How To Hire A Musician for Your Band

How To Hire A Musician for Your Band

Finding ideal musicians for your band is no easy feat, and several factors can help you in this process. This situation is trial and error, like finding the perfect parts for your racecar’s engine. You must keep in mind a few things when trying to find the best musician for your band. This is why it’s important to know how to hire a musician for your band.

This article will cover some advice and essential factors to keep in mind, basic and in-depth, when you begin your process to hire a musician. This guide includes payments, the musician’s commitment, the level of commitment you want from them, and many vital tips.

Know What Your Band is, and Know What You Need

Defining yourself is essential when finding the proper musician for you. Knowing what kind of musician you need goes back to you and your band. Don’t just pick up some guy that plays the guitar well. It would be best if you had someone to play guitar well and fits your band. 

For example, we have a guy named Jimmy.

Jimmy plays fantastic Nirvana covers at one of your local bars. You don’t know that Jimmy faints in front of crowds larger than seven. Finding this out early is essential; otherwise, you might end up having a slightly awkward moment later.

One of the best ways to get this out of the way is to see them play in another band. You can also have a band rehearsal of your own when interviewing a guy like Jimmy. 

One other aspect is to trust reliable sources, such as fellow musicians and artists. Your existing music community connections will help.

Alternatively, you can always rely on the web for recommendations; YouTube and Facebook are a great start to see them in action without going. You can also use local or online wanted ads, but always be careful when searching online. 

Disclose Your Expectations to the Musician; Details are Key

Discussing the details upfront will set expectations if they join your band. Below are a few examples of what you need to disclose. This discussion will avoid any future miscommunications when you’ve already hired the musician for your band.

Don’t Forget Legal Concerns

If you plan on using the newbie as a slot filler, you might not have to worry about copyrights. However, being part of a band may mean they are entitled to some returns. For example, they might assume their contribution to the band allows them to 50% of your song’s revenue, saving the remaining three or four members of your crew the other half.

By establishing a legal agreement ahead of schedule, you can avoid this situation. That way, you don’t get sued by using a track that this musician contributed to in a way that they don’t like. 

It also establishes immediate understanding and respect for their musical talent. You start on the right foot by offering them something for the music they contribute to. After all, they might want creative input on how the track will be used going forward. 

The Musician’s Level of Commitment

You want to hire a musician that can give you the best commitment possible. Commitment is what’s going to drive your band to success. If your band comprises super committed and passionate musicians, you have a great start.

Here’s an example of how committed the musicians can be. On average, committed and devoted musicians reportedly spend at least 3 hours and up to 8 hours practicing every day. Heck, these musicians probably rehearse on holidays too! No rest!

Therefore, find out what their commitment is to do the band. Below are examples that you can keep in mind when trying to find out what the musician’s commitments are:

  • Long term/Career Driven
  • Financial Reasons
  • A Hobby
  • Social Status
  • To Help Out for a Night

In finding out what level of commitment they have, ask yourself this question, do you have the same level of commitment they do? Maybe not; maybe you are the one that is not as committed as the musicians are. Define this in yourself and in the musicians you want to hire.

Hiring Freelance Music Makers

Keep in mind that when you are trying to hire musicians, most of them are freelancers, which means that aside from being a musician, sometimes these guys have something else going on in their lives— a full-time job, a stay at home parent, maybe even another band to tend to. So, keep in mind that schedules conflict as they may be swamped and may have several obligations going on in their life.

Here are a few examples of famous artists who had other part-time/full-time jobs aside from being a musician:

  • AC/DC Frontman, Bon Scott: Before performing on one of the best stadiums on the planet and creating a pop culture itself from the band alone, AC/DC frontman Bon Scott worked as a postman in Fremantle, Australia, and several other jobs, including bartender and a truck packer.
  • Hip Hop Rapper, Kanye West: Before Kanye West became a rapper, he was a sales assistant at the retail store Gap. He even referenced his time working in the retail store on his first album, The College Dropout. Now he is considered one of the most famous rappers in modern hip hop.
  • Lamb of God Guitarist Mark Morton: Before shredding the guitar in front of hundreds and thousands of fans, Mark Morton used to be a restoration roofer in Richmond, Virginia. When he interviewed with Kerrang! Magazine, he said, “I took a lot of pride in my work, and it’s what paid my bills as I was coming up through the ranks with the band.”
  • Nirvana Frontman Kurt Cobain: As the frontman of one of the greatest rock artists ever existed, he worked as a Janitor in Lemon’s Janitorial Service in Aberdeen, Washington. While cleaning toilets, he was committed to rehearsing and immersing himself artistically, birthing what pop culture knows as Nirvana.
  • Country Singer, Jason Aldean: He initially worked at a Georgia Pepsi plant when he was 17 and drove Pepsi delivery trucks to convenience stores. Afterward, he decided to move to Nashville to chase his dream.

Discussing A Band Member’s Availability

Another thing to consider is that they may be playing with other bands. So when you are trying to schedule a gig, make sure your offer doesn’t conflict on the same night two of your musicians are playing somewhere else. But sometimes, they could have no gig going on for several months. 

Having a musician as a profession can be very unpredictable when managing time. Therefore, being innovative is crucial as the bandleader. Musicians need to manage their time by being informed of a date, time, and place where the gig is.

A musician’s commitment to your gig may mean turning down several other gigs he has going on. Or his commitment to other gigs may mean turning yours down. If you decide to change the dates and times of your gigs at the last minute, it will impact your reputation negatively.

