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yorks5stringer

Band issues, what would you do?

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Early this year I  advertised my availability for bass duties on JMB and had quite a lot of interest.

I spoke to a couple of guys who had recorded an album (with another in the pipeline): they sent me some of the material which I learnt and we had an informal audition and long chat which went very well and I was in. They explained they had being going out as duo but had a percussionist/drummer in place along with a fiddler and they were looking to do gigs and festivals over the summer as  a full band.  We had a full rehearsal and then took on new material, rehearsing it up and  doing around 8 gigs up to July including a number of Festivals. It soon became apparent however that they were still going out as a duo with acoustic guitars (which they only mentioned after the event in rehearsals, by saying , 'Oh we screwed that up when we did it on Friday 'etc) and I put this down to they had booked ahead as a duo and they were fulfilling those gigs.

However as I was signed onto their Facebook page I started to get notifications  and photos of gigs they had done, not only as a duo but as a trio and even a quartet  started appearing: over August they did around 4 gigs at Festivals without me and without even mentioning it!

I sent a very polite email to them saying I had just been made aware of missing  the August dates  to which they said they'd always done gigs with different line ups and it was dependent on the size of the venue and the wishes of promoters. Whilst I saw no sign of a smokescreen, they had photos where they were on what looked like a large tented stage....

Needless to say, I know there are no issues with my playing or if  bass does not fit, but I feel as if ( ironically) I'm part of the 'gig economy' and on a zero hours contract where I'm last in line to get the call. Incidentally the material on both their albums has bass all through it  and whilst one of them can play the Bass, they have not gone out without me and played the bass themselves.

So do I suck it up ( they are perfectly nice guys, as are the other players and we get on fine)  and continue to pick up the scraps in terms of gigs or would you move on to a band where bass is integral to the live performance?

I am with 2 other bands, 1 who gigs monthly and another who've only done about 4 gigs this year.

 

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Mmm, tricky one. The 8 piece band I was in would sometimes take gigs for a 6 piece, losing two brass players in the process. However, once those gigs were done, we all agreed that we would only go out using the full band. This was decided as a result of a) being fair to all the band members, and b) to avoid confusion with people wanting to book the band i.e. if they wanted us then it was the full line-up. Although initially we did turn some gigs down, I think it was the best route. 

Must admit IME it's not usually the bassist who first suffers from slimming down a lineup, especially as it seems your band has bass on most songs they play. Hope you manage to get it sorted, otherwise you'll have to decide whether it's worth your time being what is ostensibly a part time member. How about them using you as a session / dep player i.e. you'll do it if you're available, but not guarantee exclusivity and therefore leave you free to pursue other stuff?

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I am in exactly the same boat in the kids band I play in. Normally a 5 piece, they have a sliding pricing scale of duo (vocals and either guitar or keys), trio, quartet (add in the drums) or quintet with me. I reckon I do about 30% of their gigs. Our situation is of course a bit different - charging over £500 for a full band for a kid’s 8th birthday is probably a bit steep for most (even here in Surrey 😜) hence the sliding scale, I just find it quite irritating that the bass is the first to be dropped. If there’s a date I can’t do they don’t always bother getting a dep, they just take more money each!

 

So... I know how you feel. I’ve just decided to suck it up. Until I hit 40 and quit because it’ll be a bit weird ;)

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I do suspect they are bagging all the £150 gigs as a duo and the full band gets the charity and festival gigs where you are lucky to get cider tokens as payment....

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10 minutes ago, yorks5stringer said:

I do suspect they are bagging all the £150 gigs as a duo and the full band gets the charity and festival gigs where you are lucky to get cider tokens as payment....

Free Wristband, always a splendid inducement. 

It costs them nothing extra and the longer you stay the more money you spend!

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7 minutes ago, BreadBin said:

Free Wristband, always a splendid inducement. 

It costs them nothing extra and the longer you stay the more money you spend!

Ah yes, I'd forgotten about the free wristband and a £1 off your first pint providing you buy the plastic glass first...!

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To be fair most festivals are sailing pretty close to the wind financially, every little helps and all that.

