Posts Tagged ‘Promotion’

Nobody Loves A Starving Musician

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Nobody Loves a Starving Musician

By Keith Hatschek

Republished with permission from Artists House Music

Have you ever been a starving musician? Not metaphorically, but in reality.

It’s no fun.

Wondering where this month’s rent money is going to come from, scrounging up change in the sofa to put gas in your car to get to an audition, hoping that a string doesn’t break during the gig…

You get the idea. It isn’t pretty.

But most musicians know that no one goes from unknown artist to self-sufficient professional overnight. So how DO you do it?

Here are seven rules that will help you make the transition from someone with talent to someone with talent and a level of financial self-sufficiency. Someone who is well on their way to building a successful career in music.

Rule 1: Always Bring Your “A” Game
Making the decision to spend your life as a professional musician is a big commitment. Once you’ve made that decision, you need to focus on bringing your “A” game to every interaction that impacts your music studies, performances, networking and other points of contact with what we loosely call the music industry.
Never put a half-hearted effort into anything musical. First, the competition to get work and keep working is fierce in every city and town in the world. Second, since so much of the music industry is based on personal relationships and reputations, if word gets out that you gave a weak effort at a gig or rehearsal, chances are you may not be getting a call back in the future.

Rule 2: Get Out of Your Practice Room
Isn’t practicing supposed to be the road to musical success, more gigs and maybe even superstardom? Well, no, it’s not.

Actually, your musical chops, whether you are a shred guitarist or a composer of madrigals, is only one part of your overall career skill set. Not to say that playing, singing, of composing extremely well is not absolutely essential. It is.

But there are thousands of talented guitarists who can play every lick by whoever the hot guitarist of the month but seldom play a gig. Why?

They spend their lives studying music, perfecting their skills, however they are unfortunately violating one of the most important rules of music career building. You must develop connections to people and institutions (think clubs, radio stations, booking agents, other bands, etc.) that are like-minded and can help you.

So if you’ve been spending 4 hours every night after work practicing, take one night a week off and get out and meet some music professionals. Ask around your local music store or music school about meeting up with some people who are interested in similar types of music, careers, etc. Find a club that hires bands like yours to play, go to a show, get the phone number of the booker and get your promo kit into their hands.

Most importantly, find a way to learn how other musicians and music industry professionals have become successful and what advice they might offer you to build your own career. (Hey, you’ve found Artist’s House, so you’re already well on your way to learning more about building your career!)

Rule 3: Nurture Your Network
All of us have a network of friends, family, and most of us have various professional connections. This is your current network. To fast track your career you need to continually work to expand your network, adding persons who can help you grow your career and you need to keep in touch with your network.

Social networking sites such as have created excellent opportunities for musicians and bands to create, grow and profit from an expansive network. But MySpace is primarily a fan-oriented medium. Additionally, you also need a closer group of individuals who will offer support, guidance, keep an ear open for opportunities that may help you, and even offer a shoulder to cry on from time to time. Call this the “inner orbit” of your network.

Start today by making a list of everyone who you would consider supporting your music career goals and ambitions. Then, set a goal of adding a few people each month to your network, as well as giving support and aid to the members of your network. In more than 30 years in the music industry, I’ve found that the vast majority of gigs and jobs were the result of a personal connection, rarely from a job listing.

Ignore your network and you are condemning your music career to the slowest possible track.

Rule 4: Get A Music Industry Day Gig
This is counterintuitive to many talented young artists. Why should I get a day gig when I could/should be practicing my brains out, much less a music industry day gig? (Re read the first few sentences of the article, OK?)

Aside from keeping home and hearth together, using your love, knowledge and passion for music to help a music industry company meet some of their goals is a fantastic way to expand your network, and learn more about an area of the industry that you will be involved in when your career takes off.

For example, a rock musician may learn quite a bit about record distribution or radio airplay by working at a well-managed record store or a radio station that features the types of music you perform.

An aspiring opera singer can learn a tremendous amount about how opera companies or other non-profit arts organizations are managed by working for an opera, theater company or orchestra.

An aspiring jazz drummer may forge many useful connections by teaching beginning drummers at a well-managed music store, opening up the opportunities to meet drum manufacturers, clinicians and other drum and percussion professionals.

Remember, flipping burgers is not likely to help your career onto the fast track we all want to be on.

Rule 5: Get Educated
Are you in school right now studying music? If so, congratulate yourself. You are investing in your future success and should make the most out of every opportunity to connect with teachers, fellow students and professionals who have contact with your program. Of course, you attend every master class at your school for performers, no matter what instrument, right?

