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

 

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!

 

A few song ideas to add some Fun and “Classiness” to your Live Shows

Heya there everybody. I want to suggest some songs to play that will get you noticed in all the right ways and that will give your set a bit more of that “classy” and fun edge. This is part of the answer to the age old question of “What should I play at my live shows?”.

If you play live music then I’m sure you put a ton of work into creating your set lists (Right!?). Not all songs are good for every occasion which is why knowing a ton of songs in different genres is so important. A lot of performers ask me how to “find more private party gigs?”, or how to “class up a setlist to be able to play more fancy venues?”. There’s no easy answer to these questions as there are a few different things you need to do to achieve these goals (sounds like a great topic for the future!). One of the best things you can do is to “class up” your set list. What I have noticed is that one particular style seems to trump all the others when trying to do this.

That style of music is Old School R’n’B. Old School R’n’B music is classy, recognizable, upbeat, fun, and most people enjoy it. I’ll give an honourable mention to jazz as playing jazz standards definitely helps to class up a set list. It is a bit more of a niche style though, so we will focus on R’n’B. Songs like “Wonderwall” and “Galway Girl” (and a ton of other songs many of us performers don’t like to play, lol) are always crowd pleasers and thus have their place in our set lists. But if that kind of stuff is all you play you can risk being branded as too “campy”. No offence to people who like and want to play pub gigs but to play in more upscale joints (and book more private parties) it’s great to know some R’n’B. Old school R’n’B is classic and a classic never dies. Wherever I play, I KNOW that “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding is classy guaranteed crowd pleaser.

Here’s my list of 15 songs you could benefit from including in your performance repertoire (click song names to hear the songs on YouTube. Songs will open in a new window/tab):

  1. (Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding
  2. Let’s Stay Together by Al Green
  3. Sunny by Bobby Hebb
  4. Mercy, Mercy Me by Marvin Gaye
  5. Lovely Day by Bill Withers
  6. My Girl by The Temptations
  7. Cupid by Sam Cooke
  8. Under the Boardwalk by The Drifters
  9. Wonderful World by Same Cooke
  10. Ain’t Too Proud to Bed by The Temptations
  11. Sir Duke by Stevie Wonder
  12. Blame it on the Boogie by Micheal Jackson
  13. In the Midnight Hour by Wilson Pickett
  14. September by Earth, Wind, and Fire
  15. Listen to the Music by the Doobie Brothers

I know that 15 tunes is an ambitious start but it gives you a ton to work on. These songs are a great addition to any night of music. I’ve been told by many of my venues that the customers AND the staff loved how much R’n’B I have in my set list. I’ve even been hired for private parties, over other musicians, for this reason. I know you play a ton of great stuff (stuff I may not yet play and should learn). I know you’re working hard to put on a great show. I just hope this is helpful for you to add some of that fun and soulful “classy” edge to your set.

As always, if you’ve found this helpful than would you please share it on your social media so that others may benefit from it as well!? Also feel free to comment below to add any songs you think I may have missed (or to comment on my list). I appreciate the share and thanks for reading. I’ll have more content coming real soon here at The Music Entrepreneur.

Good luck killing your gigs!

I thought I’d close with one of my favourite Old School R’n’B tunes, enjoy!

 

Find Paying Gigs Pt. 2 – Finding “non-bar” gigs!

I’ve been getting some great feedback on my “How to Find Paid Gigs” post. Thanks for reading it and for taking the time to comment. One suggestion I received via Facebook was to talk a bit about finding gigs other than bar/pub/restaurant gigs. There’s many ways to “gig for a living” so I’d like to include some options to play shows that don’t involved playing in bars for hammered patrons. “Freeebird!”. When it comes to trying to find paid gigs you have several options.

I’ll cover a few different things here. If you think I’ve missed something then please free to comment below and leave your two cents!

