Often bands are faced with the dilemma of what to do about a band member who isn’t quite cutting it on one level or another, and all too frequently it can be a situation where the member in question has brought the band to the edge of dissolution. Bands that work are made up of people who share the same goals and aspirations for the band, who maintain mutual respect for each other and where each member is contributing to the best of his or her ability. Problems with members do arise and frequently can be resolved without it being a make it or break it situation, but just as often a problematic band member can result in the demise of a band if he or she is not fired. The two areas that most often lead to band members being asked to leave are being difficult to work with, and a lack of professionalism either during rehearsals or performances.
Any time we work with other people we must deal with personalities and differences of opinion. Being in a band is no different and there will be issues of varying severity. It is not necessary to be friends, but there must be a certain level of mutual respect present if things are going to run smoothly. Some people are drawn to drama like vultures to road kill and where ever they go drama soon follows. Drama kings/queens spread issues like cancer and these issues can become terminal cancers for the band if not surgically removed quickly and efficiently. Drama takes many shapes and forms but is not the only negative personality issue that can lead to being released; being disrespectful of others whether through verbal abuse, physical actions or general abrasive behavior can lead to dismissal. Threatening band-mates physically, being difficult to work with, and threatening to quit in order to get one’s way, particularly in conjunction with any of the above are prime motivators for the band to release a problematic member.
A lack of professionalism on the part of a band-mate is another reason people are asked to leave, whether it is during rehearsals, live performances or both. Respectful behavior is part of professionalism and is expected whether you are in a garage band, semi-pro or professional group. Rehearsals, while fun for many, are also work time. The purpose is to work on the tunes that are the current focus, put together set lists, determine who is doing what and various other things. If people show up intoxicated from alcohol or other substances, this impacts the quality of the work being done and takes away from productive time. Repeated lateness, or not showing for rehearsals, impacts what can be accomplished, as does not being prepared to work on the tunes assigned for rehearsals. Disruptive behavior, such as abusive and abrasive interjections, temper tantrums or bringing non-band members to rehearsals, also negatively affects the quality of work done. Most of us have a limited amount of time to accomplish things so any detraction from this can have a major negative effect on the band. Repeated incidents of these types of behaviors, especially when there are multiple infractions or types of disruptions, usually will result in a band member being asked to leave the group.
Some folks are willing to be more lax with professionalism during rehearsals but a lack of professionalism at a performance is completely unacceptable by any group that is trying to be successful at any level. It really doesn’t matter how big the venue is, or even how many people are in the audience. Every performance should be dealt with as a performance. If unprofessional behavior is tolerated at “unimportant performances,” it will show in larger venues as well, and may very well determine if the band is going to get to those venues at all. Establishing a reputation as being a band that is consistently late also harms bands. Similarly, having crucial members not show for performances has a major negative impact on the band’s reputation as does finishing before the agreed upon stop times. Band members who have temper tantrums on stage hurt performances and stage presence. Playing too loudly in relationship to the other members also has a negative impact on the band as a whole and actively resenting and pushing back against requests to turn down volume levels causes strife, resentment, and a bad performance experience. Being impaired, whether through anger or chemical issues, brings the same result, a sub-standard performance that effects everyone on stage negatively, which in turn effects the audience negatively, which leads to bad ticket receipts and not being asked back. Band members who consistently exhibit these types of behaviors should expect that they will be asked to leave the band.
Granted, we all have our moments, our errors, and our bad days and it would be a sad thing if one such incident would result in our being asked to leave. Sometimes we make one single unforgivable error that results in banishment, but usually getting fired from a band results from the culmination of many things. If a band is going to survive as a unit for any amount of time at all, the bottom line always comes down to what is best for the band. Happy band members ultimately produce the best music and it is important to maintain a healthy environment for all of the members to express themselves in. However, if one member is poisoning the environment, then that member must be sacrificed for the benefit of the many.