31808661marketing and selling


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31808661marketing and selling

  1. 1. Okay, Explain To Me How ! Already Sell One primary way musicians "sell" is through the conviction, confidence and clarity of interpretation in their play- ing. A pianist in a competition endeav- ors to "sell" a particular interpretation of a piece to the jury—hoping to con- vince them that his or her playing is the most innovative, expressive or the most believable. They do so by making their product, which is their playing, as good as possible through consider- able practice and thought. If, during a concert, a pianist chooses to play a movement of a Beethoven sonata slow- er than the markings suggest, then he or she might showcase a particular attribute of the music such as high- lighting the lyrical qualities of the movement to compensate for the slow- er tempo. Hopeflilly, listeners would be so engaged with the lyrical and melodic aspects of the performance that the slower tempo would not become an issue. In this way, the per- former is "selling" a particular interpre- tation just as a salesperson "sells" certain aspects of a product. Musicians sell in other ways, too. Most musicians are quite aware of varying tastes in different audiences and will program accordingly. For example, a college professor planning a recruiting concert at a high school may pick decidedly different repertoire than for an audience at a music school con- cert hall. If you have ever played through a program a few times for trial runs, you are also getting a feel for what repertoire works and what does Dylan Savage, is a Bosendorfer concert artist and records on the Capstone label. He - is co-author of A % • Symposium for Pianist5 and Teachers: Strategies to Develop the Mind and Body for Optimal Performance and an associate pro- fessor of piano at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. not. The business world operates the same way: there is scarcely a person in America who hasn't been offered a food sample to try in a supermarket—through a trial run the manufacturer is fmding out what the public likes or dislikes. An important part of selling, then, is to know your consumer's wants and desires. Musicians in today's market should not ignore this critical component while marketing themselves. Another bit of "selling" that com- monly takes place at colleges and uni- versities is during recruitment: when a prospective student stops by a profes- sor's office, what happens? The profes- sor usually discusses all the reasons it would be a good choice to study at that university. The visit might entail a short lesson to demonstrate how she teaches and to hear how the student plays, a tour of the music facilities, a discussion of music scholarships, and an introduction to fellow faculty and perhaps the department chair. That is selling in the purest sense. Most would agree at this point that selling is something we do throughout our lives, although most of the time we just don't think of it as such. Would it be so objectionable, then, if we were to go a step further and con- sciously think about selling our playing, our ideas or our music school using proven selling techniques instead of just "winging it" when the time arises? Some Basic Selling Techniques In the following paragraphs the word "product" will be used instead of "your music, your department, your performance, or your teaching." The terms "marketing" (recognizing your consumer's wants, needs and desires and then getting the buyer and seller together) and "selling" (putting your product forth—for example, educating the prospective buyer—with convic- tion, clarity and confidence) will be used to describe what you do with your product. No matter how good the idea, how great the innovation or how infectious the enthusiasm, a musician is going to have to face the task of selling his product. Unless you have hired an agent, which often requires a substan- tial chunk of money and comes with no guarantee of results, you will have to sell your product yourself. Keep The Concept i Simple But Memorable I Your product should be described simply, in a few sentences at most. It should be memorable, perhaps even different in some way, and your back-up materials like printed materials and your website should capitalize on this. When we think of the Kronos Quartet we immediately think of their unorthodox concert attire and maybe their contemporary haircuts. We also think of the new music they have cham- pioned and how successfully they have marketed themselves. Their packaging is slick and memorable. Of course, they have a terrific product (the most impor- tant component) — their success would not be so long-lived if they were not first-rate musicians as well. Building Vaiue j Building value into your product can't be overempha- sized. Simply stated, if value is per- ceived, your product will be desired and will sell itself If value is not per- ceived, it won't sell and then you must figure out why and make changes. It should be en-heartening to know that the act of building value is actually educating someone about the benefits of a possible product. Because so many of us in the world of music are educa- tors, this step should come naturally. Value can be built in any number of ways. In the product development stages before selling, it could be: elevat- ing a less-than-stellar level of playing—so more practice is needed; revamping a recital program that has great playing but with over-played, ho- hum repertoire—then repertoire and perhaps the format need changing; or, it could be taking the first steps in getting the word out about an incredible idea for an innovative performance for- mat—then a marketing plan is in order. Recognize where value needs to be built and take steps toward that goal. 16 APRIL/MAY 2008
