“If there is no problem, then there should be no problem writing it down,” writes Cash Edwards, agent and owner of Under The Hat Productions. In the corporate world, you sign the contract once and you get to work at the same place and collect a paycheck from the same employer day in and day out. In a freelance life a contract is extremely important because you work for so many employers, your job location is always changing, and the paycheck comes in all various forms and methods. A contract is a simple document that helps you ask the right questions. You’re coming to terms with each employer to make sure that all expectations are on the table and each party ends the day in a good mood. In a perfect world, your contract would never have to see the light of day after being written because both parties strictly follow all items. We live in an imperfect world and a contract saves you from getting screwed, so to speak.
Your Day 23 challenge is to Have a Written Agreement.
You do not need a lawyer on retainer to start using contracts in your singing business. A contract can be a very simple document to which both the performer and the presenter/venue agree. It clearly states the who, what, when, where, and how much of the situation. Working with your friends is such a pervasive part of the music business across all genres. Avoid the heartache of a friendship gone sour by writing down your terms.
Write it Out!
Letters of Agreement: Intent or Confirmation
You have probably written numerous letters (or emails sometimes) of agreement to date. When you communicate with a presenter, host, or venue and you both agree to hold a date on your calendars for a performance, you have completed a letter of intent. When you include, “[name] intends to” in your letter it is showing commitment from both parties to make that date work. Then, you should also include what else is needed to confirm that date. Don’t drown in legalese! The letter of agreement can be as detailed as you like but you really want to make sure you include: your professional name, what exactly you will be doing, the presenting organization, details about the event, and space for both of you to sign. If you are unsure about the specific details, make sure you have: date, time, venue, length of performance, tickets, fees, and any makeup dates you expect. You can also use these types of letters in place of formal contracts with those who are new to presenting or even in your private lesson studio if your families get freaked out by contracts. As you get more experience, you will learn what else you need in every agreement.
For all of these documents, include a contact information sheet. How can they get a hold of you and how can you get a hold of them – especially on performance day when something inevitably goes sideways.
Even as an emerging professional it is just as important to have a written document outlining your needs as it would be for the leading divas at the Met. You may not be in a position to ask for the same amenities that reigning stars that are given to them. As you’re getting started, think of your contracts as “ducks in a row” documents. Everybody knows where to look when there is a question because you all have a copy of the contract.
Practice creating a few simple contract forms that you can use if a contract isn’t provided to you. When you earn a role with a professional company or get a gig at an established venue, they will have their own contracts for your to sign. Read all of your contracts carefully. Okay, one more time, READ ALL OF YOUR CONTRACTS CAREFULLY! If you are working with small organizations, festivals, art galleries, museums, bars, restaurants, or other non-traditional performance spaces it is advisable to at least present your contract first.
Double check for things like cancellation clauses for both the artist and the presenter. Write these down in your calendar just so you know and can follow-up, if need be. Review all listed rehearsal, performance, and makeup dates before signing the contract.
It’s funny how important these things are when you’re in the middle of a crisis and yet how little we think about them when we say “yes” to the opportunity. I know we’ve all been there.
Tech & Hospitality Riders
To ensure that you have all the equipment to do your job effectively, you may want to have a stock tech rider. Your contract details all of the negotiations about the gig. Your tech rider will outline all the necessary gear for the staff working in the venue. Feel free to contact your venue in advance to make sure they have your tech rider and that they don’t have any questions about it. Classical musicians playing acoustically are the technical staff’s best friends. That’s not to say that they won’t like you if you’re playing with electronics and have video projections. You just better have a tech rider.
Hospitality riders outline your/your ensemble’s dietary restrictions, lodging, and transportation necessities. Don’t be pompous. You’ll know when you can start requesting specific M&M colors. Short answer: not now. You may request about things like water and parking and more depending on your true needs.
Writing all of your information, negotiated details, and needs down is the way to decrease your number of headache days per month. Always follow-up on your letter of agreement, contract, and riders with enough time to take care of any final concerns. You don’t want to follow-up the day before the performance only to realize that the presenter can’t help. I know we’ve all got a few horror stories from times when contracts would have been really useful. Do you have any tales of times when a contract saved your butt? Let’s have an airing of thoughts in the comments below.
Until tomorrow, divas! In the meantime, find me on the twitterz at @mezzoihnen.
