Writing A “Musicians Wanted” Ad

By Lis Lewis 

People are always asking me how to word an ad for a music magazine or online ad in order to find musicians.
‘Singer/songwriter seeks band to write and play gigs’ is not going to cut it. It tells nothing about the singer and nothing about the style of material. The answers you would get could be anything from a beginning jazz guitarist to a hard rock drummer. Or, more likely, you would get no answers at all. This is your first sales job. Learn how to present yourself and your music so others either choose you or realize they aren’t right for you, thereby saving you a lot of time and energy.

What makes you different, what kind of music are you playing, what band members do you want and what level of experience? Adjectives help. Try to steer clear of ones that give value judgements because no one will believe you anyway. ‘Talented, rock god’ might work if written by a reviewer but not when you write it about yourself.

Here’s one that I love that a client of mine wrote about herself:

Female vocalist with smarts, presence and sex appeal seeks guitarist for writing
collaboration/band project. Colbie Caillat with Radiohead angst. Demo and experience required.

Doesn’t that say it all? You know something about her, about what she’s looking for and about the project.

Try to give the reader a picture of the personality you will be projecting onstage and through the material. Be specific about what you are looking for: a rock band to write lyrics for? a person with a home studio to write bass and drum tracks with? a ten piece band with horns? Describe the kind of music you will be playing. And in this case she also limited those who respond to those with experience. You might want a garage band, or a working band making money, or a band that already has songs. The more specific you are, the less likely you are to get calls from someone who is totally wrong for you.

The next step is to screen those who call you. Ask many questions on the phone. Get the person to talk to you so you can find out what they are like. Are they flaky? arrogant? spacey? How long have they been playing? What kind of music do they like? Hopefully you have a demo to send them and they have one to send you. That will save lots of time. I can’t tell you the number of times a singer has gone out to sing an audition with a band that says they are just like U2 and turn out to me more like Metallica. The more you can find out on the phone the better.

After you hear the demo and they seem to be close to what you are looking for, it’s time to get together and play some music. You could choose a cover song that you both know and jam on it. Or one of you could send the other an original song to learn. Whatever works. Just try to set it up so you will sound your best. If you aren’t good at making up melodies on the spot, don’t have an audition where the band jams and you sing something you haven’t had a chance to work on. Prepare something to sing to a track if necessary so they will hear what your voice sounds like when you have had a chance to work on a song. Remember that you are auditioning them as well.


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