How To Handle A Lazy Band Member | The Ultimate Guide

man with tattooed arm laying on a couch and using a remote control

If you’re serious about making headway in the music industry, you’ll no-doubt be extremely driven when it comes to working on your band. However, you might’ve found that one (or several) of the other members won’t pull their weight. This can not only cause a great deal of frustration, but also hamper a band’s overall success. 

 

So, how do you handle a lazy band member? First, try to understand why they’re being lazy. Whilst they might simply not be willing to contribute, it’s possible they may be distracted by other commitments or feeling dissatisfied with the direction of the project. Understanding the reason behind the laziness will help you determine the best course of action to take. 

 

Keep reading for an in-depth guide on how to effectively deal with a lazy band member:

Try To Understand Why They’re Being Lazy

I once read a great comment on an online forum that went something along the lines of:

 

“Band members are the closest of friends when things are going well and the worst of enemies when things are going badly”

 

When you’re investing your time, money and emotions into a creative project, it can be all-too-easy to start jumping to conclusions at the first sign of laziness. Instead of letting your emotions take over, try to remain calm and take a methodical approach to determining the cause of the perceived laziness. 

 

Here are a few reasons why a member might not be pulling their weight: 

  • They aren’t aware of what’s expected: Whilst this might seem obvious, it’s actually very common. If you haven’t created a written agreement or at least had a discussion about what’s expected from each member, they might not be aware of what they’re supposed to be doing. If this is the case, it’s likely that the member will happily put in more effort following an open discussion.
  • The band isn’t a priority (due to other commitments): It’s possible the member may have important commitments outside of the band (such as work, family and/or other important projects). As a result, the band may have slipped down their priority list. If the band is a non-serious affair, this is unfortunately something you’ll have to accept. However, if you intend to build a following and obtain a sustainable income from the band, you’ll have to speak to the member-in-question about how much effort they should be putting in. 
  • They’re dissatisfied with the direction of the project: In my experience, members tend to withdraw their efforts when they aren’t happy with the direction of the project. When this happens, it may mean that the member is busy looking for another project. It could also be an attempt to openly (albeit childishly) display their dissatisfaction by refusing to cooperate. If you feel this is the case, it’s imperative to have a detailed discussion with the entire band about the direction of the project.
  • They’re truly lazy: The member may know exactly what’s required of them and just can’t be bothered to put the effort in. If this is the case, you’ll definitely need to hold a band meeting to remind the member what’s expected of them (or, in the case of repeated offences, let them go).

 

It’s worth reinforcing the importance of taking a level-headed approach to determining the cause of their perceived laziness. Doing so will allow you to take the necessary and most-effective course of action.

Ensure You’ve Delegated Distinct Roles Amongst Members

Role delegation is key to a band’s success as it allows each member to play to their strengths whilst working towards a common goal. Role delegation can effectively solve the following two issues:

  • Uncertainty over what’s expected: Allocating a distinct role to a member can provide them with clear expectations. It also removes the expectation of another member doing their job for them. 
  • Dissatisfaction: If the member is dissatisfied with the direction of the project, allocating a role can allow them to play to their strengths and derive an additional sense of purpose from the project. 

 

Here are a few examples of roles you might consider delegating to members:

  • Pinpoint person: The pinpoint person essentially acts as a manager. They oversee the entire operation and ensure everything is running smoothly. This role will usually be automatically delegated to whoever started the band. 
  • Administrator: The administrator is in charge of booking shows, scheduling rehearsals, hiring backline and arranging travel. It’s best to delegate this role to someone who’s well-organized 
  • Social media operator: The social media operator oversees the social media strategy. They usually spend their time creating content and engaging with the fan base. It’s best to delegate this role to the most personable and charismatic member of your band. 

 

When delegating roles, allow members to put themselves forward for whichever role they most-prefer. This will ensure each member feels fulfilled and has a clear frame within which to operate. 

