by MATT BACON >
Line up changes suck and are one thing that every band has to deal with.
They are the sort of thing that defines the career of a band and which can cause you no end of grief as you seek to find a way forward. A lot of bands don’t have healthy ways to deal with these issues and this leads to an unending river of problems. They get salty ex members who talk shit on them to the rest of the scene and they let these problems fester. Ultimately it can lead to the breakup of a band. No one wants to go through the stress of losing a band member, especially if the person decides to be a dick, give people a hard time about song rights and generally harass the band. While lineup changes should be easy, simply one person leaving a company and another joining, it’s rarely that simple and in fact usually turns into something much more intense.
First realize that getting a good band member is a very hard thing.
Not a lot of people seem to understand this, but getting someone to put their life on hold in order to go play to fifteen people is a very rare thing. These people who want to spend money on their art and go out of their way to work with others in order to create something… that’s hard to find. Now you have to be able to get along with them when locked in a tiny van for twelve hours at a time as you proceed to all lose money at a terrifying rate. Oh and they have to be willing to learn your songs and be able to play them well. So when you lose a band member, realize how hard it is going to be to find the perfect person. The criterion needed for this is insane and will take a lot of work to find, so don’t think that you’re on top of it and you will find a replacement for George the bassist right away.
I think one of the scary parts of a band losing a member is that the hierarchy of the band really becomes clear.
That is to say that the main dude really has to step up and it rapidly becomes clear if the member you lost actually contributed anything meaningful or if he was just some random shithead. It’s one of the few times when you need to make a really difficult executive decision and one that is going to have an impact on your band forever. Sometimes band members feel weird about how the firing of a different band member is handled and this can have a long term impact too. If you’re going to fire a band member try and make the decision unanimous, ideally also including the spurned band member in the process, otherwise you’re going to end up with some serious problems down the line. By losing one band member your are sowing the seeds to lose many more. Sure sometimes someone is just an asshole, but if you are firing someone because of creative differences… be careful.
One thing to be aware of that many bands do but which is always a bad idea (Except in extreme circumstances) is don’t break the band up and reform the next day without that member. That isn’t really doing yourself any favors and in fact is just kind of compounding the problem. Unless the guy you are leaving is a criminal or an extreme asshole then the rest of you are handling the problem in pretty much the least mature way possible and also hurting your brand. Word gets around, no matter what you think, and if people think that your band is a bunch of immature assholes do you think that people are going to really want to continue working with you? You need to convey professionalism in all that you do and by fucking up one of the most important things that you will do in the history of your band by corrupting it with infighting and immature attitudes then you are going to hurt your band for good.
When it comes down to it, as with everything else in the industry respect and honesty are the way to go.
The more that you can keep everyone in the loop throughout the painful process then the more ease you’re going to have throughout. For example if you start off early trying to make the transition smooth then you are going to have an easier time of it then if you fire a key band member by text. It’s important to consider things from the fired members perspective and try to get things done as smoothly and with as little dicking around as possible if you want to have a productive go of it. You’re deeply impacting someones creative output by firing them from a band and you need to acknowledge that, you can’t just let it be, you have to respect where they are coming from or risk hurting your good name for years to come. So keeping everybody in the loop is only going to make sure you all get a little bit further along a little bit faster.
The music industry is a tricky place and people getting fired from bands often leads to friction that can define entire scenes, just look at Metallica and Megadeth. These are the sorts of things that make being in a band so goddamn hard and the kinds of things that if not dealt with properly are going to hurt your band for eternity. So realize what it means for you and then go from there. This isn’t something to be taken lightly, by deciding to fire someone from your band realize that you are causing some serious hurt and if you fail to embrace that then the potential to offend people for good is only going to keep growing. Watch out, it’s a wild ride out there.