Giving Band Members a Chance

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by PauFerro, May 27, 2019.

  1. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    Often we see threads about band members that aren't working out. I've noticed in band situations, and my professional work, there are many leaders who go straight to firing. Sometimes the deficiencies in band members are raised by other band members who tell the BL if the BL doesn't do anything about the problem, THEY will quit (that happened to me a couple times). Sometimes the band mate does something that is a direct affront on the BL, but is not known to the band members. The reasons for having to encourage band members to change their behavior can come from various sources.

    Regardless of the source of the discontent with a band member, I was really moved by a statement that I modified a bit to read like this:

    "Leadership is the process of turning vision into sustained reality through the wise use of power".

    That last part really stuck with me. So, when people aren't working out, I believe in having a discussion about what is going well, and what needs to change, as well as the possible outcomes of not changing. I think it's a wise use of power to give band members a chance to change. Counsel, and if necessary, warn before you terminate...

    In some cases, people get offended and decide "I don't see the need to change, I don't want to change, so fooey on this band/position". I've had a couple of people quit that way (mostly in my professional work, not in my band work). They decide it's just too much effort to meet requirements, and decide to leave on their own. I've seen a few posts here as well about band members who have been given "the talk" and then come to Talk Bass asking for advice in deciding if they should quit the situation or not, and some decide to leave.

    In that case, I feel that it was their choice to leave, and that I used what power I have in the situation as BL or manager/leader wisely.

    Other times, they straighten up for a while, and then go back to the way they were. It's as if they think "OK, I'll do this for a while and then when I'm back into a steady state with the band, I'll just go back to my old ways again".

    Others just never take the opportunity to straighten up, and after another conversation, get let go, sometimes against their druthers.

    What is your experience? Do most band members step up to the place when you explain the areas in which they need improvement, and outcomes of changing, or not changing? Or have you found most are stubborn in their ways and refuse to change, inviting a firming? Do you think it's better to go straight to offboarding members who simply aren't performing well, and who have been asked to change, but with no consequences outlined if they don't change?

    I had this conversation with a highly successful senior manager last weekend and we were debating the merits of different approaches. Thoughts welcome.

    [Note: I currently don't have an issue with any band members in any of my groups that bear on this situation. It was philosophy from my convo with the senior manager that prompted this thread. Further, I know there are times when going straight to firing is appropriate -- in extreme situations where the person is so out of line, it's not appropriate for them to stay in the band. Those aren't the situations to which I'm referring].
    Last edited: May 27, 2019
  2. Droopy_TX


    Jul 17, 2016
    I think that proper communication is key, and necessary. However, if, when counseled, the response is, "That's the way I am. Take it or leave it.", I give them the benefit of the doubt, and leave it.
    jamro217 and DJ Bebop like this.
  3. I think the "reward" has a bearing on how much someone is willing to change and for how long.

    A professional band that gets good bookings has a lot more leverage to effect change than your run of the mill bar band.
    40Hz, jamro217, DJ Bebop and 3 others like this.
  4. LBS-bass

    LBS-bass Guest

    Nov 22, 2017
    In my experience, it's important to have these discussions but it usually doesn't result in the needed changes. Going through this now with one of my band that I have pretty much decided to leave. We've been talking about making changes for over a year (mainly we need to recruit a new member), but the only one of us who has made effort toward making those changes was myself, and the other members didn't exactly contribute meaningfully to those efforts. So about six months ago I told them it is their turn to make the effort and, oddly enough, no one has done anything. The band is, for me, unsustainable in the current configuration so I'm pretty much done with it. Makes me sad because I like them, but nobody is happy at this point.
  5. buldog5151bass

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

    Oct 22, 2003
    Whoever the leader is has to clearly set forth the minimum expectations. It's up to each band member to meet them, whether it takes minutes or hours of preparation.

    I would rather have that than passive aggressive leadership where people don't know what they have to achieve, or whether they are meeting them.
    40Hz, jamro217 and DJ Bebop like this.
  6. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once...

