Choosing Your Band
INEZ, one of our three BTARs for the 2022-23 season, shares her tips on picking band members for upcoming performances and what qualities are important to her when she is looking to hire musicians.
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A performer gets an email requesting a booking, and after acceptance, a slight panic ensues. “What music will I play?”, or better yet, “Who will I hire to perform with me?” – Choosing players can often feel like a daunting task. How do you successfully navigate finding and building with musicians for your live performances?
As INEZ, I’ve never needed the “best” players. In fact, I’d skip over virtuosos in lieu of a player who possessed other positive qualities that help round out their value. Musicians will be in rehearsals with you, they’ll be in green rooms with you, and are most likely the last people to see you before you step on stage. It helps if they’re someone you can be at ease with.
So what does one look for in a gigging musician or full-time member of a band? A list of qualities I look for are:
- Great communicators – Do they respond to email/text or are they touch-and-go? Are they upfront about issues they may have or questions? Are they forthcoming or do you have to fight for every interaction?– Preparing for a show can be anxiety-inducing, I’d rather have people who say “Can’t talk now, but will get back to you on this.” than silence. Communication helps everybody.
- Ability to work well with others – No one wants the bassist fighting with the drummer. Live performance is heavily reliant on verbal and musical communication between performers. I love working with musicians who have great energy with each other. It just makes the music better. No ego, just cohesion.
- Always prepared – If you send the music 3 weeks prior to a gig, but the guitarist doesn’t learn it before the rehearsal, take a deep breath and try to stay centered; preparedness isn’t a hard ask, it’s a requirement. This includes preparedness for their gear and instruments – A bass cab without a head doesn’t get the job done. Look for players dedicated to being ready for rehearsal AND the stage.
- Punctuality – No one is exempt from being on time (not even me). If the load-in is at 4:00 PM, everyone should be rolling in at least ten minutes before. Look for musicians who respect the time clock.
- Take direction in stride – I can’t read music, but I know what I want my music to sound like. There are musicians who are trained in conservatories but I may want the color of simple triads and not complex block inverted chords on some songs. The equable and professional will give the artist what they need while not feeling slighted.
- Great listeners – This applies to listening to artist and management directives, intraband communication, and especially general musicianship. The best listeners are usually the best players.
- Humility – This is probably the attribute I look for the most. It doesn’t mean a musician isn’t confident, it just means they know when and how to apply their expertise. A solo needs the “showoff” energy, not when talking to the stage crew, other bandmates, or concertgoers. I pay attention to how musicians talk to people, it will sour our relationship quickly if all I’m seeing is disrespect.
In closing, who you have on stage with you, is a representation of you as an artist. My last nugget of wisdom is that even if all the boxes are checked, to make the live performance stage a safer place than in times past, we need to do due diligence as it pertains to our musical affiliations. If someone can play insane licks, but they have a pattern of harmful or disruptive behaviors, they may not be an appropriate addition to your stage.
Wishing you all luck in your pursuit of complimentary musicians for your live performances!