  2. 2. The next stage of building value is when you come face-to-face with a prospective buyer—be it an agent, publisher, recording executive or even an audience. You must show that what you are offering has the potential to sell. This can be done either by having a past track record of success or by making a convincing argument about the uniqueness of what you have to offer. Your argument might include mentioning the success of new trends in the music market place and where your product fits into the mix. If you are a performer, for example, you might mention that artists who explore a wide range of music styles/idioms or who have innovative programming seem to have greater success attracting audiences and selling CDs. Have some examples ready such as: pianist John Medeski who integrates multiple digi- tal keyboards onstage with an acoustic piano; bassist Edgar Meyer who plays an extraordinary range of styles; pianist Hershey Felder performing as actor and pianist; pianist Kathleen Supove, playing an innovative program called The Exploding Piano complete with costumes and theatrical elements. These musicians are all very imagina- tive, highly skilled and bring market- ing savvy to what they do. Part of what you are selling is you—your uniqueness. Make sure the uniqueness element is well-conveyed in your promotional materials and per- formance. The common refrain from many agents these days is: "A lot of people perform/compose/record really well—so what?" Try to have something that's a little different. Find out what the agent has effectively sold before and whether you can deliver a similar product but with a new twist. Great ideas often come during some form of imitation. Discern whether an agent you may be interested in is also some- one who is willing to take risks with a performer/musician who is imaginative in format and programming. The world is always hungry for something new. Like her or not. Madonna has stayed successful for so long because she constantly reinvents herself Preparation To Sell After your product idea(s) I have been tested a bit and you have developed something you want to market, you must make sure your idea is properly packaged. A website is the preferred place to present one's product because it combines print, sound and graphics in one powerful package. And, unlike print material, it can be updated constantly with little-to-no expense and referenced by anyone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from around the world. If you haven't developed a website, now is a great time to start. Printed materials should not be neg- lected, however. There are still plenty of uses for things such as business cards, posters, photos, demo record- ings and so forth. A big part of preparation is adjusting to the mindset that you must become a salesperson as an integral aspect of promoting yourself. Try replacing the negative connotations you might have with ones that are positive, such as you have a great product; you won't be try- ing to sell something you can't deliver on; you won't be pressuring or mis- leading anyone; this is what you love to do and are good at; your idea is contributing to helping keep audiences excited about attending live perform- ances because you are presenting some- thing different and meaningful. In fact, you may start to enjoy the selling process. When you are passionate about something, your entire being radiates that quality, and that is very compelling. Persistence [ Underestimating how much i time and effort is involved in bringing a new idea to market through promotion and selling is where many great ideas loose steam and fizzle. Persevere! To help counter the negative thoughts/energies that naturally appear try daily, short self-pep talks to help stay focused and positive. Persistence will also help with rejec- tion, which comes with any market- ing/selling effort—try becoming more comfortable with it when it occurs. Interestingly, many musicians experi- ence a fair amount of rejection during their careers—not winning an audi- tion, not playing well in a recital, not securing a university position and so on. In spite of that, rejection never feels comfortable and many musicians struggle with it. With the right mind- set and a little determination, rejection can become more palatable. Perhaps most importantly, do not take rejection personally—this is where many of us err. Remove that tendency and rejec- tion will loose its sting. Persistence also comes into play when you are striving to constantly "tweak" your product. This continual honing of a product is necessary in today's market, and the process can be stimulated through introspection and knowledge of the marketplace. Instead of being onerous, this ongoing task can be fun and will help keep one from becoming the victim of staleness from too much repetition. Fishermen do not quit because a few casts bring no fish; instead, they con- tinue to enjoy the day, make bait changes and cast some more. They have learned to enjoy the process of fishing itself knowing that casting their lures in many different places will eventually reward them with a fish. I Ask Questions Musicians must embrace an I obvious, but often un-acted upon, thought: The audience is your customer. Have you given any consid- eration to how to make your perform- ances or your compositions any more attractive to them? Who are they, and what are they listening to? Your web- site might have a suggestion box that allows folks to comment on what they liked and what they might like more of in your work—some very interest- ing ideas may turn up. Often, performers believe they deci- sively know what the customer likes or wants to hear in a program. We must remember that we are not playing to an audience of ourselves. It comes as a shock to some musicians that the music they have grown up with and love just does not engage the general public in the same way or, sadly, at all. AMERICAN MUSIC TEACHER 17