    Feb 24, 2013

    if you've read 'Coaching For Improved Workgroup Performance' you'll have known that to effect a change, the person you want to change must acknowledge that their current behaviour is a problem. If you can't get there, you can't get anywhere further. Your choices are probably 1) Live with it, if the good outweighs the bad or 2) "him or me."

    I understand that the OP's background is actual working bands. In which, like Zappa's case, there are probably 'many' (if not 30) people in line for the position.

    If your project exists "for fun" or "love of the music" you have little leverage. IME - people in such situations will neither acknowledge that their behaviour is a problem, nor be incentivised to change.
  7. I've always liked that Zappa video.
    DJ Bebop likes this.
  8. Droopy_TX


    Jul 17, 2016
    This is, indeed, the "crux of the biscuit" as FZ might say. If they fail to acknowledge this, no amount of persuasion, threats, or bargaining will improve the situation.
  9. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once...

    Feb 24, 2013
    And this is the (inevitable?) problem with a 'band of equals.'
    Anyone being called out for problem behaviour can legitimately ask "Why should I change? Why don't _you_ change?"
    Which may lead to a 'band vote' which may do nothing other than show where the internal alliances lie.
    Droopy_TX, jamro217 and DJ Bebop like this.
  10. Keger Jupit

    Keger Jupit Inactive

    May 10, 2018
    The Great PNW!!
    Communication is the single most important part of any relationship, personal or professional, no doubt.

    Where that road takes all involved...can cover a ton of geography...sigh...
    jamro217 and DJ Bebop like this.
  11. I don't believe having someone "acknowledge they have a problem" is the only way someone would change their behavior.

    For example, a guitarist in your band may regularly play too loud. You've asked him repeatedly to turn down - over the course of a couple months. The situation finally comes to a head and the guitarist is presented with "Turn down or be gone!". The guitarist (being half deaf from playing too loud for years) doesn't feel he is too loud or that he has a problem but he decides to turn down because he likes the gig. Maybe he decides to turn down because he's tired of hearing you complain about his volume! Maybe he thinks you play too softly and that you're the problem but he turns down anyway. He has compromised in order to keep something he wants.

    One could argue that the change in his behavior will be temporary but that's all it is, an argument. As long as he is getting what he wants, he acts accordingly. People compromise all the time.
    jamro217 likes this.
  12. LBS-bass

    LBS-bass Guest

    Nov 22, 2017
    Interestingly enough, this band had a rehearsal today. The two members that typically bail on our scheduled rehearsal nights proceeded to bail on every rehearsal between now and our next show which is two weeks away. We need to learn a lot of new material for this show (a third set, which we said a year ago we would be working on and is yet another ball that was dropped) and we're not anywhere near ready with it. To my credit, I didn't hit the roof, but I did decide it was time to make my concerns known, so I talked with them. I didn't need to say much before others chimed in to back me up. I was as polite as I could be; I didn't want to single anyone out but I did make it very clear that we are no longer bringing our A game and that's not sustainable for me. I told them that we need to implement the changes we said we were going to implement between now and our last scheduled gig or I am out. We talked about things we can all do individually to step up our game even when we can't rehearse. Clearly, we can't rehearse as much as we'd like to, so we need to either bring it in some other way or call it a day.

    It was good, because it gave others the opportunity to express their concerns over the same things. Will it matter? Remains to be seen, but a lot of talk was directed toward solving the problem and bringing in new players to help us out, and actions were promised. I hope it happens. I really love these guys and I don't want to not be in a band with them, but it needs to be the band it can be, not the band it has degenerated into, if I'm going to be happy moving forward.
    ak56, Keyser Soze and DJ Bebop like this.
  13. Turbo Sparky

    Turbo Sparky Supporting Member

    May 14, 2018
    South Eastern U.S.
    It is often quoted/regurgitated/quoted, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink."

