5 Things I’ve learnt from my first three months of touring

You may have noticed that I haven’t updated this blog in a long time, as much as I apologise for this, I do have a very valid reason.

Since the beginning of March, I’ve been on a UK tour with a Northern Soul Band called “The Signatures.” It has been one of the best experiences of my career, but it has also had its challenges and various valuable lessons.

1) Don’t eat fast food (too much)

This tour is the first time I’ve been away from home properly without my parents around, so of course I took this as an opportunity to eat whatever I wanted. BAD IDEA, after the first two dates, I quickly learnt that getting by on the energy of McDonalds. is not going to see you through a show and it is not going to make your insides feel very good either. Obviously, everyone eats junk food on the road, but as long as you balance it out with the odd fruit pot and flavored water, you’ll be fine.

2) Sleep as much as possible on the bus/ at home

On this tour, we are only on the road during weekends  and during the week, we go back to our normal mundane lives, we also drive back home on the same night for some of the gigs. This involves various days of getting in at 5:30/6:00AM, this renders me and various other members of the band shattered the next day. This is why its important to get as much sleep as you possibly can when you’re on the way back from a show or the next day once you’re at home, if you don’t make time to sleep, you’ll end up becoming unwell pretty quickly.

3) Try your best to get to know the sound guy of every venue by name

This can be quite hard sometimes, but it is also quite important to make sure at least one of the band members knows the sound guys name, especially if you want your show to go well. For me, its integral to know the sound guy because he is the one in charge of my monitor mix and because I’m running in ear monitors for this tour, having a good or bad mix really does affect the way I perform and play on stage. If the sound team and I are on first name terms, I feel more comfortable asking for certain things, such as the adjustment of my monitor mix. Another thing I try my best to do, is to shake the hand(s) of the sound guy(s) and general venue team and say thank you, it may take that little bit of extra time, but it makes them feel appreciated and they won’t forget it very quickly.

Further to this point, you will get the odd sound guy that can be rude and sometimes let the power of being in control of your sound go to their head. If you meet a guy/girl like this just nod and smile, as tempting as it is to tell them wear to stick their advice/demands.

4. SPARES SPARES SPARES

This lesson was a very hard one for me to learn and it certainly isn’t one I will forget in a hurry, I really learnt it the worst way possible too. We were on our last show of the first month of the tour, and it was a hometown show for me, literally in Billericay, the town in which I live and grew up in. We get on stage and begin setting up, I plug everything in, go to switch on my keyboard… NOTHING, literally not lights, sound, nothing! To say I was bricking it was an understatement! I unplug my power supply and check it to be greeted with the heart breaking sight of bare wiring, which basically means the power supply isn’t going to work… I was stressing, the band were stressing and I wanted the ground to swallow me up.. thankfully, a fellow keyboard player lent me his keyboard and I had to learn how to use it on the fly. It’s safe to say that I will not be making that mistake EVER again!

5. Enjoy it!

I’ve been very fortunate to have my first touring experience at the age of 19. It has been stressful, crazy, sweaty, tiring, absolutely hilarious and genuinely the best experience of my career. The tour hasn’t ended yet either, which is good because I don’t want it to for a while! The musicians in The Signatures are outstanding and have a wealth of knowledge that I have learnt so much from dipping in to, asking questions and by simply watching how they do things in the studio and  on stage. There will be some videos of our shows and some behind the scenes stuff real soon!

Thanks for reading, I hope the advice has helped you avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made!

Being cocky and knowing you’re good is just as important as being humble

This is a sentence that I live by every single day. It’s what drives me.

Some people are definitely going to disagree with this statement, it’s just how statistics works, you are always going to have a critic. However, before you decide that this statement is false and that I’m talking out of arse, let me explain this.

