The following info is based on incoming gigs we have received over the past four decades. For many years the answer was: Keyboards. A lot of bands couldn’t find work unless they had a keyboard player, and keyboards were usually the most costly instrument, hence less players. This seemed strange to me because during my youth there were more kids taking piano lessons than any other instrument, so where did they all go? This lack of keyboardists affected mostly cover bands. Bassists were usually the second most in demand, especially for original acts.
What changed in the 90’s and up to today? It seems the demand has “evened out”. Currently we receive about the SAME amount of requests for guitar, bass, drums, keys, and front vocalists. But what consistently remains the same is the AMOUNT of available players in each category. Everyone always assumes that guitarists are the most plentiful, but the answer is: Drummers. There has not been a single month in our existence when this fact has not been true. Why are there always more drummers? Your guess is as good as mine!
Available guitarists always place second in number behind drummers, followed by bass, keys, and lead singers, all about even. Of course there are many less horn players and miscellaneous instruments. The positive thing for these players is that there’s a lot less competition when a gig presents itself!
So instead of band leaders complaining that they can’t find a keyboardist, many groups today say they can’t find a SINGER. I hear it all the time, “All we need is a vocalist and we could be working”. And singers, unlike other musicians, many times are not even required to own their equipment – so where are they all hiding??