Firing Band Members: A how & when to

It needs to happen. Actually, it needs to happen way more often than it does. Somebody’s got to go and nobody makes the decision. Firing band members is part of the business.

Usually, the band stands back and watches the member in question pouring water into the boat like it’s no big deal. The rest of the band sees it happening, and nothing is done to stop it. The band sinks with the boat. End of band.

Why? Why??!!

No leadership is taken in the band.

Everyone is friends and friends don’t treat each other with any sense of who’s a leader and who’s a follower so nobody really takes either role. It’s just a crapshoot for who calls the shots.

For the hard calls, though, there must be leadership. Someone has to step up and say “you’re out.”

You can only come to this decision if you believe in your band and you want it to be truly successful. If you’re not insulted that a person in your band refuses to pull their weight or make any sacrifice or improve on their instrument then you don’t care enough about your band’s success.

Did you know the Dixie Chicks got signed to a major label deal with a different singer than Natalie Maines after years as a band and then straight up fired the old singer when they get signed?! They knew that to make the band work, the weakest member had to go or they would be held back. That is harsh.

We likely would not have never heard of the Dixie Chicks if they hadn’t done that.

It was a BUSINESS move, and yes it’s totally personal because of the friendships built, but to make your business successful, in music or corporate, the leaders must commit to the following:

1. Accepting true leadership. 

You now make the hard decisions and you pull the trigger on them. No more non-confrontation, passive-aggressive behaviour to try not to upset anybody.

2. Recognizing strengths and weaknesses.

When you see what specific weaknesses are in the band member in question, you can track their progress or lack of progress.

3. Find out if the member is “Trainable.”

Give this member 2 months to be trained to strengthen their weaknesses. You have to do the training.

If the member refuses to sacrifice time to come to practice then you have to talk to them about it, and then see if they are willing to compromise – be trained. They may say they are willing, but won’t actually make the practical effort.

If the member isn’t cutting it on their instrument and refuses feedback about it, you must have that chat and then see if they are willing to be trained – get practicing and show you a measurable improvement.

If they are willing to be trained then they may be worth keeping.

If they prove in 2 months that nothing will convince them to do better then your band is in jeopardy. This person will sink the ship, or at very least hold the entire band back from progressing as fast as you’d like to.

4. Make the tough decision.

The leader has to take control. The training period will have proven to you that this person can’t match the rest of the band in terms of sacrifice/skill/responsibility, whatever it is.

This should relax you about making the right decision. Now make it.

But only make it IF you’re sure this person will not change after 2 months (no more than that. You’ll drag the decision on for 2 years if you don’t deadline it), and if you’re serious enough about your band’s success that a weak member could sink the whole ship.

Cut the chord and you’ll feel yourself sprinting again. It’s no different than a romantic relationship. As soon as the decision is made, there is grief, and then there is progress.

Don’t live stressing about the decision. If you know it’s the right choice, and you’ve tried training the member in question with negative results, just handle it.


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