Tag Archives: advice

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

The campaign to get musicians paid for showcasing at the BreakOut West festival in Edmonton this year spawned three weeks’ worth of radio interviews, print, and online media coverage, as well as social media jousting, and effectively polarized two viewpoints. While most articles were fair in representing the views of the CFM, as well as the festival’s organizers, the notion that musicians should be paid for their performances should have been a clear winner in the opinion polls, especially with effective adhesion to the social justice issue of a fair minimum wage.

Yet out of the woodwork came arguments so ludicrous (albeit to me) that I had to stifle the chortles and guffaws. Somewhat miraculously, those arguments were embraced by a portion of the media and, by extension, their readership. I think it is noteworthy to review, if for no other reason than to apprise members.

One assertion by the festival organizers was that many of the musicians were, in fact, being paid to perform through individual grants from the provincial government or their music industry association, and in some cases, the Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings (FACTOR). They claimed that this was the “model” of the future. This claim was usually followed by, “There was once a need for a musicians’ union, but not anymore.”

I consider this to be one of the most ludicrous positions ever presented. The notion that musicians should no longer encumber an employer with such trivial things as fees and pension, in favour of asking for government handouts as a means for surviving in the music industry, borders on ridiculous. Only an employer would have the audacity to suggest this and musicians are the only genre of worker that would give it a morsel of credibility. Imagine the response from actors, directors, screenwriters, or stagehands were it communicated that they should no longer look to the film producer for remuneration, but instead seek government grants to provide for their families.

As for the value judgement on a need for the AFM, that rhetoric is not new. It’s used by every employer to dissuade every member of every union in the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) from participation. It is part of the perpetual attack upon the labour movement, right-wing style.

Another offering by the press suggested that it should be the musicians’ choice whether they wish to donate their services, or that perhaps the whole thing should be treated as a large audition, not a gig. Perhaps this would have merit if the organization involved was a charity, not a well-oiled machine that makes deliberate “policy” to pay everyone involved, except the musicians (who, by the way, are the folks the event is all about).

In addition, these nonpaid “showcases” take place in licensed venues, packed with festivalgoers and making huge profits from liquor sales. A venue that would normally be required to pay for their entertainment, during the festival, gets to watch the bands sweat the night away for free. As for treating it as an audition, I pick no. Real auditions are in a private room to a select few, not in a club where the audience dances, tickets are sold, and beer is swilled. You audition to find work, not to be selected for a chance to perform gratis at yet another festival, and then another. And no, there is no major label A&R person waiting to sign you at 2:00 a.m. in an Edmonton bar.

Finally, the big carrot offered by the festival—a wristband; in other words, a free pass to your own show. By my loose calculations, each band spends hundreds of dollars for travel, accommodations, and food, but are not offered even the price of parking.

The bottom line is that festivals providing no remuneration for services have no regard for the music industry at all. If they did, they would acknowledge that musicians are a fragile part of the music ecosystem, the roots if you will, and must be nourished and fostered to encourage them to seek music as a viable career option. Instead, these festivals choose to build an industry that, as a part of Canada’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), is larger than mining and lumber combined, yet there appears to be no sustainable livelihood for the musicians.

So in the end, the BreakOut West Festival did, indeed, impart great wisdom upon those musicians in attendance, a message of enormous gravity and substance: Don’t quit your day job.

East Coast Music Awards

Bargaining to Begin with ECMA

Pour la version française cliquez ici

Since the writing of this column, the parties have successfully negotiated a successor agreement.

The 2017 edition of the East Coast Music Awards is scheduled for April 26-30, with the host city being Saint John, New Brunswick. During those five days, the city will be immersed in music in every venue, culminating with the gala award event Sunday night. However, in early December, the East Coast Music Association (ECMA) was placed on the AFM’s Unfair List by the Canadian Office.

The ECMA and the AFM had enjoyed a long, mutually beneficial relationship, with the signing of the first agreement in the mid-1990s. Contracts that included pension were always in place for sponsored showcases, events, and the awards show. The AFM would often sponsor an award, and was omnipresent every year with an informational booth, workshops, and seminars on topics of interest to musicians embarking on careers in music.

Two years ago, something changed. The ECMA refused to come to the table and renew the agreement. Although the broadcaster of the awards show signed a letter of adherence, the showcases and other events were not under AFM contract.

