Finding the perfect band mates can be a challenge.
The reality is that even well-known acts like Cream, The Police, and Oasis were full of tension. Somehow, despite their differences, they managed to create great music together – at least for a time.
Ideally, you don’t want to be playing in a band where you’re always taking issue with other members. I’ve been in that situation, and it got ugly towards the end. You want to be playing with your best friends – that keeps it fun and enjoyable long term.
It is, however, quite easy to find potential band mates. The people you find may not all be a good fit for your group, but if you keep searching, you will come across players that fit the mold.
Here are several tactics you can use to find band members in your area.
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Attend Open Mics & Jams
Many musicians gather at open mics and jams. That’s why these events represent good opportunities for you to network and meet people.
To be fair, there tend to be many singer/songwriter types at jams, so if you aren’t looking for a guitarist, ukulele player, pianist, or singer, then you may not find any future band mates here. But you never know. Musicians tend to know other musicians. Plus, there may be the occasional bass player, drummer, saxophonist, or other players at open stage events.
Not everyone is looking for a project to be a part of, but many will at least give it a go. And if they discover they enjoy working with you, they may end up joining.
Jams are basically the same way. There tend to be more guitarists than anything. But since jamming is low pressure and fun, it makes it easy to meet people and potentially find musicians that would be interested in playing in your band.
Attend these events with an open mind. Don’t try to make everyone into a convert. Just casually mentioning that you’re looking for band members might lead to more opportunities than you think. Being pushy or desperate is usually the wrong way to approach the situation and will not lead to good results.
Attend Local Shows
This is a category many musicians tend not to think about when they’re looking for band members. I get it – you’re not necessarily looking to poach members from other bands. But the reality is that this happens more often than you’d think (i.e. Def Leppard), and it’s exactly how one of the bands I play in got our drummer (he looked bored playing in the other band, which, it turns out, had many issues).
If nothing else, going to local shows allows you to connect with other artists and bands as well as their audience. Again, being pushy probably isn’t the right move. But if you get into a conversation about what you’re up to, it’s okay to mention that you’re looking for musicians to play with.
Local shows are easy to find. You can look online. You can scan entertainment magazines. You can drive by venues with marquees and see what acts are coming up next. This might be a good way to turn up new opportunities for yourself. Start getting out there – you won’t regret it.
Unless you live in a particularly small town, there are probably workshops for musicians being held in your locality. These could be drum, guitar workshops, home recording, podcasting, or other types of workshops.
It’s relatively easy to connect with people at these workshops since you already have something in common. Not everyone you meet will be a musician, and not everyone you meet will be suitable for your band, but it is a great way to expand your network.
As I like to say, it’s not about what you know but who you know that makes all the difference, so knowing more people can only help you.
Another great aspect of workshops is that you’ll probably learn something new by attending, or at the very least be inspired to go home and work on your own skills. So, even if you don’t meet your future guitarist, at least you’ll walk away with new ideas to explore for yourself.
Take Advantage Of Online Tools
Sites like BandMix were created for connecting musicians. If you haven’t created an account with them yet, it’s worth signing up. You can easily let people know what you do, as well as who you’re looking for in a band mate.
But if you just sign up and wait, very little will happen. You must work it to get anything out of it.
See what other sites and social networks are out there. Create accounts with as many as possible and check in daily or at least weekly. Don’t make this the only thing you do, but it can’t hurt to connect with other musicians online.
Explore Your Extended Network
You may have some great contacts in your immediate network. But there’s a good chance you already know what these people are up to and why they might not be a good fit for your band. Not to say you can’t give them a chance (especially if they’re keeping their options open), but have you thought about looking at who they are friends with?
This is easy to do on Facebook. You can go to anyone’s profile and see who they are friends with. Musicians generally have profile pictures that depict them playing an instrument, so they tend to be easy to identify, even if you don’t know them.
I’m not suggesting that you creep on people. But you can always ask for an introduction from someone you know, if you think you may have found your future bassist.
Of course, you can also just ask your friends if they know anyone instead of endlessly browsing Facebook. Don’t get too carried away with the technological aspect of it.