  3. 3. It was a major turning point for me when that realization one day hit home. Why, then, are we so mystified when a quick pre-concert glance into the hall reveals so few souls? It's because in most cases, musicians do not follow the basic principles prac- ticed by any self-respecting business person. As classical musicians, we real- ly don't spend much time thinking about ways to keep the great music we love relevant to today's audiences—we are largely caught up in the process of learning the program. Try, instead, designing a concert around the con- cept of innovation, and make ques- tions the first step in that process. I Willingness And Ability To Change 1 Inherent in the idea of inno- vation is having the willingness and courage to change. If you think the time-worn tradition of the classical recital format needs a little renovation, then take the steps to make that change. Change, like rejection, is not comfortable to most of us. In fact, change requires us to become very uncomfortable at times—but it can also be exhilarating. I believe that the vast majority of musicians are extremely creative people, much more so than they would give themselves credit. Most of us, however, largely demon- strate our creative prowess through the interpretative process during a perform- ance. Obviously, creativity in interpre- tation is indispensable to the crafi: of playing. However, creativity needs to be active in a wider palette of uses than just through the interpretive process in the rendering of a score. The scope of creativity must venture past that point to explore new possibilities such as Supove's exploding piano idea where audiences come away exhilarated by the totally unexpected dimension brought to the recital medium. Currently there are people who weave all sorts of ele- ments into their music performances such as poetry, narration, costume, light, movement and the like, each cre- ating something new, meaningfiil and hopefully propelling the performing arts forward in some way. Keeping things the same is no longer an option. Make that your motto. Building Relationships I This skill is sometimes an ! undervalued or neglected aspect of selling. A great salesman once said, "People buy from whom they like." There is a lot of truth in that. Never forget, that always having a fine quality product to deliver is of para- mount importance. Once the product is developed, build relationships with those who can help you find and book your performances. Network genuinely, not under false or manipulative pretens- es and it will become rewarding and fruitful. This practice is critical in your interactions with people. If you tend to be introverted you can still become comfortable interacting with a larger, growing circle of people. It just may take a little bit of rehearsal. I What's Selling In The Music Marketplace? It is important to know what's out there and what's drawing audience response. Musicians should know what other innovative musicians are doing. In fact, after some sleuthing it can be quite an eye-opening experience. The Internet is best for this; try plugging in a few key words like "innovation" and "musician" or the names of up-and- coming performers. YouTube is an amazing place to explore! Also, you may want to check out the websites of instrument companies. Most support or have affiliations with musicians, many of whom are innovative artists performing classical and non-classical styles; check out their artist rosters. Concert agencies and promoters are also great sources for exploration to get a feel for current performance trends. Ultimately, you will obtain much food for thought in your desire to innovate by constantly updating your- self on what's going on in your field. An in-depth knowledge of the music scene is all-important, especially in your specific instrument. Remember, new ideas are usually not spawned in a vacuum, so by all means cruise the vir- tual universe. Innovation comes through exploration, experimentation, courage and incentive to change. Sell The Sizzle Not The Steak I This phrase is not some meaningless saying, it actually has sub- stance. A significant aspect of selling is the focus on pushing the sizzle—sizzle is like a movie trailer: it tantalizes, pro- vides the over-all gist, shows some high points and generally is responsible for motivating a customer to see the movie. In short, the model of the movie trailer is the basic concept of what we must do when we sell our product. Try packaging the sizzle so the essence of what you do comes through instantly and in a hard-hitting manner. You want to telegraph what you are about right away. Never forget, however, to make sure you have a quality product when the time comes for you to show the steak. Unfortunately, in many instances, sell- ing sizzle takes on a life of its own and builds up expectations that the prod- uct can't meet. We all have experienced this after being seduced by dazzling advertising only to find nothing but a sub-par product. So be careful that that line is not crossed when you do business—that's called integrity. What might your sizzle be? WTien I was a graduate student at the Indiana University School of Music, a great-pay- ing piano gig in an elegant private club in Indianapolis became available. WTien I went inside to inquire about the posi- tion, I was directed to the food and bev- erage manager. He asked whether or not I had an agent. I replied that currently I did not, being quite surprised when my credentials as a graduate-level piano per- formance student from one of the top schools of mtisic in the country did nothing to impress him. It was, after all, jttst going to be background music. I soon realized that what was going to impress him was not a list of credentials or even a live demonstration of my play- ing, but that I had representation by an agent. Now that would mean I was 18 APRIL/MAY 2008
