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Dissenting opinions in a democracy

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Bob Clayton, Dec 5, 2017.

  1. Bob Clayton

    Bob Clayton My P doesn’t have flats or tort Staff Member Supporting Member

    Aug 14, 2001
    Philly Suburbs
    First off, I know some bands will only do things if everyone is on board. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about bands where majority rules. Sometimes it gets a little more complicated than just choosing songs to play. When money is involved, how do you typically handle the dissenters? For things like promo materials, video recording, etc. If one or two people don't want to do it for whatever reason, do you still make them foot their share of the bill? Doesn't that create bad blood?
    Pbassmanca likes this.
  2. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    There's bad blood if they don't pay their share and the others have to, as well. Goes both ways. Even with a stronger BL in charge, making people spend money they don't agree to is a risky notion. You really have to work at building consensus and probably being patient about spending anything until you get it.
    mrcbass, Stumbo, blue4 and 9 others like this.
  3. Bob Clayton

    Bob Clayton My P doesn’t have flats or tort Staff Member Supporting Member

    Aug 14, 2001
    Philly Suburbs
    Yeah I’m not sure which is a trickier for a BL to navigate ...

    Making people pay that don’t want to
    Allowing people to not pay which makes the cost for the rest of the band higher
    blue4 and hrodbert696 like this.
  4. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    Tough one. And I don't think it's a one size fits all kind of issue. I can share one (2 actually) of my experiences though, that worked...

    I play in a Zep tribute. 2 money issues came up that I wasn't on board with, but everyone else was. First was they rented a rehearsal space in Manhattan. They also lived in Manhattan, used the studio for storage, and used it outside of our rehearsal time. Though I could have shared the same privileges, I didn't want to (the commute for me was an hour, and I didn't want to keep my stuff there). I wouldn't split the studio rental with them. We compromised. I paid IIRC $10 any time we rehearsed. Somewhere along the line that went down to nothing - don't remember the details behind that, but I think the second thing I'm about to mention had something to do with it.

    We needed a demo and kicked in about $150 each. 2 of them decided they wanted to make our demo a full blown CD, with pix, mastering, packaging, the whole deal. I couldn't have been less on board with that idea and just flat out said I'm not contributing. Several discussions and a few compromises later, democracy was thrown out the window, the tribute became BL's band, and to be honest - all has flowed incredibly well since. We used to bang heads a lot and now it's smooth sailing. I have little to no say in any band decisions, they have a very capable sub for me, I play when I can, he plays when I can't, and we're all friends.

    After writing this I'm thinking that maybe there is a solution. Compromise. Find out what works and what doesn't for each other, be honest about your ideas AND feelings, and sort stuff out. If they can't afford to contribute or really feel strongly maybe you can let it slide, but the trade-off is that they only get a percentage of money at gigs, or something along those lines. Still tricky stuff as I know that doesn't usually go over too well :). Bottom line - talk. If yas really want to make it work, you can, if you're all really on the same team. If not, then maybe you might want to start re-thinking the lineup sooner, as opposed to later.
    dbsfgyd1, swooch, DrayMiles and 9 others like this.
  5. buldog5151bass

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

    Oct 22, 2003
    BEFORE the individual issue comes up, come to a consensus on how to resolve disputes, such as "majority rules on how to handle money issues under $500".
    pcake, Pbassmanca, Mastermold and 2 others like this.
  6. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    Kudos to @Joe Nerve . The part in bold was my answer. Democracy only works when you have strong elements in all aspects of the functions of a band, or when certain players acknowledge their weaknesses and turn leadership on those issues over to the people who know.

    And that rarely happens in bands still working toward fully professional management.

    I did the democracy model for years and it led to nothing but weak gig schedules and abuse of my commitment. I got on the model where I booked the gigs, told everyone what they would earn, and then pocketed extra to cover expenses. When equipment was needed, I bought it -- no sharing the cost, and thus, creating messy exits. Eventually, when they refused gigs for the rates of pay I could offer, I hired other musicians willing to go out for less.

    As the band became more fluid, I became the de facto leader, and decided on repertoire, names, and have 20 musicians to choose from if I want, for different situations.

