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I am wondering what is the role of a rock band leader ? What are limits ?

Is it his role to bring rules ? Make the objectif and say : if you're not happy, leave the band ?

  • Are you asking about a Marching Band leader, or the director of a Wind Orchestra, or the director/owner/leader of a swing band, or a small ensemble which may not even have or want one member to "lead" it? – Carl Witthoft Oct 22 at 13:34
  • Hi @CarlWitthoft I just edited my question. – BestAboutMe Oct 22 at 13:36
  • I think this is a very interesting and serious question (+1) the down votes may be as it was not telling what band OP was meaning ... – Albrecht Hügli Oct 22 at 14:25
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I would discuss and define the rules before I enter in a band. The rules can be defined by all members - like we know from a democracy-institution, they should be accepted and respected like a couple living in a married couple-ship. (Do you call this The commitment?)

The role of leadership can also be discussed:

The leader role can change

  • each session (like in a meeting or conference)
  • each season
  • depending of the piece (may be the lead-singer or the composer)

but once chosen by the other group members the bandleader can define his own style of leadership like in a company.

It is advantageous to be so good that the others can't renounce on you.

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Rock bands don't typically have leaders in the way that classic orchestras/ensembles do.

Rock bands can have a manager/managers, who organise the administration side of things and triage tasks away from the band members (amongst other things).

Some bands might have overbearing members who assert themselves as leaders and almost lead the band as a dictatorship (see someone like Axl Rose in the original Guns N Roses days for a good example if you're interested) but this is not a defined role, nor does one have to exist.

The internal culture and atmosphere of typical rock bands should be one of "everyone is equal". Sure, there might be exceptions where someone gets self-important and tries to boss people about, but that is typically something you should try to avoid if you want a healthy band relationship. Big Egos Break Bands.

  • Case in point - Ginger Baker. If he's not happy, he punches someone… anyone. [Google "ginger baker angry" for many refs ;) – Tetsujin Oct 22 at 14:05
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    A decent band should always have a leader. It's a nice idea to have a democracy, but it doesn't work in the real world. After all, someone has to fire the drummer... – PeteCon Oct 22 at 14:07
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    We were 18, 15, 14 and 13 years. Each of us was speaking of "my band". We tried to live together in a democracy but finally we decided to throw out the drummer (13) as he came always too late to the band practice or forgot it, or he forgot his sticks, or he missed the timing. Well, at least this was a great chance for him: He has been the drummer for about 20 years in one of the most famous bands of our nation :) – Albrecht Hügli Oct 22 at 14:34
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    Having been in all kinds of situations like these, it all depends. A lot. Democracies are great in theory, but so much time can get wasted 'discussing' all sorts, from which numbers, to which gigs, which rehearsals etc. Having a designated leader is great when potential problems occur - "See Jim, he's our bandleader." But Jim has to be a special sort of person, who knows his stuff, will stand up and be counted, and is a responsible guy. I won't be told what to do by someone I have no faith in, musically particularly, whereas if someone really knows their stuff, I'll sit down and shut up! – Tim Oct 22 at 15:58
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    @Tetsujin - sadly, maybe not for the victims, GB isn't punching anyone any more. RIP. – Tim Oct 22 at 18:29
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Both @Albrecht Hügli and @James Whiteley have good points in their answers.

I would say that it is very similar to classic chamber music like a string quartet. The similarity is that it is a small group where you can all be creative and discuss things. I have played a lot of chamber music of various kinds and we never "announced" a leader. Well you do agree on who sets the tempo which in a string quartet is typically the first vilolinist, so in that moment he is the leader, but there isn't usually an overall leadership, and there can be many sections in the music where someone else better set the tempo.

I have also played electric violin in a rock group and my experience is that it is a similar situation.

But it doesn't always hold water that there is no leader. You can find groups with a clear leader whether it is a rock group or a classic chamber music group. You can also find groups where there is a temporary leader, like someone has the leadership on a particular piece, but another one might lead another piece. So I guess there are no set standards that you have to follow.

In general a small group is like @Albrecht Hügli said in his answer: A kind of married couple-ship. You get very close in such a group just like in a marriage.

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If you just mean the power structure of the band then it depends. I was in a band where myself and another musician had more knowledge of booking shows, recording, promoting, writing, etc. - so we both shared duties. In another band I was playing strictly guitar and backups - I didn't make decisions that didn't involve my parts or my playing. As far as playing music - I say the drummer is the 'bandleader'.

You can choose to run your band like a dictator like Frank Zappa - but most of the time it's collaboration. Sometimes there are one or two creative 'leaders' and the rest of the band members are there to play. Sometimes the entire band is involved with every decision made. It really depends, and there has to be mutual respect.

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