This useful trick can help you to book gigs in your city! Take the “back way” in!

Getting a shoe in the door, as a musician, is a very challenging part of what we do. There are so many musicians trying to gain a spot on the rosters of venues everywhere. When it comes to how to find gigs it’s super important to be persistent and to not quit.

How to find gigs: 

[…”I’ve discovered a way to approach venues and be useful to them before even asking for a gig (and as always my knowledge is your knowledge!)…”]

Getting a shoe in the door, as a musician, is a very challenging part of what we do. There are so many musicians trying to gain a spot on the rosters of venues everywhere. When it comes to how to find gigs it’s super important to be persistent and to not quit. “Who we know” (so our connections) is often one of the best ways to be hired at a venue. But what if there’s a venue that you want to play in that you have no connections to? I’ve discovered a way to approach venues and be useful to them before even asking for a gig. As always my knowledge is your knowledge! I figured this out while living and playing music in Scotland.

Now 99.99% of the time I perform gigs that pay X amount of dollars for a determined amount of time. Exposure doesn’t cut it when you are trying to pay your bills with music. After finding a bunch of good gigs in Edinburgh I started trying something else.

 

The Precursor to “how to find gigs” this method


The farmers markets did not pay me to perform, but they offered me a spot to play where I knew there was a ton of foot traffic. The manager explained that they can’t pay me but that I can leave my guitar case open and that musicians usually make a lot of tips. The farmers markets happened during the daytime where I usually didn’t have any bookings. I figured, “Alright, I’ll give this a try and see if I like it”.

I loved it. The marketplace was vibrant, full of people enjoying their weekends, eating delicious foods, drinking aromatic coffees, trying vegan specialty items, etc. There was so much going on and it was great getting to know the vendors. I ended up making pretty decent money (usually between £80-100.00 which I would not have made if I had decided to simply stay home). On top of this I was handing out business cards and was able to book a few private parties for both vendors and guests of the market.

Another hidden perk of playing the market

The merchants would also give me free foods like cheeses, breads, salads, meats, sweets, etc. I can’t say enough good things about playing the market. The downside was that it rained a lot in Scotland and it would be pretty slow at the market on a rainy day. But as I was pretty busy with actual paying gigs I didn’t mind taking that chance most times. As you can see by my performance schedule I still busk at marketplaces (and love it)!

So how does this equal learning how to find gigs?

This brings me to when I found this “back way” in to perform at venues. From “busking” at the market I had a bunch of change, £80-200 a week sometimes. I wanted to use the money I made but didn’t want to pay in coins. On my way to the bank to deposit the coins I passed by a local pub. I wanted to perform at this pub and never really had an “in”. They weren’t too busy because it was the early afternoon. I decided I’d ask the pub if they wanted to trade my change for paper notes.

The manager behind the bar was delighted to have the change since bars always need change and I saved her a trip to the bank. As we counted my coins we chatted. I knew they had live music in there very frequently so I mentioned “ya, I made this money playing music at the market on the weekend, these were my tips”.

Providing value changes the playing field

I was able to introduce myself as a musician while offering something of value to the pub. It’s great to go to a venue and ask for a gig. You might get a good response or you may get shot down. Using this trick really gotten me a shoe in the door though. Offering something of value to the venue’s manager allowed me to establish a great rapport. It wasn’t long before she booked me in to perform. She also spoke about me with some of her friends who were managers at other pubs. I was booked in to play paid gigs there as well.

Maybe this method can help you!

That’s how I discovered this method. I’m not saying you can only do this if you busk, that’s just how it worked out for me having that link to the market. I’m not really a busker, as I’ve mentioned, but I was able to use the change I made busking to legitimize myself to a venue. This resulted in me being hired in as a performer. Whether you get change by busking, or from tips at paid gigs, or by saving change, it’s all the same.

I applied this trick to a couple of other bars and it worked every time. It even worked in places where live music wasn’t really a thing. the manager/staff would recommend other places I could go looking for work. They even put in a good word for me.

