Make Friends—Your Peers Are Your Best Resource

Posted on February 28, 2011 at 9:00 am by
in Being a Professional
Tags: ,

Think about it. It’s only human nature to recommend a friend for a job. Putting aside the fact that if you recommend him or her, he or she may reciprocate one day, it just feels good to help out a friend, provided they are a good fit for the job. Even though music is a highly competitive business, it’s best to put rivalries aside. You and your buddies may be going for the same type of work, but the pie is usually big enough to accommodate the good players. I have often joked that I’ve made a career of collecting the crumbs off the table after everyone has left. I’ve had some good composition and arranging commissions based on recommendations of others who were either too busy or not that interested in accepting the work. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Who said that?

No comments

Let The Other Guy Talk First

Posted on February 21, 2011 at 8:46 am by
in Negotiation
Tags: , ,

Writing projects (read: compositions and arrangements) are always up for negotiation. What I always try to do is let the person hiring me talk first. After we have discussed what is involved, I quickly calculate how much time it will take to complete it. I get a price in my head that I think is fair, but I try to let the other person make an offer. If he doesn’t come forward with a figure, and assuming I know the person pretty well, I might say something like this. “What’s your budget for this? Have you got any money?” He’ll probably come back with something like, “I think I can get $2,000.” Many, many times that figure will be more than I was thinking. Now, if I don’t know the person I won’t be so flip in getting him to talk. I’ll say, “What have you budgeted for this
project?” I have found that often what seems like a lot of money to a musician is not that much to the person who is hiring you.
It can work the other way too. A good friend contacted me about one of my unpublished big-band charts. “Can you get me a copy?” he asked. “Sure, how about $75 delivered?” I replied. Pausing, he said, “Look, I’ll give you $150.” That’s a good friend. I was trying to do him a favor, but he had the money in his budget, and he took care of me.

No comments

Make the Client Feel Good

Posted on February 14, 2011 at 6:12 am by
in Getting Ahead
Tags: , ,

This short phrase, “Make the client feel good,” is one of the most important things to remember in business. Often when doing recording sessions for television and radio commercials (read: jingles) the “com- poser” may be a person of little of no musical knowledge. He may not even read music or be able to put one note down on the page for others to play. We call composers like this “hummers.” The successful ones hire talented musicians to interpret what they are imagining in their heads, and during the composition process there are often non-musical instructions. Things like: “keep going up here,” “it’s too thin,” “it’s too confusing,” “I want to feel like I’m in a convertible, driving down a country road and the wind is in my hair.” Or this one that was going to be music behind a ski plane landing in the wilderness. “Don’t use a saxophone! Saxophones are for cities!”

The fact is that these people, whether musically literate or not, got the gig. And, you know, they do have something to offer because this product will be seen and heard by the general public and not by concertgoers seated in a theatre audience. Rather than working against them, it is better to work with them and interpret their wishes as best as possible. The music for a cat food commercial isn’t in the same league as a Mahler symphony, but if, in the end, it helps convey the intended message it has done its job. So I let them know it. I want to be extremely cooperative and “into” that commercial. I want them to know that, for that session, I was on their team, and trying my best to add value to the product.

In the above example it is easy to picture the client. But I also think of the word ”client” more broadly. When I’m playing second clarinet in an orchestra, my client is the first clarinetist and the conductor. I want them to feel very good about my work. Is the tuning, balance and phrasing all good? If I were a rhythm section musician in jazz group, when not soloing, my job would be to comp (read: accompany and communicate musically with) the soloist. In my role as an administrator in a music school, my client is anyone above me or below me in the hierarchy. Attempting to please those above you is obvious. We all try to do that. But people below us in the organization chart often come to us to solve problems or ask advice. They can be our clients, too.

When those around us feel personally good about our work and us, we get asked back. And that’s the name of the game—getting asked back. You will if you make the client feel good.

No comments

Have Your Price in Mind

Posted on February 7, 2011 at 6:05 am by
in Negotiation
Tags: , ,

You should have a price in mind for the particular service that is under discussion. Different types of gigs will have different pay rates that are either set by the musicians’ union or are the going rates of the area. Many jobs pay scale and that’s it. A traveling Broadway show or an opera put on by the local company are examples. Union scale is the minimum amount that a union musician can be paid for a particular job, but there is no limit to the amount that can be paid over scale. When figuring the budget I usually start with union scale, then factor in costs for other things like travel, cartage of large instruments and percussion rental. If you have a string quartet, for example, and someone wants to hire you for a wedding reception, it won’t be so complicated. You’ll have a price, and there will be little back and forth discussion.

But money isn’t the only consideration. I have taken lots of work that didn’t pay well, on the hope that it would lead to something bigger down the road. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t.

No comments