Reach Your Hand Up!
If you want help getting out of a hole, you must first reach your hand up.
Let me preface this whole thought (as with virtually everything I write)… pessimists and quitters need not read further. Being insecure, nervous, or shy is ok. We all have these feelings and can work through them. Pessimism, on the other hand, is a disease that infects everyone and everything. If you have it, please keep it to yourself.
In the last two days, I’ve had this conversation multiple times…a conversation that can be paraphrased as follows: “I’ve been playing the same shows for 3 years. I feel like I should be doing more, but I just don’t know how. I’m stuck, help!” This is much simpler to fix than most people make it out to be. Why? Fear. Fear that we are not good enough. Fear of the unknown. Fear of asking for help. Fear of actually succeeding and then having to take yet another step further in our careers.
Everyone gets “stuck”, though we may all have different moments in our careers when it happens. For some, we may be in a local band not knowing how to push further. For others, we may want to start touring Europe and not know how. Some people may simply be stuck at the starting gate, not knowing how to book your first gig. So, what’s the magical solution to propel us forward? Chances are you are getting in your own way. When we think we can’t… we can’t. Rather, we don’t even try.
Let’s look at a real example. Band A, has been successfully touring for 5 years. CD sales are modest, ticket sales are pretty good. Their drummer books most of their gigs. They want to start touring in the U.K. but are “not having any luck.” When I press them for why their luck is bad, they say it’s hard to find an agent to book them in Europe.
Here’s a rough synopsis of how this conversation usually unfolds:
- You book yourself here in the states, correct?: yes
- and you are looking for an agent to book you in Europe?: yes
- Is there a reason that you aren’t trying to book your own shows in Europe?: We don’t know how.
- Have you been getting turned down for shows over there?: No, we haven’t had an agent to make calls.
- So, you haven’t tried calling anywhere in Europe to schedule shows?: No.
- But, you are successful booking your own shows here in the states, right?: Yeah, that’s easy.
Hmmm. Can you feel the disconnect there? People who are fully capable and confident in one scenario can suddenly become insecure in another almost identical situation. We are told it’s hard or impossible, and we believe it. I’m here to tell you, it’s not any different. We simply must reach further than we have in the past.
Nearly all the people that I talk to who feel ‘stuck’ have fallen victim to this logic. Why has the person who plays open mics three times a week never been paid? Because they are afraid to book a show and ask for money. Why does a local band never leave Nashville? Because they never make a phone call to another city and ask. And, it’s not just about location. Why does the solo artist who has made $400 a show for the last four years not make anything more? Most likely because they have never asked for it.
Now, can you feel some of your pessimism setting in? Maybe someone has told you that “that’s not how it works” or “you can’t charge that much in this market.” Perhaps, you’ve even been told you have to assimilate to a certain sound to make it in this industry. This is all nonsense. That’s the propagation of negativity I mentioned earlier. Other people’s fears and insecurities.
Yes, as with anything, you will hear no. The best sales people know that sales is a numbers game. Depending on the product you are selling maybe 5% of people will say yes. Maybe more, maybe less. But, what are you selling here? You are selling music! You are selling entertainment, fun, and good feelings. Come on now, it’s not like you're selling insurance! (haha, I know… I’ve done both!)