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Band leaders?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Gorcbass, May 14, 2006.

  1. Gorcbass


    Sep 16, 2005
    Galway, Ireland
    I was reading a few threads about different bands and I noticed that everyones band seemed to have a leader who had more control over the band than the rest of the members. Some people even said that without a band leader a band would not work.
    I was interested to hear how this worked, in my band everyone has an equal vote in band decision, and pulls their weight, if it was any other way I think that jealousy would start to create friction within the band and the whole thing would fall apart. Does this not happen to the rest of the bands?
    Also, how do you 'elect' a band leader.
  2. db4usa


    Mar 5, 2006
    St. Louis, MO
    In our group, the drummer is the only original member. He does most of the booking and negotiations for us. This is ok by me that he does this. We still vote on music and some gigs. The rest of us have busy lives and it sure eliminates any confusion if we were to have 5 members out there trying to arrange bookings.

  3. Thunder Lizard

    Thunder Lizard

    Dec 7, 2005
    Lethbridge, AB
    Canadian Distributor, Basson Sound Equipment
    I always said that I wasn't the "Bandleader", but the "elected spokesperson". I represented the community opinion, and made sure I knew what it was. Sure, I could make a decision on a gig if I had to, but it was subject to review!
    Usually there's one person who has the "gift of the gab" and has the easiest time talking with and selling to people, so you go to them because it's their skill.
    I have seen bands where everyone was good at it, and they did a great job together of being busy.....and I've seen some where everyone seemed to be introverted and shy, but they managed to get it done, so that's what matters!
  4. SBassman


    Jun 8, 2003
    Northeast, US
    Democracy is wonderful, but in most situations in life, there's potential for chaos if someone doesn't have the understood authority to make a final decision and move on.

    Democracy doesn't work when a pitcher has to come out of the game. Someone has to make that final decision, walk to the mound, and get that pitcher out of there. :)

    A good leader collects the opinions of the team, and when:
    - The team opinion is clear
    - The direction of the team opinion doesn't suck
    the leader lets it go that way. But when either is not the case, Somebody has to get the train back on track.
  5. jlagoon


    May 11, 2006
    It is best when all of the band members are very mature mentally. I think that a band is in a deficiency if it needs to elect a leader. A person who does the booking for shows or talk to the crowd shouldn't be considered as the leader of the band. The alternative from having a leader in a band is NOT to have any leader. This works in my band very well; an individual is not crushed by majority and vice versa. The only choice that makes the most sense win.
  6. Lazylion

    Lazylion Goin ahead on wit my bad self!

    Jan 25, 2006
    Frederick MD USA
    LOL you cracked me up with that one!
    I was just remembering about 50 bands I've been with that were just a little short on mentally mature members!
    Ah, but who decides what that is?
    Democracy sounds swell, but what you need is benevolent dictatorship.
  7. There is a situation in the programming world known as 'Analysis Paralysis' that is the result of everyone having a 'reasonable opinion' and no one having the final word. It can be a progress killer and seems to be an inevitable situation when everyone is a chief.

    In my opinion, it is an idealistic concept to have any organization where everyone is a 'Chief'. Now this does NOT mean I don't think everyone's opinion shouldn't be heard and discussed, but when the day ends, the buck needs to stop somewhere. This is where egos need to be checked.

    Four friends decide to get a band together - they all pull equal weight in building a band room, choosing a song list, working up their parts and so on... And for a while this is a glorious utopia. Eventually the band breaks up and the individual members go out into the real world looking to connect with another band and hopefully they bring with them some experience and expectations on what they want from the new band. This is where strong leadership becomes key. I, as an individual musician, want to hook up with a group that has a clear direction. One that is clear enough for me to decide if I want to hook my horse to that cart.

    If I want to be the chief, then I will form the tribe and invite people to help me evolve my agenda. Otherwise, as a bass player I want to play a musical style the fits my taste and feel like someone is in control of the agenda. If I feel dismissed or unnecessary, I will move on. My horse is stong and can be a powerful contributor to hauling a lot of other carts. (man, this metaphor is really getting stretched...)

