This is the third installment in a series about musicians. Read previous article
Musicians tend to start bands with friends or people they connect with online. This is a good way to start a group, but what do you do if you become dissatisfied with the professionalism of the other band members? You have three main options:
- Tough it out until you have more options
- Replace players
- Leave the group (or fire everyone and start over)
Toughing It Out
Most musicians deal with a small pool of players with whom they can work, so even if they are dissatisfied with their current group, their options for finding new players may be limited.
Stylistic limitations also come into play, as there are only so many people in a given area who play jazz, metal, rock, rap, R&B, reggae, pop, country or punk music. As I mentioned in the previous article, personality may also be a limiting factor. The bottom line is that sometimes musicians may have to endure an unpleasant band situation until something better comes along.
Replacing Specific Players
Successful bands have good musical chemistry. If a member is not pulling their weight, the problem needs to be identified and resolved or the band member may need to be replaced. If the issue is that their musical skills aren’t on par with the rest of the band, increased practice and/or music lessons can make a big difference. As long as the band member is willing to put effort into improving and the rest of the band is willing to be patient, it can be well worth the wait and also do a lot to improve a group’s morale, to hang on to a someone who’s working out the kinks in their playing.
However, if time is a factor, or if the band has lost patience with a troublesome player, the band member may need to be replaced immediately. It’s a good idea to find a replacement before firing a band member, because if you don’t, the band could be out of commission for months while you search for a new player.
Replacing Multiple Players
There may be times when several players need to be replaced. The rhythm section might not be keeping it together. The guitarists may be constantly waging war against each other, or there might be a few people who want to take the band in a direction no one else wants to go. In all of these cases, the band might have to part with several people and replace them with new players whose interests and/or musical abilities work better with the remaining musicians.
When to Leave or Fire the Band
Sometimes a musician needs to leave an existing group or fire their own band. The players might be driving them mad or they might not sound good together.
Dumping an entire band and starting over should always be a last resort because it kills the momentum of the entire project. It may mean you have to do the following: find a new place to rehearse; piece together your own PA system; come up with a new band name; find a bunch of players; create a rehearsal schedule; develop new material and more. The benefit of this approach is that it provides a fresh start but it also means that you are taking on all the responsibilities. Your new group’s success will largely depend on how good you are at putting together all the necessary resources.
What to Do About Songs Created with or by Departing Members
If songwriters are leaving the band and the band wants to keep performing their material, arrangements should be made to compensate the departing members for their work. The band should also make sure they secure full legal rights to continue performing and selling the songs. It’s best if all of this is worked out when the band is formed, via a band agreement, which is a contract that outlines the rights each member has and what happens if they leave the group. At a minimum, departing members should be credited on any songs they helped develop and fairly compensated according to existing royalty systems for any music sold.
Stepping Up to the Pros
If your motivation for replacing band members is that you want the group to be more professional, easier to work with, able to book better gigs and make higher quality recordings, you must be prepared for the responsibilities that come with working with professional musicians.
First, they need to be paid. Professionals don’t work for free, and if the money isn’t there they won’t be either. Most gigs should reimburse everyone an amount that is an agreed-upon minimum.
Second, there needs to be an audience. Professionals will tire of playing shows for empty rooms. They can find other musicians to play with who will fill a room, so make sure you do your marketing and get a good turnout at shows.
Third, your rehearsal space should be comfortable and clean. Professional musicians often have many suitors, and if your rehearsal space is too hot or dirty, they might opt to play with musicians who rehearse in a more hospitable environment.
And fourth, all band members need to be at rehearsal on time. The waiting game doesn’t work for professionals. They have better things to do.
If you’re not as practiced as the musicians you recruit, you may need to step up your game. Working with people who are better players can push you to the next level, but you must be willing and able to put in the practice time to improve your abilities. It can be embarrassing and off-putting if you’re not hitting your marks.
One of the problems with playing with professionals is it’s hard to go back to playing with semi-pro musicians afterwards. Once you commit to working with some of the best musicians around, you are committing to being a professional yourself. And if you’re the band leader, it means that you will also be responsible for the following:
- Purchasing quality equipment, including backup instruments and amplifiers
- Developing or finding new material
- Create lead sheets for the band
- Booking gigs
- Arrange for gear to be moved to shows
- Collecting funds from venues
As Bruce Springsteen said, “Nothing good comes without a fight.” Putting in the effort to transform your band by using the best players for the job can pay big dividends for many years.