After spending a certain amount of time either learning to play an instrument, or being a member of an existing band, many musicians decide the time has come for them to start their own project. But while it's always exciting to create a new musical venture, finding new members can be a challenge unless that person plans on filling out the new band entirely from his or her circle of friends.
Yes, you may be on speaking terms with that bass player who lives under a bridge and exposes himself to passers-by, but he's probably not the best choice even if he can rock a mean groove. So, most people forming their own band from scratch are probably going to have to get creative to find members...but these six strategies might work.
6. Network Within Your Music Scene This is an option for any musician who has already been kicking around his or her local scene for a few years. If you were the guitar player for beloved local band Death Hippie, for example, then you've probably made lots of friends and acquaintances within this community. Unless, of course, you're a total asshole who has alienated everyone in your scene.
If that's the case, perhaps moving away and starting over in Germany is your best bet. But if not, networking locally may help find you some new bandmates. Chances are other musicians may have recently left their own bands and are looking for a new gig. A little networking could quickly put you in touch with the people you need to get your new band going. Nowadays, the Internet and social media offer plenty of forums for this as well.
5. Put an Ad In the Local Papers This was traditionally one of the most common strategies for people looking for band members, and is appealing because it's simple. Rather than scrabbling around the local scene trying to meet the right musicians, a person simply pays a few bucks and places an ad in the local music paper and waits.
The downside is that they never know who might respond to an ad, and might miss out on some good players simply because they never saw someone was looking for that "rock guitarist willing to wear clown makeup who sounds like a cross between George Lynch and Jerry Garcia." If anyone does answer the ad, then he or she will be a complete stranger, and there's almost as much chance of a serial killer showing up as the perfect match for your new project.
4. Hang Out in Music Stores Makes sense, right? Go where other musicians shop, and you might actually hear a person actually play before approaching them blindly. Nothing is worse than having someone respond to an ad and turn out to be a weirdo who's been casing the joint, or some well-meaning time-waster who can barely play.
Still, I've known several bands that have found a member by hanging out at a guitar shop and listening to people come in and play. Anyone who has sat around a Guitar Center on a Saturday knows this experience might not be fun, as most people who seem inclined to test-drive gear tend to do so loudly and often badly; but every once in a while someone really talented will show up.
This method also gives a person the chance to see what people look like. Image could be important to a new musical project, and some dude who is 20 years older than everyone else or who looks like Frankenstein's Monster in drag might not work for yours. (Or maybe that's the perfect image. Who am I to judge?) Even if finding the perfect new bandmate jamming at the music store results in failure, just being there gives you a chance to check out the bulletin board. Speaking of...
3. Put an Ad Up On Bulletin Boards I've never been to a music shop that didn't have some sort of bulletin board for people to put up notices looking for others to play with. I've joined a couple of bands by responding to ads on a music store bulletin board, and this might just be the ticket to finding the right bass player for a new Gothic Space Jazz Metal band. The downside is the same as placing an ad in a music paper: fielding calls from people who will be bad matches for the band, or who might be murderous psychos looking for the perfect head to complete a human jigsaw puzzle.
The bulletin board also brings a certain a supply-and-demand issue into sharp focus. Most music scenes have a LOT of guitar players and singers, fewer bass players and fewer still drummers. I don't know why this seems to be the case, except that more people grow up with dreams of being a lead singer or guitar player, but whatever the reason, the bulletin board will make this imbalance clear.
Typically there are 100 "Guitar player and singer seeking bassist and drummer" flyers for every "drummer and bassist looking for a metal (or whatever) band" ad. Anytime there IS a flyer for a drummer looking for a new band, it's likely that all the little tabs with the person's phone number on it are already ripped off. Contrast that to those flyers for people looking for a drummer; most of those look unmolested and lonely.
It's still worth a shot, but a guitarist or singer looking for a drummer or bassist to hook up with might be waiting for a long time for that call to come in. On the other hand, if a person plays drums or bass, he or she is probably in good shape. Sure, he or she may live in a beat-up minivan down by the park and have to eat at the Dumpster buffet to get by, but these people will be in high demand when it comes to joining local bands. Chances are they're in ten bands already.
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2. Hire Members to Play This is not as common, since it involves a significant financial investment, but it can work for the right kind of project. Maybe a band-starter can't find people to play the type of music he or she wants to, or is a huge asshole with piles of cash to spend and an ego that requires calling all the shots.
Those types of hopeful bandleaders can simply hire a bunch of musicians to play the material they want them to. This method ensures the best musicians the person can afford, people who will consider it a job and check their own egos at the door. The downside is unless their music is truly amazing, people may eventually start to question why these people had to pay to get people to play with them.
If their ego is at a proper David Lee Roth level of inflation, these criticisms probably won't matter, so maybe it's a moot point.
1. Poach Someone From Another Band This is a surprisingly common approach. It involves going to see other bands play, and when a player appears that the poacher wants, he or she tries to convince the quarry to jump ship. I've had this strategy tried on me several times over the years, and seen it done many times. I guess it just depends on how comfortable you are with being completely cutthroat -- and whether or not making enemies in the local music scene is important to you.
Of course, any bandmate who dumped his or her old band to join another might be just as mercenary when another poacher comes sniffing around. Like most things in life, there are cooler ways of of doing this than others. It's hard to fault someone for extending the offer if that member has become a friend and is already unhappy in the band he or she is in. But walking up to a stranger the moment after he or she leaves the stage and asking them to jump ship for an awesome new Clown Sex Metal band in the works might not come off very well.
If any of these strategies pan out, a newly minted band will undoubtedly move up the local scene's ladder in no time, and that drummer might even be able to trade in his minivan home for sweeter lodgings in the storage closet of his new band's practice room. A word of warning, though: that guy sometimes pees himself when he's drunk, and the carpet in there already smells horrible.
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