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  #1  
Old 05-24-2012, 04:59 AM
Drum Mum Drum Mum is offline
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Default Can Bands Be a Democracy?

Or are they more like "benevolent dictatorships"? Could they be a little of both, a sort of strange hybrid, on a continuum, or something else entirely? Regardless of years of experience, please feel free to chime in!
Thanks!
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Old 05-24-2012, 05:19 AM
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Default Re: Can Bands Be a Democracy?

Hi Mum
It really depends on the band members I think.
Take The Fab Four for instance, there was no way they were a democracy because John and Paul did all the writing and it was really up to them what kind of direction they took musically. Plus Ringo and George were quite happy just going along with the flow (that is until George got completely over it and started doing his own thing).
If the band members all write their songs together during jam sessions etc, and they all put in equal amounts of ideas, then they would have more of a chance in keeping that democracy ideal together. But in my experience with writing and playing in bands, it doesn't happen very often. In fact, it's quite the opposite.
It doesn't mean it can't happen though and I think the band members would stay a lot happier together if it was an equal effort and there was no "I do the writing so I'm more important and so I make the decisions" thing.
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Old 05-24-2012, 06:23 AM
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Default Re: Can Bands Be a Democracy?

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Originally Posted by Drum Mum View Post
Or are they more like "benevolent dictatorships"? Could they be a little of both, a sort of strange hybrid, on a continuum, or something else entirely? Regardless of years of experience, please feel free to chime in!
Thanks!
Consensus is the death of leadership
M. Thatcher


In my experience there are three types of band members (generally)
  • Rock Stars
  • Artists
  • Musicians


Its rare when someone is two of the three. Its once or twice in a lifetime when someone is all three.

We love rock stars. We need rock stars. I've been the singer in most of the bands I've been in, and I've learned that I'm not a rock star. I'm an artist.

The best bands have a blend of all three characters.

I've never seen the successful band that is a democracy. Somebody has to have the vision and chart the course. And that person needs a strong foundation and core of support that will drive them to take risks and stretch themselves - to encourage them to do things they didn't even think they could do.

Someone needs be the person you can't take your eyes off of. The FOF (face of the franchise) - the go-to person, the one that stands in the front row center of the band photo.

Someone needs to be the one that is there early - has learned the parts, is the rock that the rest of the guys will know will be there there when they go far afield on solo safari. Someone has to be that home base, the one that knows where the pieces fit, the one that gets how it all works.

Everyone has different skills.

I've never seen a democracy work. Hitch your wagon to the artist, find a rock star to express the artist and engage the people, and surround yourself with guys that can really play.

That's how I've seen it work best.


-Ken
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Old 05-24-2012, 06:31 AM
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Default Re: Can Bands Be a Democracy?

Democracies have never worked in bands I have been in. When somebody steps up and takes charge, things start to happen.

When I led a band, I tried to make it as democratic as possible. A LOT of time was wasted "discussing" and "thinking about things from all perspectives". When I pulled the reins tight, that's when we cut out the bull and got stuff done...
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  #5  
Old 05-24-2012, 06:38 AM
Drum Mum Drum Mum is offline
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Default Re: Can Bands Be a Democracy?

It doesn't mean it can't happen though and I think the band members would stay a lot happier together if it was an equal effort and there was no "I do the writing so I'm more important and so I make the decisions" thing.

Spes-my band experience is meager-generally doing covers with a few originals thrown in, but I've read my share of musician/band bios, and what strikes me is just what you mention. I read Levon Helm's memoir years ago, and he made the observation that although all of the members of the Band contributed greatly to their fantastic sound, it was Robbie Robertson that was singled out by management as the "star", to the point where it became a game of divide and conquer. Was it because he was the principal songwriter, or was he a "go-to" person that could interface with management more easily than the rest?

Bands fascinate me-a study in personalities. I've read them being likened also to dysfunctional families!
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Old 05-24-2012, 06:43 AM
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Default Re: Can Bands Be a Democracy?

I like musically collaborating, but someone needs to make final decisions, lead the business end, book the gigs, and have a general course laid out. I think that person should also get more for booking the band.
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  #7  
Old 05-24-2012, 06:45 AM
Drum Mum Drum Mum is offline
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Default Re: Can Bands Be a Democracy?

Quote:
Originally Posted by mo2vation View Post
Consensus is the death of leadership
M. Thatcher


In my experience there are three types of band members (generally)
  • Rock Stars
  • Artists
  • Musicians


Its rare when someone is two of the three. Its once or twice in a lifetime when someone is all three.

