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Would you blow it up and start over again or stick with it?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by SmokinJoe992, May 21, 2019.

  1. Looking for some discussion, thoughts, insight, opinions, tips etc. on my current band situation. I will try to be as brief as possible. I am the Founder/Band Organizer/Leader/Bass/Vocals of a 4 piece Rock/Blues/Country cover band. I book the gigs, have the PA and organize practices. The band has been around for about a year and a half. We were a 3 piece for most of that time, but 4 months ago added a keyboard player. We have played over 50 paid shows over that time and maybe 3-4 unpaid/benefit type shows. We have two venues that we get regularly booked in, but don't seem to get anywhere with the bigger venues that pay better, and have bigger crowds. We recently had a show at one of the bigger venues in town. I thought we played well, but we didn't seem to get much from the crowd that was there. It was an unusually slow night, but the crowd that was there didn't seem to respond that great to us. It is doubtful we will get re-booked there any time soon.

    I can usually get 5-10 of my friends and acquaintances to come out to watch us play. The other members bring no one. The drummer in the band is very committed to the project, and has a good set of lights he brings to the shows and provides our practice space. The guitar player is a very good player and has been with the band from day 1, but he is also in 3-4 other bands, is kinda picky about what he plays and while he is a good guitar player he leans heavily towards the country side of things and can be slow learning the more rock oriented stuff and doesn't always play the material quite the way it should be played. There are some songs he just won't do. He also sings about half of our songs. The keyboard player is an older guy, a very good and well known musician in the area, but he is also in 3-4 other bands, and seems reluctant to learn a lot of the newer material and/or play it the way it should be played. I get along with all of these guys and they are all very reliable and dependable.

    The main problem is I think we have gone as far as we can go, and it is not quite where I want to be. I also don't see some of the current members being willing to make the changes necessary to push us forward. When I started this band I was just getting into the local music scene. I have learned a great deal over the last year and a half. I think with a fresh start I could take a band further than this one. I also think that since I have my foot in the door at several local venues I could attract good musicians with paying gigs that would be a little more committed to moving things forward. What would you guys do if you were in my situation?
  2. bass40hz

    bass40hz Cigar smoker, scotch drinker, American Patriot Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2014
    Sussex County, NJ
    no endorsements yet...Are you listening Spector, DR, GK, Line6?
    I was in a similar situation, I founded the band, I was the only one who wanted to do new songs, show up for practice and get gigs, everyone else was happy to stop learning/growing, never book a gig or practice as a band more than 1x a month...I left, started another thing and BOOM, success again...just released a new CD today, have distribution, a publishing company and a lot of interest from big players. You will be fine, dont settle.
    Rock on.
    Last edited: May 21, 2019
  3. Scottgun


    Jan 24, 2004
    South Carolina
    Stop right there. Blow it up. :D

    Seriously, it sounds like you need a heart-to-heart with the rest of the band and see what people's expectations are. Say pretty much what you said here.

    To get your own head clear on this, try to boil it down to the big 3: the money, the music, the hang. That is, if you really like the music and playing with these guys, don't sweat the money. Likewise, if the money's good and get along easy with everyone, worry less about the set list, and so on. But if you are only satisfied with one of the 3, or worse, none, consider the nuclear option.
    Saorex, Indexed, bassballs27 and 19 others like this.
  4. You probably already realize it, but I'll put it out there anyway: If you are serious about progressing, then the concept of "friends" will need to change. In the new context of having a successful (according to your criteria) band, your "friends" will need to be people who share and put action behind your goals, standards, and expectations.

    You have identified the problem: Mainly, your keys and guitar who, although great people, are an impediment to your goals. They are picky about material, which no doubt keeps or inhibits you from learning the crowd-pleasers you need to win those audiences when you get a shot at nicer venues. And they are busy with other projects, which no doubt distracts them from your playlist and gig opportunities.

    In a marketing/commercial sense, considering your goals, those two players are liabilities.

    It took me three years with my last start up project before I had a healthy network of clubs booking us regularly. There is a hierarchy of venues and you do need to work your way up, establishing yourself wherever you can until name recognition and reputation take over. Also, you can make in-roads with private event clients while you're at it. In many ways, that's a much more rewarding clientele.

    Also, remember that bringing your own audience and filling seats for the club owner is a hit-and-miss proposition at best. Some of your band mates can bring folks, some can't. It is never consistent. I don't make promises other than we'll invite everyone we know. I expect the club owner to have established an attractive environment based on many factors, consistently good entertainment being only one of them. When club owners hammer me about head counts and register receipts, I stop trying so hard to ingratiate myself with them. I'm here to ensure we bring great entertainment, and I have my hands full with that one.

