Dave Cool

Musicians and the Art of Polite Persistence

Don't Quit

Musicians and the Art of Polite Persistence

A few weeks ago I went back to a venue that I was the program director at for 3 years. The band playing that night was a jazz trio called “Apartment 5”. I realized that the bass player Paul is the perfect example of polite persistence, because it took almost a year for me to first book his band, but they have been playing regular gigs at the venue ever since.

I first heard from Paul after I had started booking a space called the St-Ambroise Centre here in Montreal, which is owned and operated by local micro-brewery McAuslan Brewing (if you can find their St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout, it’s considered to be the best stout in the world by many beer geeks). Anyway, his jazz trio had played at a visual arts event at the venue (the artist had hired them), and he called me shortly after to see if we would be interested in hiring his band for other gigs. I explained that it was something we simply didn’t do. We didn’t charge to rent the space, but we also didn’t offer guarantees to bands. But they were a work-for-hire band, so there was nothing I could for them at the time.

A few months later, I got a voice mail from Paul, asking if we had any need for his jazz trio. I didn’t call him back this time because I was swamped with work, and there was still nothing I could do for him. A few months later, he called back and we spoke on the phone once again. I didn’t have anything different to tell him, but he was a nice guy and I honestly didn’t mind talking to him for a few minutes.

Opportunity Knocked

These phone calls and messages continued every once in a while for most of that year, until one day we got a call at the venue to host a private event for a company. It turned out they wanted a jazz trio for entertainment during the evening. Guess who I thought of first? My friend Paul. So I called him up and offered him the gig. It was for less money than they normally charged, but Paul said they’d take the gig to show me what it was like to work with the band and to prove themselves.

As it turned out, they were perfect. Great musicians, totally professional. They came in, set-up on time, played their sets, tore down and got out of the way (and they didn’t get drunk, eat all of the client’s food, etc.). They knew they were there to do a job and that’s what they did. I was really impressed.

I got a thank you phone call from Paul shortly after (remember how much I love those). He of course reminded me they were available to do more gigs, and I reminded him that this was a one-off kind of thing, but that I would keep him in mind if anything else came up.

The Pay Off

Well, the following spring I was given the keys to the much larger outdoor space at the micro-brewery, the St-Ambroise Terrace (250+ capacity versus 50+ capacity). We also made a decision to invest a considerable amount of money into hiring entertainment throughout the summer, a good portion of which would go to weekly music nights. I think you know who got a lot of those gigs, and they’ve been playing regularly at the space for 3 years now, even after I left my job as the program director.

Everyone Needs a Polite Reminder

So when I saw Paul recently after his set at the St-Ambroise Terrace, I reminded him how it had all started with his regular phone calls and messages. We laughed about it, but then he thanked me for reminding him. He admitted it’s not easy to do for an artist, and he had lost sight of the fact that polite persistence can indeed pay off. He realized that there were a bunch of potential clients that he had stopped phoning simply because he had lost confidence after he wasn’t getting calls back, but he said he would pick up the phone and try again.

I figured since the guy who was in my mind the perfect example of polite persistence needed a friendly reminder, then other musicians might need one as well. So take it from someone who was fielding dozens of booking emails/calls every week for 4 years, polite persistence can indeed pay off.


IMPORTANT: Why Paul’s Polite Persistence Paid Off

It’s one thing to say that polite persistence works, but I want to take a closer look at specifically why it worked in this case:

1. He never sounded bitter, angry or frustrated

Whenever Paul called, he never came across as pushy, and never sounded bitter, angry or frustrated that I wasn’t booking him. He was always upbeat, asked me how things at the venue were going, and was just fun to talk to. The reality is that had he given me any attitude along the way about not booking the band, the story probably would’ve ended there.

2. He didn’t take a non-reply as a “No”

There were several times when I didn’t call Paul back, but he didn’t take the non-reply as a “No”, and neither should you. If a booker or media person (or anyone else you’re trying to reach) doesn’t return your phone call or respond to your email, all it means is that they didn’t return your phone call or respond to your email. It doesn’t mean the answer is no.

People are extremely busy, especially any gatekeepers in the industry, and emails and phone calls often get lost in the shuffle. Heck, even when I did tell Paul the answer was “no”, he still persisted, but that’s because I always left the door open to the situation changing in the future, so he kept following up until the answer was a definite “No”, which it never ended up being.

3. He persisted, to a point

Yes, Paul persisted, but he didn’t call every day or even every week. It was more like once every few months. Had he called me every day or every few days, I probably would’ve blocked his number and never booked the band. He struck the right balance.

4. Once opportunity knocked, they exceeded expectations

Once Paul's band got the first gig, they did an amazing job and exceeded my expectations. They even took the gig for less money than they were usually paid, just to get their feet in the door. They made sure that if ever another opportunity came up, I would have no choice but to think to book them, which is exactly what happened.


