As a touring musician, you encounter a variety of situations that have the potential to disrupt your day's plans. The attitude with which you meet these daily challenges can influence your success or failure as you move through your career. There are plenty of obstacles thrown in your path. You may choose to approach them with a positive, "can do" attitude or a negative, "why me" attitude. The method you choose affects those around you and may even be partially responsible for getting or not getting some of the breaks you clearly think you deserve.
I'd like to examine some of the situations that may arise where your attitude may make a huge difference. I've worked with many artists over the years, as manager, agent, promoter and consultant. The one thing that stands outs about each performer above all else, is their attitude about their life, their music, and the manner in which they approach each day and every situation. Attitude can be infectious both positively and negatively. Be sure that when you leave a situation, your reputation of having an upbeat, positive attitude is one of the highlights.
Making Phone Calls
As you book each date, the first place that your attitude plays a major role is in your phone conversation. Prepare for your phone sessions — don't just pounce on the phone with vengeance determined to book the whole tour. Get yourself in the right frame of mind, calm yet enthusiastic. If you are tired or are having a bad day, don't make booking calls. It is inappropriate to carry your personal problems to your phone conversations. This will not win you many friends nor land you many gigs. Booking calls are a sales pitch. Present a positive attitude and you are more likely to get a positive response. It is not always easy to maintain when phone call after phone call nets little more than "call me next week." When multiple calls become frustrating and you feel your upbeat attitude begin to fall, stop making calls and do some paper work, take a walk or practice, but change gears before you say something you'll regret.
The way you leave your last call with a promoter or club owner, is the way you will be remembered. If they had a pleasant conversation with you, they will welcome your next call, if not, it may be weeks before they answer your calls. Set yourself up for success.
Arriving at the Venue
When you arrive at the venue, first impressions make a difference in how the rest of the gig will go. It's not unusual to hit traffic on your way to the venue or have various travel delays that can unnerve anyone. It isn't anyone's fault, so don't take it out on those that greet you at the venue. They have been anxiously awaiting your arrival and are probably looking forward to helping you settle in and assist in any way they are able. Check your attitude before opening the door and make sure the first thing out of your mouth is, "Great to meet you!" or some other pleasant greeting. You must set the tone for the rest of the event. If you want those at the venue to help you put on the best show you can, you need to set the stage and offer your winning attitude.
Dealing with Technicians
Once settled, the next challenge is sound and light check. This task can be fraught with one obstacle after another, from inadequate equipment, the wrong equipment, inexperienced technicians and unhelpful technicians, not enough time and anxious stage personnel. If you want to accomplish an effective sound and light check, stay upbeat, be very clear about your needs, express them succinctly and be respectful of those who work at the venue. When you run into a technician with a bad attitude, there is nothing you can do or say to change the attitude except keep yours in check and remain pleasant. Step outside to blow off steam where no venue staff can see you, return refreshed and ready to work.
When it comes to setting your sound, you know your sound best. Be persistent with the engineer until you achieve the sound you like. Don't badger, just be clear and attempt to win them over. Sound is a particularly sticky issue for all artists, as it should be. This is certainly one area to maintain your cool if you want to have a good show. Unless you travel with own sound engineer, you are at the mercy of those at the board. This is one person you don not want to piss-off. Again, your attitude can make or break the show.
Dealing with the Promoter
From time to time we all run into a club owner or promoter who is difficult. From the first phone call, it was clear that this gig would be a challenge simply because the promoter offered resistance. It didn't get any easier once you arrived at the venue. Again, you're not out to make any life changes in this person. You are determined to get through the gig, do your best show, fill the hall, win over the audience, sell your merchandise, and hopefully with all that in your favor you'll get paid the full amount agreed upon and perhaps you'll get another gig there in the future. Maintain your positive attitude throughout, in spite of the vibes coming at your from the promoter. Your goals are clear, ignore his distracting demeanor.
Dealing with the Audience
When you are finally on stage, this is certainly not the place to air your problems, be unkind or disrespectful. These are the people you have worked so hard to stand before. This is the moment when your absolute best is tested. No matter what happened back stage, in the dressing room, on the phone before the show, in the car driving to the show or during sound check, if you display an ugly attitude here, you are done. These folks won't forget and they'll tell their friends. The audience deserves your highest regard.
After the Show
After the show, you may be tired. The gig is not over though. You have an opportunity to win loyal fans and build solid support as you develop your career. Meet with fans and sign autographs. Set aside your fatigue for a little while longer. When you perform in venues other than clubs, you may be working with volunteers. If you are invited to meet the presenter and some of the workers who spent weeks preparing for this event, take the opportunity and you'll solidify a return gig. You don't have to accept invitations to parties you are not interested in attending, but a short meet and greet after the gig will go a long way to creating a good reputation. If you have to meet a travel schedule and are unable to stay for a meet and greet, let the venue personnel know that before you arrive so there will be no expectations for you to stay.
You can be a very talented musician, have a fabulous act, be a savvy businessperson, but if you sport a bad attitude, your successes will be hard won. Remain clear throughout all of your dealings with each venue and build respect for your group as a testament to your level of professionalism. Maintain a positive attitude during each situation to ensure that your good reputation will precede you and spark new successes.
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Jeri Goldstein is the author of "How To Be Your Own Booking Agent: The Musician's & Performing Artist's Guide To Successful Touring, 2nd Edition UPDATED". She has been an agent and artist's manager for 20 years. Currently she consults with artists, agents and managers through her consultation program Manager-In-A-Box and presents The Performing Biz, seminars and workshops at conferences, universities, for arts councils and to organizations. Jeri has released a 3-hour seminar on CD-ROM, Marketing Your Act. The Seminar is set up in 5 modules with information about Marketing, Creating Effective Promotional Materials, How To Access the Media, A Marketing Template and Niche Marketing. No expensive conferences to attend-learn at your convenience to boost your career. Her book, CD-ROM and information about her other programs are available at are available at Performingbiz.com or phone (434) 591-1335 or email Jeri.