Venting time - band cancels gig a week before showdate

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Dgl44, Jul 29, 2018.

  1. Dgl44


    Oct 30, 2014
    Hey TB, more of a reader than a poster here, but I really need to vent this out.

    Whoever doesn't feel like reading the backstory can skip to the asterisk a bit lower.

    As of lately I have decided to try and dip my toes in the pro world. At least to the level of my day job paying my rent (which it barely does) and the music paying for the food, gas, etc. etc. Then this * happens.

    I've had my fair share of hiccups in the past 4 years of very active gigging on bass, stupidly setting fire to some opportunities and coming off as unreliable. But never never never have I ever ever cancelled a gig. I always got a sub up to speed in time if suspected a possibility that I couldn't make the gig, and payed them from my pocket even when they weren't needed. I never got any money from that band, it was an originals band that utilised a band-pot system.

    Recently I quit that band since I started to see it as a burden to my career growth. Declining quality of songs and shows, no motivation left from anybody and things just started to get personal real bad about stuff that things shouldn't get personal. We were still rehearsing twice a week for 3-4 hours, and it started to seem like precious time wasted.
    The talks about me leaving the band came out pretty funny/weird/grotesque as we ended up in a big "it's not you it's me" argument, with everyone convinced that the others should move on without them. Except the girl drummer was quiet and crying the whole time. Poor thing, she was so attached to that band and certain we were "gonna go big", can't blame her for not being able to see everything that's been bad and going worse with the band for a year now.

    Anyways I then input all of my energy into the other band, which I was steadily building up as a cockatil-hour / function band of a very specific breed. No vocals, rather a girl on tenor saxophone playing the melodies to pop songs and lotsa solos and tasty derails of songs. Kinda smooth jazz but not really.
    That thing took off like a Saturn V rocket I tell ya! It's been a bit more than a year since we started playing.
    Our first gigs being in the only bar in a village with almost no public transport connections, no drinkable tap water (that's really uncommon in Slovenia) and probably not even on the map. :roflmao: We started as a minimum input maximum output type of band. All of us being sufficiently proficient musicians we'd have one or two rehearsals in the week before a gig and although always playing on the edge of our comfort we had the crowd every. single. time.

    Fast forward to the beginning of this year.
    All of a sudden the word got out. We didn't even have a facebook page at this point, none of us really has a name on the scene yet, nothing really. Almost out of nowhere we started getting corporate gigs for very ok money. I'm talking a minimum monthly pay amount for 4 songs + an hour of background music or less.

    * In may we got booked at a high profile bar in the town centre. The type of place that doesn't pay a lot, but pays above average for a rather short bar gig 1.5 - 2 hrs. They have an outside terrace in one of the town squares and there is always quite a few people that show up no matter the event type. After me and the sax girl had a spontaneous jam with a brilliant Indonesian musician (one man band type of guy) in that very bar, the talks started around town of our upcoming gig a few weeks later. The date was set for the 2. of August.
    Three days ago, on the day that the facebook event was created and after the promotion for next month's events at the place has been going on for a couple of weeks via fliers and posters across town, the band failed on me. A first for me in the four years of active gigging. The other two musicians (particularly the drummer, though we had the same story with the keys guy a few months ago but after beeing replaced with a brilliant guitarist for a few high-paying gigs he got his **** together so as not to be a drag but kept a low effort attitude nonetheless) requested that I cancel the gig as we were too unprepared and they (he) don't want to make fun of themselves on stage. A week before the gig. One week. After we've known the gig was coming for 72 days. 72 days.

    We only had one rehearsal in that time, no matter my constant efforts to get people together, to pick which songs we're gonna play, I tried scheduling rehearsals for a month in advance so that we could all take the time to make it to at least few of them, I made google sheets documents for ease of choosing songs and rehearsal dates, everything I could possibly think of. Guess what? Not even one song got proposed or confirmed and the dates we chose for rehearsals suddenly didn't work when they came up.

