That’s a mouthful to swallow for any musician who’s had auditions blow up in their face. Honestly, I miss the days of auditioning in LA where there were 30 guitarists waiting in one room. At least you knew it was going to be a professional audition because you were at SIR. When I spit the concrete jungle for life at a slower pace I also found nearly no practical gigs in my new home town and the auditions were the most unprofessional I’ve ever encountered in 4 states. I felt like I was in the twilight zone, Toto Toto! It took years to begin to understand the sociology of my new musical cohorts and I’m still working on it.
After a while I just got used to these kinds of occurrences, after all I’d been in at least a hundred auditions where A & R people were shouting “NEXT” as a row of pickers where making a centipede trail down the hallway toward the voice of doom! I can take a licking and keep on ticking! I’ve played Music since I was 5 and guitar almost as long, I’m not going to let that stop me even if I end up in a room of players that blow me off the face of the earth talent wise. The only auditions that will get me a little snarky are the ones that waste my time because the talent is green and frightened or they just party too much and work to little. I live in Oregon, you can only imagine the party seen in weed city USA! I had one of these a few weeks back that made me pause and planted a desire to do everything within my power to make sure it never happens again. I’ve set a good set of rules up to combat this that I’ll share at the end of this press.
After 2 weeks of fooling around trying to get this audition booked I was going to blow it off, something I rarely do because it’s not professional and you can’t get out of 1st gear without finessing the clutch. Do or do not, there is no try! One of the players I was corresponding with was clearly talented and a gigging musician from another part of the country as well as a recent transplant. This was the reason I tenaciously solved every problem that was brought before me by one of the other people participating in this gig. This player was a consummate professional who has the goods and I know the goods when I hear it. I’ve been around the block to many times I have a great set of ears.
I was actually asked to audition in a public place at one point…. Whoa! I thought I had heard it all but this one takes the cake! I said absolutely NO! There are hourly rehearsal studios all over the place in Oregon, 3 within 8 miles of my home. Clearly I don’t invite people into my studio to run one of their auditions for security reasons but I do have the expectation that if you request an audition from me you will provide a professional location for it to take place in. I have very few expectations in life but that’s one of them. I mean think about it, I’m hauling my gear to come play for you for free in the hopes that we can get some gigs after we spend 40 hours rehearsing a 4 hour set. I don’t work for free for anyone, do you?
After I decided to rent a studio myself at $15 an hour to audition for their gig I had to step back and reevaluate the situation. I’m a nice guy who’s driven, but I’m not a sap. This was just to hard to navigate, I waited for them to respond and left the ball in their hands. Finally an email came with a location and time, it was a date! This was no easy audition, it was in the middle of the day which is difficult to navigate with short notice. I did my best as always and made it work.
I arrive and am introduced while I’m tuning up. I look around and there’s not a cart or a music stand to be found, red flag #1. I sent charts and had them on my iPhone but I didn’t have a smidgen of a clue about what they wanted to play. They had sent me 2 mp3’s but never spoke word zero about an audition piece . The one player who has experience immediately picks up on this just as I was saying “do you have any charts for me?” and produces a few basic chord / lyric charts. I’m in like flin Dad! The other person just sat there, in fact that’s all about this person did. When we finally got to where we were actually making a sound I could hear the player / singer next to me but the other musician was on the complete extreme far side of the room with this really negative body language. Arms folded looking at the ground, I was waiting Harvey Korman’s ghost to run into the room and shout for a Hurrumph!!
Once tuned I pluck the first chord on my Taylor which sounds just horrible. I’m playing change the world by Eric Clapton to warm up which is no easy piece for me to play, but it clearly showed I have the chops to get the job done even with this tinny unholy tone. Two days before the audition I had put my usual’s (Martin 12 to 54 SP 80/20 bronze) on my guitar with plenty of time to stretch them out, obviously I had a bad set. It happens once in a while with Bronze strings, they don’t have a very long shelf life. This is always a drag, having bad tone never helps with your playing but that’s not going to keep this minstrel down. We play through a couple of tunes and all I hear if the person on my side playing and singing really great, the other player is now looking for carpet fibers to kick and whispering at the ground looking more like Eeyore then a sound-smith. I never heard a single note and don’t know even now if this person could sing or play. I played as quiet as I could but nada, nothing, zilch, Null! In literally 15 minutes from the time we start playing Eeyore skids out the back door because it’s time to work? Wow, I took time off to be there.
Clearly this was an example of what I call the “Doe in the headlights musician.” This person is so scared and easily intimidated I wouldn’t matter how well they play and sing. I wouldn’t know I never heard a note to size them up, but I know what fear looks like and I know what fear acts like. I also know you can’t size up anyone chops in 15 minutes, no one was even properly warmed up. Intimidation is the fault if the intimidated not the intimidator, especially when your intent is to have a professional audition not an ego-fest acting like a spoiled child. I knew 3 days later when I received this somewhat rude seriously unprofessional email from Eeyore that I was dealing with a rank amateur. Amateurs are fine, everyone has to start somewhere, I did too. Treating someone poorly and / or unprofessional even if you sing like Elvis is no excuse. I knew something was odd when the “talent” was saying “oh but it’s Eeyore’s gig” and yet the “talent” was the one running around grabbing me charts etc.
The funny thing is after Eeyore ran out the back door the other player (i.e. the talent) said I have this “other” thing going if you’d be interested. Do you like to play (insert genre of music here)? I said you bet! Funny thing is I got a call from a promoter I’ve worked for before this morning that needed a trio for a winery gig Saturdays all summer long and was wondering if I was interested in auditioning for the gig. The gig pays $1250 for a 4.5 hour set with one 30 minute breaks and one 45 minute food break. I know one thing, there’s not a hope in Hell for Eeyore on this one. I wish Eeyore the best but my time will never be wasted again by this donkey with a pin tail. The “talent?” I’m giving them a call when I return from NAMM to see if they are interested. Only amateurs burn bridges with other players, I guess it’s the Gods way of separating the wheat from the chaff.
This is what I feel I’m going to have to resort too as a flexible set of rules. Back in LA all musicians have Bio’s, here only the ones who are experienced and play well do and that’s why it’s number one on the list!
1) No professional Bio no time from me unless your going to pay me Period! No Exceptions
2) Request ASCAP or BMI information if people are communicating they’ve been published.
3) Give them 4 chances to communicate with you in which ever medium they choose, if something isn’t tangible by then cut your losses and move on.
4) Have a full set of charts in your hand that they want played for the gig before you even start to put that guitar in its case and make a hermitage to a rehearsal facility.
5) Show me the money! Request a list of Gigs the band has played in the last year.
6) If you can’t find some music on the Internets based on your conversations make a request. If none is available move on!
7) Make sure all the players are of close or Equal talent. It doesn’t do any good if ones a suppahstar and ones a rank amateur, even if talented it will show at gigs, the audience is listening. That’s why they call it paying your dues!