Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Kronde, Feb 16, 2005.

  1. Kronde


    Feb 1, 2005
    Charlotte, NC
    So, I have been with a talented guitarist/lead singer for about 3 years thru several differnet incantations of a band. Up until about 9 months ago we were playing covers and getting fairly regular gigs. About 9 months ago this guitarist deceided he no long wanted to "be a garage band doing covers", which I totally respect, and start doing original material. At the time he claimed to have a substantial backlog of "ideas". So we (basically me) fired our drummer (a fun-loving but rhythmically challenged friend of mine and his) and started playing with a very talented drummer and keyboard player. So, I have been going to weekly practices for about 9 months (>30 practices) and it doesn't feel like the project is progressing in spite of all the talent...Lots of "ideas" that are good but are getting stale, no new lyrics, etc. I come home from practices and my wife asks how it went and all I can say is that I had fun playing but it was the same ole stuff. Any advice from folks? Do I verballize my concern... Do I quit...Do I treat it as a fun jam and put more energy into other projects that are gigging...Did I say that these guys are probably the most gifted musicians I have played with and have improved my playing tremendously... :confused:
  2. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    So you're saying that you STOPPED booking those regular gigs nine months ago? I'd think that you could have at least kept your more established gigs, but just turned your rehearsals toward the original stuff, instead of learning new covers. I'd think that would be a great way to go, because you could keep sneaking-in more-and-more new originals into your regular cover gigs, and sort of 'automatically' develop a following for the 'new band' that does all-originals. Besides, that way you could gage how the new originals are going over with the crowd as you write them - I'd think that could very much help steer the next-and-next new originals toward stuff that moves people.

    ...So this guy wanted to loose all the little following that you HAD, just when you'll be needing them MOST?

  3. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    You guys need to structure rehearsals.

    I played in an all original band where we had 100+ original tunes (completed, not just good ideas).

    You guys need to sit down and write out a plan. Take the top 5 ideas you have and work out those five songs to completion. When those are done (and I mean completely finished), move on to the next five, and so on down the line.

    While you are doing this, also play your "cover" band material out live and throw in the new "completed" tunes in with the covers. Just keep replacing the cover tunes with your originals.

    This way, you'll be making progress with your originals and you'll be able to fairly judge the originals by the reaction of the crowds you play them for.

    As you go along you can get rid of the original songs that just don't cut it and incorporate new ones that you have worked out at subsequent rehearsals.

    The the most important thing is to get a plan down on paper. Write up a list of the songs that have the strongest potential and stick to only five at a time until they are finished.

    There is nothing worse than having all that talent, but no direction. And from what you have said, direction and a plan is all you are missing.

    Someone needs to take charge of rehearsals. The rhythm guitarist/singer in my band at the time wrote all the songs, and we worked them out together...but I was the one who directed practice and organized the structure of those rehearsals. It was amazing how much we accomplished by doing that...because before I did that we were going through the same motions you seem to be going through.

    Music should be fun...but there is a business side to it as well and rehearsals should be structured like a work environment. It can still be fun, creative and enjoyable...but like any business, rehearsals need to be productive, or the "business" will die.
  4. Kronde


    Feb 1, 2005
    Charlotte, NC
    Thanks Sundogue you have great suggestions. I tried the "lets pick 5 and work on them till they are done" approach. I got verbal buy in but still we keep going to noodleville during practice. Do I just refuse to not play other tunes until the furious 5 are done.?.
  5. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    You guys absolutely have to develop a plan. And you must play hardball.

    The situation I was in was equally intolerable. I held a meeting and spelled out the following...

    The only way I will continue to play with you guys is if we get serious about what were doing, which means...

    1.If we are going to go the route of originals, then we need to work out the material with a well defined plan, as follows...

    2. We will find five songs that we can develop and finish, before moving on to the next five.

    3. We will only work on songs after everyone has their own parts worked out on their own time. Rehearsals are for the band to come together on the music, not for individuals to experiment (although that can be inspiring, it's best left for maybe a 15 minute warm-up, not for the entire practice).