I’m going to discuss:

  • Busking
  • Playing at the marketplace
  • Caterers/Private Parties
  • Cruise/Hotel/Casinos
  • Municipal Events
  • Further Diversifying
  • Final thoughts: Playing music for the less fortunate

Busking: The feature photo for this blog post was taken in Aug 2015 in Edinburgh during the International Festival. It is a picture of the first time I busked, ever.

Busking may be viewed kind of negatively (by some) but as my time in Edinburgh during the Edinburgh International Festival has taught me-it doesn’t have to. I’ve busked before here and there and it is a great way to make some quick money. It’s not my method of choice for making a living but it has it’s merits.

The secret to making the most of busking is to find a good location with lots of foot traffic being in a “touristy” part of town doesn’t hurt either. Check local laws regarding busking and amplification. Some places allow amps and others do not. Some cities also sell permits to busk so check with your city council to inquire about these (I know in Toronto you can apply for a busking permits to play in subway stations. If you have a good spot and everything is legal then I would say that the other secret to maximizing the potential of busking is to have CD’s available to sell, or a website containing your music that folks can purchase your music from. You can hand out business card with your website on it. You could also have a sign with your web address on it and a note “inviting people to take a picture with their phones”-to have your webpage and social media links saved in their phones.

This is music and performing in it’s most raw form so it is really about the connections you can make with those listening to you. Many people will walk by as people’s lives are happening feverishly around us as we know. Some will stop though, to listen and take part in what you’re offering. Encouraging further connection through social media/CD sales really depends on how you work it. The most successful buskers I’ve seen know how to command a crowd and often say things like “Please everybody move forward, get nice and close here. I don’t want you to be standing close to the traffic, let’s make a circle”. Another thing to keep in mind is the length you play for. If you find a killer spot and other buskers gather around waiting for their turn it’s generally understood that you’ll play for 45 minutes to an hour. After that you go look for another place to play. That’s how it was in Edinburgh.

If you can get one person to stop and pay attention odds are more will follow as it is basic human psychology to not want to be the first to commit to leaving the “comfort zone”.

Marketplace Performer:

Farmer’s markets and other types of marketplaces are a great opportunity to play music for people, make some money, and make some great connections. In Edinburgh I would often play at the outdoor markets on weekends-the Leith Market on Saturdays and Sundays at Stockbridge. I love playing the markets as it is a vibrant setting where you meet tons of people. I love being outside and being around people. I made friends with amazing people from different walks of life by performing at the market.  I also love the energy and atmosphere of vendors interacting with shoppers looking for great food, products, and services. It’s different from a typical bar gig as there isn’t the pressure to play songs you may not like to play. It’s always wise to play mostly upbeat music, but you do have a lot more leeway here than when performing in a pub or restaurant.

Another difference between bar gigs and playing at markets is that typically the markets don’t pay you a fee to play. If you get into this scene and manage to get a fee then good for you, but I always played for tips. It is essentially busking, but on steroids. You play for tips but you are the one scheduled to be there, almost like a featured artist. I prefer this to street busking as it is seen as a bit more “legit” to people. This helps sell more music and to convert more social media followers.

I became a marketplace performer by visiting the market and asking for the manager. I chatted with her about the idea of having me come and play some guitar to enhance the atmosphere further and she loved the idea. It was an easy sell as I did not require a fee and would play for people’s generosity.

Hint: After playing a few songs and getting a few tips I always thank everyone “for their generosity” in tipping me. I don’t know if my gratitude is endearing to them or if I make them feel bad (not my intent lol) but it always works like a charm. I’ll say this a few times throughout the day as there’s a high turnover of people at the market, but try not to overuse it!

Oh and the food at the market is my guilty pleasure and often the vendors are very generous are give you stuff at a discount or free even. Mmmmm paella!

 Learning to make Spanish Paella with my friends over at the Paella tent in the Grassmarket Saturday Market in Edinburgh, 2016. Great people, great food, great fun!

paella

Go visit you local farmer’s markets, flea markets, etc and inquire about providing live music for tips. It’s a great way to make money during the day while meeting amazing people, enjoying great food, and supporting locals venders!

