MUSICIAN'S SURVIVAL project

seven deadly skills 

#4

PUBLICITY 

Publicity can be terrible. But only if you don’t have any.
— Jane Russell, American film actress

COR BLIMEY we’re getting through these fast aren’t we?! This week: Publicity. Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen: you need to tell people what you do in order to get hired. 

The hours of practice you put in, the dedication you’ve shown to your art form, the unrequited vigour with which you’ve pursued your dream - none of it can be turned in to income unless you let people know about it. Just as in Sociability, we’re in an age now where all the resources we possibly need to effectively publicise our work are pretty much served to us on a plate. Actually scrap the plate: it’s a giant goddam all-you-can-eat platter. The internet leaves no stone unturned and takes no prisoners. It waits for no one. So use it and show your work

family guy 

Sociability and Publicity are squabbling siblings both fighting for their share of attention. So, be a responsible parent to your Skills and give them equal precedent in order to get the most out of all of them. In our last post on Sociability, we talked about the importance of real, human interaction, and the importance of making someone feel good in order for them to remember you. After we've established these positive interactions, we give ourselves the opportunity to then tell people what we do, to show our work - face to face - to a pair of ears that are actually listening

If you were on a podium, what would you tell people about yourself?

If you were on a podium, what would you tell people about yourself?

Publicity is much more than simply marketing yourself. Social media; websites; business cards - all fantastic, but it's what you do with these vital human interactions that can have most potent impact on your career, and in turn, lay down the building blocks of your positive reputation. This is why, during these interactions, letting people know about you is so important.

 

We build a reputation because people know what we do

 

I want to share an interaction I had recently.

A few months back I was chewing the fat with a chap who works in music publishing. What he said struck me somewhat. He said that now more than ever, when signing new talent, they specifically look for those personal touches. Those personal recommendations through people they know and trust. For all the ubiquity the internet has brought us when it comes to music, it sort of makes their job even harder just because of the sheer vastness of music available. So the long and short of this conversation: in an age of digital Publicity, nothing can surpass actual human contact. 

However, none of this is to say that Social Media doesn't have some serous Publicity merit of it's own. But there is a knack to it...

easy does it now

We’ve all seen it. Those people that appear on our Facebook feed just a little too often. Scrolling through on your phone, you see once again they’re posting dozens of photos from the latest rehearsal, or yet another selfie in-d-clurb. Your hand moves away from the screen and hovers: it’s finally reached breaking point. Up goes the index finger, hovers again for a moment while you consider ‘am I a bad person?’, then all of a sudden you think ‘f*ck it’ and BOOM your finger slams down on the little arrow thing and hits UNFOLLOW. Of course we all love seeing what our friends and colleagues get up too, but possibly not 300 times a day.

So c’mon folks, lets's be a little social media conscientious and share one, maybe two things a day. And if you're not sharing enough (publicising yourself!)...then...share one, maybe two things a day! 

 

SKILLS chemistRY

Striking a balance is key. If Publicity is on overdrive and Sociability is trailing a little behind, it can do more harm than good. 

Striking a balance is key. If Publicity is on overdrive and Sociability is trailing a little behind, it can do more harm than good. 

Now when we combine our Sociability with our Publicity, we get one hell of a potent concoction. But mix them with great care. I’ve seen it too many times - when the Publicity meter goes on overdrive. For example, I was at a small show a couple months back and in walked a musician who was quite well known on the scene and had some great experience. They got absolutely hounded. All the business cards in the world thrown their way, without a moment for them to just relax a bit and enjoy the night. This is where, sometimes, Publicity can go on overdrive, and Sociability can get a little left out. 

Yes, it is of course absolutely vital that we grab opportunities to meet experienced people when we can and show them what we do, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with enthusiastically pursuing these moments. However, my point here is to avoid placing too much emphasis on these interactions - and to take a moment to consider if it's really going to be worthwhile, or just kinda piss someone off. Why? Because, as in Sociability, where the real relationships are built on the day to day interactions, even the mundane - we Publicise most effectively through these very same, real interactions and relationships. 

a bit of technical stuff: EMAIL

A screen shot of my email signature template (with my details taken out of course...this isn't literally my email signature...that would make me a crazy person, and about as employable as a baked potato)

A screen shot of my email signature template (with my details taken out of course...this isn't literally my email signature...that would make me a crazy person, and about as employable as a baked potato)

Your a busy person, I know. You don’t have all this time to get out to jam nights and social events every night of the week to build all of these relationships and publicise every modicum of your life. And absolutely - we’ve all gotta have our nights off too. So what’s the thing that bridges the gap between all of your usual social media stuff, and busy face to face publicity?  Email. And believe me, if there is a knack to social media, there is an art to email. 

Now there are good ways to connect with people by email, and there are very, very bad ways. If you’re contacting someone cold, for the first time, you better make sure your email looks like the best thing they’ve seen on their screen all year. First thing’s first: Sort out your email signature. That’s the thing that comes at the bottom of every email you ever send, containing all the information people need to know about you. Check out the screen shot. 

THE TWO R'S

Second thing’s…second (I can see why this one didn’t catch on): Figure out who you want to approach, and make sure they’re the two R’s. What’s that? Relevant, and Realistic.  Relevant: Make sure that individual is worth your time contacting.  Do serious research in to who they are, and why they might want to know about you. Realistic: is there a real chance this individual may want to engage with you? What is it that they can offer you?

