Image is everything …
Put your best foot forward …
You only have one chance to make a first impression …
Sayings like this have been swirling around the world for centuries. Do we pay attention to them? Do they apply to someone trying to make their mark in the music business? Are we ready at all times to leave a lasting impression? Good or bad, the way we carry and present ourselves will leave a mark.
As you consider the big picture, don’t overlook the importance of the details. Here is a quick list of pointers to consider before presenting yourself in a music business situation:
Always have a business card. This may seem stiff or official, but how else is someone going to contact you after they hear you play live or witness your musical magic? You have to be ready. Business cards that are unique are more memorable. Consider putting a picture of yourself on the card—people are 90% visual, this helps. Also, try setting the type on the card in a portrait layout as opposed to the typical landscape layout that most others use. Be sure to consider what title you are going to use on the card, don’t sell yourself short!
Clothing. Not a case of whether or not to wear it, but what to wear. Are you a songwriter trying to be a writing artist; what’s your style? Even if you are a songwriter trying to fade into the background and collect the money after the artists go on tour and sell the records, it is still important to know who you are, what you stand for, and to wear it on your sleeve (no pun intended). No need to jump out and hire a stylist on day one (or two for that matter). Just begin to be a student of your idols, the great artists and entertainers that managed to know their brand and market it to the world. A few names that come to mind are Dolly Parton, Elvis, and Lady Gaga; hit up your favorite online search engine and start researching.
Have multiple demo CDs on hand. The magic number for how many tunes to include is still up for debate. Somewhere between 1-3 songs is a safe bet. When making the CDs, put the killer song on first (if including multiple songs). You may only have their attention for thirty seconds; don’t lead with the ballad. When making the CDs, put your name and contact information on the CD, the case, and the envelope. This may seem like overkill, but it will help if the items get separated. Remember that really unique business card you designed in step one? If you slip a blank CD with the card in an unidentified envelope and it gets lost in the shuffle, how will that really excited publisher or producer contact you??
Social Media Expert? Even if your Twitter account doesn’t rival that of Kim Kardashian, or if your Facebook fan page doesn’t have over a million “likes” you should still have one and must have a presence in the social media world. Sites like ReverbNation help songwriters and artists integrate all their sites to “pull in and talk to each other” so this D.I.Y. generation can continue to march forward and make music! While we are on the topic of technology, have an e-mail account. In this day and age, this should go without saying, but still some people are afraid of technology. That’s fine if you are, but you have to realize there are plenty of people who aren’t and they are the ones with the drive, embracing technology and using it to advance their presence in the music industry.
Be open to learning. This last point touches on your attitude and readiness to soak in the knowledge around you. When you walk in for a meeting with a publisher, present yourself as a listener, someone ready to “learn-of-them.” A teachable spirit, one with grace, is always easier for people to respect and do business with. At a music networking event, don’t stroll around the room with an over-confident chip on your shoulder while name-dropping who you have worked with and who you know; people may begin to avoid you. Just be yourself—be confident yet humble. That is a gentle balancing act that is hard to learn.
The list of tips could go on. These five are a springboard, hopefully making you think about your presentation. Whether you like it or not, whether you are a songwriter or an artist—you have an image. Only you know what that image is, what it stands for, and how you want it to look. At NSAI, it all begins with a song; in your career, it all begins with how you present yourself.