I’m 18, that’s very young, to some people, it’s too young to be taken seriously in this industry. Yet, I do get taken seriously and what I have to say is listened to, appreciated and most importantly, taken on board. (by some.) Why? because I do know, for a fact, that I’m a bloody brilliant musician. Am I under the illusion that there aren’t people better than me? NO. That would just be plain stupid and delusional! I just know that I’m good at what I do, hell, it’s been proven!

If I wasn’t good, I wouldn’t have countless bands asking me to join their outfit and I wouldn’t have to turn them down because of my commitments to other bands. If I wasn’t good, I wouldn’t’ve been asked to perform at a prestigious music event and then be featured in a music magazine (Music Week) due to my participation in that event. And lastly, if I wasn’t good, I wouldn’t be getting paid to play the Piano every week.

All of these opportunities have arisen not only due to my ability, but due to my confidence IN my ability! How many 18 year old musicians do you know that can walk into a room of people they’ve never met before, get asked if their good at their instrument and confidently turn around and say “Yes, I am.” THAT’S the difference between me and so many other musicians my age! And that’s also the difference between you and your competitors.

They’re cocky, they dub themselves a “Musical God/genius” and you? You sit at the back, all quiet and when asked “are you good” you reply “I guess so.” If you want to start making money, making an impact in the industry you are a part of, then for crying out loud GROW SOME BALLS, GET COCKY AND DON’T GIVE A FUCK WHAT PEOPLE THINK!

It’s not that difficult, TRUST me! The next time someone asks you if you’re good say YES and then? PROVE IT!

After that, watch the MAGIC happen.

Reputation Is Everything (Trust Me)

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Reputation, that’s is bound to be a word that everyone has heard at some point in their lives, you’ve surely had people preaching to you about how it matters. Trust me, it’s true, so so true, and now I’m going to show you why.

I’ve been playing the Piano for 14 years and I’ve had various positions are keys player in various bands. However, my career has only kicked off seriously in the last year or two, this is because I’ve been putting myself out there and building my REPUTATION (there it is again) as a musician/composer/performer and what have you.

My reputation has allowed me to delve into various areas of the music industry throughout my year or two of growth, one of the most recent areas I’ve managed to break in to, is teaching. It is weird, I must admit, to be sitting in “the other chair” so to speak, but it is also very rewarding and fulfilling too!

I got my first student through my reputation as a Pianist and musician. I received a recommendation from one of my college classmates, Ryaan. I got the recommendation due to the fact that a family friend’s son wanted to develop his Piano ability and learn new things about his craft. The reason I was the person Ryaan first thought of to be suited to this job was because he has seen me perform on stage before, and he has also worked with me and also witnessed me work with other people. This meant that he knew for a fact that I was perfect for this job of teaching this young lad.

See? reputation! I go into college or any other musical environment with the mindset of showing the people within that environment what I can do musically and also what I am like as a person. In other words, I am building my reputation among my peers everyday, giving them more and more of a reason to recommend me for work.

This is what YOU need to do also. Okay, it may be near impossible to show someone what you’re capable of, in person, everyday or thereabouts. This is where the internet and social media comes into play! If you shoot videos or your song covers, gigs and whatnot and post them onto Youtube, if you write informative, helpful articles and post them onto a blog, if you engage with your followers on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram etc, then you are also building your reputation. As long as you have a presence somewhere, have a solid body of work for people to research and look at, that is high standard and consistent, you are building your reputation!

No matter what field of work you are in, reputation and building that reputation is ESSENTIAL for you to build a client base and get yourself work! It isn’t all that hard either. I know it sounds super complicated to some, so let me break it down into small steps for you below:

1. Get yourself out there!

Go to gigs, meet-ups, networking events, open mics. SHOW the audience what you can do! Introduce yourself to as many people as possible, give them your card, make sure they remember your name!

2. Build a solid, high standard portfolio!

What good is handing out your business card going to do if you have nowhere for the recipient to view more about you and your work? Building a simple website with everything about you and some samples of your work is so important in todays market! If you’re struggling to find somewhere to start, I suggest Weebly, the service it’s self is free and there are some brilliant templates for you to use to get started. If you’re a musician, would also recommend Soundcloud, it’s a brilliant for storing your songs for people to listen to.