Through with school? Not to worry, there are literally thousands of opportunities each month around the world to continue to learn about music careers at conferences, seminars, workshops, clinics and the like. How do you find out what opportunities are available in your area? See rule 3. If you’ve been building and nurturing your network, you’re already in the know.

One final element pertaining to your musical education is that everyone in music can benefit from a mentor. Did you know that even the highest paid opera singers in the world have a voice coach on whom they rely to keep their performance in tip-top shape? Who are your mentors?

Rules 6a, 6b & 6c: Be Humble, Self-Aware and Self-Critical
Getting up on stage in front of ten people or an audience of 10,000 takes courage. If you are very talented, it’s easy to “believe the hype” that may be swirling around after a particularly successful concert or club gig.

Don’t do it.

Remember, there’s always someone who plays, sings, arranges, or composes better than you. Not to diminish your musical accomplishments in any way, but remember to be humble, because everyone in the industry would prefer to support a talented artist who is striving to be the best they can, rather than a stuffy, egomaniacal artist who causes everyone backstage to roll their eyes when she or he struts past.

People also love to see a windbag fail, but will often make considerable sacrifices to help out a centered, respectful and humble new artist.

Being self-aware is a wonderful life skill for everyone, but especially so for musicians. When you play your instrument, what is your body language conveying to the audience? Are you loving or hating the piece you play?

When you go to meet with a potential agent, are you prepared, confident and able to communicate what you can offer as a musician? Or are you nervous, edgy and feeling naked in front of the world?

Know yourself, and your level of preparedness for whatever the next step you are about to take in your career.

Being self-critical means taking your work as a musician seriously and providing yourself with the tools and time to evaluate your own efforts. This can be as simple as making a tape of the piece you have been learning and listening back to it to identify which spots still need work, to asking a trusted colleague or music teacher to offer you some constructive criticism after your next show.

Remember, to a musician, there is really no such thing as a perfect performance, instead successful musicians learn how to create a situation each time they perform for an optimal performance on that day, time and place.

Rule 7: Keep Your Sense of Humor
Did anyone tell you the music industry is a pretty crazy way to make a living? One minute your life can be filled with the rapture of a musical triumph, and the next day you’ll be wallowing in agonizing doubt because you didn’t get a call back for a crucial audition.

In order to cope with the stress and struggle of a career in music it is absolutely essential that you maintain a sense of humor, as well as a few non-musical outlets to allow you to keep on an even keel.

Take these seven rules and start building your professional music career today. Nobody likes a starving musician but everyone wants to support a young artist on the way up in his or her career.

Take charge of your career and good things will start to happen. Really. Endnote: The author gratefully acknowledges the inspiration for performers that can be found in Angela Beeching’s excellent book titled, “Beyond Talent,” which goes into much greater depth on how to become a peak musical performer.

Growing Your Studio…

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

By Rachel Velarde

Trying something new…

I’ve been working on promoting and building my studio for the past month.  I got MANY great ideas at the Classical Singer Convention in Chicago at the end of May, thanks to Cynthia Vaughn at Magnolia Music Studio in Fort Collins, CO.  Cynthia has SO many amazing ideas and she worked with several other voice teachers to try to get as many as possible so that we could benefit from all this experience.

Several points were made:

  • Attract & Retain students
    • Show progress with
    • Quantifiable advances
    • Awards/competitions
    • Roles/solos – community based|
    • Technical goals achieved
    • Have a Student Achievement Page on the studio website

* Relevance – non-quantifiable advances in:

* enjoyment

* validation

* feedback/applause – studio class BEFORE a recital!

* Added Value:

* Options in scheduling and payment (check/credit card)

* bonuses – register early, get 10% off, register for summer & get free lesson

* performance opportunities – find out who has space you can use!

* Gain New Students
o Word of mouth through different circles
o teach styles OTHER than Classical/Musical Theater
* Marketing:
o Bold, creative, SELECTIVE (no mass emails!)
o Distinctive logo (see my new logo here!) & business cards



* Online Business Links

* Facebook, LinkedIn

* ($49/yr)

* (free listing)

* GOOGLE yourself & find out where you are listed – you might be surprised at what’s there AND what’s not! (I have an OLD listing that I’m trying to modify – the web address leads nowhere)

o   Advertising??

