Bob Craypoe (also known as R. L. Crepeau) is a musician, writer, webmaster, 3D artist, and creator of the Punksters comic strip series.
As a musician who has been in a number of band situations throughout the years, I have met my share of fellow musicians. Some were blessed with a considerable amount of talent and natural ability and others, well, maybe not so much. I have also known some musicians who would work hard as well as some that did not work so hard. Regardless as to where anyone stands regarding any of those qualities, much really comes down to reliability in the end.
Knowing the Songs
In a band situation, everyone has to know the songs. You can’t just have four members of a five person band know the song while having the fifth person there screwing up because he doesn’t know the songs. One of the biggest problems regarding reliability as far as a band goes is making sure that everyone in the band knows the songs. You need a lot of material to be able to go out and make money playing steady gigs. The longer it takes for you to get that repertoire together, the longer it takes for you to get out and make money.
Now, I’m not saying that money is everything but if I had a choice between playing paid gigs or playing for nothing, I’d take the money every time, unless it’s for charity of course. But you can’t make a living playing solely for free. To play anywhere for money, you usually need two to four hours of music. There is no getting around that. So any excuses that someone may have as to why they did not learn the songs they were supposed to learn really does nothing to get around that fact.
I have seen some excellent musicians who played great, had great technique and were quite talented but they just did not know a lot of songs. They spent most of their time strictly working on technique. It’s great to push yourself and try to broaden your horizons but you have to know a lot of songs. That’s all there is to it. So when someone says they are going to learn the songs that the band has decided to perform, they need to learn them. Talent really is no substitute for knowing the material.
Basically, if a band wants to play out, they need to decide what songs they want to do. There should be some compromising in the decision process. For example, I may agree to play some songs that I don’t necessarily like that much in exchange for being able to play some of the songs that I like. Not everyone in the band is going to like the same type of songs. So that’s where compromise comes into play.
If you have one member of the band that is not willing to compromise and learn some songs that he might not necessarily be too enthusiastic about, he has no right to expect others to be willing to compromise. It’s a two way street. One old trick some people like to play is to not learn the songs they don’t like and hope that after a while, the rest of the band will decide to drop the song. But no matter what the reason behind someone not learning the songs, in the end, there really aren’t a lot of acceptable excuses. In the end, they are just not being reliable. Everyone needs to be reliable regarding learning the songs they are expected to because it really comes down to having enough songs to be able to play out.
Showing Up On Time
Another reliability related issue besides learning the songs you are expected to learn is showing up on time. That means showing up to rehearsals on time. Or maybe even showing up at all. Then, of course, you need to show up at the gigs on time as well. That great guitar player without a drivers license could be a bit of a burden. Arrangements may have to be made to pick the guy up and drop him off before and after gigs and rehearsals.
But even if everyone had their drivers license, some people just can’t seen to ever be on time. They will show up late to practices and gigs as well. Unfortunately, venue owners expect you to be there, set up and ready to play by a certain time and that is usually agreed upon prior to the gig. It doesn’t matter if four out of five band members are there and ready to go. You have to start at the agreed upon time and if that one missing band member is not there and you are not able to start without him, You have a problem.
I understand that there may, on occasion, be an emergency that may prevent someone from being able to be somewhere on time. Emergencies are one thing but someone being habitually late is another. I have had to deal with people in the past that were late all of the time to both rehearsals and gigs. The bottom line is that you just can’t tolerate that sort of thing.
I have had to put up with tardiness from one very good musician. He was great at learning all of the songs he needed to learn. He was great at playing his instrument and a great harmony vocalist as well. His only real problem was showing up on time. He was constantly late for practices. He would show up at the last minute for gigs. Sometimes he would call to say he would be a half hour late for a band practice. The half hour would pass and he still would not have arrived. Then he might call again and apologize for not being there yet but that he was on his way. We would have to wait another fifteen minutes to a half hour longer. There were a number of times where he was from an hour to an hour and a half late. Eventually, we had to get rid of him. Very talented guy. Totally unreliable though.
Life is full of tough decisions and knowing when to get rid of a band member can be one of them. But most of the time, the reason for getting rid of someone has to do with unreliability. Sure, there are many other reasons but, in my experience, most of the time it had to do with a person’s unreliability. What often made the decision as to whether or not to get rid of someone so difficult was the fact that the person was a talented musician. So that often increases the overall reluctance.
So what you really have to think about in the end is whether or not you will be able to meet your goals in a reasonable span of time. Your first goal as a band should be to get enough material together to play paid gigs. The second goal should be to be out there actually booking and playing those gigs. Is this person going to facilitate that or be an impediment to that? If they are going to be an impediment to those things, then it doesn’t matter how much talent they have. So when the choice comes down to talent or reliability, you should probably lean more towards reliability.
© 2021 Bob Craypoe