    My retort, "How was the horse 'led'?"
    There are very few of "us" who are "gifted" in any discipline/career etc., but depending on the situation could the low performance/difficulty been averted through a slight change in the leadership acumen/prowess?
    There are those of us whom blossom/improve with direct confrontation; you did this and it was incorrect, do it THIS way.
    Others improve/modify behavior with kernels of insight/introspection; you've done it this way, but have you tried it that way?
    Then, with my experiences, there are some who do not/will not improve/change do to several different life experiences; ODD, resentment, other scientific data regarding intelligence etc. (typically the smallest occurrence, but noteworthy.)
    Then, to complicate things, there are words spoken/affirmed by an infinite number of mothers out there; and what did YOU do?

    IMO, there are nearly 7 billion people on the planet, each with a different definition of their own universe.
    IMO, nearly each situation REQUIRES a different approach:
    Always late/intoxicated/repetetive mistakes on the same part/passage/drama central; once, MAYBE twice, "Hey dude, is everything OK? How's it hangin' etc.?
    Inconsistent mistakes/tardiness etc.; Are you good? What part are you having difficulty? Are you good? Have you tried...? Try this for next time...
    4 or more in a row of gig/rehearsal; try all of above, happens
    Unless, and there are some like this, the leader sets the expectations up-front, sets operating procedures, AND sets the example, and let's ALL parties know; no BS, here it is, ZERO exceptions etc. Then as we said back in the day, "free fire zone."
    +5 for insightful post that can transcend all life disciplines.
    Last edited: May 28, 2019
  14. I've been released from a group more than once. One time after many years of regular service without any serious negative feedback from anyone in the group or the bl.

    The worst excuse for a bl is the one who never calls you back for another gig or fires you.... without having a serious talk first and a couple chances to improve whatever he believes was causing the issue.

    People don't read minds. Musicians are creative and sometimes pretty entertaining or oddball personalities.... or misfits. We need to be told what the other member(s) feel(s) is inappropriate or appropriate behavior for that group. Often it's the other members or bl who are ... abnormal in their expectations or behavior.... or are serious when I'm not, or vice versa, or think bass shouldn't dictate tempo, or should... or that i should contribute in any way i can offer to... or should only play exactly what i'm told without further contributions.

    Whatever the situation... it needs communication followed by opportunity to learn the expected behavior and make a couple misteps along the way. It's typically worth the trouble since finding players who magically are what you want is very rare in random hiring situations.

    Im a bl, member, hired hand, session player, producer, engineer, tech, arranger, multi instrumentalist, songwriter, composer, multi genre professional, whatever is best for the group. How do I know what you want from me. And how do you know what I can offer, without communication?

    Musicians are often pretty awkward at this stuff.

    Just my personal experience and views.

    JRA, rjmsteel, Keyser Soze and 2 others like this.
  15. This Zappa video I've used many times on talk bass for this kinda stuff :)

    Will that be a window or an aisle seat, nice.
    Last edited: May 28, 2019
    PauFerro likes this.
  16. In my experience, people (especially "musicians") are creatures of habit who act how they do until forced into a decision such as "shape up or ship out". Many will weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the situation and seem to toe the line for a while until they either feel like they've done enough or until the pressure subsides. Then it's back to the old routine. Human nature? Voodoo? Who knows? Aggravation? Definitely. I'm all for being nice and giving second chances, but when things escalate to the point of undermining band morale, the person(s) have to go.
  17. AlexBassMP


    Feb 5, 2014
    IMO there's no "one size fits all" solution for dealing with band members issues..

    For me, being a weekend warrior , playing with my buddies must be a pleasure, not a struggle... We try to manage the band as professionally as we can (day jobs, schedules, family and so on..) and there's some level of pressure in order to sound tight and well..

    Our drummer is a very good guy..but sometimes he forget parts or change fills because he doesn't practice the songs.. In the last rehearsal he stopped playing just right before a guitar solo. He doesn't play the fill the same way it's recorded in the album.We asked him to play it like it is (it's not difficult) but he change it from rehearsal to rehearsal and sometimes he improvises it on the spot, and he makes lots of mistakes.

    He is in the band for two years now, and I think that this is enough time to learn and play the songs as they must be played.

