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The stagnant journey in finding band members

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  • Noob



My apologies in advance if this belongs in a different thread. I'm brand spanking new to the forum so I still have yet to learn the ways of this side of the world.


This post is half "anybody wanna share their thoughts and feelings on the difficulty in finding people willing to perform your music?" and half "by the way, wanna join my band?"


I wrote recorded/produced this roadhouse blues/rock album a while ago (more details in the "P.S."). Now, being in a small town where all the musicians I know are either too busy, not committed, not experienced, or just disinterested, it's proving difficult to bring this project to life. I'm talkin' a whole band - 2 guitars, bass, drums, and maybe keys.  So, I'm trying to branch out within the Mendocino/Sonoma County, CA area (and beyond) to see if find any luck. 


How do you folks go about seeking band members while you're suffering from small town seclusion syndrome?

-Try solo shows to get your face out there and network with new people?

-Craigslist (the response has been silent for me on the past)?


-Forums that are specific to performing musicians rather than songwriting or production?


Anywho, thank you for reading and I'm interested to hear your thoughts in how you go about this (and if you're interested in this band, then hurray!).





P.S. You can listen to the album here:




While it's primarily blues/rock, there is a little hodge podge of country/Western, depressive folk, rockabilly, and just the slightest hint of punk and metal. I would like to believe fans of Tom Waits and Danzig might appreciate it.


[edited: typos, typos, typos.]

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  • Noob
11 hours ago, Jenn said:

I gave up on trying to find someone to make music with after trying Craigslist (uber creepy!) ... I think the best way to start a band is with friends.. Otherwise, I guess go solo until someone sees what they like


PS.. I'm gonna post an ad on Craigslist now just to see what comes back


I (reluctantly) put an ad on Craiglist today as well just to see.


I agree. Friends would be the best way. Unfortunately, my small circle of musician friends are already busy with their own projects.


Out of curiosity, what kind music do you play, Jenn?

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  • Noob

Thanks, Jenn!


Squirming your way in on a friend's band practice or jam session makes sense. I just gotta work on my schmoozing technique.


"Why are you interested in sitting on our jam sessions all of a sudden?"

"Uh, cuz I like your music, I guess?"


Ha. Funny to think none of your songs include your primary instrument.


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Blues Jams, Open Mics   There's where you find your talent pool.


Even if you are personally not into the blues and don't want to form a blues band per say Blues Jams can be the right venue too seek out others where... They get a chance to hear you play and you get a chance to hear them play.   Even if you aren't the greatest blues player on the planet going up on stage and playing a few covers with the band establishes you.  No one is going to approach you or simply take your word that you have the goods until you prove yourself.  It also separate the wheat from the chaff if you can see that someone is competent capable and committed performing live so that you don't have to screen after the fact.


Back in the 90's I (my band) hosted blues jams as well as performed at various "hip" places performing both covers and originals.  I started off as a jammer and the band liked me enough that I got to join them on a full time basis.  During that time I was often approached by others wanting me to join them in projects.  Aside from my playing skills one of the things they would instantly notice about me was my ability to work with others.  That's also key.  If you want to form a band you have to learn how to work with others rather than simply dictate demands that you expect them to follow blindly.  It's also helpful if you develop a personal relation with them.  It's a band, bandmates are team members who are doing it for themselves as much if not more than you.


First scout for open mic / jam nights.  Don't go out with the intent that you are going to land a band mate by simply introducing yourself.

Watch, listen, be respectful of the performers.  Take time to approach one of the house band members (not always the singer) and acknowledge them.  Don't make it about you. Make it about them.  Don't blindly compliment them for the sake of having something to say.  Be specific.  (I really liked your work on "X" song)  or compliment them on their rig.   It's a scouting mission for the venue.  You'll want to know what the routine is.  What songs they usually play with jammers.  


Write down the setlist for the night and take it home to study.  Find a few songs that the band knows which are not perennial favorites of the regulars or the band likes to perform by themselves.   When you go... Bring a friend.  Drink.  Tip Well.  Be on good terms with the bartender / cocktail waitress.   The bar hosts open jam nights for money.  The waitresses and the bartenders are friendly with the band.  Being a jerk is not acceptable.  Don't bring a jerk with you.  The Staff and the Band are on friendly terms.  If you or your friend are not civil it will get around to the band members and the regulars.  Nobody likes an asshat.  If they don't like you the band skip your name on the sign up sheet.  The regulars will know as well.  And you can pretty much kiss any hopes of gaining band members good bye.


Don't approach jammers until you go back and perform.  They don't know you and they don't owe you.  I can't begin to tell you how many times I'd get no ones approaching me to play with me even though they had no visible/audible skills to offer back.  If you haven't been on stage yet there all you are doing is hassling the regulars.   Enjoy the show.  Don't sit there with your phone in your face or arms folded judging everyone on stage.  Acknowledge that it takes a lot of courage to go on a stage where you've never performed before.  Don't be a pisser to the performer.  The band will hear you, the other jammers will hear you and what may be an indirect lead to someone else may vanish in the haze.    You don't have to stay the entire night but you should at least listen to a few jammers before you leave.


Get your six songs down in the key the house band performs them in.  Don't argue that it wasn't the original key.  Many singers perform better in certain keys than others.  The band has already worked out the song in that key.  Be respectful of the house band.  Be professional about learning the songs whether you like them or not.  Be able to perform them without aid of a computer screen or paper.  It's not Karaoke Night.   


