Some people might tell you that a “successful working musician” is a mythical being. But those of us who are successful working musicians know that it is possible with hard work and determination. Those jobs, whether they are wedding gigs or an orchestra chair, don’t just fall into your lap. You have to pursue them with a focused strategy.It takes some business savvy to set up and maintain a teaching studio, or to book concerts for your group. Music schools are getting better at teaching students about the music business and how to be business-like in their approach. And there are great books like Donald Passman’s All You Need to Know About the Music Business written to help musicians with the non-music details of being a working musician. But no matter what kind of music you play, or what kind of music business you want to have, there is one important ingredient that many musicians still overlook.
When my students start playing for pay, they are usually unsure how to value themselves and price their services. They know they are students and they need to represent themselves honestly. But at the same time, they often undervalue their work, and fail to set up a solid business approach.
But you can better represent yourself as a teacher or performer in any musical genre, even at your current experience level, by doing one easy thing. You need to see yourself through your client’s eyes.
When you look at your music business, whether you have a flourishing business already or are just starting one, through the eyes of your potential client, you can begin to understand what you need to do and how to present yourself. This is what makes the difference between being considered for the job and actually getting the job. There are three main things you need to know about your client:
1. Who your client is;
2. What your client needs and wants; and
3. What your client’s concerns are.
Who is your client? Are you looking for brides-to-be? Parents of potential students? Concert presenters? Usually it isn’t difficult to pinpoint the person who would hire you, but this is an essential step. Once you know who your client is, create a mental image of that person, perhaps based on actual clients that have employed you. In fact, imagine a couple of sample clients, and write down a brief description of each. Your description could include your client’s approximate age, personal style or taste, job, or anything else that you can identify. Once you have a fairly clear picture of who your client is, you can begin to address the next two items.
What does your client need from a musician like you? A reliable teacher for his child? An elegant performer for her wedding? A professional addition to the faculty of her music school? A performer his audience will relate to? And what attributes will that client look for to demonstrate how well you fit his needs? A reliable teacher will be organized, have studio policies and a curriculum. A wedding harpist will dress well and be familiar with standard wedding procedures and repertoire. A performer will have a basic online presence with photos and audio samples. Pretend you are your client. Would you hire you? And if not, read on…
What are your client’s concerns? If you are disorganized, their child may not have regular lessons or you may be late for their wedding. If you are not prepared with the basics that a client requires, you are not likely to get the job. If you imagine what might concern a client, you can address those concerns ahead of time by making sure that your first contact with your client presents you in the best light possible.
Two words of caution: first, your representations must be honest and not inflated or false. Don’t creatively “pad” your resume. Truth has a way of catching up with us.
Second, you should still be “you.” Don’t create an alter ego in order to get a job. You and your music are unique, and that is what will make you stand out from everyone else. And that is why you became a musician in the first place.