Looking to get yourself into a band? Good! We of 5th Element are firmly of the belief that the world should be populated with as many marvellous musos as possible. And so, to help you along, here are our top 10 tips.
1) Read the ad carefully. This may sound like a total no-brainer but you’d be surprised how many progressive jazz bassists apply to join thrash metal bands. It happens.
2) Read the ad carefully. No, this isn’t it a typo – this is just important enough to be in here twice. When you read a band member wanted ad ask yourself 2 questions: 1) is this band for me? 2) am I for them? If they play songs or venues you don’t like or if they’re looking for an experienced player and, at the moment, that isn’t you, maybe sit this one out.
3) Do your research. Spend a bit of time looking at the band’s website. If they don’t have a website, see if you can find them on social media. Or, better yet, leave the blissful comfort of your keyboard/smartphone screen and venture forth to see them play live so you can actually talk to them. We know most people would do at least a few of these things anyway, but you’d be surprised how many don’t bother with even the most basic online check. Even if the ad they’re looking at is full of handy links. Which, quite frankly, is bizarre. You wouldn’t apply for a job without knowing what it was, would you?
4) Pick up the phone. Once you’ve found an advert that speaks to you, if it has a phone number on there, call it. Email is fine, but it’s a bit impersonal. If you’re potentially going to be in a band with these people they’ll want to get a feel for you as a person. And you’ll want to check that they don’t have 2 heads each as well! You could apply by email and give them your number and they’ll probably call you back. But if you call them, that shows more of an interest and will stick in their heads more.
5) Tell them what they need to know. Make sure you give them all the essential information. Your name, contact details, where you saw the ad, your experience, where you’re based, a couple of links to either audio recordings or, even better, YouTube videos showing some of your previous live performances. When we’re recruiting, we always like to see a bit about someone’s personal ethos in there too. For example, if we see/hear the words ‘friendly’, ‘hard working’, ‘committed’ and ‘team player’, we can be pretty sure we’re onto a winner. On the other hand, if we see/hear phrases like ‘won’t get out of bed for less than £££’ or ‘no timewasters please’, you probably won’t be hearing from us again. You don’t have to write War and Peace, but make sure you cover all the essential points. A casual text or email from out of the blue saying just ‘Hi, are you still looking for a keyboard player?’ isn’t ideal.
Bonus top tip: most bands want to know about your most recent gigging experience. If you once played one 30 minute slot to 20,000 people 20 years ago, that’s amazing and we’re very happy for you, really we are. But it’s not that useful if your most regular audience of recent years has been your bedroom wall.
6) Ask questions. How often do you play/rehearse? How far do you travel? How much do you get paid per gig? (Yes, it’s totally ok to ask this). Anything you want to know (that isn’t covered by the original advert), ask. At the end of the day, it’s the only way to know if you and the band are going to be a good fit.
7) Be honest. If, over the course of the conversation, you think the travel will be too much or the gigging schedule is too busy/not busy enough, please say so before you get as far as an audition. Finding new band members is a stressful process for any band. They won’t thank you for wasting their time if you end up leaving after a month because of things you knew were going to be an issue from the very beginning.
8) Do an audition. Some bands are fine for you to jump straight in without a rehearsal (although generally only if they are really stuck or you are actually Steve Vai). Most aren’t. If you’ve got to the audition stage, this usually means that (on paper at least) you’re more than capable of doing the job. It’s now just a case of seeing how well it all works together. Learn the songs, arrive on time and – for bonus points – help people carry their gear in and out and offer to pay your share of the rehearsal room fee. Chances are they won’t accept the money but they’ll remember that you offered. Be yourself. And remember it’s absolutely fine to make mistakes – everyone does. Just try to relax and enjoy playing good music with like-minded folks.
Bonus top tip: Some bands (like us!) like to mess with the arrangements of covers. We just can’t help ourselves. No-one’s going to expect you to know what those little nuances might be from the first rehearsal, but it’s a good thing to be aware of!
9) Got the gear? Make sure you’ve got good quality equipment and that it’s well maintained. Unless you’ve bagged an audition with Iron Maiden, no-one’s expecting you to have the best of the best or a stadium-sized rig. But they will need you to have gear that does the job and is reliable. If things start hissing/crackling/catching fire, there might be a problem. The band will also generally expect you to have all your gear with you for the audition (if only, in many instances, to drool over it!). Some rehearsal spaces provide equipment but it’s not a given. So make sure you check you’ll have everything you need before you get there.
10) Be respectful. The band you’re auditioning for may not be filling stadiums yet but chances are they work hard, are proud of what they do and have honed their own sound and performance style. You may be the best player in the world but you aren’t going to win any friends by being immediately critical of the way they do things (eg. ‘Yeah, but in my last band we did it like this and it was so much better’ or ‘I’m not getting to the venue that early!). If it’s a long-running band, they’ll most likely have developed a battle rhythm that works. They’ll have grown a following and relationships with venues/event managers that you’re not aware of. So just be mindful of that. If you get the job, there’ll be plenty of opportunities to discuss your thoughts and suggestions at a later date. Your audition is not the time.
So there you go. Fellow musos, have we missed anything? Let us know in the comments below.