    I thought that they were so confident that "we got this" that they would be satisfied with one quality rehearsal in the week before the gig. After all, we've done longer gigs with less rehearsal time that went throught just fine. But not this. You don't simply cancel a gig a week prior when you knew it was coming up for 72 freaking days. Or is my mindset completely upside down?! :banghead:

    As musicians both are brilliant, as people and friends also, they've helped me through some really really tough times without a second thought, and I made sure to repay them through and through. But they just don't seem to get some basic commitment to gigs.
    Lately I've noticed that the drummer has developed a bit of a problem with smoking herbs, and the keys guy is a musical genius who will lose interest if the project doesn't get to Wembley Stadium within weeks (overexaggerating ofcourse, but he used to be seriously flaky).
    Both of them almost completely lost my trust in the sense of musical cooperation, since I now had to confront the owner of that bar and cancel the gig, there was no way around it. No time for subs this time, the music we were doing was too organic, not the type where you tell someone exactly what to play just to get the gig through, because you'd loose the magic. It was extremely hard for me to tell the owner what really happened, but I'm not the type of person that would make up a story of how someone is really sick just to save their asses, when they did exactly nothing to save mine when this gig would have provided me with two weeks worth of food money. None of them rely on music for income so there's that, they can't quite understand and I know that so I didn't give them a hard time about it, I just told them what was to be told about their attitude towards commitments. I'll also probably think twice if I want them (especially the drummer) on my gig.

    I could go on with this rant for pages, but I think I've explained the story in the rough.
    Thanks for taking the time to read this through whoever made it this far. :thumbsup:

    Rant over. :laugh:
    LYNCHMAN and Jimmy4string like this.
  2. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    You can't put up with this. Assuming you did it right in coordinating schedules (I believe you did), there is no excuse for this.

    I personally would try to find musicians to replace them for the short gig. You'll have to manage the client, unfortunately, but that would be my primary goal. A gig with money on the table is the impetus for finding new musicians. I know these people seem kind of hard to replace given the one man band talent of one person, but it's a an opportunity to retool with new musicians. I have done this before -- pick EASY songs that will get you through the gig while meeting expectations. Use the time availalble.

    Another alternative is to stick it hard back at these uncommitted musicians. Have you explained the posters, the flyers, the promotion, your tireless efforts to get them together, and and how this truly sucks to do this to other musicians and a client when the gig was booked so far in advance? Have you mentioned the impact this has on reputation and future willingness of other musicians, and clients if they hear about it, to book these musicians in the future?

    I would be bearing down with moral suasion at this point to get them to do it and make whatever sacrifices in their schedules they need to make for this project to meet client expectations.
    Dgl44 likes this.
  3. Dgl44


    Oct 30, 2014
    I went over the entire month of possible practice dates with each and every one, demanding their attention for as long as the rehearsal schedule wasnt complete. None of those dates worked out afterwards..
    The first one is not impossible but would take more time than is available.
    It's hard to explain why but except for a few exceptions the songs didn't have any solid structure. Everything was a little bit improvised according to the setting and mood of the event, but nothing was played the same way, length or possibly even in the same genre variation twice. Also at rehearsals we only had a few songs down rock solid, to other ones we just agreed on the key of the chord progression, figures out the melody and chose a suitable genre "suit" for our rendition as a safety net, although we did them in different genre's or moods then live. Sort of a unspoken communication type of thing. With a week more time, no problem, right now, couldn't make it through.

    The second I've tried. And I went down hard on them with the moral type of thing. I explained to them that I had all of our promo material ready, that we owe 60 bucks for business cards and that I'm still waiting on their money (it was an agreed decision), I explained what that means for me as the person responsible for this gig, I asked if they would rather play a bit shabby infront of "the right people" or get the word out that they let me and the bar owner down a week prior to the date, what would do more damage to their name. I live in a small but very musical town, where everyone know almost everyone, especially the venue owners are tightly connected as well as them and better known/succesful musicians. I get the point that this bar is the one where local musicians often come to hang out and check out other musicians, but stil... A bad gig won't ruin as many chances as a cancelled one (in such a manner and short notice) will. I flipped out completely, because if anyone didn't feel like playing in this band they could've simply told so when there was still enough time.

    I recieved a reply not even worth noting. The keyboardist said that he was ready to adapt to our schedules and the drummer just said that he can't make it to rehearsal and he doesn't wanna ruin his reputation by playing this gig. I think he didn't even read through what I had to say.

    I am the calmest person I know of, I almost never get angry with anything and even when I do I keep it cool and let it pass but this... This has got me fuming for the past 3 days! :woot:
  4. sean_on_bass

    sean_on_bass Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2005
    I'm with you. Never cancel a gig on short notice unless it is a true emergency. I've agreed to play gigs that, as the gig got closer, i realized it would not be a fun one. While cancelling seems tempting i know how damaging it can be to not be a reliable group with the establishments we work with. I go through with it, making the best of it i can. The lesson is then learned, and next time the same type of gig is brought up in the future i will nix it on the spot before it gets booked at all.

