Musicians: when should we send pitch emails for booking?

It’s a question I keep getting from musicians. Maybe it’s one that you, too, have been wondering about. It’s this: when should we contact presenters? Many musicians are of course, wondering if there’ll be a 2021-22 season. And if so, when to send pitches.

First, let’s get real: The economy is on life support. And we don’t know which concert presenters will still be operating next season. Even with a vaccine, there’s no telling when audiences will feel safe enough to once again gather in traditional concert halls. And who knows what kind of ticket prices audiences will be able to afford at that point.

So, for the foreseeable future, we’re imagining an extended shut down of concert halls, clubs, and festivals.

But remember, people need music now more than ever

And people need a sense of belonging and connection with others. They need to feel seen and heard. And especially now, we’re all looking for opportunities to make meaning in these crazy times.

The good news is that yes, you as a musician can create online experiences that help fill all these needs.

The thing is, this takes thinking about performances in a new way. To help you get going on this, here’s what I’ve been advising clients to do:

1. First, check in on the concert series where you’ve performed in the past

Find out what those presenters are up to. Check their websites and social media profiles to find out how they’re managing through all this. Find them on social media and wish them well. Be genuine: BE HUMAN.

Congratulate them on whatever pandemic project they’re up to these days to keep their sanity. (I’m seeing lots of people outdoing themselves with cooking and home repair projects.) On social, just re-connect and comment or congratulate. At this stage, Don’t pitch.

2. Find out who’s performing and what’s being offered

If you find that some of these presenters are streaming live concerts, see who’s performing and what kinds of concert formats they’re offering.

Are these interactive or educational performances aimed at families? Are these traditional performances but with online discussions and introductions? What seems to be getting the most views and comments—what’s working well?

In the Boston area I’ve been excited to see what local series and groups are doing: the Celebrity Series, Boston Chamber Music Society, Radius Ensemble, the Boston Early Music Festival, and many others have been offering online performances. Do some research to expand your thinking of what you might offer.

3. Create a distinctive interactive online concert event

Get inspired by what your colleagues are doing and design an event that would interest one or more of the presenters on your list. Just make sure that what you create is MORE than terrific repertoire performed really well.

Why isn’t that enough?

Because audiences don’t want to sit passively and watch an online performance. We’ve all got Zoom fatigue and the attention spans of goldfish.

The truth is, a traditional concert program is unlikely to grab and hold your online audience’s attention—no matter how well you perform. We all have too many distractions.

Design your own adventure

To sustain your audience’s interest and create a sense of community, think how you could introduce a movement or work that would get viewers to respond in the comments.

For example, a violinist client did a series of lunch time mini-concerts online this summer, performing a different movement of a Bach Partita each time. She’d introduce a movement by talking about the images it brought to her mind and her first experiences with the piece.

She then asked her audience to add in the comments what came came up for them as they listened. Of course, some people aren’t visualizers so the comments included a range of thought associations and memories as well as images. Getting to read what others experience adds to the value of being part of a live performance.

After she played, my client then read aloud and talked about what people had written, so they felt included and acknowledged. That’s how you can create a sense of connection and community through online performances.

Or, think how you might create a multi-dimensional experience for your online audience. Consider collaborations that might spark a deeper musical experience. If one or more work you perform has a literary or visual art connection, think how you’d bring this to life for your viewers.

4. Pitch appropriately to presenters

Once you’ve devised a program that’s truly interactive and distinctive, then make your list of presenters to pitch this to. Make sure you’re approaching presenters who are programming concerts online AND who book artists at your career stage.

As always, send compelling pitches. I’ve written here and here about how to do this in pre-pandemic times, and the same principles apply now.

If you want tips and examples—and I’d love to hear what’s working for you—let’s talk on FB live in the FREE MusiciansMakingIt FB group Tuesday at 12 noon ET.

And if you’d like to find out how getting expert coaching can help you bring more of your best work into the world, let’s talk.

Looking forward,

Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well

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