This is one post in a series about creative living, but the message I am hearing from many different sources and discovering the truth of is this: being a creative person means being a business and marketing-savvy person as well.
I grew up shying away from selling or soliciting in any shape or form, whether with a church group or at a personal yard sale. I just didn’t want to force my stuff or opinions on anyone, didn’t want to toot my own horn or be pushy in any way. Talking to artist friends of mine, I hear the same story from them. Who wants to brag about one’s work? Who wants to push one’s stuff or try to navigate the frightening areas of business and marketing. I continually heard,” I am no business person.” “I am not good at selling anything.” After believing this to be true for myself most of my life, I now disagree with this self-talk. I think every artistic/creative person owes it to themselves and their work to learn as much as they can about how to market oneself, how to make connections, and how to become a business person.
What changed my mind? Last summer, I formed an acoustic musical duo with Alan. We call ourselves The Inner Crazy. We made a list of songs and started learning them and practicing. A friend of his booked us for her private party, and his boss hired us to play at her cafe. But after that, what? No one knew about us, what our music was like, if we would work well in their venue, etc. It’s not like we had a manager. We were it!
I began asking people I knew for venue ideas, Alan and I made a list of places, we made some cover demos and began visiting local wineries, breweries and restaurants. We didn’t have a website or a business card at first, just an email address, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts and links to our digital demos. If we couldn’t visit places or meet the person in charge of booking, I sent out emails. It made me nervous, both visiting and emailing, but I did it. Alan cold called places as well. I wasn’t courageous enough to do that.
In most cases, the emails were not helpful. A few places got back to me and said they were booked for the season already or only wanted bands. Most ignored me. A couple actually booked us without meeting us first. Really, the successes were from all the places we went to and met the person in charge. I had to follow up with a “thank you for taking the time to meet us” email and ask if they wanted to book us. Yes, this felt pushy. Some places got back to us months later and said they would book us. In a few cases, I tried again after several months of no response and received a reply.
We are grateful for every gig we’ve had this year. In between gigs, we practiced a lot, learned many new songs, wrote a couple, designed a business card and built a website. We opened a SoundCloud account and kept posting on social media. I started learning the ukulele. I continued to contact places and researched new ones. We had a lengthy list of places we wanted to play at.
We wanted to play at Six Mile Creek Vineyard and were able to play there twice this summer. Treleaven Wines was another place that graciously gave us two bookings. The Trumansburg Farmers Market had us back this August. Bandwagon Brewery opened around the corner and booked us once a month through the end of the year. The Finger Lakes Cider House and Americana Vineyards were both venues Alan has been trying to get a chance to play at since he was doing solo shows. We connected with the folks in charge of both places but didn’t hear back. So we tried again. And both of them booked us and we are thrilled! The Cider House show will be Friday November 10 from 6:15-8:30 and Americana’s will be March 25 in 2018. We play at Bandwagon this Sunday October 8 from 2-5pm.
We have since designed and distributed posters with our names, faces, upcoming shows and contact info in local businesses in Trumansburg and Ovid. I haven’t even done Lodi or Interlaken yet. But we need to create new ones for next month and start passing them out in another week. It’s non-stop.
I have a lot more to learn. Currently, I have a to-do list that is super long. I need to improve our website and add a “subscribe to get email” feature. I am watching Lynda.com tutorials to learn about graphic design. Tumblr is a platform I haven’t tackled, but should, we need new photographs, some videos on Youtube, new cover demos to send out and a holiday EP recorded. We are also seriously contemplating a combined private art/craft show and Inner Crazy concert at our house for the holidays. This will push us out of our comfort zones again, but could end up being fun and a great way to meet with friends and make money at the same time.
Do you have an arts-related business? Are you in a band? I’d love to read what you’ve learned.