Without the renewed agreement and/or a properly executed AFM contract in place, there could be no pension contributions. In addition, recording was rampant and streamed both during the week and well after.

CFM representatives met with four members of the ECMA board in October. It became clear, after considerable dialogue, that a reasonable fee for the musicians was not the issue. Having the “union” involved was, for all the philosophical reasons.

In many of our agreements, including this one, a temporary membership permit (TMP) is required to be deducted from the fees of nonmembers. It seems this became a bone of contention. In Canada, this is an application of the RAND formula, under which nonunion employees have a portion of their wages deducted as their share of servicing the CBA under which they are working.

Using this formula allows a temporary member to be listed on the contract with members, and receive exactly the same services and benefits for the same classification of service, for the duration of the gig. This includes pension and any ensuing residuals, such as New Use. In addition, the TMP fee can be credited toward membership for one calendar year.

If the musician does not take advantage of the credit, those fees find their way back into the music community, through the host local’s outreach at seminars and informational meetings, as well as the sponsorship of awards.

There have been some developments in this rather unfortunate situation, as the ECMA board has contacted our office and agreed to sit down to bargain a successor agreement. Negotiations will take place in Halifax January 18 and 19, with January 20 as a backup date.

It’s our sincere hope that we are successful, the musicians’ performances are protected and properly remunerated, and the CFM and ECMA can once again join forces as partners in the effort to bring East Coast music to the world, and for the world to recognize the musicians that make this truly unique sound.


The Neuroscience of Peak Performance and Flow

by Patrick Gannon, PhD

What is happening in the minds and bodies of musicians when they play their best? Are peak performance and flow simply subjective perceptions of performance excellence? Or are they distinct mental states, a defined set of optimal behaviors, a heightened sense of self-confidence, or some trick of human nature?

Despite the confusion, we do have language to describe these experiences—being in the zone, in rhythm, in a groove, playing unconscious, even the so-called runner’s high. For starters, peak performance refers to optimal physical behaviors while psychologists define flow as a mental state. For musicians, it is both mental and physical because they feel calm, alert, focused, challenged, but confident, fully present in the moment, and supremely engaged in the task. When that feeling is combined with the thrill of playing music, magic happens!

If only we could bottle it, right? Thanks to neuroscience, that may now be possible.

The Flow State

Research findings have identified three markers that reveal how and when flow occurs: alpha/theta brain waves, brain coherence, and deactivation of the dorso-lateral, pre-frontal cortex (DLPFC).

First, the flow state is located at the crossover point between alpha and theta brain waves (eight Hz and below). As brain activity slows from the relaxing alpha state into the hypnagogic theta wave (below eight Hz), the neural network becomes highly attuned. At the same time, super fast (40-100 Hz) gamma waves, triggered by theta, go into action. Gamma waves connect information drawn from various parts of the brain that are involved in music making, allowing skill learning, procedural memory, and self-expression to settle into rhythm.

Secondly, synchronization between the left and right hemispheres or brain coherence is another marker for flow. Both hemispheres must be working complementarily to integrate artistic expression and technical skills. Cardio exercise, meditation, and yoga along with brain-based clinical techniques, like eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), all promote brain coherence through bi-lateral stimulation.

Enhancing Flow

Finally, a temporary brain state called transient hypofrontality has been identified that enhances flow by lowering the activation of the DLPFC. This part of the brain holds our inner critic, that voice of doubt that can trigger cognitive anxiety. Cardio exercise redirects blood flow away from the DLPFC to the motor parts of the brain, enabling a more embodied focus without interference from self-consciousness, distraction, or negative thinking.

These findings can be applied to mental skill training that has been the hallmark of sport psychology over the last 50 years. The six key skills are relaxation, imagery, goal setting, self-talk, concentration, and pre-performance routines.

1) Relaxation is the first key because performance anxiety usually inhibits peak performance. Anxiety and physiological arousal must be regulated before peak performance and flow can occur. Exercise is a basic treatment for all types of anxiety. Daily meditation over a minimum of eight weeks reduces both state and trait anxiety by lowering the resting heart rate and enhancing brain plasticity.

2) Imagery engages the power of the senses, especially visualization, to mentally depict what peak performance should look and feel like. Cardio imagery and rehearsal is a new technique that combines mental rehearsal with moderate cardio exercise (120-140 heart rate, using an elliptical trainer or stationary bike) to prime learning and reinforce process goals. Mental rehearsal is effective because mirror neurons activate various muscle groups via the peripheral nervous system in the same way as with physical practice.

3) Goal setting is a motivational tool for directing one’s efforts toward optimal learning. Goal setting supports deliberate practice that encourages musicians to concentrate their efforts on their most challenging repertoire. Exercising in the morning before practice, while mentally focusing on what needs work, helps identify practice goals and primes the brain for learning later on.

4) Self-talk reveals the psychological relationship between the person and the performer, such as having a positive outlook and being mentally tough when under stress. Research shows that positive thoughts and feelings promote creativity whereas negative emotions stimulate critical thinking that can lead to self-consciousness. Not surprisingly, a positive mental attitude is a key component
of flow.

5) Concentration emphasizes attention skills and mental discipline to focus on the challenges involved in music performance. The mind must be fully engaged in the moment, free of distractions, and immersed in the task. Quite simply, the best way to build focusing skills is to learn to live in the moment. Not so easy, as many of us have found out!

6) Pre-performance routines allow musicians to find that groove that activates a positive performance mindset. The key tools are breathing and centering exercises, locking into one’s optimal zone of activation and converting pre-performance jitters into excitement.

Ultimately, playing music in the flow state is its own best reward, one reason why musicians are so passionate about pushing musical boundaries. So when it happens, embrace it!

Patrick Gannon, PhD is a Clinical and Performance Psychologist in San Francisco available for consultation in person, phone or via Skype. Dr. Gannon is a national presenter and former competitive tennis player and coach as well as a member of the Performing Arts Medicine Association (www.artsmed.org). You can contact him at  PeakPerformance101.com and drpatrickgannon@gmail.com

Avoiding Border Woes

Avoiding Border Woes

Q: I have often travelled with my community band into the US to play concerts and thought this was a good thing. Imagine my surprise when the band was stopped at the border last month and denied entry into the US because we did not have a P-1 visa. We’ve never been asked for one before—is this something new?

Border woes such as the one described above are all too common and could easily be avoided. The short answer is that, of course, this is nothing new: the temporary work visa requirement for foreign artists entering the US to perform, whether for pay or free, has long been on the books. The enforcement of the regulation was stepped up several years ago, and a temporary work visa is almost always required. However, entry into the US is still solely at the determination of the US Customs and Border Protection Officer at each border crossing, and it is not entirely surprising that this band was allowed in several times over the years and then suddenly challenged with the visa requirement. It all depends on who you get at the border.

So, how does one avoid border woes? Simply put: do your homework well in advance.

1) Get the right temporary work visa. For performing groups I highly recommend the P-2 visa available through the AFM. The musicians’ union has capable, experienced staff members who will assist with the process, and the reciprocal exchange program under which the P-2 visa is administered, provides a streamlined procedure for Federation members.

2) Make sure that all documents are in order: Passports should extend beyond performance dates (some passports may be required to be valid for six months beyond that date).

3) Make sure that all group members qualify for entry. Seventy-five percent of your band members must have been with the group for at least one year.

4) Deal with any issues of criminality for anyone in the group. Any conviction, however minor, can cause problems at the border. There are ways of dealing with this issue well in advance (Look into Waivers of Ineligibility and Criminal Rehabilitation documentation).

5) Deal with the problem of getting merchandise across the border in advance. Send merchandise in via courier or mail, if you can. If you are carrying merchandise make sure it is properly manufactured, or properly labelled (for example, promotional copies). Have the invoice of manufacture with you. For a large quantity of merchandise, you may want to use a customs broker.

6) Look into customs regulations about carrying instruments containing endangered species across the border. There’s no point in trying to cross a border to perform when there’s a danger that your instrument might be confiscated because it contains something from an endangered species. Check out the Musical Instrument Passport program http://www.fws.gov/international/permits/by-activity/musical-instruments.html.

7) Deal with the problem of transporting instruments, especially if you are flying: Make sure you know the regulations adopted by different airlines for transporting instruments.

8) Work out a strategy for dealing with the border crossing. Rehearse straightforward answers to the typical questions you might be asked by a US Customs and Border Protection official. Coach everyone to be honest and forthright. Answer questions succinctly and do not volunteer additional information.

With a little more knowledge about the regulations for performing in another country and a lot more common sense, border crossing woes can be avoided.

—I welcome your questions and concerns. Please send an email to: robert@bairdartists.com.

mobile djs

How Do You Compete with the Local Mobile DJs?

A while back I addressed the subject of competing with mobile DJs. They are not going away. We all know that they’re out there. They multiply like wire coat hangers in a closet. Nothing is worse than losing a wedding gig to a mobile DJ. You take music lessons, spend thousands of dollars, and practice for years to become a professional musician, and then someone right out of high school downloads music on a laptop computer, gets some sound equipment, and starts stealing jobs right out from underneath you.

It’s not just weddings, either. It’s corporate events, private parties, school dances, and on and on. Doing a Google search, you’ll find more DJs than you do bands and orchestras. They’re becoming more prevalent than pizza shops. They’re replacing live music with one person playing streaming recorded tunes, on discount store speaker systems, for less money.

At least that’s how it seems. The only trouble is that sometimes perception is not reality. I suggest that you go to a wedding where one of the better mobile DJs is working. You could be in for a jolt. You might find that this one-person streaming music show is charging more than a four-piece group would. And he or she probably has enough equipment to fill a good-size truck. Also, it might not be just one person. It could be a technician and an entertainer-host.

So, before you decide that those DJs are stealing all the good gigs, find out how you can compete. To do that, you need to find out what you’re competing with. There are DJs and karaoke jocks (KJs) who sing along with the soundtracks, entertain, and get the audience involved. Many DJs and KJs provide constant entertainment, cater to the audience, and have sophisticated lighting equipment. They bring along fog machines and confetti guns, and they charge big bucks.

If you’re going to compete in the “big bucks” category, what can you bring to the party? What can you do that’s really exciting, different, and creative? The DJ thing isn’t as easy as you may think. Many DJs bring as much equipment as a band carting around two Hammond B-3s, a couple of drum sets, three big guitar amps, a complete PA system, not to mention lighting. It’s a lot of stuff. And they play nonstop. They get the audience pumped.

What about you? When you take a break, is anything going on? You could easily record your group as you play each set, then have it play through your sound system on the break. What about lights?

It’s not enough just to play well any more. You have to look spectacular. And, how up-to-date are you? If you don’t know what’s hot right now, you’d better learn quickly. Pick up one of the mobile DJ magazines on the newsstands. See what tunes they consider hot right now. Find out how they involve the audience and how they get their work. See what niches they go after. Find out where one of the better-known DJs is working and go see his or her schtick.

What about your promotional materials? Do you have a demo video that knocks people out? Do you have a drop-dead website with a demo video that makes people want to book you? Do you have a particular niche where you can excel as a band, an orchestra, or a single? Also, don’t think business cards have gone away. Have something unique with your contact number that you can hand out.

Most people would rather hear a live musician than a recording. That’s something in your favor right away. Promote yourself and your band in ways that DJs can’t. “Live music is best” is not just a slogan. It’s true. Many people think DJs are cheaper than a band. They’re not—at least not all of them. And even if they are cheaper, your talent and everything else you can bring to the party can run rings around the music streamers. Just make sure you can compete on the entertainment side, as well as the talent aspect. Then, your bookings might increase dramatically.

Get Their Attention

First, You Have to Get Their Attention

Years ago, if an indie musician wanted to try to book a club or concert venue, they probably started by calling whoever the decision maker was—the club owner, theater manager, etc.—and tried to get them to hear them play. Today it’s a little different. It’s more than a phone call or a press kit with a CD.

I wanted to find out what gets the attention of someone who books a lot of singles and music groups today. I started with Suzanne Morgan, manager of the Orange Blossom Opry in Wiersdale, Florida. She books many local and national groups and singles. Just this past week she had Ricky Skaggs of Local 257 (Nashville, TN), several local groups, a semi-known comic, and then on Sunday night the ’50s vocal group The Drifters. The previous week included The Gatlin Brothers of Local 257.

The place was packed every night. It’s a theater/concert venue and its promoted well. Wiersdale is not a major metro market. (The nearest town is Oklahawa, and I’m sure you haven’t heard of that either.) Morgan is a seasoned vocalist/performer herself. She knows what draws and what doesn’t. She says she is contacted by dozens, if not hundreds, of people who want her to be booked at the Orange Blossom Opry.

I asked her how she likes musicians to contact her. She says, “I like people who know enough to call the box office, get my e-mail address and cell phone number, and then send me an e-mail with a YouTube link so I can see and hear them.” Morgan says she responds to texts, and returns all calls left on her voice mail. The YouTube video weeds out a lot of people.

Just calling her and asking her to book you without knowing who you are, what you do, or what you sound like, doesn’t usually work. She uses a booking agency, but she books musicians on her own as well. Mogan likes talking to musicians and entertainers who already know her venue. She likes oldies, classic country groups, and tribute performers. She appreciates people who figure out what’s going to appeal to her audience. If you do a good job you will be a repeat performer, but first you have to get her attention. Mogan is a good person to know.

Next, I talked with Tom Greenwood who owns the Greenwood Winery in East Syracuse, New York. He books a lot of local musicians for his bar/bistro at the winery. He said he started with Joe Whiting of Local 78 (Syracuse, NY) and built from there. He says that AFM musicians are usually professionals he can count on.

Greenwood says he likes to develop local talent and always responds to musicians calling the winery to find out who to contact and what they’re looking for. He’s got something going on every week.

If you fit the bill, the next thing he wants to find out about is your social media presence. How big is your following? Are you going to help get the word out that you’re performing at his venue? He doesn’t want “pay-to-play” musicians and he doesn’t want musicians who play for the door. He wants professionals who fit nicely into his bistro scene. Greenwood says you can email him a video and then leave him a voice mail. A little persistence helps. His manager also plays a part in who gets booked.

All in all, it takes a lot of things to keep your calendar full. It’s more than being a good indie musician. Today, you need to have some social media presence smarts, networking expertise, correct contact info, and be willing to put a little energy into finding work. But first, you need to get the attention of the person who might hire you. In today’s market, when your video clip is seen, your texts acknowledged, and emails read, you have a better shot of getting a positive response.

Work Those Fingers

All athletes have a common goal to develop and maintain strength, control, endurance, coordination, and dexterity to ensure their competitive edge. Musicians are no different. Professional sports trainers, athletes, and therapists use Gripmaster because of its unique ability to provide an effective isolated resistance workout. Gripmaster conditions the fingers, hand, wrist, and forearm with a unit you can carry in your pocket.

Your hands are the direct link between your brain and your instrument. But your hand is really five separate systems–the fingers—which work in seamless unity. The only way to develop superior hand strength, endurance, and coordination is to challenge and develop each finger. Work those fingers. The patented Gripmaster hand exerciser can isolate and strengthen each finger individually.

The pocket-sized, durable device isolates each finger, supplying it with its own spring loaded button. Small size means you can practice anytime, anywhere. Gripmaster is available in three different tensions: blue (light, five pounds per finger), red (medium, seven pounds per finger), and black (heavy, nine pounds per finger).

-visit www.gripmaster.net for dealer information and exercise program suggestions.

Tips on Media Releases and Photographs

guitar-944262_640As a working musician, you’re used to expressing yourself through music. Just as important for your career is expressing yourself through words and pictures. Get the message out about your act, and get the media on your side, by writing effective press releases and taking media-ready photos.

  •  In general, there are two types of press release. If you are contacting the media ahead of an event, print the words “MEDIA ALERT” in the top left hand margin. For all other press releases, print “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.”
  •  Follow this alert line with relevant contact information: name, title, address, phone number, e-mail address, and website.
  •  Create a headline and write it in bold type or caps above the body of the release. Use active words: headlines typically highlight the most important or significant fact in the release.
  •  Create a “dateline”–the first sentence of your release should begin with the city where the release is generated and the date (i.e. LOS ANGELES, CA.–July 1, 2006).
  •  Put your main point and vital information in the first paragraph. If alerting the media to an event, break out and bullet point the who, what, where, when, why, and how information.
  •  In the second and possibly third paragraph of your release, add information that will entice a reporter to come to your event (if your gig is for charity, for instance, or celebrating a CD release) or that will help him or her write the story.
  •  The final paragraph should include biographical and other information about your act. Although not always included when a newspaper or magazine runs your release, this information nevertheless gives an editor some useful background information.
  •  Wrap up the last paragraph with a “for additional information” line–a phone number, e-mail address, and/or website to which the reporter can turn to.
  •  Do not send a release that is more than one page. If a draft runs over a page, re-work it. Traditionally, three centered hash marks (# # #) indicate the end of a press release.
  •  Send your press release to the reporter or editor who covers your beat. Most often, this will be the arts and entertainment beat. Refrain from calling a reporter to “see if you got the release.” A follow up should ask the reporter if anything else is needed to cover the story.

Remember the Photos!

  •  Print media are more likely to use your release if you also send good quality photos. It’s always worth hiring a photographer (or finding a friend of the band who knows how to take pictures) to record your event, in case a newspaper can’t send its own photographer.
  •  Print photos and headshots must be in focus, shadow free, and sent in large format (5 x 7 inches or larger). Digital photos should be in high resolution (ideally, 300 dots per inch) and in .jpg or .tiff format. Be prepared to send digital photos as e-mail attachments or on a CD. Never send the only copy of a photograph you want to keep.
  •  If you have a website, consider creating a “media room.” There you can post news and releases about your band that will be useful to a reporter writing a story. You can also post media-ready digital photographs. Note that newspaper and magazines probably won’t be able to use low resolution photographs most commonly posted on websites either in .jpg or .gif format.
  •  Avoid these common mistakes that might make a editor refuse your photo: frame not filled (the band is too small or too far away); subject too dark (a light source behind the band has put them in shadow); photo too dark (there’s not enough lighting or the camera’s flash is too weak); grip ‘n’ grin (the subjects are static, as if having a mugshot taken).

Be Careful What You Sign—They Don’t Care About You; They Want Your Song

Over the last few years, I have noticed an increase in the number of panels that feature music supervisors at music festivals, informational sessions, and music/film events. These are the folks responsible for selecting the music that is synchronized to video, television, motion pictures, commercial announcements, video games, and so forth. Many have experience as musicians, producers, agents, managers, or with business or law. But the primary prerequisite is a familiarity with a wide array of music styles, genres, and artists/bands. They may work for a specific company or freelance, picking music to portray mood, feeling, and emotion to match/enhance video content.

The idea of presenting a panel about music supervision and placement of songs is, on the surface, useful. However, the information presented is usually skewed to benefit the panelists and their company, not the musicians and songwriters in the audience eager to have their songs heard. At least, that has been my experience at such events.

These “experts” generally give attendees advice like: don’t submit more than three or four songs, properly prepare and label the submissions, and have instrumental versions ready. While this information is helpful, other stuff is not. For instance, it’s often stated that you should not expect payment the first time, or first few times, until you are known; or, to expect a low remuneration, perhaps $50 or less. There is little or no mention of the fact that synchronization is contained within the Right of Reproduction under the Copyright Act, and that the only way to escape payment is if the songwriter waives these rights. Now, go back and read the title of this article again.

There is also no mention of the rights AFM members have under contract law—that of new use payments required under the Sound Recording Labour Agreement. When you record for a signatory label, or for a label that has signed a Letter of Adherence and filed a B-4 report form, all the musicians on the recording are entitled to be paid the prevailing rates for a session as specified by the agreement that covers the type of medium the track is being licensed into. (These payments are in addition to negotiated synch fees.) While this is an obligation of the label (to pay those fees upon licensing the track), often they pass the responsibility onto the licensee in the master licence agreement.

Many times members are handed a document, either during the recording session or during licensing negotiations, asking them to “waive” certain rights, among them being the secondary payments for new use called for under our agreements. Don’t sign these papers! In fact, members have no authority to sign such a document when it circumvents the terms of one of our scale agreements, and therefore, such a wavier is not enforceable. Don’t sign them.

Members may also be enticed to enlist the services of a placement company, such as Sonic Bids or Taxi. Without being specific about any of them, I have seen placement contracts that require the artist to assign all rights, exclusively, to these services. In return, you may receive a percentage of anything they make, if the song is used. The cautionary word here is “exclusive.” This means you no longer are entitled to payments from performing rights organizations such as the Society of Composers, Authors, and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) and Musicians’ Rights Organization Canada (MROC), or agencies such as the Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency (CMRRA), as you no longer have title to those rights. You would only receive a percentage of those rights—whatever is specified in your agreement with the company. Don’t sign a placement contract. Go back and read the headline of this article again.

I have also seen contracts where the requirement is to sign over all the songs and rights, and the company is up front about saying they will rename the tracks and obtain a copyright under their name. Don’t sign the contract.

A better choice is to sign a nonexclusive agreement, where they agree to try and get action on your repertoire, but you still retain the right to make direct deals and collect statutory royalties.

Also, in some of these contracts may lurk language similar to “We do not pay/collect fees required under union contracts.” This is a red flag to not sign, or to negotiate that clause out. These are your rights. It’s your money that they are treating so capriciously. These are rights that, over the years, may accrue thousands upon thousands of dollars. They may also present you with a paperwork that designates the songs you give them as “work made for hire.” Don’t sign it!

Never be intimidated by the panache or cachet of the title “music supervisor.” In the end, they are an employer, attempting to get your music as cheaply as possible for their client. If you are presented with contracts or licensing agreements to sign, please take the time to understand what they contain. I highly recommend the services of an entertainment lawyer before signing anything.

Now, go back to title of this article: “They don’t care about you; they want your song.”

How Accessible Are You?

You’re a professional musician. You belong to the AFM. As a working musician, you probably compete against others who will play for the door, or bands who will pay club owners to let them play for a piece of the door. Don’t play their game. There are a lot of wannabe, has been, and never-will be musicians out there who want to work, fight for radio airplay, and deal with recording and contractual issues where sometimes money is secondary. You not only want to compete, you want to excel. You want people to know about you, and for them to be able to reach you quickly and effortlessly.

Most musicians have their own websites and downloadable demo tracks. Everyone has PR kits and demo CDs. You need business cards, and you need to be readily accessible. Every promo piece I’ve seen has an email address. It’s good that someone can email you, but what if they need to get a hold of you right now? Maybe it’s a corporate gig that a committee is meeting on. Maybe it’s a group that has a job starting at 9:00 p.m. tonight and needs a replacement for someone who can’t make it. Make sure your cell phone number is listed. Email is not going to do it.

In Nashville recently, an artist at the NAMM Show gave me her CD, along with a business card and asked if I would give her my opinion on it. There was no phone number on her card, just an email address. I asked how I could call her, if there is no phone number on her card. She said to email her. She told me she doesn’t list her phone number because she travels constantly and she didn’t want to get a lot of weird calls from guys who were interested in something other than booking her. I could understand that, but no phone number can hurt a career. The easiest thing would be to list a cell phone number, not a land line (even if you have one). Cell phones give you caller ID. A caller doesn’t know where you are when they are calling.

How easy is it for someone to reach you? Here’s a little checklist for things you need to make yourself accessible to someone who wants to book you:

  1.     A phone number where you can be reached. The more numbers (cell, home, agent, etc.) the easier it is to be found when someone needs you to play.
  2.     A voice mail message with your name, group’s name, and best time to reach you.
  3.     An address—street or PO box/city/state, so people know if you are local and where you are travelling from.
  4.     An email address set up with auto email response for when you can’t check frequently, but want to get a message to people to let them know when you will get back to them, and other ways to reach you.
  5.     Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media handles that are clever, simple, and easy to remember.
  6.     A professional website with contact information, demo tracks, a calendar of appearances that is updated regularly, and links to you on social media.
  7.     A decent business card with all of the contact information listed above and social media handles.
  8.     A postcard-size handout with info on your upcoming gigs that you can give to anyone interested in you or your group. (It should contain all the contact information listed previously, as well as social media links.)
  9.     A PR kit with a YouTube link to your band and/or a demo CD or DVD. Each piece of your PR kit should contain contact information and social media handles. Make sure it defines your act and makes you stand out from the competition.

Okay, there are nine things to make you more accessible when someone wants to book you. How many of them do you have? As a professional AFM musician, you don’t want to hide your light under a bushel. Let yourself shine out there. Make yourself easy to find.