3. Social Media!!

Again, an integral part to building that reputation these days! Having a social media presence on all the major sites like Facebook,Twitter, Instagram and Youtube, can go a long way towards showing people how talented you are and can lead to exceptional opportunities if viewed and noticed by the right sort of people. One key thing to social media working for your reputation though, is to ENGAGE! Nobody wants to feel like they’re talking to a robot!

And lastly!

4. Follow Up!

So you’ve gone out and made yourself known in both the real and online communities, you’re getting emails and phone calls left, right and centre, well done! Now what? Possibly the most important part to all of your hard work, FOLLOW UP! Reply to everything that comes your way, and grab every opportunity by the short and curly’s! You never know what might come of it!

 

 

 

The money debate: I weigh in.

The money debate: I weigh in.

Pricing has always been a topic discussed, debated and argued about for years among the indie music circles. I don’t normally get involved in these debates, however,  a recent post from my good friend and entertainer, Charlie Sansom, had me weigh in on this.  Like anything, the prices of acts vary based on several things:

  • The experience level of said act
  • The number of people involved within the act
  • (sometimes) The quality of the act

I’m going to break down all of these things, giving my opinion on these areas and how I feel they impact the price of an act.

Experience level

This is certainly something that can impact how much an act will charge for performances. The acts that are trying to get themselves established on the circuit will charge less for their services. For example, for Carehome performances, I charge £25 per hour. Some of my fellow musicians would argue that this is too cheap, I Disagree. I disagree due to one simple reason , it’s working. One advantage (or what I see as an advantage) I have over my competitors is that I am an act of high quality (according to clients) yet I am cheaper and more affordable.

For other performances such as gigs on the pub scene, I charge £150 for two 45 minute sets. Again some may disagree with this, but it’s working for me so far so I have no need to charge more.

On the flip side of this however, bands or musicians that have been playing the circuit for years may charge £300 or more for performances. This can be a good thing to do but sometimes these acts lose out on gigs because cheaper acts with less experience are getting them.

The number of people within the act

This is a big thing that acts consider when charging potential clients. The more people within the act, the more they are going to charge, this is simply because everyone involved needs an equal split of pay. I have two examples, my function band “The 45’s” charge £160 for our performances, we are a four piece, this means we get £40 each. Another example is the Pink Floyd tribute I am a part of. I’m not entirely sure what we charge but there are seven of us within the band, this means we will be charging quite a lot, probably are £500 or more.

The quality of the act

This is the section of the article that could cause debate. I personally don’t believe that the quality of the act SHOULD impact the price, at least not as much as it does. I say this because I don’t believe that just because the act is expensive, that they are promise to be good or entertaining. A lot of musicians contest this. I have been told that because I charge so little, I do not value myself as an artist or performer, this is miles away from the truth. I completely value myself as a performer, I just don’t feel that I have the experience level needed to justify charging £500 plus for my performances. Not to mention that I don’t have a family to provide for, or bills to pay (yet) when these things happen, I will obviously charge more.

I honestly believe that I am an act of high quality and that me charging less for my shows, is more of an advantage currently, than a setback. Another line I’ve had before is “think long term”. I am thinking long term, I’m thinking long term because I have recurring clients re-booking time and time again because of I am cheap yet high quality, that is my selling point, and so far its working. I’d much rather have regular work charging less (which would earn me more over time) than less regular work whilst charging more, which would obviously earn me less over time.

This method makes business sense to me. I don’t profess to be a business expert by any stretch, but it’s just common sense! To some, their price may reflect the quality of service. I believe that if you have client reviews that show potential clients how good you are, you don’t need to rely on your price to prove your quality. If you don’t have raving reviews and are one of those performers that say “I charge so and so amount, this alone should show how good I am”, then you really can’t be as good as you think you are.

