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Just playing bass vs. being a bandleader/songwriter

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by NS2A, Mar 12, 2009.

  1. NS2A


    Apr 3, 2008
    How many of you fall into either category? Are you “the bassist” or are you a leader in your band (think McCartney/Lennon)

    I’m in both situations. I have a church gig where I normally play about once a month Saturday night and what ends up taking half the day on Sunday.

    The good: It’s plug and play, pro sound, great musicians and the satisfaction of giving back. I interpret the basslines as I see fit. I could just hit the roots and they’d be fine with that, but depending on the song, I will create the lines myself. So, I have some freedom. We also do a few originals, and I work out the basslines on those songs ground up.

    The bad: There’s no creative input as far as the rest of the band on my end. It’s not my place to do so, and that’s fine in this situation. Also, it’s once a month, sometimes more depending if they need a fill in or someone for special occasions. I do realize that is more than a lot of guys play out. ;)

    I also have a band I started last fall; it’s a hobby band, so we’re not super serious or anything, and have yet to find a singer that fits. So, out of necessity, I will (attempt to) sing ½ the set and the rest of the guys will (attempt to) sing the rest of the set. Also, out of necessity, we will be dusting off old originals the rest of us did in previous bands as the songs were written for our voices.

    The good: we play songs I really love (70s/80s), the guys are great, and the band is “mine”.

    The bad: The band is “mine”.

    I’d prefer to have an equal partnership, and they may take some of that on, but ultimately, it’s my baby. While I think a situation like this makes a guy a better musician and businessman, my concern is I’ll spend less time playing bass and more time focusing on the other stuff. In addition, the originals will need to be reworked and the best way for me to handle that is to work it out mostly on guitar. Yeah, guitar. And I’m 38, have a job and kids, so putting a ton of time into this, is hard to do.

    So, what do you have going? And the pros/cons of your situation? Let me hear your take!
  2. I spent the last eight years "running" the band I was in. Booked the gigs, called practice, fronted money for CD's and merch, set up never-ending drummer auditions, etc. Oh, and I played bass and sang BG vocals. All that, only to have the singer/primary songwriter decide to end the band.

    Currently, I'm back doing what I started a few decades ago - playing bass and singing BG vocals, only this time that's all I'm doing. I'm much happier.

    -- Dan --
  3. ilovethesechord


    Jun 27, 2008
    It's funny you should post this!

    I'm pretty sure that I just started a band today, but,

    I don't want to bear the creative burden of the band. In fact, one of my biggest fears as an aspiring "pro musician" is that people will see us at a gig and assume that I'm doing all the work (like Les from Primus) I love the people playing guitar and drums, so I want to share the fun of creating music.

    The problem with my situation though is that I've written and recorded a large handful of songs with guitar and vocals, (long, long, ago) and just recently I've recorded a few with bass, percussion, and vocals.

    So where will i fit in the creative process in this new band?
    I'm definitely going to play mad funky post-bass and do some really goofy sounding diaphragm-vocals, but I'm also gonna be creating ambiance loops with this little synth I bought from a friend.

    I guess only time will tell! Will people tale me as some kind of Tim Kinsella master-mind? Or will I just be the bass player?

    It makes me nervous just thinking about it!!:atoz:
  4. I've done both. I was always happier being the leader for several reasons, mostly trying book practice and shows is difficult because of a rotating work shift. Those are a lot easier if i just shoot for the days i have off and then get the other dudes on board. I enjoy doing the graphics for shirts, stickers, and albums. I also like running the websites, networking with clubs and other bands (well, for the most part) and coordinating things. I always deal with the money too, which is a sure fire way to know i'm not getting ripped off by anyone else in the band. Being the "leader" gives me a sense of accomplishment instead of just showing up every week and letting everyone else do the work.

    When i played in a band that i was a replacement for i didn't have any responsibility. At first it was awesome but then i realized i didn't have much control over anything- shows, practice, etc. Not that i'm a total control freak but it created a lot of tension that was unnecessary. Plus the singer had all the money and ripped everyone off. So i went back to square one and vowed to never be just a "show up to practice and shows" kinda guy, i always want to be involved in the important decisions.
  5. I've kinda done both, I prefer being in charge because I'm pretty impatient when it comes to music. I get annoyed when my band members procrastinate be it in booking shows, scheduling studio walk-throughs, or even just making/ordering merchandise. I find it alot less frustrating to do it myself.
  6. rockdoc11


    Sep 2, 2000
    After being mostly a sideman for most of my career, I've evolved (or devolved) into the band leader of my band of the last three years. This is mostly due to age and experience.

    The good: for better or worse, my band largely represents my sense of what a band should look like, sound like, and be like. I own the PA, and serve as "musical director." I get final call on most issues.

    So I can have no complaints about the band. If there is something I don't like, I can make (and have made) the necessary changes happen.

    The bad: it's a LOT of work, most of it not fun. I have to figure out most songs on bass (my band instrument), and also on guitar and even (to a lesser) extent on drums, so I can make our infrequent rehearsals as efficient and as productive as possible. I need to constantly be listening to everyone when we play, to figure out if all is well or not, and if not, who's doing what wrong.

    Recently I've been farming out some duties (for example, scheduling rehearsals) to my "second in command." That's made my life easier, and extended my probable performance career. I couldn't keep doing it all the way I had been. I would have had to quit. As it is now, my responsibilities are manageable.

    The reason I do it? Mostly, it's because it's necessary for someone to do this. Older guys along the way did this for me. It's a way to pay the debt forward.
  7. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    Song Surgeon slow downer. https://tinyurl.com/y5dcuqjg
    With your job and family, free time is an oxymoron.

    IME, what I suggest that you do is what a whole bunch of older members of TB have done. Possibly give up playing while your family grows up. Raising kids is a one shot deal.

    I'm just sayin'
  8. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    I'm just the bass player. I like it that way.
  9. timber22

    timber22 Supporting Member

    I'm in the second scenario you describe. I'm the leader of a "hobby" band the drummer and I formed late last year. The drummer and I have been close friends for years and have wanted to form a band together. I schedule all the rehearsals, etc. I take input on songs, but ultimately I decide what we play. I was hoping not to do that but some of the suggestions are really out there. I sing more than half of the songs, even though I'm not a very good singer.
    The good is that I am the most "organized" person in the band, so I really do keep things somewhat on track. I really think if I didn't do it, our progress may grind to a stop.
    The bad is that it can be frustrating. Everyone in the band has their own life and there are different levels of dedication to practicing, rehearsing, etc. Feels like herding cats sometimes.
    Recent good news is that we may have just found a female lead singer who is really good.

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