    4. Everyone will take notes. Everyone will have their own notebooks for writing down ideas, progressions, key changes, song structure, etc. Just like a classroom, everyone will take notes and go home and do their "homework" so as not to waste mine or anyone else's time at rehearsal.

    3. At the end of every rehearsal, the next week's itinerary will be spelled out. Specifically what will be worked on.

    4. We will incorporate the new material in with covers and play them out for feedback.

    Or something to that affect. I was a real ass about it too. If someone forgot their notebook, I'd rip a page out of mine and give them the paper and a pen and tell them to not forget it next time.

    I always called each person to make sure they knew their part. If any one member didn't have time to learn their part, we rescheduled practice. It didn't take long before the rest of the band put peer pressure on the individual who didn't "have time" to force that person to find the time.

    If anyone showed up (after getting my call and them telling me they were prepared) and they weren't prepared. I told them to leave and come back when they were ready. If their part was integral to us playing the song(s), then practice was over right then and there.

    I told them I was too busy and this band was too important to have any one player waste mine, or anyone else's time.

    It didn't take long before we were playing out every weekend with ALL original material...no covers.

    But without a plan of attack that will never happen. If they don't go along with that, then no matter how much talent they have, it's a waste of time...It's a waste of talent!!! Obviously you aren't happy with the way things are so you have nothing to lose by walking out on a practice if they keep wasting your time. I've quit playing with quite a few talented musicians who just didn't "get it". I don't regret it a bit. It's their problem if they waste their talent...not yours!!!

    There are alot of talented musicians out there who will never make it anywhere solely because they didn't take care of the business side of being a musician.

    I never made it anywhere big...but it certainly wasn't for a lack of trying.
  6. Kronde


    Feb 1, 2005
    Charlotte, NC
    Sundogue, you speak the truth.

    I think I will just bring your post to the next practice and lay down the law. It is getting to be a bit tiresome spending time away from my wife and family for a project that is aimless.
  7. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    Uhh - yuh... I'd say he was.

    If I ever join a band, and then find out that it's a situation like that - especially if the 'person being made an example of', or whatever wasn't me - I will surely be sorry that I joined, whatever the chances of 'anywhere big'.

    ...And all the other members of the band went for that? They'd show up for practice just to be turned away because another guy didn't know one part of a whole show, or thought he did, but it wasn't good enough for you? No one ever stood up for their bandmate who was being shamed for the purpose of making his bandmates blame him for the group being punished? I suppose you were once a military man.

    I wish I wouldn't have even read that - it reminds me of a couple of the most manipulative dickhead factory formen that have ever tempoarily (VERY temorarily) ruined my life over the past thirty years.



    (edit) Oh yeah, that's lovely. While I write this post, TWO guys post how great that is.

    This is officially a bad day for me. I mean really.

  8. Sorry you don't like the way Sundogue works, Joe, but nobody ever formed a great band by letting any of the members slack off and not learn their parts. If you're serious about a band, if it is not just for fun but also a business, you can't afford to have anyone in the group who's not pulling their weight.

    First of all, you came up with "knew it, but it wasn't good enough" all on your own - the original phrasing was "wasn't prepared," which means something different for every tune. Secondly, this is how it works in serious musical groups - do you think you can get away with being 'sorta prepared' if you play in an orchestra? Rehearsal is for putting songs together, not learning your parts.

    This is a constant in the music business, and if you're expecting sympathy and understanding when you show up without learning the basslines of the 5 songs you're doing that day, you obviously haven't been exposed to the business end of things. Nobody stands up for the guy who isn't prepared because he's the one causing problems - ending rehearsal is perfectly logical when you can't play songs because someone isn't ready. You need discipline (self-discipline, not the constant discipline of someone else) to be a great musician, and unless you're a prodigy you'll get nowhere without it. I'm sorry if that bothers you, but that is how it is in the real world.
  9. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    No, no, Man: You're focussing on something I didn't even bring up! What in my post would make you think that I'm saying it OK to be a slacker? ..Nothing of the sort!

