Marketing Yourself as a Musician

Editor’s Note: This article is part 4 of a series by Dave Jolley, an accomplished drummer who recently moved to New York City and is settling into a new life and a new scene.

“It’s like this. Did you ever have a fish tank as a kid? Remember when you would bring a new fish home you would have to put it in the tank in the bag that it came in so that the temperature of the water could normalize and the other fish could get used to the new fish? That’s you right now, man. You’re in the bag and the other fish are looking at you to see if you’ll make until the water reaches homeostasis.”

A friend with a splendid little gift for metaphor laid this on me recently. Pretty good, right?


I had one tiny foot in the door of a pit in that I had just finished a tour of a show that was still running in New York. I had worked with the MD of that show years ago which helped a lot. He was also the music supervisor for the tour.

I was able to sit in the pit once before the tour went out and once after I moved here. Both were great experiences and I met two drummers who have been here doing what I want to do for many years. Both were very gracious and answered every question this tenderfoot threw at them.

Some important advice came out of this. Common sense stuff for sure, but it certainly bears repeating.

  • Take every gig (at least at first), and treat it like you’re at Carnegie Hall. Makes sense. No matter what the gig is, you never know who is on it that can hire you or who is in the audience listening.
  • Don’t pigeonhole yourself. Just because I moved here to do theater does not mean I should be turning down any other kind of work.
  • Don’t leave town. I was told you can be a tour guy or an in town guy, but not both. Once people find out you’re out of town they lose your number. A harsh reality, but there are thousands of people vying for very few jobs. Half the game is outwaiting the competition.

I’ve found that all of these are difficult at times for different reasons. Nobody likes to play for free but I have to balance the lack of pay with the possibility of exposure and playing with some great people. It bears mentioning that the highest profile gig I’ve done here with the heaviest players was for free.

I’m pursuing theater gigs because it’s what I have the most comfort and experience with. It’s also the neck of the industry woods that I know the most people and that I am best networked. However, some of the best paid and most fun gigs I’ve had here are completely outside of that realm and frankly outside of my comfort zone.

The idea of turning down work outside the city has been a tough one to come to grips with. I was offered nearly a year’s work on the road with a much higher compensation package than I had ever been offered a few months ago. It was hard to turn that down so that I could remain here and have no real steady income. I’ve never had much if any success with making decisions based purely upon the fiscal. A right choice ultimately, but a tough one to say the least.

The Cold Call

An interesting point was made by one of these guys related to marketing oneself. He said that when he got to town a few years ago, he didn’t do much ‘cold calling’ or calling and emailing strangers that were doing the work that he wanted to get into. In this case, playing Broadway shows.

I have to admit that his approach is more my style. I’m uneasy with the whole idea of the cold call and like to meet people more organically. And this guy has had great success going about it in this way. There are, however, innate problems with this system of networking that I have run up against.

Anyone I have contacted in town has been through at least one mutual friend. If we don’t have at least that commonality, you haven’t heard from me. Problem is, it’s been slow going.

There are people cold calling people systematically who are getting work and moving up the ladder. There is an excellent article on this very website telling you in explicit detail how to go about doing just that.

Trusted friends have told me I need to lose the timidity and start knocking on doors. In an effort to not offend or bother people who don’t know me, I have successfully managed for those people to not know me. Or call me. Or let me sit in their pits and watch them play the book.

So, it’s with all of this in mind that I begin to bother strangers who in all likelihood bothered strangers to get to where they are. Sausage making can be ugly. However, if my protein starved vegetarian brain recalls correctly, the end result can be quite delicious.


My strategy of non-aggression has gone about as well as Chamberlin’s same tack in Munich, if I may delve into hyperbolic historical equivalencies…

Faux intellectualism aside, I have to admit that when I turned in my bio for the first installment of this series and wrote, “David Jolley is a freelance drummer/percussionist in New York City.” there was a shocking mixture of unadulterated pride of arrival and pure and poignant terror. Now it’s out there in the world, now I really have to do this.

I’m happy with the progress I’ve made these past months but not satisfied. I’ve come to the conclusion that by pursuing my own path, it’s become about pursuing many different paths at once. It’s been testing and stretching my boundaries and reshaping long held ideas about the way things worked and where I fit.

I’m rediscovering an idea that I’ve known for a while but chose to ignore: Growth in career is endlessly and intimately intertwined with personal growth. This is not an easy idea for most people. It involves figuring out what I like about myself and what I need to change. A heavier idea than ‘how do I get that job?’.

It also calls into question my system of values. What am I willing to do to get to where I want to be? And what is the motivation?

Part of this you’re witnessing firsthand. I had to be ceaselessly goaded into writing about my experiences and putting it out there in the world for strangers to read. I guess from here it’s not that far of a reach to email someone privately and ask to buy them a coffee. Worst case, they don’t respond.

I can probably live with that.

Finding Work in a New Scene

Editor’s Note: This article is part 2 of a new series by Dave Jolley, an accomplished drummer who recently moved to New York City and is settling into a new life and a new scene.

Amazingly, there was nary ticker nor tape to greet me as I drove into Gotham. The Don of the Broadway mafia didn’t meet me with the unrefusable offer of: “What show would you like to do for how much money?”

I felt duped.

Flush with tens of dozens of dollars from our months on the road, we had to figure out how to fund the lavish Astorian lifestyle we had chosen.

The Job Search

I consider myself fortunate in that I haven’t had to have a ‘real job’ since achieving the lofty heights of soaker/degreaser in my college cafeteria’s dish room as a part of the work study program. A place where fresh faced boys were molded into pruney handed men.

As a result, I had/have very few marketable real world skills besides as the hitter of things at relatively the right place in the space/time continuum. I decided to see how I could translate my experiences as a musician into a broader and more financially reliable template. Necessity breeds innovation, I suppose.

The very best scenario would find me working full time as a musician playing music that I love and earning a living wage. Reality being what it is, I had to broaden my search and think outside the box to land my first job here.

I started searching Craigslist in the weeks leading up to our arrival to see what was out there. I used phrases such as ‘musician’, ‘drummer’, and ‘percussionist’ under the many categorical headings such as ‘all jobs’, ‘all gigs’, and ‘all community’.

Doing this many times a week for many months has scored me exactly one job and two auditions. Not bad.

My First Job!

I got lucky very early on. Steady work, decent money, and playing the drums all intersected not long after the move. I came across an ad looking for an outgoing drummer who is good with kids. As my wife opined, I am at least one of these things. I submitted my resume, got an audition, played well, and presented myself in a positive light.