    Now, with that power comes a lot of responsibility to be kind, fair, firm, and friendly with people. One thing that ticks me off is when leaders abuse power.
    Ekulati and Oddly like this.
  7. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    Thanks..... but hold on there :)!!!!

    Leadership from that guy cost him about $4000 (for the CD), and the band -after 15 years (I've only been a part of it for around 5)- is still only playing about 6-8 gigs a year. And not making a whole lot of money on those gigs, either.

    I don't think it has anything to do with people knowing more than the others. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. It's more about letting go of control, or taking complete control.

    The Zep situation worked out for me because I always play with a bunch of different bands. My current main band is making more in a single weekend than I've made some of the years I've played in the Zep band. I'm making more in a month now than I made my entire 5 years with the Zep band. I think the Zep band would be a lot further along if I were steering that ship, but it wasn't worth the arguments and resentment. I'm absolutely certain I would have invested that $4000 a lot more wisely than in a CD.
    Bunk McNulty likes this.
  8. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    Read what I said carefully -- I meant that in a democracy, you have to leave it to the people have the knowledge when you don't. If that democracy is going to produce good work. You said it's not a democracy in this band now, so my comment doesn't apply. If you're going to be a benevolent leader, and make unilateral decisions, you darn well better seek outside advice, do research, or figure out how to close the gaps in your knowledge -- or you get results like this guy did -- a $4000 CD with no return on the investment.
    Joe Nerve likes this.
  9. Not sure why you are saying you aren't talking about bands that only do things if everyone is on board. You're asking for what to do when everyone isn't on board, aren't you? If this was really a "democracy", there wouldn't be a question. Majority rules and everyone accepts that.

    Of course in real life that doesn't happen. People dig their heels in over all sorts of things and pretty much never bend to the will of the majority just because that's what the other people want.

    Yes, attempting to force them to do something against their will is going to not only create bad blood, but probably result in membership changes if you force the issue enough. 90% of the time the majority is going to cave to the dissenter in the interest of trying to "keep the peace".

    So like any negotiation, you are going to have to find something that member wants and it not currently getting. Maybe it's adding some song they've been pushing for, maybe it's playing a particular venue that the rest of you aren't crazy about. Maybe, there isn't anything at all and there no chance of them coming around (if they've already done the blow a bunch of money on promo materials that aren't needed yet).

    Figure out if there is any tradeoff the dissenter(s) are interested in and go from there.

    And stop trying to make the democratic model work, you're better off recognizing that when push comes to shove people are going to have their limits no matter what they may have said months or years previously. You can still have equal representation with veto power. It's also a flawed model, but better.....
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2017
    Nev375 and DirtDog like this.
  10. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    As a sub I make it clear from the get go, "I'm not interested in joining your band". As a band member I make it clear I'm not about to finance your pipe dream of fame and fortune. And if told "we need to spend money to make money" it's clear I joined the wrong band.
    smogg and crucislancer like this.
  11. Re-posted for emphasis.

    A four- or five-person "democracy" isn't really a democracy at all when it's an even split and cliques of influence start to form. It's interesting how often no one wants to follow another, and important things simply don't get done as a result.

    IME, sooner or later a leader of sorts, someone who can break ties, filter ideas, and ensure the "best" ideas apply to the project has to rise to the surface. It is exceedingly rare that four or five people just naturally come together and automatically see eye-to-eye on all matters, and all the important details of running a band get tended to. Even bands like The Beatles and Queen had to defer to a manager or producer on many matters in order to keep the peace and stick to a game plan.

    As the designated BL in my band, I try to delegate and everyone seems very happy to defer to my judgment. But I do end up with more administrative work and more of an investment than the others. It is very smooth sailing though. Band dynamics are a tricky social construct, and there is always a trade off somewhere.
    Bunk McNulty and pwhalen like this.
  12. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    I'd like to re-post, for emphasis :):

    Sooner or later the person with either the most dominant personality, strongest drive, or biggest ego will rise to the surface. That doesn't necessarily mean it's the person with the best ideas (or who knows what's best) for the band. It just means it's the person who believes most that they know what's best for the band. Sometimes they actually do, often times they don't. The proof IMO doesn't present itself until a year or more later.
  13. Yeah, 80 words to say exactly what I implied by putting the quotation marks around the word "best." ;)