  4. 4. good. In this case, the sizzle was simply having management. For him that par- ticular distinction delivered the assur- ance of quality—after all, he was trained in hotel management not in music. I learned a great deal through that experi- ence and never forgot the lesson.. .and I did obtain management and got the job. Negotiation I So you have someone interest- I ed in booking your concert, and has asked about your fee. Many musicians I know are not very accom- plished at this particular step. They often seem uncomfortable, perhaps even sheepish when asked to name their fee. And when they do finally mention it, they often give a portion of it away in their very next breath. This error usually occurs if silence of any length ensues after the musician states his or her fee. A musician will often take silence as an indication that the fee was too high and the buyer is rejecting it. So the musician will almost immediate- ly drop the price too much in hopes of not losing the deal. This reaction may feel like a natural thing to do, but it's not good business. Instead of letting that scenario play out, try practicing this old adage instead: he who speaks first loses. This means that you state your fee and then don't say another word, even if the silence seems inter- minable, until the buyer speaks first. When he does, you will learn some important things for the next step: either the fee was fine, in which case there will be no need for negotiations or the buyer says the fee is too high. If the latter is the case, do not assume you know how much to reduce the fee, if at all. First, ask what might be more com- fortable and then let him speak next. If he gives you a lower figure, don't take it immediately...give it some thought. It might be a low-ball offer, which is code in the business world for shooting way under just to see if you will take it. Remember, negotiation is not all one- sided. If you have been asked to reduce your fee, you have the right to ask for a concession. Make sureyou areprepared for this eventuality. Negotiating must be practiced so it becomes comfortable and fluid; work at it with friends in role-playing ses- sions. Become comfortable with this back-and-forth, thinking-on-your-feet aspect of marketing. There are instances, of course, where there is no room for negotiation. This has to be determined on a case-by-case basis, and it usually is quite clear. Don't try to squeeze every last dollar out of a deal; you can still come out having a fine contract with the buyer believing she made a good deal too. You want both parties to sense there has been a win-win situation. Finally, it is very important to know the mar- ket price for any given service—with- out that, any negotiation is futile. Fees vary greatly and are influenced by many factors, so try to have a sense of what your experience/track record is worth and what the market will beat before starting any negotiations. Remember: Good Selling Is More About Educating A Person About A Product Than Anything Else In the best sense of the term, selling is about education. If a homeowner needs a new air conditioner, the sales representative of a particular brand has the job of informing the homeowner about the product. Hopefully, the salesperson believes in the product and consequently represents it because it is good and something they also would purchase. As musicians, we must do the same thing with our music. The good news is that this should be an easy task because our hard-learned pro- gram is ourproduct. What Can Be Done To Help Musicians Now? We can start by putting sales training techniques in the music curriculum at colleges and universities. The idea of studying sales techniques as a course in the standard music curriculum is not yet popular in this country. Thankfully, there are signs that this aspect of music study is becoming important. The extremely competitive state of affairs in the music world today requires that we give our students this added advantage. We must do no less. Where Can We Start? This new tack in music cotirse offer- ings needs to be embraced by every music school, department and teacher. The importance of business-related offerings for students is finally becom- ing more common as can be seen through music curriculum offerings in places like the Entrepreneurship Center of the University of Colorado-Boulder, Eastman School of Music, New England Conservatory, and Juilliard, where musicians are being introduced to new ways of thinking and managing their careers. In fact, reflecting this need for business-skills training, there now exists an annual summer confer- ence in North Carolina called Brevard Conference on Music Entrepreneurship. Musicians are finally being taught a new set of tools, which will be tremen- dously helpful to them after they leave the cozy nest of school and find them- selves on their own. These new busi- ness-related course offerings, started largely within the last few years, signify good progress indeed. We have trained our students so well in all things music, now we must help them with this new critical entrepre- neurship component as readily as we do technique-building exetcises and repertoire. Students armed with these new sales, marketing and entrepre- neurship tools have the potential to start a renaissance in the performing arts—something that would, for most of us, be most welcome. -^ END NOTE Although the author alternates the word "musician" or "performer" during the course of the article the variation was merely for illustrative purposes (where one or the other more readily fit) and not to suggest that any one was more applicable than the other in any given example. AMERICAN MUSIC TEACHER 19