How to play gigs for agencies/booking agents. Tips and tricks to get yourself on the roster and be in demand.

This article is designed to educate you (and give you tips) about how to perform gigs for booking agencies. I’ll talk about the Pros and Cons and give you an overview of my experiences in this world. Hopefully there is a lot you will be able to take out of this article and apply to your own lives. Playing for agencies can be great but I want you to understand it and know what you’re getting into.

Some PROS and CONS about using a booking agency.

PROS:

  1. You get to work in venues you may not typically have access to perform in
  2. Agencies book all kinds of venues and events. You can be working on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. You may have mid day or early afternoon work. I often can squeeze in an extra gig after these shows
  3. You work in great venues, sometimes in a suit. This is great for being taken professionally. It goes a long way if a client is thinking of hiring you to perform their wedding and you invite them to see you play in a ritzy venue where you’re all dressed up
  4. You can fill in some holes in your schedule where you didn’t manage to book anything
  5. You are the backup for a long list of performers and there are tons of instances where artists have to cancel or can’t perform for whatever reason (obviously, try to limit cancelling if you’ve agreed to perform a gig). It’s nice to get calls to cover for other people, especially last minute!
  6. You can hand out business cards to high end clients (See point 2 in cons).
  7. You are building relationships and increasing you network
  8. Access to great new opportunities such as performing on cruise ships, hotels, casinos, and resorts (domestic or abroad)
  9. You learn tons of stuff and your game will get better. Playing in-demand venues and high end places teaches you next-level lessons in professionalism, reliability, and presentation. The devil is in the details and this will help you be a pro in all your other gigs. Great training for booking and playing corporate gigs and weddings of your own.

CONS:

  1. You usually make a lower rate of pay. That’s undeniable, but playing early on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday makes up for that I think.
  2. You can’t always hand out business cards (I know this contradicts point 6 in Pros, some agencies stipulate this, use your judgement. There are some instances where it’s possible, be smart about it).
  3. Red tape. You have to send in invoices and wait a week or two for your pay. You often have to pay for parking. It’s not as simple as finding a gig on your own, playing it, and getting paid.
  4. Your music can be in the background. People may not clap and cheer you on. Thats just the way it is. Doesn’t mean it won’t happen. The ball is in your court as the musician but generally we shouldn’t interact with guests until approached. These gigs really aren’t about us and being offended by someone not caring about the music is super redundant and unnecessary. It accomplishes nothing. Your job is to sound great, look great, and not extend yourself too much into the guests’ evening. This brings me to my next point,
  5. It’s a job. We all love music and it sucks to think of it “as a job”. But it’s so much better than actually having to go work a “job” that you hate, that has nothing to do with music. Try to take away the good side of things and you’ll have a good time and learn a TON of shit to REALLY make you a more valuable and sought after music entrepreneur.

Here are things you should have to increase your chances of working for agencies:

  1. A good reputation
  2. A good network of musicians
  3. A good attitude
  4. 3 X 45 minute sets of upbeat covers (You won’t always need that much but having tons of tunes in your repertoire is never a bad thing). It doesn’t all have to be party music but you can’t be a downer. Your music will often not be in the forefront but they still don’t want quiet minor chords with depressing lyrics. Think cocktail style (so jazz is great, old school RnB, well chosen top 40 covers from the last 5 years, easy listening basically. Instrumental works too often).
  5. A website
  6. Business Cards
  7. Good sounding gear for rooms that do not provide a PA
  8. Some promo really helps too, especially when there aren’t auditions being had
  9. The desire to grow, learn, and expand what you do, and how well you do it.

Below is my personal experience regarding this matter (There’s tons to takeaway from this to apply to your career). It’s about a 10 minute read but I think the benefits you will reap extend way beyond the time you’ll spend acquiring the information. Please enjoy! 🙂

It is so rewarding to find gigs on your own. It really sharpens your tools as a businessperson and you learn a ton from getting out there and convincing venues to give you a chance to perform for them. You are your own boss so what you get out of it relates directly to how hard you hustle to find the gigs, and how pro you are to keep the gigs re-occuring. That being said there are some really great music venues that deal exclusively with music booking agencies. The door closes pretty quick in these places when you try to book a gig directly with the venue.

It’s great to hustle and book your schedule with as many gigs as possible. Never stop that. That being said, when you become a trusted member of the roster of a booking agent/agency the work comes to you. Instead of chasing venues you receive calls and emails to perform regularly in some pretty great venues. I’m going to talk a bit about what it is like to play for booking agencies and give some tips that should help you become a member of a booking agency in your area.Thanks for checking out my list of pros and cons…now it’s story time.

What is it like to play for a booking agent/agency? What to expect…

The first agent I ever played for was an independent booking agent and he was pretty sleazy. He used to pay me and a buddy $200.00 as a duo (The venue paid out $300.00) and would pocket $100.00 to himself. That is pretty shady. I mean, I get that it’s a free market and all, but there’s a reason why this guy got fired from booking that venue when the manager caught wind of the extortionately low rates he was paying the musicians to play there. I want to issue a word of caution to you all, stay vigilant and don’t let yourself be underpaid because people will start to expect that you’ll work for very little. On the flip-side, I was pretty new to the biz back then, and I had a bunch of openings in my schedule so I would take the $100.00 rate to play for 4 hours (yikes! “It” really does float :P). When playing for agencies you have to walk the line between being underpaid and receiving a fair pay for your services! I’ll also touch base on this further in this blog post.

So when did things get better?

Basically, I would accept bookings with the sleazy agent whenever I had a hole in my schedule. After all, $100.00 was better than nothing when I started out. I constantly hustled to find more work though as I knew I deserved better. One day I tried to book a gig in a venue that used a booking agent and so I asked for their contact info and got in touch. I also have friends in the business that worked for that person and I was introduced that way. As I was pretty new to the business I still had a pretty open schedule and I remember getting a call from this new agent one day and he offered me like 15 gigs over the next 2-3 months. I hung up the phone feeling like a champion. The gigs paid $125-150.00 which was an improvement for me at the time. I kept working hard and learning new things and I got better. Eventually I was booking more gigs for myself and did not require the agent as much. Outgrowing an agent is great thing!

Whether you have a connection to the agent or not, they’re always looking for new performers. You find them by networking with other musicians (Open mics, etc) and by looking for venues in which to perform (So a pub manager might say “Hey we actually book through an agent and here are their details, get in touch!”.

This is what the business is like. Don’t expect to get into this knowing how to handle playing the best steakhouse or most swanky cocktail bar in town. There’s baby steps you need to learn to attain the next level, and there definitely are many levels.

Fast forward to now

In Edinburgh I was a lone wolf. I used a couple booking agents here or there but generally I really learned to hustle and make it happen for myself there. Now that I’m back in Toronto there are a bunch of venues that were taken over by various booking agencies. You can’t play direct without an agent in these places anymore. By using my network of musicians I was able to play a gig as the duo partner of an artist booked in to perform at one of these venues. We did a great job and I sent in an email to the agency letting them know that I was the duo partner and that I would love to be considered to perform more gigs. I provided my website details and they looked into me and got back to me offering me some work. I also heard about another agency that books a ton of super high end gigs and so I wrote an email to them and managed to be booked in to play a room for them.

The way it works is like this: Some agencies require you to audition, so google “music booking services in” your area and get in touch to try and set up a rehearsal. Other agencies will give you a booking (if your promo checks out) and will use the feedback of the venue to determine if you are good enough to continue booking. This is pretty par for the course so go in there and be the complete image of what a pro is! Do whatever they need and do it with a smile. You want the best review possible and that comes from sounding good and being easy and great to work with. Provide the service they are paying for. Thats basically how you get your shoe in the door. Work with your musician network, find out who books what venues, get in touch and be friendly, try out/book a gig and crush it, await more gigs, and repeat. 