    If you want to keep going with the momentum you have built despite the liabilities, it's cards on the table time, and I'd hang on to that drummer. He's invested in the project, available, and shares the duties with the lighting. You can either go with a rotating cast of musicians and take a different line-up out every time you play, or you can ask your musicians to make your calendar and project a priority. Both come with expectations and consequences. I hated finding subs, and our sound suffered when it wasn't my A-line. Also, if there are songs you know will enhance your potential with talent buyers, you need to let your fellow musicians know that they will be called upon to put ego aside, put the audience first, and play some standards designed to win those audiences over.
    Last edited: May 21, 2019
  5. Thanks Brother. What you described is exactly where I think I am at right now.
    bass40hz likes this.
  6. 1) These are all good guys who I generally enjoy being around, and I have learned a lot from each of them.
    2) The money and music are both ok, but nothing great. I feel like both could be much better.
  7. I think you hit the "nail on the head" with most of this.
  8. I guess the last part is my real question. Should I try to salvage the progress I have made so far and try to impose changes on the other members, or would I be better off just starting over from scratch. One of my concerns is that it may be difficult to get second chances at some of these venues with the current band even if we did make positive changes.
  9. Gravedigger Dav

    Gravedigger Dav Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Fort Worth, Texas
    If you are not getting a positive response from the audience, there are two or three possibilities here.
    Your set list
    Are you playing the right material for the venue? One good idea is when you book a gig at an unfamiliar venue is to visit it when another band is playing. What tunes are they playing that get good crowd reaction? Are you putting set lists together that get the right mix of fast/slow/genre?​
    Your presentation
    Are all members of the band showing energy and look like they are having fun? Are you interacting with the audience? That is talking to them, introducing the song, doing songs where you can feature each band member? Are you offering requests and then doing them? You should do them as soon as they are requested. That is one of the big gripes I have with my current band. The BL never does a request when it is requested. He always does it later, sometimes not even in the same set. That pisses people off​
    Your stage presence
    Are you all dressed like you are in the band? Do you have good lights? Are you noodling between songs? And again, energy level. The crowd feeds off the band. If you are all standing still, looking like you can't wait for break time, the crowd will get bored. There is also off stage presence. On break do you walk among and talk to patrons or do you all go hide in a corner?
    I know these all seem like basic elements of how to do a show, but it is just meant as a helpful checklist for your review. Notice, I used the word "show" rather than "gig". When you hear gig, you think work, right; but, if you say show it has a more positive appealing feel to it.

    So, I wouldn't start over. That is more work than necessary. Have a band meeting and get some input from the members on their ideas to ramp you up to the next level, but don't let it turn into a bitch session. You need to have the vision on how to get there.
    Good luck!
  10. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    I'm guessing veto power is a big part of what's limiting you.

    If it is a band (a democracy kinda thing), and everyone gets a say, then everyone should get a say, and he can't simply say no to things. If you're the bandleader, and you're hiring the rest of them to do your vision of things, he can't say that, as you're the one calling the shots.

    So, either negotiate what the ground rules are - some to some agreement where everyone can get behind it, or blow it up, and negotiate the ground rules the next time.
  11. Bodeanly

    Bodeanly Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2015
    If you wanna keep it going, it sounds like you just need to replace the guitarist. If I were band leader and a member only learned the songs he wanted to play, it's hasta la vista, baby. Crappy situation if you're bros, but what's he doing if he's not learning the songs and not bringing people to shows? If he sees himself as just an employee, see yourself as just a boss. Life is too short, man.
    31HZ, BK bassist, redwingxix and 6 others like this.
  12. Lots of good stuff here, and this brings up another part of the problem. The members who play in other bands are constantly using reference material on stage to (ipads, notes etc) and I feel like 1) it takes away from the presentation when you are staring at something while playing 2) there are unnecessary delays between songs while they look up something.

    I am concerned that to make the changes you suggest, however, I will end up having to blow it up.
    redwingxix likes this.
  13. I'd say your chances are just as good if you keep your current brand and identity and add some new players than if you start over with a new name and identity.

    Scrapping your band name and going back to square one with all the networking sounds like a lot of work. I would be more tempted to keep the band identity and just explain to talent buyers that you have made improvements in personnel and playlist, and you're a better entertainment unit now.

    Assuming you're happy with your drummer, he's doing a good job behind the kit, brings lights, is dedicated, consistently available, and doesn't complain about playing the right music for the rooms you've targeted, you actually have an incredible ally there, something to build on. You just need a couple more like him. Does that warrant a total do-over? I dunno...

    If you have website/Facebook/logo/business cards, etc., I personally would try to keep it intact. You can sell the "new improved" version easier than starting from scratch with all that stuff. I've seen band leaders do a little groveling and beg for a second chance, and when they got it they delivered on their promise and redeemed themselves. You just gotta be able to deliver the goods.

