This past weekend my group, New City Brass, had our first official concert performance. For those of you that are interested, you can check out samples from the performance HERE. Now that we've got our first recital under our belts, I can say with confidence that it feels like a "legit" group! Following this performance, I just had a few thoughts that I think are worth sharing with those of you out there interested in getting your own stuff started.
First off, I think the most important thing anyone should do when starting something from scratch is focusing on getting your first win.
What do I mean by "win"?
Well talking to people I meet, everyone always seems to have a list of things they are "eventually" going to do. Very few people ever get around to actually trying these things, but the few that do often give up within a few weeks because what they envisioned is actually way harder to achieve than they originally thought. The best way to combat this feeling of defeat is focus specifically on getting your first opportunity to do what you set out to do.
For me, I was trying to get a brass quintet hired to do weddings and other ceremonial music gigs. It's actually funny, because I have yet to actually get the group hired for a wedding. However, the minute that first response came from a church offering to hire us for Easter, I knew this could work. Immediately following that email, I got that extra boost of motivation I needed to keep pressing on. About 700 emails later, I have gotten more offers for Christmas and Easter than I could have ever possibly imagined six months ago. In addition to that first Easter gig, I managed to get us a handful of other opportunities along the way, which have continued to open more doors for myself and the rest of the group.
The point I'm trying to make is that it's a huge ego booster to get that first opportunity. You shouldn't be shooting for the top of the world starting out. If you do, you're going to be totally bummed when you don't get any opportunities. Even if it means doing things for cheaper than you want, it's worth it to start building legitimacy for yourself. Delivering a high quality product will help you start building a pool of references that could help lead to other opportunities.
Yesterday alone, I sent out over a hundred emails to concert presenters all over PA and NJ. I only got 2 responses so far, but one of them was an offer to do a Christmas concert at a church in December. Will it be the most amazing gig ever? Probably not. However, just getting that opportunity and connection is a huge win for the group.
Peter Seymour said it best in the interview I did with him:
"The first gigs were all very random and spread out, but very important. I have always believed the perception of something happening is something happening. If you’ve got a CD, shows, a website….you’ve got an ensemble! Once you’re doing gigs and getting out there, it leads to more gigs and more opportunities."