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Top 10 Signs It's Time to Fire a Band Member

Jun 27, 2008
No one wants to have to do it, but there may come a point when a single member of the band really is holding everyone back. It isn't a decision to be made lightly, but if it is really keeping you from seeing your potential, you need to make your decision with your head, not your heart. How do you know if it's time to fire a band member? Here are some signs to look out for:

1. They aren't making it to practice/rehearsal

Being in a band requires a certain commitment of time and energy. Regular rehearsal is the lifeblood of any hungry young band, and if someone isn't willing to take the time to be there, it doesn't matter how talented they are (or think they are). It is simply not going to work. A successful band has an element of business to it, and holding regularly scheduled practices that everyone is expected to attend is just good business. It ensures that you're ready to kick ass at your shows and it gives the band time to gel and work out the kinks in their performance and relationship. This is a totally non-negotiable issue. No practice, no play.

2. They are easily combustible.

Everybody has problems. That doesn't mean it is ok to blow up and freak out on other people regularly. If everyone in the band feels like they have to tiptoe around one person because they don't want to deal with the ensuing drama that is sure to occur if they get upset--then it's time for that person to take some time for themselves and work their issues out. Just like a family, a band is dependent on each member making a positive contribution.

3. They refuse to support the decisions of the whole group.

Hey, it's great if you have strong vision and a lot of creative energy, but if everything always has to be one person's way, then things are going to get very uncomfortable very quickly. Every member should be able to contribute in ways that makes them feel good and excited about what you're all doing. Every member should be able to say how they feel and express their style. If one person is making it all about them, or if they are a control freak who insists that they know what's best at all times, then it's not a band. It's a dictatorship.

4. They don't buy in to the whole vision of the band and music.

Every band has a vision for their music. The collective talent of the members creates a unique and beautiful blend that comes across in a single style which defines them. Because of that, it's important that every person in the band feels like they can stand behind the music you're playing. If even one member of the band doesn't feel like they can support the overall musical vision of the band, then you're not getting 100% of their creative energy, and it's going to affect your success. Sometimes it is as simple as a mismatch between one person's style and the rest of the band. Sometimes it may be something deeper. Whatever it is needs to be addressed. Until everyone gets on the same page, you're not going anywhere.

5. They refuse to try to improve themselves.

Even the most successful musicians in the world can't sit back on their laurels and coast through their careers. Being an artist requires constant attention to your craft. That means practice, trying new things, learning techniques, knowing the business, and being open to new creative ideas. If someone has an attitude that they don't need to improve themselves, or if they are just plain lazy, they aren't ready to move forward with your band.

6. They have a problem with drugs and booze.

This can be a difficult issue, because you don't want to hurt someone when they're at a low point. On the other hand, you don't want them to think they can go on destroying themselves and taking your band down with them. It's worth talking to them if they seem to be developing a habit that is out of control, expressing your concern, and giving them some information and resources on how to handle things. If they refuse to listen, or if it's beyond anything you think you can handle, it's time for a serious ultimatum. For some, using drugs and alcohol can be part of the musical culture, and sometimes it is hard to know where to draw the line, but if you see someone's habit affecting their art, their relationships, and their health, it's time to get serious.

7. They are hyper-critical of one or more members.

Every band wants to be the best they can be, and it's really important to have honest self-criticism from both inside and outside the band. But if someone is fixated on every single tiny mistake or error that is made, they are not being helpful. Constant criticism is a good hint that someone is dissatisfied overall with what they are doing. It may be time for that person to move on and they might not know how to express it to the band--or they may not even realize it themselves. But you can't let someone be a constant drain on the energy of your group just because they themselves are dissatisfied. It's time to sit down and talk to them about what's happening, and whether or not they need to go somewhere else to be happy.

8. You find out they're talking smack about one or all of the members to other people.

Everyone needs to vent once in a while. Bands are like any other relationships. Sometimes there's conflict and sometimes you need to just talk to a trusted friend and get some perspective. But if one of the members of the band is out airing dirty laundry all over town, it's time to have a "family meeting" and find out what's going on. Creative energy is best expressed in an environment of trust and confidence. When a band gets together to create music, they're baring their souls to one another. If one member of the band is untrustworthy and can't talk to the other members about a problem they have with them, then the creative energy is not going to flow. A person who refuses to communicate with the band but is talking all over town is a liability.

9. They refuse to pull their weight.

In the beginning, every member of the band has to wear multiple hats. Everyone is collectively responsible for publicity, sharing expenses, and being present and honest during practice. There's no free ride, and no one is too good to hang up flyers or pick up a case of t-shirts. If someone doesn't want to roll up their sleeves and pitch in, tell them to go be a slacker in someone else's band.

10. They are always trying to borrow--money, instruments, drugs, etc.

Even if one member of the band has more than the others, it's never ok to mooch. If you can't buy your own beers, it's not ok to ask everyone else to cover you. Same goes for rent, guitar strings, weed, hair gel and toilet paper. Some people might view their band as a family, but you know something? It's still not okay to mooch of your family, either.
About the Author
Music business expert David Hooper is host of the syndicated radio show, Music Business Radio. Visit MusicMarketing.com for more information on David and additional music business advice.
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