One thing that I’ve seen a lot of bands struggle with is the phenomenon of there being a ‘main dude’. You might try to disavow this, saying that in your band everyone participates equally in writing songs, invests equally financially and the band has all main roles doled out so that you all put in similar amounts of work. Now this is totally within the realm of possibility. It just is generally an overoptimistic view of the way things are. I deal with bands every day of my life and there is almost always a core member or two who I chat with primarily while everyone else just kind of hangs out and doesn’t really pose any questions. Now this is fine too, you just need to realize it and appreciate the consequences that this can have on your band. I’ve seen countless bands get torn apart by not paying attention to the fact that they have a key member who does most of the work and simply not addressing it. So let’s go from this premise and start to try and understand band dynamics from an outside perspective.
See – the core member of a band thinks that they are the ones who make everything happen for the band, and oftentimes they are right. They feel like they are the person responsible for the bulk of the bands income. Even if they aren’t the ones finding the visual artists or singlehandedly putting together the shirt printing they are still often the conduit through which these things are distributed and how people are getting to find out about the band. This gets even worse if the person booking the shows, which is again, the main way that people are going to find out about what you do, is also handling your social media. This means they are probably also the person talking to any relevant industry figures, not just promoters who are, of course, the most visible example of the music industry in your local scene. Now it’s fine to have one guy who does all of these things but you need to appreciate that this guy is basically the manager of the band and like most full time managers he is oftentimes is going to feel unloved and unrewarded for his efforts.
I’ve seen outside members views of this core person run the gamut. Some think “Oh yeah what he does could be done by anyone” and try to belittle his role in the whole thing. Others think “That guy is amazing, good thing we have him running it so I can chill and just chip in when needed” Some are totally clueless and don’t even realize that one member of the band is making things happen or think that their own personal small and essentially meaningless contributions are somehow equivalent to the guy who books all the shows and runs the social media. There are of course also people who are in a bunch of bands and don’t have the time to be core members to any of them. There’s a value to these ‘utility players’ too and there place in the scene needs to be respected. Now obviously there are other mindsets and positions than these and I’m simplifying, but I think that it’s fairly obvious that several of these viewpoints are going to end up driving more than a few “main dudes” crazy. They need a support team behind them, even if they are going to man up and be the main dude in the band.
There are a few ways now to balance out having a key member and the impact that it can have on your band. First of all I think it’s important to simply up and recognize who that guy is if you haven’t already. Trust me, he will appreciate it. These guys are often doing the legwork for the passion of it and want their passion to be praised. Also realize that this is such an established tradition in the world of independent music that low to mid level labels almost always assume a lack of manager and specify that the label will communicate with a ‘designated member’ of the band they are signing. Once you start going forward from this viewpoint you are going to find a lot more success in helping the guy who makes all the shit happen for your band feel good about himself. Start to buy him drinks and appreciate his hard work and then start to talk about potential ways forward.
I think one of the most vital parts of sating your main dude to avoid tensions is to figure out what he wants form the band. Try to give him more creative license (Assuming of course it doesn’t suck) since he is the guy guiding the ship in all other ways. If you’re making actual money you should consider letting him take a managers cut in order to help alleviate some of the stress of the countless hours that he pours into this. Sometimes this can be a little trickier f you have the fairly common situation of two core members, but even then it should be fairly easy to figure out what the most logical way forward is for your guys to find a sustainable future. Sometimes, as much as it sucks, it’s good to have a clear power structure laid out so that people understand where they stand in the group. It can help ease arguments and push things along further.
Of course the irony of this article is that because of how the industry is the odds are that only people who are the main guys in their band are going to read it. They will read this and feel sad that they are not going to get any help for these things from their peers in the band and find themselves continuing down the far too frustrating world of music industry suffering. They need to find a way to implement these without coming off as a dictator badmouthed in their scene and instead just remain a nice guy trying to help keep things cooking for the betterment of the entire society. I know this can be tricky and frustrating but you need to have these struggles if you want a reasonable path forward and continue to grow your band.