 

Check out Charlie’s post and other links, here:

Blog post; “Stop complaining about newcomers and start adding value!”

Charlie’s Website: www.charliesansom.com

Charlie’s Twitter: @charliesansom

Charlie’s Facebook: www.facebook.com/charliesansomofficial

 

How to increase your stage presence

How to increase your stage presence

First of all, what is stage presence? Stage presence is having the ability to command the attention of an audience through the way you act on stage. Having good stage presence is one of the most important things to master (besides your musical instrument) if you wish to have consistently great and memorable performances.

As a keys player, for me, being able to having good stage presence can be a challenge since I’m stuck behind my keyboards and unable to move around the stage. However, there are other techniques I have adopted to increase my stage presence, and these are the techniques I am going to share with you today.

1. Interact with the audience!

The audience are there to watch you perform and enjoy themselves, sure they will enjoy your music but it has been proven that an audience enjoys a performance if they can relate to the performer on a more personal level. You have to have charisma if this technique is to work to it’s full potential, introduce yourself after your first one or two songs and explain what you’re about, the audience will appreciate the feeling that they’ve met you before!

Once you’ve done this, try ask the audience to do something! Get them to sing along to a song or even simpler, get them to clap their hands. They’ll enjoy your show a lot more if they feel like they’re allowed to get involved and it will also make you more memorable.

2. Make it obvious that you are enjoying yourself!

This one sounds like a given for most but you’d be shocked at how many acts I’ve seen that just stand there and sing into the microphone. These sorts of people bore me beyond comprehension! I understand that some performers struggle with confidence which is why they are so rigid when performing but eventually that should fade with practise, the more gigs you do, the more confident you’ll become!

Try moving around a bit during your performances, take the microphone out of the stand and walk about the stage, this doesn’t seem like much to some but it is 100 times better than just standing there! Obviously, as a keys player I can’t more about the stage so instead, I nod my head or “headbang” as some people call it! I also communicate verbally with the odd “woo” or something of that kind, it’s difficult to explain using words but it does add to my performances and helps the audience enjoy my sets, these ideas apply to drummers as well seeing as they also can’t move away from their kit.

3. Go into the crowd!

Trust me, audiences feed off of this technique! If you’re able to do so and it’s safe, go into the crowd and interact with them that way, shake their hands, sing to them. It really works a treat because they feel even more drawn into the show which will of course make them have even more of a blast, which is objective for the night, to make sure your audience have a good time!

A bit of a warning for this one, make sure that it is 100 percent safe to do this during your set, in other words, only do this if you are using a WIRELESS microphone! It’s all well and good thinking that a wired one would be long enough to sustain the crowd walking , but you really don’t want to take that risk of getting snagged by the wire and causing accidents! I would also pre-warn/double check with the venue that it is okay to do this, just in case theres some form of health and safety guidelines that you’re not aware of.

4. One final tip

If you’re struggling to find inspiration with regards to stage presence, take a look at the live performances of well known musicians! One artist in particular whose stage presence I admire is Jazz musician Jamie Cullum, he does all sorts of crazy stuff throughout his performances, he’s favourite thing to do is to jump off of piano’s, look him up! seriously I think some of you would appreciate his performances and music!

 

Feature image credit: http://www.rockinggodshouse.com

Charity Gigs: Should musicians get paid to perform?

Charity Gigs: Should musicians get paid to perform?

This is a topic that has been debated time and time again throughout the various music groups I am a part of on social media and to be completely honest, I know that there will never be a completely solid answer to this question.

I need to make something abundantly clear, I have NOTHING against doing charity gigs whatsoever. In fact, one of the greatest opportunities of my career came to light because of my performance at a charity gig, so I’d be a fool to sit here and knock them completely.