In the first example of what will become a leitmotif throughout this series, I knew the right person. Someone I’d been on tour with was adored by the person auditioning me. That person’s name (mysteriously) came up. 4 days later I was playing classes for kids all over the city.

Now clearly this is not what I came here to do, but instead of donning a tie and jumping into the soul sucking (for me) fray of corporate America, I was able to find a job that fit snuggly into what I am trained to do, though not necessarily in a manner that I would ever think of or seek out on my own.

The gig involved learning a crazy amount of music up front. Recordings were provided. A quick ear came in very handy. Some of the tunes were played in every class and then seven or so changed from week to week and location to location. The challenging part, besides the steep learning curve at the start, was keeping track of which set went with which location. Sometimes I played three different sets at three different venues in the course of an afternoon.

Before I sprain my wrist patting myself on the back, it should be pointed out that Zappa this was not. However, it was still challenging enough to keep my interest and saved me from the scourge of slinging venti non-fat-soy-triple-pump-peppermint-prune macchiatos to harried New Yorkers. (Were I even qualified for such a job. Turns out, I’m not.)

It ended up being a much more enjoyable job than I was prepared for it to be. I was getting lots of hours in many different parts of the city and working with other musicians whom I generally and genuinely enjoyed. And the kiddos were adorable.

And then it all fell apart.

Due to circumstances way up the pyramid from me, there ended up being too many drummers for too few classes. It was a classic struggle between the corporate and the mom and pop. There was a split from the big guys and I remained loyal to the lone entrepreneur who had originally hired me. My gut told me one thing and my wallet told me another. I went with my gut.

It’s hard to say at this point if that was the right choice. Certainly the part of me that likes to eat food and sleep in a bed under a roof regrets the righteousness of that call. Had pragmatism won the day, I would still be gainfully employed. It’s a fine line between scruples and our daily bread.

Lesson learned.

Sustenance Work

I’m sure you’ve noticed that everything I’ve talked about so far has been pointed toward the idea of the day job. Just about every one of my musician friends living and working here or in any city has one. This is especially true while one is trying to get established in a new and bigger pond.

I’m discovering that the hardest part of this reality is doing a lot of what you have to so you can do a little of what you want to. Make no mistake. Part of dream livin’ and real keepin’ is dues payin’.

And I’m just getting started.

Related Post: Best and Worst Day Jobs for Musicians

The Skinny on Promotional Packages and Booking Agents

OK, you’re ready to get out there and perform.  You have the skills, you have a promotional kit and you can visualize yourself working five nights a week and making pretty good bread.  Your plan is to network with other musicians at jam night and find out who’s gigging where and how much they’re getting paid.

You then cold-call club owners, hotels, event planners and drop off or e-mail your promotional material.  They never call you back.  You cringe as you make that follow up call. You ask them if they reviewed your material, but in the back of your mind you get the feeling they couldn’t care less about you, let alone remember you.

The digital promo kit you sent to their inbox is one click away from the spam button or the kit you delivered to them has been shredded and your CD was frisbeed into the trash can – but they did save the CD jacket for their own collection.

Are you struggling with the business of getting gigs?  Chances are if you’re a passionate musician or performer you may not have the entrepreneurial skills, time and energy to finding your own gigs.

In this article, I’ll be sharing a few ideas that will help with understanding your strengths, how to put a solid promotional package together and finding trustworthy and motivated booking agents.

Getting Your Act Together

As you know, competition is fierce.  In the West, there are hoards of incredibly talented musicians and most of them are playing the same tunes or following the latest trends; fighting for the tiny morsels of glory and money left over from a disintegrating live venue gigging scene.

Before you begin to put together your promotional package or approach a booking agent, you need to ask yourself:

  • What makes me unique?
  • What makes me or my band stand out above the rest?
  • Why would anyone want to put their reputation on the line and find gigs for me?

Don’t despair, perhaps this will make you feel better:  You don’t have to be the best to get gigs – here’s a little secret – you just need a U.S.P.

U.S.P – (Unique Selling Point) This is something which sets your product or service apart from your competitors.

Interestingly, most businesses and musicians out there don’t know what a U.S.P is and how vital it is to have one.  The only leverage they use for securing sales or gigs is price manipulation.  “Well, maybe people will buy my product if it is cheaper” or “…tell you what, my band will play for less, give us the gig.”  They’re missing the point and not realizing their potential. The products that sell well or the musicians who are working consistently have identified and use their U.S.P to their advantage.

So What’s Your U.S.P?

The following are some examples to consider:

  • A clear and unique sound and repertoire
  • A wardrobe or “look” that carries your message visually
  • An ability to interact with the audience

Bands and artists who have a U.S.P

(I’m not associated with any of these acts they only serve to illustrate my point):

  • The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band
  • Dread Zeppelin
  • The Shaggs
  • KISS
  • DEVO
  • Bob Log
  • Yma Sumac
  • Tom Waits
  • Nina Simone

I think you get my drift.  Once you have discovered your U.S.P., it’s time to move to the next step.

Your Physical Promotional Package

Today most acts have a virtual promo kit, but I highly recommend having a physical one as well.  Remember you need to be unique. And most folks appreciate getting mail.

Your promotional package should include enough information about you or your band so that it inspires a booking agent to imagine the money making potential for you and for them. The basic pieces should include:

  • Letterhead and business cards.  Use your graphics and print style in your business cards and letterhead. Your business card should communicate to people what you’re all about. Keep it simple. What can you include on your card to help people remember you? Use good quality card stock and be sure the information is easily read and accurate.
  • A truthful bio– the music circle is a small one, you don’t want to be known as a bullsh**ter.
  • A video – no fancy filters or editing.  One camera, straight on the subject (that’s you)
  • An audio recording as you sound in a live situation (no overdubs)
  • A song list
  • Professional pictures and posters that clearly convey your U.S.P
  • Press releases
  • Social network and website information

A consistent image helps perpetuate your brand. Your business cards and envelopes should have your name or bands logo on them.

Be very bold with your mailing envelopes too.  Which envelope would you be inclined to open first?  A plain, boring manila envelope? Or a shiny, florescent orange one that screams “you really want to open me right now!”

(Side note: having promo photos and a video where you look scruffy, wearing jeans, looking mean and miserable won’t cut it – if you want the choice gigs, you need to look the part.)

OK, you did your homework.  Now what?

You’ve created a unique and fabulous act and assembled an eye catching and professional promotional package; you’re way ahead of everyone else. You’re now ready to present yourself or your band to booking agents – or anyone for that matter – who has the skills, contacts and motivation to get you in the gigging game.  But let’s deal with the booking agents.

What are booking agents looking for?