* Facebook Advertising – can limit yourself to a small daily $$ & focus the market

* Facebook Fan Page

* I’ve tried Craigslist & gotten several spam emails and one VERY rude call from a potential student (she decided I was too far away – but by the 3rdword I’d decided I didn’t want to teach her)

o   EASY website address

o   Ask friends from around the country to come in & do special classes.  Just ask, “What would it take to get you here?”

o   Sight-reading workshops, songwriters, ticketed events => benefits? (get tickets at

o   Making Music Magazine – they’ll send a free subscription for you to hand out to your students

o   Logo products and merchandise – it’s free marketing!! $15/ea or $25/2, tote bags & t-shirts

o   advertise in an opera/community/young people’s theater program (maybe not as expensive as you might think)

“Voice Lessons may be your students’ hobby, but you can never treat it like a hobby.  It’s a BUSINESS and maybe, even a calling.”                                                                — Cynthia Vaughn

You must let your students know:

* I am reliable, I almost never cancel lessons
* I attend my students’ concerts & other performances
* I appreciate the personality that makes them unique

You are the CEO of your own business.

Show you are a community asset.

* support/join other arts organizations
* collaborate with other teachers
* join the local business organizations – often musicians are “foreign” to them!! J
* Chamber of Commerce?
* Get a state sales tax license for selling the logo merchandise (even if it’s just for pennies)
* MTNA (Music Teachers National Association)
* Federation of Music Clubs

Other ideas I’ve gotten from friends who’ve responded to the Facebook postings I’ve done are:

Get the book by Philip Johnston Promoting your Teaching Studio.
In late summer connect with music teachers in the local schools. Offer to do a fall workshop to kick start the choral programs. Advertise in the programs of any events your students are performing in (concerts, musicals, etc.)
Advertise in Christmas & year-end concerts at local schools

Discount summer rates/gift certificate if current students refer a new student who signs up for a minimum number of lessons (6 or so)
Attend as many performances as possible and congratulate students & the director in person. Directors and parents will consider you highly when asked for a referral if you support their program. If need to reschedule students, offer to take those students with you to see other studio mates in action!
WHAT I’VE DONE to promote my own studio:

  • New Studio Logo
  • Easy website name.  My studio website hosted & designed by  My website adress with them, which is extremely long & awkward when telling a prospective student your website over the phone.  You can purchase a short domain name for about $10/yr which will then FORWARD to your chosen site.  I’ve now chosen, which I got fromGoDaddy.  It also came with one free email, so my studio email is now  Consistency is the name of the game (plus, I have all of my email addresses dumped into where I have the option of replying using the address the email was sent to – no one knows that I’m really using one email client to manage my mail, but I have everything in one place).
  • Advertising on Facebook (I’ve set a $1.50/day limit, but I’ve gotten interest & I can track how many clicks people use on the ad)
  • Advertising in the Family Market programs in the Phoenix Area – turns out most of the bigger Children’s Theater companies (there are 4 major ones here) use the same company to produce their programs. The programs are paid for solely from advertising & then are provided free to the community. So, I’m supporting the arts & advertising at the same time. Those will begin running in October. (Thanks, Dad, for that small business loan!)
  • Signing up for websites:,Facebook Fan page for the studio,
  • Going to my social media websites every day to click on the links – the more “cross-linking” you have the higher up in the search engines they’ll show. This takes about 10 minutes daily, but I think it’s worth it!  Put links for your teaching site on your solo site, and vice versa.  I also have a “button” for my Facebook Fan Page on the front of my studio Home Page.   It’s not that hard to do.
  • Consistent branding with my logo – I have business cards, a promotional flyer, car door magnets & a downloaded logo to use on anything I do (including throughout my web presence) thanks for (if you even MIGHT be in the market for any of these things, go to Vistaprint & sign up for the promotional emails – they give GREAT deals & then when you check out they always offer you more, so under order!)
  • Free Google local business listing – choose your keywords wisely
  • I’m looking into forming an LLC that will cover my voice studio, my solo performing & anything else I do that is music – that will most likely have to wait until fall, but I think it’s a good idea to create that kind of umbrella.

Good luck with your own studio promotions!  People ARE looking to get lessons, they just need to know where to go & how to go about it.  Let me know what you end up doing by commenting here on the blog.  I’m posting this AND at blogs.  This is good information for everyone.

Any more ideas???