If you show initiative and positively labor toward your goal, you can turn the funding stumbling block into a stepping stone. Just showing up and doing the work can help your singing business become more fiscally sustainable. Money very rarely comes in deluge form in the classical world. However, since following 28 Days to Diva you have become a financial watchdog, dealt with your debt, found a side gig, and even created budgets for your projects. You have put your financial house in order. Now, you must grow your business by bringing in more money with alternative revenue sources. Increased funding is important because it ensures that you can keep on doing what you love.
Your Day 22 challenge is to Increase Your Music Funds
Your singing business starts out small. You are doing all the parts: singing, planning, accounting, marketing, development, etc. When you are a company of one it is daunting to grow your business. How can you keep all the plates spinning at once? The sheer amount of work you need to accomplish in a day can detract from looking for ways to ease the financial burden. More funding can help take some of the work off of your shoulders because you are able to start outsourcing to more qualified people. Need someone who can take care of your taxes? Making more money helps you pay that person who can help you get better tax returns. Where do you go wrong?
Grants are not what they used to be and crowdfunding isn’t the panacea that some musicians believe it is. Before you get too depressed, take some time today and problem-solve, “where does the money come from?” and “what can I do as an individual to get more funding?” You probably know many resources in your local area that can help. You cannot hesitate to contact those gatekeepers and find out more about the existing resources for artists in your community. It is their mission to help artists, presenters, patrons, and other organizations but it isn’t possible for them to go door-to-door asking if you are an artist and need their help. If you do not know the support system in your area very well, ask around.
Seek New Sources
First, find your state/regional arts council website. You can often apply to their touring program simply via the web. Artists that have the support of a regional arts organization are particularly appealing to presenters because they have already been vetted by professionals in the field. State it prominently in your materials if you are part of a Touring Artist Program. Back to their websites, browse around and see what other resources they offer individual artists. Request information and applications. Sign up for their eblast! That’s certainly not going to hurt you. Write down the deadlines for their program apps. If you missed the deadlines for this year, call them up and ask them to suggest other organizations in your area you should know about as an artist.
A few thoughts on grants: applying for grants is a long-term process with specific rules. When you want to pursue a grant, be completely sure that you are eligible and the perfect candidate for that funding. If not, you’re wasting valuable time and energy. As soon as you are the model grantee, pay close attention to the deadlines and the content of your proposal. Are you submitting a complete application? Do you proofread the abstract, proposal, budget, etc within an inch of its life? Only then do you want to go for it.
There is an abundance of writing on the web about running a successful crowdfunding campaign as an individual artist or ensemble. I won’t need to write more about it here except to suggest that you go back to Kevin Clark’s series on Kickstarter once you need a refresher. You should also check out what New Music USA has done to reconfigure five of their past grant programs to launch their new project grants.
One area of funding that emerging classical musicians do not often consider is sponsorship. You can benefit from sponsorships when you are able to think creatively and devote time to connecting with those who have the funds.
Sponsorships are a resource of funding tapped heavily in the pop, county and jazz music genres as well as dance and theatre. Major concert-presenting organizations, radio stations and public radio and television use the sponsorship method of subsidizing programs as a backbone of their fund-raising activity. Sponsorships, in many cases, provide a survival net for organizations unable to solicit advertising. Major corporations find sponsoring a major event or prominent sports or music personality invaluable. – Jeri Goldstein, How to Be Your Own Booking Agent
Okay, okay, so I highly doubt that individual divas are getting major corporate sponsors. I added that as inspiration for considering who might find advertising to your audience invaluable. Consider approaching smaller, hometown companies with whom you have a direct relationship. Figure out how you could establish yourself as a key spokesperson for their company and prepare a proposal. Use your credible press mentions and hard data about attendance to strengthen your position. Work with your contact to find out who handles the advertising/PR because that is the person who makes sponsorship decisions. If asking for a financial sponsorship freaks you out, ponder a direct trade of advertising for a specific event.
Expanding your singing business and performing career means targeting more funding. Examining all possible angles for funding can only help you. The time you spend carefully crafting your materials for grants, other funding applications, crowdfunding platforms, and sponsorship proposals is part of the administrative time you need to devote to your business. This is only a start to the information about arts funding. If you have more specific questions, I would love to hear them! Ask away in the comments below and I can answer or point you to more resources. Don’t hesitate to also find me on Twitter at @mezzoihnen.
