What would you do with this musician?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by PauFerro, Jan 2, 2015.

  1. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    OK, five years ago I started a group. There were four musicians. I had to let go the guitarist a year ago, although the members of my group reluctantly agreed to it.

    About six months later, I saw on facebook that my sax player was playing a gig with the guitarist in a new band. It was the same instrumentation, playing the same set list. Essentially, the same band, but with a new bass player and drummer, all initiated by the displaced guitarist.

    Meanwhile, the sax player had still been performing in my group for the last six months.

    During this time, I'd kept this sax player as busy as he said he wanted to be, gave him the repertoire and creative control, and had the pay increasing just like he'd been insisting on. So, when I learned about his involvement with the displaced guitar player's group (simply a carbon copy of my own group), it surprised me the sax player didn't have the political foresight/courtesy to at least tell me what he was doing. Particularly since he was essentially joining a direct competitor with whom there were relationship issues, since I'd been compelled to force the guitar player from the band previously (with the sax player and drummers' permission, by the way).

    When I learned the sax player was in this other band, the sax player indicated he was going to play in both bands. He said "the band I stay with is the one that has the best music and keeps me gigging the most". So, he implied he was on the verge of quitting. Or at least, putting me in competition with this other band, to serve his own interests the best.

    I said I was confused as I'd actually scaled back gigs for him as he told me he only wanted to be out once a month or so. No solid answer.

    He then recorded us at a gig to provide "evidence", and then ripped up the band's playing -- also blaming himself for some of it.

    Then he did some other things that left me confused. We booked a jazz festival, and he agreed to do it. Then the other band (the one the fired guitarist started), also booked HIS group at the same festival, and ended up on the schedule at the same time as ours. The sax player kept his commitment to perform with our group, and the fired guitarist got a sub sax player for his group. At one point the sax player said this caused some ruffled feathers in the other group and that he (the sax player) "wasn't even sure if he was in the band anymore". He seemed to recommit to our group.

    But then, after I booked a string of about 6 gigs over Christmas, he told me he was too busy with his church Christmas show performances (although he had kept the heavy gigging schedule the previous year in spite of the same church commitments). As a result, I had to create another band with subs, since we are so dependent on his keys and sax talents. The sax player liked the picture of this sub-band on facebook when I posted it.

    Another thing -- he gripes about pay a lot. Often very picky about the time and places he plays. Doesn't like weddings even though they pay well, and doesn't want to drive out of town. He normally does them, but only after I twist his arm and have to convince him. He's always the hold out on whether we should do a gig. For example, I came up with a concept for a show, which preliminary market research would command about $200 per man easily, with no promotion involved (a seminar in which we teach teamwork, leadership, management and delegation to corporate employees, using the band as the vehicle for teaching and demonstration). He replied "that sounds like a lot of hassle". i said "What if you got $200 for doing it?". He said nothing. All the other guys in the group were thrilled with the idea!

    Well, I learned a few months later, he's committed to a low paying restaurant gig (below the minimum he expects from me) with the displaced guitarists' group, and is playing into 1:15 am in the morning. Something I KNOW he would refuse if I asked him to do that.

    In the last year, I've been on a "contractor's" model given my experiences all these years. I have a trio that I formed and hire contractors as I need them. Much easier, I find, with subs several musicians deep. I posted at thread on it, with positive comments from most talkbassers.

    But in this original group I formed with the sax player, it is still somewhat peer based. Songs are custom, non-standard. They aren't easy to sub. The sax player controls the repertoire, so there are a lot of songs I'd rather not be doing.

    The sax player seems like he's simply playing both sides of the fence, and given his comment in the beginning he will "stay with the group that has the best music and is the busiest" makes me think that at any point, I'm going to get a phone call telling me he's quit. And he will be hard to replace given his dual instruments (sax and keyboards).

    I tried talking with him directly about it, but he's hard to talk to (always been that way). He gives cryptic statements and seems to act inconsistently. I even asked what he likes about our band -- why he keeps doing it -- and he wouldn't give me a straight answer.

    So, is it time to let this guy go? Is it time to make this quartet a contractor's band like I did over Christmas, and stop investing in him? Some other alternative? Let me know what you think.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2015
  2. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    Oooh - can I be the first "Fire 'Em!" ;) ?

    Seriously, what a douch :confused: .
    Tbone76, Shimmi, MattZilla and 7 others like this.
  3. Shabz


    Jun 20, 2014
    he shouldnt be controlling the repertoire if he isnt remotely committed surely?

    How about just gradually lowering your dependence on him?
    kcole4001, Shimmi, Stewie26 and 8 others like this.
  4. Winfred


    Oct 21, 2011
    How does the sax player control the song list?

    Is it your band, or his band?

