For the next couple months I am going to share some ideas I have on the audition process. From finding out about auditions, preparing for the audition, all the way to getting or not getting the gig. If you are just starting out, a lot of these ideas will really help you out. After you get a couple tours under your belt your reputation will come into play, whether good or bad. Work will become easier or harder so we will talk much more about this later on as well.
I’m hoping these articles will shed some light on how to find more work and also on how to not get discouraged during this sometimes insane journey we call the music business. These ideas will help you prepare for a local band audition or hopefully for a major tour.
Most of the points I will share with you are ones I have learned from personal experience, many, many mistakes I have made myself, which I have learned from, and also mistakes and great actions I have seen other musicians make. These points are of course my thoughts on the subject, they are in no way the only way to find more work so keep that in mind and just grab what you can from these articles. Other than that use good common sense and a bit of instinct and you will do well.
Go get yourself a passport right now. You never know how quickly a tour will be leaving, sometimes you will get the call to fill for another bassist who can’t make it, a last minute emergency, you get the idea. It usually takes about a month or longer to get a passport (unless you don’t mind paying a couple hundred dollars for faster service, which is of course, not guaranteed…) So don’t put this off, go to your Post office and apply for one ASAP. It should only take 20 minutes of your time to do this. If you get the call to do a European tour or even a full blown world tour and they are leaving in a couple weeks or less, it won’t matter how cool you think you are or how amazing your playing is or that your Uncle is the MD (Musical Director). They will hire the next guy who has a passport. Also keep in mind that because at this current time the euro is so strong, most tours are happening only in Europe. Why? Because is costs less for Europe to pay American Musicians and Artists.
Scan and print out your passport after you receive and SIGN it. This is good to do for two reasons. Before a tour, the road manager usually needs your passport info ASAP, now you can email him a PDF of it. Reason number two: in case you lose your passport on tour. Most U.S. embassies can issue a new passport in a day if you have a good copy of the one you lost.
Get a good package together:
This means collect the best recordings of your playing. Any great audio is a must. Live video is great if you have any. Also get good photos taken NOW. Don’t wait till you are asked because you won’t have time then. Try to get as many photos of you with as many basses as well. I’ll explain why in a little while. You will also need a good headshot just in case that is asked for. Try to do all of these photos with a pro photographer. It should put you back a couple hundred dollars but it well worth it. Don’t try to get your best friend who has a new 15 mega pixel camera to shoot these photos, you need more than a good camera, you have to understand light and exposure and have a bit of artistic talent to take great photos. You need a professional photographer and make sure you check out his work first to see if you dig it.
I remember touring with the guitarist Andy Summers. Most people are unaware that Andy is an amazing published photographer. We used to take long photo expeditions on our off days while on tour. We would both take photos usually of the same subject matter but I must say that after we developed them I would notice that 97% of Andy’s photos were absolutely brilliant. Maybe two out of my 24 were palatable. What does this mean? Well it means that it doesn’t matter who has a great camera, it’s who is behind that camera that’s most important. Just like it doesn’t matter that someone owns a $20,000 boutique bass, it’s up to the person standing behind it. Do your homework, check out other people’s photos, get some referrals, find a good pro photographer and hire him. You will probably use these photos for at least 5 or more years, not just for your promo package but also for CD’s, Myspace, your website! So choose wisely.
When you go to get your photos taken, take photos with ALL your different kinds of basses. 4 string, 5 & 6 etc. Fretless, fretted, acoustic, upright if you have one. The reason being is that some acts will want to hire a certain kind of bass player. Here’s an example. Imagine that you are auditioning for a 60’s – 70’s revival type band. It could even be a modern band that wants that vintage vibe on stage. Maybe it’s the Black Crowes, maybe Sheryl Crow, maybe it’s the Rolling Stones. You get the idea. Let’s just say for arguments sake that you investigate the band on the internet and notice that the guitarist plays a 58′ fender strat thru a twin reverb amp, the keys player is playing an old beat up Hammond B3, the lead singer has a tie dye t-shirt and a peace sign medallion and the drummer is doing his best to look and sound exactly like John Bonham. Which photo will you send them? The photo of you with a 62 reissue Fender Precision bass or a photo of you and your new 9-string graphite neck, cocobolo top, piezo turbo bass? Of course the opposite also applies. In my opinion it shouldn’t make any difference, if you play your ass off, that is what should matter but remember that at this point it’s not about your or my opinion.
So right now gather up your passport, photos, your best recordings (live and studio) and any video together. Make sure all your photos are also converted to digital form as well. Put together a good bio, list all your bands you have played with and any other experience you have. You want to have all your tools ready for battle and that’s pretty much what you are in for. So for now, the more the merrier. Just throw everything together into the same folder for now.
My next article will deal with how to find out about a gig or audition and what to do next so I’ll see you again real soon.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Abraham Lincoln quotes of all time, which certainly applies to this article: “I will prepare and someday my chance will come…”
Good luck, Ric