Events/Caterers/Private Parties:

You can contact caterers and offer you musical services. Many caterers have clients that are interested in live music so you are an asset to a caterer. You can allow a caterer to easily reply “I have a guy/girl for that” any time they have a potential client asking about music.  From employee appreciation days for office workers, to Christmas parties, art gallery events, weddings, and tons of other possible events, this is one great way to find work that doesn’t require you to play in bars.

Handing out business cards at live shows (in bars, marketplaces, wherever really) is a great way to book private parties (such as birthdays, weddings, summer BBQ parties, holiday parties, etc). Playing private parties feels very rewarding and flattering as the client chose you specifically for their special event. If you’re friendly, work hard, and care about your clients and their event than you will often be handing out more business cards at these events as well. By nurturing these values it’s just a matter of time until you are receiving frequent calls out of the blue to play more private parties!

Cruises, Hotels, and Casinos:

I’ve never really gone this route but I know a few performers that have. There are agencies that book performers to play on cruise ships and in hotels/casinos (domestically or abroad). I Googled “talent bookings for cruises and hotels” and found a bunch of companies in the industry. Always make sure to do a bit of research on any companies you’re thinking of working with (there are scams out there so beware). This type of overseas work can be great though depending on your circumstances.

If you like to travel, are single, and want to make money and have very little living costs, this opportunity might be right for you. From what I’ve hear you generally play 6 days a week so this is a great way to really improve your playing. From what I’ve heard there’s no rent to pay or food costs and you can make around $3,500.00 a month. Speak with musicians in your music scene (At open mics or on Facebook local music scene pages) and ask for some advice.

Play for the city (Municipal Events):

Visit your city hall/council to inquire about city organized events/festivals. Perhaps the town is planning a Rib Fest in the near future and could use a band. Most towns and cities have a department of recreation and culture. You can offer your services for consideration for upcoming municipal events.

Further Diversifying:

Besides the things I’ve mentioned in this post, you can use your imagination and entrepreneurial flare to think of other places to perform. Schools often put on concerts, why not call around to the different school boards to find out more?

Some daycare centres offer musical stimulation as part of the package to make their daycare centre more alluring to parents. Call around and offer this type of service to day care centres.

You can advertise to groups of parents to hire you to play music for all of their children for an hour.

Do you see where I’m going with this? This is why we must be music entrepreneurs. It’s not enough to take the mould of the status quo and apply it to our lives as musicians. You are far better off always trying to expand the services you offer and the connections you are making with people in different industries. The “box” of playing pub gigs exists and you can play within and outside the rules of this “box”. You’re the boss, do what works for you! Good luck applying these methods to your life. Be in touch on the “TME Community” page to let us know how everything is going for you.

Final Thought:

Like bar gigs, success here depends on hustling hard and being active in finding work. With everything mentioned above you should be able to find some paying work! I want to finish with this last thought. Music is a powerful thing. It creates memories, happiness, and has even shown powers of healing. If you are in a position where you’re working hard at it and making good money, please consider the notion of playing music for the less fortunate. Old person’s homes and hospitals are always looking for volunteers to give the gift of music. I know not everyone is in a position to do this. So as to set the example and encourage you, I am enrolling to perform in an old age home and I will write a post to talk about the experience at some point down the road.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and if you’ve found it useful than would you do me a huge favour and PLEASE share it! Also, please sign up for my mailing list to receive notices when I upload new content. I really want you to succeed with music and enjoy what you do! Cheers.

How to find paying gigs!

Heya there!

