it has been fine, but our drummer/singer has some photoshop experience and I know would love to do more. I told him Ill start telling him how to drum more and that nipped that. lol
  6. two fingers

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

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    You simply need to have a conversation with the drummer. In the conversation you need to NOT ALLOW him to dismiss the decision that has to be made. Simply put, you need to tell him that you guys would love to use his skill (with YOUR input) but that he hasn't made the time to get the job done. He has two choices, and two choices ONLY. He can either get the job done more quickly while consulting you guys along the way, or step aside and let the new artist handle it (again, with some limited input from the band including the drummer).

    But when it comes to getting the job done, Muttley is right. You guys are NEVER all four going to be on the same page. And the band consensus is NEVER going to match exactly with what the artist would do unchained from your opinions. So, at some point, SOMEBODY has to let go of their ego and let SOMEBODY ELSE just HANDLE it. My advice? If the drummer can't get the job done, just have the new artist stop by a rehearsal and have a BRIEF conversation with the whole band. And then LEAVER HER ALONE to get the job done. If you don't trust her to do that, then you have hired the wrong artist.

    "There's no such thing as a hard decision. Most folks just know what they should do right out of the gate. It's LIVING with that decision that makes us put it off until the last minute." - My Grandfather

    The point of this is that there's no way to make everybody happy. Somebody is going to be ticked. So if you are asking us for a solution that will keep EVERYBODY happy, one doesn't exit. Artists are by nature emotional people. Ultimately this project should be left in the lap of either the drummer or the new artist with MINIMAL input from the rest of you. Anything else will result in crap stew.
  7. jumblemind

    jumblemind I also answer to Bryan Supporting Member

    Aug 27, 2011
    I'm a graphic and interaction designer with a decent amount of experience. I would hire out the design of my band's packaging in a heartbeat, most especially if someone else was ponying the cash. IME, having the person with day job expertise run that aspect of the band presents problems. It's the best option if everything is done internally and no one else has the training, but if you have the opportunity for an outside professional to handle it? No brainer. IMO and IME any real designer would recognize that an outside source is MUCH better in this situation.

    Reminds me of a piece I just read by Michael Beirut, "Graphic Design Criticism as a Spectator Sport." http://observatory.designobserver.c...-design-criticism-as-a-spectator-sport/37607/

    But, bands are a different situation. Every member has an emotional tie and vested interest in everything representing them now and forever. Paradoxically, that's exactly why you should hire an outside designer.
  8. Our designer is great. we can text him something like "shark drinking beer" and get this:


    other times he'll show up to practice with dozens of potential designs he came up with and we will give him the yay or nay to them. he'll ask for what we'd like changed. it's worked well for us.



    2 very different logo designs that went to merch printing

    website design:


    2012 digital presskit:


    2013 presskit should be launching soon.

    let the artist do her thing. you should be pleasantly surprised.
  9. funkcicle


    Jan 9, 2004
    Asheville, NC

    I'm of the mind that any initiative taken by any individual band member is worthy of consideration by the entire group... in my experience, running a band by consensus sucks with a capital S, I like to keep the "collaborative" aspect of being in a band as closely restricted to the music as possible. So if my guitarist goes ahead and makes a poster for a show, I am thrilled. If he designs our next CD layout before I do, it's that much less work that I have to worry about. If the drummer goes ahead and drafts a press release, I thank him. Conversely, if we have an EP/LP ready to drop and nobody has taken initiative on the layout and art-work, I won't be particularly receptive to their input when I go ahead and do it on my own.

    This approach, of course, requires a certain level of maturity and trust among bandmates... once established, it's a great recipe for productivity. Case in point: my band that operates in this manner put out 5 albums, a film soundtrack, and took in several thousand dollars in 2012. My other "more active" band, which insists on talking-through every minor decision, is still mixing an album we recorded in 2011 of all the same songs we've been playing since 2010.
  10. Frank Tuesday

    Frank Tuesday

    Jul 11, 2008
    Austin, TX
    What is outsourcing the design work going to do to the dynamic of the band. If the drummer, rightly or wrongly, feels that his hard work has been dismissed or marginalized, will it affect his performance, lead to longer term problems in the band?

    To put it another way, is his drumming more important to the band than a slick press kit at this stage? Sometimes you have to stoke the egos of your band to keep the band happy.

    If the drummer is valuable, I'd say, "The outside designer is only a backup plan. When the time comes to send stuff off to the print shop, we'll use your work if the band likes it." Don't make it a vote between the drummer's work and the outsider's. If the drummer's work makes the band happy use it. If not, present the outsider's work as a backup option, but only after the band has rejected the drummer's work.

    If you use the drummer's work, you can still find ways to use the other artwork in the future: t-shirt design, stickers, posters, etc., and vice-versa.
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