Have you ever used polite persistence to get a gig? How about to get an interview in the media or song on the radio? Let us know in the comments section below!

Posted by Dave Cool on 09/23/2011 | 11 comments

Comments

The Flutter and Wow
Posted by The Flutter and Wow on Sep 24 2011 5:16 AM
Good Stuff:agree:
WhiteHotGrill
Posted by WhiteHotGrill on Sep 25 2011 5:20 AM
After spending 37 years in the hotel business where you had to knock on 25 doors before getting a slight acknowledgement, booking our band is a piece of cake. Maintaining an active data base with a systematic trace system of anywhere from 30 days to quarterly, you can indeed maintain contact without being a pest. Being respectful of their time is the most important. Music is not the only thing they have on their mind or within their responsibility and their enthusiasm for bands will not be nearly as strong as your own. I also mix telephone contact with emails, letters and personal visits. Nothing will guarantee repeat performances more than delivering on your promise and their expectatons, timeliness arriving and departing and adhering to house rules regarding sound levels, length of breaks and any other house rule they present to you. Eli White WhiteHotGrill Tampa, FL
Fronz Arp
Posted by Fronz Arp on Sep 26 2011 12:24 AM
Its nice to hear a positive story
phillipfoxmusic.bandzoogle.com
Posted by phillipfoxmusic.bandzoogle.com on Sep 26 2011 2:49 PM
Man, I really needed to hear that. As we move into booking at larger, more established venues I find this to be increasingly true and the time between initial contact and any form of pay-off to be even longer. Thanks for the encouragement to keep at it!
Mayan Fox
Posted by Mayan Fox on Sep 28 2011 3:01 AM
Great thoughts Dave. In kind of the same vein I've started to follow up with rejection letters to festivals with a polite, "Thank you for considering us. If by chance you have a band pull and are looking for a prompt replacement, would you kindly reconsider our application?" And then I leave it at that. It's worked twice to the point of getting a gig because of another band having to pull out. Nate
Helena Kaldalons
Posted by Helena Kaldalons on Sep 29 2011 7:42 AM
I absolutely agree with everything written in this article! Polite persistance is key. Many venues have opened their doors for me because of this and you have to have a positive attitude. I have always believed this and know it to be true! Don't give up!
Dave Cool
Posted by Dave Cool on Sep 29 2011 4:22 PM
@ TheFlutterandWow - Thanks, glad you enjoyed it! @ WhiteHotGrill - Excellent insight, sounds like you have a system in place for polite persistence, very smart indeed. @ benstewartonline - Hehe, yeah, my gf keeps bugging me to be more positive in my articles, so instead of "Musicians- Don't Do This", I'm trying to show some positive examples. @ phillipfoxmusic- Thanks, so glad you enjoyed the blog post! @ Mayan Fox - YES! Very nicely done, a fantastic idea. @ HelenaKaldalons - Great to hear! And glad you enjoyed the post! Thanks everyone! Cheers, Dave Cool Community Manager Bandzoogle
Heather Hill
Posted by Heather Hill on Oct 5 2011 1:48 PM
[quote="DaveCool"] Musicians and the Art of Polite Persistence A few weeks ago I went back to a venue that I was the program director at for 3 years. The band playing that night was a jazz trio called “Apartment 5”. I realized that the bass player Paul is the perfect example of polite persistence, because it took almost a year for me to first book his band, but they have been playing regular gigs at the venue ever since. I first heard from Paul after I had started booking a space called the St-Ambroise Centre here in Montreal, which is owned and operated by local micro-brewery McAuslan Brewing (if you can find their St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout, it’s considered to be the best stout in the world by many beer geeks). Anyway, his jazz trio had played at a visual arts event at the venue (the artist had hired them), and he called me shortly after to see if we would be interested in hiring his band for other gigs. I explained that it was something we simply didn’t do. We didn’t charge to rent the space, but we also didn’t offer guarantees to bands. But they were a work-for-hire band, so there was nothing I could for them at the time. A few months later, I got a voice mail from Paul, asking if we had any need for his jazz trio. I didn’t call him back this time because I was swamped with work, and there was still nothing I could do for him. A few months later, he called back and we spoke on the phone once again. I didn’t have anything different to tell him, but he was a nice guy and I honestly didn’t mind talking to him for a few minutes. Opportunity Knocked These phone calls and messages continued every once in a while for most of that year, until one day we got a call at the venue to host a private event for a company. It turned out they wanted a jazz trio for entertainment during the evening. Guess who I thought of first? My friend Paul. So I called him up and offered him the gig. It was for less money than they normally charged, but Paul said they’d take the gig to show me what it was like to work with the band and to prove themselves. As it turned out, they were perfect. Great musicians, totally professional. They came in, set-up on time, played their sets, tore down and got out of the way (and they didn’t get drunk, eat all of the client’s food, etc.). They knew they were there to do a job and that’s what they did. I was really impressed. I got a thank you phone call from