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The Crown Prince of Classifieds—Musicians and Craigslist

A look at how musicians use the site, and its benefits and potential pitfalls.

If you’re a one man band, I salute you. Your coordination is inspiring. The rest of us just haven’t got the time to do it that way. We need other musicians, and buddy, when you’re in a 15-piece Vuvuzela Orchestra, you need a quick way to meet like-minded plastic horn enthusiasts.

Whether you’re a swing band seeking that perfect trumpet, a metal band after an appropriately sludgy bassist or a trained mezzo-soprano seeking an accompanist, you generally turn to classifieds to find the missing pieces you need, and in today’s world, that means Craigslist.

Craig Newmark’s brainchild is the go-to Web address for buying, selling, trading, meeting and ranting across the United States. Honored by “Weird Al” Yankovic in a clever tune, top of the Google search results and comforting in blue-lettered simplicity, Craigslist has, according to Alexa.com, become the seventh-most visited site in the United States, with over 49.4 million unique visitors per month.

 This level of Web traffic sounds amazing on the surface, but experienced CL users will tell you that it’s a double-edged sword.  

“Searching for musicians on Craigslist is like posting a want ad on a couch surfing website,” says Philly-based traveling artist/musician Sarah Rado, who is no stranger to the dangers of Craigslist musician ads. She’s dealt with the untalented, the over-the-hill and the downright perverted.

A less obvious hiccup to the admittedly fantastic Craigslist experience: flaggers and flamers. The former attack your post by pestering Craigslist into having it removed, and the latter by responding publicly with defamatory remarks.

Because CL allows anonymous flagging of posts by any Web visitor, it isn’t uncommon for your post to be removed by the administrators. You don’t have to break any rules for this to happen, either; if enough people hate your taste in music, your ad goes bye-bye. You’ve been flagged.

Your post has some spelling errors? You post it in two cities? Mention an unpopular venue? Heck, if you did none of these things, you may soon see the title of your posting preceded by a “RE:” and containing vitriolic nonsense that would hurt your feelings if it weren’t so … well … digital. Congratulations, you’ve been flamed.

Still, if you are willing to brave flags and flames and can wade through the sheer volume of posts looking for what you need, Craigslist is an amazing tool for musicians. The only better tool I know is getting out there and meeting people in person, and who does that anymore?

You already knew that, though, right? So here are a few pointers for using Craigslist that might be news to you:

  1. Spelling! Spell check your ad before posting, and spell check the ads you reply to.
  2. Specifics! If you want a guitarist who can play in the style of The Doors, then say so. Don’t say “Wanted: Guitarist with transportation” and just hope you get the psychedelic monster you were praying for. You won’t.
  3. Don’t overpost! I can’t tell you how galling it is to read the same ad posted every day with a few words changed. Just because you CAN slip it past Craigslists’ overpost filters doesn’t mean you should.
  4. List your pedigree, if you have one. Listing the name of your act might attract those who would flame your post for fun, but it will also encourage the serious musician who frequent the boards.
  5. Lastly, please remember that an ad is only as good as the headline. A headline needs to be catchy and informative. It needs wit, not capital letters.

Thanks for reading, and happy hunting!

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