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Band/Album Project Conundrum

Discussion in 'Band Wagon' started by srblue5, Oct 12, 2020.

  1. srblue5

    srblue5 Tele-Meister

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    I’m new here but I have a band/album project conundrum that I was hoping to maybe get some additional perspective(s) on (or at the very least, get to vent about).

    As a bit of background, I play part-time in a worship band. We have a 4-piece rhythm section (keyboards, drums, bass, myself on guitar) and a rotating group of singers depending on who’s available. I’ve played with this band for 4 years. The worship music is kind of pop-rock with mild to moderate EDM elements; my own background is in blues and rock ’n’ roll — I'm not into EDM or modern pop music myself — but usually what I play meshes with the band’s arrangements (and when it doesn’t, I just turn myself down or sit out that particular song altogether).

    About two years ago, two of the singers, who have a non-worship project separate from the worship band and had taken a shine to my playing, invited me to guest on a YouTube video. It went pretty smoothly. A few months later, they approached me about joining their duo and making an album/EP of original material together. Their background is in EDM and modern hip-hop/R&B but they wanted to fuse their style with my bluesier/rock style. Although my tastes are mostly rooted in music from the ‘80s and earlier, I was curious as to how to mix my playing into a more modern context.

    The album project started out pretty promisingly, with everyone contributing ideas. However, over time, I have perceived that one of the singers’ has been gradually dominating the project (while the other singer goes along with it). Initially, the dominant singer would repeatedly reject others’ song ideas (mine more than the other singer’s), while pushing and lauding his own ideas. To be fair, we did still collaborate on writing and arranging many of the songs, with one of them being largely (re)written by me after they played me a demo of them singing a melody over Wilson Pickett’s “I’m In Love” (in order to avoid any copyright wrangles). Not long after, the dominant singer started singing to me the guitar parts he was hearing for the songs. I’m open to ideas and collaboration, so I went along with it while also contributing ideas I also had. Later, when listening to the rough mixes for our songs (the main singer does the production work himself on a DAW), I noticed a pattern where the guitar parts he would come up with for me to play would be mixed fairly prominently, while the parts I came up with on my own (either as riffs, solos, or harmony parts, or even bass guitar parts I played) were mixed way low or out completely. I got pretty upset with him after almost a year of working on the album and called him out on this, to which he explained that he wasn’t intentionally mixing out the parts I came up with but rather that he wasn’t familiar with mixing guitars (he himself mostly plays keyboards, synthesizers, and software instruments) or with my musical background. It seemed fair enough and I figured I was being unreasonable. He offered to collaborate on the mixing process and said he was open to feedback.

    Fast-forward a year later and the album is 90% complete. However, the dominant singer’s behaviours have persisted, if not intensified. My partner commented on how she could barely hear me, except for brief snatches of 2-5 seconds, when I played her rough mixes of some of the songs (and she's not a fan of guitar-based music, to begin with). I still haven’t been invited to collaborate on the mixing process. I've given up adding overdubs, since most of what I contribute doesn't seem to make it to the final mix. The dominant singer has solicited ideas for other aspects of the project like the album title, promotional campaign, etc., but always goes with the original idea he comes up with. I’m increasingly finding it futile to contribute anything without being repeatedly told something to the effect of, “I 100% agree with you, but [insert idea of his] makes more sense. Still, we’ll maybe use your idea for the next album.” It really feels like his solo album, with me playing the role of a session guitarist.

    The natural solution would be for me to quit the project. However, I worry about not being credited for my contributions to the songwriting and guitar playing if I do quit, since I'm on 90% of the album. I’m not doing this for money or recognition -- it's just nice to be able to play music in any realm now that Covid has taken away gig opportunities for the time being -- but I feel like I need to defend the principle of being credited for my hard work, whether it’s the composition or arrangement ideas I came up with (no matter how buried in the mix) or the work of playing them. So far, I’ve grit my teeth and promised myself I wouldn’t come back for a second album if this is how it's going to be but it’s still very frustrating and stressful.

    Is it possible that I’m looking at this from the wrong perspective? Am I maybe being unreasonable?
     
