Finding the right bandmates is one of the toughest parts of being in a band…and the band hasn’t even begun yet! Even for those of us who have been in several bands in our lifetime, finding new people to start a project with can be a daunting and complex task.
Many articles will suggest you to go to jam or open mic nights and while that might be ok if you’re a beginner, it’s quite an old fashioned concept and not the most efficient method of finding band members. One blog I read even recommended musicians looking for band members should, “Hang out at music stores.” Umm…for how long?
I’ve been in several bands now and by far the hardest band to form was my current band, The Last Martyr. One of the reasons for this is I’d moved interstate and didn’t have the same network I did in Sydney, although I still knew a fair few people from the scene, thankfully. It took me more than 9 months (and many temper-tantrums of frustration behind closed doors) before I found the amazing four guys I now call my band bros.
So whether you’ve moved interstate or simply looking to kick off something new , here are some tips that can help.
Set Clear Intentions
The first step in finding bandmates is to have a VERY clear image of where you want the band to go and the types of people that would suit that goal. If your intentions aren’t clear, you will have trouble finding the right people for the project. This goes beyond specifying someone should have their own gear, a car or a job. This should be a given, right?
So, how far do you want to take this band? If you’re wanting to tour the world and eventually earn a living through music, you shouldn’t be auditioning people that want to settle down with kids in the next 5 years and are only doing music as a hobby. It may influence how far your net is cast in your local city. Serious musos are often willing to travel hours for the right band, so keep that in mind. If you want to play covers do you want to do this part time or full time?
Grab a notebook or piece of paper and answer the following:
- Band goal (i.e. international touring, local touring only, studio band only, full time covers band, part-time covers band).
- Approx genre you want to play
- How far am I willing to travel for rehearsals?
- Age net of musos (if applicable to your goals)
- My skills within the band (other than your instrument) i.e. social media, accounting etc.
- Skills wanted in bandmates (check out 7 Types of People Every Band Needs for help with this!)
- Brain dump of any other qualities you want in your band members, personality traits.
Physically writing all this down will not only ensure you remember what you’re looking for when you’re searching (because trust me, you’re going to be tempted to compromise if the search period goes on too long), but getting things out of your head and onto paper often has the ability to spark ideas or realisations about yourself.
There are so many other benefits about writing things down which you can read about here.
Brainstorm Musicians Who Might Be Interested
Next, make a list of any potential muso in your network that could kind of fit these parameters. That bassist you were in a covers band with briefly a few years back? Someone you met once at a gig who added you on Facebook? Drummers often do double-duty and are in multiple bands. Why not try your luck to see if that awesome drummer has time for another project. Even if you’re not sure if they’re 100% right, put them on the list anyway and narrow it down later. Their name might spark another name in your mind who might be perfect.
Get familiar with Melband, Rockstar Hookups, Bandmix and the many other platforms out there designed to connect musicians. There is usually a musician’s Facebook Group or two for each city so make sure you’re a part of anything relevant to you and make it part of your daily or weekly routine to check them. Gumtree occasionally has ads but due to the rise of Facebook, there isn’t as many as there used to be.
I would also recommend trying to expand your network on Facebook by adding other musos with mutual friends. Hey, random friend requests are pretty much the norm nowadays.
If you’ve been involved in the scene for a while no doubt you’d have liked a bunch of local bands. It sounds kind of fucked up to say, but I used to go through the list of local bands I’d liked on Facebook and see which ones had recently broken up. Then I’d stalk the band members to see if they’d started new projects and if those projects needed a vocalist.
There were also a couple of times where I assessed whether, say, the ex-guitarist a local band, was a good player and sent a message directly to them to see if they were looking for a new project. I only did this a couple of times with people that I really thought I could work well with, musically. And one of them very nearly led to something kicking off. So don’t judge me and hey, the internet makes a musical trail super easy to follow and if you’re that focused on forming a band, you have to do what it takes! Right. RIGHT????
I’ve heard of some musos using Tinder. This has never ended successfully…at least in finding bandmates!
Have a Good Demo
Regardless of whether you have posted an ad or whether you’re replying to one, you’ll need a demo. For me when searching for my current band, The Last Martyr, I didn’t have the time or want to meet up with a random guitarist I found on the internet to jam in person. It might be different if you’re a dude and also when I was younger I did it all the time. But this time around, I wanted to quickly be able to assess whether a musician was of the right skill set (and also right mind through a few online conversations) before meeting up in person.
The quality of the demo required will be dependent on where you want to take your band. If you’re wanting to join a covers band, a YouTube video is probably enough. If you’ve never played in a band before and only have a recording on your phone, that’s also probably enough. If you’re wanting to join a serious originals band you’ll definitely need something with good production quality such as a track from an old band.
If you’re an original artist, attending shows and being seen is never a bad move. No lurking by the stage to see if one of the bands on the bill ia thinking of kicking out their singer. But just get out there, have fun and if you’re adding the right people on Facebook it’ll strengthen your impact in the scene.
Make sure you’re being very vocal to your muso mates as well that you’re starting a new project or looking to join one. The music scene is very small and usually, someone knows someone who knows someone that might be keen to start something. Do not keep this knowledge to yourself.
As I mentioned in one of my last blog posts, ‘I Watched My Friends Quit Music,’ I loved my time at JMC Academy and although the course had its downfalls, the network I now have due to this degree alone is invaluable. In fact, one of the reasons I decided to do a music degree was actually so I could meet potential band mates, which I did.
I’m still friends with many of the people from my year not only in my course but from other courses such as the management course. Studying music will not only thrust you into an environment which allows you to be creative and inspired every day (if you let it), but you have no idea where the friendships and networks you will form, will lead.
This tip is not for everyone but if you’re in your last year of high school or early 20s and going to music college or doing a TAFE course is an option for you, do it.
There’s no use forcing a project with band members who aren’t right. The project could potentially implode and you may waste even more time. As I mentioned, it took me NINE months to find the two guitarists in The Last Martyr.
It then took a further few months to find our bassist and drummer on top of that. What may feel like a lifetime won’t count for much in the long run and provided you execute your band right once it launches, things can get moving quicker than you may think.
It is important to still keep making music as well. Make sure you’re still writing and creating as you do not want to let the process of looking for bandmates stall your creativity. If it comes to a point where finding band members is really holding you back, it might be time to think of some alternative options.
For example, if you are a guitarist and have found a committed vocalist, you may like to decide that you guys are the key members and enlist some mates who maybe aren’t as committed, to be ‘touring’ or ‘session’ musicians. Honestly, with the help of a great producer, there is no reason not having a full band can prevent you from achieving your dreams.