11 Ways To Know When To Fire A Band Member

You're fired!
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Being part of a band is not easy. There will always be conflict on some level and disagreements about aspects of the band and music between the members. For bands that do not have the desire or intent to become successful and prefer to perform as strictly a hobby, there will be fewer issues but there will still always be issues. The bands that last are the ones who handle their conflicts properly and maintain a business-oriented approach. Sometimes though, that is not enough. Sometimes you just have to let a band member go. So let’s take a look at some reasons why you would want to fire a band member.

They can’t/won’t come to practice.

Does the band have a regularly scheduled rehearsal time that this one member keeps missing? Do they keep coming up with weak excuses for why they couldn’t come? Are they simply stating they will not come to rehearsal without [insert random demand here]? Any band member exhibiting this sort of behavior is not a fit for the band. A professional, or at least quality-concerned band, will take the effort to make sure their performances are top notch. If a certain member cannot or will not put in the minimal effort to attend practice then how can they be expected to do more later on?

When they do come they are not prepared or do not put in a real effort.

So maybe you have a band mate who always shows up for practice. Maybe it’s at their house or just down the road. Maybe it is their way of getting away from their daily life and having fun. Regardless of why, they put in the effort to show up but once they show up the effort disappears. They don’t know the new songs yet, or they only know a small portion of them. Instead of working on the critical material, they may keep asking to goof around on something else. It could be a guitarist who has to stop after every song to spend a few minutes tweaking his amp, or a drummer who has to check each drum’s tuning after a song. Maybe the singer has to read lyrics for every song because they still haven’t memorized them or a bassist who has to read tab because they haven’t worked on a song yet. What happens if every member is ready to do everything necessary to have a productive practice, but you have the one member who does the opposite? You have a wasted rehearsal. If you have a member doing this, then it’s time to let them go. They are holding you back now and will continue to do so further down the road.

They’re the first to point out someone else’s mistakes when their own are mentioned.

This ties in somewhat with the issue of “being unprepared.” If they show up and know the songs well enough, but get defensive when it is pointed out they made a mistake, then ditch them. Every member should be accepting of constructive criticism. As long as you’re not chewing them out over their mistakes, they should have no reason to get defensive about them. A worse case is when they use the mistakes others are making as an excuse for not having to fix theirs. What happens when you have a gig and get negative responses about their performance? As soon as you mention it to them they will just point out someone else’s mistakes as a justification. You don’t need someone like this in your band.

They won’t contribute the same amount of time, effort, and/or money as everyone else.

“Sorry guys, I got a date that night and can’t go with you to promote for the show.” Does that sound familiar? What about “I didn’t have time to work on anything this week?” Sometimes life can get too busy to be able to focus on what we want to focus on. Despite that however, those who really care make sure to find time to do as much as they can. Having a member who routinely “doesn’t have time” is not helpful. Whether they are just lazy or really don’t have the time, their lack of time and effort is hurting the band.

They go MIA (missing in action) at random times and no one can get in touch with them.

It’s never a good sign when you suddenly can’t get hold of a certain band member, especially right before a gig. Generally you want to assume that something serious has happened since a courteous band mate would make an effort to get in touch with you if it wasn’t serious. Sometimes that’s just not the case. There are a lot of reasons a band member may suddenly go MIA, but excluding the few legit reasons there are no good reasons. If this happens on a regular basis then drop that band member.

They have drug/alcohol problems.

Here of course is a clear reason to fire a band member. Drinking is fine in moderation, but alcohol or any other substance taken that affects a person’s rehearsal or performance efforts are to be avoided. Motley Crue were notorious for performing while intoxicated for many years. I remember them saying how terrible they realized their performance was the first time they performed sober. I know many people want to believe that some substances are performance enhancers but alcohol and drugs are not some of those. A beer before a performance to calm nerves is fine, but beyond that you start to negatively affect yourself. You inhibit your mental function, which in turns affects your performance level or your remembering of what was rehearsed. You get sloppy.

When you have that member who treats every rehearsal and gig like a chance to party, you are setting yourselves up for failure. You will have to worry about their ability to perform a full gig, their behavior before and after the performance, and especially their reliability. What happens if they get arrested for it? Do you want to worry about being a member short the day before that big gig?

They are always at odds with the rest of the group or do not agree with/support the overall vision and direction of the group.

How far do you think a band will get if there is not an agreement within the band on what direction they are going in? When you have a band member who can never agree with the rest of the band, or just does not support the chosen direction of the band, it is just a matter of time for something to go wrong. They won’t put in as much effort as the rest of the group, and that will hold the group back and create tension within.

They are volatile and get upset or angry easily.

We all know that nobody can be as cool as the Fonz, but it still helps when band members can remain calm during a discussion. What happens when you have the one member who always creates an argument during a peaceful discussion? Everyone is speaking calmly but then the one person suddenly gets riled up over something. Then the calm discussion has quickly changed to an argument.

Let’s look at it another way. “Oh man, my mic clip just broke.” Now, a calm and rational person would figure out a workaround. Your volatile band mate however, gets upset because they can’t put their microphone on a stand or they can’t sing that night while they play their instrument. So either they perform with their attitude already tarnished, or they take it to a more extreme point and refuse to perform. In the end, you don’t want to work with someone that you have to watch your every move and every word around them so they don’t get set off. No band should have room for drama.

The band is not their main project.

In this case I’m not talking about the difference between work and a passion project. The band should be their main passion project if it is not already a job for them. If they have other music projects they are working on and show more attention to those projects, then they may not be the best fit for the band.

They don’t get along with the rest of the group on a personal level.

Sometimes every member seems to be the ideal member. Each person puts in as much effort as any other member. Everyone knows the material backwards and forwards and agrees on the band direction, vision, and general efforts. There is still a small problem though. One member just does not get along with the rest of the group on a personal level. Working together as a band is fine, but the group can’t just “hang out” together because of this. Now, apply that to a long road trip or tour. Professionally everything works, but just like a job, you may find it uncomfortable to “hang out” with your boss away from work. If everyone in the group cannot get along on a personal level, then eventually that incompatibility will lead to strain on the group. Best bet is to find a way to improve the personal relations between band members, but sometimes you just have to say farewell.

They claim or act like the band is “their band,” even though they do not treat it that way.

To me, this is the worst problem of all. It is never good to have a member act like or claim flat out that it is “their” band unless they are acting in every way like it really is. By this I mean they alone are responsible for the band’s business efforts. They cover all band equipment needs, expenses, and guarantee pay for all other members for both rehearsals and performances. They treat the band as their business and act as CEO of it. With that arrangement, all other members are “employees” and therefore get paid for their time, rehearsal or performance. If a member says it is their band and does not do all those things, then that claim is purely out of ego. You can deal with their attitude, make it clear they need the rest of the group more than you need them, or kick them to the curb. The latter has always been best in my personal experience.

In conclusion, consider this metaphor. A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo, and when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest that are killed first. A band is the same way. It can only move forward as fast as the slowest and weakest member allows it to.

James Higgins (295 Posts)

Professional guitarist and instructor based in Alabama; performance, songwriting, and recording. Atlanta Institute of Music graduate. Part-time blogger.

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