  2. Peegoo

    Peegoo Poster Extraordinaire

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    Were you brought aboard as a full third partner, or more as a hired gun?

    Was your role originally described as contributing to the composition process, or just to add what the duo wanted from you?

    If you were brought in with equal share in the production process, then they owe you that.


    However...it sounds like perhaps you've never played in a gigging band...and that is often fraught with this sort of idiocy (egos, attitudes, diva behavior, etc.). Some people just simply love to push other people around.

    I cannot advise you about what to do in this case, but I have walked away from bands and projects due to "musical differences."
     
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  3. thankyouguitar

    thankyouguitar Tele-Meister

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    Thank you for sharing your story. I can say I have definitely been there! I do not think you are being unreasonable. In my experience, I have had the best time identifying early that I am in a solo project in all but name and then just enjoying playing music together and not having any expectations for recordings.

    But, I have felt compelled to stand up for myself in situations where I was in a project where I had contributed to the composition process and was then minimized or written out completely of the recording. Not fun!

    Ultimately, the clear communication of roles, expectations, and responsibilities of all in the band is best but communication is often not the easiest thing for band folks.

    Hang in there. Make sure you're name's on the album and look forward to playing the songs out once all this mess is behind us!
     
    srblue5 likes this.
  4. srblue5

    srblue5 Tele-Meister

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    Thanks for your replies! I appreciate your perspectives.

    When I did the first collaboration for YouTube (before being approached about the album idea), I was strictly in the role of a hired gun. The only contribution I made to the decision making for that recording was to suggest less bass cut for the EQ of the acoustic guitar (which was a Gibson J-160E -- not a guitar that particularly needs less bass. Lol) For the album project, it was clear (at least verbally) that both singers wanted to include my musical "vision" along with theirs (in contrast to simply adding my parts as a session guy). In hindsight, I wish I had realized earlier that I was part of a solo project in all but name.

    At the end of the day, there's really nothing stopping them from taking the credit for themselves, whether I stay or speak up or not. I guess the decision I have to make is whether to walk away from the project altogether and risk souring the relationships (which could also impact my standing with the worship band in which we played pre-Covid) or grit my teeth and carry on. It's just frustrating because it has increasingly felt like the only reason I'm in the project is because I own a guitar and amp.
     
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  5. Mexitele Blues

    Mexitele Blues Tele-Afflicted

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    This sounds like good experience either way. Continue to stay positive and assert yourself.

    If there is a next time, I find that some things are best worked out in advance, such as how decisions will be made, autonomy over one's own playing, compensation, etc. In the absence of such an agreement, the strongest personality or the financier tend to fall into the leadership role.

    It is important to consider that being involved in the creative process may lead to more confrontational behavior as well as rewarding results. Sometimes it is nice to show up, cut your tracks, grab your check, and run.
     
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  6. srblue5

    srblue5 Tele-Meister

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    That makes sense. Thank you (and everybody else) for your advice!

    Believe me, I kind of miss how it was for the first video project when I cut my tracks over a two hour session and ran. Reminds me of a story I read about session drummer Yogi Horton (who played for Bob James and Luther Vandross, among others), where he showed up two hours late for a session, laid down the drums in one take, listened to a playback, grabbed his cheque, and ran.
     
  7. beyer160

    beyer160 Friend of Leo's

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    Welcome to the sausage grinder.

    Musical projects tend to have an Alpha dog, and everyone else has two choices- follow along or quit. Either of those is a perfectly valid choice. True democracies are rare in any scenario, and especially in music.

    When it comes to mixing, it sounds like your de facto bandleader is focusing on his ideas and doesn't know/care what to do with anything else. Generally it's best not to have anyone other than the band leader(s) involved in the mixing process though, because otherwise everyone always wants "more me" and you wind up with a cluttered, unfocused mix and bruised egos. It's important to have a consistent musical vision for a project, and not a horse designed by a committee.

    Regarding your contributions to the project, legally the only things that count towards songwriting copyright are lyrics and melody. Anything else is called "arrangement".
     
