Should Bands Have a Leader?

Today’s post theme for Blogfest is Leadership. When thinking about leadership I immediately thought of how Dave Mustaine has run his band Megadeth. Over the summer, I read his autobiography Mustaine where he discussed the group changes and how he maintained control over it the past few decades. In fact, Mustaine is the only member that has remained constant over the history of the band. This is due to the fact the he regards the group as “his band”. He is the sole songwriter in the band and this means that he gets more money than the other members. Over the years this has created tension between bandmates and in many instances influenced people’s decisions to leave.

Personally, I think this is a fair way to run a band but perhaps it wouldn’t be too crazy an idea for Mustaine to allow his fellow bandmates a chance to pen a few of their own songs. On the other hand, Mustaine may be fearful that his songs may be taken from him just as he claims Metallica did with some of his earlier work.  Metallica had given Mustaine partial credit on their albums Kill ‘Em All and Ride the Lightning. However, Mustaine continues to claim that he also contributed lyrics to the Master of Puppets album. Mustaine’s song “Mechanix” was re-recorded by Metallica and became “The Four Horsemen”. Mustaine later released the song with Megadeth with the original title and original lyrics.

Although there is the risk described above, I think it is better to divide the work and payment equally between band members. Metallica continues to take this approach to this day. This way of business gives each member the chance to feel like they are contributing something to the overall success. James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich have contributed the most lyrics but some of their greatest songs were written with Kirk Hammett and the late Cliff Burton.

So is a leader really necessary for a band to succeed or is it better for everyone to have equal power?



~ by metalosophy on March 23, 2011.

2 Responses to “Should Bands Have a Leader?”

  1. I think in some cases, a leader might be necessary. In Megadeth’s case it worked out for them. Metallica does it the other way. I suppose as long as there are defined expectations in the band and a clear line of authority or band equality, then any formula should work. Personally, being a military man, I like rules and a chain of command. It let’s everyone know where they and you stand. In one way, shape, or form there should be a clear line of expectations within the band.

    Bon Jovi runs his band as well. He is the band leader and is pretty much solely responsible for their success. He is quite an intelligent man which is obvious through Bon Jovi’s success over decades. Metallica have proven otherwise. Their formula works for them.

    Is a band leader necessary? No, but it some cases it may be necessary.

  2. I think that a band should do with what works. Like stated, Mustaine running ship worked great for them. But a good band leader should listen to what his band has to say, and if there’s a good idea, it should be used, kinda like Steve Harris and Iron Maiden. Steve pretty much controls the Maiden boat but he also relies on his shipmates to keep everything fresh and afloat, seems to work pretty good for them.
    Sometimes a band leader is bad if he is tyrannical, like Timo Tolkki of Stratovarius. He didn’t listen to his band members when things were getting stale and they released quite a few meh albums, but when he finally quit the band, after an album without him to regain their footing, Stratovarius put out one of their best albums to date “Elysium”.
    Some bands a leader is an absolute necessity, for example the Swiss folk metal band Eluvietie, in that band there are 8 members each playing an instrument or multiple instruments, without Chigrel Glanzman there organizing things and acting as a conductor a project of that magnitude would collapse under its own weight(I like his approach to the songwriting too, he pretty much writes all the parts and does a rough recording then give them to the respective band members and they flesh out their own parts and add their individual personality to their part.)
    So I guess it comes down to which ever way creates the best music is the best path to take.

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