by Nick J. Townsend
Bands function in unique ways but there are many patterns that apply to most. Here are suggestions for what not to do before, during or after an audition for any band.
Auditioning For A Band
Groups that have existed for a considerable length of time can find themselves in the daunting situation of needing to recruit or replace a member. This could be after an unforeseen musician death or injury, expansion reasons such as adding an extra instrument but most likely because of a member wishing to either retire or perform music elsewhere. In extremely rare circumstances a position in the band is available after someone is fired for behaving like an utter dick.
Advertising For A New Member
Most advertisements for a band member position should contain a preferred method of contact such as a phone number, social media, an email address or maybe even a Ouija board. To avoid wasting too much time the vacancy requirements and what is expected when applying should be made completely clear. Some kind of description of the music or genre is often helpful to attract suitable musicians.
Newbies First Contact
It’s hard to specify exactly what a good introduction is as it relies on working out what a complete stranger wants but here’s a guide on what is normally universally unacceptable.
(1) Attempting to sack existing band members before your audition.
Believe it or not; a musician that is over confident and certain they’ll “Nail an audition” may consider themselves a key member far too soon. Misjudging the abilities and importance of any members of a band line-up you aim to join and suggesting replacements will likely be taken as a hostile act.
Your true playing ability will become evident in a rehearsal but anything you reveal about yourself to a band during an audition that turns out later to be a fib could backfire on you. Claiming to have solid influential music contacts that eventually becomes fantasies, fabricating reasons why services ended with a previous band or hiding problematic behaviour and habits may result in future dismissal. Trust is essential in a band.
(3) Making demands
No one should really join a band that doesn’t match their ideals or expectations. Honesty is encouraged but introducing yourself with a list of what you’re not prepared to do or standing on a roof reeling off an enormous list of commandments carved onto stone tablets won’t increase your chances of recruitment. Yes, it’s good to be upfront but a band primarily prefers to hear what you can do rather than what you can’t.
Passing an audition
Once you are an official member there is still an unspoken trial period. Main hurdles are a debut public gig, recording in a studio or possibly spending an entire day with each other in a non musical environment without committing homicide. Your behaviour will be monitored temporarily and certain actions will likely raise red flags.
(1) Going into hiding after being Introduced to a new fan base and family.
If you are accepted into the ranks of a band with a growing fan base and prominent history then usually a post or announcement is made to successfully introduce you to all; a band photograph including yourself in the line-up is a popular method to best advertise a new position. If immediately afterwards you decide to go completely offline ignoring welcoming messages and comments made about you joining the band then it’s not a spectacular start at all.
(2) Ignoring band agendas
No matter what your musical background is you’ll always be the new guy until you’ve spent sufficient time with the band. Your ability to listen is often more appreciated than anything else you do musically and there’s only so long a band will humour fundamentals being brushed aside. If you fail to show interest in what the band deems important then you’re wasting their time.
(3) Making decisions that effect the entire band without asking for their input or consent first.
Being helpful might appear on the surface positive but it can be counterproductive if you’re doing something opposite to what the band is concentrating on and, even worse, disrespectful if you haven’t even discussed it with them first. For example, booking multiple dates for a tour without approving with the band beforehand exactly when it takes place ensures all involved look unprofessional if other conflicting plans have already been prearranged. Working together is hard but necessary in order to be an effective team. Independently doing what you want to do without including others in decisions can create division.
(4) Trying to rewrite the past
Joining a band with a recording history means having access to existing song templates to study and guide you for performing them live. Whether it be a Single, EP or Album, a significant amount of time and money has been invested on creating a product and depending on its success as a release has already had an impact on a fan base. So suggesting that the band re-record all previous song material to include you and then release them again is not only a drain on band finances but less thrilling for fans. “Hey you know that song you liked of ours? Well here it is again only slightly different”.
Some successful auditions can be the first and last occasion you spend with the band. Everyone has a life outside music but if you’re cancelling every date offered to you then you can become a liability.
(6) Being over needy
It can be distressing starting from scratch with new people but it should be a step forward for your music career. However, it’s a step backward for the band if you require too much assistance. Allowances for settling in are taken in to account but if you’re struggling to impress long after the honeymoon period then it can easily end in divorce. Ample communication with the band is expected during the initial union but it’s unhealthy if you’re still making phone calls to members for over an hour a day every day weeks after joining; you risk seeming like an obsessive love interest. Although helpful to you, it can be a sheer nightmare for band mates feeling like they have to babysit you.
That’s all for this month; hopefully some of this will mean something to you but a lot of musicians claim to know everything anyway so this is probably going to be overlooked. If you do want a lasting music career then I suggest reading this column every month. Ta Ta.
Nick J Townsend is the frontman and guitarist for British band Weak13. An experienced Underground musician and music promoter, film producer, all round good guy & supporter of original music.