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  8. RifleSlinger

    RifleSlinger Tele-Meister

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    I would finish the project and give a frank but constructive "exit interview" to wrap up your involvement at the conclusion.
     
  9. Bob Womack

    Bob Womack Tele-Afflicted

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    For years I was unhappy with a certain band's mixes because they seemed far too guitar-centered and de-emphasized the fantastic textures of their virtuoso keyboardist. Then I discovered that the guitarist was always the mix supervisor. Ping! Have you considered suggesting that the mixes be produced and executed by a third party with the band sitting it out? That's how the best mixes are created anyway because the third party has no horse in the race and is only looking to make the song the best it can be. It also cuts down on resentment or at least focuses the resentment on someone outside the circle of the band. Words from a producer/engineer.

    Bob
     
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  10. Lance Morgan

    Lance Morgan TDPRI Member

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    Start assembling
    your own project/band and do what you want to do. Meanwhile, finish up with your current album, and be ready to get on with your life.
     
  11. srblue5

    srblue5 Tele-Meister

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    Part of the problem is most of the suggestions I make are usually shot down (often in what I feel is a somewhat patronizing way, i.e. "GREAT idea, bro, but this is what we're gonna go with..."). However, if the dominant singer later comes up with the same idea, he/we will go with it. Then there's the other issue that he has taken on producing every aspect of the project himself and doesn't seem eager to delegate. He hired a videographer to shoot the footage for the leadoff single but edited the music video himself (despite his friend having substantial filmmaking credentials). I have largely given up contributing anything, which has probably only worsened his autocracy.

    In the meantime, I've begun working on my own project, starting with a couple of my rejected songs and riffs from this project. I like the idea of the exit interview after completing this project.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2020
  12. tfarny

    tfarny Friend of Leo's

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    In my experience, that's the kind of thing that happens! Bands generally have leaders, unofficially or not. When it's a pretend democracy, you end up in situations like you are in. Would you have been happy to contribute to the project if your hired gun status had been clear at the start? OTOH, perhaps these two initially liked your SRV-on-EDM stylings, but then gradually realized they didn't work in the end for their vision? Sometimes things sound better in your head than in the real world.

    I don't think there's much you can do except either gracefully quit, or pull back your emotional and time commitment. It's too bad, but that's why being in bands is so darn hard.
     
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  13. swervinbob

    swervinbob Tele-Afflicted

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    This. Just finish up, tell them it’s been fun, and go do your own thing.
     
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  14. Matthias

    Matthias Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    It sounds like you’re still ‘the guest’. Is the other singer annoyed at the lead-taker? If not it might just be the order of things here.

    This is the case with a lot of bands and projects. However, the problem with the idea of hiring in musicians to work on ‘your’ album when there’s no money in it is that the other musicians do it for fun. If it’s not enjoyable, don’t do it. But in this case, I’d say finish the album and you still have something nice out of it, you just want to move on to more collaborative projects next it seems.
     
  15. codamedia

    codamedia Poster Extraordinaire

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    IMO... without a clear leader projects quickly lack focus and uniformity. Someone has to have the final say!

    If you want to be the project leader, start a project of your own.
    When you join someone else's project, your opinion matters - but won't always be accepted. That's just the way it is!
     
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  16. String Tree

    String Tree Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Tough it out to the end.
    Then Bail-out.

    Tell the Dominant Singer how you feel.
    If you are asked to play again, speak your mind.
    Tell them what You want and don't back down.
    If they don't like it, fine. You will be no worse off.
     
  17. srblue5

    srblue5 Tele-Meister

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    Agreed. I am planning on toughing it out and then dissociating from the "band" thereafter. I came close to quitting a week ago after I was asked to provide a last minute overdub for one of the songs that was ultimately left out of the mix, despite the dominant singer calling my contribution "awesome" and "dope". This has been the pattern for the past year at least.
     
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  18. Thebluesman

    Thebluesman Tele-Holic

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    best advice is...stay until completion then....silently move on.=continue with your own project then etc.=save face.
    a band works as,...is a unit.if ego's collide=seeds planted for future conflict.if compatible..a band is born.
     
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