8 Tips For Being A Great Band Leader
Bringing together a group of people with the aim of playing music together should be just about the easiest thing in the world right?
Playing music is fun, playing music with other people is even better, and playing music with other people to an audience is even better still! Surely everyone involved would be on time, easy to get along with, have learnt their parts at home, and all be working towards a common goal when it is such a good thing to do!
Sadly no. A successful band will have a great band leader leading them toward their goal. If you are that leader the following tips will help make sure the band is a success.
- Know where you are going
Unless it is just an impromptu jam session, most musicians that get together with others regularly (from this point on we’ll call it a band) will be working toward something. That goal will differ for every band and there is no right or wrong with the direction they wish to head in. And someone will need to lead others toward achieving that vision.
A great thing to do is set a specific goal and then work back from there, determining the individual steps you will need to take to achieve that goal.
A plan such as this provides focus. Focus will create and continue to inspire momentum as you are working towards something. Without that focus a lot of band rehearsals fall into ‘let’s jam on a blues progression’ for the next hour and see what happens.
So as the band leader (or music director) knowing your goal and how to get there is essential for the success of the band.
Band members need to know what is expected of them, when they are to be somewhere for a rehearsal or performance, what music will be played, if playing in a public venue what is expected of the band before, during and after the gig, pay details, transport, etc.
When the leader communicates well with everyone things will run much better, the band will achieve more and their will be a happier time for all.
I’ve seen this too many times when playing for others. Band leaders not knowing times, not having a plan, not knowing songs to play or work on, not having organised adequate PA, amongst other things. This can easily ruin whatever momentum you have gained in working toward your goals.
Band leaders also need to be organised when it comes to business matters (if relevant to the band). Costs for rehearsal studios, promotional materials, recording sessions, PA hire, common band gear maintenance, and payment for each member should all be well documented. This will also make for a much happier experience overall!
Deeds Not Words
Lead by example. Words are meaningless if not followed up with action. Sometimes words are not needed and just going about what needs to be done is all that needs to be said.Your actions will set the standard for everyone else. If you don’t care to turn up on time, don’t learn your parts, change or cancel plans with little or no notice you’re not going to have a band for very long. And be accountable to your band as their leader. If you make a mistake own it, apologise and set things right.
Promote, Promote, Promote!
To be honest I struggle with this. But what is the worst thing that can happen? Someone will say no.
Talent and success are not entwined. I know bands and musicians who can barely play or sing in tune that get a lot of gigs. They keep asking for opportunities and sell themselves very well.
Follow your plan. Set dates on things to be checked off. Sometimes you’ll need to re-evaluate and modify (or even change altogether) some part of your plan but you’ll be moving towards your final goal.
Be Prepared To Delegate
Everyone has different strengths. Use them Some band members will be more proactive that another, but find what they can each do well and their ‘fit’ in the band and they’ll be happy doing it. This builds team, purpose, momentum.
The leader who does not listen to his or her team will not be a leader for very long. Team members who know they are being listened to and having their needs and concerns considered will be far happier than those who don’t feel that way. Happy band members will give their best, which will make everyone happy, and if everyone is happy the band will work so much better on all levels, which in turn makes everyone happier.
Be Willing To Make The Tough Calls
This can be hard, especially if you have been friends with someone for a long time outside of the band. Sometimes band members can be difficult. The idea of playing in a band can be appealing but then the actual work required to make it happen is too great for some. Some people are just lazy. Some are incredibly unorganised. Some band members greatly over-estimate their abilities and the amount of work they need to put in on their own to learn their parts. Some musicians can walk into a situation and just play because they have worked enough on their instrument to be able to do so. But not everyone can pull that off.
As a leader you need to be willing to address all of these issues. Be fair, find out if there are other issues unrelated to the band the could be causing this, but talk to the band member about your concerns and why things need to change.
And sometimes you need to let someone go. It’s not pleasant but it might be the best thing for the future of the band. If a band member is constantly lazy, rude, selfish, unprepared, unreliable and uncaring about such things, let them go for the sake of everyone else.
A very-well known Australian musician I was working for at one time told me he would rather have someone in his band that might not be as good as another but had a great attitude over the great player with a poor attitude. The weaker player can work and improve their musicianship and if they are a good guy or girl the others will want to be around them. The great player who is a jerk often has a harder time changing their attitude and actions and it can really rub people the wrong way. If it is bad enough or happens enough that can be the end of the band!
Put these into practice and it will bring the best out in everyone, and the best out of you and the whole experience will be so much better for everyone on every level!