Our diva knew that she could be impatient at times. She realized that she was just at the outset of developing her work in this new area of music. But, she wanted it to happen now! She wanted to be a known entity in the field. She wanted people to call her and want her work. It was difficult to reconcile her feelings about already having spent almost a decade pursuing this path, if you count when she chose to major in music in college. After that many years, she felt like she should be farther along than she was.
Perceiving this unsatisfied feeling within her, our diva started thinking about what makes up a singing career over the course of time. She broke it down into training, bridge, emerging professional, and recognized working professional. There could be a final category that would equal “superstar”; those would be the names that even casual music lovers would recognize. She felt like she was stuck somewhere in the bridge or emerging artist area.
The Day 26 challenge on your journey is make a plan to move from efficient to experienced to expert.
She thought back to her chance meeting with the cheerful manager. She knew that she wasn’t ready for management yet, so she had to think about how to build her credibility. This made her think about “what does it mean to sell yourself as a singer?” and “what does it look like to gain credibility in the music field?” She started making a list of what would help her move the needle:
- Establish professional credibility
- Tailor my work to different organization’s needs
- Take on competitors and win
- How can I actively put myself in a positively competitive environment?
- Understand presenter psychology
- Control the booking process through high-impact research and first impressions
- Perform with flair
- Gain audience, presenter, and collaborator commitment
- Gain entry into elite echelons
- Think: ensembles, organizations, houses, festivals, competitions
- Negotiate win-win agreements
Singing is a Professional Service
Before she could transcend into those upper echelons of performers, she needed to do some work. She needed to understand what organizations wanted and how she could reconcile that with what she wanted as an artist. While she was researching “expertise” she came across some work around selling “professional services.” She found that interesting and could start to sub in different vocabulary. So, “professional services” became “singing.” And, “buyers” became presenters and collaborators. It started to make a little more sense after that. Her research also brought her attention to David Maister and his “Three Es Model” to explain how buyers behave when they buy different types of professional services. It really helped elucidate what people that are hiring different levels of singers are looking for.
Three Es Model for Professional Services
- Problems: common, large, simple
- Required solution: I need a proven methodology
- Perceived differentiation: little
- Fees: low, price-driven
- Problems: not unique, can be large, can be complex
- Required solution: I need someone with a track record
- Perceived differentiation: some
- Fees: Competitor-driven, negotiable
- Problems: unique, large, complex
- Required solution: I need the expert
- Perceived differentiation: high
- Fees: High, value-driven, nonnegotiable
She started to pull these knots apart and look at them individually. She noticed that efficiency was really talking about professional services that have become a commodity. This is like getting into a professional chorister setting, she thought. The leadership needs someone who has a basic level of objective musical skills like sight-reading, rhythm accuracy, blending ability, etc. The fees are very basic or price-driven because the chorus doesn’t need the best singers in the world, they just need properly-trained singers. In a setting like this, there isn’t a lot of room for negotiating better fees because they can pretty easily find someone else to replace you at the price they want to pay.
Our diva noticed that experience seemed to be the subset where most singers get stuck. This is the area of singing that’s like the “general practitioner” versus the “brain surgeon.” The problems here are: “I need a talented singer for this production that knows the role, is believable on stage, has marketability, and is available for the fee we pay.” These are not incredibly unique, large, or complex problems. Therefore, these directors have a wide array of singers to choose from. They can shop around. In fact, they do. They hear auditions from singers from every corner of the country, if not the world. Then, they can pick the singer who seems to fit their needs the best.
Now, the expert column, that would be hallowed ground. When directors have a project that they think is unique, could be a potential big-win for them, and complex, they search for an expert. They are willing to pay the big fee. They need that particular singer for this project. The way that singers get from experience to expertise, is by differentiation. The singers in this category are excellent at uncovering, developing, and satisfying the needs of their presenting organizations. Our diva took a deep breath. “That power doesn’t just show up over night,” she thought.
Establishing credibility wouldn’t happen immediately no matter how impatient our diva could be. That gave her a little bit of a reprieve from the anxiety she was feeling. It also gave her a moment to start laying out a plan in her mind. She went back to her first list and started brainstorming metrics for each category. For taking on competitors, she thought first about the obvious competition route. She also thought about identifying other singers who were working in the same niche and geographic location as she was. How would she stack up against them? How could she highlight her differences from them?
Make a Plan to Up Your Game
For understanding presenter psychology, she thought about how she could gain greater access to decision makers and learn from them. Maybe she could volunteer or be an intern to get some more information or insight. Then, she knew that she needed to consistently work on her performance skills. She started making a plan for working on her acting, movement, and interpretive skills by researching and setting up sessions with an acting coach, an opera coach, and by signing up for some dance classes to practice carrying herself in a theatrical and movement-conscious way.
With her sights set on becoming an expert in the field, she knew that she would have to chip away at all of these core competencies to establish her credibility. Now, it was just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other, as they say.