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Avoid Band Drama: Be Up Front

Avoid Band Drama: Be Up Front

A Guest Post by

Dealing with band booking arguments and being honestI just played a show where I had an experience that maybe some of you have gone through. Just to let you know, Seattle residents are not known for confrontation. We are known as those that are the perfect people to sit next to on an airplane. We won’t make eye contact, we won’t say a word the whole flight, and we’ll be polite and just read something the whole time.

Well, I had to buck that trend. And I’m going to share this, but I can’t say this will turn out well for you or not.

Background Story

I booked a show just recently through a “booker” who wasn’t very good at communicating. I’m being polite. She sucked at communicating.

I got the show without anyone yet booked on the bill. I thought of some friends we recently played with, so I asked if they could be on the bill. Cool. She said yes.

Later, another band asked to be on the bill. I said cool, even though they didn’t quite match our music. I checked with the booker first. She said it was fine.

Later, I looked online to see that this second band, “Band #2”, was booked just a few days later at the same club! The show I had lined up was for a Friday night, so I couldn’t have a band overbooking.

(Why the hell didn’t the booker even notice? Hmmm….)

I sent an email to Band #2 saying we should hook up another gig instead because they are booked a few days later. They assured me the booking was a mistake on the calendar, and they weren’t playing that date.

That, I’m guessing is still true. I’m still waiting to see. However, I did make it clear that I didn’t want to play with them if they were overbooking the SAME venue within a few days.

So, a week before the show, guess what? Band #2, out of the blue, books the Monday there before our show on Friday. This sucks because the money nights are on Fridays and Saturdays. When a band does something like that, it splits their audience. People will see them on that Monday instead of seeing them on Friday.

I wasn’t happy.  But, fuck it. I just think they can go on last and face the consequences of overbooking.

But I haven’t heard back from the booker, so I have no clue what the order of the bands is. Our guitarist just makes a flyer not knowing the line-up. We have no clue other than the first band I talked to needs to go first.

Day of the show

I get there early. I’m just fucking amped to play a show. I’ve had so much crap and stress go on for the last couple of weeks, I NEED to unleash on stage. I’m in a Henry Rollins mindset. I want to give 170% for tonight’s show.

That’s when the first thing goes weird. There’s a fourth band added to the bill. The booker did not bother to tell any of the other bands. They, also, are slated for the second slot of the night, again, without any forewarning.

Also, the booker isn’t there to say in what order the last two bands go on: my band and Band #2. Since I was there early, I hooked up Band #2 with the show, AND they overbooked when I asked them not to, I figured, I could choose when to go on. I told one of the band members of Band #2, “We choose 3rd”.

No big deal. Someone has to go on third or fourth. I honestly don’t care. My band isn’t known at all, so you could put us on whenever. I just wanted to go a bit earlier because our music was more of a bridge between the other bands and Band #2.

The Drama

Finally, the leader of Band #2 shows up. He says he wants to talk about the lineup. I’m cool with that.

He pulls me aside and then, instead of debating the line-up, he insists they go third, and my band goes last. “We’re not on this bill to headline. It’s your thing. We didn’t come here to headline.”

I’m really taken aback by this. I was open to discussing the lineup, but he just came in and demanded his position in the show despite overbooking and despite asking me to get them on the bill.

I agreed because I just didn’t want to deal with this bullshit. Honestly, I didn’t care if we went last, but his attitude was the thing that really pissed me off. Who the fuck was he to dictate what the lineup was?

The Lesson

All I wanted from the night was to play fucking music and not worry about bullshit. That was shot out of the air. I fucking NEEDED to only think of my show and nothing else. But here I was completely fuming in my brain about Band #2.

I was about to just keep it to myself and bitch to others about it. I bitched to my bandmates. I went outside to cool off for a second.

Then, it hit me. “Don’t fucking let shit like this go. If someone pissed you off, let them know. Don’t hold it in. Be honest and upfront. Don’t be a dick, but don’t just hold it in inside.”

I actually really liked Band #2. I didn’t want this to be something stupid that caused some shitty relations in the future.

So, after calming down, I grabbed that guy from Band #2 and asked him to talk.

I told him everything I felt, and how I didn’t respect his attitude. We kept talking, and he discovered that I wasn’t the one in charge of booking the show. He lightened up and agreed to play last.

No hard feelings. We shook hands and hugged.

The rest of the night

…went fucking awesome! Despite all the weirdness, everyone had a blast, got drunk, and hugged each other afterwards.

If I just let that crap go without speaking my honest feelings, it might not have gone that way. We would have played, but we would have left feeling a bit angry at each other. Instead, we played and felt awesome afterwards. No talking behind each other’s backs, or being passive aggressive.

I’m not sure if this story can benefit you. I’m not sure if you tell some other band or booker your honest feelings, if it will come out in your favor.

All I can tell you is, I felt fucking great by being honest and not holding it back. I didn’t approach them being a dick. I just said what I had to say, expecting nothing. I didn’t pull punches, but I wasn’t trying to start a fight.

We worked it out. We were honest, open, and showed each other respect.

Me in the past

In the past, I went to the internet with my drama. Or I just talked shit about people behind their back.

You know what? That just makes you look stupid and petty. If you have a problem, make the attempt to work it out. If the person doesn’t want to work it out, let it go. Move on. There are a million more venues, bands, friends, or whatever.

Me? I like this honesty thing. If you are angry, just, calmly, let people know where you stand without any expectation. Not everyone will be your friend. But a little honestly at least can earn some respect.

…And I’m a fan of Band #2! About to post video of them from the show because they kicked ass! No hard feelings. Just some bad communication.


An aside. This is the shit you can get into if the booker isn’t on top of it. If you don’t know your line-up a week ahead of your show, contact the other bands and find out. You can easily avoid stupid crap like I went through.

Yes, bookers can be just as flakey, if not more, than the bands they book. See my post on “Don’t Rely On Anyone Else.”  Be prepared for the worst, expect the best, and make your fucking show awesome regardless.

I am Chris “Seth” Jackson, a bass guitarist and composer.  I am an average musician, working a day job as a software engineer, in pursuit of fulfilling my life’s dream of being a self-sufficient musician. is to share the ups and downs of this adventure and, hopefully, find great techniques that everyone can use to achieve success in the extremely difficult world of music.


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