Some people have difficulty in the music field because they discover too late that they’re in the wrong side of the business for their personality. A person who is a wonderful sideman or woman may be a disaster as a band leader. The same leadership qualities that make someone a good band leader can also make that person ill-suited to be in a democratically run band.
Perhaps you’ve seen these silly tests you can take—popular in social media—which help you determine what classic actor or actress you’re most like, what country you should live in (I keep getting Brunei, for some reason), what kind of tree, species of feline predator, or type of doughnut you are. They’re fun and if we don’t like the answers we get, we can always retake the test using different answers, and no one will care.
In the spirit of these little journeys to further self-awareness, I offer below a short test you can take to determine whether you are best suited to be a band leader, a side musician, or partner in a band of equals. Keep track of your answers and the handy key at the end will give you the answer to what your musical career path might be.
When addressing a monitor engineer, which of the following do you typically say:
A. Could you please turn everyone but me down in the monitor?
B. Could you please turn me up in the monitor?
C. I’d like just a little of everything in the monitor.
D. What do you call these speaker-like thingies in front of us?
When you arrive at a concert venue, you busy yourself doing the following:
A. Making set lists, talking to the sound people, and ordering people around.
B. Lighting up a cigarette, checking out the catering, and chatting up the girl who’s taking tickets.
C. You help with the loading-in process, and see if anyone else feels like warming up.
D. You yell “fire!!!” just for fun
In a rehearsal situation, you generally . . .
A. Call all the songs and tell everyone what they’re supposed to be playing.
B. Act bored.
C. Bring arrangement ideas to the band, but also encourage the ideas of others.
D. Try to get the band to work up Wagon Wheel in Portuguese
When on the road, deciding where to stop and eat, you do this:
A. Insist that everyone go to the place you want to eat. No discussion.
B. Use passive-aggressive techniques, like saying, “okay, if that’s where you really want to go” to get everybody to go where you want.
C. Say nothing at all and just accept wherever it is you go, understanding how little it matters, given the sameness and mediocrity of the choices.
D. Suggest that you don’t stop at all because you have enough pork rinds and Perrier for everybody.
When eating in a restaurant with the band, you . . .
A. Eat by yourself, look aloof, and hope someone will ask for your autograph.
B. Hope someone else is paying.
C. Order something inexpensive and enjoy the camaraderie of your fellow band members.
D. Wander into the kitchen and pretend you’re one of the crew.
When passing by a mirror, you always . . .
A. Strike a pose, adjust your hair and admire yourself for a while before moving on.
B. Strike a pose, adjust your hair and admire yourself for a while before moving on.
C. Strike a pose, adjust your hair and look around to make sure no one saw you.
D. Strike a pose and work on your impression of Homer Simpson.
Which would be your vehicle of preference?
A. A limousine that you never let anyone else ride in.
B. A sporty car that carries your instrument and at most two passengers
C. A vehicle big enough to hold five people and long enough to carry an upright bass, in case you’re ever called on to transport the whole band to a gig.
D. The new hybrid Nissan that can run on human sweat and corroded guitar strings.
Which grouping of celebrities or people in power do you most admire?
A. Vladimir Putin, Catherine the Great
B. Charlie Sheen, Courtney Love
C. Mahatma Gandhi, Becky Buller
D. William Shattner, Jack Cooke
Who is your favorite superhero?
C. Lieutenant Columbo
D. Mr. Rogers
How do you generally answer the phone?
A. “Talk to me!”
C. “Greetings, (your name) speaking.”
D. “I asked you never to call my home number!”
If you answered mostly “A,” you have the qualities of a band leader. You would be comfortable in a leadership role, making business and creative decisions, hiring and firing musicians (sometimes in the same day), and making more money than everybody else.
If you answered mostly “B” you have the combination of independence and ability to avoid responsibility that would make you an ideal side musician. Please don’t ask to be paid for taking this survey.
If you answered mostly “C,” you’re lying. But, in case you’re not, you have the rare set of qualities that would make you the perfect member of a band of equal partners.
If you answered mostly “D,” you’re an oak tree, your Disney Princess is Belle, and the country you should live in is Liechtenstein. Please send a postcard.