Providing something of value sets you apart from the competition who is going in “asking for something”. If you go in “giving something” you stand a chance to have that “giving” reciprocated.

I hope this articles has helped you to learn how to book gigs new places as well as forge some new relationships in your city’s music scene. Good luck!

Additional Resources about how to find gigs

Click here: to Lean how to book gigs in bars/pubs

To Learn how to book gigs in non pub settings

For inspiration to be a pro musician

-Brad

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

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!)

vocal health
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!)

IMG_6034

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

 

 

Opportunities teaching music lessons

Hello once again! I hope you’re all keeping busy and doing well with your music! So far I’ve been pretty focussed on how to succeed by playing gigs. I want to shift gears here and talk about another opportunity for us musicians to make a living with music. Teaching.

By teaching lessons you can supplement your gigging income as you will most likely have your afternoons/weekday evenings free to teach. If you don’t play shows than you’re free to try and book up as many students as your schedule will allow. There’s pretty good money to be made teaching. It all depends on your ambition.

Specifically, I’m going to talk about 3 different ways to monetize music lessons. You can;

  1. Teach lessons for a music school,
  2. Teach private lessons yourself (freelance), and
  3. Create your own music school (where you can teach and/or hire teachers to work for you).
  1. Teaching for a music school is a great way to teach and not have the headache of finding students. You sacrifice a bit of money this way as the school you work for will most likely take a bigger cut. Many music stores offer music lessons. Also there are companies in most large cities that send teachers to students’ homes, providing their clients with teachers without the inconvenience of leaving home. In Toronto I know of a company named “Stay at Home Music” for example that boasts a roaster of hundreds of students. They even put on a recital every year. Search in your area for the music schools available to apply to and get in touch with them.
  2. You can also freelance. You can put up flyers advertising your teaching services or go the online route and advertise on websites like Kijiji, Craigslist, and Gumtree, depending on where you are. This one is pretty straightforward. You book up as many private students as you can and set up a weekly lesson time at a rate you negotiate with your client. I liked freelancing as the money is better but you have to work harder to get the work.
  3. This option is a more long -term commitment. It usually starts with step number 2. If you can book up so many students that your schedule can not take on any more than you can hire someone to teach for you. This keeps going based on good advertising and word of mouth until you need to hire a third, fourth, fifth…(you get my drift) teacher. It’s VERY important here to do background checks on people you want to hire as you will be liable for any unforeseen incidents. This option has the most risk yet yields the highest payment. I’d advise speaking with a business lawyer and making sure all the angles are covered. You don’t want any unforeseen trouble, you just want a smoothly run business that you can make a living from while providing a great service to your clients.

I used to teach 20something students a week and play shows. Lately I’m so busy with shows that I don’t even teach but lessons were crucial in the beginning stage of being a music entrepreneur. When I quit my job at an insurance company teaching was half (or more) of my income and so I’ll always be indebted for the opportunities it provided me with. You have to do what works for you.

One downside I noticed was that lessons could seem mentally draining, especially with kids that didn’t care about learning. It was quite frustrating. On the other hand I had some great students with which lessons flew by! If you want to know more you should try it out for yourself. It’s not that hard to do, a lot easier than you might think. I remember when I had my first lessons I spent an hour planning for it. When I got to the lesson everything I planned went out the window because every student is different.

In my next post I will talk a bit more about the business aspects of teaching (so, different options for lessons lengths and pricing, and some teaching strategies). This was just a quick blurb to inspire you and open your eyes to another great way to earn a living as a pro musician. It’s great to make money and make a difference (for kids that care enough to try). Teaching can leave you wanting to bang your head off the wall, lol sometimes the struggle is real. Stay professional, be patient, and try to have fun!

As always if there are questions head on over to the community page and leave your comments. I would also love it if you could sign up to my blog to receive notifications of new content! I’m working hard to bring you the best content I can and want to help as many of you as humanly possible, so please share this if you’ve found it useful!

Good luck guys, you CAN teach music lessons and even start your own school! You can live your life as a full-time pro musician. I’m wishing you all the best with it!

Bradly