    If you've got paying gigs on the books, and you're the leader of the band, you can find subs.
  5. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    I don't like firing for a few reasons -- that's why I'm musing here.

    The displaced guitarist has shown me he is unprincipled. I fully expect he will hit on my repeat corporate clients, as he knows the pay. The displaced guitarist is even marketing my band using a video he recorded of us, but calling it by his new band name. That is how low he is.

    I think having the sax player getting whatever he's getting out of my group, while still in the displaced guitarist's group might keep the displaced guitarist in check. So far, we haven't gone after each others' gigs, and i have more to lose than he does -- all he's got is one, maybe two restaurants every 4 -6 months, and any random stuff that falls in his lap. I have repeat corporate and government contracts, plus industry associations that hire us regularly. Plus he's lazy about promotion, and going after all my clients is a way of getting gigs fast. I believe he would do that if the sax player is let go from our group. Plus, musicians will only go on for so long, rehearsing, etcetera, without gigs. There is a decent chance the guitarist's group might flounder if he can't book gigs. He's not good at it.

    I also feel some loyalty to the guy -- he's been with me for five years. And in spite of my concerns, I generally like the guy.
  6. derrico1

    derrico1 Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    Charlottesville, VA
    Is working with this guy worth the hassle? I'd be inclined to put my efforts into booking the contractors' band, and building up relationships with horn players who are more interested in working with you.

    Edit: just saw the cards you were holding back. I'd still be inclined to book those regular corporate clients with other personnel. That doesn't have to be all-or-nothing; you can cut the old horn player into a couple of those return gigs. That keeps some of the leverage you want. (Think twice, though, about bringing him in for new clients if you don't trust him not to poach your gigs.)
    MattZilla likes this.
  7. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    This is a leftover peer band. Everyone settled into certain roles -- me the bill payer, gig booker, promoter, web designer, sub-finder, bass player. I founded it 5 years ago, and in the beginning, let the musicians walk all over me. He's a remnant of that era. I have other groups that I run on a contractor's model. That's going well.

    I essentially have a quartet of different musicians that I had to form, out of necessity over the Christmas Holidays. I could simply rename it the name of my current band, and let the sax player go. But it would mean displacing our new guitar player of a year ago, as I feel a drums, guitar, bass and sax combination sounds really sparse when the guitarist is soloing.
    Winfred likes this.
  8. Winfred


    Oct 21, 2011
    Ah, that's right. I remember your contractor band post, now. Yeah, I liked that. A lot. :)

    Well, in the case you're currently dealing with, it sounds like you and the sax guy are gonna part ways, eventually. He's free to play with whoever he wants. But he's not free to aggravate the hell out of you while he does it.

    It's gonna come down to a business decision for you, imo.

    You're gonna have to find another sax player that can add keys, or find a keys player. I don't know your area, so I don't know how hard that is to do. But it sounds like those are your options.

    Sorry, man.
    kcole4001 likes this.
  9. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    His ability to play two instruments -- keys and sax -- carries some weight with me. In letting him go, I feel I must let go our guitar player as drums, bass, guitar and sax doesn't work very well -- and I don't want to do that. Plus the sax player is really good.

    Yes, I've thought of that. I have a team of guys that want to do it. I explained the "rules" and expectations and they were cool with it, just deciding if I should pull the trigger.

    Might be a good idea. I'm listening...
  10. As a bass player who plays in multiple bands I would say the best approach is to use the "first come first serve" approach for booking gigs for both parties.

    If he confirms availability for a gig with you and then backs out to play with another band then fire him.

    If you find a sax/keyboard guy who is as good or better, then fire him.
  11. Basshappi


    Feb 12, 2007
    So, to put this in a different context;
    You are in a business partnership. One of your partners (guitarplayer) became disruptive to the business to the point where the rest of you thought it was in the best interest to the businesses' continued and future success to fire him. He then went on to form his own business in direct competition with yours, even offering the exact same product in the same market.

    Then one of the remaining partners (sax player) started taking actions that negatively affected the business by limiting income-making opprotunities (turning down gigs or frequency thereof). He has also become a drag on the business by becoming difficult to work with and his attitude has had, or potentially could have, a detrimental effect on customer relations and growth of the business

    Then you discover that this partner has joined the business the ex-partner is now running in competition with yours and has been involved for some time. He is also running his own business on the side which, while not directly competeing with yours, is causing him to divert time and energy that could be used to further the success of your partnership (i.e. not turning down gigs/frequency of gigs).

    All this while being highly critical of the partnership and demanding more pay.

    And you still feel a sense of loyalty to this person.
  12. sean_on_bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    I agree with this suggestion. It sounds like he is being a bit difficult as a full member, maybe start treating as more a sideman. Then he might "get the picture." It's a tricky situation to solve without falling into the "find a replacement" situation.
    PauFerro likes this.
  13. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    Yes -- in this world, you would go to the "partner" (sax player) and tell him that his work with the fired "partner" is too close in composition, and is already causing me hassle. And then ask him to make a decision about which group he wants to be in....one or the other, but not both. If he refuses, let him go.