    And don't forget, some rooms and talent buyers just aren't meant to be. Sometimes you just don't connect, and for reasons you'll never understand or be able to remedy. Focus on the ones who will give you a fair chance. All bands have the occasional bad or lukewarm gig, and most talent buyers understand that. The ones who don't aren't worth worrying about.
    Last edited: May 21, 2019
    LBS-bass, pcake and Keyser Soze like this.
  14. None of this was clearly stated from the start. We have always kind of worked towards determining a consensus with me gathering input and pushing the topics forward. The funny thing is that for the most part everyone agrees that we need to change some things and for the most part we agree on the changes that need to be made. The problem is when it comes time to actually do something about it the other members drag their feet, and nothing ends up changing.
  15. IMHO, of course...

    Dead air sucks the life out of the party you were hired to bring. Find strategies to avoid it.

    A lot of musicians rely on cues and reference material on stage. You may need to bend a little and try to get everyone to apply a low profile and make it as least intrusive and distracting as possible.

    Of course, consistent line ups playing out consistently eventually leads to no need for cheat sheets, which I always considered the ideal. But meanwhile, yeah, you might have to let it slide a little. You have bigger fish to fry.

    You are doing the lion's share of work. You have set yourself up as the designated band leader. How much deliberating and "veto power" you want to allow is up to you. It's normal in your situation for the BL to have a list of "non-negotiables," things regarding many aspects of band life and presentation that you are not so flexible about, and then everything else by default becomes "negotiables."

    You have to set that standard, and there is no right or wrong in that regard aside from what you think will work best to achieve your/the band goals.
    Last edited: May 21, 2019
    mikewalker likes this.
  16. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    My experiences have been the best in situations where things are clearly stated. I've been in bands where it was pure democracy, which is a bit of a mess at times, but it can work well. I now play church gigs where you're there to help implement someone's vision - the ground rules there are very different, partly because we really don't have time for pure democracy. In either case, if everyone knows the rules, it really helps. Also, in either case, having a non-cooperative person is pretty much death for progress.
    MynameisMe and SmokinJoe992 like this.
  17. TheDirtyLowDown


    Mar 8, 2014
    It's hard when you have key band members in other bands. My advice is to describe for them what change you want to make going forward, and ask them to give your band priority over their other 3-4 bands for a while. That means learning new material, giving your band priority when scheduling gigs, putting in an effort to deliver an audience, seeking out new bookings, etc. Define the time frame, so that it's clear to everyone what the sprint towards something new is going to be. Then at the end of that time you can reasses and coast for a while, or keep developing new material, or pull the plug.

    Reading your post, it sounded to me like you want to have a band that is as committed to the project as you are. So I'd ask them to commit for doing more, for a while. See what they say, and then you'll know what to do.

    Good luck!
    electracoyote and SmokinJoe992 like this.
  18. I agree, but to do that you have to have a lot of material and members who are flexible and I see both being problems with my current lineup.
  19. Gravedigger Dav

    Gravedigger Dav Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Fort Worth, Texas
    If a blow up is necessary, then so be it, but I'd try to save the drummer. So, here a a pre-blowup task. Have a meeting with the band and define the rules. First, if you're playing in other bands, they are secondary. You play my gigs first. No iPads, music stands, or other reference crutches. Show up knowing the material. We don't drop songs you don't like. We play the songs the audience likes. Here is where my talking to people on break comes in. You can learn from them what songs they want. Set a goal to add x songs per month. Use feedback from the audience walkabouts and, if you have social media, add a place for people to request songs they want to hear. And when the do, be sure to respond with a note like, "Great tune, thank's for the suggestion. We are adding it to our list and will be perform it at <Some Venue> on <Some Date>, Looking forward to seeing you there!".

    You might not have to blow anything up. If they don't agree to the new deal, replace them.
  20. Ewo

    Ewo a/k/a Steve Cooper Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2008
    Huntington WV
    Well...maybe your option is _exit_, rather than _blow it up_. Just give them notice you're leaving, and let them carry on as they wish.

    I got kinda burned out on a gig I'd had for a couple years. Like you, I just didn't see it moving forward. I didn't have problems with the gig or the other people; just saw it staying in the same place, while I wanted some sort of growth out of the time I put into playing.

    So I gave notice, covered some remaining gigs while they replaced me, and we parted on good terms. And they're still around, still playing shows.

    I just hit some jam nights, met some new people, got called for some subbing, and...BOOM! Was offered a permanent gig with the band I'd subbed for. Good people, good musicianship, good original material, good gigs. And I wound up in the kind of musical place I'd been wishing for.

    Mentioning my personal experience to illustrate that good things can come from leaving for good reasons.
    Jimmy4string and SmokinJoe992 like this.

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