Taxiing on the runway, our diva was nestled into her seat on the plane and staring out the window into the morning sunlight. She was embarking on a full travel day that included two different plane trips and would have her back in her own apartment by ten o’clock that night. She was making her way back from a family wedding. It had been fun to see everyone but she was ready to be home. Her mind was wandering from subject to subject, noticing another traveler here and there as they filed by. She wondered where everyone was going. She was wondering if there were any other singers on this plane. Was anyone off to an audition? Was anyone about to start a life-changing gig? It was an exciting thought. She hoped that would be her sometime soon.
That got her thinking more about the fleeting nature of gigs. She knew about so few ongoing gigs. She thought of her church job and her other chorister gigs since she had to get a sub for this trip specifically. But she realized that freelance gigs meant that she would have to be constantly generating and building fresh prospects. As the plane crept alone the tarmac, she asked herself how she could target better prospects or at least improve her precision with the type of work she wanted to do.
The Day 25 challenge on your journey is to identify your next collaborators.
Other singers she knew had a process for targeting the right potential gigs and for avoiding the wrong ensembles, gigs, and companies. She always wondered how they avoided getting entangled with the wrong people. “What are the markers of bad business deals for me?” she contemplated. “Oh, exposure mongers…” she laughed to herself. That one was pretty easy. She knew to avoid the people who couldn’t pay her fee and offered her lots of nebulous marketing returns. She had made that choice a few years ago. She worked out her fee structure and made a commitment to herself that she wouldn’t take a gig below that unless there was some sort of other valuable, in her opinion, element attached.
After her exasperating experience with the flakey clarinetist from the Hail House residency, she knew that she was done spending invaluable time on chronic flip-floppers — those people who shift whenever the wind blows a different direction. Obviously, she was going to keep avoiding those people she just didn’t jive with or who had reputations for being a jerk. She didn’t turn down meetings with them, but she had her radar more finely tuned when she’d heard stories. Anything that seemed off was enough for her to push that project into purgatory.
Who Are My Best Clients?
If she knew who to avoid, would that help her know the right potential collaborators to target? Maybe that also needed certain metrics. She recommitted to promoting her unique skills so that she could attract people looking for those specific qualities. During this awakening of her musical purpose, she noted that it still felt a little unsure at times which unique musical skills she was trying to highlight. But, she could name some people, ensembles, and venues with whom she wanted to work. That helped. She could see how some of her skills aligned with the message they were putting out into the world. She decided it would be important to find more ways of emphasizing those points of overlap in her auditions, social media, and networking. Conversely, she thought, if she was avoiding people who were going to gripe about fees, she needed to seek out collaborators who could exchange the value she sought with her.
The man in the seat next to our diva had been sleeping since take-off. In the last five minutes, he had started to snore slightly. It wasn’t too irritating but she was glad that this was the shorter of the two flights. As her seat-mate’s snoring lulled her, she started thinking about what it would look like to design projects that those top collaborators would seek out. If she wanted to do that kind of work, how could she start now with what she had? She still felt a little bit of the burn from going all out on the residency. But, her emailing back and forth with Aaron from in vita indiscussum ensemble had inspired her to think about how to become a specialist.
Know Your Market; Be a Specialist
Becoming a specialist would mean that she would have to narrow her market and pursue serving that narrow market as an expert. With this in mind she would have to really get to know her market. She knew that to get to the top tier or be considered an expert she would have to grow and improve her skills. She would need to find ensembles or collaborators that she could grow with right now. Taking her phone out of her purse she opened the notes app. The very first thing she typed was, “Identifying potential collaborators.”
She started making a list of every group she could think of which fit into a segment she called “legitimate/symmetrical targets.” A symmetrical target was a potential collaborator who seemed to have a similar level of establishment in the field that she did or ever so slightly higher than she perceived her own. Furthermore, she wanted to work with people who seemed to desire the same growth potential she felt she exhibited. Finally, she went back through the list and segmented the names one more time into “in-house” and “outsource” track record. The in-house meant that they had a pattern of working with the same singers regularly or they had a designated vocalist on their roster. She would specifically look to the outsource list first for early opportunities.
Where’s Your Social Proof?
She knew that potential collaborators would be wondering “what experience do you have in the field?” and “whom else have you worked with in this capacity?” She would need to begin building her reputation in the field by doing the work. The residency had been a good start but she needed to think about how she could raise her profile by working with other leading people in classical music.
While in the airport during her layover she started killing time by creating a Venn diagram of musical ensembles in her hometown, new music practitioners, and any arts-related organization she came across that programmed around mental health subjects. Letting Google do some digging, she found a lot of fascinating information. She also combed social media to see if there were more people in her primary and secondary networks who demonstrated similar interests. She started signing up for email newsletters like mad. It didn’t matter to our diva what or when they sent emails; it would clearly be positive information if not motivation for her goals.
It Doesn’t Count Unless You Press Send
On her next flight she started drafting emails to the people on her list. She asked certain people to meet for coffee, if they were in town. For the other people on the list, she just started writing drafts about how she found them and asked them if they had any volunteer opportunities in the future. Or, for the couple of people on the list that she felt were already friends, she asked them if they had any advice for someone just getting started out.
Our diva knew that she would have to make her own luck if she wanted to ever become an expert in this niche. Perseverance is basically just creating your own game of beating the odds of rejection. If setbacks and rejection were going to a significant part of this path, she decided she was going to open the door to them as well as the successes instead of hiding.