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Here's Why I Hate Subbing


dan88z

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Same here.


And I'm not lugging my kit to the venue to have the night be a train wreck, feel uncomfortable while playing, and generally not have a good time of things when they start calling out songs I've never heard, or that they've changed since the last time I heard them.

That's why I stopped doing a lot of subbing; I pretty much only fill-in for one set of 3-4 players who all rotate in & out of several of the same bands anymore; I know they've generally got their heads together enough to make things work.

 

 

that's how I am with subbing anymore as well. We've been working on getting a couple reliable backups for the band so they can be in that same situation- comfortable, no curveballs, etc. It's been especially difficult to find a decent guitar player who has the chops to cover what our regular guy does, and isn't a headcase.

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Dan,

I have been doing multiple bands and subbing gigs for about 3 years now. Here's a comprehensive list of everything you did wrong:

 

1. When your guitarist suggested getting a sub, you offered to find one. The best case scenario is that he would have 1 or two guys on call to sub for him, but in the end it should have NEVER been your obligation. It should have been his and his alone. The gig getting cancelled should fall on his shoulders if not for the fact you offered to do the work for him.

 

2. Two weeks goes by and nothing.. You should have maintained a consistent contact with the guy, and if he pulled the busy/ignore routine, you should have made it clear that your expectation was a consistent check-in on progress and readiness.

 

3. You were supposed to get with him the day before practice, and he never called. Did you try to call him / track him down? Either way, another red flag. I would have had an ad up on Craigslist at this point, but I will get back to that idea.

 

4. He tells you well over two week in that he needs the songs (mp3's)??? ANY sub worth a pile of {censored} knows how to get copies of the songs, or at least can listen on youtube or one of any billion of other streaming sources online. That is no excuse. Your guilt resides in not nailing him to the wall and accepting that without laying down the law to him.

 

5. Craigslist.. I've put up ads and had success with last-minute fill-in's. I DO them and respond to those kind of ads. I had a drummer drop out on me TWO HOURS before a gig and found a craigslist drummer to fill and it went off on time and without a hitch. This isn't always going to work, but it's EASY for a coverband in comparison to an originals act to find subs. You should have put out an ad and done an impromptu rehearsal with a good candidate within those last 5 days- I refuse to cancel gigs, personally. The band I'm in cancelled on a club due to the singer dropping out THREE YEARS AGO, and still today that club will not book us. With a different name and only 2 of the original members, they still won't give us a second chance. Cancelling gigs is about the worst thing a band can do. Worse than wearing shorts and using music stands combined :D

 

One thing that bothers me- your guitarist.. he subs.. he should know most of that stuff from experience.. especially #1 .. why was he so unprepared for the situation?

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Excellent points Kramerguy. I agree I made some bad mistakes on this one, that won't be made again.

Here's my train of thought. When we need a sub I take it as my responsibility because I'm the band leader. That's the only reason. I want someone competent, preferably someone I know. The guys my guitar player might know are mostly too far away, are more shred/metal guys, and per him, are not reliable, and I don't know any of them.

In this case he said he needed a sub, I floated it to the band on what they wanted to do, they said let's sub it vs cancel. The drummer and I both know/know of the guy we called. The drummer's son plays in the guy's band and we figured he'd be a good fit. Obviously we made a mistake. We had another guy we've used before that plays in the circle our deadhead band is in, but he's more of a jam band guy and you could tell he was only doing the gig as a favor to me, he wasn't really enjoying himself, so we figured we'd give this other guy a shot.

I tried maintaining contact. I called him at least once a week. I'd have to look at my cell phone but I'm guessing I called him every couple days. After he agreed to do the gig, I sent him the set list, but didn't call him for a week. That's when he told me he knew about 20 of the songs, and would work on the rest. I gave him a few more days to work, then checked his progress. By then we're down to the last 2 weeks when all of this ugliness started rearing it's head. It was my mistake not seeing the writing on the wall after the 1st couple non returned calls and changing direction- cancelling with more notice or finding another player. What would throw me is he'd then call me back and we'd talk and he'd tell me everything was good, we'd talk about the songs, I'd leave it to him to let me know what he needed, and then he'd be incommunicado for another few days.

It's all done now, so I'm taking it as a lesson well learned.

