I’m no expert on the matter but, after having playing over 200 shows in the last four years, there are a number of things I have learned:
1. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
My voice is a most precious and delicate instrument; it took nearly losing it to come to that realization. Investing in vocal lessons literally saved my voice. Now, before any show, I take the time to warm up and stretch my vocal muscles with the guidance of one of my mentors and industry go-to-girls, Cari Cole. I also learned to practice finger exercises that minimize the repetitive strain brought on by guitar playing for hours on end each day. Of course, exercising your whole body, keeping hydrated and taking time to rest are super important too!
2. MATCH YOUR VENUES WITH YOUR VALUES
In the beginning, I played just about anywhere I could get a gig. That said, as great as bars are for well paying cover gigs, they are not well suited for sharing intimate moments with the audience, which is very important to me. I now veer toward cafes, galleries, and private homes, venues that better facilitate one-on-one connections with my listeners.
3. CONNECT WITH COMMUNITY
Getting people to want to come out to your shows requires more than just putting up posters and having an online presence. Connecting one-on-one with people in a genuine and meaning full way is the most effective advertising in the world; it takes time and boundless energy but is priceless. Whether it is in person or online, it is important to build sustainable relationships and engage community. As a single mother of one, with a full time day job, in addition to managing a music career, I have found the use of social media tools like Twitter, Facebook and Reverbnation to be invaluable assets. They have allowed me to establish and cultivate relationships with a diverse range of people in both my local and global communities.
4. KNOW WHAT YOU’RE WORTH (AND ASK FOR IT)
As much as I love sharing music, and would continue to create it whether or not I was paid, I have come to realize that my time and skills are valuable and gear costs money! All of the peripheral things required to make my music accessible – rentals, gas, guitar strings, rehearsal time, business cards, posters, website costs, membership fees, etc. – really add up. I quickly learned that it was necessary and warranted to ask for payment. Be mindful of what you ask for, though; if you ask for change, you’ll most likely get just that. I always make a point, now, to ask for listeners’ gratitude in the form of attention AND dollar bills.
5. BEFORE YOU TOUR – DO YOUR RESEARCH
As an independent artist, touring can be a really expensive and overwhelming venture. I wish I had done more research and planning before hitting the road! I made sure to registered all my songs with SOCAN and submitted for all my live performances but I wish I had read these two articles first: How to make the best of a Canadian Tour & Booking Your Canadian Tour – Tips by Ann Vriend. Did you know that there’s even funding available for touring through FACTOR!? Like I said, do your research.
Honestly, of everything I’ve learned, success really isn’t about money, it’s about people. For me, taking things to the next level has always been more about achieving greater depth with my audience rather than higher ranks on the charts. Music has always been a way to centre myself, allowing me to become aware and fully grounded in the moment. It has been a way for me to communicate my experiences, build relationships, and engage like-minded individuals in my community. If I were to measure success by the quality of my relationships, well then, I think I’m one of the most successful people I know!