Tuesday, December 9, 2008

‘Tis the Season to Party—The Economy Isn’t That Bad

Rich contacted me to perform at his company's "Holiday Family Luncheon". He was desperately looking for some kind of entertainment that would fit the budget he was given. When I gave him a quote, he exclaimed, "You're much cheaper than a dance band or a DJ! Those guys want $1500 or more, and that doesn't even include their mileage." Within 24 hours, I was hired for a 4-hour holiday party.

About 250 employees, along with spouses and children, attended the banquet. Trees with twinkle lights, fountains, and park benches decorated the Tuscany Ballroom of the Peppermill Resort Casino in Reno, Nevada for this special event. And there I sat, with my harp, dressed in my white and gold gown. Rich said I looked like a snowflake.

I played every holiday classic tune you could imagine, including Victorian Christmas carols and music from the Nutcracker Suite. I also took requests, playing "Stairway to Heaven" for Rich (never mind that it wasn't a Christmas song). And then, when Santa entered the room, I played "Santa Claus is Coming to Town". (For more information of the extent of my song list, check out my corporate repertoire list).

I was tickled to hear from so many guests that the music set a wonderful backdrop for the occasion. People could visit with each other without having to shout over a loud PA system. Many of the attendees stared at me while I played, mentioning later that they had never seen a harp before and were amazed. At the end of the party, Rich, and another company event coordinator Sheryll, said they would certainly consider me for their future employee events and next year's holiday party.

Though there is so much talk of a bad economy and companies pulling back on their holiday festivities this year, this example proves that there are companies that are not in trouble. Rich and Sheryll worked for two merged companies that make chocolate and pet food-both staples that people continue to buy, even in a recession. Holiday cheer still exists.

Tips for In-House Corporate Event Planners:

A down economy does not mean that you have to say, "Bah Humbug!" And put the brakes on your annual employee holiday parties. They can still happen-Just scale them back to fit your present budget.

Instead of the expensive DJ or dance band, opt for soloists or small ensembles. Your guests will be able to mix and mingle without shouting, and not as much space will be required for the performance area. If it is a family party, you can even host a talent show or have employee's children perform, with a little backup accompaniment from a professional musician. There are many inexpensive ways to entertain.

You can also opt to have your party in a smaller venue, go with a buffet service instead of a sit-down meal, or serve only one course, for instance appetizers or desserts. What other budget-saving ideas can you think of?

There are many ways to trim the expenses on your holiday festivities without nixing them altogether, and you can always afford live entertainment.

Tips for Musicians:

Do you truly think that the economy is so bad that no one is partying this year? Think again. Companies that are in recession- proof businesses are doing just fine.

Make yourself affordable to your clients. If you are a large band, let clients know that they can hire just a portion of your group. If you are a soloist, you are probably charging quite a bit less than bands or DJs, and this is a major selling point.

Give the client one quote for the entire package and don't itemize the cost of everything that you are including. Give a secondary package quote if the client doesn't have the budget for the first quote you supplied. Offer to match the theme of the event with your costumes and repertoire. Offer no-cost amplification or other complimentary frills to land the gig.

When you are at the event, be willing to take requests. Play an encore--be generous with your abilities and your time. Bring a few CDs to give as gifts to those who hired you and to the CEO. Realize that corporate clients are in a position to hire you for their future events. The goal is to attract repeat business, and this is accomplished by bending over backwards for your clients.

Stay positive in this tough economy, and you will attract clients to you.

Many more tips are available from my book "The Musician's Guide to Brides". This book is written primarily for wedding musicians, but it's also filled with advice about marketing, advertising, and promoting your business as a working musician. It's available wherever Hal Leonard Books are sold: music and bookstores, and through online retailers including sheetmusicplus.com, Amazon.com, and of course, at my website at Celtic Harp Music.

I'm looking forward to reading your feedback about performing at corporate functions. Check back here again for next week's story.

Anne :-)

Anne Roos
Celtic Harp Music by Anne Roos

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