People are often surprised when they find out I perform gigs to make my living. For many musicians gigs are the main source of income as the pay can be pretty decent and it’s fun. Generally speaking there’s a lot of work available if you work hard to find gigs. Once you have the gig it’s up to you to do the right things to keep getting booked in by that venue. Finding gigs can seem like a daunting task, though. You may feel like a door-to-door vacuum salesman. This isn’t a natural feeling for many of us, after all, we are musicians! I’ll walk you through the method that I have used to be booked up to play 5-10 shows a week. This is a guide based on things that have worked for me to find paying gigs.

One thing to keep in mind is that live music has value! Not just intrinsically (that feel-good fist-pumpy feeling). Yes, everyone loves and cherishes music but I’m talking dollar bills. If a venue hires a musician who has taken time to perfect his or her craft (learned good songs, doesn’t take long pauses between songs, takes short breaks, engages the crowd when appropriate, can sing and play well…that sorta stuff) then customers are more likely to stay longer, call their friends to join them, and consume more. By doing this consistently the venue can create a buzz and become known as a great place to check out the local talent, or at minimum they can sell more food and drinks. You should never feel as if you are being done a favour by being hired to play live music. It is a service! Showing gratitude towards venues that hire you is still important and you do this with thanks, being an easy person to deal with, and by working hard for them. Still though, don’t consider being hired to play “a favour”. You took years to learn your craft, you bought equipment, and you took the time to offer your services. You’re a pro. You deserve to be here and to be paid for working hard and being good at what you do. PERIOD.

Now with that in mind, the most effective way that I have managed to book my gigs has been by visiting venues in person. I recommend having business cards (Vista print all the way baby-cheap, great designs, delivered to your door) and a website which should of course be shown on your biz cards. WordPress.com has free websites available. There are also other very user friendly web building sites such as wix.com and bandzoogle.com. Some of these will cost a bit of money but it is well worth it at about $100.00/year (for hosting and use of great web building platforms). I’ll have a helpful guide on making a website coming along shortly. With these two things in your arsenal you’re ready to enter venues to try to find paying work.

The best time of day to enter a bar for a gig pitch depends on the venue. You get better at judging it over time, but generally you’re going to want to go in for a chat with venues on their off-peak hours. Don’t bother them when they are busy, don’t be “that guy/girl”. They don’t have time for you then and you won’t get the chance you need to make what I’m sure is an awesome killer pitch for your awesome killer performance. Now assuming you’re at a venue and it’s off-peak hours, and you have biz cards and a cool website with info and photos, and vids of you playing, and maybe a calendar showing your upcoming shows… then what? The person to talk to is the bartender! (I like the bartender (Ooh, if you’re lookin’ for me) I’m at the bar with her (Uh huh, okay)….sorry Tpain fans (do they still exist?), but moving right along lol).

Ask the bartender if there is a manager in at the moment that you could speak with about live music. Often the person behind the bar is the manager so perfect, otherwise the bartender will go and get that person for you or take your contact deets in their absence. A great tactic for starting your pitch is to ask the manager: “Do you offer live music to your guests?”. First off it sounds more professional. I’m also making it about them, which changes the playing field mentally. I prefer this then to flat out say “I’m looking for gigs”. It frames “offering live music to guests” as a thing of value. “Guests would enjoy if we offered that” the manager might think to him or herself. This can have the effect of making a venue feel like they should be offering live music. Also, this opening line is not pushy at all, which makes a good first impression. The venue will either;

  1. not be interested in any way, shape, or form in having live music,
  2. does offer guests live music,
  3. has been thinking about doing live music.

Unfortunately with option one there’s not much you can do except for maybe leaving a card in case anything changes. Option 2 is what you really want to hear. Your real pitch can begin. Mine usually sounds something like this:

“I’m a performer looking for new venues to perform in. What would I need to do to have a chance to come in and play for you guys?”

