Community is a priceless commodity in any business, but especially so in the music industry. Having a community around your music equals exposure, support, and creative traction. Often we as musicians rely on our community to find their way to our shows, punt our creative work, and hopefully share our music with their friends and family. Sometimes, we have to reach out to our community to find other musicians to write and collaborate with. Putting yourself out to the world in hopes of finding a great songwriting partner or session musician can lead to interesting new sounds or creative ideas. If you’re lucky enough, these ideas can take you to heights more extraordinary than you could imagine. Here are seven classified musician ads that changed the course of music history as we know it.
During the early Summer of 1968, drummer Phil Ward and guitarist Tony Iommi would abandon their first band, Mythology, to form a more exciting blues-rock act. On the other end of town a young, and strange John Michael Osborne had been looking around for a band to play with and placed an ad in the local town newspaper stating, “Ozzy Zig, needs a gig. Have own P.A.”. The ad would lead him to bassist Geezer Butler, and the two would form a short-lived band called Rare Breed.
The musicians would meet through the local scene and decided to unite after a few impromptu jams formally. The band called themselves Earth, right up until they got booked alongside a band with the same name. Across the road from the band’s rehearsal room was a cinema that screened horror movies, and this is where Osbourne first discovered the word Black Sabbath. The group would become rock and roll royalty and are believed to be the band that first popularized the term “heavy metal.”
In the music business, talent and ambition are not enough to get you to the top. However, perseverance does count for something. Just ask American Folk darlings, The Lumineers. For the first seven years of their career, the band (made up of songwriters Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraitz) found it challenging to catch a break in the New York City music scene. The duo had been trying out several styles, from hard rock to fully electronic music.
Frustrated but not discouraged, the pair made a sudden and brave move to Denver, Colorado, to readjust their game plan. During this time, Schultz put out a Craigslist ad that sought out any fellow songwriters or musicians in the area. The ad was picked up by cellist Neyla Pekarek, who had just finished college and started a teaching career. She committed to playing
part-time for the act. Still, undeniable chemistry had formed between the three musicians, and they upped their songwriting game ten-fold, incessantly penning folk-hit after hit. The move was a step in the right direction, and in 2011, The Lumineers had a global number 1 hit with the song, “Ho Hey.” The band would go on to release three full-length albums and enjoy extensive world tours.
This story is an excellent example of how a classified ad can breathe new life into a musical project. During the 1980’s Mick Mars would repetitively try and fail to get his bands off the ground. Frustrated, he went through a complete reinvention phase and would place a half-hearted ad in L.A. Newspaper The Recycler: “Loud, rude, aggressive guitarist available’. Mars was not exaggerating.
The ad was picked up by drummer Tommy Lee, who wrote songs with bassist Nikki Sixx out of their home across town. The rhythm section would invite Mars over for a jam, and they would spark natural chemistry that convinced Mars to fire Lee’s current guitarist that same day. The move proved to have the kind of assertiveness that Lee was seeking, and they would hire singer Vince Neil at the request of drummer Tommy Lee. Motley Crue was responsible for some of the most outlandish glam rock stunts, outfits, and shows. Looking back at their rollercoaster career, it’s astonishing to think that they sold so many albums and played countless shows, all from one unassuming classified advertisement.
The early bird gets the worm, or at least this was the modus for 14-year-old Larry Mullen during the summer of 1976 in Dublin, Ireland. A restless and ambitious Mullen decided that he had rock star aspirations. He promptly put up an advertisement on the school’s local noticeboard looking for serious musicians. After a few back and forths, Mullen managed to organize a meeting of five boys, including him, for a band tryout.
Mullen had initially had the idea to call his act The Larry Mullen Band. On the day of the tryout, Adam Clayton joined on bass, a set of guitarist brothers named David and Dik Evans, and a spritely doe-eyed Paul Hewson, who seemed to be handcrafted for the position of frontman. After meeting singer Hewson, Larry Mullen knew that he could not call his act the Larry Mullen Band while being shown up by such charisma, so they settled on the name Feedback. After a few years of playing local gigs, the band had found a severe groove and decided that their current name wasn’t going to match their success rate and opted for something simpler; U2.
Elton John is the unmistakably flamboyant voice behind some of music’s most searing ballads. John has now had over fifty years of musical triumphs and tribulations. But what many people don’t know is that Elton John has had a musical right-hand man for the majority of these fifty years.
In 1967, an A&R representative from London music label Liberty records placed an ad in the New Musical Express magazine seeking new songwriters. The ad was answered by a handful of people, including a young man named Ben Taupin and Reginald Dwight, who would later become Elton John. Both men failed to impress the executives at Liberty Records, and by sheer dumb luck, somehow John landed up with an envelope filled with Taupin’s lyrics and poetry. Since then, the pair have written a tremendous body of work together, with Taupin penning songs on classics like “Candle In The Wind,” “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues,” and “Rocket Man.”
They say luck is what happens when opportunity meets preparation. Well, sometimes that idea gets a bit thrown out of order, and you may land up with pure luck instead. It was the mid-80’s when songwriter Francis Black and guitarist Joey Santiago decided that they were going to take music seriously and formalize a group. The two had a tiny social circle and were not into the same types of music that we’re going to make the Billboard Top 100 at the time.
After formation in early 1986. singer Black put out an advertisement in the local paper that requested a bassist that liked both Husker Du and folk artists Peter, Paul, and Mary. The ad got a single response from budding muso Kim Deal. A deal could not even play bass at the time, but seeing as she was the only one who answered Black’s ad and liked his music, she got asked promptly to join the band. The outcast trio grew to become alternative rock legends Pixies, who took the world by storm with their popular hit, “Where Is My Mind?”.
Tips for putting out a musician’s classifieds.
1. Be specific – As with any job listing, you’ll want to put in as many details in your ad as possible to find the right people to work with. Make sure you list your practice times, locations, and other logistical information involving your band or project.
2. List your influences – Let your prospective collaborator know what music you’re using to reference the project you’re working on. There’s a subtle but distinct line between music you like and music you use for your creativity. You may be into rap, but if you’re advertising for a jazz band, don’t list the former in your ad.
3. Don’t Lie – It can be tempting to bait musicians with ambitious offers of future incomes or exciting shows, but if these things aren’t set in stone, it can lead to communication breakdowns and conflict between members. Try to be upfront and honest about which tier you’re at musically, and if there is a financial aspect to the project, iron out as many details as you can in the beginning.
4. Be realistic about your standards – If you’re a novice musician or someone who plays as a hobby, it doesn’t make sense to put out an ad for a full-time classically trained professional who eats and sleeps and breathes music. Find someone to collaborate with that is on your level and shares similar musical aspirations and standards.
It’s quite often that we have to get out of our comfort zones to further our creativity. Sometimes this will mean having to look outside of your regular music circles for inspiration and collaboration. If the list above is anything to go by, then it’s fair to say that putting out a classified ad is a low-risk, high reward means of finding a great musical partner or two. Thanks to modern technology, you can do that right here on BandMix. We hope this article gets your gears turning, and maybe it’s time to place that ad to get one step closer to the next musical discovery.