Waiting for Godot and your Big Break
Spoiler Alert: Godot never arrives, and your big break may not appear at all, or at least not in the timely fashion you believe it should happen.
Jennifer Rosenfeld recently led a Facebook Live session on the “Big Break.” It was a kind, informative and precise reality check for all attendees.
First, she told us that your big break is not automatic:
· Just because you practice diligently, doesn’t mean the BB will happen.
· Someone else will be the deliverer of the BB for you, or its arrival is solely based on getting someone else’s approval.
· You won’t be offered management or booking services based solely on your ability to play the standard repertoire at the highest of levels – agents and the gate keepers need to see a proven performance track record before they will even consider taking a meeting with you.
· You don’t need an additional 20 hours in a week to do the outside-of-the-concert hall or practice studio groundwork to make the BB happen. You need to look at how you currently spend the total hours available to you in a regular week.
Again, bravas and gratitude to Jennifer for this important information.
When I took my first broadcasting class at Los Angeles City College many years ago, the instructor began the first class by saying. “One day, you’ll be sitting at home reading or watching TV or eating dinner and there will be a knock at the door. When you open the door, you will be greeted by someone who asks, ‘Is there anyone here who would like a job in radio?’ That,” he said, is never going to happen.”
Same thing with your big break. You can’t practice and rehearse and practice some more with the expectation that someone will knock on your practice room door and say, “Wow, that’s the most insightful performance of Beethoven’s “Tempest” Sonata I’ve ever heard. I’d like to book you at Carnegie Hall in 2020.”
Big Breaks are also mysterious. One of the humblest musicians I’ve ever met is Emanuel Ax. He once told me that he sometime looks back at all of the pianists he went to school with during his student days. “Many of them played as well and even better than I do, and yet I have the bigger career. They’re doing fine, but they’re not getting the engagements I am fortunate to be offered.”
Getting your big break, does, in the end, comes down to working hard, showing up every day and some luck. And one more thing.
It’s the ability to tell your story, generate awareness, meet people in a position to help and guide you and regularly setting aside time to make that happen. Trust me: you can do that, but only you can do that.
Where I used to work, we were required to tell our Managers the three things we did to improve our domain that week, plus we had to list one goal to make our platform better for the following week. Most of us hated this weekly assignment for reasons that aren’t relevant here. It actually was a good idea, and now I feel guilty that I’m about to recommend you do something similar.
Maybe instead of operating on a weekly basis, you try a two-week period or you can even make it a month.
1. What did you do this week - month to improve your playing (sound or technique, repertoire etc.)?
2. And the real point of this exercise: what did you do to increase awareness with the media, bookers, other influencers, gate keepers and on social media?
“If you build it, they will come.” That’s only 50% true, probably even less. It still is necessary to get the word out.
Once during a yearly review with my Supervisor, I politely pushed back when he said that I had been awarded a 1 ½% salary increase. I reminded him of the many accomplishments that occurred during the previous 12 months.
Him: “Really?? Dude, you need to boast more.”
Me: “Really?? Dude, you need to observe more.”
I didn’t really say that.
He had a point. You don’t need to boast. You do need to make people aware, though.
Creating social media content incorporating visuals, clever text and videos that show where you are and what you’re doing is one of the best ways to meet and greet those in a position to advance your career, aka influencers.
Other ways to get the word out?
Always be on the lookout for new friends, contacts and connections. (They might not always be in the music world.)
Ask people you know to make introductions to influencers or other musicians who think like you.
Offer friendship to others. Be a mentor. (These random and not so random acts of genuine kindness tell the world you are a person of character. It shows that you are honorable and likable.
Again, spread knowledge of your art, but in the end, you still need to show up, do what you do best serving the music and your audience.
And just as you are gifted with the ability to perform with the highest degree of musical expression, you can become equally skilled at telling the world that you have arrived and are ready to play.