As Jon Stewart and the rest of the team at ‘The Daily Show’ will attest, it takes an incredible amount of skill to cover the everyday with humor. Opera does not always conjure images of knee-slapping laughter – even with the recent flood of Così fan tutte performances. The singers from Arlington-based UrbanArias with composer Tom Cipullo and conductor Robert Wood taking turns at the piano, however, had the INTERSECTIONS Festival audience in stitches throughout the night.
Performing two sets of Cipullo’s songs and alternating with their own Opera Improv, the evening had a swift pace that never let the audience disengage. It was a pleasure to see the Cipullo sets performed from memory which allowed the artists to be much more open and engaged. The audience warmed up to the humor over the first set, “Some Things That Drive Us Crazy.” Beginning with some knowing giggles during Love II: Snoring Quartet featuring Melissa Wimbish (soprano), Alizon Reggioli (soprano), Joshua Baumgardner (tenor), and Andrew Adelsberger (bass-baritone) the merriment grew during Reggioli’s hilarious ode to a ‘fluid Italian suede’ handbag in Love III: The Pocketbook. Finally, Adelsberger brought the belly laughs in his performance of Neighbors: Another Reason I Don’t Keep a Gun in the House. Adelsberger’s contempt for the neighbor’s dog gradually increased over the quotes from Beethoven’s 9th in the piano – played with nuance by Cipullo – leading to his comical interpretation of the dog’s imaginary solo in the symphony. The second half of the program entitled “Time passing” offered a sentimental balance to the humor of the first. During “The Garden”, Reggioli caught me by surprise with an emotionally raw moment in which she delicately covered her mouth and shook her head ever so slightly that made the text about an imagined meeting with the poet’s mother come alive.
The mix of established song repertoire and opera improv was a good choice for this 9:30PM performance at the Atlas Performing Arts Center. Opera improv is a perfect bridge between pop culture and high culture. It’s an interactive element that allows audiences to choose their own opera adventure. As audience members shouted out suggestions like Obama, Wonder Woman, on the beach, ‘it’s not a tumor’, and ‘getting cold feet’ they were more invested in seeing their story lines played out by the unflappable singers. Big kudos to the singers for really making the improv rules work for them. They made excellent work of saying “yes”, avoiding scene killers, and telling a story with significant musical help from Robert Wood at the piano. UrbanArias has a great thing going with opera improv and would benefit from offering it regularly.
There is one more opportunity to see this fun show on Sunday, March 2, 2014 at 5:30 p.m. Don’t miss it!
A budget is a moral document because it outlines our values. How we spend our money shows us at our best and at our worst. I could swear up and down that I believe artists should be paid for their work. If I make a project budget that suggests otherwise, would you still want to work with me? Probably not. Musicians shouldn’t be exploited — especially by other musicians. That is not a change in the model. Before you get your panties in a twist, not every creative experience is a cash transaction. I understand that and so does every other classical musician in the field. If you are making money off of an artist’s labor and expertise, however, you better be able to show her where the money is going.
Your Day 21 challenge is to Create a Budget in Advance.
Making a budget is a true “put your money where you mouth is” exercise. A budget is not a marketing tool. Your budget is straightforward data. This is your internal commitment to what you value most about your work and the specific value given to each line item. Creatives often avoid budgeting because they just want the project/tour/marketing to happen. What they don’t often realize is that the work they put into a budget may help them be more time and cost efficient overall. What’s more costly than the bottom line of your budget? Not having a budget.
Furthermore, the absence of a budget sets up many “We’ll just…” scenarios. You know what I mean. “We’ll just… get some singers together and have them create a fundraising cabaret.” Or, “We’ll just… find a non-traditional space.” Or there’s, “We’ll just… get some costumes and paint some sets.” Yeah, who’s going to do all that? How valuable is their time? What if you need a deposit or have to rent something specific? Without figuring out the financial details beforehand, you will be left to scramble for money to pay for all of those “We’ll just…” items. A detailed budget will bring those issues to the surface before the last-minute. For example, your budget brainstorm suggests that you’ll need stand lights for the performance. The advanced notice gives you time to work out an “in-kind” donation from another group before you have to rush out during the dress rehearsal and buy them.
Take your recital from last year or perhaps you have an event that’s been percolating on the back burner for a while and you aren’t sure how to get the boil rolling. A budget could be the document you need to specify the details. A big step in reaching your number is creating a budget for each project you do. If the bottom line of the budget does not make the right impact on your overall situation, you will be able to devise the steps necessary to fix it. Making a budget for a tour, a recital, or a marketing project will all have slightly different elements but a similar basic structure. Money coming in versus money going out, right?
