Ethics for Musicians: Case Study

choiceNote: the following scenario has been fictionalized, but it is based on an actual event told to me by another musician. All names are completely fictitious and are not meant to resemble any individual or organization.

Bad Whiskey is a four-piece classic rock band that gigs in and around a major metropolitan area of the United States. They’ve been together for a little over 18 months, and they’ve attracted a small following. They’re doing a lot of the things bands are supposed to do: interact with fans on social media, send out email reminders of shows, and post flyers advertising their gigs. Still, they’re frustrated that they haven’t started making better money at the clubs. Most of the time they earn between $300 to $400 a night, but they’re hoping that their third appearance at The Drunken Dromedary, an $800 New Year’s Eve gig, marks a turning point for their fortunes.

It’s Black Friday, and the band’s leader and rhythm guitarist Ian McDarth is out Christmas shopping when he gets a call from the owner of The Four Polo Ponies of the Apocalypse, a club they’ve been trying to get into for the last six months. The owner tells McDarth that he has an opening for their New Year’s Eve bash. About 600 couples will be there, there’s an in-house PA and engineer, and the gig pays $2,000. “Are you interested?” the owner asks McDarth.

times squareMcDarth assures him that he is interested but tells the owner that he wants to verify the availability of his band members before he commits, and that he’ll call the owner back at seven that night. After he hangs up he calls the other members of Bad Whiskey and tells them to hurry to his house for an emergency band meeting. When the others arrive, McDarth tells them the news.¬†Everyone is excited about the opportunity, but they realize they’d have to cancel their gig at The Drunken Dromedary to take it.

“I don’t feel right about canceling,” says drummer Billy “Crash” Stokes.

“It’s another $300 per man, Crash,” replies lead guitarist Mike Portman. “Besides, we’ve been canceled on before by clubs.”

“Not by The Drunken Dromedary, though,” McDarth says. “What do you say, Jack?”

Bassist Jack Pastor is quiet for a while, then replies, “Guys, you know me and Amy got a baby commin’ in February. I could pay off my car note with the extra money.”

McDarth looks at his watch. “It’s almost 7,” he says to the others, ” and I need to call the owner back. What do I tell him?”

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