A lot of folks are complaining lately about this idea that there is no longer any work for musicians. Many others however would agree that the problem is not that there is no work, it's that there is a different landscape and it is harder to maintain steady work. Which means of course, we have to adapt and diversify and make ourselves valuable to a client.
Mostly, today's musician has to wear several hats and do many projects if they want to call this a job.
I currently play in 5 different projects with five different set lists and am available to substitute in a number of other bands.
My jobs are a broad spectrum dichotomy from one other. They run the gamut from full on band (complete with costumes) performing for several thousand people, to small, intimate and solo. It has been hard work to get that much material show worthy but I wanted this job, so I have been dedicated to the point where I feel sure that I can deliver on each show I commit to. With that comes an experience that I think has been invaluable, learning to understand my audience.
Audiences are just as diverse as the work itself and it pays to understand them. At a festival for instance people are there for the music so you get rapt attention and cheers before during and after your performance. It is profoundly heady and if you are in it for the glory the festivals are the bomb.
I am going to reveal some secrets here...I don't mind being background music, specifically, I love the solo gig that most musicians say they hate...the one where no one 'seems' to pay attention. I am really good at this kind of job in fact because I accept that the audience came to eat, that they didn't come to see me do a show. So I happily let go of it and get into my music. And that...... is when the people get me. They also appreciate that I release them from the obligation to clap. I don't do it obviously I just am obviously comfortable letting them be.
Lets face it, for most of us meal time often revolves around conversation and connection and people are busy when they are eating, their hands are busy with utensils and they are there to talk to friends or family. ...so as an artist I add nothing to the room if I dial it up so loud that no one can converse or if I say something that shames them into clapping (yes I have seen artists do this).
Expecting applause can become uncomfortable for people whereas releasing them of the burden just makes it all the more enjoyable for everyone. I would rather just do a good job, enjoy it and be patient since inevitably I will be thanked over and over and over and over in the end. That is the truth of it and knowing this, means you can let go and settle in and give your clients what they bought, a nice atmosphere. Part of fostering that atmosphere is knowing that you have to let folks be.
I look at my demographic and I pick a song for each table as I go around the room...I try to play something from their era that they will know. I reach everyone. Sometimes a room can be silent after songs for half an hour and then for some reason some song will resonate with someone and they will forget and put their hands together as I finish and the whole room will suddenly explode with applause, its almost like they were waiting for someone else to start. I just smile at them and say thank-you and I carry on, indicating that there is still no pressure.
As people leave however it goes from apparent ignorathon to intense gratitude, guests most often step out of their way towards me to say thank you, sometimes they give me money, often they ask for cards, always they tell me the music was fabulous and that they love my song list. At the end of the night the owners tell me they had nothing but massive compliments, they loved the vibe and at first they will even apologize for the lack of applause. I release the owners of this burden as well, likening myself to the plates and utensils and letting them know I prefer it whichever way the crowd drives it and I assure them that I know they are with me regardless, sometimes just a happy vibe means everything is working.
I'm in it because it is a job, (and a great job, in fact I feel almost guilty for just sitting there playing and singing while everyone else in the room working there is busting their tails....) and when I release myself and the room of the pressure, then the applause that I do get is rarely forced or polite, it is real and somehow the crowd and I appreciate each other for it.
Which is why I so love the solo gig just as much as the big glorified ones, even though I can go from the spotlight to background music in a heartbeat, I am still channelling energy and communicating in the language I most deeply understand. This bit of independance is just as challenging and enjoyable for me and I am forever grateful that I can do it as a job.
Which is why I bring up the process of understanding your audience and reading your room, it's one element that is important to understand if you want to get or make work for yourself. ....because if you can do that well and bring something to the table to enhance your audiences experience, then the work will be there. I played last night because a customer specially requested me. She had seen me at the venue before and appreciated that I would bring something to her party without taking away from it. The importance of this can not be ignored...
There are a lot of people out there complaining that there is no work for musicians but I don't buy that because here I am, singing and strumming once a week and doing special events in a venue that never even intended to have live music. You have to remember what they hire you for and it 's not always to be a rockstar, sometimes you get to run the campfire.
Sheila's Bistro most Thursday nights!
To see my solo show click the video! Thanks to the Vancouver Web Festival!
Rachael Chatoor LIVE at the Vancouver Web Fest by VanWebFest At the Vancouver Web Fest!
later loves! xoxo