In the last month I’ve been driving into the city from my suburb to perform in a suit and tie up to 2-3 times a week. It feels great to be taken seriously and to be respected. The money can still be hit and miss. It’s never under $150.00 and often more, but it’s early and mid week work. The thing is that the more good work you do for the company the more valuable you are to them. You have the right to request more money if you feel you deserve it. It’s up to you to feel it out and request a higher pay and to deal with the agencies response however you see fit.

I hope this was all very helpful. I would love to hear from you for your candid input about this topic. Please Comment below or on the Community Page”Also PLEASE LIKE and SHARE this article if you know people that might benefit from it. The better our network of musicians do, the better we do. Not only is there enough work to go around but by being great at what we do we are creating more jobs! Keep kicking ass, good luck!

Bradly

What’s been up (Now that I’m moved home)? What’s new? And what’s coming soon?

The Music Entrepreneur blog inspires and educates musicians to succeed as pros.

Hi there music entrepreneurs!

I hope things are going great and that all kinds of doors are opening for you. This truly is such a rewarding field of work to be in if you are able to focus your energy, book new and exciting work, and stay busy.

What’s been up and what’s new?

Every time my life circumstances change I learn something new about how awesome this business is. It’s been about a month and a half (Already, wow) since I’ve moved back home to Toronto from Edinburgh. Although there have been some similarities to the previous chapters in my life, it’s been unlike any other phase of my career as a musician.

It’s been similar because the driving force has to be there. The passion. The do-or-die attitude that it takes to set yourself up for success as a full-time musician. That essence is unchanged, and that’s how it needs to be ESPECIALLY in the early days of finding gigs and forming relationships with colleagues in the “scene”. What’s different is the scene itself.

Since leaving Toronto for Scotland in August of 2015 a handful of local live music staples have closed their doors, unfortunately. An even greater number of venues have begun booking exclusively with centralized entertainment booking agencies. Before I left in August, I found most of my gigs myself or through the network of my music colleagues/friends (i.e. Subbing in and out with other artists/friends, that sort of thing). I also worked with a couple of independent booking agents to fill in the gaps. But now there’s a couple of large companies that have conquered most of the market, making it so less venues are available to perform in unless you can find a way into the agency.

I always felt qualified to tell you about my story and to help guide you because I left the 9 to 5 lifestyle and became a full-time musician in Toronto. I then moved to Edinburgh (as you know by now I’m sure…lol), and was very successful at establishing myself and thriving within the local music scene as well as the private music scene (playing weddings, hotels, birthdays, and even playing for the Royal Marines). I’ve learned so much from all of this and now I’m learning that my “Music Entrepreneur” idea is still evolving to encompass a new range of experiences. It’s my hope that you will benefit from these new lessons I’m learning.

What Now?

I’ve been as busy as ever, not only learning but also setting myself up for a new kind of success with playing live shows. I’ve managed to be hired by the large booking agencies in Toronto that I was talking about before. By keeping in close contacts with my network I’ve managed to open new doors (such as being placed on the talent roster of a wedding booking agency). I’m also looking to colab with other bloggers and influencers to get other opinions and viewpoints into this blog. The “Live your Dream, be a Music Entrepreneur” Video was so well received and I’m very proud of it. Thank you so much for liking and sharing it. It’s had an organic reach of about 5k people since I uploaded it about 3 weeks ago, so thank you!

More video content is coming. Look out for my articles to appear as fun and informative vids on YouTube. I’ll also be working with my mate Enzo Boldrini to record videos of us performing our favourite songs (which will be dynamic and rich with vocal harmonies as well as texturized guitar work).

What kind of articles are on the way?

In the weeks to come I’ll be releasing consistent content based off of both my old and my new lessons. I want you to know everything that has worked for me. Perhaps not everything I say will resonate with you but I’m positive a lot of it will, and that you’ll be able to apply a lot of my content to your own life. Some things I’ll be covering:

  1. How to make beats at home (Not everyone is a guitarist or singer..and I wanna give tips to you too)!
  2. How to keep busy during the day as a musician (We have tons of time during the day if you teach, play gigs, etc. Let’s maximize the daytime hours).
  3. Music and Mental health. We’ve seen a few unfortunate examples of musicians succumbing to mental health issues this last year. It’s terrible. I want to talk about managing expectations, mindfulness, stress (including financial), and knowing that there’s always someone to listen to you. You matter and you should know it!
  4. How to book gigs with venues that use large booking agencies.
  5. Increasingly your social media awareness.
  6. How to increase your chances of getting tips at gigs.
  7. A ton more!

The future holds amazing things for us, I can feel it. Believe in it and never stop hustling. You are your hustle, even if it doesn’t seem to be paying off today it will tomorrow. Keep that hunger burning and I wish you the best success. Please share any ideas for articles in the comments section below, or message me direct. I love hearing from you guys so please don’t be shy.

Bradly

Edinburgh Toronto Musician
Back Home In Toronto

 

Time waits for no one. Live your dream. Be a Music Entrepreneur!

The video is FINALLY here! This is my Inspirational Music Entrepreneur Video. Michael Dodds of G6 (www.group6productions.com) has been hard at work helping me put this video together so a HUGE thanks to you, Micheal. It was such a pleasure working together!

This is footage from Tuesday, August 8th 2017 in Edinburgh. I performed three shows and documented my day to inspire you to chase your dreams of playing music as well! It isn’t the easiest path to success. Many people tell us we can’t be full-time musicians. That it is too hard. They say it doesn’t pay enough or that it isn’t a realistic career. I’m here to smash that stigma. Not only can you make money playing gigs, or teaching lessons, but you can grow your brand as a musician and leverage your brand to limitless heights in order to achieve things you never knew were possible from the onset! Don’t let anyone tell you who you are or how to live your life.

I think I’ve said enough here, however, for proper SEO ranking it is recommended to write at least 300 words LOL. The more you learn about things (whether its life, or music, or business…or SEO…) the more you realize you don’t know! That’s why you gotta try for yourself and see what kind of doors you can open. I believe we regret the things we don’t do more than the mistakes we make along the way in life. I’d never encourage you to be reckless, but I think you owe it to yourself to put yourself in a position where you can try!

Anyways, about this video, I paid a buddy to make it for me. I was trying to save up money but I knew I would regret the shit out of not making it. I think it’s a very inspiring video. On top of that though, I think it’s an amazing momento. A snippet of my life overseas living as a musician in Edinburgh, Scotland. I went over with no music contacts and became one of the most busy musicians in town. I made amazing friends, too. The people, the city, the work, the time with my amazing woman, everything about it was amazing and I forever have this video to remember these good times. I’m sure I’ve hit my 300 word quota by now but I just want to wish you well in your journey forward. It takes many small steps and there may be setbacks. If you prepare for it though you can do great and will be able to make many amazing memories for yourself. Living the life you are meant to live!

The first Music Entrepreneur video is coming SOON! Also, prepare for TME to go YouTube and bring you great video content!

The

The “A day in the life of a Music Entrepreneur” Video (Release Date: September 2017) :

So…I moved to Scotland where I lived/travelled for two years…as a full-time musician!

Wow. That was awesome! Can’t believe it’s been two years and the story which was once “a future full of wonder” has been written. It’s had great heights as well as terrible lows (most notably the loss of Cheyne Halliday, a true gentleman and friend whom I miss sorely, every day). So much has happened.

