Ask Fan Landers: Should I Publicly Humiliate My Bandmate for What He's Done?
Are you a musician? Is your group having issues? Critic Jessica Hopper has played in and managed bands, toured internationally, booked shows, produced records, worked as a publicist, and is the author of The Girls' Guide to Rocking, a how-to for teen ladies. She is here to help you stop doing it wrong. Send your problems to her; confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame.
I've been the core of an act with someone for 10-plus years. We were pretty loosey-goosey on the money end of things for a long time, mostly because there wasn't much of it. I was putting up the front money, but I wasn't losing much, so I let it slide. Fast-forward to a couple of years ago when we formalized the business end of things between the two of us -- I leveraged a loan to try and give things another push (in addition to other things I was already covering) and am still not being reimbursed for the other guy's half of expenses. He seems to think his bar tabs even out for the travel and promotional expenses I've laid out. And while we're on the eve of things getting legal, I've been getting advice from several people to go the "public humiliation" route -- to make him look like the cheap, self-centered guy he really is. I find the suggestion astonishing -- do you see any beneficial reason to proceed in that fashion?
God, the temptation for a public shaming after 10 years of stewing in resentment must be almost impossible to resist! But resist you should. First, some real talk before I get all Suze Orman on your azz. The reason this guy is getting a free ride after a decade is because you've decided to let him. The situation you are in is your fault. You acted like a doormat and let him skate with no consequences. Perhaps if he had just been a responsible adult, you both might not be in this situation, but then again, your band may not have lasted this long if it wasn't such an easy flight for your partner. Such is the nature of chronic mooches: They mooch.
By airing your problem publicly, I can pretty much guarantee you will come off worse than he does. How would you do it? Facebook? On stage? Mass e-mail to your mutual friends? Tacky and immature in each case. In shaming him, you will look like an asshole and probably not get the results you want. We live in a country founded on puritanical values, and each of us grows up -- even those who are entitled man-children in bands --harboring all manner of shame for being who we are, liking or lusting after certain things, or not being rich enough. Shame is essentially the emotional currency of America -- piling it on is not gonna make a bit of difference.
Be an example of how to act like a grownup and sit this dude down, privately, and put your cards on the table. You tell him that financially you cannot carry the band anymore. Period. You don't even have to substantiate why.
Tell him you've gone into debt to maintain things and that's no longer tenable for you and so he can become responsible for 50 percent of the band's outlay or he can go down receiving, say, 10 percent to 15 percent for his participation. If you guys make decent money live and have some merch revenue coming in, I would say 10 percent of profit -- if not, 15 percent of live-show gross revenue.