The world of rock music is an extraordinarily fertile laboratory for management techniques.
Corporations are bound by regulations and bylaws, and sports teams are constrained by the rules of the game.
But rock bands don’t need rules, man. They can be shaped and molded in almost infinite directions, following the whims of their members, managers, or svengalis. They range from tight, two-person outfits like the White Stripes to the sprawling 20-member Polyphonic Spree. Bands can be a disorganized shambles like Guns N’ Roses or a finely tuned machine like Kiss. They can be driven by love of music, fame, or money, but the bands that endure are the ones that figure out a management model that keeps them making music together.
Herewith, a sampling of the management models used by some of rock’s most successful acts.
Collaborative democracy: Radiohead
It’s hard to find a (successful) band where power is completely decentralized, but Radiohead comes close. The British band, beloved by math majors, shares in the decision making, and while singer Thom Yorke initiates the songwriting process, all members take part in the crafting of their intricate songs. “As a band, we’re all individually essential,” guitarist Ed O’Brien told Chuck Klosterman for a 2003 profile in Spin magazine. “In Radiohead, no one is replaceable.”
That all-for-one ethos made it easier for the band to take chances artistically, and financially. In 2007, Radiohead released an album for free online, asking fans to pay what they wish, a radical experiment at the time. The band is also shrewd about its money, creating more than 20 corporate entities for its various projects (giving them nerd-rock names like LLLP LLP) and starting a business to create its own tour merchandise.
Leaders among equals: U2
If ever there was a band that seems tilted toward one member, it’s U2. Bono doesn’t so much occupy the spotlight as devour it, using his energy and charisma to sell albums and tickets,…