Edinburgh to Toronto
The music entrepreneur flies home

I’m now 37,000 feet in the air flying home on the connecting flight between Rejkyavik (Iceland) and Toronto. The trip from Edinburgh to Iceland was short so I figured I’d try (and failed) to get in a cheeky power snooze. I’m not feeling any benefit from sitting with my eyes closed for about an hour. Regardless of that, I want to put down some words now that I’ve got a few hours to sit, think, reminisce, and reflect on my journey. As I scroll through the photos on my phone many feelings are coming back to me. The wonder of diving into the unknown. The excitement of discovering my surroundings as a new resident on foreign soil. The joys of cheap European travel. The pride I take from having lived by making my music passion work for me. I arrived (In Scotland) not knowing anyone in the music scene and learned that with hard work, being persistent, and being a nice person, it’s possible to set up shop away from home and create a success story. I’m heading home now, engaged to an amazing beautiful woman, excited to be back with my friends and family, and ready to tackle the Toronto music scene armed with all of my new lessons about work and life.

I’ve been quite silent in the last week or two as far as posting blogs here has gone. In Edinburgh the entire month of August is consumed by the Edinburgh Festival. It is the biggest arts festival in the world. There are pop up food stalls and bars left, right, and centre (I wasn’t drunk the whole time, I swear). There’s the “Underbelly”, the “Udderbelly”, and hundreds of other locations to enjoy live music, comedy, dance, theatre, and sooo much more. The high street is lined with buskers playing to hoards of tourists that have made their way from all corners of the Globe. It’s a rare opportunity to mingle with the world and celebrate every facet of the arts. For us musicians who live and work in Edinburgh year-round the Festival gives us an opportunity to squeeze in as many performances into one month as humanly possible. Beyond that even. In summer 2016 I performed over 80 shows and experienced the toughest grind I’ve ever faced in my adult working life. It was physically demanding, I was sleep deprived, I lost my voice, and I loved it. I felt so successful going gig to gig, sometimes playing as many as 4 shows a day. Sure, it was hard. Sure, there were times I didn’t wanna get out of bed or sing. Truth be told though, being that busy with music charged my spirit back up in other ways. Plus there’s nothing about working hard that a little vacation or two in Amsterdam won’t cure.

I did all this while living with my girlfriend (fiancé as of December 2016), making tons of amazing friends, and having the time of my life being a foreigner living as a local. I managed to save up a bit of money and also found the inspiration needed to begin The Music Entrepreneur project. There have been speed bumps like losing my voice and having surgery to remove polyps from my vocal chords, but everything worked together to bring me to this exact moment in time. This August I’ve been super busy once more, not only playing shows but spending a tone of time with the people I care about and enjoying the great city of Edinburgh. On top of this I’ve been packing away my things and getting ready to move home. It’s been hectic. Apologies to all of you for the lack of content on the Music Entrepreneur site during this time.

I always hope that this website can inspire people. That’s why I knew I had to document what I’ve experienced! With the help of the talented and bearded Mike Dodds from G6 Productions I’ve put together a video that follows me on a day in the life of a Music Entrepreneur during August (August 8th to be precise!) in Edinburgh. On that day I played multiple shows, checked out buskers/the Festival, and found time to party with my friends (and much more). I don’t want to give too much away but I do want you to know that the launch of this video marks the beginning of the Video/Vlog/Youtube aspect of the Music Entrepreneur. I’ll keep you all posted about the video launch and will post it to the website here as well as to the new YouTube channel I am building. In the weeks to come I will be sorting everything out and will be uploading regular content to YouTube.

My hope is that the video is entertaining, inspiring, and puts a smile on your face. I want you to understand what life as a Music Entrepreneur has looked like for me (and what it could look like for you). I want you to get to know me better. I love having my stuff read and I think videos will also be a great way to reach you guys with great new content. Also, in kind of a selfish way, I wanted a video to serve as a personal souvenir for myself and my friends. Kind of like a time capsule. Whatever purpose the video serves for you, I hope you are able to take something away from it that will contribute to your enthusiasm and excitement to move forward towards your life as a pro part-time/full-time musician! Stay tuned and expect much!!!

As I write in this moment I’m flying home over the mountains and tundra of Greenland, and it’s pretty magnificent!

The Music Entrepreneur writing in the sky
The Music Entrepreneur writing in the sky

 

 

My List of Live Music Faux-Pas. Please don’t do these live music faux-pas to performers!!!

Most people are great, as I’ve said. You always get those few who have to spoil it for everyone. It boils down to basic consideration. We chose to be live performers. We never chose to be treated like crap. If you’re going out for an evening with your friends then appreciate their company, the venue, the staff, and the musician that is working hard to make your night fun and memorable. Don’t do anything on my list of live music faux-pas

List of live music faux-pas

An actual conversation between a musician and an audience member;

Audience Member: “Play Some Johnny Cash!!!!”

Artist: “I don’t play any Johnny Cash!”

A.M.: “What!? You don’t!? You shouldn’t even have a guitar if you don’t play Johnny Cash”

*Artist finishes next song*

A.M.: “Mate, play some Johnny Cash”

This is an actual conversation between a musician mate of mine in Edinburgh (Shoutout to Ross!) and a member of the audience at one of his recent gigs. The fact of the matter is that often while we are performing live music we (very frequently) have to deal with assholes. This is my list of live music-faux pas.

For the most part people are lovely. Unfortunately, however, a certain percentage of the population just haven’t learned manners. This gets exacerbated when alcohol comes into the mix, which is not an excuse, but rather a word of caution to all musicians! There are several forms of bad treatment that musicians are subjected to regularly and I’d like to share with you all some of the situations I’ve encountered (or heard of from friends). Here’s a list of ways not to treat a musician who is trying to provide you with the service of entertainment.

Here’s my list of ways not to treat musicians:

Uhhh, this song SUCKS!!!

This one is a huge pet peeve of mine. When people right in front of us nag at us and feel the need to let us know they do not like the song we are playing. We are doing our best to please everyone. Bear in mind everyone has different taste and we really are trying. We aren’t going to stop playing a song because you feel the need to have an overly verbalized negative attitude. You’d be surprised how often people get my attention and say “Stop playing this song it sucks”…lol…THANKS!

Can I play your guitar?

At least once a week I have a listener in a venue approach me asking if they can play my instrument and/or sing a song. Of course this is the discretion of the artist but I generally don’t allow people to do this. This often causes said person to get angry or aggressive towards me and that is not ok. I often hear things like “ya, you’re afraid everyone’s gonna know I’m better than you!”. That’s wrong on so many levels. This persons friend also love to give me a hard time.

This is why I don’t want you to play my guitar/sing a tune:

  1. I don’t know you, and I don’t know how much you drank.
  2. If you damage my guitar or any other equipment you will just walk away after saying “sorry” (and taking no actual responsibility). Sorry doesn’t fix my instrument. I saved up and paid a lot of money for my instrument and I play music full-time. My livelihood is directly affected if you break my guitar. I’m not willing to take that chance so that you can be self-indulgent or impress your friends. (My mate had his guitar broken by a staff member at a venue that asked to play his guitar, so be really careful lending it out). By saying no we aren’t being assholes.
  3. I’ve been hired by the venue to provide a certain standard of live music. When you come up and actually can’t sing or are too drunk to sing properly (or are just taking the piss) then it reflects super poorly on me, and the venue/other listeners don’t appreciate being subjected to that!
  4. If I let you play who else is going to want to come up and play/sing? In a room full of drunken people you can lose control of the situation. Eff that!
  5. I’m hired to play and nowhere in that dynamic am I obliged to grant you access to come up and perform. I’m not being rude, I’m not scared you’re better than me, I’m just doing my job. Please respect the fact that I’m trying to get through my shift and provide my audience with a fun night of musical distraction from their everyday lives!

Hey pal can you play a song by the band “Punk Wielding Fire Pit Swell Dodgers? ….you never heard of them? Cmon play the song man!”