However, I can see why some musicians get annoyed at the fact that they are working for free when everyone else that is part of the organisation of the gig, the bar staff, the management and what have you, get paid! The musicians that perform at these events are working just like the bar staff, they are giving up their time, so why shouldn’t they get paid to do so? Admittedly, this does sound like a really unjust thing to say, but the musicians that do say this, do have somewhat of a valid point and I can relate to their upset to a certain extent.

On the other hand, these musicians have willingly decided to do this gig, knowing that they wouldn’t be getting paid as it is for charity, so really, they have no right to cause an uproar about the situation, they could’ve chosen to take a paid gig but they chose the unpaid charity one, in that instance they should just keep quiet and perform for the audience!

Staying on the topic of audiences, you NEVER know WHO will be in that audience watching you! There could be management companies, label A&R representatives, producers, all sorts! Let me give you a prime example:

Remember I mentioned a few posts back that I’d performed with Charley Monroe at a prestigious music industry event? I got that opportunity because she had seen me perform at a charity event a few weeks before and was impressed with my musicianship. If I hadn’t’ve gone to that charity event purely because I wasn’t getting paid, I wouldn’t be in Music Week Magazine, I wouldn’t now be the Keys player for Kerrie Masters and I wouldn’t’ve have the contact details of some of the most influential people in the UK Music Industry. I may not have been paid a penny for any of those performances, but it has given me something a lot more valuable than money, it’s helped me progress within my music career!

It is to that extent that I draw the following conclusion. although it would be nice for musicians to get paid for their performances, money doesn’t always matter, anyone could be watching at these events, anything could happen after these events, so if I were you, regardless of pay or not, I’d go to these events and give the performance of your life.

 

The importance of a solid brand and how to build one

The importance of a solid brand and how to build one

As a musician, branding and marketing are two of the most important things you need to get good at in order to survive in the industry.

What is a brand?

A brand is basically what the public associate you with. Building a solid brand is paramount to gaining more exposure and getting more clients! It’s also important to build a positive brand, a brand that people can relate to and that catches the attention of the public.

How to build a brand

Although this sounds rather daunting, building your own brand is actually really simple! I’m going to talk you through how I’ve begun building up my brand as “Gary Cunningham Music”. I’m by no means a worldwide success and don’t profess to be a complete expert, but I do have something to show for my brand that I feel qualifies me to talk about this topic.

Step one to building your brand is to be as active on the internet as possible, build an online presence, make it possible for your name to be found in Google! Make sure to have a professional website that potential clients can visit to find out more about your music and your experience. The majority of my work this year have come through people visiting my website,here’s an example:

A fellow musician contacted me through email asking if I would be interested in joining a Pink Floyd tribute band, he contacted me because of the fact that I had information on my site stating that I am already a part of a Pink Floyd tribute, I turned this man’s offer of joining his band down as I have too many projects ongoing and naturally, it would be a conflict of interest to the other Floyd tribute.

This story is testament to good branding and providing quality information. My name is scattered across various places on the internet including:

  • My website (garycunninghammusic.com)
  • This blog
  • my social media sites

It’s important to have people talking about you in a positive manner too! Get testimonials from previous clients and put them on your site, this way other potential clients will be able to see that your brand provide a good service.

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The famous musicians of today are a lot more than just singers. They have perfumes, aftershaves, clothes, food, toys! I’m not saying you guys have to go that far but as you can see, these guys have their names everywhere, I do too virtually, just not to that extent, this is why I have so many clients two months into 2016, because my name is everywhere and you would be shocked to know that so many people walk through the street, see a business card and think “Oh I need one of those people!”

A good brand is everywhere and has a killer reputation, this does involve spending money on website domains, business cards, flyers and whatnot, don’t see it as spending money, see it as investing in yourself and your brand, then the money won’t be so much of an issue! If you do it right, you’ll earn the money back with ease!

All of this does take time and effort! But it is more than worth it when you suddenly begin gaining a reputation with the right kinds of people for being good at what you do!