Getting the gig: cover letters


I like the word “gig.” It not only refers to getting a concert booking but also a job, a project, and any opportunity that pays.

The way I secured the next three gigs did not start with a phone call, an e-mail, or a cover letter. I simply walked into the office of the activities director and said, “Hello! How are you ? Long time no see. Say, have you booked anyone for Thanksgiving or Christmas?” I got the gigs because I showed up, I had a track record, and I caught him at the right moment.

Does this work for jobs, too?

Timing is very important. There’s a saying that by the time a job is advertised, the job is already gone. These days, it’s much easier to hire someone you know about, even in the back of your mind, than to advertise, receive applications, reply to applicants, and deal with all the correspondence and administration that goes with it.

Same with concert bookings.

It’s much easier to hire someone you know about or have used before than go out and search for the right candidate. This is where networking plays a decisive role, for “chance favors the prepared mind.”

However, advertisements do exist for a purpose. Transparency. The need to cast a wider net. Rules and regulations of recruitment.  Or simply to justify retaining the incumbent.

Long ago, I asked the administration of the conservatory I was studying at just how they were going to hire a new composition teacher. “Personal network” was the reply. I objected to that. While personal network might be fast and easy, and certainly a chance to reciprocate (the tit for tat that defines the business of music), I thought a newspaper advertisement and a more public solicitation might result in a candidate that otherwise wouldn’t emerge. I was right. A very qualified candidate applied and got hired as my third composition teacher at the conservatory. He brought “fresh ideas” to the table.

The last time I wrote a cover letter for a job, I really struggled with it. I had not written a cover letter in many years. How long should it be? How should I start?

The Best Cover Letter I Ever Received” advises against writing a cover letter unless you absolutely have to. If you do have to write, keep it simple and short. I agree. This is not a treatise but something to highlight what you can’t spot in your CV (in which case you need to rewrite your resume) or to get the attention of the hirer (again, how do you get attention?).

A good writer would be able to communicate how he or she is as a person. It’s a real skill to write a picture or a video of oneself in words.

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2 Comments

Filed under communication, concert, planning

2 responses to “Getting the gig: cover letters

  1. Great idea, just walk in and ask: Have you booked anyone yet! Thx for posting.

    • Yes, it does take some self-initiative. Somehow, many of us keep hoping we’d get a call. That we’d be discovered. But the reality is — people who book concerts and hire people are EXTREMELY busy.

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