When you are ready to perform.  Show up early before the band begins and sign up.  Wait your turn.  Enjoy the show.  It's the bands stage not yours.  When the performer that came before you is done don't rush the stage.  Give them a moment to enjoy their moment in the sun.  If you play a stringed instrument (guitar/bass) bring it.  Don't expect someone to hand over their guitar to you.  Some shows have a strict policy regarding using their equipment and their equipment only.  No one wants to wait for you to set up and if something isn't setup properly it could kill someones amp.   Perform your best for the sake of the song, not your ego.  Play with the band not against them or past them.  No one will give you your due as a composer/arranger if your live performance  playing doesn't hold up.

Complete your set come rain or shine.  Be someone who shows commitment and follow through.  Be gracious to the band when if you get some applause.  


If you bomb.  You'll have to decide if getting a band together is really worth all the effort.  Sometimes even though the audience is polite it can be very unnerving on your confidence.  Don't give up.  Go back to the woodshed and then when you are ready try again.  I know I've been there.  Many jammers and professionals have been there as well.  The difference is they picked themselves up and got back on the horse.   If you go back after picking yourself up, better prepared  the audience (which is usually filled with jammers) and the band will notice.  They'll be happy for you.


You don't have to be great, you just have to be good.  Don't stare at the musicians hands on stage and think to yourself "I could do that better" or "Wow that's cool and better then I'll ever be" or "That person has a great technique, I'm going to mimic it"  


What does that earn you?  A seat at the table in the community of songwriters and musicians.  A reputation of being a reliable hardworking and likeable individual of which to collaborate with.   There are vast differences between wish want and need.  I wish I could win the lottery.  But if I won't even commit to playing I'll never win anything.  Even playing the odds are stacked against me.  I want to write and record songs that are all about me..... Great learn some instruments get a daw find some nice plugins and learn how to write arrange perform and mix.  No one else wants to devote themselves to a project of which from there is no value to them.  Paid session musicians play for pay.  It doesn't matter how much they love the music that you've written but haven't recorded.  Bands form to play.  When you gather a band they will need to be interested in your musical direction and feel like they are part of a team.


What it doesn't earn you is instant gratification of having other people work on a project that's all about you recording a song.  No one half competent wants to work for you for free recording just because you say you have a great idea for a song.  Where is the benefit in it for them?  


I know it seems like a lot of work.  Guess what nothing great ever came without hard work behind it and much of that work cultivating the idea and assembling the people to make it a reality may seem extraordinary.  


During my time with Hit "n" Run we played out a lot.  I would constantly get offers from bands looking for a temporary or full time replacement in other bands.  I'd also get parties interested in me recording them (for pay as I'm also a recording engineer with a diploma from a reputable school) and a session musician.  The only time I didn't play for play was working my way up in jam sessions.  Or when I'd casually play for friends and family.   It was important for me to be part of the scene.  It was also helpful when I was songwriting and wanted / needed a band to record and perform the songs that I'd written.  No it wasn't the neural implant technology that made the band perform the song exactly as I'd thought of it.  In many cases the song actually turned out better due to the input of the band members.


What do your really want/need and what are you willing to sacrifice in order to make that a reality?


Otherwise your only options are craigslist ads

Bass player available for PAYING GIGS ONLY. I play G, C, D. If your songs are not in G, please transpose them into G. If your song has an Em or Bm or anything off the wall I will probably sit out that chord. Or I could learn those notes for $30 each. If you want me to do fancy stuff like go back and forth between G and D while you hold a G chord, forget it because I'm a "pocket" player. Minimum $100 per gig within a 5 mile radius of 39202. $5 per mile travel charge for other areas out of town. Please make sure your gigs are on a JATRAN bus route, or you can pick me up at my place. Must be home by 11pm due to previous legal hassles. No gigs within 500 yards of schools, parks, or playgrounds.



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  • Noob



Thank you so much for your detailed and insightful response. Holy heck, you covered quite a bit of ground here. It's like a jamming musicians' mini manifesto.


I'm not sure if anywhere in my small town hosts regular blues jam sessions but I'll keep an eye out and have your post at the forefront of my mind. I will explore the nooks and crannies of this town to find them.


I apologize that I'm not able to respond in kind (with the same amount insight and detail) but believe me that I am absorbing everything you said and plan on putting it to good use. 


Thank you you so much again.


P.S. That bassist's Craigslist ad is pure gold. I wonder if he got any offers.

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In my teens finding band members was like falling off a log.  Two sheet music stores one the size of a supermarket, four musical instrument stores all within a 4 mile area.  Along with several other instrument stores dotting just outside the city limits.  Back then there were more musicians as gaming hadn't quite caught on.  Kids walked to and from school and there were plenty of buskers in parks or people jamming on their front porches.   While it wasn't a "Performing Arts" school per say we did have a vibrant marching band and orchestral band community.  As well the school would put on "Pop" shows four times a year.  I played a few times on the school stage.

Back then I had no issues with playing for free.  Sure I'd be happy if someone paid me.  I just figured it was all about paying your dues.


Don't forget Coffee shops and music stores in your search.  While music stores generally don't like giving out names of the regulars in the smaller ones they do have boards so you can physically post a card seeking band members or post one advertising as one.   Coffee shops that offer live entertainment can also be a good source for potential band mates even if they don't have an open mic / jam.  Performers usually support their friends or scout the competition by going to watch a show.

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  • Noob

Thank you for that bonus nugget of advice. 


I can relate in that in was almost effortlessly easy in finding band mates when I was in my teens. I never heard of a school putting on a "Pop" show 4 times a year. That's great, actually.


Open mic nights or occasional low key shows at the cafe or brewery are definitely a little more common where I am. I'll survey the little landscape.

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