In a way, it's a miracle that any bands get together and stay together for any length of time.
It's almost a cliché to say that being in a band is like being in a committed relationship (i.e. marriage), but those who have experienced it know exactly what that looks like and what it means.
It takes considerable time, effort, and dedication. All members have to be on the same wavelength, and at least be committed to the same vision if not to each other (bands like The Police and Oasis didn't always get along, but they still made some incredible music together).
Here are some ideas on how to find new band or group members, and how to vet them before you hire them on.
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How To Find New Band Members
It can take time to find the right people for your band, but building up your list of prospects shouldn't. Here are several ways to get the ball rolling:
- Ask for referrals. Whether you know it or not, you probably have friends of friends that play an instrument or are interested in joining a band. Reach out to people you know, and see if anyone comes to mind for them.
- Hang out at open mics. Are there any high-caliber open mic/stage/jam events in your town? If so, you should be able to connect with the musicians who are performing. Even if they aren't exactly what you're looking for, they might know people who are.
- Post classified ads. It may not seem like a high-tech, revolutionary way of building connections, but classified ads can still attract potential leads for your band. You may have to be a little more stringent in your vetting process with respondents, but you might be surprised by the quality of people you come across. Sites like BandMix.com and even eBay Classifieds can work pretty well.
- Go to local shows. It might seem like a sneaky or questionable way of finding potential band members, but checking out the local talent can be a good way to uncover suitable prospects. How do you think Def Leppard came to work with Phil Collen? You don't need to ask musicians to up and quit their other projects, but hopefully they'll enjoy working with you enough that they'll consider going exclusive!
- Communicate with your fans. Let them know that you're looking for new band members. One of the easiest ways might be to send them an email campaign. Your fans may have connections you aren't even aware of, or there may be those who already play music in some capacity. If they're a fan of your music, they might make for great candidates.
- Go to local workshops or clinics. Musicians that are serious about their craft are more likely to be investing in themselves. It isn't too much of a stretch to think that they're likely to attend workshops and/or clinics. Looking for a drummer? Why not check out the next drum clinic?
How To Vet Prospective Band Members
Now that you have a list of people that are interested in playing with you, it's important to take the time to vet prospective members. Here are several strategies you can use:
- Jam with them. This is a great way to check your chemistry. Of course, as with dating, “looks aren't everything.” No matter how well you gel together, don't get too discouraged if some people choose to opt out of your project. You don't want to work with flakes anyway.
- Have coffee with them. My business mentors had this to say about dating; if your values don't match up, it's not worth pursuing the relationship any further! This is very much applicable in a band situation where different members are liable to have different goals, and may not necessarily be on the same page in terms of ambition level. Get to know the people you're looking to work with.
- Audition them. If you're ready to take things to a more serious level, or you know that you're going to be bringing on band members for specific gigs or a number of albums, then auditioning is a great way to get a sense of how good prospective members are, and how well they handle themselves under pressure.
- Play a show together. If you're still testing things out, and you're just not sure if your new members are going to knock it out of the park, you could try doing a limited trial run with a show. If the first show goes well, you could “extend the contract” and build up slowly from there.
- Put them under pressure. It has often been said that you don't know who someone is until they're under a lot of pressure, and there's a lot of truth to that. Maybe you'll set an unreasonably short deadline for them to learn 20 songs and see how they handle themselves. Maybe you'll get them to jump through a bunch of hoops before they officially become members. You're definitely going to weed out the casual musicians this way.
Finalize The Contract
If you've made your decision, then make sure to lay it all out on the table.
Make your expectations abundantly clear, and also learn everything you can about the goals and visions your new members may have for their music careers.
Create a simple contract that you can all sign. A literal paper contract is not a bad idea, especially if you're all serious about building your careers.
Even if you do your due diligence, there will still be those who choose to give up or quit. It's better to weed out the flaky and weak-minded earlier in the game, but if the unexpected happens, be prepared to move on and to find new talent.
If you have a long-term vision for your music career, then don't jump into anything too quickly.
I have been in many bands that never made it passed the 18 month mark, and it's nothing short of unfortunate. I never gave up on the vision, so I just kept on making music, but others got married, had kids, and got jobs. It happens.
Hiring other members is a great way to ensure that you get what you're looking for. Having a mutually beneficial agreement means that contracts have a better likelihood of being fulfilled.