What a lucky thing to make a living performing music we love!
It can be a wild juggling act to make time for music and all the administrative work and pre-travel prep. But it’s possible to boil the job down to a few juicy basics and still build a strong and vibrant performing career.
Here are a few simple and effective ways to go about Keeping Your Shit Together—some of our darkest, deepest secrets. So, pucker up and prepare to begin Keeping Your Shit Together!
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Shannon recently received a gift from her clever and thoughtful husband Matt: a to-do list notebook in which you write just TWO things you intend to accomplish for the day.
From where we stand, the self-employed person's daily to-do list is usually contains much more than two tasks. So imagine Shannon's surprise when she actually tried to humor Matt and use the list one day. Um, which two tasks were the most important? Didn't they ALL need to be done, like, YESTERDAY?
The process of choosing just two tasks helped Shannon prioritize. And the sense of accomplishment at achieving those two simple tasks was surprising.
Today Shannon decided to write two blog posts... one for KYST and one for Leap Little Frog
Turns out, there's enough time to do a few more things. But already she has accomplished good work for the day.
Wishing you all good, effective, joy-filled days of work and play.
-Laura & Shannon
Thursday, January 6, 2011
- Be clear with the subject line. It's the first thing that I'll see. I constantly skim my inbox to see what's coming up and schedule things for the week ahead. If you send an email about your upcoming show, but the date of the show isn't in the subject, there's a good chance that date will have come and gone before I realize I missed it.
- Ditch the press release attachment. In a time when your information is readily available online, press releases are unnecessary in my view, and I most definitely do not want to have to open something else beyond the body of your email when you could have just put that information in the email. What I need from you is the basic important details, not some flourishy prose about the chance meeting one fall day that brought your band together. If I need that info, I'll find it on your website or I'll just ask.
- Get your music on Bandcamp. With Bandcamp, I can embed your music on my site, and if someone listens to your music on my site and likes it, they can easily click through to your Bandcamp and purchase/download your music. And now that Bandcamp has just added show listings, they can also find out when you're playing next. ReverbNation is also a great resource but I think it has struggled to catch on, so many bands signed up but don't keep their info up to date. (Keep your info up to date wherever you are online!)
It's been interesting in the digital era to see which online music services have peaked and which have bottomed out. When we launched two years ago, I had already long ago canceled my MySpace account; I think you're bananas if you have a band and MySpace is your only web presence. There are far superior tools, and I don't think I know anybody who actually prefers MySpace.
- Now that you're on Bandcamp, send me a link to download your music. I'm going to need it if I'm to write about you.
- Find the submissions instructions on my blog and follow them. Most blogs and other media outlets will have some kind of posted guidelines for you. They are for your benefit as much as for the blogger's. Now, if we happen to be pals, Facebook/Twitter friends, or are somehow otherwise connected, don't assume I'll make exceptions to my rules for you. I don't use my personal Facebook account to run my blog, and Facebook messages get buried even faster than those that come in through my BBC email. And I definitely can't promise that I'll remember the details of your show just because you told me about it in person when I saw you last night after my third whiskey.
- Set up a Google alert for your band name. Granted this is harder if your band is called, say, Women, but it will help you to know when your band gets a mention on the web. When I get a submission from a band for something I've already covered, and they clearly don't know that I've covered it, I can tell that they don't read my blog. Not that everyone needs to be a regular daily reader, but with our posts feeding to our Facebook and Twitter, it's pretty easy to keep an eye on what we're writing about. Follow us on these social networks, and make sure you check first to see what we've already written about you before making yourself look foolish. If it doesn't look like you care about my blog, then why should I take the time to care about your band?
- If possible, get to know your local bloggers and other media. In Boston, there's a monthly event called the Rock 'n' Roll Social (second Tuesday of every month at The Model, 7-10pm) where lots of networking takes place. It's a chance to meet local bloggers, radio hosts, etc. On the basis of simple human nature, if we've made a personal face-to-face connection I will be more inclined to take interest in you and your band. Other similar networking opportunities happen around town regularly so become a part of your local community and seek these opportunities out.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Fiddler Katie McNally took the course, and she suggested we do less soul-searching in future classes and more nuts and bolts of the music biz. Katie is fabulous, and her original fiddle tunes are brimming with personality and fire... so we sat up and took notice of her suggestion! Today we are taking stock:
KYST 101 brought in a BIG group (20+ participants). We crammed as much practical nitty gritty info about booking, promoting, touring, recording that we possibly could into one, big, intense Saturday. It was fabulously full of info and energy!
