Auditioning. In this line of work, almost everybody has to go through it at some point. I don’t know a single person who enjoys the process – and by that I mean the groups holding the auditions as well.
Whilst looking for members for JazzBaby, I’ve held a few auditions recently, plus I was invited to join another group recently so have added to my own experience of being the auditionee this very year. Here are some simple tips to make the whole thing go that little bit more smoothly.
1) Be clear about what you are looking for from the outset
Obvious but true. Many bands, in an attempt to appear open (and more likely to attract as many interested candidates as possible) will be vague about who/what they are, and what they are looking for. Others may outright lie.
If you’re getting regular paid work and need a competent player, with own transport, who can read say so. If you do not have any gigs at present but are looking to get into paid work once you have a full lineup – say so. If you are doing original material and the money won’t be that good – say so. If you’re all amateurs and would prefer someone of a similar playing ability to yourselves – guess what, say so!
This saves a whole lot of time having to filter through adverts responses from people who are simply unsuitable for your act. Likewise, auditionees looking for gigs – if you can’t sight read, don’t say you can and hope to busk it. Be clear on the styles you have knowledge of. You WILL get found out and not get the job. Worse than that, word will get around that you’re a bullshitter too!
2) Agree on songs to go through before the audition / Plan a structured audition
You’re not doing any favours by inviting a potential band member down to your rehearsal space, shouting out a tune at him and charging into it to see how well he/she copes. Even seasoned pros like to prepare first – that’s what makes them seasoned pros!
Have your space ready to go by the time the candidate arrives and try to have everyone in the band already there and set up.
If going TO an audition, make sure all of your gear is in good working order, arrive on time and set up quickly.
Choose songs from your set, and perhaps some tunes both parties are reasonably familiar with to work through. At a maximum, I’d suggest four or five. Make sure you also have plenty of time to chat and reaffirm exactly what it is both sides want out of working together. For a first meeting, I’d suggest an hour to an hour and a half. That should be more than enough time to find out how you gel musically, and crucially if you get on as people!
3) Relax – remember everybody is human
As I said at the top of this blog, no one I know enjoys the audition process. Make it as welcoming and relaxing as possible. Keep the pieces to learn down to a small number and make no attempt whatsoever to ‘catch someone out’ musically. Smiling always helps too! Even experienced players can be nervous entering a room of musicians known to each other, but not to him, and there solely to watch/listen to his/her playing and assess him in the space of an hour or two. Short and friendly are the key things here.
4) Follow up!
One of my biggest pet hates is when I put in time and energy into preparing for an audition or job interview, going through the whole nervous procedure, and never hearing back. It takes minutes to drop someone a quick line to follow up, whether that is to arrange a second audition, offer them the gig or to let them know you’ve decided to go with someone else. It’s highly unlikely a rejection will cause an argument down the phone so man up and get on with it!
Also, as a quick side note, have you ever found the ideal candidate through an audition, while still having other people left to see? If so, are these other candidates due the same day or in the next few days? If so, my advice would be to see them anyway – they will have put in time and effort preparing and it’s always best to have a wider network of musicians (in case you ever need a dep, etc, etc). If the next audition is not until the following week then by all means call them and politely cancel – but be nice doing it!