    I hope for utopia - I realistically know that a 'benevolent dictatorship' is more viable.

  8. lefty


    Sep 25, 2004
    in our jazz group the keyboardist and i started the group BUT, we got a drummer that is a pro and a guitarist who is a pro also. we (keys and i) are green to playing jazz and these guys are not. so when someone has a say it is respected and allways taken into consideration. it has been a good situation so far.
  9. Thunder Lizard

    Thunder Lizard

    Dec 7, 2005
    Lethbridge, AB
    Canadian Distributor, Basson Sound Equipment
    Precisely. As far as gig booking and administrative duties (collecting the scratch! heh heh) went, I handled it, at the request and recommendation of the group. We still discussed things like prices and availability, but we did it in advance, so that I knew exactly what the boys wanted and when they were and weren't available (we all had these crazy "day job" things that sometimes interfered in having fun, LOL)
    I also handled getting PA and transporting it, arranging load in times, things like that, but even though I designed and sent the posters off to the printers, someone else picked them up, someone else was in charge of rehearsal schedules, someone took care of ordering and picking up the merch I designed, one guitarist would "pre" the gigs (go in advance and have a look, make sure we had enough room, power, etc) and he was in charge of setting up the PA, while I went over details with the manager, and he used the other guys to get that done, he and I would tech out the system before soundcheck while the other guys would be making sure the posters were up, the merch gal was going to be there (and we had her stuff), making sure we had bottled water onstage, the sign was hung up, all the little details.
    I guess the theory we used was that designating a band "leader" didn't mean that no one else did any work.
    Heck, even the drummer and keyboardist took charge of cleaning the rehearsal hall....and I'll lump gear around all day rather than do that! LOL.
    The keys guy even made up a checklist to use both while getting our stuff from the rehearsal space and while setting up...and used again on the out.... rarely did things get forgotten, thanks to him, because if it wasn't ticked off the list, it wasn't in the truck, and it needed to get there!
  10. MakiSupaStar

    MakiSupaStar The Lowdown Diggler

    Apr 12, 2006
    Huntington Beach, CA
    As far as creativity goes. This works great. Everyone has to be stoked on what they're playing right? Same setup with us. But for band management issues, website, marketting, booking gigs, the burden of all that seems to be mine and our vocalist's. We have a CPA playing keys in our band, so he manages the money. Our drummer will also book gigs for us sometimes. Our guitarist rips, but other than that is useless, but he's a dentist, so he cleans our teeth for free. But I have to admit, sometimes I get a little nervous [INSERT EVIL DOCTOR VOICE HERE] You don't need any novocaine here. Remember last night in practice.... [drill sound] when you stepped on my solo [drill sound]. REmember when you told me that you thought my solos were too "busy". [drill sound]. So far, we still all have our teeth, and there hasn't been any big fights, although our singer always has drama (but isn't that always the case?).
  11. Gorcbass


    Sep 16, 2005
    Galway, Ireland
    I guess that the difference between my band and your bands is that my band is just coming up to its first gig in around a month so we haven't had to designate anyone to be in charge of booking the gigs and just generally taking charge.
    Now that you put it the way you did I can see that having a band leader makes a lot of sense. In fact I can already see that the guitarist would probably be ours.
  12. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    The very nature of the beast means that if you are all leaders, there is no one to follow, and if no one leads, no one knows where to go (or you all go in your own direction). Either way, a band is doomed in those scenarios.

    Someone usually ends up being the "leader", either by choice, by vote, or by default. Having someone take charge is not a bad thing.

    I really like the "benevolent dictator" description. That pretty much sums up the best way to do it. It's not so much that the leader needs to be heavy handed about it, just that one person is the "voice of the band".

    Can you imagine if everyone was the leader...in other words, a democratic band? I don't think much would get accomplished if a vote had to be taken prior to every single decision.