    As a human being and friend I can't complain about him.. but as a drummer.. If I was the BL he won't be on my "drummers to call" list...or after a time, I'd have a talk with him if he doesn't play as I ask him to play...
    mrcbass likes this.
  18. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris Frat-Pack Sympathizer

    I think a lot of the "off with his head" mentality of many TB posts has more to do with keyboard warrioring than it does bandleading.

    (This comment not directed at anyone in this thread)
    JRA likes this.
  19. In my experience most band leaders don’t have the necessary experience, education, training, or leadership to effectively and professionally manage an ensemble. I’m not talking about logistics, or finances—I’m talking musical leadership, which includes the hiring, firing, and development of Human Resources.

    I was lucky. I learned in a well managed school and university band environment, where good leadership and development were modeled on a daily basis. After that, I played in well managed, professional outfits, like theme parks, cruise ships, and reading big bands. I know what good leadership looks like; and I know what it doesn’t.

    Your average bar band will never benefit from that kind of direction. The closest I’ve seen, are the professional corporate/wedding bands that are shopped out of entertainment agencies. In that scenario, effective leadership is a requirement.

    Bar band leaders seem to get appointed based on capital investment, role in the band, or by default or apathy.

    TLDR: Most Bar band leaders aren’t equipped to effectively foster the talent and dedication of their members.
  20. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    May 24, 2006
    ^Bingo! There’s a lot of truth in the above.

    Back when I was doing coaching and advisement for small business startups that issue would come up regularly. I’d hear business owners often say something along the lines of “I give this business 110% and I expect the same from all my employees.” At which point I’d gently suggest that was not only an unrealistic expectation but an erroneous assumption as well.

    It’s erroneous because theres no such thing as “giving 110%.” Your “best” is what you’re capable of giving at a certain point in time. And that’s 100%. And it fluctuates.

    Some days your 100% is way up in the stratosphere. Other days, and in other situations, it’s hovering down around shoulder level. Because an individual’s “best” isn’t a fixed thing. Everybody has off days. So plan for that when you’re planning a business endeavor. Don’t assume the cavalry is always going to be just over the hill, ready show up right when you need them every single time. You can only do as much as you can.

    Then there’s the question of commitment. Expecting everyone to have the same level of commitment as an owner or major stakeholder is unrealistic - because the incentives and the rewards aren't the same for someone when all they’re going to be getting is the same weekly paycheck.

    If the business succeeds, the way it usually goes is Mr. and Ms business owner move into a bigger house and join a country club. Meanwhile the worker bees (maybe) see a small raise or a purely token bonus from time to time.

    And don’t kid yourself they won’t notice the discrepancy. That first day Mr. Owner drove that shiny new BMW or Porsche he bought for himself to work - they noticed. Kinda hard to not notice considering how it was parked in a reserved space with his name on it. The space that happens to be right by the front door.

    So ok, there’s two basic ways to address such reward discrepancies:

    Most obvious, but probably not the best way, is to offer performance incentives. Build more than your quota? Bonus. Bring in a new client? Reward. Solve a serious problem that results in major cost savings to the company? You get 10% of the amount it saved the company in the first year.

    Problem with that is it quickly turns into a quid pro quo arrangement if you’re not careful. And you soon start seeing an: “I’ll do that when they pay me.” mentality develop. (Sound familiar? ;)) Because you put a price tag on taking personal responsibility for something.

    A better way is arranging things so that the employees or team members can take ownership of what they’re doing. And the only way can work is if they are allowed genuine involvement in the decision making process and an equitable share in the rewards for success. When everyone feels they’re in the same boat, and responsible for keeping it afloat, they’ll soon do everything they can to get everyone on their team up to speed, as well as identify and get rid of any deadwood. (Sound anything like a traditional old school fixed membership band?)

    But while one approach to dealing with an individual’s level commitment and an organization’s approach to reward sharing may work better in the long run, it doesn’t change the fact that both do work.

    Either way it’s done, the takeaway is that there needs to be rewards for performance if you expect people in the organization (or band) to grow.
    Last edited: May 28, 2019