What’s the name of the last book you read? Some of you will have an immediate response and may even recite the author and title. Others may not know or care and doubtless some of you will admit that “I never read books.” The topic of perpetual education may appear to be an odd one for solo performers, but it may be one of the most important- if you want to be successful.
Author and public speaker Charlie “Tremendous” Jones says that “you’ll be the exact same person you are now in five years- except for the books you read and the people you meet.” If you are a typical band musician, you learn quickly about the number of hats you must successfully don in order to work regularly as a solo musician. Play enough bars and you’ll learn the best way to collect your earnings from the manager or owner. Suffer your gear to be ripped off just once and you’ll become smarter about your equipment, where you load and unload it and so forth. That’s one type of education and I suspect many of you can relate your own war stories on these topics.
Once you start doing private and corporate functions, which is where the real money often lurks, you must step up your intellectual game. Your language skills, which according to the late Earl Nightingale, “is the one thing you can’t hide,” tell other people all they need to know about you. A poorly written e mail, lousy phone skills and a general lack of education may be all it takes for the client to hire someone else. Those of you who do most of your “talking” via texting on a cell phone are particularly vulnerable. Often, private or corporate clients have advanced degrees and spend their days working with others of a similar educational background. Successful business people often spend an hour or more daily in reading, both for profit and for personal enjoyment. They do this because that’s what it takes to be prosperous on a grand scale in the business world. Have you ever done a private party in a wealthy client’s home? What is the first room you see off the foyer or entrance? A library. Why is that? They read enough books, adopted enough success principles and acted on enough information to grow into affording that home and lifestyle. If you’re going to be hired to perform for these kinds of clients, you need to be able to handle yourself in these kinds of environments. This requires continuing education and no, I don’t mean going back to school. I mean working on your own self development by improving your reading, writing and speaking skills. If you’re willing to do this, you can start small.
Reading a newspaper isn’t bad, but understand they are written at a typically 7th grade reading level. If you struggle with basic reading skills, perhaps start there. A great way to become a better reader is to read aloud. If you have a significant other, read a book and take turns reading aloud to one another. Many adults who can read fine silently become mediocre readers when doing so aloud. Read a book on politics or religion, like the Bible or Book of Mormon. Go to the public library and check out a book on a subject you should have studied in school but didn’t. A college professor overheard a couple students at graduation say “ I will never read another book as long as I live!” I know a professional man at age 60 who told me the same thing. If you want to be successful as a solo performer, you can’t afford to stop learning.
Writing is another lost art that you can and should become skilled at. E mailing a client, trolling for new business and even writing “Thank You” cards following a show require at least a modicum of proper language skills. Write an old friend or your parents and turn off that spell check. Stop abbreviating everything and avoid using text speak! When booking a gig online, I may have spoken to a client once or twice but e mailed them a half dozen times before the event. A client can bail on a gig for many reasons, even after it’s “booked.” I always do my best to appear intelligent with written communication, and while I am a writer, I would still use correct language in order to “boat the fish,” so to speak. Make an effort to become a better writer and it will help you in all business situations, musical or otherwise.
I’ve been performing at nice venues since the 1970’s and try to conduct myself like a professional. This has paid off for me in several situations. I remember a gig on a mountain in Hollywood around 1985 for the TV show “Santa Barbara.” We were on a break when an actor I didn’t know came by and spoke with me for a while. That led to another gig in Malibu a year later for a different TV show cast and crew. My trio “Triad” did several gigs in February each year at the Pinehurst hotel in North Carolina for the good folks at General Motors. They invited us back each year and even provided a reference letter on company letterhead that helped us book more similar shows. Here in Texas, I have been able to leverage good performances with a professional demeanor to book repeat gigs from a variety of clients like The Orvis Store, Vineyard Vines, Texas Instruments and more.
Being a successful solo performer requires you to be able to converse intelligently with smart people about a variety of topics. By honing your education and communication skills, you’ll discover it will help you earn more and enjoy the process. Brian Tracy says “the most successful people in any field always look at themselves as self- employed.” Take responsibility for your continuing education and watch your work and income soar.
Riley Wilson is an award winning solo performer based in North Texas. He teaches guitar and bass, does voiceovers and enjoy writing for L2Pnet. His websites are www.guitarmadesimpler.com and www.wrileywilson.com