How to be Pete Best?
August 29, 2017 11:32 AM   Subscribe

I was kicked out of something like a band -- now I'm not sure how to proceed.

It's not a band I was kicked out of, but it's similar enough. So let's just say I was in a band with three friends, and I play a unique instrument. We started out as just for fun, and a way to make some extra cash playing weddings, etc. but it got more serious and ramped up so that the other band members saw it as their future career.

I did not see it as my future career, and didn't put as much into it as they did, though I did contribute quite a bit to setting it all up. I also accepted a lower share in acknowledgement that it wasn't my number 1 priority. (I am also finishing a serious apprenticeship that has a demanding schedule and a long commute, and have heavy duty responsibility for my ill parent I live with.)

So: I was asked by the other three people to leave. They have found someone to replace me. This hurt more than I thought, but intellectually I think I can understand that they didn't see my commitment. But now, they are starting to make some money, including on some things that I participated pretty heavily in setting up. They want me to sign away my rights to the company we created together to manage our band and a few other bands, which now has some money in the bank.

This feels wrong to me, but I'm not sure how to manage it. We are not talking about a lot of money at the minute, but it could grow. I now see it's potential even more than when I was involved (of course.)

It also feels weird to ask them to "buy" me out -- how much is it worth? It was just getting started when I was asked to leave. I've thought about asking if I could stay, and stepping up my performance/participation after my apprenticeship finishes in January, but that also feels like it would be awkward (permanently?) I guess I also just have hurt feelings which is complicating everything.

Any advice? For anonymity reasons, I really don't want to give more info, but hopefully someone will have some ideas to guide me based just on this. A lawyer is not viable at this point for the amount of money at issue and I really don't want to go there.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It sucks to be kicked out of anything, but their reasons seem sound, and it looks like you're getting over the hurt all right. So no worries about that.

But the thing about them wanting you to sign over your share of the management business? No. There's no reason you should do that. It's not at all weird for you to ask them to buy you out for the appropriate percentage of the company's current worth (plus a small amount considered towards future earnings). It won't be weird if you don't make it weird. Say you're happy to let them move on without you, but that you expect to cash out of the company for an amount that reflects the work and risk you put into it.
posted by 256 at 11:49 AM on August 29, 2017 [10 favorites]

Without an actual sense of what this is (if it's not a band) and where this is, I don't understand what kind of answer you're expecting to get.

If what you want is to get back in the band, then talk to the band and outline how much and when you can improve your performance. They'll either say yes or no.

If the share in the business has value, then it has enough value to engage a lawyer on an actual answer rather than a bunch of strangers twisting at an analogy without knowing where you are or what laws apply.

If the share has no actual value and the potential revenue is from the band playing future gigs without you (and not say album sales), then there's no real thing to buy you out on. They can change the name (if you legally force them to, which again, lawyer) and move on without you.
posted by notorious medium at 11:52 AM on August 29, 2017 [7 favorites]

It's not at all weird for you to ask them to buy you out for the appropriate percentage of the company's current worth (plus a small amount considered towards future earnings).

Yep, sounds entirely fair to me that you have some sweat equity in this start-up project.
posted by solotoro at 11:57 AM on August 29, 2017 [4 favorites]

Do NOT sign away your rights. It sounds like they may have consulted a lawyer. You could say "I contributed to creating this, and I'm not willing to sign away my rights." They might pro-actively offer to buy you out. Or they'll just leave it alone for a while, and then if they start making even more money, they'd offer a buy-out at that point.

I think if you sign away your rights for nothing, and the company makes a lot more money in the future, you'll kick yourself.
posted by cheesecake at 12:59 PM on August 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Don't sign anything. If your contribution was negligible they can start their own band.
posted by xammerboy at 1:11 PM on August 29, 2017

Honestly just let it go. Try not to hold a grudge. When you are less busy hit them up again. Maybe this new "bass player" won't work out after all.

On the other hand if this is at all in the general area of "band" and not "food truck" or "subway franchise" I would think about making changes in my life to prioritize the creative opportunity. They don't come along often, and if your 'band' is really at a level where money is a significant part of the conversation I would try to stick it out as long as you can. You'll regret not taking that chance later, when you don't have that option. But if it is more of a business and less of a rare opportunity to be making money from creative work then I would be ok with putting it on the back burner.

Its kinda blurry distinction but I'm thinking a screen printing or a freelance graphic design studio is a clear cut financial decision, different than a improv team or string quartet.

On preview, I think we need to know what the actual thing is to provide a real answer. cheesecake's answer is good, but completely different than mine and I think both could be valid, depending.
posted by kittensofthenight at 1:13 PM on August 29, 2017

See, xammerboy's answer would be completely inappropriate in the context of a musical group at anything below a professional level. For a small start-up its probably appropriate. But if you said that to a band that kicked you out you would come off as a complete self-absorbed jerk.
posted by kittensofthenight at 1:19 PM on August 29, 2017

One thing to bear in mind is that if the company or the band have not been incorporated but are plainly doing business, most courts would consider them a general partnership, with each general partner including you having unlimited personal liability for the partnership's debts.

I don't know about you, but I don't want a bunch of dudes who fired me going around booking other "bands" into "gigs" and setting up "high powered amplifiers" in close proximity to "wedding floral arrangements" and me being liable if anything goes wrong.

Under these circumstances, I'd ask for a small buy-out and their acknowledgment of your withdrawal from the partnership and indemnification for partnership losses and then publish a legal notice that you've withdrawn from the partnership.
posted by MattD at 3:22 PM on August 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Structure some sort of settlement that makes it clear that you wish them the best of luck, but that you did help them get there. Maybe an option to rejoin the "band" if it ever gets big enough to support all of you financially. Or maybe you'll keep your share of the entity, but receive 0% of the first million it makes (notice I didn't say 'they make'), and 10% of any profits after the first million.
posted by at at 3:39 PM on August 29, 2017

Given they kicked you out, you probably won't ever want to go back - even if you could. It will feel weird. So just walk away from that and do your next exciting thing.

But on the question of "giving up" your share, things are different. When they say they want you to give it "up", they mean give it to *them*. It's something they value. On valuation in business, the first question should always be value *to whom*? The same object can have very different values in the eyes of different people. Here, the question is what is it worth *to them* to have the simplicity of you not being one of the owners. Clearly that is worth more than zero to them, so they should be willing to give you something in exchange. What would you like? Do you want money? If so, do you prefer a small but guaranteed amount now, or a potentially larger amount in the future when they are (maybe) big? Do you want the piece of mind of not having any liability risk? Do you want ongoing public acknowledgement of your contribution to creating this thing? What would make you feel okay with walking away?

Provided they clearly see that having you "give up your rights" is valuable to them, you should be able to negotiate for whatever you decide you want. And when you've reached a general agreement with them on this, get a lawyer to look over the deal to make sure it is actually doing what you think it is. When they (maybe) get big later, you don't want anyone to be tempted to renege on the deal just because there is now a big bag of money at stake.
posted by NotAlwaysSo at 9:30 AM on August 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

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