Let’s face it, most bands have one. It’s that one dude or dudette that demands to have their way. They talk smack all the time and only seem to exacerbate problems. They claim it’s their “leadership” or “strong personality” but we should go ahead and call it what it really is, juvenile, silly-assed behavior. I recently left a band that had a primo example of a Diva. He was our drummer and vocalist and he would make a gig miserable if he didn’t get his way. Dealing with this type of person is never easy, but if you like the talent they bring to the table… well, then you just have to figure out a way to do it.
I recall a great example of how a Diva can wreck a show. For weeks before a big show, we had been rehearsing a few new songs. They weren’t studio tight but for a second or third set, when the audience had really had a chance to throw back a handful of drinks, they were totally good. They were different versions of some pop songs that were good on the radio at that time and were going to be used for pumping the crowd up before we debuted a new original.
When it came time to play the new cover, our drummer simply said “No.” He said we didn’t play it well enough and that he wasn’t comfortable with it. This sparked off a conversation on stage that, unfortunately, was picked up by the microphones. The entire audience heard the ensuing argument over the PA. Not only did it make us look like amateurs but it also promoted a general tension for the rest of the show.
At first, my reaction was just to say “Whatever,” and play what he wanted to play but, later, I realized that he’d had all the opportunity in the world to bring up his discomfort beforehand. He could have mentioned it while we were rehearsing, before the show or between the sets. All of those options would have been more suitable than throwing everyone on the stage off balance. That’s when I realized that it wasn’t about his comfort. It was a temper tantrum designed to display his ability to make decisions that all of us had to live with, despite how we felt about it.
When you have to deal with this type of behavior, it makes playing in the band seem like much more work than it’s worth. I really wanted to slap him and call him out on it, but it seemed like it would be more trouble than I was ready to handle. Beating up my drummer would have been fantastic, but unfortunately counterproductive. Instead, I mentioned how I felt to a couple of the guys and kept my mouth shut otherwise. In retrospect, I should have spoken to him.
As we kept getting gigs, his decisions continued to be made on stage. Nobody ever wanted to confront him and the actions got more and more demanding until he actually starting dictating what we could and couldn’t do. When he got too drunk, we were all expected to put limits on our drinking. When he got in trouble with his wife for staying out too late, we all had to cancel practice. It was ridiculous.
I’ve actually come to the realization that we all should have confronted his Diva ass very early in the stages of these behaviors. Putting a stop to that kind of stuff is integral to making sure that everybody understands the bigger picture, that there are lots of opinions involved and more than just one person to consider. Behavior of this sort can only be classified as selfish and childish and in a team effort, like a band, there is no room for it. Nipping this in the bud early is the most effective way of taking care of it.
Don’t deal with your diva’s irrational behavior. Call them on it and force them to confront the juvenile nature of their actions. Making everyone else miserable is a great way to ensure that there is bitterness and contempt and that is no way to run a band. If I had the opportunity to do it all over again, I would definitely point out the problems with our diva and try to work things out a little bit better. As it stands, the only way I can look at it is that I’ve learned my lesson and won’t let it happen again.