How Much Does Hiring a Musician Cost? 

Before hiring a musician, find out the going rate where you live or perform. For example, in Los Angeles, a musician’s average cost is roughly around $100 – $200 for a gig and approximately $45 – $75 for rehearsals. However, this will differ depending on the musician’s experience, skillset, and demand. 

It won’t be a surprise when you come across a musician that will need way more than average while some will accept less. If this is the first time you are hiring a musician, maybe ask around the community. Other bandleaders, singer/songwriters, or even music managers within the community know how much you should pay a musician.

Payment Negotiation With Musicians

Now, here’s a tip. Don’t immediately agree with the asking rate because sometimes it will be a lot more than what you are prepared to pay. And if you turn them down and offer another one at a much lower rate, maybe you will feel like a chump for trying to undercut them. Just negotiate, discuss it from one musician to another. Find that sweet spot within the deal!

Let them know the details, as it always helps with clear communication on payment. You always have the option to negotiate. Just be respectful and fair to the musician you are hiring. What you pay is what you get. If you ask them to play the gig for $50 and their asking price is $60, that may sound reasonable. But try to make it respectfully work with them, or they will probably pass on the opportunity with you.

Splitting the Paycheck

When you are about to hire a musician, one thing you have to know is how you pay. One way that some bands do it is to split the paycheck by door (in halves). “Dutch Door” style means that you split the pay equally. If it’s a total of four of you in the band, then you split the paycheck four ways. 

However, splitting the paycheck Dutch Door style can bite you if you are not careful with it. If you were to break the paycheck equally in the beginning as your band is building up a reputation and making “okay” money, then it is fine. 

The issue is when you’ve finally made a name for yourself, and the gig you get paid goes up to $4,000. Now, will you be splitting that paycheck four ways? If you do, the musicians will expect the same cut even when they begin playing for bigger gigs and getting paid more. But here’s one thing that separates you from the rest. You are the leader of the band.

The band leader is the brain of the band—the entrepreneur. You most likely made a name for your crew from your image. Therefore, it is your reputation on the line. All the management decisions that the band goes through are most likely through you. You are the individual that sets up the gigs. 

Now here’s a different setup. Let’s say you get a $3,000 paycheck from a gig on this popular venue. If you are ditching the Dutch Door-style paycheck split, then at this point, you should pay your musicians a fair wage. Maybe keep it at $250 for that whole hour. What do you do with the rest of the money? Invest it back into the band. Marketing, new equipment, maybe a band manager! 

Remember that you are the entrepreneur, and the band is essentially your baby. You need the musicians, but they need you to keep the heart of the band beating. Of course, your gigs will not pay as much in the beginning. It will almost certainly not pay the band enough, and you’ll most likely have to make some sacrifices. 

But remember that those early investments in the band will pay off in the future. You will be selling out your gigs in the most popular venues with the loyal musicians you have who have felt respected and appreciated since the band started with nothing.

Splitting Costs Between You and the New Band Member 

Expenses. Don’t think that this obligation doesn’t play a part when hiring a musician. One of the essential things to know when hiring a musician (and to keep them in the band) is to make sure the musician gets fair treatment! Make them feel comfortable and welcome.

When you increase the musician’s comfort within the band, you will automatically increase the quality of their output through practice, creativity level, and even when playing live! 

For example, when you have a hungry musician, he will most likely be a “hangry” musician. Have you ever tried getting anything done while hangry? It doesn’t work and sometimes leads to busted equipment. 

If you don’t think you can provide the expenses of comfort during travel tours and gigs, then make sure you let them know when you are about to hire them. Let them know if they have to pay their expenses, such as food and lodging, or if they have to at least pitch in.

Below are some expenses examples:

  • Studio for Rehearsal Purposes
  • Food
  • Transportation (For traveling tours)
  • Accommodation (E.g., Hotel, Motels, Inn, Airbnb, etc.)

If you pay for these expenses without expecting a group contribution, you can include this in your payment negotiations (see above). Temporary artists might be more flexible to work with you if you handle all expenses, only to have them “pay you back” once it comes to payouts. 

How To Find Musicians Publically 

One piece of advice is that you don’t want to hire a “Joe Schmoe” that applied online or in your local neighborhood just because your uncle says he is a fantastic musician. Check out who the local players are within the area.

Live settings (like your local bars or coffee houses) are excellent places to start. This will give you the chance to see how they play in front of an audience, how comfortable they are, and what their skillsets are. 

Plus, this will also let you decide their skill level. Maybe the most incredible guitarist in the area might not be suitable for your band, or worse, not good at all. Perhaps the extraordinary vocalist that people keep talking about isn’t that great once you check them out. 

It is imperative to know talents and recruit them when you see them. Do not settle for someone “kind of interested” because it is their hobby. Yeah, they have complete control over their instrument but are not quite suitable for your music genre. Know what you want and find them!

Conclusion – Final Tips of Hiring the Right Musician 

When hiring the best musicians, always focus on those that exhibit the right qualities:

  • Commitment
  • Passion
  • Skillset
  • Respect

Keep your eyes and ears open. There is talent everywhere. Visit musical venues and immerse yourself in the scene. Choose not only talented musicians but those who will mesh well with your band. 

When you find that perfect musician, could you treat them with respect and fairness? They’ll be likely to commit to you and your band if you do that. Also, it makes you less of a dillweed. 

In return for their commitment, provide them with what a band should be. Give your new member (even if it is temporary) a haven, a family-like circle, and a place where your “new hire” can express themselves creatively and emotionally.

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