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Firing A Band Member (Why, How & When To Do It Properly)

  • Damian Keyes
    Damian Keyes
  • Nov 24th 2021

Firing someone from your band is a horrible thing to have to do.

It's awkward, emotionally taxing, and overall, a situation that no musician wants to have to confront.

The problem is, the music industry is tough and highly competitive.

If all the members of your band aren't pulling in the same direction, it can make that uphill battle even more difficult.

If you feel like you exhausted all ideas and outcomes and are left with no other option than to fire a bandmate, how do you actually go about it properly, respectfully, all whilst avoiding any future collateral damage?

Bands that last are those who manage their conflicts successfully and maintain business-orientated strategies. Sometimes it's not enough and they just have to make difficult decisions.

For bands who aren't interested in growing a fan base and prefer to perform strictly as a hobby, there will be fewer issues, but conflicts can still arise.

Let's look at some reasons you might want to fire a member of a band.

Potential Reasons To Fire A Band Member

There are loads of potential reasons as to why you might want to find a replacement for one of your band members.

If you notice one or more of these red flags in your band, it could be a sign that something needs to change.

1. They Don't Show Up For Practice

When spending time, money, and effort planning a band rehearsal properly, the last thing you need is for band members to not show up.

Without regular and effective rehearsals, your band will suffer. It screams a lack of dedication to practicing and not taking the project seriously. Not only that, but band members should also be focusing on their own musical development outside of practice and actively looking to improve.

Band at rehearsal practice

2. They Aren't Looking After Their Equipment

Do you have one of those bandmates whose equipment is never up to scratch?

Not looking after their gear or not replacing broken equipment can be a sign that they aren't invested in their own musical goals or your band as a whole.

3. They Never Seem To Have Time To Commit To The Band

They don't have time for practice, no time to help write the set list, no time for that gig, no time for anything the band has planned.

It can be frustrating to keep working hard and planning new opportunities for your band, only to not be able to take advantage of them if one member is consistently not able to commit.

Look at ways to find new band members who are more committed.

4. They Don't Learn Songs Properly

Even if the musicians in the rest of the band are showing up on time for rehearsals, are they learning the songs properly in preparation?

Part of rehearsals isn't just to go through the same songs over and over again. If you are tackling new material, all musicians need to be prepared and have put the time in to learn their specific parts.

Musician singer

5. Drug/Drink Problems

This one is extremely difficult to confront, but these kinds of issues can absolutely decimate a band. It can lead to all sorts of problems that are inevitable if left to rot.

Approach this with care and empathy before doing anything drastic.

6. Their General Behaviour Is An Issue

Sometimes it's not about specific issues, just an accumulation of behavioral issues over a long period of time.

If someone is seriously dragging down the vibes of the group or creating a toxic environment, you need to address it.

7. Not Good Enough Musically

If a musician in your band just isn't up to scratch with the other band members, and it's clearly noticeable, it can limit the potential of the band and the creativity within the group.

It's up to you as a good band leader to recognise when or if its becoming an issue and if it's worth the effort to fire someone over.

8. Creative Differences With The Rest Of The Band

It begins with creative differences but can end in full-blown rows.

If every band member isn't on the same page and pulling in the same direction, cracks can start to form.

Musician fail

9. A Change In Circumstances

Sometimes it doesn't haven't to be personal.

Maybe circumstances have changed for your bass player, drummer, singer, or guitarist. They may have secured a new job that leaves them less time, a child on the way, they are moving to a different city... the list goes on. In situations like this, it can be mutually beneficial to call it quits and move on to someone else.

10. Your Band Is Their Side Project

When you start a band it's not unusual to bring musicians who have other upcoming projects too. This can be fine until you want to reach that next level.

If their time and energy is being split between multiple projects and it's affecting your growth as a band, it could mean that they have to make a decision either way as an ultimatum.

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How Fire Someone From Your Band

Now that we've looked at some of the reasons why you might want to kick someone out of your band, let's look at how to navigate this tricky process in the best way and cause the least damage possible.

1. Give Them A Chance To Turn Things Around

Loyalty works both ways.

You want to be loyal to your bandmates, but they also need to be loyal to you.

It's fair to give the person you are considering firing a real chance to turn it around.

You need a specific timescale of how long you are going to give your band member to do this.

It also needs to be realistic. If you set a marker of, for example, 1 month. You then have a deadline to assess if their habits, behaviour, or attitude have improved enough for you to make a decision either way.

2. Call A 1-1 Meeting

It's very important that when you do call a meeting, you don't call a full band meeting.

If you have 4 members in your band, the situation can very quickly become a 3 vs 1 scenario, and that's never pretty.

The person will end up feeling ganged up on and may show signs of being defensive when backed into a corner.

It isn't going to be a calm conversation and you aren't giving them the opportunity to listen, learn, go away and come back again in a more improved state of mind.

Music equipment

3. How Do You Feel It's Going?

Okay so now that you're in the meeting, you're settled down and you're talking things through, it's time to drop this specific phrase.

This isn't confrontational and invites them into the conversation.

Simply say:

"How do you feel it's going?"

As soon as you say this, you are inviting them to give you their thoughts and tell you how they feel like it's going.

They may have problems, struggles, or concerns of their own that they are trying to get through.

You want to hear them out and have all the information before you start going through the process of firing someone from your band.

4. Prepare Your Own Issues Ahead Of Time

Now that you've given them a chance to sound out their issues without any judgment, it's time for you to explain your thoughts and concerns.

Prepare this ahead of time and be extremely clear and specific.

Outline the defined reasons as to why you think things aren't quite going to plan and try to stay calm during it.

Again this could be lateness, attitude, or any of the other reasons to fire a band member we've already talked about.

You've now given them an opportunity to listen, take things on board and improve. Or to leave.

Everything is out in the open and both parties know that things have to change if they are to remain a member of the band.

5. What Can They Do To Improve?

If your band member has already stood up and stormed out of the meeting at this point, there's not much else you can do.

You've provided every opportunity for them to be receptive to your feedback and if they aren't willing to listen, it's over.

However, the better scenario is that your band member is in agreement and wants to know what they can do to remain as part of the band.

This is where you need have thought about measurable targets for improvement ahead of time.

In relation to the issues you have with their role in the band, what specific actions do you need to see from them as a marker of improvement to keep them around? Maybe their stage presence needs to improve or they are consistently late for rehearsals.

Layout the problems and the solutions clearly.

Remember our timescale from earlier? Use that as a benchmark to see whether things have improved enough by then.

You can be as clear as day with your bandmate and say within 1 month we need you to have fixed x, y, and z.

If they aren't fixed then I'm afraid we are going to have to move on and find another musician to replace you.

Music production

6. Keep A Note Of Progress

When you do meet in a month's time to go over how things have gone, you need to know the positives and negatives.

Their lateness may have improved considerably but they still aren't putting in the effort to learn the songs.

At least that way, you are giving them the feedback they need for the next band. You're not being the bad guy.

You've given them the opportunity and if it hasn't worked out, then going your separate ways is for everyone's benefit.

7. How Do You Feel It's Going Now? (Again)

In your last meeting, ask the same question.

Put the ball in their court and let them speak about how they think they've done over the period of time you allocated for them.

Most people will be self-aware enough to know whether their improvement has been enough to avoid firing or not.

At least at this point, you've done everything you possibly can to ensure your bandmate has had enough of an opportunity to address and potentially fix any issues you may have before you kick them out of the group permanently.