    And I fully agree with you, good BL's don't really care where the "best" idea comes from, they only care that the "best" idea gets implemented. They put themselves in a position and enjoy the consent of their band mates to apply judgment.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2017
    Joe Nerve likes this.
  14. This is all true generally speaking. But the OP was about money and what happens when the expenses need paying. Unless everyone in the band has plenty to go around, someone or some subset will end up paying more than others on stuff. If they do it voluntarily without expectations or hard feelings (e.g., just because they know the others don't have as much disposable income) that's cool but I suspect that's not the norm. Disclosure and honest communication up front about expectations is key IMO. If the band mates are friends and want to stay that way this needs to be handled well.
    Joe Nerve likes this.
  15. +1
    In my band we always talk up front about what we want to spend money on and whether everyone can kick in. A few hundred bucks here and a few hundred there adds up quick.
    pwhalen and electracoyote like this.
  16. How about this:

    For the band member who wants to walk away from every gig with a set amount of money and no investment, they get paid $xxx per gig. Forever. For the band member who wants to participate and plow some of their band income back into the band, they make XX% per gig. Fill in the blanks: the no investment guy, $100 per gig. if the band takes off and starts making real dough, the percentage members are making, say $250-$500 a gig or more, the Non-investor still takes home $100. By his/her own choice, so no complaining, no regrets.

    That will create incentive to invest, if the band does well, the non investor gets exactly what they wanted, and there's more for everyone else. And Everyone gets exactly what they bargained for.
    Oddly likes this.
  17. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I couldn't agree more.

    A few years ago I started a band as a fun project, to get together with friends once a week to play some music we didn't have an outlet for in our other bands. When one of the players was going to be out of town for a few weeks and I didn't want to cancel the gig I asked a friend to fill in with us. She got all excited after the gig and said she wanted to keep it going. It's now her band and I'm only too happy to just show up, get paid and leave the hassles of booking and promotion to her.
    Joe Nerve likes this.
  18. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    Inthink it’s important to manage expectations and have a clear shared and agreed upon understanding of what the goals and direction for the band are going to be.

    If you have two guys depending on the band for extra income, one guy that doesn’t care what the band does as long as it’s paid for by gig money, and two guys who are willing to invest seed capital towards the band’s future, you’re gonna have problems down the road.

    So first thing you need to have some consensus on is which of the three main reasons the band is being formed for. And those are:

    • steady income from regular gigging
    • mostly a night out and some fun
    • to “make it” - as in: getting signed, touring, recording, doing major album releases, etc.
    If the goals are the first two categories, you definitely want a BL to keep everything on course.

    If your goal is the third, you’re going to need to devote serious time to consensus building up front. Because the requirements to make it are going to be fluid and constantly changing. So with that you want to have a solid business plan and make sure everyone is signed onto it before you nominate your BL.

    I don’t know how a complete democracy would work in a band. The bands I’ve been in usually worked more like a republic. Everyone had a right to voice their opinion and have it respectfully heard. But once a majority group decision was made, everyone was expected to get behind the decision and do their best to make it work. And it was the BL’s responsibility to move things forward based on the majority’s decisions. Anybody unwilling to do so knew where the door was - as was any BL who thought they could completely ignore the other group members’ opinions/decisions and pursue their own agenda.

    That’s about as close to a “democracy” I’ve ever seen in any band I was ever in.
    Pet Sounds likes this.
  19. sikamikanico


    Mar 17, 2004
    I used to be the dissenter and got outvoted*. It turned out we had different ambitions/expectations. Make sure you're all on the same page, otherwise it may be an indicator of bigger problems down the road.

    *I was the "cheap" one. I was also right - we printed over a 1000 CDs, which was just about a 1000 too many. They're still in a box somewhere.
    pwhalen likes this.
  20. It's certainly an option that can be presented, though I'm skeptical it will be accepted by all parties. The problem is, it's easy to say "no complaining, no regrets". It's impossible to enforce. What will actually happen 99% of the time the no investment guy will come out ahead (since he isn't starting in a hole). Or, more likely, the other players aren't going to agree to front all the cash/take all the risk.

    I do like that it forces those who feel the expenditures are necessary to back their belief in the payoff, but since this was supposedly a "democratic" band it still is changing the rules on people midstream.

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