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

 

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

 

 

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.

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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!