Are you self-promoting and producing your event? The following budget outlines some basics. In this case, you’re breaking even and paying each musician $100. Want to make a higher fee? Who wouldn’t? Decide which income factors you can change. Do you think you can still pull 30 guests if you raise the ticket price to $20? Then, you have raised your total income from $750 to $900.
Self-produced event budget:
- Merchandise Sales: $50
- Ticket Sales (30 guests at $15): $450
- Advertising Revenue: $250
- Total Income: $750
- Performers (2 total at $100 rate): $200
- Printing Programs, Posters, and Cards: $50-$70
- Venue: $300-400
- Piano Tuner: $100
- Wine: $80
- Total Expenses: $750
- NET INCOME: $0.00
- In Kind
- Social media guru/ticket taker
- Snack for reception
- Choir X and Orchestra X advertising
If you are trying to manage the touring of your own project, this budget may help you get the specifics down.
- Performer Fees
- Rental Vehicle
- Owned Vehicle (56.5 cents/mile)
- Air Fare
- Parking Expenses
- Gas and Tolls
- Contracted Personnel
- Equipment Rentals
- Stage props, set, decorations
- Advertising and Promotion
- Social Media
- TOTAL ANTICIPATED TOUR EXPENSES:
- Performance Guarantees
- Estimated Average Percentage of Split
- TOTAL ANTICIPATED TOUR INCOME:
Your budget is a helpful document – not something to fear or avoid.
“Rocket science it’s not. And yet just 32 percent of Americans prepare a detailed household budget, according to a 2013 Gallup survey. Why so few? For one thing, budgets are a bummer. Strict spending restrictions cause you to think constantly about what you can’t buy,” writes Ashley Tate for Real Simple. Which is to say, Americans hate to budget. They also don’t like being reminded of what they can’t buy. Budgets for musicians, however, are documents that outline what you can buy and how much you can compensate your colleagues. When you begin to feel burn-out or that nagging suspicion that your singing business is unsustainable, get your budgets in gear.
Have a surprising story about budgeting for your singing activities? Tell me about it in the comments below. Have any resources that have saved your fiscal hide? Please share with the crew. As always, I’d love to catch up with you on Twitter. You can holler at me at @mezzoihnen.
When you avoid what you fear, your anxieties will worsen over time. Imagine you develop an irrational fear of tall bridges. You do not have to commute regularly over these types of bridges, but you do have to traverse them occasionally. You somehow do it each time. But, that pit in your stomach grows at the thought of spending time crossing it. Yes, accidents happen on bridges. For example, “The [Chesapeake] Bay Bridge has handled hundreds of millions of vehicles over 61 years — 28 million between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012 alone — and during that time, just two accidents have caused vehicles to go over the side.”¹ Now, I understand that the negative outcomes of our singing fears are entirely different from my, err, I mean ‘other people’s’, bridge-crossing fears. The avoidance of what we fear, however, is exactly the same. Human beings fear rejection. We will actively avoid situations in which we feel the potential to be rejected. Not singers, though. No, no, true divas pursue those opportunities. They understand they will hear “no” more often than “yes.” But, it’s that dogged persistence in the face of rejection that makes the “yes” so much sweeter.
Your Day 20 challenge is to Wobble and Be Brave!
Sometimes we are so afraid of criticism and rejection that we don’t perform at our best. When we keep our creativity under-wraps and succumb to nerves or anxiety, we give up our ability to add to the world. We become a black hole rather than a wellspring. Auditions, performances, even social situations are opportunities for us to put ourselves out there. When we have rejection experiences, we group those memories in a place throbbing with the constant “I told you that you’re not good enough” refrain. It is to our advantage to re-frame our thinking so that so-called rejection can become a positive lesson. Rather than plunging into that desolation zone, you can look for the value in each situation and gather feedback to impart on your next performance. Having a personal agenda beyond simply getting the gig, can be a really useful tool for finding each opportunity’s value.
I really love this advice from Carol Kirkpatrick published on her website Aria Ready. If you haven’t read her book yet, I highly recommend it.