    Let the chips fall.

    [Throw into your narrative that your ex-partner (guitarist) is also causing you extra work by demanding that you to take down all your online marketing materials. He is also taking your advertising and media, has put his name on it, and is using it to drum up business with clients you could also serve. This is happening at this moment with our videos].
  14. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Miscellaneous thoughts. One, no offense, but it sounds like he just plain likes this fired guitarist more than he likes you, for whatever reason. Maybe it's for old friendship's sake or something, I don't know. He seems to be willing to accept less pay etc. to play with the other guy. So that's a factor.

    Second, while this is nerve-wracking from the business angle, if I'm reading your post right the guitarist's new band doesn't seem to be such dreadful competition for your existing group. From what you've said, it sounds like he's lazy about promotion and marketing and all that. A lot of gigs get booked not on the basis of the set list but on the basis of a confident relationship between the venue and the band's representative. I don't think you're really going to lose a lot of gigs to the other band because you're the one with the relationship with the clients. He's picking up scraps. Maybe I misunderstood. If he's using video of your group to promote, a) tell him to stop and b) tell the venues about it, as a funny joke. They'll get the clue.

    In general, I'm all in favor of letting people play with whomever they want to play with. They're free agents. But they should be honest about it, and they should give you blackout dates for your own booking purposes. So I'm of divided mind here - on the one hand, I say let him play with the other group if he wants. On the other, doesn't seem like he's being very transparent about it. If it means Mr. Sax is really not pulling his weight - preventing you from booking gigs or whatever - then let him go. That might mean putting the whole group on hiatus and concentrating on your contract bands, or finding another sax player, even if that means "reinventing" yourselves around a new repertoire or shift in style.
    PauFerro likes this.
  15. BIG97BEN


    Sep 12, 2011
    Richmond VA
    I definitely wouldn't do anything the ex guitarist is asking you to do, especially since he himself is using the same material. I did not read the thread on contracting, but would it be possible to find some one to take over on a more permanent basis? Since you're into contracting, you could find a couple of sax/keys players, and over the next few months work all of them into gigs and eventually ask the rest of your band if they like one of them more, and propose a full time spot to a new guy.
    PauFerro likes this.
  16. FretNoMore

    FretNoMore * Cooking with GAS *

    Jan 25, 2002
    The frozen north
    I'd keep playing with this guy if he's needed for gigs, purely for business reasons, but look for a new player ASAP. As soon as the new player is on board I'd dump the first guy. I would not accept this kind of grief for any period of time.
    MattZilla, funk_doc and PauFerro like this.
  17. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    He likes it better because the music is better. I know that. The fired guitarist came to us a couple or three years ago as a mediocre player (skills mostly out of practice, I think). And while I was out hustling clients, the guitarist was at home shedding -- even though he agreed to do sales and marketing as part of his responsibilities when I took him on. He got very good over a period of two years with the regimen of regular practicing we had. My skills remained constant as I really did have to focus on the business end to keep this band busy and working. during this period I also pioneered a lot of promotional techniques that worked, and they were very time consuming.

    The other guys agreed to let me fire the guitarist after probably out best gig ever, which was hard on everyone as we had reached a new plateau. Our existing guitarist is good, and myself and the drummer like his style better, but the sax player's heart is with the displaced guitar player.

    Also, the drummer the ex-guitarist uses is a better player than our drummer. I actually considered using this crack drummer in my group when there was a spot open, but he is an "employee musician". He also had restrictions -- no gigs in the middle of the week, would contribute ideas, but would not do sales. I opted for a weaker drummer, who I trained to play jazz, but who is also a salesperson by trade. Last year he booked more than 40% of the total gigs -- more than any other musician I've worked with.

    Now, myself and the drummer are competent -- that is for sure. So don't think the music is bad, but it was a setback for the band to have to orient a new guitar player again. That was hard on the sax player, and all of us. I think that is why the sax player's heart is with this fired guitarist.

    This thread is helping me realize that I need to lessen my dependence on the sax player. Too hard to sub, too hard to replace. The only saving grace is that he might help keep the exguitarist in check since for some reason, the sax player still seems to value my group, after 'controlling' for his quirky personality.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2015
    Lee Moses likes this.
  18. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    From a business decision point of view, letting the sax player go seems like the best choice.
  19. In any long-term relationship, you need more than just great sax to keep you together.
  20. Basshappi


    Feb 12, 2007
    The sax player "values your group" for same reason a cheating spouse doesn't file for divorce, they want some chump in reserve to pay for their ride when their preferred paramore(s) isn't available.