We love rock stars. We need rock stars. I've been the singer in most of the bands I've been in, and I've learned that I'm not a rock star. I'm an artist.

The best bands have a blend of all three characters.

I've never seen the successful band that is a democracy. Somebody has to have the vision and chart the course. And that person needs a strong foundation and core of support that will drive them to take risks and stretch themselves - to encourage them to do things they didn't even think they could do.

Someone needs be the person you can't take your eyes off of. The FOF (face of the franchise) - the go-to person, the one that stands in the front row center of the band photo.

Someone needs to be the one that is there early - has learned the parts, is the rock that the rest of the guys will know will be there there when they go far afield on solo safari. Someone has to be that home base, the one that knows where the pieces fit, the one that gets how it all works.

Everyone has different skills.

I've never seen a democracy work. Hitch your wagon to the artist, find a rock star to express the artist and engage the people, and surround yourself with guys that can really play.

That's how I've seen it work best.


-Ken
I like your point! This reminds me of my last band. Our lead singer was the one with vision, and because she had more time on her hands than the rest of us, she was moved to do a lot more promo, finding gigs, the legwork, designing flyers. She was a force, and I admired her for it, and appreciated her energy. We all did. It just wasn't our forte. Someone has to have that push. Our problems came about when our say over the music became slightly less important. I guess that's when the democracy, or some element of it, has to come in. Not sure.
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Old 05-24-2012, 06:52 AM
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bermuda bermuda is offline
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Default Re: Can Bands Be a Democracy?

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Originally Posted by caddywumpus View Post
Democracies have never worked in bands I have been in. When somebody steps up and takes charge, things start to happen.
Agreed. Every band I've been in that was a democracy had its problems, almost always breaking up as a result. When a group is made up of hired guns who take direction from a leader or "management", everything is fine. If someone wants to leave, that's fine too, as they're easily replaced. Even if it's not so easy, they're still replaceable with little effort.

My two long-term bands - 31 and 32 years respectively - both have a leader who calls the shots, and the band members are also long-term.

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  #9  
Old 05-24-2012, 07:02 AM
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Default Re: Can Bands Be a Democracy?

Yes, just aslong as they know my word is final! Lol

Just kidding.

We have a mix in our band. We have regular band meetings to discuss and plan what we are going to do, what money should be spent on, marketing ideas, artwork, video concepts, who's doing what etc.

Ultimately me and the guitarist choose the direction of the music as we write it. The bass player and singer chip in once in a while. We are also the ones who record and produce us, the ones who research new sound engineering techniques.

But.... me and the guitarist are flawed individuals. We're perfectionists terrified of showing the world our material. We're always tweaking or re-recording stuff and we need the other members to put pressure on us and step in and say 'enough is enough'.

I'm the drill sergeant, I practise for atleast 2 hours everyday, I come to practise prepaired, I video us, i pick faults and come back next session improved. I make loops of my ideas with synthesizers and me playing, sometimes even a crappy drum machine of intricate parts to clicks and burn them off at different tempos to help the others learn them.
Sometimes I'll even program a part I can't play, reverse learn it, practise it at home then go to our studio and record it for real.

I don't suffer excuses for not learning parts or not practising. I'm the first to practise, the last to leave, begging for just a bit longer and I hate anyone being late or cancelling with crap excuses.
I've signed myself out of hospital a few times to make it to practise the next day and I have serious health issues!
Not a particularly smart move seens as I always end back up in there the next day and have had emergency operations and blood transfusions that I MIGHT have avoided had I stayed in....

We play to our strengths though. I'm not good at talking to people so I'm kind of censored. I can be blunt and opinionated and also people think I'm angry or I don't like them, even though that isn't the case.
Our singer is great at networking, he's also very organised. we take the p**s out of him 'cos he turns up with printed out, stapled together agendas for each of us with stats, contact info, tasks for each of us, dates and deadlines etc.
It's great though and he's the yin to mine and the guitarists yang.

Our bass player is a photographer, he does our pics and I'm a digitial artist so I photoshop them. I also draw up our artwork and marketing stuff.

Our guitarist is into filming and editing so he, along with a friend of the band directs and edits our videos.

Our bass player is very handy also so, if we have an idea or I draw a set design, artistic amp mod then he'll make it.

So every member has equal say in the end. We all have a bit more pull in our specialised areas but, nobody minds.

Bands are teams, not just when playing the songs! work together.
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  #10  
Old 05-24-2012, 07:16 AM
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Pocket-full-of-gold Pocket-full-of-gold is offline
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Default Re: Can Bands Be a Democracy?

