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rugby1970

How to manage your band?

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This is not my first rodeo but I need some advice. We are a seven member group; lead, rhythm, harmonica, bass, drums and two female vocalists. So we're out of the garage and playing gigs (some of which pay money so I've lost my amateur status) and starting to develop a name/brand. We set the rules early and everyone agreed to follow them. It's a fairly democratic process, just the way I like it. We keep a band calendar but not everyone participates. Now we have problems with conflicting schedules; the lead vocalist is booking gigs and the lead guitar is dragging his feet. Those two are butting heads.

What the F do I do?

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I’ve been the band boss in several bands owned a sound and lighting company and booking agency. 

It depends very much on the level the band seeks to achieve. With that said at every level everyone has to be all in. One slacker will ruin it for the rest. If your lead player is butting heads with the person who is attempting to get your band employment then you need to find someone that wants to work “for” the band. Not diminish it. If someone can’t be there to set up their pay is docked accordingly and that goes for every member. 

Someone has to become the leader!! And the rest need to respect that person as the leader. Bands are not democratic. It’s more so like a club with rules and a leader. So choose someone to be the boss!!

I’ve hired and fired many musicians. Yes... fired!! If the where tearing the band down or apart they earned a trip back home. You’ve got a lot of people in your band. To me that means you have a lot of different personality’s. Someone has to manage all those personality’s!!

My favorite band playing in was a 3 piece playing straight ahead balls out Rock. Everyone sang and where incredible musicians. I thought I was the weak link in that band, playing guitar and cover most of the vocal’s. Surprisingly talking to the other two years later they thought they where the weak link. And within that we had a smoking band that played every night with everything we had. No ego’s! 

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Democracy by itself doesn't work, hence the inclusion of representative governance.  

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Pay the guitar player more. He deserves it.

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Legitimate scheduling conflicts happen and you have to work around them.  But this sounds like a power struggle.  I agree that continuing scheduling conflicts with one member that hamper the "mission" of the other band members might require an intervention.  No way around it.

I've seen bands lose their most talented member over similar problems.  They were better off for it, in the long run.  Squeaky wheels suck.

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Use your name in the bands name. The Rugby1970 group. They will get the message. 

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1 hour ago, hamerhead said:

Pay the guitar player more. He deserves it.

Pretty funny, but we all get equal shares. Paying one member more would be disasterous.

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I've set up our Floyd tribute ( 9 pieces ) like a production of a play, I have people cast in roles and I use subs at every position. In your case I would replace lead player

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25 minutes ago, rugby1970 said:

Pretty funny, but we all get equal shares. Paying one member more would be disasterous.

A band I know gives whoever books a gig 10% right off the top, then they split the rest equally.  This of course incentivizes everyone to try to find places to play, and negotiate a good fee.  I've tried to get several bands I've been in to use this plan and not one would ever do it.  Care to guess why?  That's right, I was the only person actively trying to "sell" the band.  Occasionally someone else would have a gig fall in their laps, but nobody else every went out looking for them.

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Can the guitarist. Plenty more where he came from. The universe shits out lead guitarists like stardust.

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8 hours ago, Studio Custom said:

Democracy by itself doesn't work, hence the inclusion of representative governance.  

I agree with this and will go further.  I think bands work best as benevolent dictatorships. That doesn't mean a whole lot can't be democratic - songs to play, and so on.  Hell, my first band that looked like it was going somewhere even broke our copyrights up evenly regardless of who wrote the song because we made a conscious decision of wanting everyone to share equally in any success we (never actually) had. But at the end of the day, someone has to steer the ship, and usually every band has a person or two that emerges as the person to do that. 

The key is whether or not that person actually gives a shit about everyone's input and can be the decision maker while still making everyone thing their input was valued. In my experience, if everyone has an equal say, nothing ends up getting done because everyone is working on different things if at all.  I'm in a group of six, and me and the singer tend to be the final say so.  That isn't to say we don't discuss things and take everyone's input seriously.  And some of us have deal breakers for completely personal reasons, myself included, that are respected.  But when there is a decision to made where the band can't seem to come to some consensus, either me or the other guy usually just makes the call.  There is enough respect there that the other guys are down to go with it.  Maybe in a power trio, it could be more democratic, but with six people, I don't think we'd get half of what we get done actually done without there being one or two people who will just make a decision and get everyone else in line at the end of the day. 

We also do a lot of delegation to various skill sets within the band and don't second guess the person who does whatever it is.  For instance, our drummer does graphic design and marketing for a living, and when it comes to shirts, the website, and so on, we just let him handle it.  We do make suggestions initially, and he usually pitches a couple of ideas.  But if there is a stalemate, he's the guy that does this for real, so we generally go with what he thinks is best. 

