We’ve all been there.. When deeply involved with a toxic camp, you’re forced to be around people you’d never associate with unless you are being paid to. But the thing with a normal job is, that you can go home at night and cleanse your soul before heading into the office the next morning. On the road, you’re stuck with them. So let’s talk about trusting your gut, checking your moral compass, and more importantly, How To Know When to Quit A Gig.
As always, we’re gonna have to break this down into a couple of different talking points. We need to ask:
- Am I just burnt out?
- What are the professional repercussions?
- Have I thought this ALL the way through?
- How to do it properly?
Am I Just Burnt Out?
9 times out of 10, I just need some time off. It’s not normal human nature to get trapped in this tight of quarters. Working incredibly long days, in a different city, every day, the stress, the adrenaline, the roller coaster of emotions… Although it’s the best and I wouldn’t change it for the world, it’s super dysfunctional.
When I get deep into any tour, I always question my life choices. I ask myself why I didn’t try harder in school or why didn’t I learn how to build houses, or why I didn’t choose a lifestyle where I get to sleep in a bed that’s not moving. I feel like that’s fair. I’m usually just tired, miss my family, and could use a good ol’ fashioned juice cleanse.
That doesn’t mean that I’m done. As mentioned in 5 Ways to Stay Healthy on Tour, you gotta learn when to rest, and when to quit. So before you decide that you hate everyone and the entire industry, maybe find out if you just need a proper day off.
It’s a gut thing.
Listen, sometimes a camp is just toxic. There’s a dark cloud that follows certain people around, some musicians in particular. I’ve been on tours where I’ve turned into a complete and udder monster. I morphed into a version of myself that I’m disgusted with. Toxic camps are infectious and will consume you if you’re not careful. Be aware of when that’s happening.
Sometimes you’re the only one who sticks out and can’t find a way to get along. I know this is a hard pill to swallow, but sometimes you’re the problem. If their old crew member was happy and had been there for years, and you’ve tried lots of different ways to make the camp more tolerable, maybe you’re just not the right fit. And that’s ok.
If you’re still ready to plan your exit, you gotta assess how much damage its gonna do.
What Are The Professional Repercussions?
Nothing makes me happier than telling someone I hate, to go fuck themselves. Although it’s a little more acceptable than in a corporate setting, still in this game, it’s not that easy. This isn’t a free for all.
So you need to know if this going to burn a bridge. Then, decide if it’s a bridge worth burning. The answer to the latter is likely no. Not that you should never quit a gig, but the industry is too small to leave a stain on your legacy from the wrong people.
I’ve quit before…
A couple of times. It always feels greasy. When I was first starting out, this band took me out on a cross-country run. We came through our home town after a week or two and we all got to go home for the night. The next day when they were calling about coming to pick me up, I just didn’t answer my phone. At the time it was glorious. Still later in life, I reevaluate and know it was the right move to not finish the tour. But, that’s some weak-ass, unprofessional shit to just not answer my phone and face the noise.
The second gig I tried to quit, I went about it a little differently. I found a proper sub. A guy I knew and trusted. I secretly added him to the itinerary and sent him a bunch of info on the gig. I had a vast plan to make the transition seamless to not repeat my previous mistakes. Then a couple of days before I was gonna make the transition, I talked to an old friend and industry mentor who gave me some of the most helpful advice I’ve ever gotten.
Knowing the gig had a reputation for its tumultuous culture, He said “The last guy quit, the next guy is gonna quit. Be the one guy that finished the gig. What’s an extra few weeks at this point?”
Long Story Short, I finished the tour and I’m glad I did.
But the point on both of those examples was that I could have put myself into a spot where I developed a reputation as someone who splits. When you’re riding dirty and deep in a tour, you need to know that the other crew members are willing to put up with the shitty days, to appreciate the good days. You need to feel like you have each other’s back and can be reliable in times of need.
But… If you’re not burnt out and have found a way to split from a tour without affecting your career in a negative way (or you’re a bonehead and don’t care), the next step is more for your own conscience.
Have I Thought This ALL The Way Through?
You have to overanalyze everything. Although it’s important to not read too much into everything on the road, and it’s very important to learn to let things go, you also need to listen to the signs. You need to know when it’s gone too far. Like I mentioned above, you need to check your gut.
This is not a small decision or action. You did your homework on the gig before you started, now do your homework on your exit strategy. Obsess over it. Focus on the times that were/are good, and objectively ask yourself if you’re willing to let someone else do this gig instead of you. That’s the real question. There’s only a surplus of gigs until there isn’t. This could leave you sitting at home with a gap in your resume that you don’t wanna talk about.
Make sure you’ve thought of every possible outcome of both sticking around or going out.
If you still wanna split, buy all means, You do you boo. Just for the sake of your career, do it properly. This brings us to the last point.
How To Quit A Gig Properly
It’s pretty simple, finish the gig, then don’t accept any more dates. In my opinion, that’s the only appropriate way to do it. Finding a new gig helps, then it’s a conflict-free, availability issue.
If more dates are being booked after the tour, you’ll need to line up a couple replacement options and be transparent with the artist’s management. You need to be honest and say, “Respectfully, I don’t see myself continuing with (the artist) after this run. I’m grateful for the opportunity and everything that we’ve accomplished together, but I feel that its time to move in a different direction”
Don’t just say you’re grateful, mean it. Although your time in a certain camp might have been unpleasant to say the least, you need to be grateful to have a gig at all. To have been chosen over someone else in the first place and regardless of the outcome, you have learned, you are better, and you are smarter. There was a time where this was exactly what you wanted.
As I said multiple times above, it’s a gut feeling. Do your research, and try and be as professional as possible. Take care of yourself, which includes your career.
If you’re feeling stuck in a gig and need to talk to a 3rd party, hit me at [email protected]. If you’re on one of my crews and feel like you’re gonna quit, then fuck you, you’re fired 🙂