Booking agents are looking for:

  • Acts that have a U.S.P
  • Acts that are really good at what they do
  • Acts that have a polished promotional package

Hey, that sounds like you!

There are so many booking agents out there – who can I trust?

Unfortunately, there are many unscrupulous people with fancy websites who claim to be booking agents.  But because you have a killer product, and with that, a new found sense of confidence, aim high and don’t be shy.  Search for the bigger and better established booking agencies who book relatively well known acts.  They will identify you as an act that has vision and confidence: They will help you if they see you have potential.

Hotel gigs

If you’re interested in hotel gigs, one way to find the more reputable booking agents is to get in touch with the hotels’ Food and Beverage Manager.  Find out what kind of entertainment they have and what they’re looking for. If they don’t deal with hiring acts, kindly ask them who takes care of their bookings for them.

The international booking agent

There are many musicians who are looking for gigs outside of their own country.  There are quite a few gigs out there, particularly here in Asia. But be very wary.  As I mentioned earlier, there are folks out there who claim to be legitimate booking agents but in reality they’re looking for a quick buck or they may even have a more harmful agenda.

Don’t even consider dealing with an agent who:

  • Isn’t clear about where you will be performing
  • Isn’t clear about your accommodations
  • Asks you for money (Never give an agent money. Period.)
  • Asks you for your passport (Never give your passport or passport number to anyone unless they’re travel agents, consular, embassy or immigration officials.)

Use common sense and touch base with your survival instincts

  • If an international booking agent is interested in hiring you, ask them for a list of performers they booked and contact them.
  • If you’re a female artist, be very careful.  Do your homework. Investigate the agent or organization thoroughly.  There are “Booking Agencies” out there who are drug runners and sex traffickers.
  • Have everything in writing/email.
  • If you’re Skypeing or on the phone with the agent, record the call and make sure you let them know you’re recording the call.  “I’m just letting you know I’m recording this call.”  If the agent sounds uncomfortable-be alarmed.
  • Be skeptical, and learn to say no

I hope this helped you gain some insight and if you would like more information about the gigging game, please feel free to contact me.

The Talent Myth

Robert recently asked a very insightful question in the forum. Essentially, he wonders what effect talent has on getting work as a musician in the real world.

For our purposes here, let’s define talent as a mix of natural aptitude, exhaustive training and years of practice that, when looked at objectively, distinguishes a musician as an expert. Let’s pretend that talent is a commodity that is easily quantifiable and that some musicians have more and some musicians have less.

(Even though we know that last part is not how this talent thing works. Pretend anyway.)

Do the Best Musicians Get the Best Work?

It’s a very good question. Logic would suggest that the most talented musicians would get the best work. The better you play the more people will want to hire you, right?

The validity of university music programs – especially the ones that focus their curriculum exclusively on performance and completely ignore business, entrepreneurship, or career-building – seems to be predicated on this talent myth. Become the best and you’ll succeed. Why else would you pay $100,000 for a fancy conservatory education?

But we all know the truth. We’ve all seen overwhelming evidence that the most talented musicians do not, necessarily, have the most success as working musicians.

How’s that fair? What’s the deal?

Yes, Talent Does Matter (To a Point)

To a certain point, talent is very important. If a musician doesn’t learn or perform music at a very high level, they will never make it as a professional musician. They will perform poorly at gigs and employers won’t call twice. Eventually it will become clear that this career is not for them and they’ll find another path to follow. It happens all the time.

So who are we left with? The best of the best. A pool of really talented musicians who can play anything you put in front of them.

So yes, to get to this level as a professional musician talent does matter.

An Abundance of Talent

However, it’s at this point that talent becomes such an abundant resource that having a tiny bit more or a tiny bit less of it doesn’t have a pronounced effect on a musician’s career. Put another way – when everyone is talented it becomes nearly impossible to distinguish yourself among the crowd based solely on this marker alone.

Employers may say that they are hiring you because you are the best, but you shouldn’t believe them. At the highest levels of the business, talent is simply not the reason that one musicians gets hired over another.

Distinguishable Traits

Here are some characteristics that employers look for when hiring musicians:

  1. Punctuality – Musicians who miss gigs or consistently show up late don’t get called again. Why would you hire someone you can’t trust when there are plenty of musicians that you can?
  2. Sight-reading – Musicians that sight-read well require less rehearsal time, and less rehearsal time means the employers save money. What is more attractive to an employer than the ability to save time and money while still maintaining the level of quality they require? That sounds awesome. Wouldn’t you want a great sight-reader if you were an employer?
  3. Sociability – Meaning, the ability and willingness to engage in activities and conversation with other people. Would you rather work with someone who’s nice or someone who’s a jerk? Easy question.
  4. Consistency – Professional musicians bring the same energy and accuracy to every performance. Employers value that quality.
  5. Flexibility – Which would you prefer – a musician that complains or resists every time something changes, or someone that rolls with the punches? Another easy question.

There are probably a hundred others. Also check out Cam’s article, 5 Traits of a Professional Musician.

These are the qualities that define a successful musician. These are the qualities that give one professional musician an advantage over another professional musician in the uber-talented, saturated freelance market.

When I meet new musicians looking for work, these are the qualities that I look for, well before I even care to hear them play.

There are two reasons for this: first, I assume that if they are working consistently at a professional level they must be talented, right?

And second, I know that even if they can play circles around other musicians, I won’t want to work with them unless they exhibit these crucial characteristics.

A Real-World Example

Here’s a real world story – I recently started subbing on a Broadway show. For me, this is my 2nd Broadway show.

The people that hired me to play keyboards on this show had never, not once, heard me play a single note before I played an actual, live performance of this Broadway show.

I had worked with them in a non-performance capacity several months ago. We got along great. I liked them, they liked me – and we established trust on the characteristics described above. And now, because I’m already playing on another Broadway show, they assumed I must be talented enough for the job, so they asked me to play.

There is virtually no way to argue that I landed this job based solely on my level of talent – and this is a great example of how the real world works.

To be successful as a working musician it’s first important to establish yourself as part of the pool of talented professionals, then distinguish yourself among the competition with secondary characteristics that are important to your potential employers.

What other characteristics are important for working musicians? Leave a comment below.

And Robert – thanks for reading the site and putting your question the forum! If anyone else would like to give Robert an answer, visit the original post.

How To Be a Studio Musician Without Leaving Home

Musicians are always looking for ways to supplement their income and find new performance opportunities. If you have always wanted (and more so if you already are) to be a session musician, but didn’t have the right contacts or weren’t located in an active scene, you might want to look into offering your services as a virtual session musician.