Post Classified Ads
Classified ads aren’t always effective. I haven’t found any band members this way, but I know people who have. In fact, I responded to a classified ad once, and that’s how I got involved with a band called Adrenalize, which is a Def Leppard tribute band. If it worked on me, I’m sure it might work on others.
I wouldn’t necessarily depend on classified ads to find band mates. But it typically doesn’t cost anything to post them, so it can’t hurt. It’s just one more way of getting your name out there and letting people know that you’re looking for band members.
Whether it’s Kijiji or Craigslist, start posting ads, and please be careful – classifieds can sometimes attract weirdos.
Hang Out At Music Stores
Where else do musicians gather? Wherever music gear is sold.
Music stores are great places to be if you’re looking for musicians. You can listen as others try out instruments. You can talk to the staff and find out if they know anyone that would be suitable for your band (please talk to the staff – they’re often a wealth of knowledge). You can attend workshops and concerts and meet other attendees (if they host any). You can meet the resident music instructors (if they offer lessons).
I’ve been to – and have worked at – many music stores that were essentially at the center of anything music related for the community. They promoted local shows. They held special events. They hosted workshops and concerts. It’s great to build connections at these types of stores.
I used to work at a music store where a local liked to hang out. He wasn’t necessarily a skilled musician, but he just loved the energy and enjoyed hanging out there. I saw him there all the time. It might sound weird, but it isn’t. Hanging out at music stores is a good way to build relationships.
This might sound like an odd suggestion, but I was once a guitar teacher. I taught for over 10 years, and I met a lot of people this way. I can’t think of too many people that I still connect with to this day, but I’m still grateful for each encounter.
Teaching guitar is how I met the lead singer of one of my bands. He was young, and still just a beginner on the guitar. But for some reason we connected early on and became fast friends. It wasn’t long before we were jamming and playing together in a band. It’s a neat feeling when one of your students is in your band.
That band only lasted for about a year and a half, though it achieved minor success. So, I’m not suggesting that a teacher-student relationship is the best thing to bring into a band.
But being a music teacher in general exposes you to students, other teachers, salespeople, and other industry people who may be able to help you find band mates. So, it’s a win-win no matter how you look at it. You can earn money as a teacher while meeting people and building your network. Awesome, right?
Don’t Neglect Your Hobbies
If you’re looking for band mates, then you should go straight to the source (musicians), right? Well, not always.
First, you don’t lose anything by connecting with people that aren’t musicians. They could become future friends, investors, fans, and so on.
Second, there are plenty of non-musical types that are well-connected or personally know musicians. They might be able to make introductions for you or point you in the right direction.
It’s a mistake to neglect your hobbies and interests. Certainly, you shouldn’t let them get in the way of your creative work. But if you still have time in your schedule, and you’re on the hunt for new band members, you may as well explore things you’re passionate about. If nothing else, you’ll have fun!
And, while this may not be your aim right now, if you’re interested in meeting your future life partner, this is a good way to do it. When you have something in common, it makes it easier to connect.
Instead of waiting around for the perfect circumstances, why not go out and start playing some shows?
I know it sounds crazy, because you don’t have the perfect lineup yet. But if you go out and play anyway, others will come to see you and quickly recognize there might be roles to fill in your band. They may even come up and ask you if there’s an opening they can fill after the show.
It’s easier to attract members from a position of power than a position of weakness. I know it isn’t always fun playing without a bass player or drummer or whatever it is you’re missing, but there are no rules in music. You can start performing and building your audience immediately. There’s nothing stopping you.
Doing so might put you in a position of power. Others might recognize the opportunity for what it is and want to join your band.
So, even though you’re probably hesitating, going out and performing might just be what you need to do to attract more players.
Holding auditions could potentially help you find the perfect band mates.
Now, auditions are usually reserved for acts or groups that already have some clout. If no one knows who you are, then they aren’t necessarily going to come and audition for you, just so you know. But it’s still worth a try.
If you do hold auditions, conduct yourself professionally. Be attentive and answer questions. Jam with the players that come. Don’t hold up the line for too long. Consider every player and let them know in a timely manner whether you’d like to work with them.
As you can see, there is no shortage of ways to find band members in your area. Be creative, have fun, go out and meet people with no agenda. It’s a lot more fun that it sounds. You never know where that next handshake could lead. Just be open to the possibilities.