Do Yourself and Us a Favor

Do Yourself and Us a Favor

As many of my blogs, I am writing this in response to an interesting email I got a few days ago from someone shopping me as a booking agent. Now anybody who does their research and reads my website about our services (this email was submitted through my website) will notice a distinct lack of any reference of booking as a service. That would be because we are not a booking agency. We are a management firm, which is plainly spelled out in the “about us” section of the site.  If you follow us on twitter you will see a few booking tweets as we do try and help our clients book shows, but like all true management firms, we try and find real booking agencies for our clients.

 

Anyway, the people who were emailing me sent no information about themselves for review. No press kit, no websites, not a thing. Now anybody in any form of the entertainment business knows that you always have to SUBMIT something to be considered for ANYTHING. A generic email is the worst thing you can possibly do to try and get professional help.  I was nice and replied back, saying thank you for the inquiry but please submit the appropriate information as listed on our website and explained that we are a management firm and not a booking agency.  The person emailed back saying “I am one of the most well-known (popular – whatever you wish to call it) independent authors on the market today and one of the most powerful female Horror authors in history.” So obviously they were this big deal and didn’t need help with their business. They only needed help booking because they were so busy with engagements they couldn’t handle the booking aspect anymore and needed help keeping it up. Now mind you, I was perplexed at the thought that someone didn’t actually need help with their business (because we all do). I looked at the one link they sent back — now I was really confused.  This was a MySpace page, and a very poorly done one at that, with no scheduled bookings on it at all.

 

So to reiterate, no press kit, no websites, no proper submissions, no visible bookings, no way to corroborate the “awards” and “incredible popularity” this person was purporting, I was shocked at the arrogance portrayed in their email that they didn’t need help and were too big for that and obviously knew better than my agency did. Evidently the importance of branding, image, professionalism, marketing, social networking, how to approach industry professionals wasn’t important to them and they didn’t realize the power of being the best your business can be in all areas to increase whatever current success your are presently enjoying.

 

So the moral to the story is . . . please don’t waste any professional’s time if you aren’t going to do the research about their firm first before approaching them.  If you think you know more than the people you are approaching, don’t approach. Don’t ever send a generic email. If you don’t see submission policies, ask for them politely.  Then when you do submit your information, describe what kind of services you are looking for. The agencies don’t take the time to answer people who aren’t respectful and submit properly. Those who don’t submit properly are showing that they aren’t ready for the professional service anyway because they haven’t taken the time to be professional themselves.

 

Good Luck and do your homework!

The Comfort Zone

The Comfort Zone

 

Often times when trying to make a career happen or anything else for that matter, we tend to stay in a safe place. We do only what we are strong in and never work on our weaknesses. You see this a lot with musicians practice routines where they only practice what they know and avoid what they don’t.  We are scared to reach out and try something new.  It might be technology, social media, new venues, new band members or numerous other things that make us nervous.  We are scared of change in general, as is human nature.  We shy away from what we don’t understand or from the unknown.

Unfortunately, we never know what is coming tomorrow and security is usually just an illusion.  How many times have you experienced or watch someone loose a secure job, or a relationship that seemed secure and perfect only to find out it was far from the truth.  It catches us by surprise and it’s a major shock to the system.  It makes us nervous and scared to try new things, but in order to move forward, we need to step out of the comfort zone in order to grow.

A very popular quote from Albert Einstein is “The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect different results”.  In your artistic career, if you aren’t getting the results you need or desire, then you need to try something new.  You need to do things that you don’t like or may not be comfortable with. You are responsible for making it happen especially since you are most likely doing this all on your own with out a team of people to help you.  Another popular quote is “Successful people do what unsuccessful people aren’t willing to do”.

As an example everyone knows that social media is the future and most are already late getting to it.  I have heard countless times from artists/entertainers that they don’t like doing social media. They don’t like twitter because it’s seems so trivial.  “What do I say?”, What can you put in 140 characters?” or “I just don’t get it, it isn’t my thing.”  These are the reasons or excuses that I hear for people not doing what is necessary for their careers.  Let me tell you as an artist and business owner, there are a lot of things that aren’t “my” thing.  I still have to do them to be visible and stay competitive.

