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I got fired

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by jondog, Sep 2, 2003.


  1. jondog

    jondog

    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area
    Warning -- venting thread

    Several months ago, a singer songwriter couldn't get his regular bassist so he hired me to write basslines and then play them on his album. The songs were horrible but the $ was pretty good and I have minimal studio experience and would like to get more so I did it. After 4 rehearsals, we recorded the rhythm tracks for the entire album (14 songs) in one marathon 15 hour session. A few days later, he mailed me a cd of the rough mix for 1/2 the tracks and asked me to come back in and fix some things. I know my parts weren't perfect, but the $ wasn't really so good any more after all the writing, rehearsals, and the long recording session (it was a lump sum, not an hourly wage). I told him I could give him 2 more hours, but then I'd have to ask him for more money. He fired me. I was a bit bummed, but basically ok w/ it, because I really didn't want to work on those crappy songs anymore.

    Anyway, last weekend he showed up at our gig and gave me a copy of the finished cd. I was surprised, but excited to hear how I sounded. When I listened, I found he had hired another player and replaced every track I did! Why do I want to listen to somebody else play these crappy songs?! The worst thing about it was that the replacement bassist played my lines, but put in notes that the songwriter had insisted I take out -- for instance, he didn't like passing tones because they "call attention to the bass." Huh? I said, "ok you're the boss," but I guess the other bassist said "shut up you don't know what you're talking about." The replacement bassist is a better player than I am, but I really don't think my tracks were all that bad. I think my tone is better, but I'm biased. The songwriter probably made the best decision for his album, but the whole deal has left me bummed out. I knew he was going to call another guy in, but I thought he'd leave at least some of my tracks. I guess I should use this experience to inspire me to work harder. Hoorah.
     
  2. jgsbass

    jgsbass

    May 28, 2003
    Floral Park, NY
    Join the club. At some point you're gonna be fired, replaced or otherwise. You would be shocked at how many musicians have had their tracks replaced and DIDN'T KNOW! It happens pretty frequently and for reasons that sometimes don't have any footing in reality. I remember one project Tthat I was involved in. I was warned by the drummer( who made the next two paid rehearsals and then split)that many people had already been in and out of this project. I made it to the first week of sessions and then I was canned. The project went on for a year with 40 or 50 other musicians, mostly rhythm section players.The album came out, died, and no one heard from this group of people again.
    The guy probably brought the CD for you to hear for his own satisfaction, not to put you down. Showing up to fix your mistakes for free is not a guarantee that you wouldn't be fired. Business is business and making records is a business with financial risks to the investor. You're just labor costs to management.
     
  3. 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
    Well, you played hard to get, and maybe you're not that hard to replace. Sometimes you have to work for free just to get a rep. If you had said, "Sure, I'll be glad to do it," you would have been on the CD (useful for audition and credits purposes) and your rep would've been, "Yeah, that guys really cool ... he had no problem coming back to do some punch-ins." Now you're not on the CD and your rep is, "Yeah I hired the guy to do the job lump sum, and he wouldn't even come in and fix his flubs."

    Besides, he hired you to do the job lump sum. Does that mean he has to settle for less than CD-quality work if you get tired of the project? This is exactly the kind of thing they're talking about when they say musicians have no business sense.
     
  4. discoboo

    discoboo

    Dec 25, 2002
    charleston, sc
    well, you got paid, got studio experience...f that guy! if the songs were so crappy, then you should be happy that your bass isn't on them. take what you learned and apply it to a situation that really matters...
     
  5. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    It depends whether the songs are worth being associated with. I've got no more time for prima donnas than the next guy, but sometimes business sense is to cut short an association that is going nowhere - sometimes it means both parties can do better than when they were dragging each other down.

    Wulf
     
  6. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    If you wanna be paid for playing you cant take that attitude can you.

    personally, i dont care if someone's songs are weak, i enjoy playing. if i can make them sound just that bit better then i've done a good job :)
     
  7. jondog

    jondog

    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area
    Yeah, I know I didn't handle this perfectly. This guy isn't well connected enough to affect my rep. I did offer to come in, but only for 2 more hours. IMO that was plenty of time to punch in -- the "flubs" were mostly things like finger noise. I really don't mind not being associated w/ these tunes, when I put the cd on my wife, who likes this genre, said "Oh, No!" and then went shopping rather than listen to it. I thought I didn't mind if songs are weak because I do like playing, but when that weakness is combined w/ "don't play any passing tones" it's gets frustrating fast. I wanted to make the songs better but was prevented. The drummer, who is very good, was told not to play the ride cymbal, *ever*. There is no ride on the whole album. Musically I guess the songs are ok but lyrically they are, um, well intentioned but very misguided. For instance, you should not sing in 1st person about how tough it is to be black if you are not black. I think he's hoping somebody else will buy the song, but . . .
     