When you've got a list of who you'd like to contact, get a draft email written up. I'm not talking a template here, I'm talking a draft email specifically for each individual person you wish you contact. If there's one thing people run a mile from, it's obvious template emails written without care. How do we avoid this? The two R's!

And remember, you're offering your business to them. You're not trying to be their bbf. Speak politely, plainly, be brief and don't use excessive grammar. Just say hello, tell them why your contacting them, state what it is you do, say goodbye and leave a way for them to find out more! Nothing more that this.  It's small details like using unnecessary exclamation marks, being overly friendly (this can come across like a hard-sell), that can hold back from making a positive impression and standing a chance of turning that digital interaction in to a real one. 

 

Business not-so-casual

As musicians, we are self employment. We are a business. What does a business need to…literally be a business? A service, or a product. There is not a business on the planet without either of these. Because otherwise it would just be… like a bunch of people standing in an empty office doing nothing. An endless cycle of meaningless power tags and empty management speak like “let’s work to move this thing forward”, or “we need to focus more on the wider picture.” - but with this cold empty glaze over their eyes and them repeatedly walking in to doors and bumping into things. Is this what you want?!

Now that I’ve hopefully convinced you that you are a business, I can hear you screaming down your screen “BUT BEN AM I A PRODUCT OR A SERVICE I DON’T KNOW”. Well, you’re both of those things. So, you’ve got your work cut out. Because most business with a team of dozens, if not hundreds, if not thousands of people, offer only one of these things. 

SERVICE

Putting it super simply, your service is what you actually do. It is your skill. A carpenter? Fits your home with wood. A salesman? Sells. A plumber? Does…plumber stuff. A musician? Provides music. So far so simple.

PRODUCT

There's a bit more meat on this one. We touched on this during the Thorough post, remember? 'YOU are your product'. And if you are your product, the way you look, the way your present your self; it’s absolutely vital whenever we publicise what we do. Your Product is Your Image. Without an image, we make it exceptionally difficult to publicise ourselves. 

 
I always have a full-length mirror next to the camera when I’m doing publicity stills. That way, I know how I look.
— Maralyn Monroe
 

so take a leaf from maralyn's book

Whenever you are in any professional engagement of any kind, your Product is on full display, and you better make sure it comes with a cherry on top (this is a metaphor, don’t literally walk around with a cherry on your head). Your image is the first thing that anyone will see, and they'll begin making decisions about you immediately. Not only this, but your image will become what people associate you with.

 

Your image isn’t just what people see: it’s how they perceive you.

 

The great thing is, to have a really positive image is not hard. It just requires careful thought. Simply present yourself well to other people. Here are some things to bare in mind when considering this, a few of which link to our Thoroughness

  • Have suitable clothes and look sharp in whatever scene it is you’re involved with. Pop scene? Look sharp, have a whole ton of cool black clothes. Rock scene? You better make sure those jeans are ripped stylishly. 
  • Respect your gear. There’s nothing worse than seeing a drummer turn up with some knackered old cases that barely hold themselves together. Knackered old stick bag: crap image. Guitar strap held on with gaffer tape: crap image. 
  • Be a CC: a Conscientious Conversationalist (the B-side to 'Smooth Operator'?). Listen well, but don’t be afraid to speak up and show confidence in your ideas. Remember your Sociability

 

WE ARE IN A COMPETITIVE MARKET

I’ve worked with too many musicians who’ve presented themselves poorly. Sure they might have had a nice suit, but their kick pedal is barely holding together? Forget it. Sure they may have been great to chat to, but didn’t learn the song properly? Forget it. SURE they may have turned up on time, but using a beaten up old soft case for their guitar? F.o.r.g.e.t. IT! ALL of these examples are how we present ourselves to other people - they are our image! If you’ve got badly looked after gear, people (artists, labels, other musicians, managers) will assume that is how you approach every aspect of your work. You are too much of a risk to their finances for them to hire you! 

 

So learn from the Masters:

Which famous artists do you think were masters of their image? David Bowie? Andy Warhole? Katy Perry? Sure. But for me, the grand master above all is…Bob Dylan. Say whaaaaaat?! 

To look incredible; impeccable; perfect down to your very shoelaces - sure this requires skill. It’s why there are stylists on the planet. But to curate your image so carefully that you are perceived as someone who doesn’t care about their image? Then you are a master. 

The point is, for all the delinquent aspirational rock and roll imagery we’re bombarded with since being kids, non of it works without immense levels of detail and planning. If a coherent, clear image isn’t in place - then what is there to publicise and, ultimately, sell? Nothing. And if artists don't sell, musicians don’t get paid. If musician’s don’t have a distinct image and sound (think back to Innovation) of their own, artists don’t hire them. 

 

The Music Business really is dog eat dog. If you don’t stay on top of your game, you’ll fall off the wagon. Through publicising ourselves we let people know we’re here and ready. Even if at that specific time they don’t need you, you’re still in the back of people’s minds, ready for them to draw on you when they, or someone they know, needs the particular set of skills you offer. Show them you care. Show them an impeccable Product, and the best Service possible. Show them that if they hire you they’re getting the best they can get for the fee you charge. SHOW THEM YOUR WORK

Thanks you again for reading, see you next week for the next post in my Musician's Survival Guide, and the fifth of the Seven Deadly Skills

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