How-to achieve a higher SEO ranking with Yoast for WordPress.

The Learning NEVER ends!

Hey guys! As you know, being an entrepreneur (a Music Entrepreneur, wink) means you are constantly learning about new ways to improve your business. Behind every newly learned lesson are a dozen new questions about something you’ve maybe never even heard of. This is both the exciting and the tedious nature of being your own boss. One area entrepreneurs will eventually need to focus is SEO – or Search Engine Optimization.

This article is about improving your SEO skills, specifically if you build your website through WordPress. I’ve recently just learned this and am in the process of optimizing my site for this. Here’s how:

Search Engine Optimization

SEO is pretty cool stuff. If you clicked to this link then I’ll assume you have some idea of what SEO is and how it works. I won’t drone on about it. I’ve embedded a short video below for anyone who isn’t so familiar with SEO. If you’re just learning about this stuff then I highly recommend viewing the video to gain a bit of context. This will help you understand how Yoast for WordPress can help you take advantage of how SEO works to rank your website higher.

Main takeaway from the above video:

The words and titles you use when creating online content are very important in helping you to get your website ranking high on search engines. It’s not the be-all and end-all but it’s a big part of it. The best part is that with the Yoast plugin (for WordPress) you can do a few things to help Google to recognize your website as more “legit” thus giving you a better ranking.

Using the Yoast Plugin for WordPress:

Using Yoast is pretty easy to do if you know what you’re looking for. I’ll go a step further, because I’m a huge nerd, and admit that I actually have fun retooling my SEO settings on Yoast (I need more friends). I love when it tells me that my SEO settings go from “N/A” (or “Bad”, lol) to “Good”.

I’m going to share a few screen shots below and point out some key places where you’ll need to tweak a couple of things to improve your SEO settings using the Yoast wordpress plugin.

This is my WordPress Dashboard (I clicked on posts to display blogs I’ve written):

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If these pictures are small you can zoom in!

As you can see above, the Blue Arrows indicate the column where both the Readability Score and the SEO Score are displayed. These scores tell you how your posts hits the readers eyes and how it ranks in search engines. You want your blogs, song lyrics, biography, etc to have a good score in both of these areas (and be green).

The first article, with the Green Arrow, has both a good Readability and SEO score. That’s why the little circles to the right are green.

The fourth article on this page, the article with the Red Arrow, has no Readability/SEO score. I’m going to want to improve that so that my readers enjoy reading my blog post and so that Google can find it.

My third article (“How to play gigs…“) actually has a red circle over the Readability Score area. That’s bad and I need to fix that.

How to access and use Yoast for WordPress

You need to add and install the Yoast plugin. Once that’s done it will become a part of your blog post edit page. Select the post you want to work on in your dashboard (or wherever you edit your posts). I’m going to use the example of my “The Etiquette of Listening to Live Music” blog post.

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Now this is one of my best performing blog articles. It actually has the most reads of anything I’ve written. I’m not doing it a justice by not improving the readability or SEO attributes, so let’s change that (Nice, I’m getting two birds stoned at once! Right!?).

I’ll click on the link and scroll down the page to here:

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I’ll stay on the SEO tab and improve the “Problems” Yoast is telling me I have, in Red. Most of these are pretty self explanatory. Don’t forget to clic “Edit Snippet”, which let’s you change a few very important things:

Edit Snippet

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This section controls how people browsing Google will see the title and description of your link. You have TOTAL control over this. Remember to use the focus keyword! You definitely want a clean looking SEO title (in green) such as:

“10 things friends do for one another | The Friendly Blogger”

It just looks clean and tidy. The slug (in blue) also shows up, keep it short and avoid stop words for better ranking.

The description (in Black) is the paragraph people will read. Make this to the point and informative about what the post contains.

Now you’re ready to improve your posts Readability:

Readability:

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Follow the steps as indicated by Yoast in the “Problems” and “Improvements” sections and you will make your articles flow better and be more enjoyable to read, like for instance, having really really long sentences with strange, punctuation definitely won’t help, you get the point! Also, don’t forget to create and add your posts to categories. Finally, click your image(s) to edit the details such as alt-text, etc. “Alt-text” is what the picture will be saved under for people to see when they google a word and select “images”.

Let’s see how I did:

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So now I can go back to my “Posts” page and admire my work.

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As you see, the article name has changed from what it was before. Yoast told me I needed a focus keyword so I added one. It then told me the other places I had to make sure I put my focus keyword. One of these places was the title. My focus keyword had to appear in my article a few times so I chose something that worked well as a title and could be used throughout the article. These are just some examples of how Yoast helped me improve this article.

So there you have it

Yoast is a great tool if you use WordPress for your website. Whether you have a blog on your page, or write your lyrics online for your fans to read, or whatever. You want control over these behind-the-scenes features/attributes and Yoast is your gateway to getting this done. There’s a lot more to SEO than this but this will get you pointed in the right direction (Upward, on Google!).

Excuse me while I head over to improve the readibility and SEO attributes of this article! (Always giving myself more work!).

Cheers!

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

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

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

Hi there music entrepreneurs!

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

What’s been up and what’s new?

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

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

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

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

What Now?

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

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

What kind of articles are on the way?

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

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

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

Bradly

Edinburgh Toronto Musician
Back Home In Toronto

 

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

The

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

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

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

Edinburgh to Toronto
The music entrepreneur flies home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why be a music booker?

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Pricing and paying artists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My challenge to you!

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

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!)

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

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

Things to stop doing immediately:

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

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

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

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

Things to start doing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you do have vocal issues:

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

Psychological warfare:

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

SO!:

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

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

All the best! 🙂

-Bradly

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

for instagram

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t have an attitude problem or be a Diva

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

 

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

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.