  8. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    Surely that doesnt say much... ;) :D

    Bizarre!!! I can two potential reasons for that, either the artist in question has a very clear vision and is determined to get it 'just so'... or he's just a total prat!
     
  9. 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
    I agree that sometimes it's best to cut your losses, but the man had already been paid for the whole gig, and was willing to leave flubs on the CD unless the guy paid him more money. I consider this bad form any way you look at it.
     
  10. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    It's certainly better business manners to discuss the parameters of an agreement before you enter into it. If one party thinks "wow - $200 for a couple of hours work" and the other thinks "someone to help me get the bass tracks just right for only $200", that leaves a lot of room for future disagreements that benefit no-one.

    Even it it's not formalised into a written contract, a bit of discussion to reach a shared agreement. For example, in cases, a wise move like this is to ask how long it will take and what the plan is if it goes over time before taking the money.

    The idea of laying out the parameters before you take on a responsibility is the foundation for my earlier statement.

    If the songwriter was still willing to speak to you, I think you came off pretty lightly there, jondog!

    Wulf
     
  11. jondog

    jondog

    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area
    Again, I told him 2 hours of fixing, which in my mind was plenty of time to get rid of isolated finger noise and 1 or 2 dodgy rhythms. It's not like I'm completely incompetent and crapped over entire songs. If he wanted more than 2 hours, then, and only then, I wanted more $. I have the rough mix of my playing on the 1st 7 songs, and I can hear what I did and what it was replaced with on the final cd. IMO the tracks are identical except for tone (mine is better :) ) and a few passing tones I was told to leave out. It's probably unethical for me to post the tunes (if I knew how), but if anybody wants to come by my house I'll be happy to play the cds for you.

    I'm willing to admit I may have exhibited bad form, but I want to be clear about the circumstances.
     
  12. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    But did he agree to pay you $$$ for an hourly rate, $$$ for work up to a certain date or $$$ for helping him complete the project?

    It sounds like you understood it to be the middle one while he was thinking more in terms of the third one.

    Wulf
     
  13. Eric Moesle

    Eric Moesle Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2001
    Columbus OH
    Munji speaks the gospel truth. My opinion:

    - If you agree to do a project for a flat fee, you do it until all of your parts, error corrections and punch-ins are done, and don't ever, EVER mention further fees unless the scope of the project gets enlarged (i.e. more songs than originally discussed). If you aren't willing to do this, you should have negotiated an hourly rate from the start. Shame on you for putting conditions/limitations on correcting your parts after you had been paid. YOU may have been confident in your ability to fix the errors within two hours, but the artist may not have been so confident, and you shouldn't have put the burden of the additional fee upon him until the error corrections were already in the can.

    - You can't be a paid session player if you think the quality of the songs dictates whether you should be in the project or should finish the project. That is why you get paid, to play songs that you think suck. I'd play stuff I like all day for free, but you have to pay me to play schlock. If you want to be in this business and eat, you have to bite your lip and put your best bass efforts even on otherwise crappy tunes. I prefer jazz and rock, but I've done a few months of live bluegrass (which I HATE), but hey, it paid the bills and I was playing the instrument I love . . . and I walked away with pride in the fact that I did a hell of a job.

    - If you are getting paid by a project leader, then he calls the shots, you do as your told, and you take your money straight to the bank. Sure, he may want parts played in a certain way that you dislike, but HE is paying YOU. He is the customer, and he's 'always right'. If you can't accept this fact, then you shouldn't be doing paid session work. So what if he wants no ride cymbals, they are HIS tunes, he is the artist and can weild his brush any way he sees fit, even if most people think the picture looks like crap. Are you aware that Peter Gabriel demanded that drummer Jerry Marrotta not use ANY cymbals on his "Security" album? Take a listen. Some great tunes there, and while not everyone's cup of tea, it is loved by many fans.

    If you want to make this a business, you have to treat it just like ANY business and eat crow every once in awhile. If you can't accept that the customer is always right, you shouldn't make it a business and accept money for your playing.
     
  14. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    Hmm, I think Eric is right.

