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The band leader....... King or just another guy?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by two fingers, Nov 8, 2012.

  1. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    So, another recent thread got me thinking about this. Here lately there have been DOZENS of threads that invole a TB member coming to US to vent about something a band leader did or wants to do. First of all, it seems that I guess many of the people who run bands these days are egomaniac overgrown 4 year olds. Either that, or the people who play for them are just WUSSES.

    I understand rank. I get it. Somebody else is in charge. But I have worked in the music and construction industries for a couple of decades now. If I have a big problem with a boss it doesn't change anything about how I'm going to handle except the tone of my voice. If a kid rides his dirt bike through my yard I'm going to get in his face and yell. If I have a problem with a boss I'm going to start with "Hey, sir, you got a sec? We need to talk." But I am STILL going to get into it and try to resolve things like GROWNUPS do. And even if the boss still wants things his way and disagrees with me, I get over it and either go back to work or go work somewhere else.

    But this thing of just not being able to talk to your band leader as if he sits high up on some kind of thrown just baffles me. You don't have to grab the guy by the collar and shake him. But you also don't just have to sit back and take it with your tail between your legs.

    So, who ARE these band leaders? WHY do you feel that you can't just walk up to them and start a grownup conversation about your problems with how they handled something? Are gigs so few and far between where you are that you feel you HAVE to put up with a jerk for a band leader? Can you not move to a place where things are more in your favor? (Another thing we will have to address later is why people have a problem moving to a town where circumstances are better.)

    Anyway, what are your thoughts? Have we just gotten to the point where NOBODY can disagree with anybody else? Is conflict SO scary that nobody is willing to try to work things out? Or are band leaders just a bunch of jerks and you guys are starving artists who have to put up with it or be homeless?

    Which is it?
  2. There are good band leaders and not so good band leaders.

    Good ones are, well... good. The others...

    Some of the best bands I've been a part of were bands that were lead by one person. The things that made them good leaders were pretty straight-forward:
    1) The took care of the business of the band - getting gigs, organizing rehearsals, even making practice tapes (yes, I said tapes... look it up) and distributing them to all members so everyone could come to rehearsal prepared.
    2) They hired good people to be in the band and because of that there was little drama. Everyone behaved like pros.
    3) They listened to the good people the hired and responded accordingly. If the band wanted to add songs, the leader added them. If the leader added a song and the band puked on it, he'd remove it.

    Being a good leader is not the same as being an iron-fisted dictator. It's being someone who takes care of band business, staffs the band with good players and listens to them.
  3. Biggbass


    Dec 14, 2011
    Planet Earth
    BLs are similar to managers...there are good ones and bad ones and it all comes down to what kind of 'people person' they are and what skills they have for managing people. Then there are the band members...the employees, if you will, who are either headstrong or weak minded. Leaders and followers of all types of personalities and skill sets...but the last two sentences in your opening paragraph pretty much sums it up.
  4. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    That was my gut feeling bit I thought I would put it out there to see if I'm wrong.
  5. Stewie26

    Stewie26 Supporting Member

    I think there are lots of good BL's out there. But you know the old saying, good news is no news, so we don't here about them too much on TB treads. People only write and vent about the bad ones.
  6. viper4000


    Aug 17, 2010
    Just to add to the conversation...

    I would surmise that a lot of us are living where we do for 1) Work or 2) family, not the music scene. That will narrow down the number of bands available in which to play. So if you live in the most rural part of Montana, I would think you would have less options. So if you did get in a band, you might put up with a lot of crap whereas you would not if you lived in LA or NYC.
  7. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Good point. However, being part time in the music business out in the sticks is MORE reason not to put up with crap to me. I would bet that in rural Montana there aren't 50 bassists coming to every show just waiting for you to piss off the king so they can have your gig. But different strokes I guess.
  8. I also think the older you get, the less you are willing to tolerate the head-games of a control freak who is not good at running a band.

    A good band leader is a good communicator, organized, patient - and knows how to deal with the complexities of managing a group of musicians. In my experience, most musicians who are half-way serious LOVE a band that has a good leader. They almost never complain and the leader almost never has to deal with issues. If he's doing his job that means everyone else only has to show up ready to roll.

    I have never been in a band that had a good leader where someone complained about the leader. They may joke about him in a good-natured way, but mature, professional players never take a good leader for granted.
  9. MatticusMania

    MatticusMania LANA! HE REMEMBERS ME!

    Sep 10, 2008
    Pomona, SoCal
    Band leader is supposed to be the guy running the show, nothing more. No reason to treat him/her like King.
    Being that Ive also been a bandleader, the BL in the current band often looks to me for direction.
    Im sort of the default go to guy when he doesnt know what to do. I always make my opinions heard, even if I think no one will agree with them.
  10. QORC


    Aug 22, 2003
    East Coast
    unfortunately, in most cases, the lead singer of any band is a total ass-hat. It seems to go with the territory. You can either tolerate it or walk. Few people change just because the bassist complains.
  11. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    tZer is right on the money. Very well said. :cool:

    Among mature musicians, a band leader is simply a manager and a facilitator. The voice of last resort. The guy ultimately responsible for getting things done. The one charged with carrying out the creative vision - and everything necessary to make that happen. To the greatest extent possible, he manages by persuasion and by consensus, and pulls rank only when absolutely necessary, in order to break a stalemate, to get a difficult decision made, to keep the creative vision focused and on-track. Other than all that, he's simply another one of the guys.

