“Do I need to print programs? Do I need to hire ushers? How am I going to pay these performers? Who is going to write a press release? I don’t even have time for making a media list!” Our diva’s mind was running on all cylinders per usual. She had consumed half a bottle of Prevacid and it had only been a week since her “episode” last Saturday. “Well, this feels unsustainable,” she snapped to herself. She could also sense a vast black hole where her wallet sat on the table. “Unsustainable in more ways than one,” she quipped.
She had been trying to work herself through a timeline for promoting her residency at Hail House. She had gotten the go-ahead from Nick that if they moved it to the last week of May, she could have to whole week and book it according to the pitch email she had sent back to him. Pitch email. Yep, she was learning. But, this timeline started with “six months before your event.” She laughed out loud when she read that. She wasn’t in the place in her career in which she was getting hired or booked six months in advance for more than two gigs per year. She was lucky that she had a couple of months to plan for this residency project. “Isn’t that how it always goes in music?” she asked.
The Day 12 challenge on your journey is to figure out how you react to failure.
Our diva quickly realized that she would have to condense this timeline and prioritize certain items. She had to ask herself two questions:
- What or how much do I really need to get this project off the ground? More specifically, what means do I have right now without any additional gains to make this project happen?
- What am I willing to risk to see this project become a reality?
Our diva was thinking about affordable loss. She looked back over her net present value spreadsheet on her laptop. To determine her net present value, she had predicted a very conservative estimate of demand for tickets, she imagined an overall cost (and then added to it by a third for good measure), and even created a field for her overheard — the work that she put into the project that she wouldn’t be regaining expenses for — she felt like her business student friends would be proud of her. Or, maybe they’d laugh at her for such a simplistic spreadsheet. She decided not to worry about that too much and moved on. After doing that net present value work, she pushed herself to flip the tables and put herself as the artist and producer, rather than the residency, at the center. Instead of trying to figure out how to fundraise the living daylights out of herself up until the opening night of the project, she thought about her concrete situation. She needed to ask herself what she could bear to affordably lose over the course of the next couple of months.
A pay-to-sing by any other name…
It made her sad to think about it this way. “I should be making money off of this, not spending money on this!” she growled at her computer screen. But, the more she thought about it the more she realized that she was investing in a new season of her career. “You don’t always make big financial gains when you start something,” she reminded herself. Part of her felt like she was back at the pay-to-sing stage of her life. That was not a bright, shiny, happy feeling. But, she decided to suck it up because she wanted to get better at it and the way to get better at things is by doing them. “Money by any other name is still money,” she tried to reason with herself. My money going out is money coming back in to me in other forms of value. She tried to make sure this was not the same trope as “do it for the exposure.” She was making a conscious decision about her means and potential risk.
To help cushion her budget for this project, she approached her parents and told them about her plans and asked if they would help her by bankrolling her project or by just loaning her the money she thought she needed. She thought she had explained her vision with passion. She talked with her hands. She felt her eyes lighting up. Somewhere in there she had dropped the number that she imagined would take care of her whole ideal budget. They were kind about it, at least, but they said, “well, sweetheart, we would love to help you do that, but we don’t have that kind of money to throw around. What if you weren’t able to pay us back? What if you don’t make any money on your project?” She realized that she had just bungled her first donor “ask.” Feeling their resistance, she tried back-pedaling. She asked them for a smaller amount but they were still so flabbergasted by the first ask that they couldn’t even hear her over their initial indignation.
Reluctance is the after-burn
She was hurt that they couldn’t see how important this was to her. Her thoughts returned to her grandmother. She would have helped her. She would have gotten it. Our diva didn’t realize that her parents desperately wanted to help her. They did want, with all their hearts, to feel involved with her project. Neither one, her parents nor our diva, figured out how they could best contribute to the project. Sadly, it was a missed opportunity. Even worse, it was definitely going to take some time to repair their relationship after this ask.
This first ask had made our diva even more reluctant to think about asking others for help. Sadly, she was living out that Mark Twain axiom, “We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it – and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove lid again – and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one.” She didn’t know which proverbial stove lids were hot and which ones were cold. To top it off, one of the performers with whom she had her heart set on collaborating had written back to her and said he couldn’t do it without a specific fee. She was a little crushed. He had always said, “yeah, let me know when we can work together. I’d love to work with you.” She wished that she had known there was an asterisk following that statement before she asked. Maybe she wouldn’t feel so dumb now. Before she could even get over that news, she saw another email from one of her volunteering friends that informed her she wasn’t available to take part in the project either. This project was starting to make our diva feel a bit lonely.
The ask that went sideways
‘The ask that went sideways’, now stood in her mind as a reason to fear reaching out to media and inviting local critics. “If I can’t even get my parents on board with this plan, why will anyone else care?” she wailed. Our diva was committing a critical error in false judgement. Her parents were on board with the plan. They just couldn’t help the way that she had assumed they would. She didn’t realize that there was a difference between figuring out how people wanted to help and assuming how people could help. Our diva was now hurtling through a list of perceived betrayals by total strangers. This was a negative thought spiral for the record books. Yet, it seems that so many people, just like our diva, experience them all the time.
Another little bing in her inbox brought her the news from Nick that he had to give away one of her days at Hail House to another band due to some logistics and “favors owed.” He hoped that she understood. She threw her hands up in the air. “This is maddening!” she thought.
You can only rely on yourself
“Well, I guess I’m gonna have to do it all by myself,” she concluded. “I don’t have to ask people for help. I’ll just figure it out.” Our diva had yet to truly understand the phrase, “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” She set out to creating her timeline:
Six months beforeTwo months before
- Finalize rep and participatory activities
- Make a media list
- Make an email list
Send press releases to quarterly publications
- Get contracts to collaborative team
- Get a serious contract with venue
- Plan meetings for rehearsals and teaching activities
- Who do I know with media contacts?
Three to five months beforeOne-two months before
- Send email blasts
Send press releases to radio and tv
- Create fb event, website calendar update, and social media info
- Make posters?
- Sell tickets online? (Look into this)
- Make media for social
- Invite critic(s)?
- Two to three weeks
- Update local event calendars
Send hand written invitationshmmmm, maybe?
- One week
- Post on social media
- Hand out postcards?
- Tech rehearsals
It was a messy list to be sure. But, she was just stream-of-consciousness writing it down. What had other people done when they were making projects like this? She knew that other people did stuff like this. How did they keep all the plates spinning? How could she do all of the marketing on her own and make sure that she was musically prepared for the residency and stay on top of all the organizing? She had a sudden urge to quit. Instead she took another Prevacid. While stalking her way to the kitchen, there was a small voice in her mind that reminded her, “just stick with it.”
29 Days to Diva: The Worksheets
Want some help completing your Day 12 challenge? 29 Days to Diva is all about tackling the big issues of our careers through micro-actions. What can you do today to move yourself closer to unlocking your artistic integrity or achieving your biggest goals and dreams? How do you handle failure? Can you prepare for some potential pitfalls? Here’s the outlines of a SWOT analysis that you can do to help you navigate any “sideways” moments in your project planning.
Hey divas! I could really use your help. If you liked today’s post or any of the 29 Days to Diva posts so far in this series, will you please share it on your favorite social media channels? It would really help me out. Thanks! You can find me @mezzoihnen or feel free to use the hashtag #29DTD or #29DaystoDiva.