Another Lesson Learned From The BuckMoon Arts Festival
For those of you who tuned in last time, this is the next in a series of lessons I learned from my involvement as a moderator of a series of Artists Panels at the BuckMoon Arts Festival. (For those of you who missed the previous post, you may want to read part 1 of this series if you haven’t already.) You can read about the panel discussions and the festival here.
Opportunities Are Generally Made Not Found
The BuckMoon Arts Festival had a series of panel discussions that were intended to bring up issues related to monetizing one’s art. The second panel in the series was this one:
“Promoting Your Art: Building An Audience and Building A Buzz”
Panelists: Bill Coffey, Mike Dimin, Yvonne Lieblein, Patrick Longo, Brian McElhiney and Mark Swain
Description: Online access to consumers has given artists more possibilities than ever, but how do you get your voice heard above the din?
In the panels, I’d ask a series of questions which would then be answered and discussed by the panel members and then I’d try to keep the ball rolling with follow up questions, related anecdotes and other miscellany and then open it up for audience discussion.
I’m going to stress that again. A key focus of this discussion was NETWORKING.
At the end of our time, the panel had an audience question. The audience member was a costume designer who couldn’t figure out why she couldn’t get any work as a designer locally. In response, every member of the panel spent about 2-5 minutes talking about strategies and options and trying to help this person.
While this was happening, everyone on the panel was excited because one of the panelists, Patrick Longo, was there to talk about how he had successfully kickstarted a project for a stage production of his original material at Proctor’s Theatre that was premiering this September. Before the panel started, Patrick had introduced himself to EVERYONE in the room and gave them a card promoting his event. So, even after the panelists introduced themselves at the start of the panel everyone there was familliar with what he was doing.
As panelists, we were all thinking some variation of, “This is great! We’re actually going to be able to help somebody directly today!” At the end of the panel I asked everyone to stick around for the last presentation and as we took a break between sessions the person who asked the question stood up, walked out the door and never came back.
We were stunned. Patrick came up to me and said, “I’m so confused. What happened there? I NEED a costume designer. Why didn’t she come talk to me?”
Unfortunately that response to that opportunity was the answer to that question .
In a profoundly over simplified math equation, opportunities are approximately 60% positioning yourself to be in the right place at the right time and about 40% having the skill set (and the wherewithal) to be able to capitalize on that.
You can practice in your bedroom forever, but you’re never going to meet other players / artists / likeminded people and/or people in a position to be able to help you advance until you go out into the world and meet them.
Related Story #2:
I was looking for a drummer.
Unless you already know talented players in your area or are in a position where you’re well known and making real touring money and can attract upper level professionals – this is always a nightmare proposition.
I reached out to a drummer’s group on Facebook, posted some video and audio and asked if anyone in the area was interested. One person contacted me to say that he was interested but really busy and probably didn’t have time to play before he went back to the school for the summer. (I’m still baffled at the point of that correspondence).
Another second person messaged me with a contact information and I contacted him. We played phone tag and finally talked about what I wanted to do and about getting together to play. He wanted to hear more of my material (he didn’t have any recording of himself – which is always a bad sign) so I sent him some and then I never heard back from him. So I sent a few followup emails that weren’t returned and about a week later, I called to see if he got the material.
Drummer (Sheepishly): “Oh yeah – I got the material….Uh you’re really good. I didn’t know if I could play with those odd time signatures.”
Me: “Oh…that’s too bad. If we had gotten together we could have tried it out and if it didn’t work I would have just played easier material to see if there was a decent chemistry and see if there was something else we could do.”
Drummer: “Oh! Well I guess we could get together next week.”
Me: “Sorry. If you can’t follow up now at this stage, it just tells me that you’re probably going to flake later, and I can’t spend my time hunting people down to find out where they are. Good luck though.”
That wasn’t said with any snark whatsoever. I truly did wish him well, but I wasn’t willing to let him take up any more of my time.
A few takeaways
One thing that EVERY artist is guilty of at one (or many) points in his or her career is getting in their own way. They’re often prone to second guessing themselves and being afraid to open the doors in front of them.
Here are two observations that I try to be mindful of myself
- Opportunities are made not found. They are made by putting work into developing skill sets and positioning yourself (i.e. being conspicuous) so people can experience what you do.
- Networking is based on sincere and legitimate connections to people. I think of it as developing friendships instead trying to capitalize on something from the get go. If you do have a internal question question when you meet people, make sure it’s “What can I do for this person?” instead of “What can this person do for me?” and that’s because….
- It’s more about who knows you than who you know. My knowing other players won’t get me a gig. Other players knowing me and knowing what I do (and more importantly what problems I can solve for them) is what will prompt any discussion between people that includes “oh hey let’s get that Scott Collins guy for this”
As always, I hope this helps!
Next time – I’ll talk about lessons I learned from mistakes that I made in setting up the panels!
Thanks for reading!