Realistic expectations or bad mgmt?

rogue_drummer

Gold Member
I need to bounce this off the forum.

There are several musicians leading their own groups in the D/FW area who I beleive have revolving doors attachd to their bands. As in musicians come and go very frequently. One leader comes to mind who continually advertises on CL and FB for musicans to come and audition. A few weeks later or maybe a month later she advertises again. Then again and so on. It's always the musicians fault or they left for some reason or another.

One guy I've subbed for once continues to do this. Always the same old thing. One of his band members can't continue gigging for family reasons or whatever and he advertises with the promise that if there is a "fit" it will turn into a permanent position. And these aren't 5 star rooms, but more live small venues and restaurants. Always the same routine: they don't rehearse before, but he sends the set lists and expects you to look it up on YouTube and learn the songs.

I did this when I subbed for him. Spent 3 days learning the songs as best I could. Show up and right before we play he says he doesn't stick to the order of the set list, but meerly wings it and calls out each number before they play it completely at random.

I've never played with any of these guys so I have to take queues from the bass player as to breaks, etc.

Afterwards a week later the leader was cordial on the phone when he told me his normal drummer decided to stay witht the band. Then he sorta was snotty because he told me to "do him a favor and learn the songs".... LEARN THE SONGS?? I NEVER played with these guys before that gig! No rehearsals??? Come on!! They put their own spin on all the songs. Like Folsom Prison Blues is a train beat, right? I started to play it that way and was told to play it stright country 2/4 with accents on the upbeat. First time I heard it played that way.

Anyways...are these guys bad leaders or is something like this to be expected? This experience sorta threw me for a loop.
 

topgun2021

Gold Member
Hey man, my former best friend had a tantrum outside the bar and left me there before we even played once.

I would not be surprised by this, maybe you just get unlucky and only see the bad leaders. There should be good leaders out there. I know here in the Twin Cities there are a bunch of musicians who mix and match with each other to form multiple ensembles. The thing is these guys are seasons professional musicians and they cross their T's and dot their I' ten times over.

If I were you, I would tell everyone you ever play for that you expect to be given detailed instructions on what to play and the song form. If you are not I would tell them that you expect that to mean you have freedom to decided how you want to play. If they get mad at you, you then tell them that they never specified anything, thus they have no right to get mad at you. I would also only ever play for money if there is a contract involved for the time you play with the band.

As for the set list, I would ask if they can keep it in the same order you were given. If not, I guess just learn to play from memory off the fly.
 

Muckster

Platinum Member
I'd say that's fairly normal in my experience as a gigging drummer for over 30 years. Every band leader is different. Most of my experience has been as a sub or with a band leader putting together a group for a limited or "one off " performance. In fact, thinking back i can only recall a few gigs where everything was comfortable. Most of the folks i have worked with expect you to learn the set and be able to adapt on the band stand. It is their band after all.

You have to learn to deal with difficult people (nut jobs) and press on. As long as they're paying, I'm in.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
Hey man, my former best friend had a tantrum outside the bar and left me there before we even played once.

I would not be surprised by this, maybe you just get unlucky and only see the bad leaders. There should be good leaders out there. I know here in the Twin Cities there are a bunch of musicians who mix and match with each other to form multiple ensembles. The thing is these guys are seasons professional musicians and they cross their T's and dot their I' ten times over.

If I were you, I would tell everyone you ever play for that you expect to be given detailed instructions on what to play and the song form. If you are not I would tell them that you expect that to mean you have freedom to decided how you want to play. If they get mad at you, you then tell them that they never specified anything, thus they have no right to get mad at you. I would also only ever play for money if there is a contract involved for the time you play with the band.

As for the set list, I would ask if they can keep it in the same order you were given. If not, I guess just learn to play from memory off the fly.
Agree mostly, except that a contract for a casual club gig is very unlikely on the local circuit, so don't sweat it. It's reasonable to have a set list (especially when there's a sub on the gig), but many bandleaders like to just shoot from the hip.

Yes, this man and woman are poor bandleaders. They have unrealistic expectations of their bandmates, and deal with musicians unfavorably. You can either attempt to communicate what you need more clearly, or avoid them. If you know that musicians are constantly leaving a group, well, that speaks for itself, doesn't it?

Folsom Prison doesn't have a train beat, for the record, although such a beat would sound fine. In your case, the band was used to their way, and you went your way. These things happen less in bands that are more organized and professional. Taking cues from another player on stage can be nerve-wracking, and the outcome is rarely perfect, but it's necessary when all else fails.

You do realize that you're expecting personality qualities like organization and professionalism from musicians, right? :)
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
I think there are two separate issues:

One.. If it's working cover band, and they hire in a sub, yes, it's generally expected the sub knows the songs and can fill in with no rehearsal. That is what they are paying for.

Having no set order to the songs is pretty darn common for a bar cover band.

A buddy of mine had a band that plays ever weekend. They never rehearse. When the band wants to add a new song, the leader emails the song to the guys, everyone learns it on their own, and it's considered part of their repertoire. They have a list of songs they all know, but the order is whatever feels right at the moment.

When I was doing the small bar scene, all the calls were always last minute. The band leader would just pull people out of thin air. No rehearsal, no set list, no nothing, just show up and be ready to play.

On the other side, if these band leaders are burning through people left and right and can't keep anyone together, that is probably a sign of being a bad leader.
 
I deal with situations like this all the time so I completely understand. I could rant all day on this..........................but I won't :)

Some band leaders have unrealistic expectations, but are aware of it and will appreciate you if you even meet half of the expectations. Others are completely oblivious to it and will criticize and blame you for things that aren’t your fault. Many musicians deal with this kind of thing.

In my experience, the best thing to do is just be an unapologetic pro. What I mean is always strive to be the highest skilled person on stage that has done the most homework. Always be on time etc.. and fulfill bookings. Write charts for everything and then be prepared to either read them down as written, interpret them loosely or ignore them all together depending on what the situation calls for. That way you are prepared for anything. By the time you’ve written a good chart for a tune you’ve got it in you ears so you can probably fake it by ear if necessary. The great thing is you can reuse a lot of charts (at least with top 40 stuff) for multiple gigs/bands and after a while you’ll have a pretty good repertoire of charts to use for countless other gigs which makes preparing for future gigs much easier. I know the band you worked with played the tunes their own way but no one can fault you for showing up ready to play the original recorded versions (especially if you weren't told otherwise) and I find most bands tend to gravitate towards the original versions anyways. You will more often get criticized for not know the original version then not knowing the bands revamped version. In your particular situation I guess you just have to do your best to follow along but they should have been providing you with instruction before they started each tune if they were playing their own versions. It's a good idea to request that the band leader send you links to the closest possible recorded versions of each tune they are doing. If they refuse to provide you with any material (which is not uncommon) they will at least realize that as a band leader they are partly responsible for how prepared you will be for the gig in so far as they are responsible for letting you know what the homework is and for facilitatiing it by providing info/material.

Also, it might seem strange, but waiting as long as you can to start the homework for a gig is a good idea. You still have to give yourself enough time to get it done but if you start too early you may find you wasted time learning a lot of tunes that later get dropped from the set list a week before the gig (only to have more new ones added). Same thing goes for putting your charts in order too soon (the set list might get changed the day before and you’ll have to re order them). Bring a copy of your set list to the gig so that if the band starts playing them at random you’ll have an index to help you locate each chart in your binder quickly. I know a few other tricks to efficiently organize your charts…..and deal with this chaos you described…..just let me know and I’ll rant further if you like :) Hope it works out!
 
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