An interview with LA mediator Lee Jay Berman.
Q: At which point in a band’s career might the services of a mediator be needed?
A: Actually, conflict within a band can arise AFTER a successful first album or when a member, such as the lead singer, is thinking of leaving for a solo career.
Q: What’s the most common problem bands face?
A: Band members often feel like each is giving more than they receive: so each feels under-appreciated all the time. Put four people together who all dream to be rock stars with a hunger, an appetite, and a sense of entitlement for acclaim; and you’ve got four people who feel they’re not receiving their fair share.
I surveyed four band members once and asked “What percentage out of 100% do you feel you deserve?” When I tallied it up, the total came to 210%!
Does Keith know only 5% of band members who leave for a solo career are successful?
Q: If you could only give one piece of advice to a band, whether emerging or established, what would you advise?
A: It’s vital that bands schedule business meetings, separate from rehearsals. The biggest problem I see is that bands will meet to refine the music but not meet to deal with their business issues. Meetings should be held when there are NOT problems- clearing the air BEFORE problems come up.
We have become a “politically correct” society where we won’t discuss issues we don’t agree on. So it’s not surprising when band members have different interests, they don’t have the skills to talk it through in a non-emotional way. Highly charged emotional issues, such as ‘who gets how much of the revenues’ gets swept under the rug.
They want to talk about the music, sets, costuming, venues or choosing a name, rather than talk about important things like money, ownership of the band name and publishing.
Q: It is better to have a clear-cut leader from the outset?
If someone is charismatic, attractive, and a leader, it’s best to acknowledge that at the outset. Eventually, that person will feel exploited if the split is even. It’s a common problem.
By giving the ‘rock star’ member higher compensation, it’s an incentive to keep them around. Otherwise, when the going gets tough, they might just leave! The member who leaves to pursue a solo album has only a 5% chance of success, so then everyone loses.
Spinal Tap: A band that came back from a bad break up.
Q: What is the role of the manager in all this?
A: As soon as something comes up as an issue, it’s time to discuss it. Waiting only makes it scarier, more difficult, and more expensive. No difficult conversations get better by avoiding them over time.
Q: At what point might a professional mediator, such as yourself, be brought in?
When there’s enough at stake financially, often at about 12 months in. There are volunteer, community mediation programs available to more beginning bands.
Q: Is the mediation process like therapy, where you all meet once a week?
A: No. When a band has money, problems, talent, and a brand that’s marketable-we go into a room, close the door and work it out that same day. But it could take 12 hours.
Q: What other suggestions can you give to bands to help them mend their differences and move forward?
My article “13 Tools for Resolving Conflicts” is available online at http://www.mediate.com/articles/bermanlj3.cfm.
For somebody who loves music, there can be no greater tragedy than a band that can’t get along and breaks up before they’ve done their best work together.
– LIsa Popeil
Lee Jay Berman, is a mediator based in Los Angeles who specializes in mediating partnership issues in the music and entertainment business. Has been called the “Band Whisperer”
Lisa Popeil, is an LA voice coach, specializing in vocal technique, performance coaching, and vocal health issues.