Uhm, sorry, I never heard of the band “Punk Wielding Fire Pit Swell Dodgers”. It’s impossible to know every song by every band ever. I try, as I’m sure most musicians do, to have a varied eclectic mix of songs. I also try to take requests where I can. That doesn’t mean it’s ok to have a go at us for not knowing a song, it isn’t personal, we just can’t play a song if we don’t know it. I’ve had the following conversation with Audience Members more times than I can count:

A.M.: “Play the song “random request” dude!”

Me: “I’m sorry, I don’t know that one”

A.M.: “C’mon man ya you do, just play it”

Me: “I can’t play it if I don’t know how to”

A.M. “Yeah you can, how do you not know that song?”

Me: “I never learned it”

A.M. “You can play it! Uhhh you suck dude” or some variation of insults designed at putting me down for not catering my performance to you and you alone.

Stranger Danger

One time I even had my life threatened. I played 2 requests for one guy and I didn’t recognize the third song request. He gave me the regular “yeah, cmon man you know it”. When I assured him I didn’t he said he was going to get his gun and shoot me. No word of a lie. He didn’t do anything but he stood in front of me staring me down as I put away my equipment after I was done performing. I wanted to deck the guy. This is a very extreme case but it is to give you some kind of idea what we deal with sometimes while trying to entertain folk. It’s a fun job but we aren’t there to take people’s abuse. To some people we are an easy target and that kind of thing isn’t cool!

I can totally grab/touch/fondle the musician, no problem there!

This one really isn’t ok. It’s pretty high up on my list of live music faux-pas.

I laugh it off sometimes as listeners approach me with their hand up waiting for a high five while I’m in the middle of playing a guitar solo. I can’t shake your hand or high five you if I’m in the middle of doing my thing as musicians need their hands to make the sound keep going. Unfortunately that is just the tip of the iceberg.

It happens to guys and girl musicians alike. We do get quite a bit of attention playing music for a crowd but some people think it’s ok to act inappropriate and behave in ways that cross the lines of what is normally considered sexual abuse. You have no right to uninvitedly touch a performer. Whether grabbing their hand, rubbing their head, or grabbing their ass. I’ve had people do all the above. I’ve had a member of a hen party try to put their hands down my pants while I was playing once.

I get it, you’re excited. But we are just normal people so stop coming up to us and grabbing us, or being creepy towards us. The same rules and social conventions of everyday life apply when you deal with us. Keep your hands to yourselves folks, my goodness.

Let’s dance!! (right into the musician knocking him/her over).

Nothing makes me see red during a performance like having dancing people forget that I’m standing there and swirling right into me. It’s happened numerous times. I try to set up my mic and stuff in as good a position as I can to give people room. If you want to dance then great but please remember that we are there.

I’ve had countless people fall into me, or knock my mic stand over (With my iPad attached it it). When this happens the microphone can smash us in the face. I’ve gotten multiple bloody lips this way and know artists that have had their front teeth chipped. If you’re dancing then for the love of everything holy, PLEASE don’t fall into us. It hurts, damages our equipment, stops the song, and is the most annoying thing ever.

We ARE allowed to stop playing whenever our shift is done.

I’m always flattered when a crowd wants an encore, but sometimes people demand more even if I’ve played one, two, or three extra songs. Again, it’s super flattering but we don’t owe you it. Some musicians play 2,3 gigs a night and we get tired too. We don’t go to your place of work and insist you work past the time your shift ends. Even if we did you wouldn’t care and might tell us where to go, seeing us as the wrong doer. Why is this any different. If the musicians gives an encore they’re a class act. If they don’t thats their right. I’ve been cursed at for not continuing to play after already offering up an encore. I don’t want to stop offering encores when I’m able so please know the flip side. Appreciate when you get one and please don’t be a jerk if you don’t.

Just generally being rude to the musician

I never understood people that go out for dinner and are just upset and pissed off the whole time. Treating the wait staff terribly. Isn’t the whole point of going out to dinner to unwind and relax and share a pleasant meal together? I feel the same way about people being rude to bar staff and to musicians.

We aren’t punching bags for you to unload your verbal abuse after a tough week, or whatever the problem is. Just the other day some man drinking in front of me went around asking everyone around if they knew the song I was playing. He then walked up to me and made the “cut it out” sign with his hands saying “mate nobody knows this song, shut it down”. What a prick! It’s especially funny since I had been playing songs like Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of you” and a ton of other upbeat covers. It was incredibly rude and showed no respect. There’s many instances where people are rude like this and all musicians should know that it’s going to happen.

Let’s help the musicians out…

We want everyone to have a good time so use your proper judgement. We all know there are those people who behave terribly in public with or without alcohol. Keep an eye out for the musicians if you see them being abused. It’s an awkward spot to be in as many musicians are scared to lose a gig if they say something rude to a (deserving) customer. Not everyone is confrontational so it’s nice when other people in the vicinity have our backs.

Most people are great, as I’ve said. You always get those few who have to spoil it for everyone. It boils down to basic consideration. We chose to be live performers. We never chose to be treated like crap. If you’re going out for an evening with your friends then appreciate their company, the venue, the staff, and the musician that is working hard to make your night fun and memorable.

These are just some of the things we go through as we try to make a living as music entrepreneurs. If you have anything to add please comment below, and share this article to spread the word about proper etiquette towards musicians. Cheers.

(For inspiration about being a pro musicians, click here to view my “Day in the life of a music entrepreneur” video.)

(For my article of about live music faux-pas for musicians click here)

I’ll also give myself a plug here, Check out my musician website here!

 

The One-Two Punch that is Gigging AND Booking Gigs!

Hello! I hope everyone is having a great, fun, and productive summer.

I used to work for a booking agent that will remain nameless. This guy would show up at the venue, where he booked my buddy and I in as a duo to pay us $200.00CAD, in person. We found out from the bartender that he was paid $300.00 and taking a 33% cut from the budget as his booking fee. We didn’t like that number and neither did the bar. This person ended up being fired as the booker because of this and my mate took over from him. The venue was able to lower the budget and artists were able to be paid more. That’s a win-win I’d say, plus the shady booking agent lost his job at that venue proving that dirty practices will only hurt you in the long run. This story is quite relevant to today’s article.

Today I want to talk about playing shows AND being a booking agent. Being really good at playing live gigs gives you an exclusive opportunity to be the person in charge of booking talent into that venue. I want to explain how the two “jobs” work hand in hand and I want to discuss the upside of using this strategy. Playing shows AND being a booker can be a one-two punch that really pays off if you’re able to balance both responsibilities well.

Here’s how I fell into it and why I loved it.

I’m a musician first so I don’t consider myself a booking agent, but I’ve done bookings at many venues, so technically speaking I’ve worn that hat and done that job. I never set out to be a booker initially. I kind of fell into the position because I had pitched my music services to a venue in Toronto and was successfully hired on. The venue did not previously offer live music so I was laying the foundation for that venue’s live music initiative. After playing my first gig there I received rave reviews from both staff and guests alike and I was asked how often I could return to play. I was pretty busy at the time and so I couldn’t offer them more than one or two shows a month. I have a ton of friends that are great musicians however so I told the manager that I can book artists in to play on days I couldn’t make it. They liked how I did business and so they decided to give it a try and trust me as a music booker. I created a schedule and hired my friends/musician colleagues from the Toronto music scene and I was successfully booking my first venue. I enjoyed the perks of being a booker so much that finding more venues to book became a part of my overall strategy as a pro musician.

Why be a music booker?

Once I started booking in colleagues to perform for me I realized that there are several great benefits of being the music booker at a venue.

