Playing in a band is quite a bit different than any other job. There are things that you can get away with that you aren’t able to if you’re punching a time clock or working in an office. However, that doesn’t mean you’re immune from getting the boot if you’re compromising the goals of the group.
1. Be habitually late
It’s understandable that once in a while you’ll run into circumstances that prevent you from getting to a gig on time. I’ve had my car break down, locked myself out of my apartment, and gotten the start time wrong which have all led me to running behind schedule.
Not only do you need to be physically and mentally prepared to perform, you also are affecting the flow of the evening for the staff of the venue. If you find yourself consistently unable to arrive at a venue with enough time to set up and be completely ready to play come show time, you will likely find yourself out of a gig.
2. Drink too much alcohol
It’s usually frowned upon to drink alcohol at work, but playing in a band is one of the few jobs where you are not only permitted to drink, you’re actually sometimes encouraged. Patrons will occasionally buy the band a round, and musicians seldom turn down free drinks.
It’s imperative to have some discipline when it comes to imbibing on stage. Most musicians can get away with getting a buzz on and still perform, but if you’re one of those people that has little self-control with alcohol, you can quickly and easily find yourself being replaced.
3. Argue with the band leader
Not every band has a clear leader…but many do. Someone needs to be in charge and make the important decisions. Without leadership, bands often find themselves flailing with no specific direction.
As is often case when there is one person calling the shots, you may not always agree with the choices being made. A good leader will listen to your viewpoint and take it into consideration, but that doesn’t always mean that the outcome will end up in your favor. If you get angry and make a big production because you didn’t get your way, don’t be surprised if you’re sent packing.
4. Lose your temper on stage
When you’re performing at a gig, you are in the spotlight at the venue. People see and pay attention to your every move, as well as your expressions, mood, and overall demeanor. If something is wrong, it will be glaringly obvious to those in attendance.
Any differences among band members or issues that need to be addressed must be dealt with off stage. Keeping your temperament in check on stage is a vital part of working in harmony as a unit. If you throw a tantrum in front of a live crowd, it’s a good bet that you can kiss that gig goodbye.
5. Talk trash about other bands/musicians
The musician’s community is a large, complex, and well-connected group of people. You won’t always like other players or bands, but it’s always best to show respect for everyone.
When you say something bad about another person, eventually it will get around. If you do it repeatedly, you will lose the trust of your peers. Nobody wants to work with a constantly negative Nancy or a gossip queen. Follow the old adage of “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” if you want to stay in good favor with your fellow musicians.
6. Don’t practice/learn songs
I’ve played in a number of bands where we never rehearse – we just show up and play the gig. In fact, for the last six plus years I’ve been playing with several bands, and have never gotten together with any of them to practice outside of the venue.
A big part of being a professional musician is the ability to be self-motivated. You can never be good enough or know enough songs. Bands quite often look to evolve, expand their repertoire, or just simply get better. If you’re complacent or lazy, and the rest of the group wishes to elevate the standards, you could be shown the door.
7. Do drugs
Drugs are bad, mmmkay? The music icons of the past glorified casual drug use and it became “cool” to get high. However, some of those people have died as a result. When you stop breathing , you can no longer play your instrument. Times have changed, and we’ve become more wise to the effects of drug use.
There are many reasons why doing drugs at, before, or even after a gig can land you on the street. It’s probably not necessary to list them all here. You know the deal. Illegal drugs can land you in a heap of trouble far beyond losing a gig. Be smart if you want to play music. That’s enough of a high in itself.
Full time bass player and owner of Cover Band Central