    I recently played a gig like this. It turned into so many hours of work(having to go to the venue numerous times that day to setup the PA, 2 hours driving for the day, playing 3 sets to a near empty room, walking away with $50) that next time this gig come up(if it comes up) i will let the BL know up front that he will need to find a sub. I'll be fooled once, but not twice! If i did what your drummer is doing, i would likely be fired or stop getting the gig calls. Once you break the trust it can be hard to get it back.
    Dgl44 and Jimmy4string like this.
  5. sean_on_bass

    sean_on_bass Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2005
    This could be a part of your problem. It makes it sound like your product is very inconsistent. It takes a high level of musicianship to make this sort of unstructured thing work out. Does the band have what it takes, or does the product sound sloppy? I guess what i mean is...does your drummer have any validity in his concerns? You need to be honest with yourself about the quality of the music.
    Dgl44 and gjohnson441496 like this.
  6. Dgl44


    Oct 30, 2014
    I am very self critical and honest with myself and the band about the quality of the music. It's all about the music afterall, it's what we provide.
    So yes, the product did have value, the value was in some kind of spontaneous magic that we had when playing together. He's a really outstanding musician just overly self-conscious or how to put it. He said he got bummed by the last few corporate gigs, but they were done very professionaly and tastefuly. The clients were above satisfied wherever and whenever we played, and we always got called back, we were a house band for one bar and got offered a rather big institution's 50th anniversary gig in september after playing at one of their events.
    We made sure that we weren't all over the place, and were (I and the sax girl) trying to work towards greater consistency and a more solid fonduation for songs, after all, sometimes you just have a bad day and can't "jam it out" as the drummer would always dismiss our efforts. And when he felt bad about his playing at a gig he complained about songa not being structured enough. The loop continued indefenitely...

    Now that I'm writing this out I feel so naive for not realizing how long the problem was in place already.
    Seanto likes this.
  7. Those are quite specific musical demands for a bandmember. The drummer was up to it musically but not mentally. I'm afraid you'll end up having to rebuild your band with the sax player and a new drummer.

    I know you can!
    Dgl44 likes this.
  8. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Trying to follow the story here, but these seem to be the salient points:

    • Newish band, with only one rehearsal in 72 days.
    • Original songs with....basically minimal structure. Lots of improv expected.
    • Gig at venue that is a bit “high profile” for musicians in the area.
    • Drummer wants to cancel gig....says you’re not ready.
    Is that about right? If so, here are my thoughts:

    • It requires a group of talented musicians to just sit and basically improv for two hours, especially if you want it tight. Have you been honest with yourself that you have that skill set?
    • Being a band leader often means being prepared. Having subs available is usually essential. But living in a small country, and needing high end musicians might make that difficult.
    Dgl44 and gjohnson441496 like this.
  9. +2 for mention of a Saturn V!

    Herbs? Paranoia will destroy ya, as they say. I've seen a lot of pot heads get weird and do this. They tend to disappear when its time to risk success (and failure). They are already a success in their own mind, and don't want the reality dose. Its a subconscious thing maybe?

    Your keys guy may be having regrets about being in a cover band and not performing classic piano pieces in a recital hall. He doesn't want his regional identity to be a cover band keys guy. I've been in outfits that were fine for a Friday or Saturday night gig at an out-of-the-way bar or something, but I wouldn't want to perform with the same guys, same material at our civic center.

    None of this is a fault or error. Its just the merging of expectations from multiple people, and when the risk/reward/failure/penalty gets high, these things emerge as much more important, than when you are playing for 100 drinking folks on a Saturday night - no family, no friends, no former professors, etc. Its all different when you bring it to the city square for everyone to judge and "identify" what you want to be associated as/with. Just my < $.02
  10. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    I didn't read the OP novel, but for me agreeing to a gig and cancelling with less than a week to go is all the reason I need to find someone else to play with. Whatever the reasons, it's just bad form.

    This is a real good point, and something I've experienced, too. But I just don't take that gig that I think we (I) aren't right for.
    Dgl44 likes this.
  11. Dgl44


    Oct 30, 2014
    You broke it down very nice, and you have solid points on everything. Thanks for that!