It is not unusual, no matter how well you feel you performed, not to get picked if you are auditioning in your first round of professional auditions. The first season of auditions are generally more about you introducing yourself to the professional world of opera. If you are an unknown commodity you need to let those hiring get to know you and your talent. The performing community is a small one and word travels, so be at your best on all fronts. Until you get your foot on the first rung of that proverbial professional opera latter, continue getting all the experience you can and don’t be afraid to audition for the same people again next year. Often times they are interested in knowing what’s new on your résumé, how has your voice grown and also what your “rejection” level is. Did last’s years “no’s” make you quit or did it make you even more committed?
I Want to See You Be Brave
First things first: stop avoiding your fear of rejection. If you are willing to act, you can practice getting over your fears. There is a sneaky self-preservation tactic singers employ when they do not pursue opportunities. Perhaps you are not as talented as you have believed for so long. If you don’t test those assumptions, you will never have to face rejection. It is flawed thinking to say the least; but, people do it all the time. Please don’t misunderstand me. If you do not get the gig from the audition that does not confirm your inability. I mean that you cannot have an actual singing business if you do not do any singing business. Take that audition, diva!
Stay Hungry – Stay Foolish
Appearing foolish isn’t as life-threatening as people make it out to be. Taking healthy risks may feel uncomfortable but it isn’t a mortal threat. There’s a reason why they’re called “growing pains.” A painful or negative stimulation may cause you to act more swiftly to change the status quo. Don’t let the fleeting pain of feeling foolish make you feel like you cannot pursue your passion.
Recall a time when you felt foolish or rejected in a singing experience. What did you do to address those insecurities for the next time? If you answered “nothing” or you have avoided any similar experiences, take a moment to brainstorm ways that you could become more confident in those areas.
Think about the type of cleaning and housework you do before you have a guest over for the weekend. Why do we do it? Because we want our guests to be comfortable and not judge us for living in squalor. When you go out on the limb for more opportunities, you will work your patootie off to make sure that you are ready. Remember that quote about phone calls yesterday? “The more phone calls you make, the less emotional freight each individual call carries.” The more auditions you take (responsibly, of course), the more experience will teach you to re-frame your feelings on rejection.
Remember that you are in control of how you feel. Only you. If you let fears of rejection take over your mind and actions, you will burnout in a hurry. You are able to create a personal agenda for each opportunity which allows for other value rather than just “getting the gig.” If and when rejection happens (’cause it does happen) give yourself time to wallow and feel all.the.feelings. When you are ready to move on, plan some time to do a postmortem review and that’s when you figure out how you can improve for the next go-round.
Divas, what is the most important feedback you have ever gotten from an audition that didn’t go your way? That is such valuable information. I would love to know how you bounced back and came out swinging again. Please tell me your story in the comments below. No rejection there! Or, find me in the twitterverse at @mezzoihnen using hashtag #28DaystoDiva.
Inventor Thomas A. Edison wrote, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” The diva life is one that looks graceful, easy, and fun on the outside but looks like a lot of work when up close. 28 Days to Diva is all about getting to work and making your own opportunities. Any singer can fly by the train of her gown for a while, but a diva needs planning, organization, and systematic follow-up to ensure she is getting the gigs that will propel her career. Every phone call you make and every email you write can lead to your next gig. Including booking sessions in your daily administrative work will increase your bookings exponentially.
Your Day 19 challenge is to Intensify Your Booking Mojo
We want the momentum from these booking sessions to act like compounding interest. You will use these scripts to familiar and new presenters to build name recognition and establish yourself in the local/regional performance scene. That buzz will help you get gigs on top of other gigs. You are aiming for various opportunities during these booking sessions which include both auditions and performances. Remember, the entire business idea in singing is to get better gigs and make your number without going crazy.
Build Your Gig-Getting Systems
Venue Information Form
Do you know all of the possible performance venues in your area? Start filing your venue information forms away for performance spaces in your immediate area first. Then, branch out and keep adding forms for regional locations. Traveling for an upcoming gig? Add some venue forms to your folder for that area. If you are able to think outside the box, there is no limit to the potential performance spaces available to you.
