So, you got the chops, you got the drive, and you’d drop everything to load up all your gear and head to an audition for a major artist… hell, maybe even a minor artist. And, you should- auditions don’t come up nearly as often as you’d think. Walking into an audition can feel like an episode of the ubiquitous television show, Shark Tank. In case you haven’t seen it, Shark Tank is a show where entrepreneurs pitch a business plan or an idea to investors in hopes of entering into a partnership with one of several intimidating judges. Most of the viewers don’t watch the show for business advice so much as to see wide-eyed and hopeful dreamers get ripped to shreds by the brutally honest and hilariously insulting “Sharks”. The signature catch phrase that the Sharks use is, “…and for that reason, I’m out.” Having watched nearly every single episode, I’ve developed a keen psychic ability to predict exactly why a contestant will fail miserably.
The primary reasons that these contestants fail is the same reason that many musicians fail in an audition- it’s unoriginal, heartless, just plain bad, bizarre, or is incredibly over valued. So, here goes a guide that parallels Shark Tank fails to gig auditions, which will help you navigate the “waters” safely at your next big audition for a gig.
By: Derek Williams
Top 5 Ways to Avoid Getting Eaten Alive at An Audition:
1) “There’s nothing unique about this, and for that reason, I’m out.”
Artists are sort of like children. They want the newest and hottest toys on the market. An artist doesn’t want a run-of-the-mill, shoe-gazing,hired gun. He wants to show off his newest band member to his management, label, artist friends, parents, etc. Take a look at yourself. Is there anything about you that distinguishes you from your competition? A lot of hired guns are afraid to step out of the norm. of what’s expected, so they only deliver the same old trite musical licks, wardrobe, and energy. Be yourself. There are hundreds of hired guns in Nashville, LA, and New York, that offer the exact same package. There’s only one you. If you strive to be more like you and less like them, it will be noticed, and could be the key to your audition success.
2) “Your heart isn’t completely in this, and for that reason, I’m out.”
If you’re auditioning for an artist or band, it’s likely that there is an upcoming tour that everyone in the band has dedicated their year to. They don’t have any other job- just that one task in mind. You, on the other hand, have reservations about quitting your day job or current gig. If you explain this to the band or artist, you’re guaranteed to not get the gig. They will think, “We’ve committed everything to this gig; why is it even a question if you should do the same?” If an artist or band knows that you’re not completely committed to setting everything aside for this gig, then you are a huge liability. New artists can’t afford risks. To be fair, you might have a family and a mortgage to worry about. Worry about it within your family and close friends. If the artist or band is telling you that you must commit now, and they promise to pay you when the money comes in, that’s a decision you have to make. But, take it from me (and countless others who have been burned), do not get paid in promises, because if that promise gets broken, then so are you. When you’re auditioning for a gig, at the least appear to be all in.
3) “You’re not developed enough for us to move forward, and for that reason, I’m out.”
You have the passion, you have the great look, you have the gear, you know the slang- you’re the total package…but, you’re not ready. Artists and bands usually say something along these lines to put it lightly that you suck or you are way too immature to handle what this gig will throw at you. Maybe you’re the hottest musician in your hometown. Maybe you get all the calls to play with everyone at churches, bar gigs, demo sessions, and everyone tells you how amazing you are. Well, that doesn’t mean that you’re an awesome musician in a big pond such as Nashville, LA, or New York. Ponder this: how many people in your life would actually critique your playing in an honest way? Probably zero to one. One being some butthead on YouTube that tells everyone they suck. It’s a great idea for everyone on any level to sit down for a music lesson every now and then. Ask someone- maybe a total stranger- to critique your playing or songwriting, etc. Do not argue with them. Do not defend yourself. Listen carefully, and reflect on some changes you may need to make. Know yourself. Strive for self awareness, and you WILL grow.
4) “I can’t take you seriously based on your appearance and attitude, and for that reason, I’m out.”
Imagine White Zombie was holding auditions for a synth/keys player. Would you expect to see a lumbersexual dude walk in to audition? Now, this guy can shred his ass off, and may be the best guy for the job, but right away, his appearance and attitude is going to stir up a knee-jerk prejudice against him. Unfortunate, but true. People’s first and deepest impression of you is how you look. Sometimes that is completely obvious- like not going to a Toby Keith audition wearing a turban. Sometimes people read into smaller details. For example, if a guy walks in looking filthy and disheveled, they may write it off as a rough night. But, then let’s say he leaves his empty water bottle on the audition stage when he leaves, and forgets to shut the door on the way out, then the prejudice is reinforced- “this guy might be a slob”. If he had come in looking great and done those things, then no one would probably have that slant. So, do not underestimate the importance of how you appear to others. You don’t want to lose an audition because you’re the ‘misunderstood artist’. Take the time to create and refine a great look! Need image help? Contact Derek Williamsor Bill Vandiver, here.
5) “You’ve grossly over-valuated your brand (you have too big of an ego), and for that reason, I’m out.”
If you’re not a humble person, it’s nearly impossible to convince you that you’re not. In fact, probably only non-conceited people are even reading this part of the article. If you’re still reading along, then that’s a good sign! So, since none of us are arrogant- I mean- how could I be arrogant? I will share advice on how to avoid coming off as a prideful, conceited, arrogant musician, so that you never accidentally give that image.
* Be on time. If you’re late, you’re basically telling everyone that your time is more important than theirs. Show up on time to your audition.
* Be amiable. If you’re a quiet person, and especially a good-looking quiet person, or super-talented quiet person, then sometimes people can misread you as being snobby. People want to get to know you. Talk a little.
* No bitch face. Bitch face is when you’re resting face is a scowl, sort of like Posh Spice. You fit in by smiling. We aren’t always happy when we smile. We smile to fit in.
* Be quick to listen. If someone at the audition critiques you, you better shut up and listen. Do not argue and tell them, “No, no…this is how it goes”. This is a constant critique on American Idol. When someone is telling you something, get out of your own head, and listen to them. Your insecurity could be interpreted as arrogance.
So, that’s it! Time to take off your water wings, act like a pro, and dive right into the tank. Good luck! And for one-on-one advice on how to improve your odds at finding a major gig, or for other career advice, contact Derek Williams for career counseling, here.
Derek Williams, guitarist for Jake Owen, has played guitar for over 45 bands in Nashville, including 25 major-label artists. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Performance with a specialization in classical guitar from Austin Peay State University. He offers career mentoring to aspiring musicians worldwide at a Nashville, TN studio and via Skype. Visit our page, Career Counselors, to learn more, now.