Industry Insider(2)

April 1, 2004

Getting Into A Superstar’s Band

Want to land a job playing with a star singer? Well, your proverbial 15 minutes of fame may be closer than you think. All you need is 15 minutes with fame—that is, an audition with a mega act, where you prove you’re one guitarist they simply can’t gig without.

To get there, heed the following advice from professional musical headhunter Barry Squire, who not only refers musicians to superstars such as Alanis Morissette, Hole, Nine Inch Nails, Macy Gray, John Mayer, the American Idol winners, and dozens of others, he also runs their auditions.

Look the Part. “I look for what record companies are looking for, and those are generally the same kinds of guitar players you see on MTV,” explains Squire. “Artists get a lot of pressure to choose musicians who have the right image—especially because TV is such a big part of touring now. Band members have to look like the target audience.”

Don’t Show Off. “One of the biggest mistakes guitarists make at auditions is overplaying. They forget that, in most cases, they’re not auditioning for other guitarists who might be interested in their technical ability, but for artists who only want to hear how well that guitarist can play their songs. It’s best just to get the right tones, have the right personality, play the parts well, and appear to be professional.”

Know the Deal. “Most new rock bands signed to major record deals pay musicians in the range of $750 to $1,250 per week, plus a per diem of $20 or $30 a day. Established bands that can play medium-sized venues pay in the range of $1,000 to $2,000 per week. Artists who have gold or platinum records pay the most, and they typically negotiate with their musicians, who can expect to get anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000 dollars per week.”

—Jude Gold

Nadine Sez:
The difference between a musician who makes it and one who doesn’t is simple. The successful one had a plan and followed it. There is a popular misconception that planning hampers the spontaneity of creativity. Actually, making a plan is the most important activity you can undertake to support your creative efforts. It’s a lot easier to “let it flow” when you know you have time set aside to write, an appropriate rehearsal space, the money for that new amp, and a series of shows to practice your chops. Planning is the godmother of success.

Success is made up of very simple things: writing a good song, having a productive rehearsal, making an effective demo, and so on. Stringing together simple successes gives you larger successes. Flexibility in planning is key, as circumstances and criteria change. And, as things rarely happen in the music business in any predictable manner, you are the one responsible for keeping yourself grounded.

Study, read, and educate yourself on the way music business is done. There’s a wealth of information out there, and it’s up to you to find the pieces of your own career puzzle. —Excerpted from Hot Hits, Cheap Demos [Backbeat] by Nadine Condon (

Next month: Establishing a time line.

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