--Photo by Ian Muttoo
Unless you're a particularly renowned musician or artist, you're mail boxes won't be overflowing with performance offers. Here are some tips for any newer groups who are trying to broaden their audience base. Afterall, what's all that practice for if you never get a chance to share it with people.
1. Don’t wait, go get ‘em yourself
You might be the next big thing waiting to happen, but unless you get your name out there nobody is going to know how great you are. Doing a couple shows for your friends and family isn't enough. Go out there and tell people that you exist.
Go to a local community center, art center, athletic center, school or university- whichever ones suit your style of performance. There are always parties, fund-raisers, competitions and other such events happening at these social centers. Ask about upcoming events they have and offer them your service. Fund-raising and awareness events are a particularly good place to start. These events are usually open to host a broad range of performance artists (plus you'll be doing it for a good cause).
2. Network, network, network
Even when you don't have any performances in the books, talk to people about yourselves. Do some free open-mic or street shows, offer free lessons, write about your group in social networking sites- anything and everything that works for your group.
Whenever you do perform, talk to people after your show. It doesn't matter how big or small your show is. Anyone who sees it will be interested in talking to you. Let them know about yourselves and offer them a card if you've got one. If not, let them know how they can find you if they're interested. Get all of your group members to do this.
After your shows are over, always remember to contact the venue and thank them for having you. That simple gesture will make it far more likely they'll want to invite you again.
Remember that with every new performance you do, you're exposing yourself to a whole new web of different networks. Don't let it go to waste by ignoring them!
3. Be prepared to perform for minimum pay
If you're just starting out, nobody is going to want to pay you. Especially if you're contacting them first, don't even bother asking for a payment. It's pushy and rude. If they offer you, great, if not, do it for free. In the beginning, the costs of performing will outweigh any revenues that you're lucky enough to get. It's obviously not ideal, but be patient, things will change if you're persistent.
If they do ask you how much you should be paid, be honest. Always calculate your performance costs such as equipment, travel and food expenses. In the beginning, don't ask for much more than what's needed to cover those costs. The type of events you'll be doing in the beginning usually won't have great budgets. Think of your performance as a public service, don't start thinking with your wallet. Remember that you're performing because that's what you love to do, not because you want to make money off of it. People will notice hard work and good intentions, and you'll be repaid in valuable social connections.
4. Have one person in charge
I’ve personally found this to be particularly important. Have a designated person in your group who is in charge of all email and phone exchanges with your performance venues. We'll call him/her the "performance manager" for now. Other members in the group who get contacts through their networks, should forward all of that information to the performance manager. The performance manager is responsible for contacting potential venues, and maintaining all exchanges with them. The manager should also be the one to send thank you and follow-up messages after the shows.
It's far more efficient when one person is in charge of all this. When two or more people are in contact with the same venue about performance logistics, pieces of information will inevitably get lost or changed and confusion ensues. It's easier for the venue too, when they know they're talking to the same person.
When no one is specifically given the responsibility, it's easy to just assume that someone else is going to do it- and then it eventually never gets done. Have one person in charge to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
5. Get online
Internet publicity is the quickest way to get your name out. Start a homepage or blog, start a group in Facebook, get a page on Myspace- whatever is appropriate for your group. All it takes is a website for people to verify that you're legit. And people are far more comfortable with a group that has a site over one that doesn't. All that networking you do won't be half as effective without an online page for your contacts to learn about you.
It doesn't need to be fancy- a couple of appropriate pictures, a basic introduction and some contact information is all you need. For similar reasons as the 'performance manager', it's also a good idea to have someone who's responsible for updating online information.
Things are never easy when you're just starting out, but it'll always turn around if you stick with it and make the right moves. Once you've done a couple of small stints and you keep up with your networking, you'll be amazed by how quickly you're name can spread. You might be surprised with the number and types of events that contact you.
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