Finding a new group to work with is something we all have to deal with from time to time, no matter what level of player we are. It can be a difficult and somewhat frustrating endeavor, but it is important that when we go through the process we have a solid idea of what we want out of the group, how much time and effort we’re willing or can afford to spend on the new project, and whether the music involved is what we’re interested in playing. Sometimes we rush, or get impatient and end up committing to something we don’t have much interest in simply because it seems like we’re not finding what we really want and think that at least that way we’re playing. You’re actually better off hitting open mics to get your fix until you find a situation that floats your boat rather than committing to something that you know won’t last, because generally those situations don’t end well for anyone.
Whether you are searching for an additional project, or you are looking for a new main gig, knowing what you want from the situation is vital to your search. If you’re looking for something to strengthen your abilities in a genre that’s new to you, then you should have a target genre or two that you are interested in pursuing. Be honest with yourself in assessing your current skill levels so you know how far you are willing to stretch beyond your normal comfort zone, and how much time you can commit to learning new material. If you figure you can only handle one or two gigs a month, either from an availability perspective or simply because that’s all you want to do, make sure that you are looking at ads that share the same goal with you for the performance schedule. Likewise, if what you need is a band that plans on gigging regularly then don’t spend inordinate amounts of time contacting and arranging auditions with bands that have no intention of doing so. If you’re intent is to fill your performance schedule through playing with multiple groups, which many folks do, make sure that the bands you are seeking out are ok with that. Many of the weekend warrior groups don’t like working with folks who are in multiple groups because it makes booking more complex. This is also one of the things that separates the semi-pros from the actual local pros.
Your attitude toward money is also a consideration to take into account. If you are expecting to actually earn money from playing then that is something you need to be up front about with the band you’re auditioning for. There are many folks out there who’s attitude is that if you expect to be paid you should do something else, and while we all do this out of one level of love of music or another, there are just as many of us who are firm believers that we should be paid for what we do. If you are in the pay me camp, as am I, then taking a position in a band that plays for the fun of it, doesn’t make sense unless you are willing to do so because the music is something you’ve always wanted to play. Even then, do some soul searching before taking the gig. Almost every band out there will occasionally play a benefit of some sort where you are donating your services to the cause being supported. You do get exposure from that but the primary thing is supporting the charity. That is an entirely different thing than paying to play, or performing for exposure while the venue is raking in cash from your skills.
Sometimes it seems like we are stuck in a desert as we pour over Craigslist ads, corkboards in music stores, or other online musician communities. We can search for weeks without finding something we’re truly interested in pursuing, lose our patience and start answering ads that don’t really fit the bill just so we can get back in the saddle again. Once in awhile this works, but most often if we aren’t at least internally enthusiastic about the project we’ll end up either in conflict with someone or wasting everyone’s time involved. Goals are incredibly important in making things work, and if your goals don’t match the group’s there will inevitably be conflict of some sort. Think back to that girlfriend or boyfriend you fell for who started trying to change you into someone they really wanted to be with, who wasn’t who you really were. Was it a pleasant experience? How did it end? How do you feel even thinking about it? Yeah, bands are just like that. Don’t think that you’ll sneak in and then change things to meet your needs. Instead, find or create a new situation that will do so, not at the expense of someone else’s.
If you’re unsure about what you want, take the time to figure it out. You might find doing so to chafe a bit, but it’s time well spent. Hit the local open mics to keep your live chops honed and keep your performance jones somewhat fed. Doing so keeps you fresh, while also providing the opportunity to make contacts in the community that could lead to pickup work and possibly a new band or two to work with. It can also lead to establishing a pool of players to recruit from if you decide “to hell with this, I’m starting my own band.” Word of mouth can do wonders in helping you find a situation that meets, and often exceeds your needs. Be patient, yes, but get out there and do it while you can!