A virtual session musician provides their interpretation and instrumental or vocal performance to anyone, anywhere in the world in need of their particular expertise. It is not rare to find songwriters, producers, or solo artists in need of extra instrumentation to complete their production.

How hiring a virtual session player is advantageous to the employer:

  • The quality of the musician is not limited by proximity to studio.
  • No hourly studio rates to pay or union rules to workaround.
  • Receive high quality tracks from specialists.

How offering your services as session musician is a great gig:

  • Ability to work from your home studio for clients all over the world. Leave your equipment setup and tweak for specific purposes.
  • Work on your own schedule. Take the time to experiment with parts and send only the best performances.
  • Set your own rates and accept payment online.

Of course it would not be fair to only mention the positive aspects of online session work. The most obvious disadvantage of creating a full production in this manner is that the magic could disappear. When you gather great musicians in a room together, they interact, play off each other, and create a vibe that translates into emotion in a recording. That being said, great performances are still being created online.

The process in a nutshell:

  • Songwriter records guitar and vocals to a song she wants to be considered for film.
  • She finds a drummer in NYC, a bassist in Berlin, and an electric guitarist in LA, who she thinks would be a good fit for her song and contacts them in this order. Each player has great experience and can produce great recordings of their instrument.
  • She provides each one with a simple MP3 of what she has so far, a tempo map, and basic references of what she wants where (charts or midi generated tracks are nice).
  • Each player takes the time to review the song, record their performances, and send the tracks back for review.
  • The songwriter requests any changes and the changes are revised tracks are promptly sent back.
  • With her completed tracks, she now forwards the song onto a virtual mix engineer and finally to an online mastering engineer.

How to begin offering your services?

Ensure that you can record your instrument WELL.
You don’t to have a studio with 96 inputs, or a cabinet of vintage mics, but you do need to have enough quality mic preamps, microphones, and knowledge to record your instrument well. You may need to do some research and experimentation to find the best approaches to recording your instrument, but once you’ve got it – you’ve got it. You don’t necessarily have to worry about processing it as this will be done by the mix engineer, your goal is to get a solid, clean recording of a great performance which compliments the production.

Offer the service on your website.
The basic steps you need to complete are to create a rate sheet, gear list, provide audio examples of your playing, and setup a Paypal account to receive payment from clients. Add anything else to show off your skills and convince potential clients to hire you. Try to answer their questions before they have to contact you such as your revision policy, if you provide processing, what your turnaround time is etc. The more you can differentiate yourself, the better.

Offer your services on other sites. is setup specifically to allow individual musicians and engineers to offer their services online. They provide easy search capabilities and a very cool plug-in called “Virtual Glass” which allows realtime video and audio streaming from within your digital audio workstation. Also check out IndabaMusic, a newer collaboration site with a built-in, online audio workstation.

In addition to specialty sites, make sure that your social networks know that you offer this service. Participating in online forums and simple including a link to your site in your signature can be a great way to drum up business. Connecting with producers and songwriters directly should be your main goal.

Whether you plan on making this your full time gig, or just offer the service to get occasional gigs, offer you services as a virtual session musician can be a great way to build up your contact list and play on numerous, international projects.

Musician Email List Etiquette

Photo credit: Lauren Farmer

Your new album has just been released, or maybe you’ve just booked a huge show. Time to email everybody you know! Before you add your entire address book to the “To:” field of a new email, consider a few points of email list etiquette. By respecting the recipients of your mass emails, you’ll have far better results from your efforts, build stronger relationships with your fans, and build a healthy email list.

I’ve been maintaining my own email list for about seven years, and along the way have found many ways to gain, and lose, subscribers. I’ve also been added to many email lists, sometimes willingly, often not,but always tried to learn from other artists’ email newsletters.

There are numerous services available to help you maintain your email list. Some are free, others cost money depending on the size of your list and the features you want to install. Look at the bottom of the emails you get from different bands and you’ll find links to some of these services. I highly recommend you find one that suits you to make this whole process easier.

Build a List of Volunteer Subscribers

When I repeatedly receive email I don’t want, I apply a setting that sends any messages from that email address straight to the trash. They can keep sending me emails and pretend it’s doing them some good, but the message never even hits my inbox. When enough people on their list take a similar action, the unwanted email eventually causes more harm than good.

On the other hand, when I sign up for a band’s email list I’m far more likely to not only read the emails, but take whatever action they are suggesting, be it listen to some new music, mark their next show on my calendar, or pre-order their new album. There’s also a better chance I’ll forward the email to friends and help spread the word.

If you want your list to be effective, make sure everyone on it wants to be there. A smaller list of dedicated fans is more valuable than a large list of people who think you are annoying.

Here are some ideas to help you build your email list:

  1. Pass around a sign up sheet at your shows.
  2. Add sign up forms to your website(s).
  3. Offer a free download or other incentive in exchange for joining your email list.
  4. Add a check box on your website’s contact form giving people who email you the option to subscribe to your list.
  5. At the end of your emails, ask your subscribers to forward the email to any of their friends that would like your music. Give them an incentive to help you spread the word.

I sell my music through several services that give me the customer’s email address. I never assume this person wants to be on my mailing list. Instead, I email them at the end of the year, thank them for their support, and ask them if they’d like to subscribe to my email list. They usually do, and these subscribers have become the core of my fan base. I see more activity (responses, purchases, etc.) from these fans than I do from those that I’ve never spoken to or emailed individually. A little personal interaction can go a long way.

Easy Unsubscribe Option

Unfortunately, some people will decide to opt out of your email list. Give fans an easy way out. The less confrontational, the better.

Every email list service will automatically have this option. If you choose to send mass emails without one of these services, include a line at the bottom of each email that says:

Reply with UNSUBSCRIBE in the subject line to stop receiving these emails.

People don’t always unsubscribe because they never want to hear from you again. Between Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds, and everything else connecting people online, there’s more than one way to keep fans updated. If you’re using several of this tools to update your fans, it’s understandable that some people choose to only get Facebook invites while others may prefer to hear about your upcoming shows via email.

Losing a subscriber doesn’t always mean you’re losing a fan. However, if the only way for people to stop receiving your emails is to block you or designate your email as spam, then you’re probably running the risk of losing fans.

Send Emails Regularly, but Sparingly

It’s important that you stay in touch with your fans, but only when you have something new to report. If you send too many emails that don’t say much, people are less likely to notice when you have big news. At most, I recommending sending one email per month.

Make sure your emails have some value to your fans. Don’t just tell them about your upcoming shows, because many people might not live in your town. Include links to new blog posts, videos, demo recordings, etc. The key word here is new content, not the same video you told them about last month. In fact, use your email list as motivation to create new content!

