Tuesday, December 18, 2007

10+1 Ways to Advertise Your Services as a Collaborative Pianist

Last April, I wrote an article on How to Get Work as a Freelance Collaborative Pianist. Since then, I've talked to a number of people and have come up with more ideas on the territory initially covered by #10-13 on how to advertise. In the last six months, there has been a lot of talk about the value of social networking as a vehicle for self-promotion, and I notice a bit of a generation gap between older and younger professionals on this issue. Many people who have been in the business a long time tend to be concerned about privacy issues with the social networks and look askance at those (including myself) who spend a lot of time online. On the other hand, many younger folks immersed in the social network scene can tend to actually distrust those who choose not to have any sort of an online presence beyond email. (To give you an idea of this developing prejudice, ask yourself if you would pay money to go to a concert if it had no website or online listing.)

So here is an expanded list of ways to advertise yourself as a collaborative pianist.

1. Create flyers that can be put in places frequented by those in the musical community. Schools of music, rehearsal halls, churches, and community centers are just some of the places that have bulletin boards. Create a distinctive flyer with text, graphics, and even use Photoshop for that visual bang. Degrees, places worked, instrumental, vocal, or repertoire specialties, and studio facilities can all be mentioned. A cell number, email address, and website address are mandatory so potential clients can contact you once they dig your pianistic pedigree. Another good idea I occasionally see is stapling a custom card-holding apparatus to the poster so people can quickly grab a business card. Bring your own supply of thumbtacks when doing the postering circuit.

2. Get business cards and distribute them. Whether going the cheap and simple route or creating the graphically rich design experience, you must have cards, especially when that word-famous soloist comes up to you and says "Dude, how can I reach you?" Once you have them, getting them out of the box and into the hands of potential clients is the next step. Some places to leave them are in the studios of teachers where you play, in music school and opera company lounges, or with people you already work with.

3. Create a high quality traditional resumé. You'll need to spend a lot of time creating one, and is of the greatest value when applying for positions at opera companies and universities. Warning: I've heard a lot these days about musicians (as many as 50% of them by some accounts) padding their resumés with marginally true items or even out-and-out false information. Remember, if you get burned putting false info on your resumé, it could put your entire professional career in jeopardy.

4. Create and place a high-quality online resumé. Places to include this might be job sites such as Monster, a personal website, a LinkedIn profile, and especially a Facebook profile. Putting the information out there in multiple places can help to create your brand, especially important these days when dealing with potential clients that may do a Google search for your info as soon as they hear of you.

5. Get your bio up to date. Not just a boring old listing of your education and gigs, but an engaging piece of prose that really shows what you're about. Read Ivan Katz's A Gentle Plea in the Huffington Post to see what makes or does not make the grade regarding classical music prose these days. It should be ready to go at all time, easily attachable via email if on your desktop or searchable via Google if on a website.

6. Put selected recordings online. Some spots to do this might be your personal site, YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, as well as audio and video podcasts. This item links in with #4 as a very important part of brand management. And make sure you have the requisite permissions to put other people's performances on the web before you click the upload button.

7. Have others create a Facebook group about you. Your friends and colleagues can do a great job of marketing you, as this pianist in Toronto recently discovered. Otherwise, you can create your own group that advertises what you do, as I see a number of pianists starting to do.

8. Put an advertisement in Craigslist. Mind you, Craigslist isn't really my cup of tea for advertising, but it's free and searchable via Google if you put all the right keywords into the listing.

9. Put an advertisement in the community newspaper. Generally inexpensive and read by a large number of people. This isn't the greatest way to hook up with high-quality soloists, but a possible goldmine for those that play local festivals and competitions. Can also be useful for finding students.

10. Advertise in recital and festival programs. A bit more expensive than community newspapers, but reaches a much more highly targeted audience. Prime spots will be near the front cover and on the back cover--it will cost you more, but can virtually guarantee a solid rate of return if your graphics and copy are of a high quality.

And finally,

11. Take advantage of the trust economy to build your reputation and scope of work. For those of you that don't know what I'm talking about, read Peter Keen's Welcome to the Trust Economy to get an idea of how the concept of trust is evolving. We may come to a point where individuals who are extremely competent and reliable in the real world but not online may fall by the wayside compared to those who are equally competent and reliable both on- and off-line. This way of thinking is in line with the views of many who grew up with the web and treat it as not only a place to view and share documents, but as an entire layer of reality that runs parallel to everyday life.

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