Early on, finding success can seem like a total mystery. You hear about friends and colleagues winning competitions, recording a CD, or having a concert and you wonder how they got so lucky – “why can’t it be me?” And this is the problem. The competition or gig or CD was not their “success” – it was the manifestation of the fruits of their labor, the intersection of timing and preparation. It was the moment when their hard work paid off. Success is total commitment to the process of work and practice.
With that in mind and after working long and hard on your craft, only then will what seems like luck to the untrained eye will reveal itself as opportunity. Everybody you meet and everywhere you play has the possibility to lead you someplace new. You just need to keep your eyes opened.
A rather wealthy, older gentleman who comes to many of my performances took me to lunch one day. We ate and spoke and we tossed around the idea of putting together a CD release concert, with him playing Host and taking care of the audience. Over the course of lunch, I asked him what he was doing when he was my age and how he ended up in the position of being able to help young musicians. What he said has stuck with me ever since: “Instincts – I look at everything and everyone as an opportunity.”
1.Start with a friendly greeting. This may sound simple, but this needs repeating. Many people have no idea how they come off over email – let alone in real life – but somehow think that communicating behind a computer screen is some sort of safety net. What would amount to an awkward first impression in real life results in an email that either falls flat or comes off as insincere and unprofessional. I recommend making the first sentence of any email a “thank you,” stating my appreciation for their interest in my music and that I’d be happy to discuss their event further. If this is a newly engaged couple – especially if it is the bride you’re emailing – this goes double. Thank them for their interest AND congratulate the couple on setting a date to tie the knot. The vibe you want to established is friendly-professional. They want to know that you’ll not only be a great performer, but somebody who is enjoyable to be around and could possibly be hired again in the future.
2. Keep it simple, stupid. The first email should fit on the screen without need for scrolling. Be polite and friendly, but get to the meat of things fast. I like writing, “just to be sure I understand you correctly…” and then following with a bullet-point list that includes arrival times, duration, event address, repertoire, and my quote. This will make things much easier when you are juggling multiple gigs. You’ll thank yourself later when sorting out the details of an event, and the client will be happy you aren’t wasting time with endless banter.
3. ALWAYS LINK. Always, always, always, always include a link to your website. If you don’t have a website – you should, and that will be discussed on the blog soon – attach mp3s or a resume (or both!) to every email you send. Every email I send ends with a link to my website immediately under my name. If you have an impressive site, this is a great way to show it off to clients, and it speaks volumes about your sense of professionalism.
Again, these are my simple tips and rules that I follow when I email event planners, clients, potential students, and concert venues. If anyone would like additional advice or an in-depth look at emails I have sent (I save everything) feel free to comment or email Gigsmarter@gmail.com
This is a point I’m going to make frequently on this blog. Price is a direct reflection of value. People are proud to pay in full for a 100k sports car – it shows off their worth. People buy designer clothes not due to functionality, but due to BRANDING. Why do you think H&M gets a away with charging $200 for a blazer, that is really just Indonesian cotton that is beat up and dyed an obnoxious color?! (I will admit H&M does have great sales…but you get the point.)
If you consistently try to engage your competition a price war , the only thing you offer is a LOWER PRICE. Price becomes your BRAND. Think – what are some companies known for low prices – Walmart? McDonalds? Sam’s Club? Their entire business premise is around practical goods or services at the lowest price possible. What about high prices – Whole Foods? Banana Republic? Fogo de Chao? These companies charge high prices for their goods due to perceived value and higher quality. Value – whether real or not – and offering a higher quality of service is their brand.
As a musician you can use this concept to your advantage. You want to be the Rolex of your field, whether playing a wedding or corporate event, small concert series, or doing a recording session. You want price to reflect your value – not how low you’re willing to go. There will always be someone offering to do the job for less.Don’t worry about your competition’s fees – if somebody wants to pay Joe Schmo $100 to play their wedding, well, that’s their choice if they want the music for the big day to sound like a total hack job. Instead, offer a fair price that reflects your value – and offer a superior service. Be punctual, friendly, easy to communicate with and make the performance about THE AUDIENCE .
In the coming posts I will detail exactly how I negotiate contracts and what you can do to leverage simple business concepts to your advantage as a working musician.