The recent jazz musician survey I ran turned up so many common ‘pain points’ for musicians. From building a jazz network and reaching the right festivals, to how to find the time to take care of all the ‘admin’ tasks and keep momentum going, a lot of you had similar experiences.
Here are just a few of the main challenges flagged up:
PROFILE: “I’m only known in my area. How do I get credibility outside of that?“ TIME: “There’s a massive amount of work required to promote and book my band!” MOMENTUM: ““Building and maintaining momentum” NETWORK: “Breaking into the European scene without an agent” DIY MARKETING: “Overcoming a lack of confidence to market myself is difficult” SELLING YOURSELF: “How do I convince promoters to give me a chance with their venue?”
Some of those sound familiar to you?!
There were so many common struggles, in fact, that I had to split them into 2 different articles! If you didn’t see it already, part 1 (here) covers raising your profile, building momentum and time management.
This article – part 2 – dives into the rest of the struggles – along with solutions for overcoming them.
How can I build a network of jazz promoters & journalists who want to hear from me? How can I promote my music myself, on a budget? How can I successfully convince festivals & venues to book me?
Read on for more musician quotes and some of my tips for making progress…
“HELP! I HAVE NO NETWORK!”
Breaking into the European scene without an agent is tough…I have almost no experience in booking gigs myself, and no network!
Knowing who are the right people or organisations to contact to present my project is a challenge
This is a big one!
If you don’t know who to contact – and they don’t know you – it’s much harder to book gigs. There is no quick way to solve this, but that’s even more reason to start working on it now!
Keep this in mind: I did a survey with a bunch of international jazz promoters who said that almost 60% of artists they booked did not have an agent. That means there are a lot of musicians out there successfully booking themselves, so know that it is possible.
Two quick practical notes on building your jazz network:
1) Anyone can build a list of target festivals and their contact details. It just takes time and some detective work. I wrote about this in detail here (and it’s a big focus on the online course I run). Almost every promoter’s email address is out there somewhere. Don’t settle for info@ addresses, they are often useless.
If you’re struggling to find a promoter’s email, start by finding their name. LinkedIn is a good place to do this… Or just google “festival name + artistic director…”
Once you’ve got this, you’re almost there! You could probably guess the address by testing all the usual firstname/surname combinations. Just run them through an email verifier like tools.verifyemailaddress.io or hunter.io/email-verifier.
If you don’t have this database of target promoters, start! Even 30 mins a WEEK will help you build a better network for the years to come…
2) Obviously just having the contacts is only the first step. Just because you have someones email, doesn’t mean they are part of your network. You need to get them to reply to you and become aware of your project. As with any relationship, don’t steam in and ask them for something (ie a gig) right away!
Write to them personally (no more dear sir/madam with 100 emails in blind copy!!) and make it clear you’ve checked out their festival or club. Maybe even pick out an artist they booked that you like. Share some music (ideally with video) for them to check. Don’t include a million links or lots of text which make your mail look like hard work!
The goal of your first email(s) should be that they become aware of your project and your emails seem easy to deal with.
Building a network is not easy!
Use the fact that this is a long-term thing to your advantage. If you build a good database of contacts it’s going to give you a massive advantage over your contemporaries who haven’t… Be that smug person who saved £8 a week since they were a kid and then bought a sweet car in their early 20s.
Network the old-fashioned way
Also remember the old-school way of networking: actually getting out there and meeting people. Go to conferences (from personal experience, jazzahead in Germany is great) and hang out at venues and festivals where you can meet industry people. Again, this is slow, but it works.
It’s amazing how many replies you’ll get to your email pitches when someone has met you in person and can imagine a real person on the other end of the screen. To a lesser extent, phone calls can also help you become more familiar to the people you’re trying to reach.
And, above all, be nice, both in person and by email/phone. It counts for a lot.
“HELP: I STRUGGLE MARKETING MY PROJECT”
My challenge? Making the best of the upcoming tours to fully leverage the opportunities and build connectionsI need effective release strategies for my next recording projects. Promotion on a budget.Media & PR coverage internationally is a challengeOvercoming a lack of confidence to market myself is difficult!
Telling the world how amazing you are can be a bit awkward, can’t it…
First thing to remember: promoters and jazz fans want to discover great music. If you are presenting great content, to the right people, you won’t find too much resistance!
And the people you want to work with understand that you have to shout a bit about yourself if you want to have a good career; it’s just about finding the way that feels most natural to you.
The marketing challenges from the survey focused on a few different areas. A couple of points on each…
Consistently promoting yourself, in general, to build your profile
It’s natural that your work and ‘news’ comes in waves. A new album or EP is a particular high point where you should have lots to shout about. But it’s also important to be consistent with building your profile.
Social media is one free and quick way to keep things ticking over.
I’m not trying to tell you that having 5,000 or so followers on Facebook will get you gigs on it’s own, but it’s an extra little marker of your level when a promoter or fan stops by. Plus, it can be built for little or no budget in little or no time.