KYST 201 was a smaller ensemble of participants, so we were able to spend more time remembering the heart of it all---the music! We played around with personal mission statements (coming up with promotional hyperbole, yes... but also tapping into WHY we each play music, to keep eyes on the prize). This was a deeply fertile session! And Shannon was 8.5 months pregnant at the time!
In KYST 301 we set out to continue the KYST 201 magic. We put a lot of emphasis on the WHY. And we decided to let people show instead of tell by performing in class, too. This was an exciting development which worked well with a smaller group.
We are grateful to Katie for reaching out about future KYST classes. Looking ahead to KYST 401, we might aim to balance nitty gritties with a big, creative, musical approach. We hope you will be in touch, folks, if you have additional ideas, desires, or thoughts about our next course.
Kisses from Laura and Shannon
- Invite people to sign your email list (don’t just add people without their consent!). Then establish regular communication with your list. Consider what will best serve and entertain your target audience—monthly contests for fun prizes, recipe contests, news about creative projects in the works. Give them the inside scoop before anybody else.
- Online social networking is an easy way for fans to stay in touch with you and for you to have quick and current connection with people. Share music, photos, short videos, personal experiences and insights. Take people on tour with you by telling them tales from the road! Share news about other musicians you love… or news about some of your fans (since most of them have creative, successful careers, too).
- Give free stuff to your email list and/or facebook, twitter, etc. friends: write (or find) a helpful article and share the link; offer a free mp3 for download (maybe something new you’ve been working on); have a regular educational podcast or blog; offer to play requests at your next live show. This is a nice way to give thanks for support!
- Book return shows where you have fans. Return regularly, and stay an extra day to teach a workshop when possible.
- Back at home, play local shows a couple times each year. The rest of time, be present at local shows! Participate in other people’s events, and/or host a series where you invite other musicians to participate! Support your peers, when you can, and get inspired!
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
1. Book all gigs, and send detailed contracts with posters (write date/time on posters). Follow up with venues until you receive signed contracts. Make sure to coordinate and then carry out your part of the promo deal with each venue.
2. Book flights and hotels/homestays,
3. Make a tour book with contracts for each venue (with contact names/numbers for venues, addresses, load-in and start times, etc.), generous drive times for each day, directions/addresses of accommodations. Print copy of itinerary for your sidemen or decide how/when you are going to communicate leave/arrival times clearly on the road (at least one day before)
4. If you’re paying sidemen, it’s ideal to have money for payouts before you leave. Determine and communicate to your players what the frequency of payouts will be (daily, weekly, as needed?). f you’re in a democratic band where you divvy the pay, agree on what the band will cover (gas, lodgings, tolls, baggage fees at airport?) and what will be considered personal expenses (meals, alcohol, mascara?). Decide who will collect checks and keep track of expenses on the road.
5. Weigh personal and financial goals: be frugal on the road and maximize earnings? splurge on nicer meals and accommodations and break even?
If you keep your sh*t together before you hit the road, you’ll avoid preventable stress. Still, unexpected circumstances and challenges will come up. So plan what you can… and then dial in that good humor response and a healthy dose of flexibility. It’s going to be great!
xx Laura and Shannon
Once we had defined our project, we did a couple of gigs (gave two one-day workshops) to hone our act and stagecraft, and to begin building our KYST fan base. We’ve learned so much already from our amazing participants. Everything you read in this blog and learn in our workshops has grown because of the dynamic performers who have already been KYST.
As soon as our project had some legs, we decided to outline a few projects and goals for 2010-11. With a preliminary long-term booking plan, we had ideas about where-ish and when-ish we wanted to rock our workshop live. Of course venues and dates rarely line up exactly as hoped, but a flexible plan is a good place to start.
Here are the five steps we took to set up our first workshops. You can use these same strategies to pitch your stuff to venues you want to play:
1. Make sure the venue/s you’d like to play book/s your style of music (and is dedicated to presenting music/artists like you). Check online calendar to see if dates you want are available. Note any booking policies the venue states on its web-site.
