Do you feel like your recital is all dressed up with nowhere to go? It is time for us to solve that. You have done all of this work to program a great recital and practice the bejeezus out of the music. Get thee out into the wide world and start performing! But, where? And, how can I tell people about it? Yes, yes, it seems we still have a few questions to answer. Day 10 is the sister challenge to Day 5 which means we will discuss how to take your recital to the people! Here we go…
“There aren’t many classical-music venues where the bouncer demands to see your state I.D. and, once inside, you have to comply with the two-drink minimum. In fact, there may be only one — Le Poisson Rouge, Manhattan’s downtown mecca for hip music-lovers. Whether your tastes run to Chopin, reggae, samba or punk, you’ll probably find something worthwhile here… As the epidemic suburbanization of the city shows no sign of slowing down, it’s exciting to encounter a place with such a quintessentially tough, independent New York spirit. Located at 158 Bleecker Street, Le Poisson Rouge offers seating for up to 250 in a sleek event space decorated primarily in black and deep lipstick red… It’s all refreshingly informal, without a whiff of concert-hall stuffiness — the perfect classical music destination for the NYU crowd. Performances are kept to a manageable, nightclub-scale length: a recent concert of Beethoven piano sonatas by H. J. Lim lasted a little under an hour, with a Q&A following. Best of all are the popular prices. As so much of the classical-music world continues to be utterly clueless about how to pull in audiences at affordable rates, Le Poisson Rouge may be the true way of the future for concert presentation in New York.” – F. Paul Driscoll, Brian Kellow
While I’m not proselytizing for the “all concerts should be held in nightclubs because that’s where the whippersnappers go” presenting philosophy, there are some great points in the quote above about while Le Poisson Rouge is such a hot-spot. Your venue does not have to be draped in black and oxblood or draw the NYU crowd to be hip, although some probably want you to believe that. Let’s focus on the parts: refreshingly informal, manageable length, and popular/affordable prices. When searching for your venue, look for a space that speaks to the type of program you will be performing. Further yet, concentrate on finding a venue that will make your audience feel included. Your recital is about interacting with people in an authentic, respectful, and musical way. Take, simply, the title of the book The Chairs Are Where the People Go and think about where you want your audience to go.
Art Museums and Galleries //
Public & Outdoor Art Spaces (tricky but doable) //
Academic Institution Concert Halls // Religious Institutions //
Opera House or Symphony small hall // Cafés or Cabarets // Theatres //
If your recital is taking on a thematic shape, there are unique locations that you could pursue. Or, consider planning one of these for a future recital to give yourself creative license. If you have a local independent theatre, consider accompanying a silent movie. By attaching the word “festival” to your concept, you can invite other musicians and create a full evening around your interests (i.e. Chanson Festival). Another way to include a large number of musicians would be to hold a marathon concert. Not that I know many singers who could physically do this, but you could always follow in the footsteps of Felix Hell who performed a four-day, 10-concert marathon of the complete organ works of Bach. Maybe you have a cause that you want to support through a fundraising concert? Or, you want to do a set at a coffeehouse or café? Even if you feel your only venue is the church down the street, you could tailor your program to be a “service of worship.”¹
I know that for many this can and should be its own post. But, let’s get some basics down for today’s challenge. Here are ten tips for reaching out to the public to create buzz:
- Keep the Concept Simple but Memorable – Your whole point is to get potential audience members to show up to your recital. Whatever tools you use for spreading the word, make sure that you have a clear, consistent message: “you are invited.”
- Your Product Will Be Desirable if it is also Perceived as Valuable – You are a high-quality musician and you are performing high quality music. You may need to communicate to those unfamiliar with your art that it is valuable. Luxury companies are always signaling the value of their products. You can do the same.
- Passion Sells – The easiest thing to sell is something that you are passionate about. When someone asks you, “What’s up? What’s new?” That is your moment to respond with, “wow, I am working on this fantastic project. I am so excited about it and I’ll tell you why…” In most cases, you do not have to beg people to come if you can win them over with your excitement and passion.
- Persistence – If you hear crickets chirping, do not give up. Continue inviting people with your excitement and communicating the value of your endeavor.
- Ask Questions – Ask others about what excites them. The more you know about their interests, the better. You will find an angle to bring them to your recital or you will realize that you are knocking on the wrong door.
- Do Not Be Afraid to Change – True story: I tried to schedule an event in Federal Hill on a Sunday afternoon… during football season. Yeah, bad idea. Not a soul was going to venture to my neighborhood for a recital while the Ravens were playing. I had to change things up and you can change things too if the details are not coming together.
- Build Relationships – Perhaps this should have been first or last in the list because this is the most important part of marketing music. You have to find your tribe. You must encourage your tribe to attend your event AND bring their friends. Your tribe is not made up solely of musicians. Like Akeela and the Bee, “You have 50,000 coaches” which is to say, you have so many relationships that want to see you succeed. “You will build a body of work, but you will also build a body of affection.”²
- Use Your Networks – Your Social Media Networks – Your social media networks are the most immediate way to connect with your tribe. Remember, just posting your event is the same as walking into a town square and shouting the information over a busy marketplace. You have to build relationships in social media just like you would in real-time.
- Sell the Sizzle, Not the Steak – I love this phrase. But, how does it apply to promoting a recital? It means to sell the story. Appeal to your potential audiences feelings. Do they need an escape from everyday life? You can provide that. Do not underestimate how strongly people seek beauty in the world. Your recital is a space in which they can confront their inner feelings and desires without even realizing it. Invite them to that space.
- Advertising Materials – Hmmmm, I guess I almost left this one out? Once you have taken the first nine points and crafted your pitch, you can start applying it to all mediums. Write your press releases to send to local arts calendars, blog posts, social media posts, and more. Create some eye-catching designs for posters that clearly provides all necessary information about your recital. Add a handy QR code to drive people to your website, if you like. Try brainstorming five potential story ideas that your community would be interested in and pitch these to community newsletters, local papers, radio spots, or other outlets.
You are ready to present your recital to the world. Make sure you get some people there by building relationships and communicating the value of these events to your potential audience. With all of this being said, take a deep breath, do not worry so much about the how as the why. The world is wide. The world is often dark and grim. You have this wonderful ability to brighten people’s dispositions for just a moment. Do not waste that gift, divas.