Paul shortly after (remember how much I love those). He of course reminded me they were available to do more gigs, and I reminded him that this was a one-off kind of thing, but that I would keep him in mind if anything else came up. The Pay Off Well, the following spring I was given the keys to the much larger outdoor space at the micro-brewery, the St-Ambroise Terrace (250+ capacity versus 50+ capacity). We also made a decision to invest a considerable amount of money into hiring entertainment throughout the summer, a good portion of which would go to weekly music nights. I think you know who got a lot of those gigs, and they’ve been playing regularly at the space for 3 years now, even after I left my job as the program director. Everyone Needs a Polite Reminder So when I saw Paul recently after his set at the St-Ambroise Terrace, I reminded him how it had all started with his regular phone calls and messages. We laughed about it, but then he thanked me for reminding him. He admitted it’s not easy to do for an artist, and he had lost sight of the fact that polite persistence can indeed pay off. He realized that there were a bunch of potential clients that he had stopped phoning simply because he had lost confidence after he wasn’t getting calls back, but he said he would pick up the phone and try again. I figured since the guy who was in my mind the perfect example of polite persistence needed a friendly reminder, then other musicians might need one as well. So take it from someone who was fielding dozens of booking emails/calls every week for 4 years, polite persistence can indeed pay off. IMPORTANT: Why Paul’s Polite Persistence Paid Off It’s one thing to say that polite persistence works, but I want to take a closer look at specifically why it worked in this case: 1. He never sounded bitter, angry or frustrated Whenever Paul called, he never came across as pushy, and never sounded bitter, angry or frustrated that I wasn’t booking him. He was always upbeat, asked me how things at the venue were going, and was just fun to talk to. The reality is that had he given me any attitude along the way about not booking the band, the story probably would’ve ended there. 2. He didn’t take a non-reply as a “No” There were several times when I didn’t call Paul back, but he didn’t take the non-reply as a “No”, and neither should you. If a booker or media person (or anyone else you’re trying to reach) doesn’t return your phone call or respond to your email, all it means is that they didn’t return your phone call or respond to your email. It doesn’t mean the answer is no. People are extremely busy, especially any gatekeepers in the industry, and emails and phone calls often get lost in the shuffle. Heck, even when I did tell Paul the answer was “no”, he still persisted, but that’s because I always left the door open to the situation changing in the future, so he kept following up until the answer was a definite “No”, which it never ended up being. 3. He persisted, to a point Yes, Paul persisted, but he didn’t call every day or even every week. It was more like once every few months. Had he called me every day or every few days, I probably would’ve blocked his number and never booked the band. He struck the right balance. 4. Once opportunity knocked, they exceeded expectations Once Paul's band got the first gig, they did an amazing job and exceeded my expectations. They even took the gig for less money than they were usually paid, just to get their feet in the door. They made sure that if ever another opportunity came up, I would have no choice but to think to book them, which is exactly what happened. Have you ever used polite persistence to get a gig? How about to get an interview in the media or song on the radio? Let us know in the comments section below! [/quote]
Heather Hill
Posted by Heather Hill on Oct 5 2011 1:57 PM
Great advice Dave. I liked your tips: staying upbeat, persistent and then overdelivering when the opportunity knocks!! It is always good to consider how the booking agents, venues, publishers, etc. feel when being inundated with a ton of calls, emails and music offerings!! The good stuff always rises to the top.
Skyworks Productions
Posted by Skyworks Productions on Oct 18 2011 7:42 PM
REAL good article. As a booking agent, I've been through this many times. I appreciate it when a band or artist is persistent, as long as they are professional about it. I try to make it a point to reply to every e-mail I receive within 48 hours. Last March I was in the hospital for a week after suffering a heart attack and didn't have access to my e-mail. This one particular band sent me an e-mail while I was in the hospital and when I hadn't replied right away, they sent a second rude and nasty one saying, "I guess you've forgotten about us and don't want to work with us anymore. Is it that we're not good enough?" All this managed to do was tick me off, so when I wrote them back I made sure I told them I had a heart attack and was in the hospital and that as soon as I could get caught up on things, I would try to book them. The guy felt pretty damn bad about his rude comments after learning about my hospitalization. Lesson learned...DON'T JUMP TO CONCLUSIONS and give your booking agent a chance...and be patient and politely persistent!
Dave Cool
Posted by Dave Cool on Oct 27 2011 6:20 PM
@hillplay - Thanks so much, glad you enjoyed it! @SkyworksProductions - That's another important lesson, which is be patient because you NEVER know what's going on in someone's life. Thanks for sharing, and glad you're doing ok! Cheers, Dave