Tell me if you’ve experienced this before. You’re getting ready to book a gig. The date is good, you are available and then pricing comes up. You freeze up, your heart begins to race, your face is flushed and you’re uncertain of what to say. “If I shoot too high they’ll say no” or “If I shoot too low then I’ll be selling myself short.”
Furthermore (and I’ve had people say this to me) they will tell you that if there is a good crowd you will be paid the agreed upon amount but if there is not a good crowd you pay will be docked. For something that has NOTHING to do with your responsibilities you will be punished financially.
Could you imagine a scenario where this would work for say a lawyer? “Hey, I’m gonna have you represent me but if I don’t like how the trial is going, I’m gonna have to give you a smaller percentage than what we agreed upon”.
How do you think the lawyer would react? He’d probably just walk away in disbelief that you had the audacity to even entertain the thought. No professional would settle for such bullshit, and neither should you.
So I pose this question. Why do most musicians make bad businessmen?
Here’s my theory.
Because We Think With Our Heart, Not Our Mind
Artists are sensitive and opinions of others tend to matter too much. Instead of looking at what we need for our business we tend to be empathetic towards other business owners needs and cater to them. They realize this after one conversation and they can take advantage of the situation.
We hear one person’s opinion opposite to ours or glance at one negative review and our world comes crashing down. We often believe in the good in people and hope they won’t (or can’t conceive) they would take advantage so we don’t take measures to safeguard ourselves via contracts BEFOREHAND.
What can we do about it?
Realize that we are in business and businesses need to make money to survive. If someone has a problem with you trying to make money for your business, then you need to cut that person out of your life.
Furthermore when someone doesn’t like what you do, chances are they never will and never would have in the first place. In other words they’ve already made up their mind about you long before you had a say in the matter. Don’t try to cater to the haters or give them any mind.
The more successful you become, the more prevalent these people will be and they will grow in number. Luckily your fans will outnumber them 10 to 1. Put zero energy into these people. When they confront you, brush them off like dirt on your shoulder.
DO put a disproportionate amount of energy into the people that like what you do. Invite them out to MORE performances. Tell them to tell their friends about you and whenever you can, give them something of value in return.
Always prepare contracts. You should have a template of a contract ready but in case you don’t already have one, you can download mine here for free.
I believe that people are good and I want to believe that they’ll never take advantage of my generosity but sadly some of the most unexpected of people at times do just that. I also believe that we naturally will take advantage of a good thing if we are allowed to. The trick is to give no allowances for this behavior.
EVERY SINGLE TIME I’ve gone into a gig without a contract I’ve regretted it. It’s not even like a “this will turn out fine I’ve known this person for years” type situation. Unforeseen circumstances WILL arise and if there are no safeguards, nothing can be done about it.
Because Our Heads Are In The Clouds
We tend to be disorganized. Being a musician by trade means you are an agent, manager, accountant and publicist all at the same time (Unless of course if you pay for these services). This work requires, paperwork, invoicing, accounting, phone calls, emails, writing and researching. Since all we want to do is make music, the more administrative stuff tends to fall by the wayside
We think that if we make great music, people will naturally flock to us and ask us to play the BIG VENUES (If you build it they will come mentality)
Most places are looking for good music but they rely on close friends or connections to seek out new talent
What can we do about it?
Pick the one thing you hate doing the most, bite the bullet and pay someone else to do it. Virtual Assistants are a gift from God that few people know about or even use but for those who do there can be many advantages.
Virtual Assistants are VERY Affordable and they can get tasks you don’t want to spend your precious time on done quickly and professionally while you’re SLEEPING! I use Ask Sunday for this.
**Create an Electronic Press Kit (or EPK). Here’s a downloadable example you can use as a template. People will always be asking you for a bio, pictures, recordings yadayadayada. May as well have it gift wrapped all in one pdf document with links to the appropriate places.
Become a part of the social circle of the people you are seeking to do work with. This means finding out who they are, who they know and where they go.
Let me be clear. Don’t STALK these people. If they own a business ask yourself “is this a service I could use and could it benefit me?” Example: You want to play at a restaurant, become a patron of said restaurant. See Case The Place, Get The Gig for more info. on this.
Most people aren’t willing to put this level of detail into their work so they simply plateau. But for those of you who are interested in getting to that next level, this next part is for you.
Put yourself in the position of making it easy to run into the people you wish to work with on a daily basis. If that means going to Chamber of Commerce events, festivals, concerts or conventions then that’s what you can do. Learn people's names and get comfortable getting to know them.
I’m naturally introverted, as most artists tend to be, but go out of my way to get to know people. Get to know the names of people’s children, pets and what they do for fun and next time you see them inquire about these things. They will remember that and remember you fondly.
I should also mention that you MUST be sincere. People know when you’re being insincere and can smell it a mile away. You must actually be genuine in getting to know that person not wanting anything in return and also be willing to not receive anything from them ever.
That being said, It’s much easier to be involved in a working relationship with people when you’ve already established a relationship with them.
Because we are afraid of the dreaded negotiation
Like the illustration before describes, we’re afraid we’ll choke or freeze up when confronted about rates because we don’t want to overshoot or undershoot. We cave in too easily, we agree despite not being completely happy with what we’re getting for the work involved and we don’t have a good understanding of our worth and how to convey that to others.
What can we do about it?
The best agreements are when both parties are happy with what they’re getting. If you agree to something less than what you set out for, that will affect your relationship with the other party from then on and vice verse.
The BEST negotiating position is always to have the ability to walk away if you are not happy with the results. Try it sometime.
If you feel the interaction is going nowhere just say “you know what? I don’t think this is gonna work out, let’s just forget about it” and see what happens.
Most times the interaction will shift dramatically in your favor and the other party will be much more receptive to what you have to say.
Sometimes the other party will simply agree and you have to commit and actually walk away.
This puts you in a no pressure position because you are ALWAYS taking the work you want to take and NEVER taking the work you don’t want. And you're giving the other party what they want.
It’s a win-win situation for all involved.
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Harry L. Rios
Founder of HarryLRios.com
Harry L. Rios.com