Finding a new member is a real minefield. If you’re lucky, you already know someone you can ask, perhaps from another band. Poaching feels pretty shitty, but on the Swiss Army Knife of Musician Recruiting, it’s definitely an indispensable attachment (perhaps the corkscrew, or bottle opener). Or maybe a friend knows someone. Word of mouth is a powerful thing. But otherwise it’s advertising…
In ye olden days that would involve putting up handwritten notices in music stores and rehearsal rooms, or paying for adverts in local newspapers and music publications. These approaches can still work now (although I haven’t had to advertise for musicians for years, so maybe don’t take my word for it). But there are heaps of online options which are probably going to be more effective, and reach more people – although the more people your ad reaches, the more dickheads will apply. This is an immutable law. And boy oh boy are there some dickheads out there looking to join a band. Urgh.
The majority of wanted ads for musicians are by metal bands. Whether this is because there are more metal bands than other bands or because metal bands have a higher staff turnover than other genres I don’t know, but it’s undeniably true. And of lot of these will probably be covers bands. I attempted to prove this point to myself in case I had imagined it, by googling musicians wanted and going to the top website on the results.
I figured it might be weighting the experiment slightly towards my predicted result if I picked the website’s “guitarists wanted” forum, so I plumped for “bassists wanted”. These were the most recent ten adverts:
- Bassist wanted for symphonic black/death metal band
- Wanted: metalcore bassist
- Bass player for rock/metal covers band
- Calling all hard rock bassists!
- Bassist wanted for metal covers band
- Bassist needed for thrash metal/industrial project
- Mysterious bassist required
- Brand new metal band seeks bass player
- Bass player to play Sri Lankan Baila
- Death metal band seeks bassist
See? All but two are metal bands of some form. Number seven caught my eye enough to click on the ad, and although I was still expecting it to be metal related, it was a call out for “someone with a cool dark suave sense of style and an air of mystery about them required to join post-punk/new wave band”.
As for number nine, well I had no idea what Sri Lankan Baila is, but google tells me it’s a unique form of dance that originated among Portuguese fishermen and African slaves during the colonial period – on balance, I’m prepared to give this the benefit of the doubt and categorise it as not metal.
I haven’t yet run these findings by the Bureau of Statistics, but I’m confident that more rigorous scientific evidence will back me up here.
I once had a temp job that involved me vetting job applications for a company and passing the most promising ones on to the boss for further evaluation. It always surprised me just how many applications were submitted by people that clearly didn’t fit the criteria specified in the advert (You want an Engineering Production Manager? Brilliant, I’ve got 5 years of experience working in a cafe, I’d be perfect!) – and musicians wanted ads are no different.
If you specify an age range of 18-25, you will get at least one applicant in their forties. If you’re after someone with their own transport, you will get an applicant that has no transport (this you will find out half an hour into the initial conversation, just after the point when you’ve decided they are the ideal candidate). If you specify that your band is influenced by Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen and Lee Hazlewood and you need a percussionist, you will get an applicant who says he is perfect for your band, and who then turns up to the audition in leather trousers and a Slayer t-shirt, and brings a thirteen-piece drumkit with double kick drum.
This last example is a common phenomenon, made all the more surprising by the fact that there are so many other bands out there who are actually looking for just that, so how the hell did this dude arrive at your ad?