It’s simple and to the point. I won’t walk you through every word because I’m sure you can handle chatting with the manager. Keep in mind that you will want to know what to tell them when they ask “what kind of stuff do you do?“. Another thing for your consideration is if you have a following or not. You can always mention your local following which may sway the venues decision in your favour. I never reference this though. I play 5-9 shows a week on average currently. I can’t expect my friends or family to have that level of commitment at this point, mayyyybe in the beginning but not even really for me. Also, being from Toronto, which is massive in size, means I travelled all over to play, sometimes going as far as one or two hours drive away. I don’t have pull in those areas as I’m not local so I’m very upfront if I’m asked about “bringing a crowd with me”. That’s not the service I offer. I bring myself and my music and a great time for guests and staff. Trying to sell more than that may complicate your life beyond what you should, especially in the beginning. That’s my two cents, just know I have your interest at heart and that I’m trying to reduce your learning curve!

If the venue seems interested but unsure then you can suggest that they give it a try. Offer your services as a one off paid performance with the possibility of booking more shows if their guests and staff team enjoy the experience. There’s little risk in giving you a try, especially if they know you sound good from being able to hear you on your website. What have they got to lose?

After having this chat with a couple of venues you will learn to know what to expect,  what to say, and what not to say. You’ll learn what works and what doesn’t. Experience is the best teacher so get out there! When I moved to Edinburgh, Scotland to be with my girlfriend (fiancé now WOO!) I had no gigs booked and I knew no one. I had £800.00 to my name and HAD to make it work so I hustled my ass off. I had business cards made with my UK phone number and my website on it and I went door-to-door for two weeks straight. It was my full-time job to find work. If you’re serious about playing shows then act like a stranger in your city. Chose a place in town to start and walk/drive through every street stopping in every bar, club, restaurant, or venue. It took me two long weeks of walking all day but I managed to book enough gigs to pay all my bills and save money too. When you think about it, two weeks, it’s not that bad. Decide you will find gigs and make it happen.

When you’re chatting with someone about live music in a prospective venue you can always ask if there are any venues nearby that offer live music. Even if the place isn’t interested in hiring you they are usually very open to helping however they can. Some venues use booking agents and visiting many venues is a great way to find out who the music bookers are, wherever you are located. You can always try and google bars in your town, add them to Facebook and chat to them through there. Phoning in is another option but it’s less personal. I just think being face-to-face is the most effective.

So that’s it for now, it may seem like a lot but the good news is if you have music equipment, biz cards, and a website you can start doing this TODAY! Otherwise you can start setting these goals and working towards getting there. But know this, it isn’t this big impossible thing. You CAN do it! The last piece of advice I want to leave you with for now is to log everything. After every meeting, phone call, whatever, LOG IT. After speaking with someone I would jot down the:

  • Venue name
  • Who I spoke with
  • Brief summary of what was said

If you have any questions I’m here to help you, as always! Click the “Contact” tab and get in touch! I’m out for now, it’s my day off today and it’s a gorgeous spring day in Edinburgh. I’m going to hang with my lovely lady! 🙂

…if I could only get that Tpain song out of my head! Me and my pop culture references. HAHA Peace!

For my article about finding paying gigs outside of the pub/restaurant scene, click here!

To be inspired by my Music Entrepreneur Video (a day in my life), click here!

Your stage awaits!

how to find gigs
Finding gigs is very doable – your stage awaits!

What is a Music Entrepreneur? Does it sound like “monkey business”?…lol, fair enough, let’s take a deeper look!

What is a Music Entrepreneur? Taking a deeper look into this “monkey business”!

My girlfriend at the time and mom thought I was crazy when I first quit my job at an insurance company to be a “full-time….musician?” (Yikes, right? What’s this dude going to be able to afford?)! They assumed that I was trying to be a rockstar and play stadiums rock shows. Maybe I didn’t communicate effectively to them that I had very modest and realistic goals. I didn’t properly explain to them that I had a game plan and that I had taken steps to make sure I’d be alright without my traditional job (that gave me security but little else).