Doesn't mean I agree with your fellow band members activities tho

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My take on it is that if those two have played for a while as a duo you'll probably always be a marginal semi/detached member of the band. I was in a similar situation when I joined a band run by a husband and wife duo. You just need to decide if you're happy with that.

Think about Darryl Jones. Played with the Stones for 22 years and not considered a proper Stone...

Edited by Len_derby
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...agree, but I do suspect DJ gets paid in more than cider tokens! Wonder if he fancies a band swap for a gig, maybe I could pitch the idea to C4?

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I would ask what gigs they wanted me to take part in over the next 6 months including fees and then make my mind up from this.

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The main issue for me would be what I was told at the start. I'd always make clear to someone what they were getting into. If I wanted them to just join, play the set and just be a hired hand then that is fine as long as you say so up front. Generally I prefer a democracy (so long as I am first minister of course) and certainly money is split evenly when I'm band leader. As a bassist if somebody said up front 20 gigs a year, £50 a gig, learn the songs I'd be perfectly happy. No responsibility, just gigs, why not? 

Are you perfectly happy? Apart from not being put in the picture which would annoy me too. Decide whether you get enough back to keep playing with them. Nice people, regular quality gigs, that's a couple of decent ticks. It wouldn't be unreasonable to ask where you stand either, just a polite request for clarification.

The other issue is whether you are missing out on other gigs as a result of your commitment to them.

Most bands are driven by one or two people who are close IME, the only alternative is to start your own band. If they are doing all the work though I don't see a problem other than they should have made things clear up front.

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They sound like they're mugging you off tbh, I'd have a frank conversation about your position in the band and be prepared to walk if they won't put you on their level. 

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They see you as the "hired hand" and they will call you for the gigs they feel they want you for. Wouldn't worry me but it might worry you if you feel like you need to "belong".

I really don't mean that in a patronising way. People are in a band for different things. 

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Good advice from all: I'll see how things develop over the next few months.

So far  I've never had a conflict on gig dates but it's the lack of transparency that irks me. There was a programme about telling lies  the other week, and as well as the outright lie, the programme said that deliberately withholding information falls into the same category....

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1 minute ago, yorks5stringer said:

Good advice from all: I'll see how things develop over the next few months.

So far  I've never had a conflict on gig dates but it's the lack of transparency that irks me. There was a programme about telling lies  the other week, and as well as the outright lie, the programme said that deliberately withholding information falls into the same category....

Yeh but... not telling the wife I'm sleeping with her sister is probably lying. 

If they don't see you as a full member of "their" band then it may not be. I think there's some managing expectations to be done. You do need to sit down and tell them that this arrangement is niggling you. They may act surprised. They may not care. But you definitely need to get it off your chest as it clearly IS niggling you. 

I'm not sleeping with the wife's sister by the way! She said 'no'! 😂

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I would be looking for another band to fill my time, join one, if they are good stick with doing stuff with them, and if this band want you and you are free, go out with them, if not, don't.

Its fine to be a hired hand rather than a member of the band but in that case it should be up to you if you are available.

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3 hours ago, Len_derby said:

Think about Darryl Jones. Played with the Stones for 22 years and not considered a proper Stone...

Bit of different situation though to be fair - haven't seen the Stones play a gig without him in that period, and am sure he'll be on a retainer to make sure they're his first priority.

 

4 hours ago, Merton said:

I am in exactly the same boat in the kids band I play in. Normally a 5 piece, they have a sliding pricing scale of duo (vocals and either guitar or keys), trio, quartet (add in the drums) or quintet with me. I reckon I do about 30% of their gigs. Our situation is of course a bit different - charging over £500 for a full band for a kid’s 8th birthday is probably a bit steep for most (even here in Surrey 😜) hence the sliding scale, I just find it quite irritating that the bass is the first to be dropped. If there’s a date I can’t do they don’t always bother getting a dep, they just take more money each!

Quite surprised that any band would drop the bass first. I mean, drums and no bass ??

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2 minutes ago, casapete said:

Quite surprised that any band would drop the bass first. I mean, drums and no bass ??

