A good business, whatever its size, must keep good records to measure performance. As your star rises, it is important to take stock of where you are and the goals you have accomplished along the way. 28 Days to Diva is a month of challenges designed to help you create a mission, long-term goals, and strategies. Make sure you are getting the most out of your hard work by asking two big questions: (1) what little problems can I fix and (2) what small actions can I add to my daily life to instigate significant change over the long-term? Our penultimate challenge, for Day 27, is to perform an audit of your singing career.
You already know how much I enjoyed reading Chris Guillebeau‘s The $100 Startup because I wrote about it in The $100 Startup for Operapreneurs. Therefore, I chose to use his outline of the business audit to help us discuss our diva version.
Where Do You Make Money?
You spent/spend money on school, right? You spend money on lessons and coachings. Heck, you spend money on gettin’ your nails did for auditions. Who is spending money on you and your craft? One of the biggest pitfalls of making a career out of your passion is to spend doing all sorts of things that have nothing to do with making any money. Another is being too emotional about finances because they are tied to your dream. Making a lot of money or none at all is not the only indication of success or failure. Focus on the money as a non-emotional marker of size, scale, and scope of your business.
How Good is Your Messaging?
Most business of music classes barely scratch the surface when it comes to messaging and presenting your brand as a musician. They might tell you to use the same header and font on your résumé and bio. Clearly, singers spend a lot of time messaging and creating copy. We have short and long bios (29 Days to Diva: Day 3 – A Singer’s Bio), resumes (29 Days to Diva: Day 2 – Fix That Résumé!), websites (29 Days to Diva: Day 9 – Get That Web Sensation), musician statements, e-mail blasts, program notes (28 Days to Diva: Day 5 – Plan a Recital), Kickstarter campaigns, and more. Schedule a time to go through all of your materials at once. Do you have a clear voice and message throughout? Will strangers be able to glance at your copy and know what you do and how to hire you? Determine what needs to be cut and what needs to be polished.
Are Your Prices What They Should Be?
Your gigs and lessons should be priced competitively. Singers often come to a point when they decide that a gig must pay above a certain amount for them to accept. Know what your limits are. You should plan on raising those limits regularly as you become more established.
How Are You Marketing to Existing Customers?
Change customers to impresarios, presenters, or directors in your mind for a moment. How can you reach out to those companies for whom you have worked before and continue a working relationship? Repeat engagements are a good thing in addition to new audiences. Understanding your core fan base is an important part of being able to expand your reach (28 Days to Diva: Day 24 – Expanding Your Reach.) Do former directors know that you are still performing in the area? Continue, without being annoying, to let them know you valued working with them before and would appreciate the opportunity again in the future.
Are You Tracking, Monitoring, or Testing Enough?
Singers are constantly testing their service through auditions. The most important part of this section of the audit is learning from the results. Scan your YAPtracker results and gather feedback from those auditions. Factors to consider: quality of performance, quality of materials, cost/benefit analysis of that opportunity, and possible future with that organization.
Monitoring the outcomes of gigs and performances is also important. Could you have turned a one-and-done gig into a more steady collaboration? Were you able to network with other musicians and new colleagues after the performance was over? Tracking gigs that are born from other gigs can help you identify your strengths as well as other potential partners.
Finally, test your repertoire and recordings. The first ten seconds of your CD are crucial (29 Days to Diva: Day 6 – Recordings: Bring the Noise.) Will adjudicators get the best impression of your voice from your recordings? Create a working group with members of your singing team (29 Days to Diva: Day 24 – Create a Singing Team) with whom you can share your recordings or audition repertoire. Other ears can help you decide how to make a stunning first impression.
Where Are the Big Missing Opportunities?
Just because you have a great idea or a fantastic opportunity comes by does not always mean you can or should pursue it. You should definitely keep track of them though. Refer to your brainstorming journal (28 Days to Diva: Day 23 – Do Less and Do it Better) when you have time to take on a big project. Identifying missing opportunities also means taking a look at your résumé and seeing the holes. If your materials claim that you are a Bel Canto goddess, but your résumé only shows stage experience in Handel, you are mixing the message and creating the hole. The whole point of doing an audit is to see where you have been and what you could be doing better in the future.
If you are truly pursuing singing as a career, then it is imperative that you find tweaks you can make now as well as setting up long-term strategies. The goal is to create freedom for yourself to pursue this non-corporate career. It still surprises me to talk to musicians who feel like their futures are up to chance and not something they have and continue to create. You will strategize better by completing periodic audits of your career. All of these things will help you accept the success because you know that you have worked to get there. You are just using all these challenges and tools to build critical mass.
“You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander. We build this place with the sand of memories; these castles are our memories and inventiveness made tangible. So part of us believes that when the tide starts coming in, we won’t really have lost anything, because actually only a symbol of it was there in the sand. Another part of us thinks we’ll figure out a way to divert the ocean. This is what separates artists from ordinary people: the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won’t wash them away. I think this is a wonderful kind of person to be.”
― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life