An essential part of being a musician is getting your name out. Most musicians aren’t well-versed in marketing themselves, and I was no exception. Since I didn’t know where to start, I decided to google “Minneapolis pianist” and “Minnesota wedding pianist.” Gigmasters and WeddingWire were the top results, so I decided to make accounts there since I knew that future clients would easily be able to find me.
Another great feature of these sites is reviews. After booking a few gigs through both of these sites, I started to gather reviews and show up higher on the search results of both sites. Clients could also be more confident in booking me after reading my reviews. As an added bonus, I also had some great quotes from these reviews that I could pull out and use on my website and writing emails and letters to potential new clients.
The challenge of these sites is that clients can “auto-add,” which basically sends a request for bids to all available similar musicians (e.g. solo pianists). This often turns into a bidding war, and it can be difficult to decide what the right quote is to land the gig.
I’ve learned over time to stick to my normal rates rather than make a low-ball bid. When I make a quote, instead of putting a spotlight on my accolades, I tell them how their event will benefit from my musicianship. This helps them see that I am accommodating and am invested in making them happy.
The unexpected benefit of this is that higher paying clients tend to be easier to work with and trust you to do your job well. Conversely, bargain-seeking clients tend to micromanage and require more effort to satisfy.
Being listed on these sites has made me more visible and trusted in the community. Many past clients have referred me to their friends or had me return for future events which has made this a worthwhile investment. If you want to get an idea of how I market myself, check out my profile and reviews on The Bash and WeddingWire.
With so many gigs that happen on the evenings and weekends, I realized I needed to fill up my daytime hours. I brainstormed different possibilities, and nursing homes came to mind. I’ve been playing at the assisted living homes and nursing homes where my grandparents live since high school and have found that seniors are a welcoming and encouraging audience.
At first, I struggled to find gigs. When I lived in Denver, it was hard to find the email addresses for activity directors and, consequently, hard to find bookings. In the Twin Cities, I didn’t fare much better until I did a volunteer gig at a memory care facility.
At this gig, I met a couple who does over 300 nursing home gigs a year. They asked me to play a couple gigs with them and soon after asked me to sub for gigs they couldn’t play. This continues to be a great connection to have, and we become good friends.
I longed to fill my calendar with more of these gigs, so I asked one of the activity directors how I could book more. She told me that whenever she was sent a flyer in the mail, she booked them almost immediately. I heeded her advice and mailed letters advertising my music programs to all the nursing homes I could find via Google.
This was the breakthrough I had been looking for, and I got a great response (about 35% compared with 5-10% for other forms of marketing). I’ve found that most places will book me a few times a year, giving me steady income and solid relationships in the community.
Another benefit of doing nursing home programs has been the opportunity to develop new skills. Singing has not always been my forte but has been a skill I have wanted to hone for a while. Seniors were a non-threatening audience where I could practice my singing without feeling a lot of pressure. Now I really enjoy singing Sinatra and Elvis and have literally found my voice. With more than 50 songs under my belt, I am consider myself more of a singer and have been able to add this to my repertoire for other events.
On top of that, I feel encouraged and truly appreciated each and every time I perform. I love to see how much they enjoy the shows and how much it means to them that I come. They truly are one of my favorite audiences!
Nate Hance is a professional pianist, entertainer and composer living in St. Paul, MN. He grew up in Minot, ND but has traveled around the world playing music. You can listen to the six albums that he has written as well as check out his goofy music videos on YouTube