In a world where the same big paying opportunities to be signed by a major label aren’t there, the artist has to find ways to get their product out there.  There is none cheaper than social media and since most artists are always saying they aren’t making any money gigging, they have no reason to not use social media.

I am encouraging you to step out of your “comfort zone” and put together a plan that will help you get to your goals.  Do the things you don’t like to do and you will be way ahead of those who aren’t and are at the same time setting yourself apart from the pack of mediocrity that is out there.

Good Luck!

Records and Interviews

Records and Interviews

by Sass Jordan – The Lowry Agency Artist

You Don’t Have To Remind Me

Pretty much the first thing you get asked in an interview when you are promoting your latest record is ‘what is it like?’. Not an easy question to answer, as an artist, because usually it’s about so many things. I like to have an answer already prepared so that I don’t have to think about it on the spot, and confuse myself and the interviewer as I jump around all the inspirations and moments that made up the songs. Generally, when I am thinking about making a record I will have a theme that I can work off of. For example, my most recent record, From Dusk Til Dawn, was thematically exploring the darkest hours before the dawn, the time when we feel the most vulnerable in every sense, and all the growth and expansion that comes from that. There was also a flavor of Southern California in the seventies, and a touch of Memphis vibe … just slight dabbling, not out and out excavation.

It’s best to remember a couple of entertaining stories from the recording, and to perhaps discuss a song or two. I find that most interviewers are quite willing to be led where you want to take them – there are very few who are really prepared and come to the session with a real set agenda. Either way, it can be a lot of fun, especially if you have a sense of humor about it. The thing you can never forget is that you are promoting something, be it yourself, or your latest release or up-coming shows – these are the things that public wants to hear about, but tucked into something they can relate to as people.

Once in a while you will come across someone who is a total goof and really has no idea what they are doing, but in those instances you still have a choice. You can take them by the hand, so to speak, and lead them down the path they were supposed to take you down – OR – you can just dismiss the whole thing, which is probably not a good idea. Just have a sense of humor about it and realize that not everybody is up to speed!

Interviews are the place where you can deliver more of a direct message about what you do and what you are interested in and the ideas, people, places, and things that you want to support. If you have a particular charity, or piece of information you would like to share – an interview is the place to do it! Even if it’s just an energy or state of being – it’s another opportunity to reach out and affect or help other people, uplift them, get them thinking, make them happy (or angry!). I used to loathe doing them until I figured out that it was up to me how I felt – and not up to anyone else. Once you figure that out, that you’re in charge of how you feel – everything else changes for the better!

“It’s All About The Team Baby!”

“It’s All About The Team Baby!”

by Sass Jordan, Artist – The Lowry Agency

Stronger

Let’s face it .. you don’t do this alone. Even if you do all the work, and all the administration, booking, accounting, publicity, photography, performing, playing, travel planning, blogging, tweeting, booking, touring, advancing, writing, phones, ALL of that, and more, you’re still not doing it alone, because you do it for the fans – and they are what help you continue. As long as they want to see and hear you, you’re not alone.

On that note, the most important thing you can do for yourself and your work is to assemble a team of people that can facilitate the process for you. I think this holds true in pretty much any endeavour, but we are speaking in music business terms here, so that’s where we’ll focus. The craziness of running a musical ‘business’ can be pretty overwhelming. There are so many endless details to take care of, above and beyond the honing of your craft and developing your musical skills. I honestly have nothing but the utmost respect for performers who have managed to become well-known and can work consistently. Even if I don’t care for the musical style or even the personality, I still have huge respect, because I know what it takes to pull it off. It’s not for everyone. You need the courage of an lion, the patience of an ox and the energy of a jack russell terrier!