In most bands I've been involved with there has always been a driving force(s) and a creative force(s).....sometimes they've been one in the same, other times they haven't. But generally speaking not everyone has an equal voice on all ocassions. Everyone has been free to contribute and offer thoughts or ideas, but that doesn't mean everyone gets to steer the ship either.
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  #11  
Old 05-24-2012, 07:26 AM
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Default Re: Can Bands Be a Democracy?

To a degree. But someone has to be at the helm, and it can't be everybody.
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  #12  
Old 05-24-2012, 04:14 PM
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Default Re: Can Bands Be a Democracy?

My band started out as a democracy but slowly it's morphed into me making most of the decisions. We'll talk things out and get a feel for various ideas on shirts, videos, etc but ultimately I'm the one doing the work so I do what I need to do to get things done.

Our guitar player writes 100% of the music, most times outside of the practice space, and he makes zero decisions.

Essentially I do 97% of the work for this band outside of writing songs so I make the decisions. I book shows, manage us, shoot and edit our videos, my wife takes our promo pics and I edit them, etc.
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  #13  
Old 05-24-2012, 04:16 PM
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Default Re: Can Bands Be a Democracy?

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Originally Posted by marko138 View Post
My band started out as a democracy but slowly it's morphed into me making most of the decisions. We'll talk things out and get a feel for various ideas on shirts, videos, etc but ultimately I'm the one doing the work so I do what I need to do to get things done.

Our guitar player writes 100% of the music, most times outside of the practice space, and he makes zero decisions.

Essentially I do 97% of the work for this band outside of writing songs so I make the decisions. I book shows, manage us, shoot and edit our videos, my wife takes our promo pics and I edit them, etc.

But who has the final word on musical decisions?
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  #14  
Old 05-24-2012, 04:17 PM
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Default Re: Can Bands Be a Democracy?

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Originally Posted by plangentmusic View Post
But who has the final word on musical decisions?
As in how a song is structured? That comes down to a democracy vote for the most part. Or do you mean something else?
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  #15  
Old 05-25-2012, 02:08 AM
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Default Re: Can Bands Be a Democracy?

my favorite bands are democracies. everybody knows what to do and they do it. as a leader i try to make it feel like a democracy.

the higher you go up the totem pole, it's more clear that someone has to take the reigns.

preferably the conundrum is: "Who's Gonna Do ________ (fill in the blank) ?

and not: "I Need You To Do _________ (fill in the blank).
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Old 05-25-2012, 02:56 AM
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Default Re: Can Bands Be a Democracy?

I've almost always played in democratic bands. Why? Because we never had anyone with the kind of creative power and vision (and uncluttered personality) needed to lead.

For a few years I played in a band at work (old musos finding each other) and there was a strong singer songwriter in the band. It was a pleasure to turn up and find out what he'd come up with next and how I could mess with it (kidding). I enjoy the challenge of trying to guess what a songwriter wants.

So give me a musical benign dictatorship any day.

Just throwing a thought out there ... I don't think people like democracy per se. It confuses them. Most people strike me as perfectly happy to have their preferred party in power forever. I like the idea that a govt can be voted out when it's tired or full of hubris but I still resent it whenever the "other side" gets in - ha!

Of course there are exceptions but I'm guessing there's a primitive hindbrain thing going on. Look at my avatar for a while and you'll get the vibe :)
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Old 05-25-2012, 04:00 AM
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Default Re: Can Bands Be a Democracy?

The band I play for is the brain child of our lead singer and current lead guitarist. He's tried for the last five years to put together a perfect band, and each time drama or stupidity has gotten in the way. Finally he's assembled a team willing to work just as hard as him and be just as dedicated.

He's a nice guy, but he has total creative control (and considering he has all the connections, we're in no position to argue if we wanted to.) Our bassist helps write songs, and they collaborate. And for the most part, I have total creative control over the drums.

So it's not a democracy. He runs the show - but he's not a dipstick about it. He takes every suggestion into consideration.

That's how I feel it should be - not everybody in a frenzy over what goes on. But a front man, who has a good head on his shoulders, and knows how to be a leader while still keeping his band happy. It's the first band I've ever been in where I don't have any say so except what I play, and I've really never been happier.
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Old 05-25-2012, 04:18 AM
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Default Re: Can Bands Be a Democracy?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anon La Ply View Post
I've almost always played in democratic bands. Why? Because we never had anyone with the kind of creative power and vision (and uncluttered personality) needed to lead.

