So you’ve been taking guitar lessons for a few years, and you finally feel like you’re ready to join a band. Or maybe the band you’re in now just isn’t working for you any more, and you’re ready for a change. Or perhaps you’ve been on the shelf for a while and you’re ready to get back out there and gig.
Whatever the reason, you suddenly find yourself faced with an audition. No problem. You play the sort of music this band plays, you know your audition songs, your chops are solid, you sing pretty well, and you’ve worked hard on crafting your tone. You’re ready.
Or are you?
Many musicians go into an audition with a “me” mindset: they’re looking at me, they’re judging me. And while that’s true, it’s only half of what should be going on. Even as the band is evaluating your performance, you should be evaluating whether or not they are a good fit for you. To you, it’s their audition.
So how do you objectively audition a band? Below is a list of some characteristics to look for.
- Can you get along with everyone? It doesn’t matter how spectacular they are if you can sense the drama from the moment you arrive for the audition. And if the band has seen a lot of turnover within the past year, think hard before you take the gig.
- What sort of reputation does the band have within the community? You may not be able to find this out, but you should at least try to talk to former band members or with club owners of current and previous venues.
- Do they have a website, or do they rely on Facebook? Social media is important, but websites are mandatory. A website is the one place where you can showcase your music, videos, photos, and calendar. In short, it’s the one place you can control completely. If the band has been together for more than four months and hasn’t put up a website, they’re not serious.
- Do they have active social media in place? A band that does not interact with its fans on Twitter or Facebook is a band that doesn’t understand the power of social media. Odds are they don’t do marketing well, either, and that their turnout is low.
- Are their instruments of good quality (name brand) & in good repair? Instruments don’t have to be top-of-the-line, but their sound does need to complement that of the rest of the band.
- Is the PA in good shape? Is it powerful enough for the venues you’ll play? Does it sound clean and punchy?
- Does the band have clear goals? Is it just for fun, or is it serious about making good music and money? Is everyone on board with them? Are the goals realistic?
- Is the band working now? If not, is it at least gig-ready?
- Do they have showmanship? Watch videos of them live. Do they work the crowd or just stand there?
- Are there issues with tempo or tuning?
- Is there evidence of drug or alcohol abuse?
- What are the attitudes toward practice?
- Is there a dress code for shows?
- How will you be paid? Is it a straight fee, or a percentage of the door? Are you expected to help pay the sound man? Are you expected to chip in for gas to the person who brought the PA and lights in the trailer?
A good band will already have most of these characteristics evident already, and if you’ve gone to school on them before the audition, you’ll walk in with a good feel for what to expect from them. If the band is lacking in some of these points, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should pass on an opportunity if one is offered. You should, however, have in mind which characteristics are non-negotiable.
The band will evaluate you on everything you bring to the table. You should evaluate them the same way.