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Can a band of 7-8 people function without a band leader?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Taustin Powers, Mar 4, 2019.

  1. Taustin Powers

    Taustin Powers Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2002
    Berlin, Germany
    So far, I have never played in a band of more than four people. None of these bands had a declared band leader, and I don't ever felt like we needed one. The bands always consisted of friends, and we just kind of lived a democratic process, talked things over until we agreed on something.

    My new band consists of seven members, only two of which I have known for a longer time. We are now seven, and may add a trombone player to round up the horn section. As questions such as "do we keep this band name?", "do we want to try add some rap elements?", "which songs do we work on next?" pop up here and there, I'm starting to wonder if we should declare someone official band leader. With this many people, many who've only met recently, decision-making could become complex.

    We have a very relaxed attitude, and we are only in this for fun, write some music, play some shows. No financial stakes, no dreams of "making it". Could this just work by making it up as we go? What's been your experience?
    nixdad likes this.
  2. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    There's always a band leader.
    Make a list, check who was here first, who spent the most time in the band, who books gigs, who maintains internet stuff, who answers mails, who manages the money, who owns or rent the rehearsal space and schedules practice, who makes songs or chooses them.
    The leader will always appear clearly.
  3. Taustin Powers

    Taustin Powers Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2002
    Berlin, Germany
    At this point, that would be me. :wideyed:
    Contrabbasso76, rendevouz and nixdad like this.
  4. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Emergence of the alpha...didn't take too long, now did it?

    Contrabbasso76, PWRL and nixdad like this.
  5. Taustin Powers

    Taustin Powers Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2002
    Berlin, Germany
    My personality is anything but alpha. I've just been the most motivated one in the founding phase, writing songs, writing musician ads, coordinating auditions, etc.
    gebass6 likes this.
  6. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    The term "alpha" has gotten a bad rap. In this situation, it's the naturally occurring progression to leadership by virtue of the talents & traits you've mentioned.

    dan1952, PWRL and fhm555 like this.
  7. Scottgun


    Jan 24, 2004
    South Carolina
    Great "hang" can substitute for an official band leader, but as Jazz Ad says, there's natural unofficial leaders if you think about it.
    Bassman822 likes this.
  8. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    There are lots of jobs that one might assume are the responsibility of a BL, but in reality can be shared. Yes, there's the administrative end; bookings, scheduling rehearsals, promotion, and such. Then there's the job of music director ... choosing songs, building setlists, assigning parts. In a horn band, I'd also want one of the horn players to direct that section. If there are more than two singers I'd also want someone to handle the vocalists. Both of these groups might even rehearse apart from the whole band to work out their parts (nothing worse than sitting through a rehearsal with my bass on my lap while horns and/or vocalists are just creating or learning their parts!).

    You might meet to discuss these different jobs/responsibilities, or wait and see if those with leadership abilities rise to the occasion. It doesn't ALL have to be on the back of one member.
    Seanto, mrcbass, JakobT and 3 others like this.
  9. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    I like my role and it may work for you. I'm the band "coordinator." I don't make the decisions, but I make sure decisions are made. I make suggestions, make sure everyone gets a say and a vote, but without someone driving, you can wind up discussing the same issues over and over without ever making a decision.
  10. sevenyearsdown

    sevenyearsdown Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    Call it what you want to, but you are the band leader.
    Amano, 2112 and nixdad like this.
  11. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    Addressing the question in the title, Can a band of 7-8 people function without a band leader?, well, it can, if all involved are levelheaded, mature adults with clear and distinct responsibilities within the band that each one takes very seriously.

    But we're talking about musicians here, so no.
  12. -Asdfgh-


    Apr 13, 2010
    Answer: yes, been there, done that. I have several rmt shirts.
  13. gln1955

    gln1955 Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ohio, USA
    Being the band leader doesn't have to mean "This is MY band and you are all here to do my bidding". An effective leader can make decisions by consensus just as you've done in the past. But, when everyone doesn't agree, as will happen with group this big, someone has to make the final decision. It also doesn't mean the BL has to do all of the work. Find everyone's strengths and play to them when dividing the band work.

    Good luck being the new leader;)
    alanloomis1980, gebass6 and Mr_Moo like this.
  14. -Asdfgh-


    Apr 13, 2010
    Worked for us
  15. nixdad


    Aug 15, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
    I'm a member of a 7 piece group (it used to be 8.) This band began in 2012, and I've known all of the guys for decades (several are very close friends.) My first band with 3 of them from '79-'88. I had stopped playing for about 25 years, but the other members play nonstop and are in multiple groups.

    I've taken a leadership role over the past 4 years, but don't consider myself the bandleader. I noticed the need to get certain things done, so I stepped up to keep the train moving. However, I'll typically run things by 2-3 other members who I consider co-leaders in the group before taking action.

    I can't argue with that.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2019
    Mr_Moo, Helix and Tony In Philly like this.
  16. -Asdfgh-


    Apr 13, 2010
    Not true. In my last band those categories above were all filled by different people. In fact we all got together and discovered who wanted to take each role.
    Mr_Moo and Nashrakh like this.
  17. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    I was only half-joking, I've only ever been in bands in which each person had a specific job, like in one of them we have a guy handling the money, one acquires the gigs, one for the legal side and paper work, I am the music director, etc.

    But I've never been in a band with more than maybe 5 people that didn't have someone as a designated band leader. It must be like herding cats. :woot:
  18. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    Surely there wasn't a single member who devoted twice as much time as the others to the band.
  19. jthisdell

    jthisdell Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2014
    Roanoke, VA
    The smaller the group the less need for a bandleader. My three piece bluegrass band is very democratic and I had a three piece gypsy group that did not have a BL, although it did not last as it should have. But, IMHO, a good BL will make things happen much sooner, you will learn more songs, practice more, etc if someone is in charge.
    Mr_Moo likes this.
  20. -Asdfgh-


    Apr 13, 2010
    No. There were a couple who maybe did less, but around five putting in a lot of work in various categories. My area was bookings and health and safety. Another did the financials. Another 'relationship building' that underpinned bookings and organising practices, another more of the creative elements. Another was always the first at a gig and sorted out any initial issues. Pretty well shared.

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