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Sent him the set-list and then didn't call him for a week ? Tried calling him "at least once a week" ? Sorry, but I don't consider that trying to maintain contact. If you said you tried calling him at least once a DAY, ok, that's trying to maintain/establish contact. Just sayin'

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Guys,

Come on. He gave the guy 3 sets to learn and let him pick from 80 songs to fill in the set with songs the guy knew. So realistically, they were going to do 40 songs and the guy was going to know 20 of them minimum. With a month's preparation, he should have been able to come to a rehearsal with everything prepared and ready to go. Assuming the guitar player is familiar with the genre, this should have been a no brainer.

He communicated with the guy. He shouldn't need to call the guy every day, ask how he's progressing, drive him to the gig, and then on break hold the guys cock while he takes a piss. The guy went dark and was a flake. If you agree to sub a gig, you should be prepared, and at least answer communications sent from the band leader. If you can't make an effort to make the band feel comfortable that you're not going to blow everything, don't take the gig.

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Thanks Ward! I was beginning to feel like it's my fault the guy flaked out!
:)



Nah. I really think you did all you could.I was just being devil's advocate because if there was no contact then you really don't know where he was sitting with the material,but you know how YOU felt,and truly if it didn't feel right to you,it wasn't going to be right. Hope that makes sence.Sounded right in my head...Lol.

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So the point is lack of communication, not if he was going to reherse, right?


Gimme a song list and the key and if the are your normal classic cover stuff I could have the whole thing ready in a few hours. No rehersal needed.



I was with you until the part where the guy talks about "40 songs being a lot". If he thinks it's a lot, he should have been willing to rehearse; if he's a good enough player to just walk through the gig, he wouldn't have been concerned about the workload. :idk:

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Thanks Ward! I was beginning to feel like it's my fault the guy flaked out!
:)

 

Not your FAULT bro, we were just pointing out where we saw you made mistakes. Yes ward has a point, you shouldn't HAVE to hold it for the guy while he pisses all over you, but at the same time (and I return to the experience meter..) those of us who do this frequently will tell you, if you don't use the guy regularly or have a solid positive history with him, you are competing with odds against your favor. Frequent follow-up, hand-holding, etc.. are required just for the sake of keeping the gig or recognizing a flake and bailing when you still have time.

 

Like I said, I've lost gigs cause of flakes, and saved gigs by following simple rules with subs and subbing. It's all about learning and growing. Don't beat yourself up or think I'm beating on you because of what happened... I'm just trying to help you avoid it happening again.. but not avoid using subs.. it can be a great thing.

 

And one more thing... If your guy intends to keep subbing, maybe he should get a reliable backup guy (that you, the leader, can also have faith in) to do gigs when he can't. The best defense is a good offense, ya?

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I was with you until the part where the guy talks about "40 songs being a lot". If he thinks it's a lot, he should have been willing to rehearse; if he's a good enough player to just walk through the gig, he wouldn't have been concerned about the workload.
:idk:

 

Good point, I missed that one.

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Working part-time in a nightclub has exposed me to a lot of bands with sub situations.

I've seen guys walk in the door carrying their gear 10 minutes before show time, walk up to the band leader and say" I'm so-and-so; you called me to fill in. What kind of music do you play?"

Of course the last minute sub then goes out and completely nails every song.

The worse sub situation I ever saw was with our old house band. They played everything to tracks, but had a live drummer, keyboards, two non-musician singers and guitar. The tracks were such that if the whole band stopped playing, no one would notice because the track still kept going with full instrumentation (and BGV). Their pay was $700 for a 5 piece (the 2 band leaders got $200 each and the rest got $100 each) so without the guitar player, they would have had to cut their price.

Their guitar player couldn't make the gig, so they got one of their friends to stand up there on stage holding a guitar (not plugged in). During several songs, he had a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other. The band leader bought him free drinks for the night and the band got its full pay (the leader kept the guitarist's pay). I told the club owner what was going on, but he didn't care; the crowd seemed to be having a good time.

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The tracks were such that if the whole band stopped playing, no one would notice because the track still kept going with full instrumentation (and BGV).

Oh, for {censored}'s sake! That's taking it a little far, isn't it?

 

 

Their pay was $700 for a 5 piece

I am definitely in the wrong business.

