As a musician, one of your main goals is getting your music heard. You want to get on the road and perform in front of fans, but sometimes the phone isn’t ringing and promoters aren’t reaching out to book you. That’s when its time to take matters into your own hands.
I’m often asked how I do so many shows – especially in schools. It’s an area that a lot of musicians want to get into. Now that I’ve been doing it ten years I’ve learned a lot of strategies along the way, but none like the ones I learned and applied in the beginning.
When I started doing school shows I went directly to schools, armed with a brochure, my laptop, and a smile. I’d ask to speak to the principal, and sometimes I’d be lucky to get the five minutes needed to make my pitch. I’d talk to them about the program, play a video synopsis that I had on my laptop, and answer the big question – “how much does it cost?” I used to think of myself like a baseball player as I calculated my average from “pitching” at schools. If I could book one in three that meant I was batting .330 – an all-star level of play. A lot of the time I hovered around that mark.
As I progressed in my career, I began being booking more shows and I didn’t need to be out pitching as much. Some of it was word of mouth, some was using other strategies like sending emails and mailing brochures, but I think a lot of it was because of the early days of pounding the payment and pitching my program – and myself. Years later the hustle strategy still endures.
A few days ago a principal reached out to book me for a performance. I grinned when I saw his name in my inbox. I hadn’t heard from in years. I remember it was one of the first schools that I pitched back in the day. I did a successful performance at his school and a few years later went to his new school that he was at. Several years had past and now he was at another school – not uncommon for principals. I was still earning an opportunity to perform, and earning money, from something I did almost ten years ago.
Sometimes I will be contacted by a teacher at a school I was at that has now become a vice principal or principal. One time in the middle of a pitch, a was so impressed that he called up a contact on the spot and told him I’d be a perfect fit for his conference. I’ve now performed at that conference eight times and its been a key way for me to make contacts at schools across the Greater Toronto Area. That one pitch led to about fifty shows!
Every now and then I get back on my hustle game. It usually happens when I arrive early at a school performance and I notice that I’ve just passed by another school. I’ll check my watch and make sure I’ve got ten minutes, then I’ll walk in, armed with a brochure, and ask for a chance to speak to the principal.
No matter how far you go in your chosen career you can’t forget the skills that made you successful in the first place.