  1. As an artist I could book myself in to play very regularly and so it was nice to have some control over my destiny. There’s no such thing as 100% job security in this business but at least matters were more in my hands. I had no commission to pay to anyone which means I got to keep all the money I was paid for the gig.  There was also no chance of falling out of favour with a booker and being replaced at the venue (getting the shaft for whatever reason).
  2. It pays ($$$)! As a music booker you negotiate a fee from the venue for a music performance. The trick is to get paid enough from the venue to be able to pay the musician/s fairly as well as keep a booking (finders) fee for yourself. If you can book a few venues per week then you can actually make a nice bit of money for it.
  3. You get to employ your friends and deserving musicians. It’s great to be able to employ people you care about and respect. One of my favourite thing about booking a new room is that it expands the music scene and gives musicians more opportunity.
  4. When you scratch people’s backs, they scratch yours. Offering musicians work means you will be on their radar when they have work to offer. Musicians often get offers to play gigs on days that they are already booked up. If you have offered someone work then there’s a good chance you will be high on their list of contacts to offer work to when they can’t do a job.
  5. This is a DIRECT way that YOU can influence your music scene, for the better. When more venues offer great live music it can influence non-music venues to consider offering music as well, to compete with the “new music venue”.
  6. You can gain a reputation of credibility. Having work to offer makes you a valuable member of the scene. Imagine being the person that books some of the city’s best talent into some of it’s best venues! Achieving this would make it even easier to find new work as a booker as your reputation of success would speak for you. This means the better you do the more opportunities will arise, taking you to heights you may still not even realize exist.
  7. You will be able to watch artists you hire and enjoy if you have the evening off or finish your gig in time to catch your hired act’s last set. You can get to know artists that you hired better and you have the opportunity to foster new friendships with musicians you enjoy and respect.

 

How do you go from performer to “booking agent”?

The first step is to find a venue that is interested in having you come in and perform. *Don’t try to be the booker in venues if someone else sent you in to play! That’s a no-no which can wreak havoc on your reputation so keep that in mind!* Find your own bars/restarants/club/etc. and pitch yourself as an artist providing an evening of music for a fee (See the “How-to find paying gigs” article for more info). Get in and do a great job. This means show up early to set up and start right on time. Be friendly, play music that matches the demographic of the venue, take requests, don’t take long breaks. Basically give the best value possible. Think about what other artists do and be the best at it. Be the absolute best you can. The devil is in the details and it’s little things like what I mentioned above and dressing sharp and being an absolute pro that will ensure the venue knows you are on top of your game.

Once the gig is over you can chat with management and get their feedback. There’s a really good chance they will want you to return if everybody likes what you do. Only you will know how to proceed at this point but if you’re interested in booking then let them know that you “can’t play every week as you have other commitments, but you do do bookings and have a great roster of talented reliable artists and that you’d be glad to work out a schedule to accommodate the venue’s needs”. Basically think like a business person. They have a need/want, which is music, and that is the product/service that you provide. That’s the dynamic. They aren’t doing you a favour anymore then you are for them. It should be mutually beneficial.

Simply put, kick ass and then put your businessperson hat on and sell yourself as a booking agent.

Pricing and paying artists

You can underpay your artists if you want to (yikes!). There’s no law against it. After all, artists will agree to a gig or not (for better or worse) based on their own circumstances. That being said you will earn a reputation of being greasy/sleazy and not a good person to work for. On the other hand, paying your artists well and being professional and respectful for them will have the opposite effect of making people want to work with you and work hard for you. Try to ask for a fair rate of pay from your venue.This depends from place to place but I typically aim high. In Toronto I always aimed for $250.00-$300.00 for a 3 hour show (3 sets). If this I’d keep $25.00-$50.00 for myself as a booking fee. Seeing as how many artists will play for $150.00 I believe that paying $225.00-$250.00 is very competitive.

In Edinburgh the British Pound is worth more than the Canadian Dollar so I would charge £150..00 and keep £25.00 as a booking fee.

These are just guidelines to serve as an example. If you can get a venue to pay £125.00 and you take £15.00-£25.00 it is still quite fair as many people would play shows in Edinburgh for £80.00-£100.00.

This is where your experience as a performer comes in handy. You have to know the scene and understand what constitutes a fair pay in your city/area. If you’re offering someone more pay then they would make elsewhere than you can take a bit more for yourself as it was your negotiating ability that made the higher budget available in the first place.

A booking fee of %10 is very fair when all else fails.

But do bookers really deserve a “bookers/finders” fee?

Its might seem like a booker’s job is really easy and that you do all of the work. If that were the case then you could easily wonder “what makes this person deserve a cut?”. The fact of the matter is that without the booking agent being a pro and earning the trust of the venue you probably would not have gotten in to play there. It’s business and the booker had to work hard to gain that trust.

Also when something goes wrong it is the booker that has to scramble to fix the situation, whatever it might be. Booking can be a pain in the arse and so the fee they collect is very warranted as long as they are not extortionate. The booker also has to arrange the schedule and deal with artists cancelling and a wide variety of issues.

They also need to make a living. They are contributing to the music culture in their music scenes and are creating venues in which music can be enjoyed and musicians employed. They definitely deserve our loyalty if they are good to us, find us regular work, pay us fairly, and have our backs in instances where there are problems (A booking agent has to have the interest of the venue at heart, true, but also the interests of the artist). Good bookers know this and show good leadership in these cases.

My challenge to you!

I challenge you to find a venue to offer live music and convert them. Become their music booker and hook yourself up with regular work. Hook your colleagues in the music scene with regular work. Start small and try it out for yourself to see how you like it! Get into this for the right reasons and treat people well and you will go far.  Comment down below to discuss your experience and/or ask for further tips.

Please share and like this article if you’ve found it useful, and please sign up for the Music Entrepreneur Blog to receive more great info and be a part of our growing community!

All the best Musos! I know you can do this!!!!

-Brad

(I wrote this article today (Tuesday July 25) in Holyrood Park, Edinburgh, Scotland. The Feature Photo has nothing to do with booking or playing gigs but the setting was a big part of the mood of my article. I hope this article inspires you like this scenery has inspired me!

 

Ways to avoid vocal cord problems like I had! Warning: Graphic content.

How-to avoid vocal cord problems like I had! Warning: Graphic content (meaning a photo of my vocal cords pre and post surgery, looks like something from outer space.)

(This was me in April 2017 right after having surgery to remove polyps from my vocal cords. A before and after photo of the polyps are down below so scroll slowly if you’re squeamish!)

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How to avoid vocal chord problems as a singer

In January of this year (2017) I went home to visit my family in Canada for a week and when I returned I started having problems singing at my gigs. I completely lost the ability to sing any falsetto notes (use my head voice). It would just come out as air struggling to push through. My vocals cords would not properly connect at the top to produce falsetto. I thought it was a cold I had but when I got over it I still couldn’t hit notes that were easy to hit a couple of weeks before. I resorted to cancelling some gigs and hiring singers to sing for me. It was a scary time not knowing why I couldn’t sing.

I ended up seeing a doctor and then an ENT (Ears, nose, and throat specialist) and they stuck a camera tube up my nostril and looked at my vocal cords in my throat. To my astonishment I had developed vocal polyps. (For more info about Vocal Polyps, click here). Basically they are a growth that inhibits the normal use of your vocal cords. Polyps are not as bad as vocal nodules at least, but they still required surgery to remove. I stopped singing before my surgery and had a period of about a month afterwards where I also wouldn’t be able to sing.

Graphic, here’s a pic of my vocal cords before and after surgery:

I know this picture is a little gross but I want you to understand that vocal issues are very real and can strike out of the blue, seriously affecting your life!

