Have you auditioned for a band and failed to get in?
Have you auditioned for a lot of bands, and still not gotten into one?
Do you know why?
Today I’m going to talk about how to increase your chances of getting into a band.
I’m going to start with a real example of how a most unlikely candidate got into a band:
As many of you know, I recently joined a band, Guitar Villians. But not as a vocalist; as a keyboard player.
This is my first gig as keyboard player. I play keys like an elephant. They auditioned several keyboardists before me, with a lot better chops than I have. So why did they select me?
The short answer was that I knew what they were looking for, and I gave it to them. This is a live karaoke band, not a jazz trio or an original music band. The point of this band is to make the songs sound as much like the originals as possible, so the guest singers feel as comfortable as possible. There is no need to play creative jazz chords or take extensive, impressive solos. The most important thing a keyboard player can do in this kind of band is generate the right sounds and notes, at the right time. So that’s what I prepared: the right riffs, with the right patches, at the right volume, at the right time.
That’s the short answer. (And the only part I’m reasonably sure about.)
There’s probably more, though. Other factors surely played a part: I knew one of the band members, I’m a good singer, I have a confident and friendly demeanor, I have past band experience, I’m punctual and communicative, etc…
But the point is, it’s NOT a case of “the best player wins.”
If you’re not the best player they’re going to audition, what can YOU do to maximize your chances of getting into a band?
First: Learn what’s important to the band. What are they looking for? How well do you fit the bill? If they’re looking for a 70’s classic rock vocalist and you’re an opera-trained soprano, you might have an uphill battle. You start from a disadvantage against potentially lesser-trained vocalists who nonetheless have a sound that’s more appropriate for the genre. If the most important thing to the band is stage theatrics, do you have the personality to carry that off? If the most important thing is personality, are you easy to get along with? Be aware of how well you intrinsically fit the spot they’re trying to fill. When you’re not a great fit, you have to be even more sure that you show off the other other benefits you bring to the table:
Second: Think about what POSITIVE aspects you bring to a band. Make a list of benefits the band would experience by having you in the band. Not just a great voice. How is your stage presence? Your musical skill? Can you write charts? Do you write music? Can you play hand percussion? Do you know how to run sound? Do you own a PA? Do you have rehearsal space? Can you communicate with musicians in correct musical terms? Are you attractive (if that matters to the band)? Are you always prepared, punctual, and reliable? Are you a good MC? Are you unflappable on stage? Can you sing harmonies? Can you make them up on the fly? Are you willing to do behind-the-scenes work such as booking, graphic design, social networking on the band’s behalf, or website work? Do you bring a large fanbase who would come to the shows? Do you have past band experience or connections that would benefit the band?
Make your own list, and don’t stop until you have at least 20 benefits you bring to the table… and then prepare to mention them or make them known during the audition – in a graceful way, of course!
Third: Think about what negative aspects you bring to a band. Adding a new person to a band can have a huge impact on band interpersonal dynamics, so many bands are wary about bringing in a new face. (And singers are notorious for being a bit more out-of-whack than other musicians: big egos, substance abuse problems, whatever – so sometimes the bands’ musicians end up just singing the songs themselves rather than risk bringing in an unstable singer!) Don’t assume that just because a band is looking for a singer, that they’re going to be thrilled when the diva of the century shows up.
So ask yourself honestly: Does my demeanor show I’m going to be an enjoyable person to spend a lot of time with? Or do I exhibit any prickly edges, impatience, intolerance, superiority, flakiness? And what other disadvantages would a band experience as a result of me joining? Do I need a lot of hand-holding for the things I’m not yet experienced with? Can I get training on those things? Would my presence in the band make up for the fact that I will reduce everyone’s pay split and make scheduling rehearsal and gigs that much harder? If my vocals aren’t top-notch, can I improve them?
Make another two lists: a list of disadvantages the band would experience by bringing you in, and a list of the weaknesses YOU have. Then see what you can do to remove items from both of those lists.
Fourth: After every failed audition, ask for feedback. If you receive the dreaded “Thanks for taking the time to audition with us, but we decided to go with another singer” email, gather yourself – for a day or two if you need to – and then ask politely if they wouldn’t mind helping you out by giving some honest feedback about what you could do better in future auditions to be a stronger candidate.
You might think you already know what they’re going to say, so you don’t have to ask. But ASK. If they tell you something you didn’t think of, great: you have more information to work with. If they tell you what you already know, it’s still great: you’ve shown yourself to be a more serious candidate than 90% of the others, and they may reconsider you if their selected candidate doesn’t work out.
(I have done this myself and gotten very helpful feedback that has not only helped me for the next audition, but initiated a friendship that lasted years. A member of one band that rejected me became a fan of my band years later!)
And finally: Don’t ask at the end of the audition, “So am I in the band?” This should go without saying. But once my band auditioned a very experienced and skilled keyboard player and, based on the looks we exchanged around the room, we were probably going to invite her to join the band. But at the end of the audition, she asked if she was in. When we said we needed to confer privately as a band before we could offer her the position, she got offended and started an angry 20-minute tirade. Needless to say, we were glad to see that side of her personality before it was too late… but she lost a sure gig by behaving that way.
Remember: if I can get into a band as a keyboard player, you can get into a band as a singer. You greatly maximize your chances if you:
- fit into the right situation,
- emphasize the benefits of bringing YOU into the band, and
- work on strengthening your weaknesses.
I wish you the best of luck!
(c) 2010 Adrienne Osborn