How to Create Work For Yourself

or What Can I Do To Survive as a Brass Player

Nicholas Drozdoff

Mr. D's Music

Basic Promotional Ideas:

The first two essays that are found on my site are actually the first two chapters from my upcoming book. I do not want to give away the whole book on this non-commercial web-site, but I do want to continue to offer ideas to help brass players in the late 20th century. With this in mind, this essay is a sketch of a chapter that will appear in the book. I am experimenting with these ideas here. Please e-mail me any questions that youy might have. I will gladly work these questions into this chapter.

I have already written articles for WindPlayer Magazine, issue #43 and the Instrumentalist on topics such as these. My approach in those writings were quite commercial in nature. Due to changes in the business and growth in my sense of music as an art, I will address ideas that are intended to support art music more than commercial gigging.

For those of you who simply want to get more gigs, don't fret. I am going to begin with that very subject. I will be a bit terse in my text on the particularly commercial, however. Nevertheless, there are ideas that cross-over rather nicely.

Just Getting Gigs:

As an instrumentalist, you will need a demo tape. That may not seem necessary. You might think that only vocalists and bands need demo tapes, but individual musicians can benefit from a demo as well. It is not necessary that it be a video. In fact, a video might be a bad idea. Most contractors are interested in how you sound, your reading, your knowledge of music and your ability to create aural excitement with your horn. They are not particularly interested in your looks or "steps". I suppose this is a good thing in the blatantly vain society that we live in.

I am not saying that you shouldn't consider a video. It might work. I haven't done this as an instrumentalist, so I can't comment on it. I have used videos as a music contractor. While they seemed necessary for that aspect of the business, I found that they created as many problems as they solved. For example, if I had a sub on the band for any reason, often the clients would bristle, particularly if it was the singer. That is an issue for a separate article, however.

It goes without saying that your demo should be a studio quality production, whether you do it in your own studio or buy time in a multi-track facility. Be sure to make it short and to the point. Much more than about 10 minutes will turn off a busy contractor. Figure that you have about 2 minutes to catch their attention. After that you're on borrowed time. Your tape should show off all of your abilities during that time! This is a tall order. Choose your arrangements wisely!

While your dubs will most likely be on cassette, you might want to consider DAT's or CD's. It is possible to get short run orders on CD's without spending a fortune. You will need to shop around to various studios, but more and more people have the equipment to do this. You should be able to pit a few houses against each other for your business.

Pictures are nice. If your demo kit has some nice promo shots, that can add to the image you are creating. Add them to your resume and credits list. Make sure they are good. Also, make sure you package is slick. If you don't have graphic arts talents of your own, go to a pro and have a package made up. While you won't need to go to as much trouble as a singer would, you do want your package to represent you well.

Now that you've got a fantastic tape that shows off your playing and a nice slick promotional package, you need a place to send it. For jobbing dates or casuals, you should try the business and consumer yellow pages. Look up "Bands and Orchestras." Make a list and send a demo with a short succint cover letter to as many of these band leaders as possible. Also, in the business yellow pages, you should be able to find jingle producers. You might be able to pick up a few sessions like this as well. Be sure not to appear that you are trying to take another musicians gig. These contractors may have strong loyalities and take offense at someone trying to hurt their friends. Rather take the position that you would like to help out as a sub sometime. Once you have played a few jobs with a leader he'll know your abilities. If the position opens up, you'll be first in line for the full time job.

You need to be subtle and smooth here. If you are too pushy, you'll put people off. If you are too self-effacing, you'll do the same. It simply takes experience to develop a feel for how to do this. It would also be adviseable to consider how you handle follow up calls. In the era of egregious telemarketing, most people bristle at unexpected phone calls from those who want something from them. Even though you would be making a follow up call to a demo tape, resume and promotional package, you'll need to bear this in mind. You'll need to be polite, friendly brief and too the point. I would NOT call someone you don't know by their first name! These people are intelligent and experienced. If you are too familiar when familiarity is not warrented, they will automatically put up a defensive barrier and you will be blocked. Think you're approach through carefully!

If you are a free lance jobber there are some skills you will need to have mastered thorougly if your marketing plan is going to stick. You'll need to memorize hundreds of tunes and you'll need to be able to play them in any key by ear. You'll also need to be able to sight read anything in any key. You'll need to be able to transpose by sight. You;ll also need to be able to play convincingly in any style. Does all of this sound like a tall order. It is, but your competitors are doing it, so you'll to as well.

By the way, it is a given that you will need to have complete mastery of your instrument of choice. The contractors who hire you will not accept any excuses whatsoever. Too many clams can cost them an account and too amny clams from you will cost you the gig. Stay on top of your game.

I am going to move on for now. If you would like some more specific advice, see the other publications that I am connected to. Suffice to say for now, I have used these ideas in the past. While they did work, I am attempting to briefly update them in this web essay. Now, on to unexplored territory!

Using Technology To Your Advantage:

This section is a work in progress! I am developing ideas on how to use technology to fight back. After all, it was technology that put many an acoustic musician in a precarious position. Perhaps there is a way in which we can use it to enhance the art of playing an acoustic instrument.

One thing that I did when I first began free-lancing was to get many books on marketing and sales. Many of my trumpeting peers thought that I was being silly to try such methods. I read books with titles such as "How to Sell Anything to Anybody", "Guerrilla Marketing", the Robert Ringer books and the Dale Carnegie books. At first I thought I was just off the wall. However, I doubled my income the first year. This stuff works. These are the ideas that I have laid out already.

Now I am doing the same thing to market my wares via the internet. My product is my music, a new CD, actually. I have outlined my tecnhique for making this one man CD in my other web site. Here I will begin discussing how I am marketing it.

I am only going to do a thumbnail sketch at first. As my technique develops, I'll share it with you, within reason. I have begun with building my websites and continuing their development. However, they're meaningless without readers! My starting point has been to study the internet carefully, make some mistakes and achieve some success - to learn. I have purchased a new book titled "Marketing on the Internet" by Michael Mathiesen published by Maximum Press. The relevant website is . I would recommend it highly. I am about a third of the way through it and feel that I have greatly improved my understanding of this beast called the World Wide Web.

The major point is, we musicians have something to share. We have to share it. It is what we do. We should, however, be able to earn a decent living doing it, support our families and plan our futures. The internet may very well provide a level playing field by which we can promote our art. I believe this. I hope that, as I learn more, that I can share my ideas with all of you. It is a world market, now. There is room for all of us to use our art to live with beauty and dignity.

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