Though it’s something you’d probably rather avoid, booting a band member doesn’t always have to be an awful experience.
Music is supposed to be fun, right? That’s the primary reason many of us play in a band—to share our love of music with our friends and engage each other on a creative and artistic level. Creating an environment where this can happen requires the right combination of people, and sooner or later you may find that, for a variety of reasons, someone in your band is holding the group back from this enjoyment. If you’re faced with this dilemma and are considering giving a bandmate the boot, first take some of these suggestions into consideration.
At some point, it’s important to begin a healthy dialog with your group, and the sooner the better. Call a band meeting and ask everyone what their individual goals are for the group. Next, try to agree on a single vision for the group and what is expected out of each member. Is it strictly for fun? Does anyone expect to make money? How much of a time commitment is everyone willing to make? Compromises will have to be made, and in some cases, there will be irreconcilable differences. It’s good to find these differences out before everyone gets too involved. Most importantly, this creates a foundation, and a sort of oral contract that each member is expected to fulfill to ensure everyone’s enjoyment in the group.
What’s the Problem?
For a variety of reasons, certain band members may begin to cause problems. Maybe they are chronically late for practice, or don’t show up at all. Or maybe they never come prepared with that week’s material learned. Whatever the case may be, it’s important to hone in on exactly what the problem is. Talk to the other members of your band to see how they feel about the situation, and establish an argument that will get your point across to the problematic bandmate. Make sure that everyone feels the same way, and that you have unanimous support in taking action.
Work it Out
Before jumping straight to giving this person the boot, consider whether or not the situation can be worked out. Are you (the band) willing to give this person a second, third, or even a fourth chance? That depends on a number of factors, but in general, it’s good diplomacy to try to reconcile your differences first. As soon as possible, call a meeting, ideally with the whole group present, to air your grievances. It’s important to keep this person’s feelings in mind; there’s an art to being honest without upsetting them. Give them plenty of room to retort, and keep the comments civil and constructive. This conversation can lead to a number of outcomes. Perhaps they vow to work harder on showing up to practice and learning the material, or maybe they decide that being in the band is not for them anymore and opt to leave. After the meeting, give everyone a few days to process the situation and come to a cool-headed solution.
Before making the final decision to kick someone out of your band, confer with the rest of the group at length to be sure you are making the right decision. Is this the best course of action for the band? Weigh the pros and cons of not having this person in the group, carefully balancing what they contribute and detract from the band. If you decide to go ahead, call another meeting to tell the member that you no longer wish to play with him or her for the reasons that you outlined before. This can be very difficult, especially if the person is a friend, but having the aforementioned conversation beforehand makes it much easier. It’s key that you have this conversation in person—letters can be seen as insincere and phone conversations aren’t much better. Choose one member of the band to calmly and firmly state your case. Stick to your guns and remind yourselves that this action is in the best interest of the band.
This process is easier if you don’t like the person, because you never have to see them again. It gets a lot more complicated when relationships are at stake. If you want to remain friends it’s important to smooth things over sooner, rather than later. Give the person a few days to cool off, then invite him or her out for a beer or coffee and try to bury the hatchet. Focus the conversation on things besides the band and music, like family or work issues. It’s normal to feel guilty and awkward at first, but with a little effort from both parties the wounds will heal and you can continue with a healthy friendship.