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He called yesterday. I didn't answer. Listened to his voice mail, he says something about "yeah, I got real busy Sunday, but wanted to know if you want to get together, blah blah blah..." I didn't listen to the rest. This was a full 24 hours after I had sent the gig is cancelled email to him. He obviously read the email if he mentioned Sunday since that was part of my email to him, where Sunday was his choice and he didn't show up.

I'm not going to call him back. Ever.

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Oh, for {censored}'s sake! That's taking it a little far, isn't it?


I am definitely in the wrong business.



One time I went in to work early and heard the band playing an awesome version of "Hotel California." I looked at the stage and there was no one there. The keyboard player/band leader/sound guy was walking around the room checking the sound while his tracks played.:facepalm:

I asked him about not really playing one time, and he said since he recorded all the tracks at home in his studio, it was actually him playing the songs.

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Oh, for {censored}'s sake! That's taking it a little far, isn't it?


 

 

Taking it too far, to me, is trying to make people believe that you are playing what you aren't (especially if what you aren't is the bulk of the material). In other words, hiding or otherwise attempting to obscure that tracks are in use.

 

If people assume you're playing everything when you aren't because they're too lazy to pay attention...

Ehh...that's their problem.

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Taking it too far, to me, is
trying
to make people believe that you are playing what you aren't (especially if what you aren't is the bulk of the material). In other words, hiding or otherwise attempting to obscure that tracks are in use.

Well, given that everything was apparently on tape for this band, wouldn't that mean standing onstage motionless? Or offstage in the wings?

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Well, given that everything was apparently on tape for this band, wouldn't that mean standing onstage motionless? Or offstage in the wings?

 

 

Not necessarily. Couldn't say without seeing it in the flesh, I suspect.

 

I know I've seen enough that a full on band on stage miming to tracks, but the band being fully up-front about that fact, is not inconceivable.

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Well, given that everything was apparently on tape for this band, wouldn't that mean standing onstage motionless? Or offstage in the wings?



Maybe he has everything pre-recorded just for the heck of it, and then mutes whatever is played live, so it's a mix of tracks and real stuff. But then, for instance, if the bass player doesn't show one night, unmute that track too...

:idk:

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Dan

Kramer brought up some very good points but in the end the guy flaked... then he even tried to cover his flakiness by reaching out. :facepalm: You did nothing wrong... although I would have still pressed your guitar player to arrange the sub. In our band each member is responsible for their sub while they're gone. It's part of their job to find someone trust worthy and reliable.Years ago I had a keys player that covered for me a few times. Great player but had such an awkward (that's polite) and caustic personality that I got a call while on a business trip that I needed to find another perm sub. This guy wasn't going to work out for future ones. :facepalm:


One thing that has helped us for years has been frequently recording shows and rehearsals to provide subs (among other things) a general idea how our setlists flow. It's not an easy gig because there are alot of songs, transitions and medleys to memorize. I think the 'players' that take the gig really appreciate the challenge of it more than the money. We change things so often that if a sub covers for two gigs within a few months 40% of the setlist is different. I can't imagine my bandmates finding a keys sub to cover my parts. We play so much Top 40 and current dance that a keyboard player can't just show up with a stage piano and cover the parts... he has to have the arsenal of sounds to cover those songs as well. Only our drummer would have the confidence to choose someone with the skill to follow the transitions properly... etc. After the sub is chosen well in advance and we've given him recordings to work off of, it's up to those players to get together and work out their parts. Then we would schedule one or two (depending on the gigs covered) rehearsals. Having available recordings is what enabled me to swing my 'sub' into the band after getting diagnosed with cancer. He woodshedded with the recordings, rehearsed with the band twice and covered for me for 9 months with less than two weeks notice. We never canceled a gig. Last fall when we fired our guitarist and replaced him with another local player, we gave him the recordings and had 4 rehearsals... in less than 3 weeks he was covering the setlist almost flawless.

This is a crude example (an old page I set up in 2008 or 2009) and I would change it from gig to gig. These days we just use Drop Box.

I hear it all the time when someone subs in "I can't believe you supply recordings", "Man having the recordings helped alot, saved me alot of questions"

It's also backfired... at one point a drummer who sat in with for a few shows told his band about the wonderful way we approached songs. Slowly our medley's seem to show up in his bands setlist... just the order of the songs were rearranged. I had given him access to one of the pages I created. In addition to calling him out and teasing him mercilessly about his transgression... I set the page up so future links were to opera music. He got the message. ;)

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