For a few years I played in a band at work (old musos finding each other) and there was a strong singer songwriter in the band. It was a pleasure to turn up and find out what he'd come up with next and how I could mess with it (kidding). I enjoy the challenge of trying to guess what a songwriter wants.

So give me a musical benign dictatorship any day.

Just throwing a thought out there ... I don't think people like democracy per se. It confuses them. Most people strike me as perfectly happy to have their preferred party in power forever. I like the idea that a govt can be voted out when it's tired or full of hubris but I still resent it whenever the "other side" gets in - ha!

Of course there are exceptions but I'm guessing there's a primitive hindbrain thing going on. Look at my avatar for a while and you'll get the vibe :)
I remember depping for a band until they got a full time drummer. It was nice to just have the songs there already written snd have a break from having so much control. It was also great watching them all smile uncontrollabley shen I laid down 'proper' parts to their sobgs that complimented the riffs and accented vocal lines etc.
Inevitabley though after a while I started contributing, writing guitsr parts, then full songs and even songs based on piano which they had none 'til that point.

So I think you're just tue way you are, you can't change it and even if you try eventually you'll just end up being yourself.
I must just be a leader type of guy. Funny because our guitsrist is exactly like me and we NEVER compete or argue. When we were younger there'd sometimes be a bit of 'you didn't like my riff so I don't like your idea' but, for years nos we've been a great team. i feel he makes my ideas better, he gives me parts that enable me to be creative in a style I'd not usually go for and I complement his ideas and develop and improve them too.
We work well together and I feel very lucky.
So 2 leaders in a band can work. But I think it's rare for there to be no competition and interest in only their own ideas.

Anyone else in a band with 2 strong musics leaders and how is it?
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  #19  
Old 05-25-2012, 04:55 AM
Drum Mum Drum Mum is offline
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Default Re: Can Bands Be a Democracy?

Thanks, everyone, for your replies so far!

I guess the term "democracy" was a poor, overly-polarized choice of word, because it seems that many groups, or at least the ones described here so far, are a workable combo of both. I love the team analogy, where everyone has their strengths, plays to them, and does their part!
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Old 05-25-2012, 05:43 AM
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Default Re: Can Bands Be a Democracy?

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Originally Posted by marko138 View Post
As in how a song is structured? That comes down to a democracy vote for the most part. Or do you mean something else?
Yeah, I was referring to the music itself. I'd imagine someone has to have the last word.
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Old 05-25-2012, 04:47 PM
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Default Re: Can Bands Be a Democracy?

I see bands as similar to work situations. I like to describe my work situation to the people I supervise as "Democratic, right up to the point where i make the decision". What everyone else says is right, there is room for contributions, but sooner or later a decision has to be made and decisions made by committee are usually terrible.

Even democracies have someone in charge!
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Old 05-25-2012, 06:55 PM
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Default Re: Can Bands Be a Democracy?

Rush is a democracy. Seems to have worked out okay for them.
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  #23  
Old 05-26-2012, 11:46 AM
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Default Re: Can Bands Be a Democracy?

Most of the bands I play had a leader, they would write 90% of the music and lyrics, the arrangement however, always have been very democratic, the leaders never imposed a playing part to the rest of the band.

I also played in covers bands, which were a democracy, musically.

But in an original material band, I've always think there's a leader, and very often, it is what gives a band a strong identity and style.
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Old 05-26-2012, 05:13 PM
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Default Re: Can Bands Be a Democracy?

Most of the bands I have been in usually had one person that was the leader although he was never actually labelled that. We all had some say but in the end everyone looked to this person for the final say, usually because they had the most playing experience. I've also been in bands where the person that was the designated leader was not strong enough to lead. End result was a band that never left the house.

Last year I quit a band I was in for over two years that I actually started that ran pretty well as a democracy, but one pretty girl brought in that hypnotized half the band resulted in a power mad diva that turned the band into her own karaoke machine. The three piece I am in now runs like a democracy in a way, but we all know each other's strengths and experience and we acknowledge when each of us should push or pull.

For the most part though you usually have one or two members that have more talent, experience, and drive than some of the other members. Having a democracy in a case like that I think would hinder the success of the band. Someone unltimately has to be the one to take point, even if when they take the other members' opinions in consideration (which they should, unless it is HIS/HER band).

Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.
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Old 05-27-2012, 05:15 AM
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Default Re: Can Bands Be a Democracy?

Methods of power management within projects are as varied as the people comprising them...and can vary over time just as people do.

I would try to avoid a formula and instead adjust to/with the people in the current situation.
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