By: Victoria Tay
An insider’s guide to hitting all the right notes at the Baybeats Budding Bands auditions
Published on 21 June 2018
Since its launch in 2002, Esplanade’s Baybeats festival has grown by leaps and bounds. Now one of Singapore’s biggest annual music festivals, the annual event is seen as a launching pad for homegrown indie acts to break into the music scene.
With the introduction of its “Budding Bands” programme in 2007, the festival has gained a reputation for supporting and finding up-and-coming new talent. The likes of Inch Chua and indie dream-pop band Subsonic Eye launched their careers with the help of the Baybeats platform. Now for the first time, the A List speaks to Esplanade’s lead programmer for Baybeats, Akilesh, and Baybeats Budding Bands mentorship programme mentor and co-founder of the Thunder Rock School, Leonard Soosay. Here are some of their tips on how to make it to the final list.
1. Have all your paperwork in order
Akilesh: Though this sounds intensive, oftentimes, the Esplanade sees close to 100 applications for the Budding Bands programme annually – and yes, we do listen and read through all of them. What we’re looking for is longevity in a band and how serious they are about the mentorship process. Sometimes, we see applications from veteran musicians from various bands. They apply for the Budding Bands programme just to play at Baybeats for that one year and then disband after that. While collaborations are cool, we aren’t looking for that in Budding Bands. We want to see new bands who are serious about taking their music to the next level and breaking into the Singapore music scene.
2. Make sure you have sharp live track recordings as well as studio recordings
Akilesh: Often, we hear very well-produced demo tracks from bands, but when it comes to performing live, they don’t do as well. One very key factor for us at Baybeats is how well you perform live, because Baybeats is ultimately an outdoor music festival that will be enjoyed by a live audience. Hence, you need to be able to capture their attention.
3. Be respectful of the audition process, and be on time
Leonard: During the first year of the audition process, we had Razi Razak (founder of the Rock Star Collective) as one of the mentors, and he was really strict about punctuality. To him, if you can come late to an audition, you can come late to a set. So those first impressions really count.
Akilesh: One of the key things I look out for is whether the bands are taking the audition process and the mentorship process, seriously. Do you respect what is going on? If I don’t see that, I don’t think that you will be a good fit for Budding Bands.
4. Be prepared
Leonard: Check your gear. Tune your instruments. We give you 20 minutes to set up, so if you didn’t take the time to set up and do your sound-checks, that can be telling for how you are as a band. Can you imagine having a sound or an instrument issue on the real day of Baybeats? That’s just embarrassing.
5. Have a nice arrangement of songs
Leonard: Aside from talent, have a good arrangement of songs. Music is really important in a live show – if the sound becomes monotonous after three minutes, that isn’t a good sign. You need to know how to keep your audience invested in you.
6. Know your band’s “thing”, but be open to experimenting
Akilesh: The Budding Bands programme has evolved from mentors attending a band’s rehearsal sessions and providing feedback before their performances into a programme that is a lot more intensive. It’s almost like music school. Not only do we coach you on your sound, we teach you the basics of music production and live sound management, give voice masterclasses, and even provide media and marketing training. How to present yourself can be just as important as your sound, because that’s where you get to truly understand what makes the sound of your band unique. So what I look out for are bands that have an understanding of what they’re all about, and are open to developing that further with the programme.
Leonard: This year, for instance, is really interesting. The bands we chose are really eclectic. A lot of them have a mixed sound and experimental style that don’t fall squarely into one genre. They know their sound, but they aren’t afraid to push their boundaries at the same time, and that is very cool.
7. Learn how to take in advice, and try, try again
Leonard: This year, we saw a lot of repeat bands from last year’s auditions try out again. Some of these bands have tried for three years in a row, and every year that they come back, they always ask me for advice for how to improve. So I’ll tell them what I think, and this year, I see that they have actually taken that advice. I really admire that because it shows determination. If you don’t keep trying, you’ll never get there.
Also, once you’re in the audition process, and you don’t make it to the shortlist – don’t be too discouraged. Remember, sometimes it is also about the line-up. Every year for the shortlist, we try to take in two indie, two rock and two metal bands. To me, by the time we reach the second round of auditions, I think everyone who has made it deserves to play at Baybeats. However, we have a programme, with two different stages, and we do need to be able to see if these bands can fit into the rest of the mix. If you don’t fit into the Baybeats final shortlist, what we do try to do as mentors and programmers is to try and see if we can fit you into other suitable Esplanade programmes. Maybe you can come back as a band for the next Baybeats line-up — you never know!
8. Be contactable and accountable for yourself
Akilesh: Again, this may be boring and matter-of-fact, but if you don’t know how to respond to e-mails or a phone call on time, you don’t know what opportunities you may miss out on. A lot of times, bands need to be accountable for themselves. As programmers, we want to do our best for the bands, so it would help us greatly if the bands were responsible and responsive too.
9. Practise, practise, practise
Leonard: If you’re really looking to be a serious long-term band, practise. Don’t just jam. Pretend there is an audience there. Also, don’t just stand there and play, have a bit of personality. And if you do make it to the mentorship programme, make full use of the experience, because this is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity that you won’t get anywhere else.
Baybeats 2018 will be returning to the Esplanade from August 17 to 19, 2018. Stay tuned for updates through their Facebook page here.
The A List congratulates those who made it to the Budding Bands 2018 Final List! Check out their tunes here: