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5 Tips to Getting Your Price and More

5 Tips to Getting Your Price and More

You are a union musician, an AFM member. You don’t play for the door. You don’t “pay to play.” You’re a professional. You want to get scale and above. The problem that many musicians come up against is non-union indie musicians and groups who want to play for exposure, play for tips, or play so they can sell CDs and merch. How do you react when someone beats you into the ground over price? Here are some things you might want to consider when that club, theater, private party, or corporate event says: “You charge how much?” or “Can you do it for less?”

1) What is your “added value”? What sets you apart?

Try to differentiate your act from the others. Do you stand out in a particular niche? Do you have state-of-the-art equipment? Maybe you have a high tech sound system and light system. Or is there something else you can provide? Does your set list include numbers that really sync with the venue? Does your client know how much value you bring, beyond your performance? Make sure they’re aware.

2) Do you have a significant following?

Do you stay in touch with hundreds or thousands of fans, through Facebook, Twitter, and other social media? Do you post your gigs to an online calendar or send out an email blast to let fans know where you will be next? If you are booking a club date, let whoever is booking you know that you will help get the word out so you’ll have a good crowd. Make sure to emphasize what you can do for your client.

3) Do you have credible testimonials about similar gigs that you have played?

Can you provide success stories that can support what you charge, so you seem like a bargain for what you offer? Do you have testimonials in print and on your website you can instantly provide? Don’t hide your light under a bushel. It’s not bragging if it’s a fact.

4) Have you played other bigger venues with great success?

Does your client know your background? Tell them about any performances you’ve done on television or radio. Likewise, tell them about recordings you’ve made, other concerts, festivals, theaters, and major venues you’ve played. Make sure your website and press kit highlight how you stand out and that you are definitely worth what you charge. You are your own best PR specialist. Capitalize on that.

5) Is your talent and expertise known to prospective clients?

You’re a professional. Again, let people know. With you, playing music is a living not a hobby. People wouldn’t go to a discount heart surgeon or a cut-rate doctor. You wouldn’t want a part-time dentist who is also a trash hauler. Stand up for yourself in a way that shows you are worth your price.

Another tip: when someone tries to get you to play for less, let them talk. Find out their real objections. And here’s the kicker:  When you quote someone a price and they say, “Is that the best you can do?” There is only one answer: “Yes.” After you say, “yes,” just wait. Don’t immediately starting hacking your price just to get the gig. Many times your client will just say “okay.” You can always negotiate later.

You know your value. You’re not just starting out. You have experience. You have talent. You’re a union musician. You’re worth what you charge.

Live Sound Spotlight

Organization Is the Real Secret to Successful Shows

Just as you should work out all of the arrangements to your songs, you should also work out all the arrangements to your show. Most bands simply prepare for a show by promoting it and working on a set list; the rest will take care of itself, right? No! The logistics of getting everything to and from the gig, storing items properly between soundcheck and show time, and getting it all on and off stage can be very taxing. Even when these aspects are properly managed and accounted for, a good many bands fail to keep the business aspects of a band under control. The reality is that business is work. It’s each member’s responsibility to be individually organized. Gather the band and have each member go through this list and write down what he or she needs to do:

  • Band Inventory: Do you remember everything you brought to your last gig? What if something is missing? Do you have serial numbers to verify if missing gear is found?
  • Stage Plot/Input List: A picture is worth a thousand words. Having a stage plot makes your set changes faster. An input list helps your engineer set up quicker. Having these lists for a busy show can cut five minutes or more from your changeover.
  • Monitor/Instrument Cues: Even when you are okay with turning the engineer loose on the mix, you are still going to need the right blend in each of your stage monitors. This is a great way to speed things up. Instrument cues tell the engineer when to anticipate an instrument change.
  • Sound/Lighting Cues: You could literally run out of breath trying to describe everything you want in your show. Trying to do so just before you go on is ridiculous! Even if you could, who’d remember all that? Put it down on paper and you may stand a chance of it actually happening.
  • Show Plan: Showing up, setting up, and kicking butt doesn’t always work; if you’re not prepared, it may be your butt that gets kicked! Each new venue will have different circumstances that require advance planning, like transportation, addresses, soundcheck and show times, set lists, promoting your next show, merchandise booths, etc. Not every club does things the same way every time, or with the same accommodations.
  • Promotion: This is optional if you are not serious about being a professional; however, if you are serious, it is not optional! Phone numbers, addresses, e-mail, press clippings, promo packs, business cards, flyers, T-shirts, and CDs should all be available when you need them. In most cases, you can create an electronic press kit in PDF format that fits on a CD or DVD and can be e-mailed as well. That way, a smartphone can store your info and send it out anytime, anywhere.
  • Accounting/Business Records: You need to be able to keep up with the money coming in and going out. Money problems have broken up many bands. This will cover your rear end in both directions. Copyrights, publishing splits, and business licenses are also part of the equation. After all, it’s the money that will keep your band going

Some of these things are optional. One person doesn’t have to keep up with all of these. The responsibilities can be shared among band members. Each person in your band probably knows what they should be doing; to a large part, this information is for the benefit of the other people who become involved in your show.

—Adapted from Rockin’ Your Stage Sound: A Musician’s Guide to Professional Live Audio, by Rob Gainey (Hal Leonard Corporation, 2010).

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).
phone call

Marketing 101: A Good Old-Fashion Phone Call

phone callIn the modern day many people will more readily send an email than physically call a person. Emails, social media, and other communication is great way to get in touch with people, but sometimes the most successful way is a good old-fashion phone call.  A well-developed telephone technique is crucial to the success of the client contact process. Potential clients can sense when you don’t feel confident, even when that conversation is over the phone.

If you lack confidence or if you are shy, you should consider getting advice on how to put forward a strong verbal presentation over the telephone. Many books have been written on the subject, and they are not just for telephone salespeople. Anyone who uses the telephone to drum up business must work on their technique.

Speaking slowly and clearly and learning a “script,” especially when you are cold-calling clients, are some of the techniques worth knowing. Another is how to follow up on cold calls. Yet another is how to leave a message on voice mail that will be memorable, which is a technique a little like a 30-second elevator pitch without the business card.

Some musicians don’t think it’s respectable to call a client themselves. They believe that clients have less respect for musicians who represent themselves than for musicians who are represented by an agent. Therefore, some musicians prefer to have an agent who will call clients on their behalf.

However, you should consider that TV commercials where the owner of the car dealership or mattress emporium represents him or herself are rated higher and more effective than commercials that don’t have an owner present. This was part of the secret behind the rise of the Wendy’s restaurant chain, under the charismatic leadership of Dave Thomas, who often appeared in national TV ads.

Following this logic, clients may well be more convinced of your skills as a musician and bandleader if they talk to you in person, rather than through an agent. Plus, one of the benefits of representing yourself is that you at least know how you are being presented.

Telephone calls are still one of the least expensive and most effective ways of self-promotion. If your phone technique is good, and you present yourself and your band in a memorable way, clients will recall you when you phone again.

For example, Hal Galper of Local 802 (New York City) remembers the time he sat on a panel at the International Association of Jazz Educators’ convention in Atlanta, Georgia. His name was mentioned often on the panel, and many of his clients were present. At one point the moderator asked, “Is there anyone here who has not received a phone call from Hal Galper?” Everyone laughed, and amazingly only one person said, “I haven’t.” Galper arranged to chat with this person after the panel was over. “It pays to have a good phone rap,” he reminds other working musicians.

7 Tips for Using Word of Mouth Marketing

7 Tips for Using Word of Mouth Marketing: The Original Social Media

7-tips-for-word-of-mouthWord of mouth marketing (WOMM), or peer-to-peer marketing, is genuine, emotional conversations people have with their friends about your gigs and music. Creating this type of “buzz” is particularly effective for building a following in your local area. Think of WOMM as the original social media.

Unfortunately, few artists use WOMM as effectively as they could. The problem is that they become too focused on collecting fans, instead of connecting with fans. Having 10,000 fans who at one time liked a video you posted, is not nearly as effective as having 100 really passionate local fans who drive others to attend your shows.

Here are 7 tips for using Word of Mouth Marketing effectively:

  1. Make sure your music stands out. Engage with the audience and get them talking. Be a presence in their lives by keeping them up-to-date with your life both on and off stage. Strive to be exciting, outrageous, and exceptional, both on stage and online. Take time to interact with everyone who posts something about your band or comments on your social media site.
  2. Provide your fans with different ways to talk about your band and share their experiences with friends. Encourage them to post on your social media sites, and take lots of show photos that they can comment on. Provide them with hashtags to use. Ask them questions about your set list and latest gig to get a conversation started.
  3. Building a strong fan base that goes beyond “likes” requires a strategy and some insight about what type of fans your music attracts. What other things do they tend to be passionate about? A good WOMM strategy is credible, social, repeatable, measurable, and respectful. Never deceive your audience/listeners by claiming to be something you are not.
  4. Make your communications special and memorable. Use “trigger words” like “sneak preview,” “exclusive footage,” “new release,” and “never before heard.” Surf the Internet for other phrases that seem to generate interest and write them down to use similar phrasing in the future.
  5. Hold short-term contests and tease them with upcoming info to get them to follow you more closely. Ideas include: “Indianapolis gig will be announced on Monday,” “win a free music download,” or “like this post to be entered in a drawing for a backstage pass (or VIP seating.” Alternatively, send them a link to a free song download on your site and say, “If you like what you hear, please pass it along to a friend.”
  6. Humor, sex, or shock appeal can stimulate and accelerate natural conversations among fans. Do you remember the funny “United Breaks Guitars” song and video posted by Dave Carroll of Local 571 (Halifax, NS)? Alternatively, use Photoshop to put yourself on stage with a celebrity, or make some other interesting, funny, and unbelievable photos to post.
  7. Utilize journalists and other people involved in your local music scene to help spread the word. Send them press releases and keep them informed about your latest releases and major gigs. Develop a press kit with your bio and interesting stories about your band.


ICSOM orchestras

Promoting Your Orchestra Using the New Integrated Media Agreement

by Deborah Newmark, Director, Symphonic Electronic Media

Promoting Your Orchestra Using the New Integrated Media AgreementTo familiarize the 70-plus orchestras now working under the new Integrated Media Agreement (IMA), and for those that may work under the agreement in the future, it is helpful to examine some of the provisions that are designed to assist orchestras in promoting themselves and building audiences into the future. The IMA negotiations were a hard-fought battle against forces that believe that everything we do can be described as promotion, and should therefore be free. We succeeded in fending off this attack, but ultimately agreed to allow for some expansion of the promotional opportunities, while maintaining the upfront payments and revenue sharing that are key components of the majority of the agreement.

To be a signatory to the IMA, an orchestra must have a collective bargaining agreement with their local, a permanent roster, and an orchestra committee. The 70-plus eligible orchestras signed to the new IMA will be able to take advantage of these new, expanded provisions. There are 50-plus orchestras still working under the older IMA and they will continue to use the news and promotional provisions under the older agreement.

The promotional language in the new IMA (2015-2017) is divided into subsections: Use of Captured Material for Promotion; Promotion via Performance Streaming; Volunteer Promotional Recordings; and Gifts to Donors, Corporate Sponsors, and Subscribers.

Footage for these promotional pieces will be captured at live services (rehearsals or performances). The one exception to this form of capture is the volunteer promotional recording provision (discussed later in this article). There are time limits on the amount of capture and use for all promotional pieces.

From Capture to Finished Promo

The new provisions make it possible for orchestras to greatly expand their time and presence on social media. Typical uses would be the institution’s Facebook and YouTube pages, as well as other social media sites. It also covers use in cell phones or wireless transmission, streaming e-mails (perhaps to subscribers), podcasts, and use in kiosks or monitors in promotional locations. The material can also be used by institutional sponsors or partners for their websites, as long as the material isn’t being sold.

The agreement also provides an opportunity to stream a performance that was free to the public for 45 days in order to expand the institution’s community outreach. In addition, there is a new provision that (with orchestra approval) allows for one concert that was not free to the public to be streamed for the same 45-day period.

Volunteer Promotional Recordings

Lengthy discussions took place at the IMA negotiations over the issue of the employers’ and potentially the musicians’ interest in being able to participate in audio or audiovisual interviews and activities that, in addition to talking, include individual demonstrations on their instruments for promotion. An example of this type of promotion might be an employer’s interest in featuring a new player in the orchestra, or asking a player to demonstrate an excerpt of a piece from an upcoming concert.

Our negotiating committee felt that the only fair way to do this was to make it voluntary for the interested musicians, plus create rules that had to be followed to ensure consistent application of this new provision. Musicians can accept or decline the offer without affecting their status in the orchestra. These recorded interviews cannot be used in any kind of disciplinary procedure. The recording can be done at a time and place chosen by the volunteer musician. Recording time is limited to 45 minutes and the final product can be no longer than 15 minutes. It is available for two years from the date of posting. Musicians that participate have approval over the repertoire and have final say in whether or not the product gets used.

This new provision is designed to create some order in what was previously a chaotic approach to these types of projects. As it is a new provision, the AFM will be collecting information about these projects along the way to evaluate how well it is working.

Gifts to Donors, Corporate Sponsors, and Subscribers

In the past, the Federation has assisted individual orchestras that wanted to make a gift of a CD to their donors during major fundraising campaigns. Special agreements were created by the AFM and approved by the musicians of each institution. These agreements allowed for the creation of a CD to bring in needed dollars to the orchestra as part of a major fundraising drive. In an effort to codify an existing practice, the AFM agreed to include such provisions in the agreement.

There are now two donor paths that an orchestra must choose between to create one project per season. The first path allows for the creation of a CD, DVD, audio download, or AV download to be distributed to donors as a gift. There are minimum donation requirements and limits on the number of copies. This product can’t be sold or broadcast.

The second path an orchestra can choose is to create a donor portal on the orchestra’s website (or a third party website, if the orchestra doesn’t have the ability to host the portal on its own site). Once again, there are minimum levels that must be met by donors and limits on the amount of music that can be posted. Access to the portal must be password protected or otherwise restricted. The material will be available for on-demand streaming—no downloads. The orchestra committee has artistic and project approval for either path. There is also a new provision that allows the possibility of providing a CD or DVD gift to a major corporate sponsor or underwriter up to one time per year (with Federation approval).

The final promotional category covers the release of product for subscribers or multi-ticket buyers. This is an opportunity to provide them with a taste of what a donor gets as a possible enticement to move them up to the donor level. Up to two times per year, the employer can provide them with a free download (or another perk like a maximum two-week period of access to a donor portal) in connection with a targeted marketing program specifically approved by the Orchestra Committee. There are time limits for the product posted.

Time will tell if signatory institutions take advantage of these wide-ranging opportunities to promote themselves. The resulting reported activity will inform the discussion when the time comes to bargain the successor IMA.

5 Sound System Mistakes

5 Sound System Mistakes Club Musicians Always Make

By Kent Ashcraft, Local 161-710 (Washington, DC)

5 Sound System MistakesMost engagements musicians play these days require some sort of sound system to amplify vocals, instruments, or both. Some musicians can afford to hire a professional sound company to transport and operate the equipment. If you’re one of them, congratulations; you don’t need to read the rest of this article.

However, if you are someone who runs your own gear, you may need this information. It’s been my experience that most musicians have inadequate knowledge of basic acoustical principles.

After all, sound engineering isn’t what you’re trained for. As someone with a good deal of practical experience and theoretical knowledge in this area, I have described the five most common mistakes musicians make when choosing and operating their sound equipment.

Mistake #1: Inadequate amplifier power. Most speakers come with a “continuous power handling” rating, expressed in watts. It’s natural to think of that as the maximum continuous power an amplifier can have in order to drive the speakers safely, and that using a more powerful amp will risk burning out the drivers.

Actually, the exact opposite is true. For technical reasons I won’t go into here, your speakers are more at risk if your amp isn’t powerful enough. Today’s speakers can handle a remarkable amount of clean power–the key word is “clean.” The higher the power rating of an amp, the more “headroom” it has, and the less distortion. I recommend using a speaker’s power rating as a minimum when choosing an amplifier to drive it.

Mistake #2: Mounting the speakers too high. Ever since the introduction of tripod speaker stands, it seems that many people have an urge to run them up to maximum height, thinking it somehow will prevent the sound from being too loud for the patrons. That’s what your volume control is for, not your speaker stands. Where the speakers are concerned, the basic principle is that you want the audience to hear them directly.

A typical speaker projects sound in a flattened cone pattern, about 90 degrees horizontal by 50 degrees vertical. You should visualize that coverage pattern, and mount the speakers so that the maximum number of ears are within it. Mounting the speakers eight feet in the air will generally result in most of the audience hearing only reflected sound from the room, which is much less clear.

Mistake #3: Trying to fix the room. Ninety eight percent of the rooms you will play in sound horrible. The bad news is that short of calling in contractors to rebuild them, there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it, and if you try, it will only make matters worse.

The good news is that the sound of the room isn’t nearly as important as you may think. Here’s why: Psychoacoustic research has shown that the human ear has the ability to separate direct from reflected sound, and that the brain will focus on the direct sound. It’s related to the phenomenon whereby if you close your eyes at a cocktail party, you can still pick out individual conversations around the room. So assuming that your speakers are mounted correctly, a person in the audience will perceive the direct sound of the speaker independent of the awful reflected sound in the room. If you try to notch out room peaks with an equalizer, you’ll make the room sound better by making the speaker sound worse, yet the sound of the speaker is what’s really important.

Mistake #4: Using EQ because it’s there. Mixing boards almost always include equalizers (EQ), which boost or cut specific frequencies. There are two reasons for this: One, there are rare occasions when you actually can benefit from them (mostly on instruments). Two, and more important, people are used to seeing them and therefore want them. And since they’re there, many believe they should use them.

The fact is that all microphones are designed to be heard with the EQ “flat.” If you buy the right microphones (as you should), they will sound the best with no EQ at all. Buying an expensive vocal mike and then boosting certain frequencies is like covering a prime filet mignon with ketchup. Ask any good recording engineer how he uses mikes in the studio, and he’ll tell you that he gets the sound he wants by mike choice and placement, using EQ only a last resort.

Mistake #5: Getting too fancy. If you’re running the system yourself, simpler operation is always better; after all, you have to play your ax as well. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen leaders do an extensive sound check before the gig, only to constantly fiddle with the controls on stage, making the sound progressively worse amid howling feedback.

If you use the same basic instruments and vocals on most of your jobs, you should only have to do one initial sound check, after which you should make notes of all the settings and leave them right there on future gigs.

The only thing that’s going to change is the room, and you can’t fix the room with the PA. Set all similar vocal microphones the same unless you have reason to do otherwise. If you’re running monitors, resist the temptation to use customized mixes for different people unless you have a compelling reason to do so.

In my experience, the most effective monitor mix is usually what is going into the mains, because it gives people the best sense of overall balance. The times I have heard people complain the most about what they hear from their monitors have invariably been times when multiple mixes are being used. Make it easy on yourself and keep it simple.

Running a sound system or obtaining good sound doesn’t have to be difficult. And certainly these are things you’re best off not having to worry about on the job, when you have clients to please, tunes to call, time to keep track of, and so on. If you avoid these five common mistakes, you will make your gig life easier, and your group will sound a lot better.

Your Best Gig Could Be Your Next Gig

Over the past few columns I’ve talked about crazy, memorable, and terrible gigs. That’s life as a working musician. I appreciate all the letters, calls, and e-mails about out-of-the-ordinary playing jobs. They are too numerous to mention here, but I am retaining many of them for future columns.

Besides just mentioning a highlight or funny story of some careers, three AFM members sent me books they’ve written. They range from “riding the crest of a slump” to looking back on a wonderful career as a union musician.

Hank Doiron of Local 198-457 (Providence, RI) wrote a recap of his more than 70 years as a bass player/vocalist. In his book, Gonna Take a Sentimental Journey, he mentions the hundreds of local AFM buddies he worked with through the years. Doiron is a former secretary of his local, and has had an outstanding career. One of the more unique gigs he played was when he was asked to put together a Dixie trio of bass, banjo, and trumpet. He arrived to find they were playing for a wake and the deceased’s last request was to have live Dixie music play during his calling hours.

I received The Life and Times of a Honky Tonk Drummer (available on Amazon) from Troy “Skeet” Seaton of Local 71 (Memphis, TN). It’s his stories from 45 years as a drummer in a number of different bands throughout Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

One of his fun stories was about playing at a bar with a guy who didn’t drink. It was the guy’s first job with the band in a number of years, and Seaton had a tough time even getting him to play the gig. The band was on a break, and someone bought a whole tray of tequila shooters and sent them over to the band. Skeet told one of the guys at a table next to the band that they’d had enough, and that he could drink them all. He promptly grabbed them like they were diamonds and downed them all at once. The guy in the band who didn’t drink came over to see what was going on, and the tequila grabber promptly threw up all over the nondrinking musician’s new cowboy boots. Skeet said all he could say was “welcome to the band.”

Then there was Local 1000 (nongeographic) member Jamie Anderson’s Drive All Night. The liner notes say it’s “in the tradition of the second oldest profession.” She’s been a traveling singer, comic, songwriter, musician, and a few more things beyond that. These are her recollections of grungy lodging, shady producers, half-deaf sound engineers, and miles of highway weariness. She has a very unique niche, and you’ll have to get her book on Amazon to really get a good take on her adventures as a girl with a guitar. She’s opened for major and minor acts, closed a church coffeehouse by uttering names of female parts, and danced with a tornado.

The book is a delightful mix of horror road stories on the touring circuit for her unique audience. It’s very funny in parts, and will make you feel your worst gigs were nothing compared to what she went through—no matter where you played. Her life has always been gigging, writing, networking, recording, and laughing. It’s a not-so-glamorous look at her daily grind.

Once, after slogging through a too-long sound check at a gig in Baltimore, a sound guy groused, “You’ve just never worked with such great equipment before.” She was tempted to answer, “It sounds like you’ve never seen sound equipment before.” Nothing she could do would convince him that her guitar does not usually scream like a jet at O’Hare, and her voice shouldn’t sound like something from an ancient boom box. She says you learn to live with it.

Once she had to sit on the edge of a stage in a huge theater, singing without amplification because no one knew how to adjust the computerized sound system. There was a date in Ohio where the sound equipment was locked in a cabinet for which no one had the key. She still did the gig, but only the folks in the first few rows could really hear her. She still got paid.

You learn to deal with these times, because you know the next gig will be better. Anderson writes in her book: “As long as somebody wants to hear me, I’m there. I’m especially interested in any gig in Hawaii, but Burnt Corn, Alabama, will work too.” She goes on to say, “There is nothing more satisfying than hearing applause when you’ve done a good job.” (It’s really nice when you get well over scale too.) Anderson also says she could never be an accountant because “no one claps when you balance the books.” Amen to that.

Tough gigs are a fact of life. It’s part of what we do. You learn from it. That next gig could be the best one you’ve ever had!

Tips on Making an Orchestral Audition Recording

Grant applications are often straightforward to follow but time-consuming. Don’t wait until the last minute to send in an application, as you may find yourself rushing around to make photocopies or prepare a demo CD and thus are more likely to make mistakes or miss a part of the application.

Tips on Making an Orchestral Audition Recording

  • Always read guidelines and instructions carefully and follow them to the letter. Always submit a grant on time and in the requested format.
  • Don’t try to make the grantor’s program fit what you want to do–your program must be in line with the funding agency’s priorities.
  • Keep your goals realistic! Grantors want to know if projects will be successful, will meet their goals, and that those goals are measurable.
  • Be creative and compelling. Grants may be won or lost on the quality of ideas proposed. Grant writers talk about the “hook,” the sentence that tailors the project description to the interest of a funder.
  • Have clearly definable goals and objectives. You may also be asked to define an audience for your project or how it fits a grant’s wider (i.e. educational or historical) goals.
  • Propose a reasonable, detailed budget and timetable. Do your homework on costs prior to submitting your application.
  • Clarity is very important. Have someone you trust, preferably with good writing skills, read and critique your application.
  • Proofread! Spelling and grammar errors do not convey a positive or professional image. It’s a good idea to draft statements and longer items of the application before preparing a final version.
  • Choose partners wisely. If working collaboratively, make sure your partner is trustworthy, shares your vision, and shares the leg work.
  • If unsuccessful, follow-up with the funding agency nevertheless. Sometimes, not always, it will be able to give a critique of your application or reasons why certain projects were successful.