    My problem was this 'prison discipline' thing of "OK boys, now you can just all go back home - Rehearsal is cancelled. Hey - don't be mad at me; there's nothing I can do; that's just the rules; it's his fault; be mad at him..."

    Of course a serious leader can't have slackers. Of course! (I'm still freakin' as to how you'd get that from my post.) The slacker has every reason to be fired - even fired and sued (I mean if it's really big-time, and the rest of the band is standing to loose thousands - or thousands of thousands - of dollars each, for this one member who 'goes bad' or whatever).

    You don't have to inform me that I 'made-up' that part; that's why I put a question mark - yes, I extrapolated that from what he said, and was ASKING. It was a question, Man - right? ..and asking mainly for the same reason as what you brought up: the 'wasn't prepaired' part - that leaves it pretty open, ya know? It's OK to make up a question (unless it's a devisive one - and in no way am I, or was I, trying to be devisive!), right?

    So - what? I'm getting a reputation here as a beed'n-heart slacker? From what - something that I said?


    Well, I'm off! This is reminding me that I'd better get in some practice today to be ready with the new songs we're s'posed to have dicked for Saturday rehearsal. ..if I'm not ready, I won't even be punished, but I want to be faithful to my word, and not dissapoint my bandmates (who are friends - imagine that).

    Wishing you all the best -

  10. As long as we're arguing semantics, the question was pretty obviously "they showed up to hear this stuff from you?" and not "this is what you used to say to them?" It sounds like a rhetorical question to me, because they obviously did show up and hear it, and he obviously did say that, so my original argument still stands.

    I don't doubt that you understand that bands can't have slackers. The thing I don't think you understand is that if you're not a hardass about practice, slackers can continue being slackers without worrying too hard about their position in the band.

    I also question using the phrase "prison discipline" to refer to "practice is over, blame the guy who doesn't know the part," because who else is to blame? That's practicality - if one person can't play, the band can't play, and nobody wants to sit around waiting for someone to figure out a song.
  11. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    Umm, yeah...I had to be. Someone needed to speak up and take charge. If I hadn't we'd still be jamming on the same old parts of songs we wrote ten years ago.

    Well, first of all no one joined after the fact. And it was hard for some to adjust at first. But once we started playing our originals out live, everyone was on board with the concept. Happily on board with that!

    Some did not like the idea of me being so demanding at first. But then again, if they didn't I was walking. Either way, my time wasn't going to be wasted anymore. If you had been in the band, I would have simply told you to get with the program, take a hike...or I'll take a hike. Not in a mean way...just that if the band wanted me in it, there had to be some changes and this is how it was going to be or I was walking out. I felt that strongly about it.

    Funny thing about peer pressure...no one ever ( I mean EVER) got mad at me for a cancelled practice. We would always be pissed at the guy who was wasting our time, and rightfully so. Why would they be mad at me for someone else not learning their part? I'm not talking about maybe one song that wasn't learned (unless that's all we were working on). Sometimes things need to get hashed out about a particular part, or a part gets changed AT rehearsal where obviously there was no time to work on it. I'm talking about blatant excuses for not doing their job.

    Nope, I never was in the military. However I've been around enough successful musicians that worked their butts off and I saw first hand what made them successful...and guess what, very little of their success had to do with talent!

    Ever wonder why some people don't keep jobs for very long? Nothing against you personally, but I've found that most people who jump from job to job, have a problem with anything regimented. But that's the way this business is, like it or not.

    Kronde was asking for advice and I gave him some.

    Just so you know...ALL of the guys liked me and we all got along great. I wasn't mean spirited about it and I never came across with an angry, demanding tone (except my demanding that things change or I was out the door for good). In fact, most of the time I would jokingly call someone out. And since it worked (for the whole band I might add), I wasn't the only one calling guys out. There were others in the band who really got pissed and told others to leave because they weren't prepared. This matters even more when band members have wives and/or kids. You think anyone wants to take time away from their family to watch some wanker screw off for a couple of hours? No way! We all wanted to get something done so we could go back home to our families...ready for the next gig.

