Despite what you might think at first glance, the ‘elevator pitch’ shouldn’t be reserved for tricky salespeople and plucky entrepreneurs – it’s just as important in the music business!
In the overcrowded world of great jazz projects and far fewer clubs, festivals and labels, it’s essential to be able to communicate your ‘offer’ and musical style quickly and effectively.
The elevator pitch – simply put, a concise, well-crafted message delivered in a matter of seconds – can help make a strong first impression and open doors to new opportunities.
In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of crafting and delivering an elevator pitch that resonates with your target audience. From tips and strategies to mistakes and missteps, the goal is to help turn your next brief encounter into a lasting connection.
We’ve also added some advice on how elevator pitches are adapting to the digital age, with tips for delivering impactful pitches in a virtual setting.
What is an elevator pitch (and why is it important for jazz musicians)?
Typically delivered in the 1-2 minutes it takes to ride an elevator, we’re talking about a concise, persuasive message that explains who you are, what you do, and why it matters to the person you’re talking to.
As a jazz musician, you should imagine this as the intro you’d give to potential collaborators, promoters, and other industry professionals at an in-person chance meeting (such as at the jazzahead conference).
At a time when attention is being split in a hundred different directions, the goal is to capture their attention and give just enough about your music (and possibly profile) to make them want to learn more.
Whilst you would want to tailor your pitch to the specific person, a few things remain the same:
- Clear (no doubt about what you do)
- Concise (only the most essential information at this stage)
- Relevant (tailored to showcase both your style and profile in a way that matches their needs)
Master this, and you’ll find that people are much more open to your music and responsive to your follow ups.
Crafting a compelling elevator pitch: tips and strategies
In much the same way a jazz musician becomes a talented improvisor, crafting a compelling elevator pitch takes time, effort and preparation.
Start by identifying your unique value proposition.
What sets you apart from other jazz musicians? What is your musical style, and how can you describe it in a way that stands out from the usual mundane words? Once you have a clear sense of your value proposition, distill it into a concise, easy-to-understand message that can be delivered in a few sentences.
Next, practice delivering your pitch in a variety of contexts.
This will help you refine your message and adapt it to different audiences and situations.
A booking agent, for example, would receive a slightly different ‘pitch’ than a journalist or a festival promoter.
For promoters, you might want to show your ‘profile’ by talking about touring experience or the ability to draw a crowd.
Journalists probably want to know more about the concept behind the latest release.
Maybe record labels have an additional interest in past sales or touring territories.
Being aware of those points in advance will allow you to tailor your pitch accordingly and make a more meaningful connection, increasing your chances of success.
Some things remain constant though: focus on engaging the listener with a strong opening line and use vivid language to bring your music to life.
The dos and don’ts of delivering an elevator pitch
We’ve already focused on how important it is to be clear and concise in this pitch, but what else?
Don’t be pushy or ‘salesy’
Don’t make it too complicated
Don’t be too vague or generic
Don’t sound robotic or rehearsed
Don’t ramble or get bogged down in details – the goal is not to tell your life story, it’s to make enough of a connection that the conversation can continue online
Practicing your elevator pitch: tips and exercises
It might feel silly, but practice this pitch alone first, ideally recording it, just like you probably did with your early solos as a student of jazz.
Don’t try it for the very first time on someone you really want to connect with.
Then consider enlisting the help of a friend or mentor who can give you honest feedback on your pitch. They might be able to identify areas where you could improve your delivery or make suggestions for more impactful language or phrasing.
This might sound over the top, but the better you prepare your pitch, the less it will actually sound like you are delivering something prepared.
And, if the situation of ‘pitching’ yourself makes you uneasy, this preparation will give a lot of extra confidence when the time comes.
Following up after your elevator pitch: turning a brief encounter into a lasting connection
The true value of an elevator pitch lies in the connections you make and the relationships you build.
The goal is not to convince someone to book/review/sign you there and then. It’s to open the door to a longer-term relationship which might start with a few emails and end up with something a lot more meaningful.
With that in mind, an important component of the elevator pitch is actually how you follow up and nurture those relationships over time.
Imagine you met a festival promoter at a conference and told them about your project which brings together your passion for European avant garde jazz with your Japanese heritage.
Sending them an email which reinforces that memorable line and then references something specific they told you would be a great way of solidifying that meeting and opening the door to sharing audio or video links.
It’s that music which will eventually convince them to book you, but it’s the pitch and the story which opens the door.
You can also reinforce these connections through social media, following and engaging with them on platforms like Twitter or instagram.
Elevator pitches in the digital age: adapting to virtual networking and communication
The rise of Zoom, virtual conferences and digital tools have added an additional element to the idea of an elevator pitch.
In terms of opportunities, it’s opened the door for scaling personalised outreach.
If you can deliver a compelling pitch in person, why not record it in video and send it to people you aren’t able to get into a room with?
And whilst the tools are there, for free, at the tap of a smartphone, many musicians still don’t make use of this which means an added way of standing out.
More common, though, is the practice of ‘pitching’ via email.
And whilst that works well (and is the industry standard these days, compared to phone calls and faxes) people often lose sight of the ‘elevator’ aspect.
Curating an effective spoken pitch first, which can then be transcribed into text, is a great way to make sure things remain friendly, conversational and concise. It should also avoid you falling into the trap of adding 73 links into a mail, whilst taking advantage of the ability to enrich your pitch with a piece of video content.
It’s important to remember that virtual communication has its own set of challenges though.
In a physical setting, you at least know that you have the person’s attention for the time they’re in front of you.
Not so with virtual pitches and emails.
As such it’s crucial to keep your message as concise and engaging as possible and remember that, when it comes to video, nonverbal cues such as eye contact and body language are still important considerations.
Ideally, we should figure out how to extend an already-great pitch to the digital world, rather than focusing on the tools and the possibilities to deliver more and more complicated and forgettable messages.
As you can hopefully see, an elevator pitch is a powerful tool for jazz musicians looking to build their careers and make meaningful connections in the industry.
Essentially, it pushes you to figure out what is most unique and compelling in what you do, and use that to make a strong first impression and open doors to new opportunities.
Once you’ve nailed that, delivering your pitch with confidence and impact is key, as is following up with the people you meet to build lasting relationships.
Adjust this concept to work in a digital world too, and you’re all set to turbo-charge your network and make real-life connections who will stick around for the long-term.