    From my very very limited experiences and those of session players I've played with. there are two kinds of session, 1) they pay you to play like you or 2) they pay you to play like they want you to.

    put the way that Eric put it - i guess you were in the wrong to ask for more cash, simply because you agreed to get the job done for the 200 bucks. also, you said he wanted you to go back and get rid of string noises and stuff - that's kinda fair enough, thinking about it!

    i still think it's odd that the guy wanted no ride on the album, in my opinon, but he is paying and obviously has a plan or a severe case of ridephobia?

    i'd heard that about that paul simon record before as well, mad.
     
  15. jondog

    jondog

    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area
    Yes, this is accurate. I was thinking I was being paid up to the rhythm tracking date. I know I'm not perfect and was willing to do some extra past that, but not another 15 hour day locked in that studio w/ him and his tunes. He didn't get all mad or anything. It was a very civil replacement procedure. I did follow his instructions, and it is a mystery to me how the replacement bassist persuaded him that bass parts are supposed have passing tones.

    Eric's description of session work is very good. Like I said earlier, I have minimal studio experience and I'll try to follow his guidelines so that I can be more professional in the future.
     
  16. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    I'm just starting out on this road myself as it happens.

    I did my 1st paid gig a few weeks back for a blues-rock band who's bassist was on holiday. I learnt 17 songs for the gig, I carried equipement and helped set-up etc and I played my best. I got paid £30, two pints and a burger!Considering I asked for nothing just to get the experience it wasnt to bad :) They were sound guys and good players (very good players!) and the gig was great fun.

    That said, the amount of work I had to put in I think I'll actually ask for more cash next time, say £50. I mean blues are mostly easy to remember cause they're all the same, but there was a lot of tracks that I needed to write down ahead of time.

    I must admit I want to do some studio work for someone - I've got a fair bit of studio experience, ranging from live recordings, to control room stuff, to playing over just a drum track in settings from amateur to serious professional studio - but i've never been paid actually for it!
     
  17. Eric Moesle

    Eric Moesle Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2001
    Columbus OH
    FWIW, how I approach sessions regarding what "I" want to do versus what "they" want me to do:

    If the artist or bandleader doesn't give me specifics right off the bat, I play how I think the part should sound, my tastes, inflections, etc. etc. I don't raise a red flag and discuss it to them if they don't say anything. If I initiate the discussion, it almost ALWAYS get's screwed around. I just keep my mouth shut and do my thing.

    If they hear something specific they want me to do or NOT do, they will tell me. It might be a small change where I can still do want I want with the rest of it - again, DON'T initiate discussion concerning OTHER parts when they address a change to only ONE part. The more it gets discussed, the more "meddling" goes on, and it quickly becomes a mess and (to me) sounds unnatural.

    Sometimes you'll get someone who will want to lay it all out for you, but in my experience its been fairly rare, and you just do what they want, make the best of it, and take the money and run.
     
  18. jgsbass

    jgsbass

    May 28, 2003
    Floral Park, NY
    If the tunes were finished for the day AND the producer/artist let you leave the session he must have listened to your tracks. If he didn't and let you go tough on him, bad habits. If he listened to the tracks AND let you go home, he was satisfied and therefore you have every right to renegotiate for more money. Offering to fix for 2 hours is quite reasonable. Anything more than that is stretching the professional ethic too far. It implies that if I change my mind, you must bcome in and fix anything I want changed. And then what if I change my mind again? Are you indebted to be a yo-yo and come back at the whim of any change? In my experience in dealing with songwriters/ free lance bass, if a project comes up a finite number of songs will be recorded. A price per song or for the whole project is discussed. If you are not a permanent member of the band, your work is done as soon as your tracks are finished. Once you leave, after the last tune has been finished( one day, one hour, one week)and the producer lets you go, you are done. Your job is to make perfect tracks. The producers job is to tell when a perfect track is done. Its his job to listen before he releases you for the day or at the end of the basic tracking session.
     
  19. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    A very good point jgsbass - he did listen to the tracks and call it a day.

    but in jondog's case here, he'd just done a 15 hour session on the tracks - there's no way any one can be objective about tracks after a 15 hour day listening to the same material.

    something all producers do is get time away from a mix or recording before they make their mind up - perhaps it would be best to say "ok, here's your bass tracks, you've got a week to listen and get me back in if you want any changes, after which i'll ask for more money" type thing?

    That way they'll get the tracks they want and you get to put a limit on how much work you'll do from the outset.
     
  20. Eric Moesle

    Eric Moesle Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2001
    Columbus OH
    . . . and that's how we learned our lesson to only do studio sessions for an hourly fee . . .