    Among immature musicians, the band leader - in addition to all the above - must take on the role of babysitter, nursemaid, chauffeur, psychoanalyst, loan officer, peacemaker, arbitrator and disciplinarian. Such situations are usually, by their very nature, hothouses of co-dependency. It is often where good band leaders become bad band leaders - by allowing all the conflict and drama to get to him, rather than simply firing the troublemaker(s) and starting over fresh - as such situations generally require. Any new member who might innocently happen to get recruited into such a situation often finds a band leader who is "fed up with the B.S.", and determined to "crack down". A dysfunctional band - such as this - is where tyrants and bullies are made.

    Beware... :eek:

  12. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    I have been a band leader.

    I think the best band leader sets the goals of the band up front, the style of music, describes the intended processes he wants to use for song-selection, pay, etcetera, and then attracts people who have similar goals. He spends a lot of time up front getting the right people and establishing what is expected.

    This means you go through a lot of auditions. People have the musicianship but don't want to contribute to doing promotion. Or they are good with promotion but don't have the musical ability.

    A good band leader sets broad parameters for the style of music and lets the group decide on the tunes. He listens and lets democratic processes do their work, but keeps the vision intact and doesn't let band members stray from the original "mission" of the band.

    I have had to do that -- one person joined us as a jazz guitarist and then wanted to turn the band into a backup band for his vocals. I had to say No so he quit. That was OK as that was not the original vision of the band.

    A good leader makes sure there is always something on the horizon for the band to look forward to -- like a video shoot, gig, festival, recording session or perhaps two songs at a jam night as an easy audition for the venue owner. But the group always has to be getting something out of the experience.
  13. Aussie Player

    Aussie Player

    Apr 20, 2011
    There is no such thing as a band leader.
    If there is, there is no democracy and stifled growth.

    The best bands are the best bands because the sound is the sum total of all members. No-one can claim leadership over that.

    If one member has contributed to the management side of the business, that is not a band leader.
  14. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Sorry, but in my experience this is great in theory but can lead to train wrecks in practice. In a band where there's no leader and everyone has an equal say you wind up with no identity, no direction, and a set list that has a little of this and a little of that and ends up making no sense.

    The good band leader, in my experience, knows how to harness and channel the creativity and insights of all the members while still leading. He listens to everyone's advice and suggestions, and he makes sure that everyone gets their niche and their place to shine, but at the end of the day he makes the final decisions and the buck stops there.

    I've complained about my BL in other threads because of excessive spontaneity and some hasty money-related decisions, but at the end of the day he fits the model I'm talking about and I'm happy to have him for our BL. There have been times I've suggested we learn a song and he's said "No, we aren't going to play that," and I was pissed, but in retrospect I realized that he made the right call.
  15. BassChuck


    Nov 15, 2005
    I think this kind of thing works only for small groups and certain styles of music and performance situations.

    A lot of times any decision is better than none and the best and fastest way for that to come about is to have a BL who will call the shot and players in the band to go with it even if they think they've got a better idea.

    Sometimes the BL is more a 'go between' the band and the hiring client or agent. In that case its better to have one person representing the band.

    I do most of my playing in musical theater. The group is put together for a show and then disbands when the show closes. The membership is determined by the needs of the show and the budget for the show. Many times the membership is close to the same. Often the BL of one show will be a playing musician for the next. In this case its the position that is important way more than the ego of the person in charge.
  16. roceci


    Jan 27, 2009
    Cardiff UK
    Band leader here.

    One thing that hasn't been mentioned (I think) is the distinction between a bunch-of-guys-jamming-music band & a more song-based approach, be that covers or pre-written originals. In the first scenario there's generally no designated BL & there's nothing wrong with that (although inevitably certain traits will elevate certain members to subconscious BL status). Problems come when one approach meets the other head on IME. The (usually) younger dudes resent doing the hard graft & come to see the (often older) BL as Hitler reincarnated. Meanwhile the more mature guys get fed up with the back & fore & leave. It's a tough balance, particularly if you are based in an area where you often have to take what you can get in terms of more exotic styles due to a limited player pool. Relocating isn't an option for most people & it's a bit short sighted to expect it is IMO.

    All that said, some BLs I've worked under are simply egomanical control freaks, & not in a good way, & those guys deserve all the hassle they get.
  17. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    A good BL never has to lead a band or push them IMO. The ones that do often have a revolving door of players.
  18. roceci


    Jan 27, 2009
    Cardiff UK
    That's more about the band members than the leader tho surely. Not many people get lucky first time on that score.
  19. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    "Democracy" doesn't necessarily equate to productivity - creative or otherwise. In fact, most often the opposite is the case, i.e. the dreaded "management by committee" - which most definitely does NOT work for a band, or any other creative/artistic ensemble.

    IME, the most common successful model is that of a "benevolent dictatorship". Pure democracy functioning successfully is very rare, almost unheard of - and for good reason. It requires people of extraordinary maturity, good judgment, emotional stability, self-discipline and selflessness, i.e. the willingness to sublimate self-interest to the good of the group collectively. It's difficult enough to find the isolated individual who has those traits, to say nothing of the difficulty of recruiting an entire band comprised of them... :meh:

    The first sentence is correct. The second one is nonsense.

    Taking responsibility for the business side of the band is part of being a good leader. In addition to leading the creative output.

    All in all, you have no idea what you're talking about... :rollno:

  20. Aussie Player

    Aussie Player

    Apr 20, 2011
    And that my friends is democracy.
    I have my opinion, and respect yours. We could work together fine.