In part 1, I mentioned the need to put together a sizzle. It’s the equivalent of a menu in a restaurant. Your menu consists of your repertoire. You are the chef. Describe what you can do to turn the indecisive to the decisive, convert a stranger to a friend, and turn your audience into fans.
Once you are happy with what you have to offer, you are ready to contact the people who can help you. There are several levels of contacts.
1- People who know you and have offered to help you before
These are the people who are committed to getting you a gig. They may not necessarily be the ones who book you for a concert, but they will help make that happen.
We knew our friends in Houston and Phoenix wanted to help us. They told us so in the past. Although we did not know exactly when we would arrive, we tried to keep them updated of our plans. They in turn checked with their contacts — the ones who could actually arrange concerts for us.
2- People who are willing to reciprocate
Barter is an activity older than cash payments for goods and services. Anticipated reciprocation is implicit bartering of getting something you want now for giving something the other party wants in the future. Think about what you have to offer. You have your contacts in your neck of the woods. Can you help others in the future?
If you ask other performing musicians to help you get gigs for your tour, you are implicitly offering to help them in some way in the future. Composers want their works performed. Performers want to perform elsewhere. Concert producers want to be introduced to new musicians they don’t know already. Audiences are eager for new experiences.
Ask yourself if there is something you can bring to the table.
3- People you want to meet and collaborate with
If you are like me, you would have been following and perhaps corresponding with interesting people with interesting ideas. I do this through Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Often one thing leads to another, and I stumble upon somebody I’d like to meet. Use your concert tour to meet these people.
One such person was Chong Kee Tan, who started a new yahoo discussion group for organisers of classical music house concerts. Our online discussions on hosting, audience development, and other issues pertaining to the economics of house concerts led me to ask if he would consider organising a concert for us in San Francisco.
This is like asking a stranger to do something for you — quite unheard of surely! The preparation for a concert allows you to collaborate with the person and get to know him or her better. Indeed by the time we finally met in person, it felt like we already knew each other.
Ask yourself this:
Is there someone you want to meet that you can involve in your concert tour?
4- People who produce concerts or own concert venues
This is the group of people most musicians immediately think of when they contemplate getting themselves booked for concerts. I put this as the last category because everyone else is thinking the same. Your sizzle really must sizzle and dazzle and spark. You are competing with other musicians that want to perform.
I heard that arts organisations and big concert halls require a year’s notice for concert bookings. We did not have a year to plan our tour. We did not even have time to apply for funding. We were self-funded.
The first concert that got booked became the third concert on our tour. It sold out a month before the performance date. The house concert series in rural Connecticut is well-run and well-attended. Our second concert came from a lead from producer of that house concert series. The third concert that got booked became the opening concert of our tour — due to a cancellation in a new concert series in Boston.
Once you have identified who you want to contact, think about the best way to contact them. Some react to phone calls. Some to e-mails. Some prefer to skype. Do not, I repeat, do not send out a generic e-mail and expect a reply. I have received many of these as co-producer of the Monument House Concert Series in the Netherlands. I prefer the personal approach.