The Ethics of Live Music

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by stagebanter, Jul 8, 2013.

  1. stagebanter


    May 12, 2012
    Hello everyone,

    Working on a "case study" of bands like Phish and the Grateful Dead has got me thinking about the ethics of being in a band. What are some ethical or moral issues that you might run into while playing out? A lot of well-known ones revolve around promoter scams, etc. - what ethical advice would you give to an aspiring young professional in the performance side of the music world?
  2. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    Ethics? Everything gets simpler if one just remembers "the golden rule". Two versions ... the positive "do to others only that which you want them to do to you" ... and the negative (but similar) version "don't do to someone else what you would not wish done to you".

    Whether dealing with bandmates, venue owners/reps, recording studios, sound engineers or whomever, these simple rules will keep you on the right side of almost any ethical question.
  3. Marial

    Marial weapons-grade plum

    Apr 8, 2011
    1. Don't be a dick
    2. Be on time
    3. Stick to your allotted set time if you're an opening band
    4. Don't be a dick
  4. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    Don't do private performances to celebrate the birthdays of murderous dictators.
  5. bobbybass85

    bobbybass85 Supporting Member

    Dec 19, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    5. Stick around and support the other bands if you are an opening act.

    I realize this may not be possible all the time, but a lot can be gained from supporting the other bands.
  6. Work with a written contract (and make sure the contract covers everything).
  7. Haha! I see what you did there!
  8. ShoeManiac

    ShoeManiac Supporting Member

    Jan 19, 2006
    New Jersey
    So that 420 gig wasn't quite what you were expecting, huh?
  9. SoLongJake

    SoLongJake Supporting Member

    Jul 1, 2007
    Des Moines, Iowa
    I've heard gigs at the white house were lucrative? :ninja:
  10. stagebanter


    May 12, 2012
    Darn, looks like I'm going to have to return that check from Dr. Robotnik.
  11. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2008
    What's your thesis?
  12. nojj

    nojj Guest

    May 20, 2013
    Wait.................... there's ethics in the music biz?:meh:
  13. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2008
    Here's a story for you.

    Had a band awhile back that was doing some decent stuff, playing good paying gigs, making some decent recordings, etc... We had one member (our guitarist) (let's call him XXXX) handle the group's money for paying a studio engineer we were doing work with. We got our recordings from the guy so the rest of the band figured everything was straight.

    Maybe three or four months after we got those recordings done I get a Facebook message from the engineer demanding he be paid the remaining $200 that we owed him. I knew nothing about it and told him to talk to XXXX. He said he had been and that XXXX repeatedly promised payment but would never come through, and the straw that broke the camel's back was when XXXX simply stopped responding to the engineer's texts and messages.

    Well I talked to the rest of the members and explained the situation, so we all decided to get together for a band lunch and invite XXXX out to it and then confront him there. When we talked to him about the money situation he instantly got defensive, saying he had no clue what we were talking about, and even brought out his phone to show he hadn't received any texts from the engineer. Little did he know the engineer sent me some iPhone snapshots of texts he had from our guitarist that dated no more than two weeks prior to the that band meet (as well as several others that dated back from the time when we were doing work with the engineer.

    Of course, texts aren't too incriminating as evidence, so when our guitarist said he had already sent the money via PayPal (or some similar service) we asked to see the receipt from the transaction. Long story short, we never saw the receipt, but XXXX did fork over the money to the engineer. This wasn't the first time our guitarist had been sketchy with money. Another time he had neglected to play another bass player $300-odd dollars for a cover gig they did, and when the bassist came to collect he said he had already spent the money. Another time (way in the past) I had a trio gig with him for a fraternity's pregame. He said we would get paid $300 for 3 hours worth of work when he first booked the gig two weeks in advance. Three days before the gig he called me and said the pay got lowered to $200, and then the day before the gig he said they could no longer pay us at all, so I quit the band right then and there.

    From that point on I was in charge of handling all money the band made. We just couldn't trust the guy to act ethically with those sorts of things. Personally, I was of the mind that we needed to can the guy, but the rest of the band said that we couldn't realistically get rid of him just then because of a huge number of gigs we had coming up. We eventually did get rid of him, though.
  14. ffutterman

    ffutterman Talentless Bass Enthusiast

    May 7, 2010
    Don't know if you're familiar with the series "BlankOnBlank" but this Dave Brubeck video seemed relevant:

    That's some heavy stuff to deal with right there.
  15. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    A band I used to be in once got paid with a check at the end of the weekend. They made it out to the lead singer, and he was supposed to cash it and distribute the cash at the next practice.

    In the meantime, Friend Of The Court had the police looking for him because he doesn't believe in paying child support for the eight children he has.


    To avoid going to jail for non-payment of child support, he had to use the check from the gig to pay of some of his huge debt.

    Last I knew, he still owed the guitar player money.......
  16. Gaolee

    Gaolee Official leathers tester and crash dummy

    The ethics of my music career involve keeping my day job. That means I can actually pay my bills. My son is trying to make a go of it as a musician, and I hope he's successful, but he's going to have to deal with the snake pit instead of laughing at it like I do.
  17. Ronbassman


    Jun 1, 2011
    If you're using someone else's gear, DO NOT touch his settings;
    Only drink one or two beers before you start playing. After that, drink all the beers you want.
  18. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    Not advice, but an ethical question for the young musician to think about:

    Do you owe any responsibility to the music profession, or is it every man for himself?
  19. 48thStreetCustom


    Nov 30, 2005
    Watch out for other band members trying to cheat you out of money
  20. The money thing will get you. If possible get the most affluent member of the band to handle money. He's less likely to find himself in compromising situations. If possible get everyone paid individually as an independent contractor, which in realistic terms means get paid in cash.

    If you wind up taking the checks and disbursing the money, keep track of how much you pay everyone and the total amount of money you get from each venue. At a certain point any given venue will have to file a 1099 on you and so they will write you into their taxes. You need to know that and declare your tax liability correctly. It may mean reporting the other guys with 1099s. But do it, I have a friend who really got hosed by this, like 5 years after the band had broken up the IRS asked him about all of these checks this particular venue they had played at a lot had written to him. He had no proof that he had paid the other guys, and they weren't about to step forward and be honest - and pay their back taxes and penalties for not filing - so he got the shaft, big time. They've been garnishing his wages for years now. Fortunately he's just about out of the hole.

    To be completely ethical, you should pay taxes on everything you earn. If you're like most you won't owe any income tax per se, that will be eaten up by expenses, but you still get nailed for some FICA, aka "self-employment" tax.