(The Top photo is before the surgery, notice the polyps on the upper right side which made using my falsetto impossible. The Bottom photo is right after having my polyps snipped off by doctors. Not a very fun ordeal and I’d hate to see anyone else go through this!)

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I hope i didn’t traumatize any of you, lol…moving right along.

I’m not sure exactly why I developed the polyps. The doctor said it could be from singing with improper technique, or too often, or could have started while I was sick with a cold and trying to sing through it. Part of my recovery involved seeing a speech therapist. The speech therapist enlightened me about the importance of warm-up and cool-down exercises for before and after singing. She also suggested I take a couple vocal lessons to make sure I was using proper technique (which I recommend if you’re unsure about your current vocal technique). I’d like to share some things I’ve learned that will help you maintain proper vocal health and reduce the likelihood of you going through what I went through.

Things to stop doing immediately:

There are several things that contribute to poor vocal cord health and a poor vocal performance.

Whispering: Whispering is very bad for your vocal cords and should not be done habitually.

Throat Clearing: I’ve very guilty of this one as I clear my throat more than I should. Since my surgery I’ve made a conscious effort to reduce/eliminate unnecessary throat clearing. It basically makes your vocal cords smash together and can cause damage over time.

Dairy and Cold: Eating/Drinking dairy creates mucus in your throat which makes it difficult to sing. Cold air conditioning (for example in your car on the way to a gig) or drinking iced water will constrict your vocal folds. These aren’t detrimental to your vocal health like whispering and throat clearing but will negatively impact your performance if you do either in the hours leading up to a performance. (Come to think of it spicy foods can also reduce your singing abilities in the short term.)

Things to start doing:

Vocal warm-ups and cool-downs. This one is easy, loosen up your vocal cords before and after periods of exertion such as singing a gig. IT will make a big difference in your performance and will contribute to long-term vocal health.

Keep yourself properly hydrated: It’s important to drink enough water or tea (I love hot water with honey and lemon squeezed into it) on days when you will be singing. If you arrive at the gig dehydrated than it is already too late and you will be playing catch up. It’s important to remember that coffee and alcohol definitely won’t help your vocals as they dehydrate you.

Maintaining a basic level of fitness: This isn’t to say you need to be a gym rat to sing well as there are tons of examples where I can easily be proved wrong here. For me though, I’ve notice that I have more lung power during periods when I incorporate some form of regular exercise into my schedule. I don’t know if it’s “a thing” or if it’s mental, but it’s something to consider if you’re looking to take every step possible to improve your singing.

How-to Warm-up/Cool-off: (With Videos Demonstrations)

  1. First loosen up your body a bit. Rotate your shoulders in forward circles 10 times. Then reverse the direction and rotate another 10 times. Repeat this 2 or 3 times.
  2. The “Scooby Too”: It sounds ridiculous but stick your tongue out as far as you can. Its almost like saying “ahhh” for a doctor/dentist but without the noise, and then keep pushing your tongue out. This stretches and loosens the muscle. Repeat this at least 10 times. Stick your tongue out and reach downward, then repeat. (People next to you in traffic will get a giggle as you head to your gig).
  3. Pretend the tip of your tongue is a camera and you need to take a picture of the back of each tooth individually. This movement will also loosen up the tongue. (No video as this is pretty self explanatory).
  4. Hum a note and hold that note as you exhale. Repeat this a few times.
  5. Hum scales. You can use the major scale melody. DO-RE-MI-FA-SOOO…SO-FA-MI-RE-DOOO. Hum this melody then move up a semi tone. Keep doing this until you hear the break in your range then work your way back down until you bottom out (and can’t hum a lower tone).
  6. Repeat these scales but using a lip trill, or a brrrrrrrr  sounds. If you have a hard time doing the brrrrr sound then use your thumb and pointer finger to apply a bit of pressure on both cheeks right above where your molars are.
  7. You can do the scales once more using words like GUG, or MUM. Gig-Gug-Gug-Gug-Gug-Gug-Gug-Gug-Gug with the DO-RE-MI-FA-SO-FA-MI-RE-DO melody.
  8. Raise your shoulders and breath in. This next step happens all at once. As you release the air let go of your shoulders so that gravity can pull them down naturally while making the brrr sound with your lips. While this is happening hum a high pitch note that slides to a low note as your shoulders are descending. I’ll post a vid of this later today!

CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO DEMONSTRATIONS (Will open a new window)

Using these warm-up techniques before and after singing will greatly improve your abilities as well as help with your long term vocal health. Remember that your voice is an instrument and our instruments can’t be neglected! I learned all of this because of problems I had that required surgery and a speech therapist to fix which is why I know what I’m talking about now. Also my fiancé just completed her masters degree in speech therapy so I’m getting a ton of help with it at home as well.

As always information is everything and it isn’t obvious if you haven’t had any vocal issues. At some point along your path I would recommend booking a lesson or two (or however many) with a vocal coach to make absolute sure you are using proper technique that isn’t damaging your voice. I know they aren’t always cheap but a couple of sessions to make sure you’re not using bad habits is an investment i seriously recommend you consider at some point!

If you do have vocal issues:

If at some point along the way you do encounter problems with your voice then please see your doctor and let them know you rely on your voice to make a living. I was sped through the process as I was adamant on that. Listen to them and do what they tell you. You can always hire people to sing for you and split the pay with them in the short term. It’s not ideal but it’s better than sitting at home and making nothing. It will probably feel very discouraging but hang in there and you’ll make a speedy recovery in no time, much like I did.

Psychological warfare:

Being a singer with vocal issues is super scary, especially if you depend on singing to pay your bills! Just know you aren’t alone. There are great musicians that can sing for you until you heal. I’m always here to chat about how the healing process went for me so don’t be shy to reach out. Feeling alone is the worse, and you aren’t alone so keep your head up and hang in there.

SO!:

Vocal cords problems range from polyps to full-on nodules. By avoiding the “don’t dos”, doing warm-ups/cool-downs, and by using proper technique you will seriously reduce your risk of damaging your vocals. If you’re concerned about potential vocal issues or have been inconsistent book an appointment or head to the walk-in clinic. You may need to see and ENT (Ear nose and Throat specialist). I hope all of this information will help you make beautiful music for many years to come! Please comment down below if you know other great warmup/cool down tricks for vocalists!

Please like and share this article so we can help promote proper vocal health for all the amazing singers we know and love!

All the best! 🙂

-Bradly

(Here I am, back at work and loving it!)

for instagram

 

 

Why many artists fail at being Music Entrepreneurs and have to go back to work: AVOID THIS!

Lack of talent is not why most artists fail. A bad attitude kills more music careers than anything.

Firstly I want to acknowledge that there are several reasons someone might have to quit music and get a job. I write this article without judgement. One BIG reason I’ve seen many people fail is that they had a bad work ethic or attitude.

When I talk about your work ethic and attitude. I’m talking about your outlook. I’m talking about Professionalism!

Lack of talent is not why most artists fail to succeed as music entrepreneurs! Your talent is responsible for maybe 33% of your success!

I’ve seen many artists come and go in this business (in Toronto and in Edinburgh). It always sucks to see a colleague (especially when they are talented) “hang up their gloves” because they couldn’t make it work. There are different reasons why someone might quite the music entrepreneur career. One big reason I’ve seen many people have to pack it in is a crappy attitude. For whatever reason, whether it’s ego, lack of awareness, or what, I’ve seen and heard of many artists in need of tuning their attitudes. I say tuning because you can fix it Much like tuning an instrument, it isn’t a permanent problem. It involves opening your mind to different ways of thinking, being professional, and giving people the benefit of the doubt.

We are offering services. People and organizations that hire us are our clients!

