What is a band?

In the typical model of a band, there are members (like John, Paul, George and Ringo) who remain consistent for touring and recording and who agree on a creative vision. The band has an agent and a manager (roles sometimes taken on by members of the band or sometimes assigned by a record label) who book gigs at established venues and negotiate contracts with record labels and music publishers. Their product (the music) is designed for a particular demographic (usually teens and young adults). The band makes money from ticket sales (performances), product sales (recordings), and residuals (radio and video rotation). If the band is financially successful, it continues to employ managers, technicians, and other members of a greater team, while still making a profit for the musicians.

This sounds straight forward, but obviously not all musicians who have occasion to play together become a band. The importance of a shared creative vision should not be underestimated. Most types of popular music (including folk music) do not require virtuosity. Therefore, a competent musician could theoretically just learn the repertoire that is most financially rewarding. But in many musicians’ opinions, this belies the whole allure of playing music in the first place. It relegates music to a form of imitation rather than art. Art is more than a matter of supply and demand; it is personal exploration and individual expression. It means sometimes giving people what they don’t want.

The band of musicians who do share a vision is a rare and wonderful thing. Often there is one or two members who are more of a creative force, but for a band to work, all the members have to agree (at least temporarily) on their roles. This means that putting a group together can be very tricky. It isn’t just by promising income to people who are skilled and available that the right mix will be found. To make music that is more than adequate, the players must feel inspired. And in a band, this inspiration needs to come partly from each other’s musical skills and choices.

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