Use Bcc: to Protect Email Addresses

One of the most common rookie mistakes I’ve seen is people adding all the recipients to the “To:” field of the email, which allows everyone on the list to see everyone else’s email address. The best solution is to simply use an email list service, but if you don’t have one yet, be sure to add the email addresses to the “Bcc:” field.

Bcc: stands for Blind Carbon Copy. Email addresses in this field are kept hidden from all recipients of the message.

Inadvertently sharing everybody’s email address with everyone else is usually harmless, but most musicians send their emails to other musicians, and some of them might add every email they get their hands on to their own email list. Protect your friends’ email addresses by using the Bcc: field on emails going to a bunch of people that don’t know each other.

Never Send Attachments

This should be a no-brainer, but it’s another common rookie mistake. Sending emails with big attachements like MP3s can clog people’s inboxes. Only send MP3s to people that are expecting them.

A far better approach is to send a download link, especially a link that allows you to track clicks, downloads, plays, etc. Whenever you can track metrics, you have a chance to learn about your fans and yourself. If nobody is downloading your music, wouldn’t it be nice to know so you could figure out a better approach?

Respond to Your Fans

The most important thing independent musicians can do to build a fan base is to communicate with them. When somebody responds to your newsletter, write them back! Even if just to say thanks, your acknowledgement can go a long way. We should all be so lucky to someday have more fan emails than we could possibly respond to, but meanwhile, take advantage of every opportunity to interact with your fans. Even the biggest stars respond to fan mail!

Making Free Downloads Work For You

Most independent musicians don’t have large marketing and advertising budgets to spread the word about their music. You’ve spent most of your money on the recording itself, why not use that as your marketing tool? Giving away your music might seem counter-productive if you’re ultimately trying to sell it, but giving away the right amount, and to the right people, can help you build your email list, learn more about your audience, fuel word-of-mouth marketing, and spur greater sales in the long run. After all, the end goal of any marketing, advertising, or promotional plan is to get people to listen to your music.

How much should you give away?

Usually one free track from your new album will do the trick. It’s hard enough to get people’s attention, so focusing on a single track will help even a small amount of buzz gain some critical mass. If you have older albums or demos, perhaps you can make some of that music available for free as well, but keep the focus on your new material.

How should you give it away?

Just because you are giving away your music for free does not mean you should give it away freely. Employ some strategy, using the following ideas, to make your free music work for you.

Build Your Email List

There are a number of ways to use a free download as an incentive for people to join your email list. I manage my email list with FanBridge, which allows me to send a free download automatically to every new subscriber. There are also some distribution services, such as Bandcamp or Topspin, which offer the free download in exchange for an email address.

Don’t forget to actually offer the download to those people already on your email list–after all, you should treat them like VIPs since they’ve already opted in. A free download is a great excuse to send an email blast, and you can ask your fans to share the mp3 with their friends.

Learn About Your Fans

Give a free song away or make it available to stream in places that can provide some metrics about who is listening. Widgets that can tell you who is listening, like those provided by Bandcamp and Topspin, or music-centric social networks like, will help you understand who listens to your music, and where they are listening.

For example, I use Bandcamp widgets on my site. One is in the sidebar, though there are others throughout the site. Using Google Analytics, I know which pages and blog posts are getting the most traffic, and Bandcamp tells me which pages people are on when they listen to music on the widget. Combining this information, I’ve started to learn how to write blog posts that attract the most people that will be interested in hearing my music.

If you’re unfamiliar with, it’s a site that tracks users’ listening habits. For example, you can visit my profile and see what I listen to at my computer! It’s a great place to give away a free track because the people who will download it there probably track their listening habits as well (called “scrobbling” on I’ve learned that the people who listen to my music the most don’t always have much in common with me. Naturally, we’d assume anybody that shares our taste in music would also like the music we create, but it turns out that’s not always true. Once I saw trends in my listeners’ libraries, I was able to promote my music to a wider yet still very targeted audience.

In both cases, using metrics helped me understand my audience and make better use of the time I spend online. But this can also come in handy when you promote shows, or just talk to people about your music. Learning more about my fans has been the most valuable result of giving my music away.

Target Fans with Fans

Offer free downloads to fans with the greatest reach. Do a little research and figure out which of your fans have popular blogs or use social networks regularly to talk about the music they love. Maybe they’re musicians themselves, or perhaps they’re just interesting people that write entertaining blogs. You never know who might be considered the “go to guy” for new music recommendations amongst his friends.

Send them a personal note with a download link and thank them for their support so far. Be specific–it helps to know what show you saw them attend last, or the last time they mentioned you on their blog. Tell them you’d like them to hear your new music before you release it. Chances are they’ll reciprocate by mentioning your music online.

Free Tracks Love Metadata

Whenever you give away your music, make sure you tell people where and when they can buy more! If you’re offering a free download before your album is released, make sure people know that. If the album is available, embed the link in the MP3 metadata. The importance of embedding your track with extra information (ie. metadata) cannot be overstated.

This is especially true when you send your music to your email list and bloggers. Give them all the information you’d like them to tell other people in a nice, neat few sentences that they could just copy and paste to their blog. You are essentially giving them a press release, but in a more personable fashion.

Again, the importance of metadata cannot be overstated. If you use iTunes, right click on a track and choose “Get Info.” I’m sure other media players have similar options to enter extra data for MP3s. Fill out as much of that information as possible. Include lyrics, sidemen, composers, links, or anything else you can think of. When your tracks end up on somebody’s computer, you want to make it easy for them to find more of your music!

When To Take an Unpaid Gig

You get a call. It’s a friend of yours, they are throwing a big party, and they want you to play for the guests. They don’t have a lot of money, though, so they can’t pay you. But you can pass out business cards and try to sell CDs. There will be lots of important people there and it’ll be great exposure they say.

You get another call. [Paper]tiger Jams {Explored}
Creative Commons License photo credit: Cameron Cassan
It’s a local non-profit. They are throwing a fundraiser at a fancy venue and they want you to provide entertainment for a couple of hours. They can’t pay you, but you’d really be helping out the cause if you would do it.

A third call comes in. It’s a local venue. They are having an event next month and 5 bands are playing a 30 minute set each. They’d like to invite you to perform. It doesn’t pay, but everyone gets a free drink and you can set up a merch table in the corner.

So what do you do? Do you take these gigs? You know that you have to make a living, but you know you also have to get out there and play for people.

People Die of Exposure

In my experience, taking a gig for “exposure” has questionable value. What kind of exposure are you really getting? I mean…are you playing the Tonight Show? The local news? Or are you playing for a group of 20 people that are generally not your target audience?

