Forming a band is like getting into a new relationship except with 3 or more people at once. Its very complicated and balancing a group of sensitive musicians is never an easy task. Many well known bands have fought court battles over songs rights just like a divorce couple fighting over custody of a child. It can be very messy but the good news is that when done right a good band will be the most amazing experience you will ever encounter.
Forming the band
Many bands start out with a few friends who share a love for the same music and a vision of perhaps becoming rock stars. An average band has a drummer, bass player, one or two guitarists, a lead singer and perhaps a keyboard player. For the band to work they need to all practice their parts and rehearse at least once a week for a few hours. To be a great band you need to rehearse 4 or more days a week and everyone has to be practicing between rehearsals. Sounds like an episode of Big Brother right? But its worse I am afraid. These guys/gals have to agree on what is right and wrong. Arguments can quickly erupt when one member accuses another of missing a beat or being out of tune. The honeymoon starts to wear off pretty quickly. So what’s the solution?
Who’s in charge?
You need a leader. Sorry but someone has to be in charge and make the decisions and live or die by them. As in any good team the captain must make the final call right or wrong and the team needs to trust that decision. All members should vote on the leader before you even start and then accept their final decisions from there on in. Of course all decisions should be open for discussion but the leader needs to make the final call. If choosing a leader is not an easy decision you can even run an election. But don’t just include yourselves in the voting. Include friends and family. The more people who vote on the leader often the more democratic. In many cases the leader will be obvious but if you have two leaders in one band chances are there will be a constant battle. Leading is not better than following. Its just different.
The other option is a manager. Someone who is not a member of the band but who is trusted by everyone in the band to settle disputes. The bottom line is there needs to be someone who adjudicates when band members are not able to agree. It is easy to believe that when a band starts off well and everyone is agreeable it will stay that way. If you believe everyone will just continue to agree let me say that the statistics say otherwise. I don’t have any exact figures but my guess is around 90% of bands would not last more than 5 years and most fail because of a disagreement or lack of leadership.
It is best to lay down the rules before you even start. Ask the hard questions. E.g. If you feel one member is not pulling their weight or is just moving in a different direction how do you ask them to leave? Do you vote and if so who gets to vote? If you don’t want to write a complete set of rules start with one. The one rule should simply be how to settle disputes. Create a format for settling any dispute that everyone agrees on. E.g. You have a song that you like but another member says they hate it. How will you decide whether to include the song in the band’s repertoire?
The best way to ensure your band’s success is to make sure you are clear about how to settle disputes. Whether you have a leader or a rule book your band must be clear about this point. The most talented musicians with the most amazing songs may even succeed in terms of record sales and sold out concerts but behind the scenes they hate each other and touring is just one long miserable nightmare. Success is only truly success if you are happy doing what you do.