5 Essentials of Music Career Success

by Peter Spellman, Director of Career Development at Berklee College of Music

Music is too big a world for a one-size-fits-all model of music career success. Musicians’ career paths are as unique as their fingerprints.

Nevertheless, there are a few guidelines that I believe apply to anyone trying to make a living and a career out of their love of music.

Here are 5 essentials of music career success:

1) Hone your talent and realize there is a place for you. Not everyone is a Quincy Jones, The Beatles, or a Bruce Springsteen, but if an artist like Tom Waits is a vocalist, then there is definitely room for you too. Do the work necessary to excel in your niche, whether it’s writing a chart, engineering a session, providing backup vocals, or teaching kids the basics of music.

Your goal, to use marketing lingo, is to “position” yourself in your market as the go-to person for that particular skill or talent. Don’t worry too much about industry rejection. Every record label in Britain initially passed on The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. The key is believing in yourself and persevering beyond others’ opinions (even those of “the industry”).

2) Connect with as many people as you can because relationships drive music careers more that anything else, even talent. Music is a “who you know/who knows you” kind of business. The quality and quantity of your relationships will be the primary engines of your progress. Try developing creative projects with fellowmusicians. Perhaps you can combine your live show with two other acts and present the package to a local promoter. There is strength in numbers. Finding the right combinations takes experimentation.

If you’re interested in working in the business side of music, then interning at a music company is the best way to both learn how the biz works and connect with those who can help move your career along.

3) Accept the new powers in your corner and take responsibility for creating your own success. The last 20 years has given you the means to both produce and distribute your own music on a global scale. New models of business are emerging in the world of music. A “record deal” is not necessarily the goal any longer. The Internet has clearly become your “open mike” to the world, and desktop technologies provide you with ways to have the look, reach, and efficiency of larger companies. Dare to be different.

Remember, new power also means new responsibilities. Global reach means a potentially far-flung audience. You need to be ready for the incoming messages and questions from this new market. Have you created the best business structures to hold and express your work? Are you setting up effective systems to communicate with your audience? It’s up to you to create your own success and not merely rely on a record company or agent to do the work of making you visible in the marketplace.

4) Understand that every business is becoming a “music business” and so musical opportunities are multiplying. It took a coffee company and a computer manufacturer to teach the music industry how to sell music in the digital age! Nonmusic businesses everywhere are seeking creative ways to add music-related services to their mix. This means that you needn’t be dependent on the traditional “music industrial complex” for music career success.

Think of companies you already resonate with and try brainstorming ways you can link up. Start on a local scale. It might be a gift shop, bookstore, or arts organization. It may even evolve into a full-fledged sponsorship for a tour or recording project. Finds ways to add value to what these businesses are doing with what you have to offer. Forging creative alliances is key to building a multi-dimensional music career.

5) Prepare to be versatile and to wear several hats initially, until your “brand” is established. Most musicians I know have had to cobble together several revenue streams in the early stages of their careers in order to make enough money to support themselves. Many have also had to take on nonmusic “lifeline careers” just to make ends meet, pay down debt, or supplement what they earn from music. I tell musicians to not so much look for “a job,” but to seek out the work that needs to be done. It might be arranging a song, playing a wedding gig, helping organize a concert series, doing a jingle session, offering private music instruction, or writing a review of your favorite band’s new CD.

Eventually, all the different experiences merge together into the roaring river that will be your music career. At that point you’ll be visible, in demand, and able to name your price. And that’s career success.

Peter Spellman is Director of Career Development at Berklee College of Music, Boston. This article is adapted from his new book, Indie Marketing Power: The Guide for Maximizing Your Music Marketing (2008, Music Business Solutions).