2. If the venue requests to be contacted via email, do that. Otherwise pick up the damn phone.
3. In your initial email pitch—or follow up to your phone call—include the name of the band and the date you want to book in subject line
4. Be concise: request specific dates, include MINI paragraph about your band, include a LINK to mp3/photo/YouTube.
5. Be memorable: convey a personality consistent with your band’s image. Check out our spiel on Personal Mission statement. (If you’ve already played this venue and have a rapport, be personal and talk about the last time you played).
Every time you contact a venue, use this same standard pitch/process. In no time, pitching will become routine and it won’t feel daunting.
Learn more about pitching—and booking, branding, promoting, touring, developing your fan base, recording, sharpening your performance skills, staying on top of admin work on the road, and much more as the blog continues!
xx Laura and Shannon
Thursday, October 7, 2010
- 1. List anchor dates you already have on the books AND list venues you have played that you would like to play again (if relevant, note specific days of the week they have shows). Organize these dates and venues by region.
- 2. Decide when you would like to perform in each region. Using a map and a calendar, create a loose driving route/desired schedule for each region. Hone in on specific show dates you are shooting for. Note the long drives and try to allow several days between venues that are far apart.
- 3. To fill in your calendar, identify cities you will pass on your route and what day you will be there, and find venues in those towns that book your style of music. (Ask other artists for recommendations!) Remember that house concerts, school shows, and many clubs book during the week. Mid-week booking is imperative to filling out your calendar
- 4. Contact venues, carefully following any booking policies the venue states on its web-site… check online calendar to see if dates you want are available.Check out our suggestions on how to pitch your stuff.
- 5. Know that different venues have different timelines (festivals, anchor dates, clubs, series/coffeehouses, house concerts). Plan ahead: get your shows with longer booking deadlines on the books early on.
xx Laura and Shannon
Monday, October 4, 2010
- Who attends your shows now, and what qualities and uniqueness do you offer them that will keep them returning?
- Who (else) do you want to come to your shows, and what can you offer them to bring them in?
- Read your personal mission statement (see initial blog post) “to your fans.” Do you need any additional phrases that might resonate with your target markets?
- Think about images that might capture your unique approach… that future fans will see and GET why they should give you a chance. Maybe you can set up a photo shoot or add some artwork to your website along these lines
- Ask your friends and current fans what they dig most about your music, your show, and what you have to offer—and use that information to come up with more stuff to offer the people who already love and support you.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Now it’s time to share your wonderful music with the world. Performances and recordings are the classic way to get your music out there. Whether you are aiming to tour internationally or just play semi-regular local shows, advance planning is key to identifying your goals and the steps it will take to realize them.
Conjure up your own star power with these five points of long-term planning majesty:
- List all the things you might like to learn, do, and create with your music (performing, composing, special collaborations, new skill set, themed recording, teaching, touring in specific regions, hosting a radio show, etc.).
- Blog about some of these ideas. Share them with friends. Check out other people who are doing some of these things. Get some feedback and some information.
- After a bit of research and reflection, refine your list. Let go of the initial brainstorms you are less fired up to do. Commit to the stuff that excites you the most.
- List the baby steps you will need to take with each project (and how long of a lead time you will need to do all those things) in order to make it come to life. For example, if you wanted to host a monthly Burlesque-style Revue in town, you might first find a suitable venue for your show. Then hone your own performance and maybe even your promotional concept, tailoring it to your target venue—and get a few other acts on board and excited about your venture. Then you might secure the venue/date and line up performers… far enough into the future that you have time to build a buzz/audience by printing and disseminating posters, press releases, social media posts, etc.
- Drawing a timeline over the next few years (as far into the future as you’d like) position your various music and career goals—and the steps it will take to realize them—into this calendar.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Stars have five points. Consider these five artistic queries, and you'll be well on your way to getting brilliantly star KYST:
- Why do you play music? List the music that inspired you when you first started playing and the music that continues to inspire you.
- What do you think your music sounds and feels like? Go ahead, take out a pen and draw it, journal about it, tap into your inner four-year-old. Be fantastical.
- What themes emerge from your thoughts and brainstorming? Form this into your personal mission statement (the why and how!)
- Are your skills where they need to be to present your musical mission effectively? If not, practice and find people who can help you sharpen them.
- How's your stage show? Really, how's your stage show? Get friends to give you an honest opinion, and listen to them.
xx Laura and Shannon