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Your band is a democracy?

June 14, 2013

There’s a common notion amongst indie bands that they should be run like a democracy. The most successful ones realize that they are actually businesses, not some abstract form of government. But let’s take a closer look at the “band as a democracy” concept….

Democracies come in all shapes and sizes. To keep it simple, know that some democracies have integrity and structures in place to maintain integrity…and some do not. Is your band attempting to be a banana republic?

Hopefully, the U.S. democracy is one of the best examples of one that works, so let’s see how many aspects of this government sound like your band: House, Senate, Judicial and Executive branch. You got all of that? The House submits new legislation and has to vote it in by majority. Then the Senate needs to confirm with a two-thirds vote. And then the President (leader of the band) can sign an action into law, or veto it. And there are all kinds of checks and balances along the way.

What? You think every member of your band should wield veto power? Tsk. Tsk. In most scenarios like this, here’s what really happens: one stubborn member of the band decides that they will veto everything except what they want. And before long, lo and behold, you’ve got a subtle little dictatorship brewing.

Band as Democracy?

Now, a few other questions to see if your band is actually a democracy: what is the recall process? How often do you convene to vote? Are there formal procedures of any kind in place, or are most of your band mates really just acting like anarchists?

Ever have a mutiny? Now all of sudden you can forget all about the democracy thing – you’re in uncharted waters with a bunch of scaly wags. This democracy stuff isn’t as straight-forward as you thought, is it? Usually when band mates start to complain about democracy, they are really just trying to express frustration and lack of empowerment. Does that mean you need to establish a mini 4 or 5 person government? Highly unlikely.

A band is a business, plain and simple. Hopefully, it’s for profit, but that’s not always required. It might have seven business partners, or one egomaniacal Boss, or a colorful board of directors, or maybe it’s family-owned. But make no mistake…a band is not a geopolitical entity – a band is a business.

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