Answer these prompts, borrowed from Be Your Own Booking Agent, to complete the venue information form:
State ________ Venue Name ______________ Time Zone ___
Address _______________ City, State, Zip _______________
Booking Contact ____________________
Phone ___________ Email __________________________
Best Time to Contact ________________________________
Performance Types _________________________________
Performance Frequency ______________________________
General Performance Season __________________________
Booking Time Frame ________________________________
Recent Acts Presented ______________________________
Venue Capacity ___________________________________
Sound and Light Systems ____________________________
Ticket Pricing Policy _______________________________
General Working Budget ____________________________
Call Date _____________ Follow-up? _________________
Most of this information is easily accessed on websites these days. You will need to call, however, if you cannot find the specific information on their site. Most singers do not have the luxury of being afraid to talk on the phone. At some point, you just need to get over it and start dialing. If you do still have a nagging insecurity about phone calls, I have a couple of tips for you. First, use your superior acting skills to create a “booking persona” you use when you call. A second option: outsource the cold-calling of venues for information. Maybe you have a family member that is a charming phone-talker and would like to help you out in their free time. Perhaps you’re one of those lucky singers with a bit of disposable income to spend on an assistant with Fancy Hands or a similar company — if you’ve ever thought, “I need a personal assistant!” This is it.
When you are the one calling, practice positive, open-ended questions. You want to avoid all instances for them to say “no” all while getting as much information as possible. Instead of “do you present concerts?” you could try, “what types of performances do you present in your space?” That question is more likely to elicit a longer, more informative answer. Try to reach the specific person who has the ability to book you and not too high-up that you’re bothering the Executive Director with an information-gathering phone call. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the box office staff will only have so much valuable information for you and probably has little influence on which acts get booked.
Whether one makes a living at this depends only on the number of hours per week one devotes to making phone calls… the more phone calls you make, the less emotional freight each individual phone call carries. At some point, when speaking to the presenter, you begin to realize and take responsibility for the fact, that it really is your responsibility and not theirs whether you make a living. At that point you are free to treat the presenter with some compassion, and at that point folks will stop dreading your phone calls. - Bob Franke; songwriter, performer
Stretch your fingers because writing venue scripts is something that you’ll need to do on your own. Who knows your project/recital/voice better than you? Schedule some time during your “office hours” or admin sessions to compose multiple scripts to be used for various performance opportunities. Anticipate the scripts you will need: auditions, festivals, performing arts centers, bars, coffee shops, art museums, house concerts, etc. You will want your scripts to be appropriate for both phone calls and emails.
Script for New Venue – Cold Calling
Your script for a new venue is going to dovetail with the information-gathering activity described above. Figure out whether the presenter likes to be contacted via email or telephone. Then, once you have gathered the information necessary you can begin to express your interest in performing there. This first call is not the time for negotiating with new venues or familiar presenters. Your goal in the first call is to decide whether or not the venue is right for you and to be able to send them your materials. Once you have the information for your form, you will be able to better negotiate your fee later.
You should absolutely cover the time frame in which you will be able to present your project or performance in their area. Then, ask the promoter what materials would be helpful to them. Offer to send your digital press kit for the project. Your enthusiasm is contagious. Let your personality and professionalism shine through your communication.
Communicating with Familiar Presenters
Once you have had a successful performance with a venue which demonstrated your ability to draw a sizable audience, you are in a better position to offer them a future event. Develop a script that you can use as the outline of your conversations with familiar presenters. This script is a foundation to explore possible performance opportunities. Does the venue also have a festival? Suggest another performance that coordinates with their programming.
Keep solid stats about your performances – number of tickets sold, total revenue, even bar sales if you think it will help seal the deal. Refer to those stats in your communication. Know your goals before you initiate conversation. Do you want them to book you for a performance? Want to schedule an audition for a conductor? Focus the conversation on the desired outcome.
Doesn’t it just make more sense to be in charge of your career rather than feeling like it is all up to chance somehow? It is really your responsibility to make a living at this career. No one is coming to save your career and make you a superstar overnight. Every phone call you make and every email you write can lead to your next gig. When you are an emerging singer you need to spend more time reaching out. The secret is: ask the people who can make it happen.
Oh boy, divas, I want to hear your stories about how you made your own opportunities! Pretty please tell me about it in the comments below. Those stories are so full of inspiration and motivation. Did you find this post to be inspiring or motivating? I sure would appreciate it if you would share Day 19 via your favorite social media channels. If you tweet, feel free to add @mezzoihnen or hashtag #28DaystoDiva so we can follow along!
“Reverse engineering is the process of discovering the technological principles of a device, object, or system through analysis of its structure, function, and operation.”¹ Reverse engineering is most useful when trying to figure out missing knowledge, ideas, or design. Have you ever felt like there was a “secret” to auditioning that you just didn’t know about? There aren’t any secrets. It is most likely true that you have missing knowledge or a blind spot in your auditioning skills. Think about your grandfather who loved to take gadgets apart to see their inner-workings. He never assumed he understood how it worked or how it was designed until he dissected the parts and put them back together. That’s what we can do with auditions.