I guess to be a little less cynical sounding, I think what you really need is a band that is honest enough to play to the strengths other than music that each member brings to the band.  Some people are naturally better at leading a group.  Some people are better at the visual creative side.  Maybe someone is better at marketing the band.  Maybe someone else is good at organizing the setlist.  For instance, in my band, I am way better at professional emails and so on than anyone else but am not the best at talking in person to bookers and so on.  Zak, our singer, is awful at the professional communication stuff, but he's a monster people person.  Due to that, I handle all of the written communication, and he does the face-to-face stuff 90% of the time, and we try to stay out of each other's way with that. 

If everyone respects everyone else, having one person who actually steers the ship when someone really needs to be at the wheel while everyone else gets a real voice in what they do well outside of playing, it seems to me that you end up with a more productive band on all fronts. 

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1 hour ago, RobB said:

Can the guitarist. Plenty more where he came from. The universe shits out lead guitarists like stardust.

And also this, haha. 

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Guitar players should always be paid more.

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Harmonica player? Start there.

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2 hours ago, LucSulla said:

If everyone respects everyone else, having one person who actually steers the ship when someone really needs to be at the wheel while everyone else gets a real voice in what they do well outside of playing, it seems to me that you end up with a more productive band on all fronts. 

^^^^This is what I'm aiming for and how I operate. ^^^^

I don't think it's the lead guitar player that's the problem. In fact I don't think it's any one person is the problem. To me it's more like a kid in his/her terrible twos. They have learned to walk, talk, feed themselves and use the potty but they're petulant as all hell. Sometimes they cry or say no just to be heard. This band has done 6 bar gigs and we're not half bad but we're having growing pains; more rehearsals, more opportunities and better venues.

I'm retired now and this crap is what I did as a career: managing people in an engineering production environment. It was a headache but it paid the bills very nicely, thank you. The band thing is very similar but the pay sucks!

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47 minutes ago, rugby1970 said:

I'm retired now and this crap is what I did as a career: managing people in an engineering production environment. It was a headache but it paid the bills very nicely, thank you. The band thing is very similar but the pay sucks!

They very much are a small business in my opinion.  The stakes are generally much lower, so there is way more wiggle room for missteps for your average small band, especially if you're like mine where we're not trying to turn a huge profit, but it's still a small business.

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Posted (edited)

 Having assumed the mantle of defacto leader in my previous and newly reformed band,  I can relate. No one else wanted the role and as I started the band, it just kinda was my red headed step child from the start. We ran into issues with levels of commitment both financial and effort/time-wise. I had to remind myself that these were all working guys with families and life and well... life just likes to shit on projects like that. That said, it was a struggle and hasn't become any less so. But I've become a tad more benevolently dictatorial (per LucSulla) and less tolerant of some of the bullshit that may have passed in the old band. I'm faced with dealing with some who have multiple bands/projects going and conflicts have already arisen between the two musical projects. I sense a prioritizing of projects on the part of our new drummer that have sent me scouring the various resources for a new one. Life's too short. Despite this being a "fun" project, I take it pretty seriously and expect a similar level of intent from everyone else.

I agree it's important to have mutually aligned goals and to get them stated/set early on.

Edited by diablo175

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1 hour ago, LucSulla said:

They very much are a small business in my opinion.  The stakes are generally much lower, so there is way more wiggle room for missteps for your average small band, especially if you're like mine where we're not trying to turn a huge profit, but it's still a small business.

That is a great point and I never looked at it that way! We're not going to get rich and we don't have that type of illusions; money is pretty low on our totem pole.

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5 minutes ago, diablo175 said:

 Having assumed the mantle of defacto leader in my previous and now reformed band,  I can relate. No one else wanted the role and as I started the band it just kinda was my red headed step child from the start. We ran into issues with levels of commitment both financial and effort/time-wise. I had to remind myself that these were all working guys with families and life and well... life just likes to shit on projects like that. That said, it was a struggle and hasn't become any less so. But I've become a tad more benevolently dictatorial (per LucSulla) and less tolerant of some of the bullshit that may have passed in the old band. I'm faced with dealing with some who have multiple bands/projects going and conflicts have already arisen between the two musical projects. I sense a prioritizing of projects on the part of our new drummer that have sent me scouring the various resources for a new one. Life's too short. Despite this being a "fun" project, I take it pretty seriously and expect a similar level of intent from everyone else.

I agree it's important to have mutually aligned goals and to get them stated/set early on.

Yeah, I'm also the one that starts these ventures. We're split between recently retired and still working. The lead vocal has multiple projects going on but she's also the most serious.

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