    I mean, if you are going to write originals and play them out live, it's time to start acting professional about it. Come to think of it, the time to start acting professional is the first time you decide to do this for a living, even part time. If you are going to ask someone to pay you to play music, whether you play covers or originals, you damn well better be professional about it.

    I play in a part time band now with a guitar player who everyone around here calls the "Music Nazi". Super talented, super organized and very professional. He's the one calling the shots, not me. We only practice as a group 3 hours a week, and because of our professionalism, we learn about 5 or 6 new songs every week (we must know over 200 songs as a group now). And it is fun as hell. I love going to band rehearsal. It's a blast, we all have fun, joke around and play our asses off. Though we are having fun (because we enjoy playing music), we accomplish a lot. Why? Simply because we are organized and prepared. We're professional about it.

    That doesn't mean we don't enjoy it, and no one has a problem with his demands either. Anyone who is professional about it shouldn't have a problem with it. [By professional, I mean the manner in which a musician conducts him/her self, not necessarily having to make one's sole living from it].

    But when you are in a situation where you are going nowhere and accomplishing nothing, then someone has to step up and say what needs to be said.

    Just because someone takes charge, doesn't mean it has to be in an insulting or mean spirited way. And most wouldn't take it that way...and didn't.

    It's been my experience that most good bands are not run as a democracy. Yeah, they are usually open to good suggestions and criticisms, but usually one or two in the band run things.

    Democratic bands tend to go like, "Um, dude...what do you want to play? Um, like I don't know, what do you want to play?" then the jam starts...then it stops. Then again, "What do you want to play? Got any ideas? Nope, me neither." And so on, every practice, week in, week out.

    Some one HAS to get a band like that going in the right direction. That, to me, is a GOOD thing.
  12. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    Hey, just so you know...none of guys in my old band ever had a hard time with me. We all got along great. I just wouldn't put up with guys not doing what it took to get things done. Funny thing happened to the band once I became a hard ass about it. Everyone bought into it and loved it.

    Before long, everyone was getting on each other's case about not taking notes, or not being ready. They even called me on it a few times, so it wasn't all me being the hard ass all the time (even thought I was the one who started it)!!!

    It got to a point where we were kind of joking around with it...like it was the band's inside joke. We even cracked jokes onstage...like when a song got majorly screwed up live, one of us would tell the crowd, "Sorry about that, Keith forgot his notebook again!" and we'd all have a laugh about it...even Keith!

    It turned out to be good fun...and VERY good for the band.
  13. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    At the very beginning, I called a meeting and yes, I laid down the law. I told them exactly how it had to be if they wanted me to stay in the band. It was there call too. If they didn't want to agree to my terms they didn't have to, and that was fine with me. They'd just have to find a new bass player.

    But they agreed to try it my way. I never did just stand up and shout "Practice is over, go home!" It would just get to a point where it was obvious that nothing was getting done and we'd all come to the logical conclusion that practice was over for that night. The person responsible for practice getting cancelled felt pretty sheepish about it too. I didn't have to chew him out (well, I did at first, but not after the band got used to the new "regime"). :D

    At first, usually I was the one who mentioned it before anyone else. Mostly because I hate wasting valuable time. Secondly, I knew it was in the best interest of the band.

    And yes, if you have slackers you have to be tough with them, either until they stop slacking off or quit...or get fired. Someone has to do it. If you don't do it, who will? Will a slacker voluntarily stop being a slacker? I doubt it.

    Any musician worth anything really wouldn't have a problem with that. Slackers, for obvious reasons would though, wouldn't they?
  14. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Rule 1. NO NOODLING!
  15. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    Well, I would have put that at maybe number 5...and 7...and 9...and...
  16. spc


    Apr 10, 2004
    South of Boston
    You sir, are truly The Man. No joke dude, you are awesome.
  17. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    Yyyyeah - I understand what you're saying. I can't argue with you.

  18. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    Whoa - That's pretty cool of you to take so much time addressing my concerns and all.

