So by now you have worked really hard at honing your craft as a songwriter. You’ve gotten your chops up and figure that now is the time to put together a band. You want to take to the stage and spread your music far and wide… But before you do all that, it’s important that you find the right musicians to work with.
When starting up a band there are so many factors to be considered that it can almost seem like an impossible task. But I can assure you, with the right planning and proper steps, putting a band together with killer musicians can be, as Michael Jackson put it, easy as 1 2 3!
The first step is really deciding what you are looking for in a bandmate (or bandmates), as there are many factors to consider. First of all, you want to be sure that you’re all on the same page. This can seem like a no-brainer, but in reality, if all the musicians involved are not sharing the same vision, this alone can be the reason your band fails faster than you can come up with a band name.
Getting a group of musicians to share your vision can be difficult. So, make sure you are clear about your ideals and what you hope to achieve. If you’re looking for pop super stardom but your guitarist wants to be the next Slayer, then you may have to re-evaluate working together.
Although hair, clothes and other aspects of your image are important, keep an open mind and embrace the unique qualities of your bandmates. Again, if you share a similar vision, common ground isn’t hard to find.
Another thing to consider is your personal and professional goals, as they pertain to your music and your live show. For instance, if you have a certain message or sentiment that you want your music to be about, you have to present that to the musicians in your band from the beginning and make sure that everyone is clear about the desired outcome.
For example, if you’re writing Christian Contemporary Music and you feel there needs to be a certain moral or ethical code amongst the members of your group, you best to be clear about that before Billy gets drunk at the strip club and shows up at the next church gig smelling like a brewery!
Experience As A Musician And Performer
Another important factor when searching for new musicians for your band is experience, keeping in mind that this can teeter in both directions.
Some people are natural performers and even though they may have done only a handful of gigs so far, they have a presence that captivates the audience.
On the flip side, someone else may have years of road experience as a hired gun and seem like an obvious choice based on their experience and credibility, but if they’ve been pushed into the shadows for so long, they may have trouble stepping out into the spotlight.
So, while it’s great to find a cat that has been doing it for years, you have to gauge whether they can do it for many more years alongside you and your bandmates, keeping in mind that even though that young fresh blood may taste a little sweeter, it’s best to make sure there is no bitter aftertaste due to their lack of experience either.
Ok great, now we have established a sense of direction and what we are looking for in our bandmates. But how do we actually find these diamonds in the rough?
Well, the ways are as plentiful as there are musical genres to choose from, but here are some of the most common ways people find the perfect bandmate as well as some that may be a bit outside the box too!
Trade Magazines, Local Weekly Press
Here in Los Angeles, we have a weekly newspaper mag that comes out all over town, called LA Weekly. In the back, you’ll find about half a dozen want ads for bandmates and although a good lead may surface from this section, you are likely to find the club listings and local band reviews more helpful.
Take note as to whether or not writers trash local bands, but praise a specific member of the band? When this happens, it’s a sign that a good musician may be in the wrong band…maybe he/she is looking for a change!
Also, try looking at the club listings to see where your favorite bands usually play. Maybe they have a local opener that is in your vein. Your ideal singer or bassist could be in one of those bands while looking for the “perfect” project to step into.
I always look at the peripheral stuff in these mags that pertain to my art more than getting lost in the want ad section. When doing this, I get to learn a lot about my scene and what’s going on!
There is no doubt that Craigslist has proven to be a viable option for placing ads and finding musicians, but we’ve also seen those hilarious Craigslist posts about Johnny Awesome’s killer band that’s gonna take the universe by storm once they find the next Slash!
While there are plenty of legit players looking for a serious gig, there are lots of jokers and wannabes that have no business wasting your time to read their ego-inflated ads. So be leery of ads that hype themselves up to be the “next big thing.” If an ad uses that tactic, chances are it’s coming from someone lacking the skills needed to excel in this industry.
If you do read an ad that peaks your interest, by all means, reach out to them and see where it goes. Sending a brief description of your sound, your vision, and a small snippet of your music will show you’re serious and you have material ready to go. But don’t give too much!
A long-winded email about your proposed pyro and light show with 3D holograms may come across as far-fetched unless you already have these things in place. Besides, you’re just getting started and you want to build the show around the strengths of you and your bandmates. If you have it all plotted out already, where does that leave room for their creativity?
Flyers at Music Stores and Rehearsal Studios
Another way to get the word out is utilizing a good old-fashioned flyer. You’ll see these lining the pegboards at Guitar Center and your local rehearsal spots, many times so plentiful that one is overlapping and covering a half a dozen other ads.
Again, it’s just important to read between the lines and find the ones that strike a chord with your style and creative spirit.
There will be a lot of duds, but that doesn’t mean a shredding guitarist hasn’t slapped his flyer up there as well, so keep a close lookout without getting lost in the sea of cheese!
YouTube and Other Social Media Outlets
When I landed my big touring gig (alongside Head from Korn in his solo band) it came via a combination of a referral by an agent (that I had done previous auditions for) and a YouTube video audition.
The manager called and said, “So and so said you play in this style and may be a good fit, can you upload a video to YouTube and send us the link”?
Not only does this get you seen by the artist, manager, or perspective bandmate you hope to work with, it also gets your face in front of a limitless audience.
We’ve seen bands like Judas Priest, Journey, and so many others find replacements for key members just by scouring YouTube for covers of their songs. It’s a very legit way to get yourself out there, while also finding other players that may be right for your group!
I found my current drummer after seeing a promo video he did, stating he was looking for a new band. I wrote him a message, we met, we jammed, and now we’re in a band together!
Facebook, Twitter, and many other social media outlets can be good places to spread the word that you’re looking for bandmates and lots of them have specific groups for the local music scene or a musician’s exchange page.
Get Out to Gigs and See Musicians Live
One of the best ways to find compatible musicians is to go to some local shows and see other bands in your genre or proposed style. When someone impresses you, talk to them!
Reach out and express that they really made an impression on you and ask if they’d be open to you sharing some of your material with them for a possible project. Even if they are REALLY into their own band, chances are they will wanna hear what you sound like!
This is also a great opportunity to learn more about the clubs, promoters, and other people involved in the scene you want to be a part of.
I guarantee, if you show your face often in a club, support the scene, and express your appreciation for the work these people put into making your night out a blast, they will be much more apt to give you the time of day when you come back in 6 months asking to book your band there.
Tell Your Friends and Co-Workers
There is nothing quite like the look on a co-worker’s face when, after working with you for 3 years, they come to find out you’re the lead singer of a rock band! Too often we stay in our own little creative bubble while wandering through daily life outside of our music career, but if you want to be known for your music, shouldn’t EVERYONE know you are a musician?
This shouldn’t stop when you punch the clock at the end of the day either. Does your barista at Starbucks know you shred like Yngwie Malmsteen or croon like Sammy Davis? What if they (or their brother or sister) are that missing link you need to complete the band? You’ll never know if you don’t spread the word. In fact, long before the internet and social media, bands often started as a group of school buddies with a love for similar music (ie: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, Green Day etc.).
Imagine if Flea never told his buddies that he played bass? In fact, sniffing around your own circles of influence can yield some pretty impressive results and, even if you don’t find a bandmate, you may find a manager or some other connection that you would not have found if you didn’t speak up about your art. So spread the word……everywhere!
So to sum it all up, these are just some of the ways you can reach out and find other players to work with. The key is to be yourself and follow your intuition. Although many things have worked in the past for others, you want to find a method that works for you…one that best utilizes your creativity and ultimately leads you to the accomplishment of your musical goals!
With the right determination and vision, there is no way you can look in the wrong place.