Probably the best place to start  a team with would be with a personal manager and a booking agent. You can build everything from there. I know people who have started with an entertainment lawyer .. but that works kind of the same way, because big entertainment lawyers know EVERYONE in the business end of things, and they can definitely hook you up with managers and agents, as well as publishers and record distributors etc. A manager is a wonderful player to have, but as usual, finding one who is going to be able to do the job the way you need it done with the budget you probably have, is a challenge.

You have to decide up front how you are going to pay people. That is a massively important point. If you are getting into a situation where you are signing on with a big management company, you will have little choice in the way things are done, and rightly so, as you need them far more than they need you. The thing to remember is, it is never THEIR name on the marquee, so any problems or situations that arise will be attributed to your name, not theirs. If you are hooking up with someone who is as unknown as you are, there are different things to watch out for, namely, do they have any experience at all, and how much will they understand what is going on and what needs to be done. The main selling point for a big , successful company is that they have endless contacts and lots of people that owe them favors. The downside is that you get lost in amongst all the big fish, the ones that make them all that money and favors. The main selling point for an unknown is that they are as hungry as you are, and have as much to prove as you do, therefore will work tirelessly on your account, with no other acts distracting them, and they will work to make you money, because that is how they make theirs! The downside, of course, is that they often don’t have a clue what they are doing, and they don’t have the clout to get you hooked up with other people that can help the cause.

In the end, you are going to have to go with your intuition and your own feeling on everything, as there are no hard and fast rules. If you have respect and integrity, you are likely to find that comes back to you – perhaps not every time, but by far most of the time. A team is the greatest thing you could have as a performer … and I wish you nothing but the best of luck in building one!

Developing Your Own Style

Developing Your Own Style

By Sass Jordan, Artist – The Lowry Agency

What I Need

The key to the all important ‘style’ is absolute knowledge of your vocal limits and strengths. I remember a couple of years ago, I was doing a songwriter circle, and one of the other songwriters was an artist I love, by the name of Ron Sexsmith. We were doing a group number with Roger Hodgson, of Supertramp, (another one of my faves), and there was a hideous out of tune issue going on .. we were trying to find the source of it, when lo and behold, Ron held up his hand and said .. “Guys, it’s me. I can’t sing in tune. It’s my style”! It broke the ice, and we laughed non-stop from that moment on.

The thing is, Ron wasn’t really kidding – that wavery, blue tunage type of thing is very much ‘his style’, and it completely suits his amazing songs and melodies. He is a consummate artist in that he knows what works for him, what delivers for him-and he doesn’t try to be anything he isn’t. It’s the same as anything else – you know if you’re a size 6 shoe, you ain’t gonna be wearing a size 10!

You have to develop your thing from a variety of influences. First of all, what type of styles do you love and admire in other singers? I was (and still am) a HUGE Chaka Khan fan, but there was no way in HECK I was ever going to be able to sing like her – I just can’t do it physically. However, I developed a couple of tricks that I use now, that came from trying to imitate her sound. Same with Tina Turner, Paul Rogers, Lou Gramm, Steve Perry, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, Leon Russel, Dr. John, Linda Ronstadt, and a host of others.

Another thing to consider is the style of music – there are certain types of phrasing etc that are intrinsic to certain styles. I personally think that Stevie Wonder is the originator in large part of a very popular singing style we have been hearing for the past fifteen to twenty years. Singers like Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera are skilled at it. It incorporates a lot of what is known as ‘vocal gymnastics’, but to be good at it you have to know when to lay out. Less is ALWAYS more.

Your sound has more to do with your physical structure than anything else. If you have a great big resonant skull, like Pavarotti, you will be able to make sounds that other’s with less cranium can manage. It’s also down to lung capacity and the strength of your diaphragm – all massive contributors to sound and style.

The development of personal vocal style is like the development of your personality, and actually works hand in hand with it. Age and experience are two factors that cannot be underestimated in terms of their impact on a singing style. Your style is the one thing that sets you apart from other’s, and is an identifying feature, along with your tone and personal energy. The great thing is, there will only ever be ONE of you, so you never need to think about ‘competing’ with another singer, which goes against everything music is. People either resonate with you, or they don’t. NEVER worry about it!