    But I think you misunderstood, we didn't play originals, we played pop songs in different genre variations. Think Havana in Bossa or Counting Stars in Jamiroquai type uptempo funk kind od songs. Along with some roughly prepared jams and jazh standards that weren't changed into anything 'disgraceful'.
    As I mentioned before, I'm very self critical and I firmly believe that we were up to par for the music we were doing. The band evolved from allnighter jam sessions we had almost every week for a few months just for fun before starting up an actual band so the improv connection was strong and we are all rather strong in improvisation as it is. The whole local scene used to have a lot of jam sessions a few years ago and we used to be jamming all the time.
    But there still were better and worse gigs, although we never had an unsatisfied client. I was trying to get us to keep an extremely consistant quality with regular rehearsals.. Somehow that never worked out.

    This was my second experience as a band leader with a few years in between so it might as well been my first. I'm trying to learn as much from it as possible now because I know that there certainly were mistakes on my part.
    One of those are definetly subs that I can rely on. Big mistake on my part. And yes, people I know, and I know a few of them, are either very very good musicians and way too flaky or sub par musicians that have their attitude straight. Then theres the pro session players. You could probably count them on the fingers of both hands for every instrument (at least afaik), meaning I'd have to find the musicians that are aspiring to be pros but are not quite there yet. It's very tough in a small country in which music (besides our type of country music is not as) is not of almost any cultural importance or respect.
  12. Dgl44


    Oct 30, 2014
    Your explanation of the drummer pothead situation is spot on. A first for me someone like that failing on me though. Gives a whole nother pov on the thing.

    And with the keys guy just change the classic recital hall aspirations to EDM producer and you've got it right again. :laugh:
    He plays great but is not confident enough so there was one time when he instead of taking his turn for a solo just stopped playing and put others in a bit of an uncomfortable situation.
    Lately he's gotten himself together when he realised that the only way to get confident is to gig on keys as much as he can and play as much different music as possible. Big props to that but it's a bit too late that I could wholeheartedly rely on him to to the job right.
  13. Dgl44


    Oct 30, 2014
    My gosh now that I'm writing all these things out I feel so stupid for even trying to make something out of this band for so long. :rollno:
    How blind can one be amazes me.
    Live and learn I guess. :oops:
  14. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    I think that's how we ALL do it. But, as my father taught me ... we won't live long enough to make EVERY mistake, so we're wise to learn from the mistakes of others. :thumbsup:
  15. Dont cancel a gig ever -i did once cause our drummer got stuck In India and that was like a year ago and I still have the rage from that. I got out voted but in my mind we put on a show -any show even if it just me and the gutiarist singing with a acoustic. I was outvoted. They were like "they wont mind", "they will get over it and have us back cause they loved us last time". I was like "you can kiss this sweet venue goodbye if we cancel" . You know who was right. I tell them to this day -if it was me I would never have us back either.
    But like you -cant force people to do things.
    Dgl44 likes this.
  16. So the drummer is worried about his reputation in case he makes a couple of minor flubs during a gig but he's not worried about his reputation for screwing over his band and a venue? I had a drummer do kind of the same thing a couple of years ago. Quit the band about two weeks before a gig. We found a sub and did the gig. Word got out about the drummer quitting before a gig. He hasn't played a playing gig since. No band will hire him. Show this to your drummer and tell him that somebody who's been playing for 50 years (me) is advising him to re think his position.
    Dgl44 and Jimmy4string like this.
  17. So don't take all this the wrong way, because if it weren't for the courageous, the faithful and the outgoing extro-types like yourself, we'd have *no* gigs, and no bands. It takes someone to think it can work, it can sound better than it does right now, to focus on the important things that entertain, and not stress over the tiny things that don't matter in this kind of venue - because its all true. One of my favorite quotes is, "I've learned so much from my mistakes, I plan to make a few more." Its a different way of saying that risks are essential to success, and there is no failure if you try till you succeed.

    Its sad if true, about the drummer, but it happens. You can't know that's the case till something like this goes down, and they reveal uncontrollably their dysfunction. It could have just as well been another guy, where the band becomes more important than the grass, helping someone back to recovery. And a cover band could just be what a decent keys player needs to actually have fun and entertain folks for a change, come out of his shell, and realize folks like fun music as much or more than a brilliant composition, or flawlessly performed sonata.
    Dgl44 and instrumentalist like this.

Share This Page