Your kick-ass rock band started out just fine back when you formed it with you and most likely 3 other smelly dudes dedicating time, energy and dreams to “the band” – an entity that seems to be able to swallow up all the time, energy and dreams you can throw at it. Everyone was cool with that though since it is the nature of the beast and you always had a good time and the songs just kept sounding better and better. Concerts were awesome and life couldn´t have been sweeter. Teamwork is the heart of any group.
Then something started to happen. You didn´t notice it at first, but little things began to change. Band practice always started at 8:00 PM and everyone usually arrived at 7:45 – except your drummer, who began showing up at 8:05. No biggy right? What are a couple minutes? Everyone let it slide and it became typical behavior.
You also started to notice something happening at live shows. Once the band member who took the most time setting up and packing down, your drummer was now “too busy” to pick up the kit from the practice place (“Can one of you guys do it?”). Or maybe your band is lucky and you have a van to get to gigs (great – “Hey, can you guys load my drums?”). When unloading time comes around, it is typical in most bands for everyone to help the drummer with his kit since it is a huge pain in the ass to lug around an acoustic drum kit. Go teamwork! But then you noticed that, little by little, instead of carrying in drums, your drummer was texting someone or chatting up some girl outside the club. Hmmm. After the shows he hardly came by the merchandise table anymore to help out and would only appear on the scene to load up the van when everything was already half loaded or if was time to get paid.
Eventually practice arrival times shifted to 8:15 or 8:30 and you might even have once or twice received a text message (when everyone was already plugged-in and ready to play) that said: “Dudes, sorry, I can´t make it tonight. I´ve got a thing”.
Well, what the hell? Why is your drummer acting like such a dick? It is hard to call him on the situation too since he is usually a pretty decent guy and is always ready with an easy excuse and a smile.
The reason your once tight and in-sync band has evolved into this state is not because your drummer is a dick by nature (well maybe he is, some people are just dickheads) but because he has contracted a little documented but widely experienced affliction known as “FRONT MAN SYNDROME”.
Anyone who has been in a band long enough has probably noticed this behavior at some point in their own band or while gigging with other bands on the road (I have certainly met my fair share). The funny thing is that you don´t have to be the front man to have Front Man Syndrome. There are lots of front men out there who work harder than anybody in the band and are simply decent guys (myself included…hehe), but the features of the stereotypical, prima donna, vain, self-centered dickhead “front man” are what inspire the name of this terrible disease.
Some Common Front Man Syndrome Symptoms:
- Has developed an impossibly inflated ego
- Is unable to carry heavy items, especially his own gear.
- Is incapable of arriving on-time for practice or sometimes even sound-checks but never apologizes or feels he is late.
- “Needs” to talk with all the fans after the show, especially during loading time.
- Feels he should be playing more solos and keeps bringing up the topic at practices.
- Secretly believes he is under-appreciated and that the band would be in big trouble if he weren´t around.
- Steadily decreases creative contribution and dedication to the group over time, in spite of the aforementioned feeling of under-appreciation.
- Projects a general sense of aloofness (see: inflated ego) and of being slightly apart from the rest of the group.
- Is unable to go that extra mile for just about any band task given to him.
If this sounds like someone in your band, then I am very sorry to inform you that you have yourself a case of Front Man Syndrome. It might be your drummer, your guitar player, even your keyboard player. You just never know. And just because I´ve been using the pronoun “he” up to now doesn´t mean women that are immune either (sorry girls, some of you are dickheads too). Front Man Syndrome can strike anywhere.
Sadly, this situation is usually terminal and will finally result in having to replace the person in question (in this case, your drummer). It might be hard to accept, but once the syndrome takes a hold it can be nearly impossible to cure and amputation is usually the only solution. How do you tell your drummer, who is now in full-fledged Front Man Syndrome mode: “Dude, you´re being a real dick” and expect that conversation to go well? It is quite the pickle.
It may not even be totally your drummer´s fault. Maybe he´s a great guy at the core but just doesn´t pay close enough attention to broadcasting his own selfish urges, or maybe there is a Lady MacBeth (the drummer´s girlfriend) in the mix poisoning his ears with delusions of grandeur. You just can´t know for sure.
The big problem is that we musicians are like Gods among mere mortals (mortals…that would be all of you regular people out there who don´t make music) and some guys just can´t deal with being in the spotlight and not turn into complete douchebags. The most successful musicians in the world are probably more well-balanced than the legends lead us to believe and definitely work professionally and extremely well as a team if they stayed together during their careers.
Of course not all bands break up or change members because of Front Man Syndrome. Some guys have personal problems, or need to move away because of a job offer, and as I said before, some people really are just dickheads and conflicts are unavoidable. But you can be sure that Front Man Syndrome has contributed to its fair share of rifts in bands small and large alike since the beginning of rock-time.
I´m happy to say that my own band DAZE OF DAWN is 100% healthy and has no trace of Front Man Syndrome. Everything is rocking forward tighter than ever. We work together like a well-designed machine on everything we do and this cohesion really shows through when we get up on stage. Unity is really the most important feature of being in a group and as long as you try to be the best you can be and not take yourself too seriously in the process, everyone has a chance to enjoy the ride.
ROCK BLOCK by: Klyde – Daze of Dawn