Your Day 18 challenge is to Reverse Engineer Your Upcoming Audition
I hate to bring it up; but, think about those American Idol auditions that crash and burn. There is some serious missing knowledge there. Perhaps it is a missing sense of self-awareness . Although, sometimes the hopeful singer’s blind spot is under-preparation or nerves. I bet that you can spot a successful audition, on that show, when she walks in the door. Why? Because you know the elements of a good audition. That’s what reverse engineering the audition is all about. You must figure out your specific desired outcome and work backwards to achieve it.
Reverse Engineering Tools
Read the Room
A memorable audition is one in which the singer connects with the entire room. To go back to our TV show example, watch one of those stellar auditions and identify how the singer connects with each individual. When you see a singer that lights up a room, reverse engineer what it is that draws you to them. Is it their genuine smile? Is it their confidence and ease? Now, apply that to your upcoming audition. Will you be open and charismatic or forced and disconnected?
Identify some techniques that will help you be present and relatable in front of the audition panel. Engage the adjudicators, pianist, and don’t forget about the video camera if there is one in the room. That is another set of eyes that you shouldn’t shun. Imagine watching the playback later. A singer that jumps off the screen and stands out in the room has the advantage.
Prepare for the Audition You Have
If an audition is like a job interview, use traditional interview prep to help you prepare for the audition. It is true that you should sing the repertoire that you sing best. However, you have done enough research to know what the audition panel needs. Reverse engineer the audition: know your specific desired outcome. If they are auditioning for Violetta, you better damn well show them that you are a Violetta.
More than that, show them (and yourself) that you are capable, responsible, and ready for this gig.
Know where your audition is, what time, the audition panel’s names (if possible), and how to pronounce them.
While I mention it, practice the correct pronunciation of your aria titles, operas, and composer names.
Know the style of the audition and dress appropriately.
Plan for delays. There will always be delays. You will be late because of traffic. They will be late because of traffic. An audition rarely goes as scheduled. Plan ahead on both sides of your audition time.
Watch your body language – ooze charisma. Smile, don’t fidget, and breathe.
Do your research on the company, school, or program. What kinds of voices have they accepted in the past? What are they looking for now? When you do your research the audition will not feel like a surprise.
Keep spare copies of your materials with you – headshot, resume, bio, repertoire list, etc.
Before you audition think, “what could they possibly ask me?” and be prepared to speak with expertise and excellent delivery.
Read the adjudicators’ body language to determine whether or not you should approach the table, shake hands, start or wait.
Debug Your Audition Style
The debugging tool isn’t about the external aspects of the audition; but rather, the internal aspects of how you personal approach and complete an audition.
Singers find auditions uncomfortable. Divas operate within that tension and use the energy to support their character and charisma. There is an overall ‘fight or flight’ feeling when we get nervous in an audition setting. There’s a little voice in our brain that starts to yell, “Let’s just finish this and get out of this room!!” That voice encourages you to rush through your audition and be entirely forgettable.
Be so good they can’t ignore you. – Steve Martin
As you become more confident with your technique, auditioning style, and repertoire, that little voice will begin to calm down. You can silence that voice by getting some decent, caring feedback from your singing team about your blind spots or missing information. Take your time when you audition so you can bring all your creative power to bear on those few minutes.
A huge component of reverse engineering your audition is accurately judging how much time you need to prepare. How much time will you need to learn and memorize an aria that you are adding for this specific audition? Be honest with yourself if you do not have the time in your schedule. Do not throw money away on application fees if you are not able (or willing) to put in the requisite time to ace the audition. That money could be better spent, my dear.
Reverse engineering makes you a better competitor in your market. It should also relieve you. It is comforting because you know what to prepare, how to complete the tasks set before you, and how to measure your success. By completing this challenge, you will begin to realize that there aren’t any secrets to auditioning and you won’t feel like each audition is a surprise. You will feel prepared, engaged with the room, and connected to your specific desired outcome.
Have an awesome audition success story? Tell us all how you absolutely “owned the room” in the comments below. I love to hear about all of your accomplishments as well as your questions or concerns. Have a specific question about or situation in your diva life? Tweet me at @mezzoihnen and let’s do some brainstorming!