First of all, a little clarification is in order. I have been the bandleader (or, as it is sometimes termed, “band dad”) for almost every group in which I have played.
To the best of my knowledge, there are three types of band structures:
From what I have seen, these are the least efficient, and the most likely to break up. While the concept is noble, trying to run an organization with “all chiefs” does not usually work very well.
In this instance, the “monarch” can either be the bandleader, or a third party, such as a manager. In essence, the leader is completely in charge, and hires the musicians as a company would hire employees. Depending on how capable the leadership is, these can actually be quite successful. However, not usually as much fun.
The structure with which I am most comfortable is this one. In essence, the leader (me) is responsible for booking the band, managing the money, choosing the songs, etc., and is the final word on all decisions. However, the leader can and generally does consult with the other members on many things. A successful leader is much more likely to try to get consensus on decisions, rather than just handing down edicts.
How being a band leader applies to business
Although it may seem like nothing but fun, a band is at its core a business. And in business, we all know that bringing in business is critical to an organization’s viability. So learning how to book a band was integral in developing the skills I need in order for me to be the rainmaker for a company.
In fact, it is the one skill without which no organization can be truly successful.
Over the years, my current band (at this time, in existence and thriving for 17 years) has enjoyed a steady flow of high-level engagements. Because of that, I get consulted all the time by other musicians wanting to start their own band. That conversation inevitably goes something like this:
Me: “Get the gigs first — everything else will follow.”
The reaction? “Huh? No, just tell me who your agent is because I don’t want to do any of the sales; I just want to play.”
“I’m sorry,” I gently reply, “but it doesn’t work that way. We do almost all of our own bookings. You can either spend the money (to pay other people), or spend the time yourself.”
So it is in any other industry. If you’ve got the customers and the jobs, you can generally assemble a team of skilled practitioners and produce quality work. Which brings us to the next point.
Building the team
From the music side: while my prime skill is playing guitar, I know enough about every other instrument to be able to judge another player’s skill.
Similarly, I started from the ground floor in the world of website design and search engine optimization. It was 1995 when I built my first website; I began marketing that website at exactly the same time.
During the last 25 years, I have spent a good amount of time practicing nearly every function within the online marketing genre. (In addition, I also helmed an international magazine for 8 years.) Because of that experience, I am able to evaluate and attract the best writers, programmers, marketing gurus, project managers, and more.
This ability has been key in building the crack team which now makes up Caroff Communications. Just as important is the fact that I respect and trust everyone with whom I work. For me, that is essential.
Marketing to the end customer
Here is where my years as a songwriter and performing musician really pay off. Songwriters who consistently crank out hits understand that it is not how a song makes them feel, it is how that song communicates those emotions to the listener.
Musicians on stage also learn to inspire the audience. Done correctly, it creates a “feedback loop” where the audience members and the musicians take each other higher.
In business, skilled marketers grasp how to motivate their customers and potential customers to experience emotions and take actions. Adept marketers also work in a different kind of feedback loop, in which they evaluate statistics and data to continually enhance their efforts, and motivate their customers more and more effectively over time.
I’m always striving to improve my effectiveness as both a band leader and the head of a company. But the skill sets for the two roles always have — and continue to — enhance each other. And that’s a good thing!