There’s a big difference between general exposure and specific exposure, and I think that’s the thing to consider in these situations. People that call you and use this term often mean it in the general sense.

Definition of general exposure:

There will be a room full of people, and there will be you. You will play your music. It will travel through the air between you and the people, and the people will hear this music. In this way you will expose yourself to these people, and it’s conceivable that they will care one way or another.

But I’m telling you, this kind of general exposure is usually not valuable. If the situation is not targeted to the kind of audience that you are looking for, you’ll waste your time. Say you are a sci-fi string band and you get a call to play at a Star Trek convention – that is good exposure. But say the same band gets a call to play the Christmas party for a ladies luncheon group. Sure, it’s possible that someone at that luncheon will be a sci-fi fan and care, but the odds are not good.

Definition of specific exposure:

There will be a room full of people that love the kind of music you play. They will resemble your target audience in every way possible. You will play your music and they will listen to your music. It’s very likely that many of them will want to know more about you, sign up for your email list and maybe buy an album.

My point is that you should be very, very cautious anytime someone uses the term “exposure” in the sense that it is some kind of compensation. Oftentimes that is the sign of a pro bono gig that will waste your time. It’s your responsibility to make sure that the exposure they are peddling is relevant and valuable to you, in a specific way, before you take the gig.

Will You Enjoy It?

I’ll tell you a story. When I first came to New York I got a call from a celebrity. She’d been on TV, on Broadway – my mother was a big fan. Imagine my surprise. She asked me if I would play at a non-profit event at the Plaza Hotel. She couldn’t pay me, but there’d be a ton of rich people there (it’d be great “exposure”) and I’d get a free meal. And bonus – I could bring 2 guests to the dinner.

I played some cocktail jazz during the event, passed out a few business cards, chatted to some of the guests. At dinner I brought 2 friends for an incredible meal. We sat next to the celebrity and a city councilman. We all took gift bags full of perfume at the end of the night. I followed up with the celebrity and city councilman afterwards. I gave the perfume to my girlfriend.

Altogether it was a cool event. I’m glad I did it – but certainly not because of the “exposure”. I never got another call afterward from anyone involved. The truth is that is was a lot of fun. I was able to treat 2 friends to a fancy dinner, I played at a historic venue, I met a celebrity, and I gave my girlfriend a bag full of perfume.

I enjoyed it – and that’s a perfectly good reason to take a free gig. Being a musician can sometimes get you into the hippest situations.

Meeting New Colleagues

It would be great if you took a free gig and suddenly you had 100 new, dedicated fans who, from that day on, buy everything you ever create. Great plan, but let’s assume that won’t happen. Ah! – but what if something better happens?

In everyone’s career there are key people, friends, usually, that help further your success. I’m talking about colleagues and collaborators. You are both heading down the same road, but maybe there’s a time that they travel quicker toward success and they bring you along. And then at another time you are traveling faster down that road and you take them along.

These relationships are really important in a musician career – the best successes usually involve a team of people like this. Playing free gigs is sometimes a great way to meet these kinds of friends, colleagues and collaborators.

I’ll tell you another story. I volunteer regularly for a non-profit in New York that puts on big productions at least once a year. They contact musical theatre composers and lyricists and ask them to write new music for the events. I music direct the production, and we find great musicians to perform with us.

Throughout the process I meet and work with tons of new people. Some of them I really click with and we become fast friends. Months down the road maybe they are working on something else and they give me a call to music direct, or play piano, or whatever. And maybe this time it’s a real gig that pays.

That’s a best case scenario! I took a free gig, I met a ton of colleagues and we collaborated later on something else. I think the key here is that the free gig was a big production involving a lot of artists all working toward a common goal. Compared that to the Plaza Hotel gig where I was the only musician in the room and there weren’t any colleagues to connect with. Two gigs, I’m glad I took both, but for very different, specific, reasons.

What Is In It For You?

You can’t just play everywhere and anywhere for free. This is a career. People expect musicians to play for free much too often. There is value in what we do, and most of the time we should get paid for it. When someone approaches you with a free gig think specifically about what value the situation holds for you. They are getting something out of it – what about you?

Let’s take the 3 situations I opened with. I can’t give you definitive answers, but I can give you the questions you should consider.

Ok, first situation – someone calls for a private party and wants you to play for free. My first question would be: why can’t they pay? It’s a private party, not a fundraiser for a good cause. It’ll probably be a room full of 20-30 friends, drinking and having a good time and…uh…that’s called a gig.  It’s supposed to pay money.

Sure you can sell CDs, but who’s going to buy a CD in that situation? It’s not a house concert, they aren’t specifically there for the music. Who knows if they’ll even like your music?

Personally, I wouldn’t take that gig.

Second – a non-profit calls for a fundraiser. First question: do you believe in the cause? You’ll be donating your time to the organization, and you should think of it just like you’re donating money. Forget the “exposure” you’ll get – the people that attend the event will be there for the cause/organization and it’s unlikely they’ll also spend a lot of energy on you too. So it really comes down to whether or not you want to donate to the cause.

The third call – a local venue wants you to play. This could be good. Do you know the other bands on the event? Are they a similar genre, or at least a similar target audience, to you? Are there musicians in the other bands that you’d like to meet? Do the other bands have a creative team (manager, publicist, etc.) that you would like to meet?

If this is a situation where you could meet colleagues and future collaborators – I say take it. If it sounds like the venue is just trying to fill a spot and there’s nothing in it for you – your instincts are probably right.

What If Someone Else Calls?

A 4th call comes in. It’s for a real gig with a band you regularly play with. Unfortunately it’s for the same night as the unpaid gig that you’ve already committed to. Now what?

If the unpaid gig has enough value to you that you committed in the first place, this shouldn’t matter. Nobody should ever cancel on a valuable gig – and if it wasn’t valuable, why’d you take it in the first place?

This is a problem that is so common that you should plan on it happening before you take any unpaid gig. Expect that someone will call you with something that does pay for the same night as the free gig and make your decision with that in mind.

Live Music Is a Valuable Thing

The truth is that live music is a valuable thing. These days people have constant access to music – but it’s not usually live music. There is an energy in live music that humans just can’t get enough of. People love live music so much that they will pay money just to be in a room where it is happening.

So when someone approaches you to give away this valuable thing for free, it’s fair that you should still expect something in return. Maybe the compensation is new fans, new experiences, or new colleagues.

On the other hand, if there is nothing in the situation for you, don’t take the gig. If you take an unpaid gig and it ends up being a dead end – no one bought a CD, no one seemed interested, there wasn’t any worthwhile networking, it didn’t manifest any future gigs – then maybe you took the wrong unpaid gig. Before you take an unpaid gig, ask yourself: what’s in it for me?

