I wrote this column at least 1,000 times in my head over the last eight weeks before putting it down on paper today. When ink did hit paper, I ended up with a very different version to the prior madness, and although it was very poignant it wreaked of an anger so deep with frustration and ugliness that there was no way to contain it in an 800-word essay.
You see, I was fired recently from a major sold-out arena tour that was to start up a week after the pandemic shut us all down. Then unceremoniously terminated – two weeks past the one-year anniversary, to be exact. Seriously, a year into a global pandemic, and then I get fired? Fucking ridiculous. Putting me out with gasoline while on fire is an understatement. And goddamn, I have been spitting piss and vinegar ever since.
Although I have been fired thrice before from other projects over what I would call on paper a successful and respected 35-year career, this was definitely different. Not that the previous times didn’t hurt and or make you question yourself and your abilities eight ways to Sunday, this had the added fear of a never-ending global pandemic attached to it with zero constructive communication from day one by my employers.
However, after checking my head with the help of some dear and trusted peers, the soul-searching melted into a clear and underlying suspicion that you had been employed by some incredibly dysfunctional and most likely heartless people that actually knew very little about large-scale touring and had zero interest in learning from the professionals that they hired to give such guidance. Not that I haven’t always had the classic Hunter S. Thompson quote about the music business in my veins to rationalise such shitty behaviour, but enough is enough. When you sell your brand heavily based on the plight of the working man and woman, the impoverished, the exploited, the systemic violation of human rights across the globe, then maybe it’s time to put down that copy of the ‘Anarchist’s Handbook for Dummies’ for a second and look in your own back yard and find out what your responsibilities are as a corporate employer of a large labour force.
Communication on the task at hand, and to the people you hire, is key here – with any of our touring projects, it’s the framework to getting all parts of the project built when applied successfully. You, sirs, give zero fucks. Add serious dysfunction and animosity within a group and your chances of that success are lowered considerably. Heck, I feel for you, man; everybody has that drunk uncle at the Thanksgiving holiday table, but please don’t pawn your personal problems onto the kids’ table. I’m just trying to have a piece of that apple pie, too, brother.
Contrary to what you are reading here, please note that I hold no ill will towards you. I love your band’s music, I wish you continued success and I cherish you as human beings, as we are all God’s children in the end. But we are professionals here, and we are tired of being exploited by such flippant behaviour. So please pay up and honour the commitment we all made when hired.
You need us to sign an NDA and now a Covid-19 waiver? Sure thing. And let’s use that same pen to sign my employment agreement…
With that said, here is a list of additional lessons learned during my pandemic along, with some tips that might be useful to IQ readers:
- Let’s make employment contracts standard operating procedure for production crew when being hired for a tour. We are the last hold-outs here and I’m not sure why. Every other technical arm of the entertainment business has agreements as standard operating procedure.
You need us to sign an NDA and now a Covid-19 waiver? Sure thing. And let’s use that same pen to sign my employment agreement while we are at it. Now that’s what I call sustainability.…
- Include a severance deal or arbitration clause in your employment contract.
- Get a good lawyer who advertises on motorway billboards.
- Get a meeting with the band before you accept an offer. Find out if they are in therapy. And if they are, ask if you can get in on the sessions. It may be the only time to get your production questions answered.
- Make sure you speak to your production managers directly when in need to discuss production. Not through the TM, not through your cousin who cuts your hair, and certainly not through your dog walker. (But I do love me a dog.)
- If the band members have mobile phones, explain to them how they work.
- If the band doesn’t have a manager because they don’t want a manager, make sure there is a qualified human resources rep hired for the tour and available to all crew employed.
- If the band does have a manager even though they say they don’t have a manager, but there is a person that says they are a manager but only really manages one member of the band, but that manager actually makes decisions for the other members of the band, and the tour too… have that ‘manager’ explain to you how that works.
- If George Costanza from the Seinfeld television comedy arrives on set as the band’s ‘visual designer’, call the HR rep immediately.
- If George Costanza is presenting their fourth-try visual design deck to the band via Demi Lovato’s Instagram page and off of his iPhone, just kill yourself and save the embarrassment.
- If the masseuse makes more than the rigger, call your HR rep.
- Explain to the band what a rigger is.
- Put your HR rep on speed dial.
- When you fire someone, let them know why with a personal phone call and letter. If you need help on how to use the phone or a pen, ask your ‘manager’ as to how it works.
- Better yet, call them personally before the action and talk about any issues you may have’ you actually may be able to work the situation out without termination. Unconfirmed third-party gossip can be very dangerous. It’s been in the news of late, I hear…
- And if you are still too chicken-shit to confront the issues like an adult, at least have your lawyer do it. Not via a phone call from yet another unemployed crew member who now has to make his living by driving a delivery van. Fuck, that is some tacky shit.
- Be prepared to take responsibility for not only my newly unemployed status, but some of the other crew members and vendors who will lose their tour jobs also because they were hired under my direction. We may not have employment agreements, but we do have billboard lawyers who also don’t give a fuck.
- Practice what you preach.
And so, I quote:
“It has to start somewhere.
“It has to start sometime,
“What better place than here?
“What better time than now?”
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