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Lead the Band

Most people think being in a band is a democracy when it comes to leadership. During songwriting, democracy is the way to go… but as far as leading the band, someone has to step up and be the leader.  When there are two strong identities in the band there will probably be conflict and argument as to whom should be the leader.  Fight it out and let a dispute happen.  That democracy that you wanted so badly should come in handy at that point.  "We all make decisions together and nobody is really the leader" is cute on a playground, but in a band it's just silly and informs the world that you're not that serious about your band.  Pay attention to the people that say the aforementioned statement and what level of success they've actually achieved…if any.  

It might help to think of your band as a business (ooh, there's a novel idea).  When you go to your job, there is someone there that can fire you or hire other people.  You need the same such person in your band.  There is some level of democracy in the band even when you have a leader, but someone has to be the person to drop the hammer and make hard decisions after serious contemplation and discussion.  Oh, yeah…and someone needs to be the figurehead that takes the blame for failure as well as success.

You might think you want to be the leader of your band, but you might suck at it or just really don't want to do it.  As the leader, you have to deal with multiple personalities and virtually perform the tasks of den mother, parent, shrink, advisor and many other roles while also struggling to maintain the titles of friend and bandmate without walking out with the single title of "asshole" (which is kind of unavoidable because eventually you're going to have to kick someone out).      

Being the leader isn't always about making the smartest or best decision, but sometimes making the decision that is best for the band.  You have to take into account everyone's background and their way of thinking before you charge forward with an idea or decision.  Most importantly, you need to know the people that you are in a band with.  If your bass player does his best work after he has enjoyed an ice cream sundae, then it's your job as the bandleader to know that information… and you better make damned sure that when you go into a recording studio that the bass player has an ice cream sundae beforehand.  If the producer comes to you, the bandleader, and says that the bass player is devouring the studio budget with his various sloppy takes, then it's your job to know to say, "Oh, crap!  He hasn't had his sundae today.  Get him an ice cream sundae and he'll lay the tracks right out."  Being the bandleader isn't just about standing in the doorway with your hands on your hips boasting, "I'm in charge", it's about knowing the strengths and weakness of your band and making sure that one thing overshadows the other.      

There are two types of bandleaders; 1) the type that hires band members and pretty much dictates everything they play and 2) the bandleader that is the head of a creative think tank where ideas are shared and cultivated.  If you are the first type of bandleader then you can just disregard everything you read because you're pretty much doing the musical equivalent of making someone turn tricks for money and you don't have to get to know anyone for that.  You just have to pay them.  If you are the second type of bandleader, you need to get to know your band members and their needs.  You need to spend time with the other members both onstage and off.  You should consider yourself to be in a creative marriage.  Marriage doesn't work unless there is communication, exchange of information and respect for the other persons feelings and needs…a successful band relationship is no different.  Later, and don't be a hater.  


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