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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Agents...who needs em?!

Hi there,

Why would you use an agent to get you gigs?

It's an agent's job to have strong relationships with venues, event bookers and even other agents. A good one will harness these contacts to get you work you might not otherwise get - and then manage the booking so that you can focus on just entertaining the masses. It's quite a luxury, well worth paying for in my book, that allows you to just be a performer and leave the business to the business people.

Now before you get the wrong idea, I'm not hear to praise all agents from the rooftops - it is an occupation up there with car sales and real estate in the trustworthy stakes, in some cases. However, one of my pet hates is entertainers constantly bitching about their agents (not suggesting I don't indulge in that sport myself occasionally). I booked a weekly singer songwriter night (PopTarts) for almost 10 years and while I wasn't strictly an 'agent', I certainly did a lot of the same work they did. And I can tell you, it's bloody hard! Dealing with publicans who measure entertainment success in terms of schooners sold and entertainers for whom the notion of promotion is a nebulous one can be frustrating and soul destroying. So before pissing on your promoter, try doing their job for yourself.

The problem is, a business hat doesn't always sit comfortably alongside an artistic hat on the same head - not everyone is cut out to balance books and belt out a ballad as well. But I do believe everyone needs to pull their head out of that creative soil just briefly to at least learn the basics.

Like many of my fellow songstresses, I've been doing this long enough that I have a pretty good idea what venues and event organisers are after. We should know how to do our own promotion and paperwork and understand the importance of being a business buff as well as polished performer. No one knows better than the act themselves, what they need, so could we just cut out that middle person - oh and save that at least 10% agent fee? Yes and No.

It's a tenuous world of work that I inhabit, where a gig can disappear on a whim. So I book about 50% of my work directly and the rest through a handful of agents I have built a rapport with - I like to share my eggs around in different people's baskets. I guess I just have to hope I get to deal more with competent cockerel types than the cocks.

See you next time!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

5 Reasons you SHOULD Sing Covers

Hi there,

I know, last blog I said there were 5 Good Reasons NOT to Sing Covers...but a record does have two sides, right?!

1. Practising your Craft: Being an original artist is, ah, an art! But it is also a craft. Singers with good breath control, pitch, delivery and range can highlight their art much more effectively and regular gigs make a fertile training ground. Sure you can do regular original gigs but in the early stages of your career, there are more cover gigs around and they are likely to pay much better too. The Rolling Stones were a Blues cover bands before they gave us true satisfaction. And having to sing other people's songs, written for their style and ranges, will really stretch your technical abilities. 

2. Walking the walk: As well as the actual singing, cover gigs will perfect all the other skills that go into becoming a great live performer like stagecraft and connecting with audiences. Whether you're being a cool indie chick or channelling Madonna, the skills are part of the same showbag.

3. Making the Contacts: The music game is the music game and there are many players including agents and venue owners you will be able to cultivate while doing cover gigs.

4. Learning from the Hits: Performing other people's songs to audiences night after night gives you an insight into what songs 'work' and why. Valuable info you can feed into your own songwriting.

5. Making Money from Music: I never forget a conversation I had at a party after being introduced to a fellow independent artist. He asked me what my day job was. I told him I sang in covers bands and the look of horror on his face was unforgettable - he didn't hold back in expressing shock and contempt at my choice of income. I returned the question and he told me he was a painter. OK, so he was an all round artistic type that managed to make a living from his artistry, good for him. I wondered if it were landscapes of Picasso-esque stylistic masterpieces and so I asked him what he painted. He answered 'houses. sometimes fences, mainly walls'. Oh.

Music is a wonderful job and whether they are my masterpieces or someone else's, I can't think of a 'job' I'd rather do.

I've just joined a soul/funk/blues/motown/swing band called Red Light Orchestra. I wonder what narrow pop pathway I would still be on if I hadn't had the experience of singing covers like this. Because what you can't learn about soul from Al Green and the gang, cats, well it ain't worth knowing!

See you next time,