I’ll use the example of playing gigs. When we are hired by a venue to play a gig we are being hired to provide a service. The bar has chosen us (or a booking agent they trust-whom we are representing at the gig) to play music and create a vibe consistent with what they expect. Our job is to:

  1. Show up on time and with whatever equipment you need ( by on time I mean with plenty of time to spare to set up and be ready to go right away at the agreed start time),
  2. Be sober (Don’t show up high or drunk to gigs),
  3. Play music that matches the setting (Don’t play gangster rap of heavy metal to a crowd of 60-something year olds),
  4. Play music at whatever volume the venue determines to be reasonable,
  5. Be courteous (if someone asks for a request don’t tell them to “sit their ass down”, generally speaking just don’t be a dick to people-staff or guests),
  6. Not take crazy long breaks,
  7. Not drink as if we were at an open bar wedding,
  8. Be flexible and work with the venue wherever able in order to enhance the guests’ experience,
  9. Be reliable (We work for ourselves so your word means a lot. If you say you’ll be somewhere BE THERE, or people will stop asking you to be anywhere!),
  10. Not expect things we aren’t owed (Getting a free drink or two and a meal is great but if you don’t discuss what’s included for playing gig before performing than don’t expect anything. Anything you receive in that case is a bonus and you are playing in a cool venue my friend. Friendly tip: You can ask “…And are a meal or any beverages usually included as well?” when discussing your pricing),
  11. The most important thing: Our job is to realize that the performance isn’t for us. It is for venues’ guests. If the guests are happy then you are doing a great job. If the manager tells you to turn down the volume or play different materiel, then just do that! It may piss you off but PLEASE…exercise control, be professional. It isn’t about how much fun your having or how loud you like the volume. If people aren’t clapping or listening don’t get all pissy and bent out of shape, IT ISN’T ABOUT YOU! The guests are the star of your show. It doesn’t matter if you play the same songs all the time. You chose to be a performer and thats the job. You should NEVER take that out on the guests or staff.

It may all sound anal but in this business the devil is in the details! It’s the collective of little things you do right that add up to make you a super valuable asset that venues will want to hire again and again. On top of that venues are constantly being approached by musicians selling themselves for gigs so you have a lot to compete against. Having a great work ethic and attitude will set you apart and carry you so far in this business.

Don’t have an attitude problem or be a Diva

It doesn’t matter whether you’re booking agent, music teacher, or performer, or whatever else. You should generally be upbeat, friendly, and respectful to everyone. Being a diva and having an attitude problem gets old REAL soon. I’ve know great artists that I’ve booked in to play rooms that I was told to “never bring back” because they had a bad attitude. Issues that caused a venue to turn on an artist were that they gave the staff attitude when being asked to turn down the volume; they refused to turn down the volume (what’s with people and not turning down? It’s so simple, I really don’t get it); they turned up late habitually and didn’t seem worried about it; they were upset with people not listening or clapping and lashed out at the audience (man, that’s just awkward, never go down that path).

If people aren’t listening then just finish the gig, as annoying as it is, at least you got to play and get paid. I’ll usually experiment with my setlist in these occasions. Funny enough people will often start to pay attention to you because you’re having fun and doing your thing. A desperate person is usually pretty easy to spot (whether it’s dating or performing or whatever). Be chill and do you if they aren’t listening.

Having a backbone is ok (even necessary) but know how and when to show it!

Straight up, I’ve told guests to “fuck off” on a couple of occasions. People can definitely be assholes and I’ll be the first to admit it. Just pick your battles wisely. We are people and should never be subjected to abuse, so stand firm. Don’t be shy to let disorderly people know that if they can’t respect you and your space you will have them kicked out. You can be professional about it.

In one instance, for me, the same drunken costumer fell on me multiple times, knocking my mic stand over and killing the song. I warned him every time he danced into my mic stand to mind himself and then he barrelled right into me. I was so angry (getting a mic in the mouth makes me see red, lol). Just a couple weeks ago I remember this really annoying drunk girl that kept asking for the same song I don’t know and started grabbing my microphone. I told her “Get away from me, if I see you again I’m calling the bouncers and you’re outta here”. These times I snapped were at venues where people can get pretty rowdy and the management knows I have to sort out customers from time to time. I knew I had that “leash”, otherwise I would have called over a bouncer/the staff. I knew that the managers trusted me to use my own judgement because I always act professionally and these weren’t “family places”. That context created the difference in my reactions.

Basically you have to use your judgement, but try to be professional and usually the staff will throw that person out or intervene in some way.

We are pretty damn lucky to do what we do. Please don’t shoot yourself in the foot with unprofessional behaviour!

Being easy to work with and having a friendly personality is soooo very important. Don’t be a doormat and don’t take people’s abuse, but also don’t get into shouting matches with staff or customers. It’s all about your attitude and work ethic. Be a professional. Realize that the guest is the star of your show and give them a great night of music and not only will you have a great time too, but you’ll always get called to come back and will be successful!

Why I started the Music Entrepreneur Project (My beliefs and philosophy)

Music is my passion. No matter what I’ve done for a living in my life (from army service, to owning my own home renovation company, and working for an insurance company) my music has always been along for the ride. It’s always been there. There’s no doubt that I’m meant to be a musician and finding out that I could do this full-time was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Everything stems from this. When I accepted that I could “make it work” with my musical abilities I made it my full-time job to find out how to be successful at this game. It wasn’t an overnight thing. I (of course) had to learn to play my instrument and sing to a certain proficiency, which as a process was years in the making. I needed a support network to encourage me to continue working hard and to get better. It also took that inner flame and desire to excel at something, to drive through the initial pain of learning to play the guitar. I started off with an acoustic which you know is harder on the fingers, especially at 9 years of age.

Fastforward 24 years and here I am in Edinburgh, just shy of a month before my 2 year UK Visa expires and I head back home to Toronto. It’s been such an unreal experience moving here (to be with my fiancé) as a musician and starting from scratch without any contacts. There were no guarantees that it would work out but I had been successful in Toronto for 4 years and figured I’d be able to figure it out in Scotland.

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To make a long story short (which one day I will lengthen) things took off and I started finding quite a bit of work in Edinburgh. I remember telling my girlfriend that I would be so happy to have 3-4 gigs per week. It wasn’t long before I was playing 5-10 gigs per week, making pretty decent money, and feeling great about the service I provided and the work ethic I had reinforced and developed.

August came and brought along with it the Edinburgh International Festival and I played more than double the amount of gigs I had in my previously most busy month. The promise of being busy and achieving the success I had imagined seemed within my reach. But things quickly took a turn for the worst.

Problems with my vocal chords…damn!

I had vocal issues which had caused me to cancel some gigs. I ended up needing surgery and couldn’t sing for well over a month. I hired singers to sing for me so that I could still perform and make some money, albeit 50% of my normal take. A full recovery was likely but was not a guarantee. This is something the doctors made sure I was aware of. Faced with this prospect I began wondering what I would do if I couldn’t sing anymore. What if I lost my ability to perform my way? With healing taking so long it was easy to feel discouraged, and like things would never get better. I knew there are other things I could do as an entrepreneur, but I love performing!

Chatting to singers I hired to sing for me, it became clear that success really shouldn’t be taken for granted in this business. A few of the people I was working with (who are insanely talented people) were having a rough time making a living off of music full-time. Some had resorted to getting other jobs and others have quit playing music professionaly altogether.

I thought it was a shame, “there’s not enough money in this” I heard a couple of times. It isn’t obvious how to succeed with music. I was fortunate to know many full-time musicians before I started doing this for myself. I had seen a lot of what works and what doesn’t work. I’ve learned about being professional and holding myself to a high standard, and all that jazz. But not everyone had role models to coach them through. When great musicians aren’t able to impact their music scene due to a lack of knowledge about how-to succeed, then I believe that the whole music scene suffers. This is part of a larger philosophy I hold.