    Now with that complete of an explantion, it all doesn't sound that unreasonable to me anymore.

    I want you to understand that the only thing that bummed me out was what appeared to be some sort of system of punishment-by-humiliation or something. I was thinking like "well why doesn't he just make'em sit in the corner with a dunce cap on; yeah that'll whip'em into shape!" The great majority of the things in the post sounds like a great way to go for pros - especially putting bread on the table with an all-original band; that's got to be a tough!

    And about 'democratic bands': Dude - I've been like a preacher about that for years! I mean the lamest 'can't get anywhere' bands I've ever known have been ones that'll SAY in conversation "we don't believe in having a band leader. We're a democracy". (What's even a dearer subject to me has to do with my country, the USA, starting out as a 'constitutional republic with democratically elected representatives', to somehow being redefined as 'a democracy'.)

    The little band I'm with should have more discipline for sure. We only know about 50 covers, it took us over a year in the basement to get to that, our vocal harmonies should definately be worked on (I can't seem to get the guys to do vocal-only work - like sit down with just an acoustic guitar for referance, and slowly 'get the grind' on each note of a harmony-part, working up to full speed with each harmony locked-on). ...and we still sometimea screw up a song pretty bad!

    Thanks for all time and heart you put into this conversation, Sundogue. I appreciate it, and this whole thing here is potentially valuable to many who may read it.

  19. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    That's cool Joe P. I can see where my first couple of posts came on a little strong.

    I like the part about the dunce cap in the corner. :D I only wish I had thought of that a decade ago!

    Seriously though, I find that most young bands suffer from a lack of discipline, as individual musicians, as well as the entire group. By young I mean either a new band or inexperienced members.

    When you think about it, we all got into playing music because it's fun. Add to that the idea that rock'n'roll was/is so anti-establishment and what you get is some musicians or bands that think it's supposed to be ALL fun and no work, no scheduling, no discipline and no responsibility (either to each other or the public that pays to see them).

    This, of course leads to no direction. The bands that have no direction end up being nothing more than a jam band, a "boys night out" kind of thing. No band with that attitude will ever make it anywhere.

    By "Making it" I mean everything from getting out of the basement and playing in public before a paying crowd all the way to the "Big time" and everything in between. We all can't be in a band that makes millions of dollars cranking out hit records year after year. But that's not what music is all about.

    There are different levels of success to be sure, but every successful band (be it the band with the No.1 hit single touring around the world, or the part time band that plays out once a month but gets steady bookings and is popular locally) have a few things in common...

    First and foremost is respect. They respect themselves as individual musicians that truly care about their craft. They respect other band members and realize they have lives outside the band too.

    Secondly, they have discipline and dedication. As individual musicians they work hard at learning their instrument and learning new material. They work hard and put in the required woodshedding to hone their skills on their instrument and bust their chops learning new music to help the band as a whole grow.

    Thirdly, they have a sense of responsibility to others, be it the band members or the public they play for. Band members do not necessarily have to be best friends, but they should have a healthy sense of responsibility towards each other. Learning your own part on your own time to be prepared for band rehearsals goes a long way towards showing respect for the other band members. Not knowing your part and showing up for rehearsal unprepared is saying to the others, "Screw you, I've got more important things to do than play music with you guys." A responsible musician is always prepared and that tells the other band members, "Don't worry, I've got it covered. I know my part down cold and I won't waste your time and I know you won't waste mine." That leads to progress.

    Lastly, and equally important is commitment. Regardless of what the band is all about and where the group is headed, all members sign up equal to the task at hand. If you make a commitment to other musicians that you'll hone your skills on your instrument, learn your parts, help out with whatever needs doing to make the band achieve it's goals, then the band (and you) will reap the benefits of that commitment, regardless of the talent level.

    Talent plays a big part in it. So does experience. But any band that has all of the members on the same page with regards to respect, discipline, dedication, responsibility and commitment, there is no telling how far you can go.

    A band is only as strong as it's weakest member in any of those areas. If anyone isn't cutting it with those things, someone has to speak up. Otherwise everyone loses.