Promotion 101: Getting People To The Gig

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

Promotion 101
By Mike King
Republished with permission from Artists House Music

If you or your band are just starting out, playing out can seem like a pretty daunting process, especially if you’re the sensitive artist type. While some folks feel perfectly fine playing to the handful of locals at the pub down the street, you can be sure that the folks that booked your show booked you for a reason: to bring people in the door. If you’re playing to an empty house, the club’s bills aren’t getting paid, and the chances of you being invited back to play are about the same as the chances the townie sitting at the bar will buy your record. There are certain unavoidable events (competing shows, acts of God, etc.) that every performing artist has to deal with, but there are also a number of very basic grassroots-type things that you can do to publicize your show, get people in the door, and make the club happy to have you.

As this is Promotion 101, we’re going to assume you haven’t really played out yet, and that your local market is what you’re looking to conquer. Which is great, as the first rule of thumb for a successful show is to INVITE YOUR FRIENDS. It may sound too sales-ey, or disingenuous, or presumptuous, or whatever, but this is the music industry, and no matter what role you play in it you’re going to have learn that no matter how distasteful it may seem, self promotion is the key to success. The number one thing you should do is to invite everyone you personally know to your show, twice – once a week or two before the show, and again the night before. Preferably through e-mail as well as a personal call. Before your music has a chance to speak for itself, the people that are going to go see you play are there to see you, personally. Hopefully you’ll pull off what you’re trying to pull off on stage, and your friends will turn on their friends to what you’re doing, and you’ll have the beginning of a little fan base. And of course these friends will mark the beginning of your mailing list, which you will keep up religiously.

Once you’ve exhausted your personal address book, it’s time for some external publicity. Making posters or counter cards is pretty easy. In no way do these have to be Hatch Show Print, thick stock, 5-color metallic ink jobs. Some really great posters can be made on the down low if you are creative and have access to a cheap copy shop. But, as always, the devil is in the details – there are certain things you must mention in the poster: Who? Where? When? How Much? Age Restriction? If someone somewhere has ever said anything nice about your band it doesn’t hurt to give people a quote either as a point of reference, but it’s definitely not a necessity. Once the posters are together, distribution is the next step. Try to find friendly, like-minded, public businesses that are cool with you hanging posters or distributing counter cards. In marketing land, someone who likes to use clichés might call this ‘fishing where the fishes are.’ Independent businesses are a good place to start – coffee shops are usually good, independent record stores, cool clothing stores, bars, etc. Your return on investment is higher if you spend some time thinking about where these should go. Another good idea would be to distribute some cards outside of a larger band’s show that you feel ‘shares the same artistic sensibility’ as you. Think your music sounds like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah? Might be a fair idea to hang outside after their show to promote your band as well.

Now that you’ve laid the groundwork for your grassroots promotional efforts, it’s time to focus on getting your show listed in the press – which can be a bit of a process, especially for a new band. For any hope of getting some promotional love from the press, you’re going to need to submit your press release at least THREE WEEKS in advance, and you’re going to have to format it just right.

Basic Press Release Guidelines

For Immediate Release

Contact info here, to include name, address, phone, email

Who, What, When, Where, Cost

All the specifics should be right up top in the release

About Your Band/Music
What makes you special, who do you sound like, why should anyone want to see you play live? As Frank Zappa might say: “What can you do that is fantastic?

It’s always better if someone else says something nice about you, rather than you saying it yourself. There was a band around Boston a few years back that used a quote from Mark Sandman in their press releases that said something like “I saw them play, they were…interesting.” I always thought that was pretty cool.

About you or your band, what the member’s play, was a member of your band part of Broken Social Scene? What else can you say about your band?

Once you have the above formatted nice, you’re ready to send it out. Start with the hip weeklies in your area (In Boston this would be the Dig and the Phoenix, Chicago has the Reader, NY has the Voice, etc).

Next Steps
After you get a couple shows under your belt, there are some additional things that can be done to help promote yourself. You’re going to have the beginnings of your community started and your email list in place, and you can now keep people up to date through a dedicated list (there are many companies out there that can help you to send nice HTML updates), as well as a MySpace page with show listings and song samples. And once you start really killing your live show, you may start making friends with your local press, which can result in some show reviews. If you have aspirations to play outside your local area, all this critical mass can be harnessed into your promo kit, which you’re going to use to secure dates in areas where you don’t necessarily have the luxury of a fan base yet.

Keep in mind that getting your name out there is an arduous process, and no matter how good your promotion is, you’re absolutely going to be playing to a handful of folks on occasion. Every other band has been in exactly the same situation, and if you lay a firm promotional groundwork now at these early stages, and your live show is excellent, you’re bound to succeed.