Individualism vs. Collectivism
There is no such thing as a true "community". Mutual collaboration in equal parts does not exist and cannot be substantiated via concrete proof - despite how much musicians claim that they're "invested in it for the good of the band". This is an utterance that is only relevant to the contextual time and place, and expressed when it is most convenient to them. Of course, you inevitably become the "bad cop" when the musician ends up being the one to contravene their own standards of accountability, when you're landed with the responsibility of picking them up on it.
The reality is: people are individuals, a liability unto themselves. People are never "invested in it for the good of the band". People are only invested in it for themselves. People might propagate a fabrication that they are "invested in it for the good of the band" in order to facilitate circumstances conspiring in their favour. But they immediately drop these convictions as and when it matters to them.
Productions vs. Bands
For these reasons we call our ensembles not "bands" but "productions" (yes, our production websites make themselves out to be 'bands' but this is simply a semantic mechanism to garner audience understanding/sympathy of what it is we do; the real deal is here).
There is no such thing as a "band" in the continual sense. A "band" is merely a collective of individual musicians who have been booked to perform together in specific a time and place, whether that be a rehearsal, recording, event or other professional performance situation. Outside the immediacy of that situation, it is not a "band" but a contingent collective of people that come together for a finite amount of time, and then disperse - either to rush off to another gig or put their feet up at home. The term "band" cannot be used to describe an ensemble in a continual sense, because, let's face it, this sort of thing doesn't exist. At the end of the day, everyone is a distinct individual and are different from one another - despite how much they like to celebrate one another's "shared solidarity" and so-called "mutual goals". Inevitably, somewhere down the line, a conflict of interest will arise, leading to a division between those two people. This division, this distinction between two separate individuals is programmed into us and is what makes us human beings.
Realism vs. Idealism
Once we have accepted this somewhat bleak reality (because we are realists), we transcend the "risk factor" obstacle. The "risk factor" obstacle basically equates to a situation where commitments are challenged by outside circumstances. It's a term we've adopted from promoters who book artists to perform at venues, a term used to gauge and quantify the likelihood of the artist funding venue hire/HR costs on attendance and ticket sales. In this context, it means musicians attending an event at an agreed time/place in order to produce excellent promotional material that justifies the venue hire/HR costs invested by the label.
Take a music video, for example. Sounds like a great idea, doesn't it? However, it's inevitably down to the label to finance and fund the venue, the videographer, the audiographer, the musicians, not to mention the editing and post-production, and the list carries on. How many times have you heard a musician utter "let's make a music video!" in the spur of the moment. Familiar?
Even once you get past the first hurdle of getting the musicians together in a common time and place (the risk factor being that the event cannot go ahead unless 100% professional commitment is guaranteed, which, in itself, is no easy feat); there is still the second hurdle of the editor/producer not sticking to the post-production schedule and taking over a year to complete the editing. By the time the recordings are all done and dusted, ready for distribution, the third hurdle is that of trueness to form: the lead vocalist throws a hissy fit or has a change of heart, and decides that it's not what they want to do after all. Next, the client notices that the production is now touring featuring a different vocalist and feel cheated because they're not getting what was on the tin - an implied breach. And so, the process starts all over again. A never-ending cycle. Easy, huh?
Don't get me wrong, a music video is a great idea, when it's done properly, i.e., mediated by contractual consent. But once you get past the small print "the musicians are jointly and severally liable for any losses or cancellation fees occurring as a direct result of a breach" then the musicians are less likely to want to put themselves at such risk (even if they're getting paid for it). Not such a good idea after all?
Yes, you may deem such frivolous detail is unnecessary and assert the "common sense" ideology that: "as in all successful 'bands', there is a "clear, common line of communication and trust between all parties, such restrictions and red tape shouldn't be required".
We've even got a written ignorance from an agent saying "it's a band, most just get on with it". Get on with what? How would the agent define such ignorance as "getting on with it"? And how would the same agent justify that a music video can be easily re-scheduled when there are costly cancellation fees to pay for the venues, videographers and musicians in the event of such re-scheduling? Does the agent think we're made of money? Isn't that why we're approaching the agent in the first place? Moreover, re-scheduling on who's terms? Here, it becomes a very grey area. Who's benefitting from the re-scheduling, the "band", the agent or the musicians?
No; time and time again, we have been lured into the garden path of social appeasement and political correctness - setting in store problems for the future; e.g., "we're all musicians, we're all mates, we're all in this together" only to find that this trust is abused further down the line and we have no legal leg to stand on in terms of evidencing these breaches of commitment and subsequently claiming our money back.
We have written evidence of this "clear, common line of communication and trust between all parties" (in the form of email threads), which will be duly published to this blog. This only proves in writing such communication and trust is not a practical or realistic approach. If we proceed from the assumption that people will break their promises or commitments, then we can never be let down, never experience disappointment. We effectively become experienced realists protecting ourselves and our businesses from human fallacy. That's why we take stock from the line in Desiderata:
"Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans."
= realism, not idealism, is our byword.
Karma & Fate: Cause & Effect
We fully believe in karma and fate: the individual must take control of their own lives and be responsible and culpable for their actions. If the individual is responsible for the fallout of the music video through their own indecisiveness, then we'd ask them to pay for the venue hire/HR costs, just as we would if we were to withdraw the production from the booking.
This is why we discourage musicians from forming "bands" or "communal collaborations". Such arrangements don't really exist! They are only setting themselves up for disappointment, unleashing a catalyst of chaos, a web of withdrawals, a minefield of misunderstandings, broken promises and commitments, unresolved accounts and inconsistent continuums. Don't waste your time on fooling yourself into thinking you can rely on others! When it comes to productions, people are subservient to the production, and musicians are disposable.
The best approach is to take control of yourself and your own destiny, maximise on what you want to achieve, uphold your end vision and use other people as means to achieve your end vision. Because that's all you get in return. Take responsibility for yourself, and cultivate an environment where individuals are responsible for their own actions.
Read & Blog
Red & Black Music was set up in 2012 to stop musicians cancelling.
A category naming and shaming unreliable musicians to watch out for.
A category reporting unscrupulous venues and traders.
A category exploring the issues faced working via agents and promoters.
Event Diary #1
Event Diary #2
Productions vs. Bands
Unresolved Queries 1
Unresolved Queries 2