Steve Witschel has been an online music writer for seven years and has played over a thousand songs in his career.
How to Lead a Band
When you are in charge of a group of people, several responsibilities fall on your shoulders. If you've never been in a management position or haven't had any business training, this can be a challenging endeavor. The truth is that it's really not all that difficult, as long as you know what to do.
The most successful leaders in any capacity practice certain fundamentals that have proven to be repeatedly effective. It may seem like a lot to remember, but you'll find that the majority of the responsibility as a leader will involve troubleshooting and problem-solving. This is the real world, and that's the reality. You'll have much more success dealing with all of the variables that come into play if you first commit to having the basics covered.
1. Have a Plan
Regardless of what kind of band you're in, chances are you want to do something with it. If you're the leader, you probably have a vision of what you're looking to accomplish. The best way to get anything done is to be specific about what you want to achieve and follow that with practical steps to take.
Plans are a funny thing. They're designed to be rock solid yet are always subject to change. If you roll with the reality of that fact, you're in good shape, as long as you always have a plan.
The primary benefit of having a plan is that it provides focus. It narrows down the options of what to do to the most practical and beneficial steps that can be taken. When you can be clear about the road you want to travel, there's nothing stopping you from reaching your destination.
As the band leader, your mates will be looking to you for information. It's your job to make sure that they get that information regularly and in a timely manner. This is not to say that you have to tell your band about every minor business detail, but it is your responsibility to share relevant news with each member.
Upcoming dates, songs to learn, rehearsal schedules, etc., should all be shared at the same time with your band through an email thread. You can even easily create a private Facebook Group with just the band members where you can centralize all of the information.
The point is, you need to be forthright with anything that matters to the players in the band. Keeping communication lines open and consistent leads to more productivity and subsequently, more success.
3. Be Organized
This takes some discipline, but it's extremely important when you're running a band. A file system on your computer is a must for all band-related information, and it's easy to do. Keep records of all business documents, update your band's song list regularly, and maintain an online schedule for gigs and other activities. This will not only make it easy for your band to stay in the loop, but it will also reduce the amount of confusion and give you more time to focus on the music.
4. Lead by Example
If you want your band to respect you, you have to be willing and able to do anything that you would ask of them. This is true for any type of leadership position, but is glaringly obvious in a band situation. You can talk about anything you like, but you'll get the most productivity out of your band if you walk the walk.
The music business is extremely challenging. There have been so many radical changes in the last decade alone, and things continue to move fast. If you want to stay on top of your game, you need to take dedicated action.
It's not always the most talented musicians that have success. Quite often, it's just the people that keep moving. Since you now have a plan, you have no excuse but to plow ahead no matter what difficulties befall you. Stay the course and make adjustments when unexpected situations arise, but always take the next step.
One of the primary traits of a good leader is splitting up the responsibilities within the group. You can't do everything by yourself, and the band as a whole will be in much better shape if you play to the strengths of each individual.
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Is someone in the band good at marketing? They should be in charge of social media. Is someone a good photographer? They should take candid shots of the band. You get the idea.
You are leading a team. Without the team, you have nothing. But a team needs a leader. Things run much more efficiently when someone is calling the shots. Give each person a responsibility that they're good at, and you'll be exponentially more productive as a unit.
7. Listen to Your Band
Every good leader knows that to get the most out of the people you are leading, you have to listen to them. The individuals in the band are each an essential part of the machine - and they all have an opinion and a vision.
There is strength in numbers, and the more ideas you consider, the more options you'll have to choose from to make the best decisions. They will also respect you as a leader if you value their feedback and ideas - and you'll get the best out of the band on many levels.
8. Be Honest
This is sometimes an elusive quality to find in the music business, but it can go a long way if it's put into practice. You want your bandmates to trust you. That's really important. Everything else that goes on with your group will be affected by the level of trust that they have for you. You can accomplish things much greater when you have a team that always believes you.
9. Be Willing to Make Difficult Decisions
You'll often find times when your bandmates are some of your best friends. In bands that work frequently, they become like family. It's really difficult to separate business and friendship, but if you want your band to do well, someone needs to make the call when the band is at a crossroads. There are many possible scenarios where you'll have to make a hard choice, but the best leaders will do what needs to be done for the benefit of the whole.
10. Stay Positive
Keeping up morale is one of the essential aspects of a winning team. As the leader, you are setting the tone for all that you do. Unexpected things will happen, obstacles will appear, personal relationships will evolve, and struggles will are expected. It's all part of the journey, which makes everything unique and special.
When you accept this fact, it causes no resistance within you when challenges arise. You can naturally go with the flow when you simply accept how things happen in the real world. You can also profoundly affect the outcome of any circumstance if you primarily maintain a positive outlook.
Also, be sure to give positive reinforcement to the players in your group when they've done a good job. When you acknowledge a person's achievement in any leadership role, they tend to give more of the same. People like to be recognized and appreciated.
When you, as a leader, take the time and effort to point out that someone has put forth a solid effort, you'll not only get more respect from your band, but you'll also get quality performances more often than not.
You'll be much more successful as a unit by putting this into practice - because, ultimately, your goal as a leader is to bring out the best in everyone - and focusing on the positive will also bring out the best in you.
Constance Marzell-Kyme from London, UK on June 09, 2020:
Good niche topic- even though these are basics, they're a solid place for someone just starting out. I would really be interested in your thoughts as the band scales and things become more complex with touring and press.
Otherwise, nice to see a unique article :)
General MOUT on May 20, 2017:
The only question that someone could have is how to be the LEADER not what will you do.
Debbie Byrd from Central Illinois on April 17, 2016:
Ooo this is good, I should show this to the section leaders in my winds group!
varialtv on December 21, 2015:
Great tips for a band leadership Everyone should know this Excellent information and advice. Have a plan, Communicate, Be organized, Lead by example, Hustle, Delegate, Listen to your band, Be honest, Be willing to make difficult decisions, Stay positive.
Dom Spallino from Minnesota on July 30, 2015:
Back in mid 2000's this wasn't as hard to do. Now, even just trying to start a band with like-minded musicians is hard. No one wants to take on the main roll or everyone wants to be the leader. Where does that leave others? Takes them onto starting up solo projects.
Anon E. Mouse on July 29, 2015:
Number 7 is important but BE WEARY still. There is strength in numbers, but too many cooks in the kitchen can spoil the broth. Take into consideration all opinions of the band, but just know that not everyone will have there exact way.
Steve Witschel (author) from New Orleans, LA on February 17, 2015:
Everyone "should" know, but everyone doesn't know, and definitely everyone doesn't practice. Basics are always good to review or have available for reference. What would be your suggestion for a serious article?
Bill B on February 17, 2015:
Simplistic, basic advice that everyone should know. I would like to see some serious articles, instead of these generic band-101 things. I mean, really, who doesn't know this stuff that is a serious musician? More signal, less noise.
Rand Bowman on September 16, 2014:
Excellent info and advice, thanks.
legendary apple on August 22, 2014:
liking this music niche :)
Steve Witschel (author) from New Orleans, LA on August 19, 2014:
Thank you LawLa!
TheLawLa on August 19, 2014:
Great tips for a band leader. It seems you have it all down pat. In my opinion, numbers 2, 4, and 7 are the some of the biggest factors in there and that's not only leading a band either, that is for leading anything. Again, great this was a great read.