Monday, March 23, 2009

TV Loves a Good Sport

Last December, I was invited on the weekend Good Day Sacramento show, on KMAX-TV, CW Channel 31, to perform some holiday music on the Celtic harp...Or so I thought.

During email correspondence prior to my appearance, the producer said, "We hear you can play hard rock on the harp. It would be great if you could do that on our show. Is that okay?" Sure, fine with me. Then, I was asked if it was okay if they put me in an elevator to play "live elevator music", so to speak. Sure, that was fine also. Really, as long as I was safe and my harp was not harmed, these stunts were perfectly acceptable to me.

It was all good TV! I had a blast playing Christmas tunes in an elevator as the doors were opening and closing. And then, I was brought into the studio and played "Stairway to Heaven" to the delight of the show hosts, Cody Stark and Kelly Chapman. It was great fun, and it gave me a ton of publicity, on television and online.

I was invited back again on March 14th for another appearance. Before that date, the producer asked me to be ready to play more rock on the harp. That's all they wanted. And I had a feeling they would place me in another strange place....

Sure enough, my first appearance on the show was a shot of me sitting in the TV station lobby, playing the Celtic harp for the security guard and people who were signing in at the front desk. This is when my main interview took place. Cody said, "We received an email from a listener who said, 'It was nice you invited the harp lady back since you guys stuffed her in the elevator the last time she was here.'" Cody loved hearing hard rock music on the harp and brought up the subject of Metallica. Perfect segway, because I was prepared to play a bit of Metallica's "The Unforgiven", just for Cody. It made his day, but the TV crew wasn't completely satisfied until I was filmed playing in as many places as they could think of. I played in the studio, next to the weather desk, while Cody delivered the forecast (I played Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight"). Then I played in the Spanish translation booth (Sting's "Fields of Gold").

They weren't done with me yet-During one of the commercial breaks, the producer's assistant asked me whether I would play inside the shower of one of the bathrooms in the building. I laughed, and said, "As long as it is clean and dry and no one turns on the water while I'm playing."

Yes, I sat in a shower, playing the Celtic harp with a TV camera held just inches away from my hands and face. Since we were only a few days away from St. Patrick's Day, and the broadcast included a video clip of cabbage bowling (I'm not kidding!), the producer was fine with me playing a bit of Irish music. The sound of Irish jigs bounced off those walls with better acoustics than last December's elevator stint.

My finale: The show credits ran as I played "Free Bird" in the studio, to Cody and the entire crew's applause. "We love having you here. You're such a good sport!" And I loved it too. What fun to be challenged in a way that delights TV viewers! After the show, I said to Cody, "I hope you'll have me back. But maybe you're running out of places to have me play the harp." I added that it was too bad that they didn't have a weather helicopter, and Cody retorted with a sly grin, "Don't tempt me, Anne. You never know what I'll think of next."

As I was packing up to leave, Cody handed me an email he received during the broadcast from a viewer who thought it was cool that I could play Metallica on the harp. And would I play for her brother's wedding? I also received several other gig inquiries later that day. I posted links to the broadcast on my website, my blogs, and on social networking profiles. I twittered about them. And the comments keep coming in. So what if I played inside an elevator and inside a shower? Demeaning? Absolutely not. It made for good TV, I had fun, the TV crew had fun, and I can't beat the promotion.

Tips for Musicians:

There will come a time, sooner or later, that a TV or video camera will be focused on you, and not just a fan sitting in your audience at a gig. You could be the subject of an interview and performing to thousands of viewers. It's the best kind of promotion out there, if you do it right.

I have appeared on radio and television interviews too many times to count in my 25-odd years of performing, but I'm always learning something new about the experience. So, I'll give you just a few pointers that have worked across-the-board for me:

1. Most local TV news shows air live, which means if you make a mistake, it airs anyways. Therefore, do as much up-front preparation as possible. Communicate with the producers well in advance, honing in on everything from what they want you to play, to whether they'll want to give your Cds away on-air, to even a possible dress code.

2. Bring more music than is needed. The producers may change their minds about what they'll want you to play at the last minute. Be flexible.

3. Practice that music. Don't prepare music that is too challenging for you to play under stressful conditions. Don't set yourself up for failure.

4. Glue a smile on your face. Be gracious. Act as if that TV set is the producer's living room and you have been invited to play just for the hosts, the camera, and that guy standing behind the camera. If they ask you to sit somewhere unusual to play, you are entertaining special guests in their own home, kindly oblige. Don't act like a diva (the TV magnifies any behavior you convey-even a subtle expression that says, "You want me to do what???").

5. After the airing, watch the videos of your performance and learn from them. Practice makes perfect-You'll do better each time you get in front of a camera. You will also become more comfortable, too.

6. Always thank the crew and the producers and continue to keep in touch.

I'm no expert on all of this, but I'll point you to a great book containing much more information about handling yourself on TV, for musicians and anyone who becomes the subject of an interview. I like this book because it is very instructional and not full of a lot of hype: Full Frontal PR by Richard Laermer, Bloomberg Press, Princeton, N.J., 2004.

How do you get on TV in the first place? Do your homework--Joan Stewart's multitude of PR tips, ideas, and strategies will get you started.

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,, and of course, at my website at

I'm looking forward to reading your feedback about performing in front of a TV camera.

Cheers, Anne :-)

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

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