The reason I knew I would be okay in my new endeavour as a music entrepreneur is because I:

  • Surrounded myself with people who in some way or another were making a living solely with music,
  • I started working as a musician and getting paid before I quit my full-time job. I made sure I had bookings extending a month or two into the future as well as a bunch of guitar students to teach lessons to,
  • I was diversifying. This is super important, especially when starting out! This means doing a few different music related things to make a living.

If you have the skill to play and/or sing but have never considered being a music entrepreneur then you understandably may not know all the ways to make money with music. Hell, I’m still learning and I’ve been doing this for the better part of a decade. That’s the best thing about music, you are always learning. Every new lesson opens a bunch of new doors you never knew existed. It is true with your playing and it is true with your business skills. Here are a bunch of ways that you can turn your passion of music into a career (Thats RIGHT! A career! I know music entrepreneurs that own their own homes and have normal lives that they enjoy very much!);

  • Busking (Wherever able, check local laws concerning where and what regulations apply)
  • Playing live shows (Pubs, clubs, restaurants, hotels, etc)
  • Playing private parties (Birthdays, anniversary parties, special events, etc)
  • Playing weddings/having your own wedding band
  • Playing on cruise ships/overseas hotels or casinos
  • Teaching music lessons
  • Booking and/or promoting live music
  • Selling original music and merchandise
  • Licensing original music for film and television
  • Owning music industry assets such as your own music school, booking agency, recording, or production company
  • Scoring music for artists/bands in your area (or online…another business opportunity for starting a company!)
  • DJ-ing or hosting Karaoke/Open mic nights
  • Writing songs for artists, ringtones, etc
  • Recording local artists’ music
  • Doing session work (playing in studio or on someone else’s home recordings)
  • Gaining a following playing online (YouTube, Periscope, etc. Other business options become available here such as leveraging your influence for network marketing).
  • And more!

As you see, it isn’t all monkey business indeed! It is a lot of fun to play shows to make a living, it’s the best decision I’ve ever made! But you can see how I’ve had to consider a wide range of options available to me to make money. It literally is a business, not a loosy goosy way to rock out, do whatever you want, and answer to know one. You should take it seriously and not lightly. When you are your own boss (as you will be as a music entrepreneur) then you have to have the discipline and business sense to cover your ass and line up enough work to succeed. I’m blunt about this because you need to know this going in! If you can’t take it seriously then there is still money to be made part-time (you’ll get what you put in) but being a music entrepreneur requires more commitment to really reap the benefits of this life (This paragraph was brought to you by Captain Buzzkill)!

Real talk guys, it is a fun life. You do rock out, you do spend most of your time doing whatever you want, and you generally don’t answer to too many people. You answer to yourself though, and if you don’t approach this business properly then it will be you that you are letting down! It is all about positioning and it really isn’t that hard. It just isn’t THAT obvious if you’ve never done it or haven’t got the time in OR connections with the local music scene.

My next few blogs will expand upon the idea of positioning yourself for success in this business. That means doing stuff that will make it easy to shift your life towards a life as a pro musician. My tips and tricks will be designed to give you things you can start doing immediately to get you closer to your goal of being a successful music entrepreneur. Practicability and applicability are everything to me. My future content (which btw is coming very soon) will also give you insights as to what this life looks like. I’ll talk about the pros, the cons, how to overcome obstacles, and how to kill it in this business. I’ll show you the life you are considering and give you the confidence to make your mind up for yourself…Is this “Monkey business” for you?

Be well!

Image courtesy of Ron Pereux, Dec 2012)

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It’s been a long time coming and I’m so pumped to be here at The Music Entrepreneur. A bit on what I’m doing here…

Are you an artist trapped in the life of a 9-to-5er? I’m here to help you to use your musical skills to break out and live the life you are dreaming of!

Hi there! Welcome to the Music Entrepreneur page. I’m beyond excited to get going with all of this so that I can help you achieve your goals of making money playing music…and maybe even quit that job you don’t like! So here we go!

