What? My talent could be useless?
Talent might be the first prerequisite to a successful career in music. However if you are looking to secure high profile concert and festival gigs you will also need promotional tools and business skills in dealing with promoters and festival talent scouts. Hamilton Musicians Union, Local 293 Executive Board member John Balogh of Big Time Productions has produced over 10,000 shows in a 35 year span from street festivals to major concerts featuring headline marquee acts. Here he shares his thoughts on how to improve your chances of landing that coveted high exposure slot:
It’s that time of year when I start to hear from my musician friends with the same questions and inquisitions I’ve encountered over the past 30 years. Here is a review of what I hear and what you should avoid when talking to a promoter, talent buyer, agent or anyone else that would hire you or your band.
1. First of all, you need to go out and meet 51 more people like myself. This way you can expect at least 1 date per year from each of us, thus letting you work a minimum one day per week 52 weeks of the year. Now imagine if you meet and establish a relationship with 100 persons like myself. I tell you this because I still get asked the same redundant question, over and over: “Can you hire my band for all of your dates and festivals?” No! This doesn’t make good sense! First, why would you want to flood the market area? You don’t see me booking Wilcox or Jim Cuddy at all the festivals. The general public likes to see a variety of entertainment, not the same acts over and over in the same year OR year after year after year. One thing you should know is that in all my 40 years as a talent buyer I’ve never received calls or promo from big bands or artists (i.e. “headliners”). The reason you call and they do not is because they now have marquee value. When I hire a headline marquee act I know they have a history and catalogue of music that is branded and recognizable by at least 5,000-10,000 people who will show up for this band. I need this many patrons or fans of the band because we do not charge admission to the festivals, and the headliners draw large free crowds to eat souvlaki, buy tie-dyed t-shirts, drink beer and so on. This is what really pays for the “free” entertainment.
2. Yes we pay all the bands. No we don’t pay them all the same money. Kim Mitchell gets a different amount than Wink Dinkerson. Wink is still working on his branding and is hoping to release his first CD whereas Kim has 25 some odd recordings. Following the line now? The more people you draw the more you’re worth to a festival, club, promoter or producer.
3. Now you’re working on your branding. Tighten your helmet it’s a long ride.
4. Here’s the big advice: get on the social media bandwagon, eg. FB, twitter, LinkedIn etc.
5. Don’t forget business cards with your name and number on them (for those older dudes). They are invaluable in your quest of shameless self promotion. Every day, promote yourself. Meet a few new people; club owners, promoters, talent buyers, anyone who will listen to you.
6. Take no as a maybe, call back and bug the shit out of everybody (not just me). Things might look different tomorrow.
7. And remember do a lot of this self promotion yourself. Put posters up. Contact local media. I’ve put up thousands and thousands of posters on poles all over Canada. Ask Dave Rave or Norm Thornton. They put ‘em up with me and ate sandwiches in our cars while we did it.
8. I cannot stress enough, the importance of meeting as many people as humanly possible that have anything to do with show business. You may not get anything out of a relationship for years and years and years.
9. Burn no bridges and try to be nice. I’m an old hippie and believe me, what goes around comes around. Karma’s a bitch! Work with it to the positive.
10. Miss no meetings. Buy a big yearly calendar. Hang it up and write everything on it.
11. Don’t act like you know everything or that you don’t need help. Because guess what? You won’t get help if you already know it all. Be modest. It will go a long way in building your career. I’d rather help a nice guy out. Over the years, his talent will build as opposed to working with someone that’s a great talent but a shitty human. You may work once but is that all you want to work? It’s better, believe me, to be able to work over and over with friends throughout your play in the music biz.
12. Don’t stink of alcohol or weed going into a meeting. It might feel cool but you really denigrate the business and yourself. Be professional.
13. Have your electronic media down. Have your YouTube links, audio and video files and send them along to anyone that will listen.
14. Have fun. Most in the music biz had a tad of the Bohemian lifestyle, and that has a quality of life value as opposed to dollar value for the onset of one’s career. Money will come but it’s tough and nobody will deliver it to your door unless of course it’s a big royalty check.
15. And one big thing – don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t ask, you won’t know.
16. If you do get booked, advance your date. That is, call ahead. Talk to the contact person. Make sure you know what time you do what and for how long. Don’t take things for granted. Talk about deposits, production, crew, final payment method, chickens, beer and so on. Get all the particulars straight until you know all the answers and you feel comfortable. One thing I learned a long time ago was if it felt weird usually something was up and it wasn’t good. Don’t be difficult – asking for 3 cases of beer, catered meals, Dom Perignon…. you get it. Be reasonable!
17. Play like you’re having the time of your life. Do a great show and chances are we’ll be seeing each other again and again and again. Have lots of fun and we’ll see ya.
John Balogh sits on the executive of the Hamilton Musicians Guild. Membership in the Guild gives instant access to numerous business resources, web listings and web hosting services, and an instant connection to thousands of professional musicians across the continent.
For more information http://www.hamiltonmusicians.org