If you don’t enjoy using social media, sit down once a month and schedule a bunch of posts – video content, playlists, links to specific tracks, old press quotes etc – and then all you have to do is keep an eye on it and answer questions/comments.
Video content is amazing for grabbing attention. If you have old video footage that you haven’t yet released, think about making it into short promo clips to spread online. The video quality needs to be decent – but these days that can be done on an iPhone! And if the audio is not great, but a studio track over the top.
Check out an example we put together for New York-based guitarist Larry Corban (If you don’t have the skills to make this yourself, I have a video guy who can do this sort of thing on a very low budget…email me for more info…)
Promoting a new album or EP to get more press
As a lot of musicians pointed out, promoting a new release is super important – especially with regards to touring more.
Recording music is usually quite expensive, so you really need to squeeze as much attention as possible.
It’s cyclical: you release a great record, you promote the hell out of it, your profile is higher and so you stand a better chance of getting gigs.
If you can afford help, there are options. A good publicist can open a lot of doors to journalists in their home country, but that does come with a price. You can also find more general campaigns at a lower price (like the ‘digital campaign’) we do via Jazzfuel.
If you can’t afford extra help, it’s totally possible to do some album PR yourself! I wrote a whole article on DIY PR which you can find here, but the key is this:
- Get good promo materials together
- Make a target list of the magazines and blogs you want to reach, well in advance
- Write a short but compelling piece of promo text about the project
- Send it as a press release to your target journalists, along with a personal note
- Follow up
You should think of a release as at least a 3-month period of focused ‘pushing’ towards press. Start 6-8 weeks before, build up to release days and then keep pushing in the weeks after.
Promoting a tour to sell more tickets
If you’ve already toured, you’ll have probably realised that getting the gig is only half the battle! If you want to get invited back to the club or festival (which has to be the goal; there aren’t enough places out there to just do each once!) they need to sell some tickets!
Of course, that’s technically the job of the promoter.
But make sure to give them great tools for this and to make sure they are promoting your show as much as they should be. It’s amazing how a little local push on social media or blogs can give the organisers great memories of working with you and make a rebooking much more likely.
[One idea that worked very well with a band I do consulting for: we put together a standard 30-second video from a live show and then made a new version for each gig, by adding the venue/date info in text. It was pretty simple to put together and promoters LOVED it. Many said it was the first time they’d been given something like that. And, as a result, the gig was highlighted above all others on their website]
To sum up: I know the constant pushing of your project can be tiring, but it’s essential. You can really help yourself out in this regard by planning in advance. If you know what your goal is each week/month/year you can start focusing in on what you need to do to achieve it and then free up the rest of your time for something else.
“SELLING MY PROJECT IS TOUGH”
Knowing how to address the right people to make them aware that l would be perfect for their club/festivalGetting promotional materials together, and convincing promoters to give me a chance with their venue.Getting responses from the promoters I’m trying to reach.Actually pitching my project, explaining succinctly what it is, getting it across to people, getting them to click the video and listen.
So you build a good list of promoters, create consistent content for your project, share wherever you can online, release great music, market that… but STILL the big challenge is actually selling you project to promoters.
It might sound weird to call this sales, but that is essentially what you’re doing.
As an agent, I’ve thought a lot about this – reading blogs and books about traditional ‘sales’ jobs is very interesting – and I just want to share a few tips/ideas on how you can approach this better yourself…
Don’t stop too soon!
In sales, it’s taken for granted that you almost never close a deal on your first contact with someone. Often it takes many more. So don’t make the mistake of reaching out to promoters once, getting little or no response and then giving up!
Gain confidence by approaching the right clubs & festivals!
Not every club and festival out there is right for you. It might be a stylistic thing, or a profile thing. But doing your research well when checking out which promoters to pitch to will give you the confidence to keep pushing with them. If you know what you’re selling is actually a good solution for them, why wouldn’t you insist that they check it out?
Check how you’re pitching
Often, the words that you email someone are the first barrier to get them to check out your music. It doesn’t matter how great your band is, if they are not inspired to check it out from your email, they might never hear it.
I’ve shared my tips for how best to email promoters before (if you haven’t seen it, you can get a free PDF guide to this via the free Jazzfuel mailing list) so I won’t go into it in detail again, but let me just say this:
- Don’t write an essay (this is just a teaser to get them interested, not to tell them your whole bio)
- Don’t include tons of links (just pick your best one, first) and DO make sure it’s a good quality video
- Make it clear you’re writing to them (personally) and show that you’ve checked out their club or festival and still think your project is right for them.
Thanks again to everyone who took part in this survey.
I know there’s a lot of content in this article and in part 1, so pick and choose the bits that are most relevant for you right now in your career.
And just remember that if you’re making great music and consistently connecting with the right people in the right ways, there’s no reason why you can’t make fast progress to wherever you want to get to!