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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Category: Music Business

Embracing Marketing

Andrew Hitz

 

"Marketing and sales isn't about trying to convince, coerce, or manipulate people into buying your services. It's about putting yourself out in front of, and offering your services to, those whom you are meant to serve – people who already need and are looking for your services."
-Michael Port from Book Yourself Solid

Today's music business is so incredibly competitive, whether trying to play for a living or trying to land a top teaching gig.  There are not many concrete areas where you can get an easy leg up on the competition.  There are, however, a few of them and one of them is marketing.

Focusing on the "putting yourself out in front of" part of the above quote by Michael Port, there are not many musicians or music educators who excel at this.  There are a lot who are good, but not a lot who are great.

If you figure out two things, who are you meant to serve and how you will put yourself in front of them, you will be way ahead of the game.

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As a side note, absolutely everyone should read the book quoted above.  I can not recommend it any more highly for people learning to get themselves out there.  It is a New York Times bestseller so chances are your competition has already read it.

Believing is the Key

Andrew Hitz

Getting a job as the director of a top high school band program or winning an audition at a major symphony orchestra requires countless hours of hard work and a carefully and diligently executed long-term plan.  There are no shortcuts.

But along with that must be an unflappable belief that you are meant for one of those jobs.  You must not only dream of great accomplishments but also believe that you are the man or woman for the job.

Great Insights Into Freelancing

Andrew Hitz

A couple of years ago I was having lunch with my good friend John Abbracciamento, a trumpet player with the President's Own Marine Band, here in DC. Our conversation, as always, started with us articulating our distastes for the others favorite sports teams (he is from New York, I am from Boston.) But this one day the conversation ended up segueing into a very interesting discussion about the music business. It got good enough that I jotted down a couple of notes.

johnabbraciamento.jpg


I asked him about his career before joining the Marine Band. He started out as a freelancer in New York City. He told me he started getting a lot of phone calls very quickly, to play everything from small gigs to becoming a regular sub with the New York Philharmonic.  

To paraphrase him, he was getting more calls than he "should have" gotten. He's always been a great player. He's in the Marine Band! But he said he was getting more calls than other guys who were either as good or better than he was in town. So naturally I asked him why he thought that was.  He gave me two answers:

I got a lot of calls for two reasons. One, I can keep my mouth shut. And two, I can almost immediately match anyone else’s playing.
— John Abbracciamento, Trumpet Player "President's Own" Marine Band

The first point is an imperative one. As musicians, we are taught to share our (musical) opinions all the time. Sometimes it can be challenging to not let that naturally extend to things off of the horn. I was taught to ask myself three questions any time I want to open my mouth to criticize anyone or anything:

1. Does this need to be said?
2. Does this need to be said by me?
3. Does this need to be said by me right now?

Unless I answer yes to all three of those questions, I've learned to keep my mouth shut.

John's point was that he didn't criticize colleagues. He didn't criticize conductors. He didn't complain about the pay on a gig (which he had already agreed to or he wouldn't be there in the first place!) He kept his mouth shut as a sub and kept his head down.

And the second point will get you hired over and over again. As Rex Martin used to preach to us at Northwestern, our job as musicians is to make those around us sound better than they actually are. And John shared a compliment that Woody English, the fantastic former trumpet player for the Army Band, once gave to him:

I like playing with you. You make me sound better than I am.
— Woody English, Former Trumpet Player US Army Band "Pershing's Own"

If you can do the two things that John did during his time in New York, you will find yourself with a phone that rings an awful lot.

The Wisdom In Other People's Mistakes

Andrew Hitz

Any time you are near a professional musician who is doing some version of what you'd like to do for a living, pick their brains.  I would strongly encourage you to ask them not just about their successes, but politely ask them about their missteps.  What assumptions did they make about themselves or the business that cost them opportunities, time, energy, or all three?

Learning from the mistakes of others is one trait that almost all successful people share - both in and out of the music business.

Who Should You Partner With?

Andrew Hitz

"Find like-minded, bright, hard-working people that you think share a core set of values and a core vision of what you are trying to do and where you're trying to go.  That makes it substantially easier to realize whatever that vision may be."

 

-Kevin Browning, Creative and Business Development Manager for Umprhrey's McGee

 

If you are a musician looking to form a chamber ensemble, don't simply go for the best players.  Find the best players who also fit the description above and great things will happen.

Chamber groups, whether they be brass quintets, string quartets, jazz trios, barbershop quartets, or rock bands, rarely fail to stick around because the music making isn't good enough.  It is almost always a result of visions not lining up or of people not working equally towards attaining that vision.

This two sentence quote can save you a whole lot of time and money if you start there and then worry about the rest of it.

Are You Taking Enough Risks?

Andrew Hitz

"People with a low tolerance for risk, whose behavior is guided by fear, have a low propensity for success." -Keith Ferrazzi from Never Eat Alone

Whether trying to become a band director or start a new chamber ensemble, the music business, like every other business, generally rewards those who take risks. And taking risks involves getting out of your comfort zone.

Are you taking enough risks today to succeed?

20140715-112538-41138443.jpg The sunsetting over Sebec Lake in Maine. © 2014 Andrew Hitz

Perfect Advice on Starting Any Arts Initiative in One Sentence

Andrew Hitz

"You need to know what you know and you don't know and how to partner with people with different strengths." -David Cutler (The Savvy Musician)

You will never read a sentence that sums up how to proceed on any new business venture better than that one above.  When starting any kind of an arts initiative, don't simply go for the most talented players, dancers, singers, or actors. Read the above sentence until you have it memorized and then go from there.

Trust me.  You'll thank Dr. Cutler later if you do.

(This quote was from the fabulous 2013 Savvy Musician In Action Retreat at the University of South Carolina.)