Ensure The Aims Of The Band Are Clear

I’d recommend making the aims of the project explicitly clear if you haven’t already done so. Hold a band meeting (preferably over drinks or some food) and openly discuss what level of commitment should be expected. If you come to the conclusion that the band is a non-serious project, you’ll have to accept that it probably won’t be a priority for the other members. If you come to the conclusion that the band is a serious project, I’d suggest going one step further and creating a band agreement. A band agreement not only outlines the expectations of each member, but also details how your intellectual property is divided. When creating a band agreement, make sure you include:

  • Your delegated roles
  • Who holds the rights to the band name 
  • How the rights to your original music are divided
  • What happens if someone leaves the band 

 

Once a member has signed a written agreement, there should be no further excuses for laziness. If they are repeatedly unable to honor the agreement, the best course of action is to let them go and look for someone who’s more committed.

Address The Member (& Give Them A Chance To Improve) 

Once you’ve created a written agreement and delegated roles, you’ll have a valid reason to address a member who isn’t pulling their weight. When doing this, I’d advise against taking an ‘all guns blazing’ approach (as it can create unnecessary tension).

 

Instead,  hold a band meeting and let the member know you’ve noticed they aren’t fulfilling their delegated tasks. Furthermore, ask if there’s anything you can do to help. If they have a valid excuse (such as significant stress at work or a personal matter), it’s worth being as accommodating as you can. If they do not have a valid excuse, politely remind them that they’ve agreed to a contract and the other members are unable to cover for them. Following this, make sure you monitor their behavior over the next few weeks to see if there’s a noticeable improvement. 

Let Them Go If They Do Not Improve

If the member has shown no signs of improvement in the weeks after you’ve addressed them, it’s best to let them go. I’d encourage you not to keep them around out of fear that you won’t be able to replace them. This will only continue to hold the band back and lead to significant tension within the group. 

 

Here’s a quick guide on how to properly dismiss a lazy member:

  • Make sure you do it in person: Hold a meeting in person with the entire band present. This ensures everyone’s on the same page and discourages the dismissed member from trying to contact individual members with further questions following the dismissal.
  • Stay calm and professional: A dismissal is often a very embarrassing and uncomfortable experience for all parties involved. Losing your temper will only make matters worse. Make sure you remain calm and professional even if the dismissed member does not. 
  • Keep it short: As mentioned above, being dismissed is almost-never a pleasant experience. As a result, you’ll want to keep it as brief as possible. 
  • Give them a chance to respond: It’s really important that the member has a full understanding of exactly why they’re being dismissed, as well as exactly what they’re entitled to as per your agreement. This will provide total closure and discourage the member from contacting you with further questions following the dismissal. 
  • Tie up all remaining loose ends: If they’re entitled to anything (such as intellectual property or money they’ve invested), make sure you grant it to them. You also might consider changing the passwords to any online profiles you have.

Related Questions

  • What should I do if my bandmates aren’t serious? If your bandmates aren’t serious, you should first determine if there’s a valid reason why aren’t taking the band seriously (such as work commitments or personal issues). If your bandmates have valid excuses, consider providing them with the benefit of the doubt. If they do not, consider leaving the band and finding a more serious project. 
  • How should you handle flaky band members? If you find your band members are flaky, it’s generally a sign that they do not wish to be a part of the band, but  also do not want to hurt your feelings. The best option is to simply move on and search for a project with more committed members. 

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I founded Indie Panda in mid-2018 to help independent musicians organically grow and develop their projects. I specialize in branding, identity, audience/industry engagement and project logistics.

I have a wealth of experience in both classical and popular music. After taking piano and violin lessons as a child, I went on to play first violin in philharmonic, symphonic and chamber orchestras throughout my adolescence. I began playing guitar and writing songs at the age of 13 and have played in a wide range of bands ever since. At the age of 18, my music received airplay for 30 consecutive days on BBC Radio, which led to an 'in-session' event where I performed live on the radio. I went on to earn a Music/Popular Music BA from the University of Liverpool, where I specialized in popular music performance.

I'm passionate about helping other artists realize the full potential of their talents and abilities through a strong work ethic, coherent project identity and a strong logistical foundation.

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