Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Different is Good

A few weeks ago, I received a call from Monica from the Tuxtown tuxedo rental shop. Excitedly, told me that she would be launching a full-service wedding boutique in a few weeks and wanted me to perform at the grand opening! The date was Valentine's Day, a day she hoped to attract many couples that are headed to the altar.

Monica's new store, the Wedding Emporium, is located in the Carson Mall in Carson City, Nevada. I was looking forward to performing inside her new one-stop shop for tuxedos, bridal gowns, and photography. But when I arrived, Monica said, "There's a stage set up in the middle of the shopping mall. I think it would be much better for you to perform there, where everyone will see you, instead of inside my shop."

It wasn't what I expected--A lone harpist on a big stage inside of a mall? That was okay for the jazz band, which was packing up when I approached the stage, but wouldn't I get lost up there? Would anyone see or hear the harp? Would anyone be paying attention?

As it turned out, the shopping mall was fairly quiet, even with complimentary chocolate-covered strawberries handed out to patrons who roamed about on this Valentine's Day. For a harpist, quiet is a good thing. The harp music reverberated throughout the mall, and people gathered to take seats in front of the stage as I played a mix of Celtic music and modern popular love songs (view my complete repertoire list to get an idea of what I played).

Shoppers approached the edge of the stage and asked for requests, and I sold CDs that they wanted autographed. Even Monica could hear me performing as the harp music wafted into her store. When I finished playing, she bought CDs to sell to her own customers and took a large stack of brochures to pass on to brides-to-be.

Originally, I had an odd picture in my head of being ignored on a big stage in the middle of a mall, for I am a solo musician, not a band. Happily, I was wrong.

Tips for Retail Store Owners:

These are hard economic times, and that means you may need to be a bit creative about getting shoppers into your store. Many shop owners attract customers by discounting prices on selected items by 50% or more. Instead, what if you invested in a musician to draw a crowd?

In the above story, Monica didn't slash prices at all, but even on a quiet shopping day, brides were parading into her store. Of course, she sent a press release to the local paper. She also handed out fliers to other colleagues in her wedding networking group, Weddings of the West. She cooperated with other stores in the mall, too, and they all got the word out.

You could host your own musical events. I have seen a Hawaiian luau band playing in Trader Joe's grocery stores, pianists performing in music stores, string quartets in hotel lobbies, and jazz trios playing inside mall food courts. Take a cue from the folks at Disneyland-they have live music at all their eateries and even outside of shops where people are milling about. Music serves to make patrons linger, and if they linger, they are more apt to buy.

Tips for Musicians:

Don't be afraid to take on a different gig than you're used to playing. If you have never played in a department store, in a shopping mall, in a music store, in a bridal shop, or even inside a grocery store, maybe it's time to give it a try.

Sure, you may need to offer a discount off of your regular performance fees to land these gigs, but if you have CDs to sell, you will make it up in sales. Plus, you just never know who may pick up your business card and give you a call later for a much more lucrative gig. At the very least, you'll get some free promotion.

Go where you are apt to meet future clients. If you primarily play at weddings, approach bridal salons, jewelry stores, cake shops, etc., and see about performing in these retail outlets to gain exposure to brides who may want to hire you. If you primarily teach music lessons, approach full-service music stores to demonstrate how wonderful their sale instruments can sound with proper practice (you might even win yourself a spot teaching in that store, too). If you have your CDs commercially available, you can also perform in bookstores that are willing to stock your CDs. Actually, performing anywhere that people can sit down and take a listen to you can attract new fans, customers, and clients.

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 www.celticharpmusic.com.

I'm looking forward to reading your feedback about performing in retail stores.

Cheers, Anne :-)

Anne Roos
Celtic Harp Music by Anne Roos
(And contact me at celticharpmusic@yahoo.com for personal consultation and mentoring-Make a living while gigging)


Kristy said...

Hello Anne,
I just found your website and blog via Twitter.
I recently ordered The Musician's Guide to Brides from the Sylvia Woods Harp Center and am learning some great information! I play a 34-string lever harp and am working towards my goal of playing for weddings and events. I look forward to applying your great tips and techniques.
~ Kristy

Celtic Harp Music by Anne Roos said...

Great to meet you, Kristy!

Anne :-)

Molly said...

Anne, I knew we were sisters under the skin! I gave this exact same advice to my network a few years ago. Never got any feedback on whether they implemented any of the suggestions, though. Glad yours was a success!