“Knowledge is empowering” and “We can be great together”

It was at this point that I thought I could start a website where I provide information based on things that have worked for myself and other artists in the music scenes I’ve been a part of (Toronto, Canada and Edinburgh, Scotland). I wouldn’t say it was easy breaking into the Edinburgh music scene but with determination and a few guiding principals I managed to thrive and stay busy enough to not need a “job” for my entire time in the UK, it’s been pretty badass!

But why do I want to share all this knowledge with you? I’m not in this for the money as there’s no guarantee I’ll even see a penny for what I do here. For me, feeling fulfilled involves making my surroundings better than they were when I first showed up. We should all be doing better, and not at someone else’s expense. There’s enough work in this business to keep us all working. The best part is, the better we all do (turning venues that don’t offer music into music venues, for example) the more opportunities we will all have.

On the other hand, the worse we do (for example; a musician showing up late to a gig, being asked to turn down music halfway through the show and having an attitude about that request) the worse live music will be perceived by venues and their customers. That’s why its important for us to do good work, whether it’s playing shows, or booking gigs, or performing on people’s recordings, or even teaching music lessons. The better job you do, the better us musicians will all be seen. It’s hard to ask for $300.00 to play a performance from a venue with terrible experience dealing with musicians. Your effort matters to the whole music scene!

So that’s my philosophy. Collectively, by doing great work, we create a scene where musicians are respected and appreciated and not looked at through false lenses of old stereotypes. Theoretically, more music venues could then pop up and artists would always have to be learning and putting in an effort to keep getting better. That’s how you put music on the map.

I know it’s philosophical and I do have a very “theoretical” way of looking at the world, but it’s what I believe in. At very least I’m helping people, I hope, and I’m ok with that!

It isn’t easy as you will have to put in the ground work. It isn’t obvious if you haven’t met too many guys or girls doing music full-time. But you CAN do it. Information is half the battle as you will then have to apply what you learn, but I really hope to provide you with priceless information that will give you confidence and reduce the entry barrier to being a music entrepreneur.

If you have any questions, concerns, or are planning to shift towards being a music entrepreneur then feel free to get in touch with me privately. I don’t know everything, because who does, and I’m still learning.  If I help you get closer to succeeding with your music passion, than this has all been worth it!!!

Best of luck.

Bradly

 

Strategies for Reaching People Online with your Original Music (And be paid for it)!

Recording music has become increasingly affordable and accessible in the last few years. This means that it is easier than ever to get your ideas out of your head and onto a proper recording. More people than ever are able to express themselves and create shareable audio files. But what happens next? This very much depends on your personal goals and ambition.

I guess what I’m really saying is – it’s great that recording has become easier but the competition to get music out there is heating up!

I will share with you some things I have done to sell my music online using social media while furthering your brand and creating brand ambassadors.

Brand Ambassadors:

A “brand ambassador” is someone who supports you primarily by spreading the word about what you do to their friends, family, and colleagues. They are usually your first customers and are your most loyal fans. They are people from all walks of life that feel a connection with you and the music you create. A great piece of advice I’ve learned over the years for performing is that it’s better to think of the performance as “being for the crowd” (and not for you, yourself). The same is true about brand ambassadors and fans. If you can create a feeling in people that they enjoy and/or can relate with then you will be on your way to finding great people who genuinely love what you do. One great way to connect with these individuals is by using various social media outlets in combination with one another. Be friendly and genuine with people on social media and you will find great brand ambassadors to help you spread your music.

Social Media Outlets

Building a social media presence takes time, effort, originality, creativity, and consistency. You want to have something interesting to say, something useful to provide (such as music or information content), and a fresh and fun spin on how to achieve it.

For example: You are a musician. You use twitter to announce you will live stream your gigs on Periscope/Facebook Live/Instagram Live. You can live stream a portion of your performance to each of these platforms (Perhaps the first 15 minutes of each set. You can usually use the wifi of the venue you are playing in so that you don’t use up your data). You can have pictures taken you you playing that you add to Instagram and you can tag the location and add hashtags for others who don’t follow you yet to find you (A piece of advice, try finding hashtags that aren’t overused. Anything in the millions is so overused that your content will be pushed far down before people can see it ranking at the top of those hashtags). To be creative/stand out a bit try to do something different with your Instagram (such as using a black and white filter on every other picture you upload, to give a pattern effect when people are looking at your profile page). Add people with similar interests and interact with them by liking their posts and leaving comments when you have words of support, advice, or congratulations whenever you can.

That’s one example of how to use different social media outlets to begin a brand and spread awareness of it. But how do you find the brand ambassadors?

Consistent Live Streaming – Periscope

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Consistent live streaming once you have a decently established social media presence that you add to regularly is how I found my brand ambassadors and made money selling my music. I used the app Periscope initially. This was pre Facebook and pre Instagram Live. All I needed was a twitter account which let me log on to Periscope once I downloaded the app from the App Store. From there I would search for people by typing “Music”, or “Guitar, or “Singing” into the search field. The app is super interactive and gives you the ability to chat with people and follow each other.

I started streaming myself as I would play the guitar, sing, and chat with people for around an hour a day. It didn’t take long to gain momentum and I amassed a following of about 3,500 people. I had my most regular viewer who would tune in to watch me play my music and perform at my shows where I also live streamed myself. People loved this feature as it brought them from their homes and into my gigs. I’d make jokes to my viewers between songs and stay interactive with them. “Play Summertime Life!”. My regulars started knowing my songs and started asking where they could buy it. Luckily I have my own website where I have my songs uploaded into a store where people can buy my music. Most do-it-yourself websites (such as Wix or Bandzoogle) have options for uploading your own stuff and selling it. I figured it all out myself and I’m no wiz. If you try and have issues with it then feel free to leave a comment in the “Community” section of this website and I’ll get back to you.

In the first month (after I began selling original tunes) I made about 25 dollars. In the second month I made 50something. In the third month the amount was in the 60s. You can see the trend here. Consistency really was the key. It wasn’t a huge living but these things take time and it grows as you go. For a few short months this trend continued.

In the summer of 2015 I moved to Edinburgh to be with my girlfriend who had moved there to complete her masters degree. I had to change tactics and concentrate my efforts on finding paid gigs to pay the bills. Because of this my online efforts sorta fell by the way-side as my new mission was to conquer the music scene in Edinburgh as much as I could. Lately I’m trying to broaden my goals as a music entrepreneur and am getting back into it. Nowadays we also have Instagram and Facebook which have come leaps and bounds in providing free live streaming services.

For now I’m focussing on Instagram and am streaming live shows and information sessions live from my home in Scotland. I also use Facebook Live to stream to friends of mine and I plan on re committing myself to my personal music brand on Periscope.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is that if you have recorded music, and a place to sell it (Your own website, iTunes, etc) then there are platforms for gaining fans and super fans (or brand ambassadors) who will support you, buy your music, spread the word about you to their friends and family and interact with you regularly. Between Periscope, Instagram, and Facebook Live you have great options for growing awareness of you and your music, cultivating a following, and capitalizing on people’s desires to consume the great work you are doing.

There’s perhaps some things I’ve left out but keep in mind this is how I managed to sell my music online and gain a fanbase on periscope. It’s better to have fewer dedicated fans who care, share, and interact than 100,000 followers that never interact with you. There’s other avenues of spreading your music such as ReverbNation and Band Camp. I’m not too experienced with these (despite having used them in the past). I prefer the live streaming route as I think it’s more personable and interactive.

Best of luck with it guys and remember to PLEASE share this article if you find it helpful. Feel free to comment to add to what I’ve said or suggest any alternative angles I haven’t thought of! CHEERS

Bradly