Merch Tables and Other Necessities….

Merch Tables and Other Necessitites…

by Sass Jordan, Artist – The Lowry Agency

High Road Easy

As an artist/performer in the slash and burn world of making a living playing music today, you have to have a fairly high level of people skills. There are a few performers that can get away with not saying or relating much-basically doing it through the music, but most of us need to develop a congenial type of relationship with our fans. We realize that it is not an easy thing for most people to come out and spend their well-earned cash – a lot of them are raising families and just trying to get along in today’s climate – not a particularly small task in this uncertain world. The skills I am talking about are related to making a fan feel included, making them feel they are part of the process. In fact, they are, in more ways than I can list, not the least of which is if there is no audience there is no show.

One of the best ways to create an on- going and loyal relationship with your fans is to sell your merchandise after the show. This way people get an opportunity to exchange a couple of words, get things signed, and get a pic with you. These things need to be set up properly, however, or you run the risk of having a bit of chaos on your hands. Assuming you and your crew know what you are doing, I think it’s an awesome way of understanding your audience, and getting a feel for the type of people that like your music and vibe. The more successful you are, the less easy it is to do this, of course, but then you can get into VIP packages for fans, where a select group (usually contest winners) can come and get things signed, pics taken and maybe even a little mini-concert before the big show. The only time I think it’s right to not do a signing is if you are too tired (bad for the voice), there is no security or professional set-up, or you have to travel immediately following the performance.

You do what you do FOR the public, for your fans, for your audience. Cultivating a meaningful relationship with the people who buy your wares is worth the time and the effort, and is a way of thanking them, as well.

Performance Series Part Two – Connecting With An Audience

Performance Series Part Two – Connecting With An Audience

by Sass Jordan – Artist, The Lowry Agency

Why Did You

Ahhh … the eternal question – how to connect with an audience?

For me, and audience is a collective energy. It ceases to be a bunch of different personalities, as it is impossible to relate one to one in a gathering of more than 3 or 4 individuals. So the audience is ONE person – a bunch of individuals that become ONE, kinda like the Borg on Star Trek. The thing about it is that each collective has a unique ‘personality’ that is created by the combination of all the individual personalities participating, including the performers.

So, the way I look at it is, how does this collective feel to me? Is it happy? Is it melancholy? Is it full of energy? Is it bored, or distracted? Is it aggressive? Is it drunk? Does it have a youthful feel, or an older feel? The feelings are subtle, but they are always there. As a performer, your job is to sense the atmosphere, and to guide it to wherever you want to go. I personally feel that my objective as an artist is to help people to express their feelings in a safe environment, and to feel uplifted by doing so. It is impossible to articulate how that happens in words, but the intent that you have makes a huge difference. You, as a performer, are in a powerful position to influence a collective ‘mood’, and it is therefore your responsibility to take that seriously. You can incite a riot, or a love – fest, and anything in between. You can also leave everyone utterly un-touched.

The primary  thing to remember on a stage is that the impression you give off is how people will interpret you. This includes your clothing and the way you hold your body. Confidence makes a massive difference to the collective’s interpretation of your abilities. It you feel a lack of confidence, it will show, and it will make people uncomfortable for you. They won’t know why they are feeling so uncertain and unsure themselves, necessarily, but you can be sure they won’t be enjoying themselves!

Finally, the more you believe in the song you are singing, and relating it to your OWN emotions, the more the collective will feel the same way. Emotion is the most powerful thing in the Universe, in my opinion, and it’s what makes music a Universal language. Music IS emotion. Singing IS emotion. Brilliant playing of a musical instrument IS emotion. The audience wants to be moved, to forget their troubles and tribulations, and to be assured that they are not alone in the feelings that they have. We are all the same underneath our skins and our belief systems. We all want to feel a part of something. When you, as a performer, connect with those feelings inside of yourself, you will communicate them to the collective. Connecting with an audience is as simple and as difficult as connecting with your own feelings and emotions.

That is what makes the difference between a great performer and an average one.