Make Yourself a Merry Little Christmas Album

Merry Christmas! Every November, as soon as the table is cleared after Thanksgiving dinner, many families turn on their favorite Christmas music. Holiday music is synonymous with the season, and despite a relatively small repertoire of standards, there’s never a shortage of new Christmas albums being released every year.

My wife is a huge fan of Christmas music, or at least the classics. For years, she told me I should make a Christmas album. I resisted, because I felt recording A Cameron Mizell Christmas would scream commercialism and I’d be shunned at all the hardcore jam sessions I imagined I might attend someday in the future. But a couple years ago, I made a Christmas album with some friends under a pseudonym, and after watching the album generate $2,500 in profits, I decided to start a new holiday tradition. Thus began my secret career as a Christmas Musician.

Choose your songs.

There is a wealth of public domain Christmas music available, so if you want to avoid the hassle of tracking and paying royalties, you shouldn’t have any problems. I start by looking at the Public Domain website’s list of Christmas songs. Many Christmas hymns and spirituals are public domain, along with old traditional carols. A lot of times these melodies were written years before the lyrics were added and the tune became associated with Christmas (ie. Greensleeves).

Hymns and spirituals are great for instrumental albums, but won’t always work for vocalists. After all, many of the vocal standards recorded by Harry Connick, Jr. or Nat King Cole are secular pieces written by tin pan alley era composers or later. If you’re interested in recording songs that are not in the public domain, you will have to pay royalties. The easiest way to do this is by using Limelight, an online service that collects royalties and administers them to the copyright holders for you. For further reading, see my article on releasing cover songs.

My forumula has been to put 11 songs on an album. So far I’ve only released these albums digitally, and at the default $9.99 price point on iTunes, the 11th track is sort of like a bonus track to encourage full album sales.

Find a niche.

Yes, Christmas music in itself is a niche, but take it one step further and do something very specific. Christmas albums sell well because they are either considered classics, or they’re different enough from the classics for people to want to add them to their collection. So if you want to attract some attention, find a way to make your Christmas album unapologetically different from most of what you hear during the holidays. Don’t try to please everyone.

My approach has been to choose some of my favorite artists that have not released Christmas music and try to make it myself. Not only does that give my friends and I a blueprint for sonic textures and arrangements, but it helps with some targeted marketing efforts later.

Note: I’m refraining from sharing my specific ideas so this article won’t look like an advertisement for my albums.


When you title your album, try to make it search friendly and as descriptive as possible. You don’t need to be extremely creative here, simplicity will usually get the job done.

Also consider the spelling of your song titles. Is it “O Christmas Tree” or “Oh Christmas Tree”? Or maybe it’s “O Tannenbaum”. There’s no wrong answer, only wrong spelling. Choose the title that you think fits your genre most appropriately.

To be or not to be?

My initial reservation to record Christmas music was simply because I felt like I would tarnish my reputation as a an independently minded jazz/funk musician. Many of us are trying to create a brand around our music, and veering off our focused path to record a holiday album just doesn’t jive with our integrity. But who says you have to be yourself?

Pseudonyms have been prevalent in the recording business for as long as it’s existed. Sometimes they’re blatantly obvious or just the musician’s way of having a little fun. Historically, artists under contract with one label would use a pseudonym to be able to record for another label, usually as a sideman.

I’ve found a great deal of freedom in using pseudonyms. Not only can I record literally any type of music I can imagine, but when it comes to Christmas music, I can record the same song as many different ways as I can imagine. It’s a nice challenge to play music in a variety of styles, and be as authentic as possible.

This is not to say you shouldn’t release Christmas music as yourself. I know many artists that do so successfully. In fact, many people find their Christmas albums first, and are then turned onto their other recordings. So if you do it right, you can boost your sales across the board.

Have fun!

Making a living as a musician is challenging and can sometimes make you a little dark, but recording a Christmas album is an excuse to have a some fun. Not only do my friends and I brainstorm concepts for future Christmas projects, but we decide what kind of food and drink will accompany the recording session. One album was beer and pizza. The following album was, well, beer and pizza. Maybe we’ll change that up next year.

The money is great (how many musicians get Christmas bonuses?), but we’re having a good time with the process. I used to hear Christmas music and sometimes think, “I can do better than this.” Now I put my money where my mouth is and get to work on making better Christmas albums. Care to join me?

For additional ideas, check out 5 Things I Learned About Releasing Christmas Music at

How to Get a Job as a Pianist

Matt from Florida emailed us a question this week:

I was curious how you sort of get off the ground with piano gigs?  I realize that possibly playing in a hotel lobby is a good route, but what is the best way to go about doing this?  Is it a matter of just knowing the people personally or do you recommend just walking up to the front desk and asking if you could play?

Thanks for your question, Matt. How to get a gig is a great topic. We could write article after article about getting gigs and we’d never exhaust the subject.

That said, we have two great articles on the site written by Craig Pilo, who is currently Frankie Valli’s drummer and has worked previously with Maynard Ferguson, Edgar Winter and others. Craig knows how to get a gig, and I suggest you start with reading everything he’s written for us on the subject. Then come back here and I’ll get more specific about piano jobs.

From Craig Pilo:
Getting Started as a Musician
The Next Level – Getting Started As a Musician, Part 2

Great advice, right? I learned a few tricks from him myself.

Now – specifically regarding piano gigs – there are a few angles to consider.

Why are pianists hired?

Let’s consider for a moment why pianists are hired. There are several different scenarios I can think of.

Background pianists are hired for ambiance. Pianists play cocktail parties, country clubs, receptions, hotel lobbies (as you mentioned), restaurants, department stores and many other places. It creates a wash of pleasing background noise to fill up the gaps in the patrons conversations. Silence, after all, is more manageable when it isn’t silent. Like all music, background piano music stimulates customers emotions – usually in a pleasing way – and makes them feel good about the room they are in. That’s good for business.

Continue reading How to Get a Job as a Pianist

The Next Level – Getting Started As a Musician, Part 2

You’re out of the gate with your music career and now you are trying to get to “The Next Level”.  You’ve established yourself in one circle or another and you’ve come to realize that you deserve more money, recognition, and better gigs than you are getting now.

For starters, let’s refer back to my first article on “Getting Started”.  The first 3 issues need to be revisited: Honest Assessment, Gather Information, and Set Reasonable Goals.  Whether you are a part time musician looking to become a full time musician or you are a full time musician seeking to increase your gig schedule, we need to establish what constitutes “The Next Level” since it’s quite different for all of us.  Steps for getting to the next level are not a secret but they are uncomfortable and difficult to implement. There is no substitute for hard work and perseverance.  Very similar to getting started in the music business, there is also no single answer for getting to the next level.  Are you ready for “The Next Level?”  Assess your situation, gather some information, set a few goals and read on!