    In our band the drummer (who founded the band) is the leader. He is a salesman by profession, so he is naturally gifted when it comes to booking, and he has a "take charge" kind of attitude. That's not a bad thing. We always have a band meeting prior to the start of every practice, where we sit down at a table and discuss everything. It's not like the drummer goes and does things we wouldn't approve of anyway, because the meetings make the entire band's views well known. The drummer simply implements them, without having to call or e-mail each one of us every time he needs to make a decision about something.

    When a band communicates effectively as a group, the leader of the group can carry things out knowing he has the full backing of the band. It's kind of democratic in some ways but not entirely.

    Ideally, a band is just a group of like-minded individuals where the "leader" just acts on behalf of the band. A good thing IMO.
  13. Me again...

    Personally I really like working with a band that has a good leader - ergo a clear direction. It makes my job so much easier as a bass player, and as I have described myself if another related thread, a good 'Chief Collaborator'.


    My experience has shown me that when someone really has a clear vision of what they want the band to do and can express that vision without being a jerk, the band has a really good chance of doing well. The clarity of the vision translates to the crowd.

    I have also been a part of the "We are all equal thing" and I gave it a good try - Three years... But it suffocated itself because of ego, lack of clarity and 'analysis paralysis'.

    I now work very regularily with two of the guys from that group. They are the guitar player/song-writer and the drummer/percussionist and they happen to be brothers (which inserts a whole new complex dynamic that I will leave for another discussion...). I made it clear that I am on board with the guitar player's vision and will support his direction to the fullest. I also made it clear that I will offer my opinion, but ultimatley defer to his word as final, so I count on him to have a final word and not shirk his responsibility as leader. He writes the songs - I like the songs he writes - he likes and values my contribution - we work well together.

    I will never do the "We are all leaders/equal" thing again. It feels all warm and fuzzy on the surface, but once that veneer is cracked (and believe me, it will crack!) a far uglier beast is revealed. Nothing worse then having a bunch of really passionate team players flailing in the wind due to lack of a single point of focus.
  14. Dkerwood


    Aug 5, 2005
    I sort of default to being the leader, since I write all the material and I have the most time to devote to the band. The other band members are totally ok with this. Actually, I sometimes get frustrated because they occasionally want me to tell them what parts to play (esp. my drummer). Man, I keep telling them that it's their part and to make it their own.

    ...although I do often have specific ideas of what the other instruments should do on certain sections of the song... :-D
  15. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    You make a good point here.

    Even though a band should have a leader, he can only do so much. If the rest of the band members aren't doing their part (whatever that may be), having a leader doesn't guarantee success. A truly successful band has strong individuals that come together as a group. Being a leader doesn't mean having to do all the work.
  16. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    In my job, it's easy. I'm the leader, because the Federal Government say so.

    However, the 'benevolent dictator' thing is right on the money. A leader isn't just the guy in charge. In my view as a leader (both of a band and of people), the leader works for the group, not the other way around. Many times, the members won't see that you've put thier best interests first, but the product will prove right, if you've got a clear vision (another good point already brought up).
  17. Jazzin'

    Jazzin' ...Bluesin' and Funkin'

    We're pretty much democratic on our band but the saxophonist is the one who arranges and/or composes most of the songs. I guess it's cuz the rest of us are just too lazy.
  18. ric1312

    ric1312 Banned

    Apr 16, 2006
    chicago, IL.
    OMG, the above is so profound. I've run into that sooooo many times in bands where everyone get's an equal vote.
  19. QORC


    Aug 22, 2003
    Elberon, New Jersey
    it does work. SOMEONE has to step up and take some control - without being a Nazi about it. Too many musicians are too flakey to really lead a band.

    You don't really elect one -- it just sort of becomes obvious.

    In my last band, I sort of ran it with the lead singer -- the rest were such passive-aggressives.

    Must some things be a democracy? of course. but someone has to GUIDE the discussions and make decisions. I've found that PURE democracy doesn't really work either -- everyone has their own opinion and trying to come to agreement among 4-6 people can be next to impossible.

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