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7 Steps to a Successful Audition
by Marco Kasel, Posted August 27th, 2007

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I have been a musician since the age of 7 and in my career I've passed a larger number of auditions all of which have taught me something. These days, however, as the owner of a talent agency, I seem to be learning a disproportionate amount more about these same auditions. There is something to be said about looking at an issue from different perspectives.
In this article, I want to shed some light on what an audition process looks like from the point of view of the "auditioner" rather than the "auditionee.” I'll give you seven tips that will hopefully help you prepare better for upcoming auditions.
I should mention that my company hires musicians, bands, and variety acts for placement on cruise ships and thus the auditions I'll talk about will mostly relate to cruise line entertainment auditions, however, auditions for jobs outside of the cruise line industry are very similar so this applies to just about any musician.
Let me quickly outline the various types of auditions you can encounter when applying for a job on a cruise ship.  The most obvious type would be the live audition, where you go to the audition location in person and play what's asked of you. You may also be asked to record your audition on videotape and mail it to the company. This is very similar to the first category since you'd play almost exactly the same music. And finally, you may be asked to submit a recording of your band or your solo act to the company. This audition differs from the previous two in that you don't have to perform music that the company provides, but rather your own repertoire.
There are several problems that keep arising in regards to these different types of auditions that have led me to compile the following tips.

1. Get the details on the job description
This is one of the most important steps. If you know exactly what it is that the employer is looking for, you won't waste time, money, and energy presenting the wrong package. There is no point in submitting a CD/DVD of your local blues band if the employer is looking for a cover band that plays all kinds of musical styles. Similarly, there is no point in applying as a clarinet player if the job description clearly indicates that woodwind players have to play saxophone, flute and clarinet.  Also, if sight-reading is the main focus of the job you're applying for, there is no point in hoping you'll slip by simply because you can improvise like Charlie Parker.

2. Be flexible enough to present what's actually needed
Let's assume that you got all the details on the job description and you realize that you don't exactly fit that description. It is probably wiser for you to take some time to try to fit the description, rather than trying anyway, hoping it'll pass somehow. Try to make changes to your line-up, add some repertoire or start a completely new project that’s geared toward the job in question. You want to avoid getting turned down, otherwise it may be hard or impossible to establish credibility with the company you’ve auditioned for, which in turn can ruin your chances for a future career.  

3. Audition only when you feel that you have a good chance of passing
Often musicians apply for a job they are not qualified for. Now, you could argue that that's what auditions are for, and people couldn't possibly know in every case whether they are qualified or not. I agree, all I'm saying is that if the job description mentions that strong sight-reading skills are required for example, musicians should ask themselves how good their sight-reading skills really are and be honest about it.  

Being dishonest about what your skills really are can hurt you in more ways than one. Let's assume for a minute that you slip through the cracks and you end up in an orchestra but you can't cut the gig. First and foremost, you'll be humiliated in front of other musicians, you'll feel uncomfortable, you may actually feel guilty for not being able to do the job, and you will get fired on top of it, which will most likely kill your career before it has begun. (This happens all too often...)

So if you are unsure about whether you are qualified or not, ask questions. Call the agency you are about to audition for and ask specific questions that will help you get a good picture of the job you're about to apply for. With that knowledge you can always postpone the audition and work on the skills that you may feel you're lacking.

4. Put some time and effort into preparing your best possible package
This applies to bands, small ensembles, and solo entertainers. Often artists get turned down, not because they are bad entertainers, but because they didn't supply a package that's appealing, that can be viewed quickly and that presents exactly what was asked for in the beginning. Often this happens because the artist already has some demo laying around that could kind of qualify but not really, and instead of modifying it or recording a new one that fits the specifications, they send it in anyway.

Usually, demo packages include the recording itself, which should present the exact repertoire you're planning to play on the gig, a short resume of each member, and a list of your repertoire.
You won't impress people with fancy DVD animations or 12-page resumes, but rather with short examples of the repertoire that's asked of you, played with energy and skill.

5. Try to impress with your playing, not with your resume  
I would say 7 people out of 10 probably fall under this category. Simply put, a masters degree from the best school in the country won't get you a gig if you can't play, yet all too often do people try to sway the decision in their favor by mailing in overly long resumes stating all the famous people they've played with. You're doing yourself a disservice if you hype yourself up with your resume and you can't back it up later during the audition.  

6. If you fail, accept the criticism and use it to prepare better for your next audition
All the practicing in the world may sometimes not be enough to pass an audition. If that's the case, accept the reasons that you're given by the jury, and go home and practice those specific things. If they aren't forthcoming with specific reasons, ask questions. I think it's only fair that a jury tells you what your weaknesses are if they turn you down. I'll spare you the details of all the things we've heard from people that have been rejected. Just watch "American Idol,” and you'll get a good idea of what we go through sometimes.

7. Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses
This step ties in with step #3. Keep in mind that the ideal candidate for a job is not always the best musician. Other qualities like honesty, work ethic, respect for others and inter-communication skills, amongst others, are qualities that you're being judged on. Weaknesses you've been trying to hide prior to the audition will come out during the audition and will speak volumes about your character. Would you hire a dishonest person?  

A lot of candidates don't bother to cancel their audition if they can't make it! This leaves a very bad impression. Companies like to know that they can rely on the people they hire, not to mention that there should be mutual respect between the two parties. All candidates that fail to notify us (at Oceanbound Entertainment Inc.) of their cancellation will be blacklisted, and won't be given another audition slot.
Those are my seven steps to a successful audition. I hope that some of you will find this information helpful. Please visit my website for more information on the subject of "Music on Cruise Ships.” Contact me if you have questions or if you'd like to audition.


Marco Kasel is a musician and business owner. More articles can be found on his blog (http://blog.oceanbound.ca/blog/) or on his website www.oceanbound.ca

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