Practice More.  Is it time to update your playing?  Are you getting the same gigs with the same people because you are playing the same notes and licks over and over again?  Is it time to get back to some private study or find a new private teacher?  Try to cut down on the wasted time that occupies a larger than normal portion of your day and use it to get back into the practice room.  Talk to some accomplished professionals and ask what books or techniques they are working on at the moment.  Ask them what’s in their iPod and what they are listening to right now for motivation.

Increase your Versatility.  Are you playing the same job or same types of jobs because it’s all you can do?  Are you in fact limited to one style of music or one situation?  Maybe it’s time to explore some other possibilities. This is difficult because increasing your versatility may mean exploring some kinds of music or situations you are not familiar with and fall outside of your comfort zone.  For example, if you are world’s most undiscovered burning guitar player but you have one gig between now and Easter, what can you do?  How about get a lap steel or a pedal steel and learn a few country tunes?  How about making yourself available for solo acoustic gigs?  My point is that change is always fine, as long as it’s happening to someone else, right?  Time to look inward.

Learn to Read Music.  It’s 2008, it’s expected.  Formal training or no formal training, learn to read music.  It saves everyone time and money especially if you plan to do any studio work.  Reading music increases your value as a musician.  The more you read music the easier it becomes, don’t keep putting it off because it’s difficult at first.  Riding a bike was difficult and we all fell the first few times.  Get up, get back in the saddle, and figure it out.

Always be Prepared.  Are you ready for the “next level”? Whatever it may be? What happens if you get the call to audition for the gig of a lifetime?  Are you prepared?  I cannot stress the importance of doing your homework.  This can take on a bunch of different forms and it’s applicable to a lot of different situations, but it usually always comes down to learning the music.  Whether you are learning 3 or 4 tunes for an audition, or whether you just got a gig and you have to learn 3 decades worth of music, learn it.  Learn all of it, inside and out.  Don’t just be able to “get through it”, that’s not good enough.  Learn to “play it”.

Positive Attitude.  The music business is difficult, and it has politics like any other profession.  Sometimes the best players get the best gigs, sometimes they don’t.  An early mentor of mine always told me to worry about the gigs I did get and not to worry about the gigs I didn’t get.  The message is quite simple, but putting into play is a little more difficult.  Nobody wants to hire someone who is dark, miserable and has a poor attitude even if their playing is stellar.  Keeping a positive attitude and surrounding yourself with people who are successful, innovative and positive will increase your chances far beyond sitting in a coffee shop or bar complaining about the politics, unfairness and inequality in the music industry.

CD/DVD’s.  Do you have CD/DVD’s for sale?  Are you on anyone else’s CD/DVD’s?  Hopefully the answer is yes to both, if it’s not, get busy!  Are you promoting them or are they collecting dust in a closet somewhere?  Are you for sale on iTunes?  Nowadays there are many, many outlets for promoting music online.  Websites like CD Baby and Music Submit are filled with valuable information that is updated daily with information you need to get your product out there.

Increase your Exposure Online.  Sure we all have a website, a Myspace Page, a Facebook page, but is that enough?  What happens when you go to Google yourself in quotes?  If 1 or 2 websites come up, it’s not enough.  There are hundreds of websites, web rings, and link exchanges to join.  Increasing traffic to your website is only a start, especially if you have a CD to promote.  Reviews on other websites about you or your CD are also particularly helpful because they give you legitimacy.  Are you exposed in any other languages?  Do you have video’s on You Tube?  How is the quality?  What kind of comments are you getting?  I know I enjoy watching someone play in addition to listening to them play whenever possible.  Most of the time, video is a more accurate and complete representation of someone’s performance than audio by itself.

Increase your Exposure in Person.  How often are you actually out playing?  How often are you playing shows the public can come see?  How often do you go out to see others play?  Do you see what I’m getting at?

Web exposure is fine and extremely beneficial, but how often does someone get hired purely because of what’s on their website?  If you’re lucky, a website is where people go after they’ve seen you perform to find out more about you.  Make sure you are playing an ample amount of shows that showcase your playing in public.  Hang around afterwards instead of heading home.  On that same note, be sure to check out as much live music as possible.  You can greatly increase your chance of “being in the right place at the right time” if you increase the amount of places you visit.

Seek the advice of professionals.  Ask someone who is doing what you want to do how they got where they are!  It’s okay to pick someone’s brain a little, and even okay to steal and incorporate.  You can steal and incorporate a lot of things.  You can steal and incorporate music, marketing, and networking ideas in general.

Seek out Endorsements.  This is more difficult now than ever, but not impossible.  Endorsements in 2008 are more about marketability than playing.  It’s more about relationships with the companies and what you can do for them.  I have several friends that are not “big names” that do clinics for reputable companies.  They have good endorsements and their names get spread as a result.  They are all competent players and have excellent business skills.  Talk to reps at the NAMM show or visit some of your favorite companies online and try to gather some of the endorsement application requirements.  Don’t ever be afraid to approach a company’s artist relations representative to talk about your situation and your interests in promoting their product.

My last suggestion is a bonus suggestion and needs to be prefaced by a story because it comes from personal experience.  I was 22 or 23 years old and wrapping up my last year at the University of North Texas when I got wind that my absolute favorite local band was auditioning drummers.  I had been listening to this band for a year before I got to North Texas and all 5 years I was there.  I was very familiar with every single one of their tunes and I was ripe for the gig.  I practiced their music for the audition, but the truth is I knew most of it already since I had been listening and playing along to it in addition to attending their concerts for nearly 6 years.

I did more than the necessary homework because I had recently run into a string of bad auditions.  I had been denied a few gigs prior to this audition because I was young, ambitious, I hit hard, I overplayed, and I generally played too loud.  These are all very normal things for a young drummer mind you, but I was very conscious that this was obviously not working and not what people were looking for.  I went in to this audition very conscious of what was not working and decided to go ahead and use plastics instead of full on drumsticks for fear of being too loud.  During the first song, I really held back on the fills because I was very conscious not to overplay.  During the next 2 songs I was very cautious not to hit too hard because I was told many times prior that I was quite heavy handed.  After the final song I was careful not to let on how ambitious I was and how badly I wanted the gig.

At the end of the audition the band told me that they really liked my playing but they were looking for someone who was a little more ambitious, hit harder, played more fills, and generally played a little louder.

Be Yourself.  There is no sense portraying a false image, ever.