As musicians, we have all spent time playing with other musicians as a band member or the lead. The adage that wrangling band members is like herding cats can definitely be true. Ultimately it comes down to attitude, and a good attitude always pays off.
Following are a few examples of experiences I have had. I am hoping that if you find yourself working with other musicians, as a band member or leader, you can learn something or reinforce the good attitude you already have.
Don’t Be One Of These:
· When band members are flying, especially with instruments, it is imperative that they arrive in enough time. Period. Sounds simple, right? We had two members flying to meet us for weekend shows, one with a bass guitar. They were on an early flight to allow for the two-hour drive to the venue and leisurely arrival for soundcheck. Well, they missed the flight, citing long lines at security. Bottom line is they did NOT allow enough time. They caught another flight and barely made it before showtime. The checked bass did not make it, so we were left scrambling to find a bass. The borrowed one was very sub-par, although we were grateful to have one. The tardy musicians were indignant about it being the airline’s fault. While that is possible…at the end of the weekend, these two had to reverse the process. We outlined their timeline with them and watched as they chose to leave later and missed their return flight as well! Oops, guess whose fault?
· On another occasion we were traveling with the band in a min-van, towing a trailer of gear. As we entered the van for the four-hour run between the last gig and the train station, I gave the one member his train ticket for home. We did not stop, we did not exit the vehicle and yet he lost the ticket in the car and had to have another issued!
· Band members represent the named act, be it a band or an artist. Therefore it is important to have and for them to be ‘well-behaved’ band members. We had one member who was A LOT of fun, always making us laugh. However, he tended to be a handful. He liked to ‘take’ souvenirs home from venues. One time he was burning off pre-show jitters backstage and had inflated a vinyl glove (the opaque kind used for all kinds of jobs) over his face and head. Hysterical, yes, but not professional.
· As A&R for a festival, I witnessed a serious career violation. The lead of a band I hired for a festival, at the director’s request, exhibited repeated bad behavior. His communication was little to none, contracts were late, promo materials were late, and he was pouting upon arrival about not being the headline act. He caused delays during setup, ran overtime and everyone noticed his lack of professionalism. The director’s comment was ‘never bring him back.’ Every gig is an opportunity for more gigs, a bad attitude can easily eliminate that.
Try One Of These:
· Conversely, a great example of a winning attitude. I left my little bus in Nashville for my manager to drive the band to meet me for the weekend. I try to leave things in tip-top shape, especially when I am not going to be there. This time however, many short straws were drawn on one trip. The air conditioning went out in the bus, it was summer and there are not windows to open. A belt broke and had to be replaced, and the inspection expired while the bus was out of state. Five guys climbed out after 18 hours (of a 12 hour run) laughing and ready to rock. Nice!!
· The professional thing to do if you find yourself with a gig conflict is to supply a worthy substitute. This helps you satisfy your commitments and gives the gig to a friend, someone who will represent you well and not (intentionally) steal your place. We met our favorite bass player this way. He was a substitute whose spirit and vibe fit us much better. So we kept him!
· My band of players who all came from the big leagues, giant stages, etc, sucked it up for a stripped-down, last-minute gig in Philly on an 8’x8’ stage with walls on three sides. Grumbling was short-lived as everyone recalled their humble beginnings and played their hearts out.
I’ve always found that the very best players may not be the best for the band as a whole, on stage and off-stage. As you all know you spend more time together off-stage, than on. Happy gigging!
To find out more about Mike, his story, and his new CD, Wayward Troubadour, visit www.mikeaikenmusic.com.