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3 Lessons in Band Leading from 3 of Our Favorite Bands

Managing your band well is a juggling act, like walking down a staircase with too many groceries in your arms. It’s way too easy to trip, drop everything you’re carrying, and wind up in a sodden pile on the floor. You’ve got to deal with interpersonal relationships, a competitive market, creative differences, and the general tendency of musicians to be late and unprofessional, among other things.

Last week, we hosted our first conversation series on the challenges of band management for independent acts, in support of our course Building a Better Band. Before putting on an unforgettable show, the bandleaders from each of our three awesome acts — Tiger Speak, The Brighton Beat, and Broken Luxury — took a quick moment to share some thoughts on what they’ve learned from running their projects. From our conversation and some of the questions from the audience, there were really three lessons that jumped out to me:

  • The Music Comes First. When I asked the bandleaders about the 80/20 rule (the idea that the vast majority of the impact of your work comes from a small portion of your overall effort), they reminded me that the 20% of your work as a bandleader that has the greatest effect is making sure that the music is amazing. Without good music, nothing else will matter. Carter Lee of Tiger Speak spoke to the 80% of effort bandleaders put in, saying that band won’t be able to make the most of that crucial time spent focused on the music, without being over prepared and organized for each rehearsal.
  • A Good Band Has Good Band Members. I was also reminded just how important it is that you work with people you really trust on your music. So much of being in a band is about trusting your musical partners — to show up on time, to do what they say, and to compromise when needed. We asked Sam and Ryan from The Brighton Beat about co-leading a band and what’s most important to them in their work together. Without hesitation they both said “partnership” and “a shared vision.” If you don’t share the same vision or values with your band members, you’re going to run into some tricky situations (as an example, one audience member had recently been asked by his bandleader to mime a performance — which he felt stepped over an ethical line — and all the bandleaders on stage agreed there were serious issues of trust in the scenario).
  • Find and Delineate Roles. Zach from Broken Luxury and Sam and Ryan from The Brighton Beat both emphasized that when they started their bands, there weren’t any clear roles, but as things progressed, they each naturally gravitated towards different tasks. But most importantly, they didn’t just move forward without confirmation or clarity. They sat down and had a conversation making it official — say, you’re in charge of rehearsals and I’m in charge of booking. Being really explicit makes it easier to remain accountable and helps get past any awkwardness about pushing each other to do what’s best for the band.

Check out photos from the show in the gallery above, and head over to our Facebook page for even more.

If you’re interested in this topic, get excited because all week long we’re hosting #BetterBand Week — sharing articles, tips, and interviews from bandleaders and managers.

Do you have any lessons from your band experiences? Share them in the comments below! 

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Ian Temple

Ian is a pianist, entrepreneur and professional musician. He started Soundfly to help people really find what gets them most excited musically and pursue it. He's toured all over the world with his experimental trio Sontag Shogun. Check out his most recent course Building Blocks of Piano or follow him on Twitter at @ianrtemple.