Now that I've let the cat out of the bag regarding the new lineup we can all have some fun picking apart the utter mistakes we made along the way auditioning singers. The suffering we experienced over the last 9 months was every bit our fault. I think we were exhausted, disillusioned and frankly unmotivated to do the work to find someone good. When our manager said 'let's comb Craigslist and see who we find' I really wanted to exit the building at that point.
Let's be honest... Craigslist success is based on two things-#2abundance of demand in a region and #2-people connected to the internet looking for supply. I'm often scouring local CL for used music gear and usually pretty disappointed with local offerings. That's b/c even though I'm 75 mins from the heart of NYC there are few professional or gigging musicians in my area. Now I know some here have had success using CL to find musicians. I say it's all about your area. I prefere Facebook much better than CL because it proves that someone is social media savy (a must in the entertainment world) and you can see the person you are communicating with. When someone who looks like Jeff Bridges from Crazy Heart wants to audition for lead singer of your Top 40 dance band well... as talented as they may b perhaps this wouldn't be the right project for them. I've always believed the best finds are through people you know... people as motivated as you to get off their ass and play. When we auditioned drummers last Spring all three were referrals from other musicians. In fact it was the singer we fired that actually recommended our drummer.
We were in a desperate space when we auditioned our 'fired' singer. Our frontman of 10 years had just resigned and we had 9 months of calendar bookings on the table. We had already cancelled the first month to make way for auditions, rehearsals and get a sub-singer ready with a workable setlist. We rented rehearsal space and lined up three Facebook/ Craigslist answerees. The first guy calls in late... way late. Like 30 mins (sigh). So we wait for the second guy to show which is some 23 year old kid, completely unmemorable, couldn't sing well, couldn't rap (so his Pro Tools demo was certainly enhanced). We thank him and finally #1 shows up 1:hr and 15 mins late. Nice looking kid... a little hipster. Short. I'm skeptical. He had sent us a video he produced singing a punk cover of Ace of Base The Sign playing all of the instruments. Yes a You Tube prodigy. When we launched into "Don't Stop believing" I got chills up my back. I looked over and thought I was listening to Steve Perry. So much that after the song I quickly launched into the melody of "Oh Cherrie" He looked confused. He was only 26. After that he sang Fall Out Boy-Sugar I'm Going Down' Now it was clicking... he sounded alot like Patrick Stump too. We asked him how much of our setlist he knew.... none really. His favorite period of music was the late 90's alternative. 3rd Eye Blind.... not so good for the dance stuff I guess but we quickly talked about song choices... Green Day... 3rd Eye... Tonic. That stuff is in resurgance now. Hmmmmmmm. He left and we stayed to discuss.... "wow, did you hear his voice" "Man, we could bring back this song... I've always wanted to cover this..." Our manager: "I didn't like the fact he showed up almost 90 minutes late... who does that to a job interview. He also admitted that he had never heard of us or even knew the clubs that we played. He hasn't performed in a cover band before. I'll say his voice is good but how much work will it take to get him to point B?" We all acknowledged those points but his talent was undeniable.
We auditioned the remaining singers but by #4 we were all rolling back to the guy we were first interested in. We called him back for a 2nd audition. He covered "IT's getting Hott in Here" (a setlist staple). He could rap convincingly. We all looked at each other... asked him pointed questions about his time, commitment, interest, enthusaism. He said all of the right things. We offered him the job. Our singer departed Jan 5th. This was Jan 18th. His first official gig was going to be April 4th.
Of course if you read the other thread you'll know that we lost a drummer and guitarist shortly after that. That took our eye off the ball... getting this new singer up to speed. But just like an employer fails b/c they don't communicate clear enough goals to the employee, it's up to the new hire to take initiative and make sure they do whats required. During this time we made two critical mistakes:
#1- We didn't maintain regular communication and rehearsals with the new singer. We left him alone for a month with the recordings as we continued to gig or deal with crisis. I remember our first gig with our first sub after cancelling a month of shows. We told the new singer about the show and encouraged him to come. That encouragement should have been mandatory. He showed up WoW-eyed at the size of the show, presentation but left in the middle of the 2nd set. His girlfriend was tired. It wasn't until a month ;later that he showed up again to a show. In reality he should have been at every show... helping to load in, helping to tear down... taking in the setlist... making notes.
#2-We didn't set a structure and deadline for rehearsing material. So when he showed up he knew bits and pieces of our setlist all over the place, but not enough to rehearse a complete set.
#3- We should have 'vet' him on his stage experience and confidence behind a mic. His voice was terrific and offstage he seemed confident. Almost cocky. Yet not knowing or seeing him perform in front of a live audience was a critcal mistake. Even with our new singer we knew he sang and performed with several chorus and touring groups. He's a natural on the mic and in front of an audience.
What was more depressing than having invested two months with the guy and have him less that 30% tight with our material was the audition offers and that came from people who clearly were not a fit or didn't understand what the band was about. Here is a successful dance/party/top 40 band with an established name and people who auditioned were adept at singing Robert Plant and ZZ Top or spent time singing Karaokee... or worse, their bedroom. lacking any stage prescence or presentation skills.
We've always pulled people into this band that we knew from playing in other bands and we always had satisfactory results. I've always been a believer... if you want to find a good band. network yourself. get out on the scene and introduce yourself to the best bands in the area. That's how you find work. And that's uaully how bands find reliable players. When touring acts are looking for backing players do they comb Craigslist or do they ask people in the know who they would recommend. (actually I'm sure an agent is involved.
Anyone have experiences auditioning singers they'd like to share? I'd love to hear the good, bad and ugly?