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Musical Director Series - Pete Daynes

Continuing in our series interviewing Musical Directors for tips on how to become more employable in today's music industry, I recently sat down with a good friend and colleague of mine, Pete Daynes, to discuss his top 3 attributes when looking for musicians for his artists.

An exceptional musician and Musical Director, currently programming and MD'ing dodie and Orla Gartland, Pete is working with two of the biggest up coming female artists in the UK industry today.

What do you define as a Musical Director?

“An MD’s role varies from project to project. In a sense, the title of ‘Musical Director’ covers such a vast amount of responsibilities depending on who or what you’re working for – that covering the entire position across all musical projects, from orchestras to musicals to choir leaders to pop artists would require an entire book on it’s own. For this case, we’ll focus on an MD’s role from a pop music standpoint.

An MD’s primary role is to understand the artist’s musical vision and direction, and translate that into a live music environment. This in itself means that the working relationship between an artist and MD has to be a very close one, as it is their expertise in technology, arrangement and musician contacts that can help realise this vision. It’s a two way street though, as the MD should also have a very strong of understanding of the music, not just on an instrumental level, but lyrically too. This will help build trust and understanding between the two parties and as such, a mould for a setlist/show should present itself relatively easily."

What do you look for in musicians?

"When it comes to forming a session band to accompany the artist, there are a number of factors that MD’s will take into account.

After establishing a focus point and brief from the artist with everything from size of band number of members, style of player, perhaps even gender specification, an MD will have a good idea of what he or she is looking for. For me, here are the things I look out for when I’m putting a band together:

1) Level of musician.

The most important thing is of course how well they can play. Different positions will require different levels of player depending on the requirements, but generally, I’d be looking for an exceptional player at their given instrument. If they haven’t got any past credits or experience within the field, that’s definitely not a deal breaker. However, I would have to trust that they can get the job done and more so, somebody who is working as a full time musician already would be more preferable.

I also really look for somebody who is unique. A lot of higher education music schools will churn out carbon copies of the same player, all believing that because they are a certain way, it will make them more employable. I can only speak from personal experience, but when I’m watching a gig, there’s nothing more inspiring than seeing band members with a THING. What I mean by that is a flair, an individuality that elevates the performance rather than a guy in black at the back of the stage soullessly playing the parts. A good band is the sum of its parts, and when you have awesome individual parts that compliment each other and the artist, you’re on to a winner.

2) Physical appearance

This point will matter solely on what the artist is looking for. There’s no one size fits all answer for this topic, however, being in good physical shape, having a good haircut and dress sense will help you in most pop music outfits.

3) Personality

For me, your personality is on a par with your playing ability in terms of importance. There are 24 hours in every day and you’re probably only going to be playing for a maximum of 3 of them. This means there is a lot of time spent sitting around passing time, whether in a van, or a car or bus. For me, finding people that will fit together personally is as important as musically. Vibe is everything on a tour and cohesion is key. Be nice, open, keen to work hard, trustworthy but most importantly – honest."


"As illustrated, there’s not a one size fits all answer as to what MD’s look for in a band. Something I learnt a long time ago was that you’re not going to be right for every single gig or audition that comes your way, so working on everything within your own control is key. Work on playing, style, personality, relationships with other musicians, but most importantly trusting in yourself that if it feels right, you’re doing it right. “If You Build It, They Will Come.”

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Written by musicians for musicians.

Cheers, Ross.

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