Networking for musicians has evolved greatly since my first gig at age 14. No longer do freelance musicians have to hang flyers in music stores or local mom and pop shops (although in some places, this may still be a viable option). Human connections are still essential, but now if you have a gig to announce, social media can help with a few simple clicks. Incorporating human connections and electronic media requires a lot of time, hard work, and presenting your most authentic self to many people. You can’t just practice and study and wait for the phone to ring. You must get out there and establish meaningful connections for that synergy to happen. Don’t get me wrong; luck is still involved. But persistence increases your odds of achieving that mysterious goal of “being in the right place at the right time.”
My performance of the Ukrainian National Anthem for the NBA and the Utah Jazz is a great example of these strategies coming together. In this case, the opportunity came about completely electronically. I didn’t even meet the person who hired me until the soundcheck! However, connecting with my peers was still an integral part of the process as you’ll see below.
Here are the five strategies I took to acquire this one gig – which essentially lasted two minutes – and the chain reaction of events that occurred. Utilizing these steps allowed me to be successful, send a message that was true to my personal mission, and be invaluable for my career.
Strategy 1 – Setting the Stage
When the pandemic affected live music, musicians were forced to find alternative methods of connecting with their audiences. Many of us turned to social media, whether we had any previous experience with it or not. Believe me, I wanted to fight the move to social media; I’m generally not a huge fan and never made time for it. But if this way was the most effective way of staying in touch with people, then it had to be done. Thanks to a lot of help from friends, I was quickly able to establish professional pages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, and my website. Then I began to make consistent posts on YouTube and social media, joined multiple musician groups on Facebook, continued to practice, and stayed in contact with as many people as I could. I also invested in some software and equipment to help my cause: Sibelius (a music transcription program), DPA mini microphone set, iPhone, a quality tripod, and Final Cut Pro (audio/video editing software). And I waited.
Strategy 2 – Seize the Day
When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th, I wanted to show my support for the people of Ukraine, so two days later, I transcribed, arranged, recorded, and posted this version of the Ukrainian National Anthem on YouTube.
A few days later, I received a Facebook message from a friend stating that he just saw a post on the Utah Orchestra Directors Facebook page seeking a solo violinist to play the anthem at the Utah Jazz game. “Didn’t you just make a video of this?” he asked. Luckily, the post had only been up for an hour, so I immediately contacted the Utah Jazz representative who made the original post and told him I was interested. I sent him links to the original version of the anthem and my video of Vivaldi’s “Spring” concerto to showcase my capabilities and for convenience (pro tip: never ask someone who can potentially hire you to do the legwork and find your website, links, press kit, etc. Be sure to show initiative and provide all pertinent information during the initial contact). The rep said he loved what I had done but asked for a few changes to be made. I quickly arranged and recorded a new version of the piece and sent it to him. Thankfully, he loved it and confirmed the gig that very afternoon. Note: The reasons behind your actions are important. Both the Utah Jazz and I wanted to show our solidarity with the people of Ukraine, and that was our focus.
Strategy 3 – Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!
I practice my instrument nearly every day, so I am always “in shape” but for this event, I practiced my nearly two-minute solo for many hours over the next few days. I took every single note and crafted them, and then practiced more. I picked up the violin when I was barely awake and played through it. I played it backward, all short notes, all pizzicato, and more. This had to be the best two minutes I ever played, and I was going to make sure of it. You do you when it comes to practicing. You are the professional and know which practice techniques work best for you. I tend to remember things much better when I practice them in a variety of ways, hence the various styles of playing during my practice sessions. In addition, I never lost sight of my original intention of showing solidarity with the people of Ukraine and my personal mission of promoting peace through music. Because I was true to myself throughout this process, I was very well prepared for the actual performance and press coverage (keep reading for more on this).
Strategy 4 – Publicize
In between practice sessions, I began to post about this performance on social media. The NBA had only ever allowed the U.S. and Canadian national anthems to be played at their games, so this performance now took on a new meaning of historical importance. I utilized that angle when publicizing on social media. At the same time, my girlfriend, Michele, offered to write a press release and send it to local media outlets. A press release is appropriate for news-worthy events that appeal to both the media and a wide audience. If you’re unsure about what types of stories are news-worthy, check out this list of reasons to write a press release. In addition, press releases have specific formats that should be followed. Here is a great beginner’s guide to writing a great press release.
The result of this two-pronged approach? My social media presence was noticed by a journalist in the UK which led to an article in The Independent. Because of the press releases, I was interviewed on camera by KSL-TV 5 in Salt Lake City and interviewed over the phone by ABC 4 (also in Salt Lake City). The ABC story was then picked up by dozens of ABC affiliates across the country. The local newspaper also ran an article after conducting a phone interview with me. Thanks to the buzz generated by these articles, national publications like People and Newsweek also featured the performance.
Strategy 5 – Follow-Through
Once your event occurs, you cannot just forget about social media and networking. I took the time to reply or react to every social media comment sincerely, went to each news article to like and/or comment on it, and yes, I even wrote a blog post about my experience linking all the best articles to my website. Most importantly, I had a wonderful opportunity to appeal to the emotions of many people with my performance, and truly show that I, the Utah Jazz and its fan base, the NBA, and people throughout the United States are behind Ukraine. As an added bonus, I have made some new and wonderful connections that could lead to more possibilities all because of this two-minute performance. I have always been very optimistic, but I am even more excited about possible future projects with these amazing people.
Always Remember these 5 Things!
To summarize the five networking strategies for musicians:
1) Setting the Stage – set up your network of both online contacts and those IRL, along with your system of marketing and any necessary equipment you will need. Consistent social media posts, phone calls, coffee meetings, and nights out after gigs, all while you continue to hone your artistic skills, are all extremely important while waiting for your opportunity. This part of the process could take months or even years. It is the hardest stage, so just be patient.
2) Seize the Day – When your break comes, use your technical and artistic gifts to capitalize on the opportunity. Don’t wait! If you don’t inquire about the opportunity, someone else undoubtedly will.
3) Prepare, Prepare, Prepare – Make sure your preparation leaves you in a position to sound your absolute best. Note: do this even if it’s not for anything high-profile. You want to perform your best for anyone in any situation, because you NEVER know who might hear you and help you in the future!
4) Publicize – Tell everyone on your media what, where, when, why, and how. Include pictures, links, and any other pertinent information, including any personal ties or personal reasons for your performance. Sure, it’s risky to reveal your true self to the world, but in the words of Sting, “If you play music with passion and love and honesty, then it will nourish your soul, heal your wounds, and make your life worth living. Music is its own reward.”
5) Follow Through – Reply to everyone sincerely, expand your network, and get ready for your next break. Follow these strategies and be authentic. Your opportunity awaits!
Let’s Work Together!
Working regularly as a freelance musician requires more than just talent. By consistently using these five networking strategies, you will establish meaningful relationships with your audience, other musicians, and those interested in what you have to offer. Now is the time to get started and best position yourself for future successes!
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My original version of the State Anthem of Ukraine sheet music is available here (and it’s free!).
Need a violinist or conductor for your event? I can be reached at www.gabrielgordon.net/contact-me/