Yeah it irked me tbh when it became clear that I was the least important member! Being a band designed to entertain kids it isn’t as loud as a normal band but still makes little sense. I guess their thinking is that the left hand of the keys can handle low end duties...

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@OP

You thought you were joining a band but it now turns out it's a floating cast of musos backing up a couple of troubadors. Shame they didn't make that clear to you, whether through cöck-up, conspiracy or carelessness, who knows?

Anyhow, keep taking the gigs and the money, and use the opportunity to do a bit of networking (maybe steal the drummer) while looking for the full time band. Keep working with these guys until you don't need them anymore then very politely give them the Spanish while leaving a hook in them in case they need you again. So, rather then them using you, you're using them.

Frontmen, eh? You can't live with them and you can't kill them, gut them, wrap them in chicken wire, tie some weights to them and throw them off the back of a boat.

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9 hours ago, skankdelvar said:

@OP

You thought you were joining a band but it now turns out it's a floating cast of musos backing up a couple of troubadors. Shame they didn't make that clear to you, whether through cöck-up, conspiracy or carelessness, who knows?

Anyhow, keep taking the gigs and the money, and use the opportunity to do a bit of networking (maybe steal the drummer) while looking for the full time band. Keep working with these guys until you don't need them anymore then very politely give them the Spanish while leaving a hook in them in case they need you again. So, rather then them using you, you're using them.

Frontmen, eh? You can't live with them and you can't kill them, gut them, wrap them in chicken wire, tie some weights to them and throw them off the back of a boat.

Was waiting for your unique view on things Skank, but I'm a bit confused, as at one point in your vignette you say they are 'floating' and in another you suggest they are weighted down and are definitely sunken: needless to say it would be foolish of me  to commit to any form of malevolence in full view of GCHQ and fellow chatters....

Edited by yorks5stringer

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12 hours ago, casapete said:

Bit of different situation though to be fair - haven't seen the Stones play a gig without him in that period, and am sure he'll be on a retainer to make sure they're his first priority.

 

True, thinking about it his situation is probably fairly secure.

But if Sir Mick and Keef were planning side-projects I doubt if telling Daryll about it would be very high on their to-do lists. Perhaps not telling Charlie either!

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I've been in two bands now where the size of the band depends on what a venue will pay.  Drummer out first,  then bass.  To be honest,  I don't mind as I'm  also doing gigs where I play guitar and sing in a duo.  With small restaurants,  it makes sense.  As a product,  in this day and age,  you have to be flexible.  Maybe you should go out and start getting the band gigs for the whole band at the high prices.  I'm  sure they would much rather have the full band gigs as they're so much more satisfying.

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If you rely on bass playing for a living, then it's just another potential income stream along with all the others you no doubt have running, so it's OK.

Otherwise I'd blow it out. I like to feel part of a cohesive unit and that my contribution isn't expendable or negotiable. That situation would be just way too tenuous for me. YMMV.

Edited by discreet
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Late to the party, but so's Discreet so that's OK.  :drinks:

I do this for fun. The money's nice and I do expect to be paid, but enjoying myself is way more important than the money.

[Cue lengthy and tangential posts by pro musician Basschatters explaining why I'm undermining their market and need to change my attitude.] :lol:

In the OP's situation my only real questions would be:

  1. Am I still enjoying playing this music with these bandmates?
  2. If I devoted this particular time & effort to finding another band and then playing that music with those bandmates, would it be likely to be more fun?

If my limited career as a gigging musician has taught me anything, it's that every band has issues, every band has problems, every band has a list of reasons to make me want to throw my toys out of the pram and flounce. Which makes flouncing a less attractive option, since I know what I'll be walking into next ...

 

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26 minutes ago, Happy Jack said:

If my limited career as a gigging musician has taught me anything, it's that every band has issues, every band has problems, every band has a list of reasons to make me want to throw my toys out of the pram and flounce. Which makes flouncing a less attractive option, since I know what I'll be walking into next...

My four decades of gigging has taught me exactly this. And it rarely gets any better. Finding people who are on the same page as you is the quest for the holy grail. As long as you know this and accept it, you can start having fun. Well... mainly frustration, with little bits of fun in it. Good luck, everyone. :biggrin:

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