I know that for many of you I am a total stranger at the moment, but that will soon change (I hope). This post is meant to be a very quick n dirty introduction to me as well as to let you know what to expect to find here in the coming days, months, and hopefully years.

My name is Bradly Cooper and I’m a full-time musician from Toronto. I drew kind of a crappy deal having the same name as a major Hollywood actor but I’m rolling with it! I’ve dabbled with using the stage name Bradly Mitchell (my middle name) just so that I’d be able to rank on Google at some point BEFORE page 5,000… lol! I’m in the middle of organizing a ton of exciting content that I will be uploading here as the days go by.

Question 1: “What kind of stuff should I expect to learn from you Brad”? 

Great question! (what an awkward self Q&A huh? :P) I will be imparting all of my knowledge about how to go from working a regular-ass traditional job to becoming a full-time musician. For anyone who is already playing music for money I want to give you other tips and tricks that I know will help you step your game up to the next level. I’ll cover things like:

  • How to find gigs
  • How to crush (and I mean absolutely SLAY your gigs and get paid tips while growing your social media)
  • How to find students to teach
  • How to start your own brand and market your music to generate sales (Through your own website or platforms such as iTunes).
  • What equipment you need
  • How to know when you’re ready to quit your job
  • and so much more!

Question 2: “Ok, fair enough. Who doesn’t want to quit their boring job? But why should I listen to you Brad”?

Another great question! I’m just some dude writing on the internet and I understand the cynicism that goes along with that. The reason you should lend me your ears is two-fold.

  1. First I care immensely about you succeeding. I love what I do but the next level for me is to help others achieve success with music too. I’m passionate about being the best musician I can be and helping others to do the same so that together we can improve the quality of live music in our cities around the World! The better we are as music entrepreneurs the more seriously musicians will be taken, and that bodes well for all of us!
  2. The other reason why I am able to help you grow as a music entrepreneur is that I’ve done it! I’ve done it myself not once but twice. As I mentioned, I’m from Toronto, Canada. In the summer of 2015 i already had a few years under my belt as a full-time musician and things were going great. I was playing a ton of gigs and private parties and teaching as many private students as I wanted to. When my girlfriend moved to Edinburgh, Scotland (what a class city) to complete her masters’ degree (sugar momma!!!) I followed her and thought “I can do music over there full-time to support us”. I didn’t know 100% that it would work as there were a lot of question marks. But I believed in myself and knew I’d give it 100%.

This is me, arriving in Glasgow (another class city, I love Scotland!) on August 18, 2015, struggling to carry all of my music equipment and ready to make a name for myself!TME002

I used a lot of my old tricks to find work in Edinburgh however I could not count on the network of musicians in my inner circle that I had fostered back home in Toronto. I was a lone wolf! I had no musician friends to have my back and help me so I had to learn a ton of new stuff to find success.

The #1 thing I learned is that you have to treat it as if it’s Do or Die!HAD to act fast. I HAD to fight hard and desperate. I learned that as an outsider I had to make myself known. I went door-to-door to every pub, club, and restaurant I would find until FINALLLYYYYY somebody gave me a chance and I had my first gig booked in at the Black Bull in the Grassmarket, in Edinburgh. The rest is history really. At this point I play 6-9 shows per week and don’t even teach anymore as I grew kinda tired of that (always an option to go back to though!). By acting like a stranger in your own city you will have the right mindset to get out there and make things happen for yourself! Growing a network of music friends is a must too but firstl you gotta have that hunger and desire to make it on your own! When you have your own gigs you get treated seriously.

So there I go, rambling when I said it’d be quick n dirty (I don’t know why I like that expression so much?) but in reality I’m too excited to get started with helping you kick ass in this business and get you on the path to living your true life! There’s so much more coming very shortly.

Are you an artist trapped in the life of a 9-to-5er?

P.S. just for fun, here’s a video I put together when I first moved to Scotland! Be well!