Every band has its hierarchy, but there has to be one or two members that really buckles down and thinks about the band’s future. Sometimes this can be taken a bit too extreme. When we were kids, dreaming of being rockstars from the safety of our parent’s garages, we weren’t wishing we were the nameless touring band members. We were dreaming of being the next Ozzy, Kurt Cobain, Robert Plant, Stevie Nicks, or Jimi Hendrix.
A lot of people started bands with friends. Sadly, in this writer’s experience, friendships do not excuse you from the infighting. I think back to when my friends and I formed a band in high school. I was the drummer, although not a very good one. Then there was my three guitarist friends, who, at the time, all were about the same level of skill. Our lead guitarist was the charismatic one. Then there was our rhythm guitarist, who was the one that had years of lessons under his belt. Finally, there was our third guitarist, who was all about power chords and not much else.
After some time of jamming around in my garage, we decided to start writing music of our own. That decision was when the hierarchy was born. Our lead guitarist became our head songwriter. Occasionally, our rhythm guitarist would try to write songs, but the third guitarist and I were left sitting back, unsure of how to contribute.
Well, when this started happening, the third guitarist began to stop trying. I remember walking into school one day when the others told me that our third guitar playing friend was kicked out of the band. That was it. It was done and I felt horrible. Just like that, my friendship with him was destroyed.
I remember being angry with the others. Yet, after putting my ego aside, I realized that it was only fair to make our lead guitarist and head songwriter our leader. He had charisma, he could play, and he could write. I didn’t want to see my friend get kicked out of the band, but looking back, I can see that he was holding us back. If you can’t contribute to the writing process, then you better have one hell of a good attitude with skills to back it up.
Choosing a leader was a necessity to move onto a more serious path. If it were a democracy consisting of friends, we would never have accomplished anything. Yes, it’s important to know your place if you aren’t contributing as much as other band members, but it’s also important for everyone to remember why the band began playing together in the first place.
So, I leave you with a message to all band leaders. Listen to your bandmates! Take their thoughts and feelings into consideration. You may still have the final say on things, but if you alienate your bandmates and start disregarding their opinions, you’ve lost a piece of that childhood wonder we all started out with. After all, a band is a union. A band is a family.