Monday, April 27, 2009

How to Respond to Incompetent Colleagues

When I arrive at a wedding to perform, I do a little research. I speak to the wedding coordinator and the celebrant (the minister, priest, rabbi, pastor, etc.) prior to the ceremony to get my cues and to learn of any nuances before I start playing. My job goes smoothly when I learn about updates to the ceremony agenda prior to my performance. Questioning the wedding coordinator and celebrant about particulars can make my playing seamless during a ceremony.

But what if the wedding coordinator doesn't care about my needs
and doesn't even want to take the time to talk with me? What if
the coordinator does talk to me but ignores our discussion? This
happened to me at a recent wedding, where there were more than
300 guests at a big church and more than 13 attendants walking
down the aisle before the bride's entrance. I went over all my
cues needed and the church wedding coordinator ignored me. She
mentioned she would close the doors to the room and then re-open
them to signal when the processional would begin, but the doors
remained open at all times. The flower girls were to walk in
last, which was my signal to be ready to play the bridal march.
Instead, the coordinator sent them down the aisle first, and I
was left needing to count the 11 bridesmaids before the bride was
to enter.

I was completely confused, didn't get to play the song selected
for the mother's candle lighting and seating, and it took me
until the appearance of the 2nd bridesmaid to determine that I
needed to skip to the processional music.

Things like this will happen, when other wedding vendors will
simply ignore my needs or not know what they are doing in the
first place. I've known ministers who have refused to talk with
me before the wedding to go over the details, actually admitting
that they didn't know what they were going to do anyway. I was
left to watch for a subtle nod of the head to assume that it was
time to play behind a prayer. Professional photographers and
videographers have stood right in front of me when I needed to
see the processional and bride walk down the aisle. I have played
at weddings where the reception band or DJ was within earshot,
testing their sound systems during the ceremony and drowning out
the exchange of vows. I have performed at corporate functions
when sound systems were promised and not provided, or the sound
tech showed up three minutes before I was to begin playing.

What should we do when we're doing our best job and others
it up for us? Here are five tried-and-true pointers:

1. Absolutely do not let on to the bride or your client that
anything is wrong! Do not tell the bride, "Oooops. I couldn't
play the seating music for the mothers because the wedding
coordinator didn't give me my cue." Don't tell her, "The sound
guy didn't show up on time so I couldn't begin playing when your
guests arrived." Do the best you can, smile, and behave as if
absolutely everything is going perfectly. (If the bride or client
complains after the event, be careful about dissing other service
providers. If that idiot service provider hears about it, they'll
make your life miserable. Be gracious and simply apologize.)

2. If something needs to be fixed right away, quietly tell the
offending service vendor about your needs. Have your roadie whisper
into the ear of the photographer, "Please move so that our string
quartet can see when the bride is entering." If the photographer
barks back, everyone within earshot will know that the
photographer is a dolt.

3. If you have a bone to pick with a wedding coordinator or other
wedding vendor, and you assume you will cross paths with this
person again, wait until after the ceremony and quietly tell them
what went wrong, as constructive criticism. Don't ever pick a
fight with them in front of your client and their guests.

4. Forget about it if you predict that you'll never be working
with that person again. For instance, I once performed at a
wedding where my amp was misbehaving, crackling and sputtering.
Instead of quietly informing me that my mic or amp needed
adjustment, the owner of the estate where the wedding was held
yelled at me in front of all the guests seated: "The harp sounds
terrible! All we hear is sh_t". I left that wedding venue having
decided that I would never take another job to perform there
again. Thus, there was no point for me to speak to the owner
about her rude behavior.

5. Your best retaliation is to never recommend an incompetent
service provider to anyone. And if a bride or client asks you
about that person, simply say that you have other businesses that
you prefer to recommend. Don't go into detail. Don't bad-mouth
unprofessional businesses. Instead, compliment competent service
providers with referrals. They will return the favor.

These tips, and many more, are available in my book "The
Musician's Guide to Brides". This book is written primarily for
wedding musicians, but it's also filled with savvy information
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

How have you dealt with unprofessional colleagues? Please share
your comments and insights.

Anne :-)

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

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What To Do In a Business Lull

It's April, and here in Tahoe, this is typically a slow time for gigs. It's not quite the summer wedding/tourist season, and my performance schedule is light.

Do I freak out and wonder what to do with myself or where the next dollar will come from? Absolutely not! I make lavish use of my free time, because I know it won't last and my performance calendar will soon be full again.

Need some ideas of what to do when your business is slow? None of these suggestions cost a penny, but they'll make good use of your spare time:

1. Reconnect. Contact those valuable people who have been referring you to their clients. Say "Hello!" And ask if they need more brochures, business cards, demo CDs, or any other promotional products from you. Share some marketing ideas and find out how business has been for them. Making a personal appearance at their office produces a much bigger impression than phone or email contact. So if possible, schedule an appointment and buy them a cup of coffee. You'll be surprised-they will enjoy the little break from their work tedium to visit with you. But best of all, they'll remember you the next time their phone rings with a client needing a musician.

2. Get busy online. Check your website for dead links. Do some surfing around and check out your competition. Then devise a game plan for your next website update with your webmaster. Freshen up your online social networking profiles. Upload some different songs and photos (they don't need to be new songs and photos, just different ones). Add content to your blog (What? You don't have one? It's time to start).

3. Do your homework. Discover new ways to market yourself. Check out the great marketing info available online in podcasts, blogs, e-books, and newsletters. Need help in how to sell? A great site for sales info is Need help with publicity and promotion? Check out Joan Stewart at The and Joan's "How to be a Kick-Butt Publicity Hound" E-Book. And if you are searching for info specific to the music business, for artists, and authors, start at Bob Baker's site. Refresh your career goals.

4. Go window-shopping online or in retail stores. Plan ahead to make your music sound better. Make a wish list for new equipment that you are hankering to own. Check out equipment reviews on and even Talk to other musicians about which instruments and electronics they like best. Then, when the money rolls in, simply refer to your wish list, find a rock-bottom price, and make your equipment dreams come true.

5. Enter the zone. Work on some new music, play to your heart's content. Discover a new song to add to your repertoire. Create scores for the tracks for your next CD project. Compose or arrange new tunes. Or dust off some of the old stuff you love to play and get back into it. Call some friends over and make music together.

6. Get thee to a library. Read, read, read. Pick up some books on marketing or just get a fun read. You have free time...why not shut off the computer and learn something new? Park yourself in your favorite café, or sit outside on your porch or deck and become absorbed in the printed pages. Or if you are so inclined, start writing that book that you've always wanted to write.

7. Get a life. Enjoy nature: Sit on the beach or hike in the forest. Pick up a new hobby. Go to dinner and a movie with your sweetie. Play with your kids. Take a break!

Relish the time you have off from dealing with clients. Rethink your marketing strategy and make plans to build your music career. Or don't work at all-- take a vacation from your desk, your computer, your iPhone, and your Blackberry. Shut off the email and do something different. Trust that work will return and you'll feel refreshed and recharged.

New to Gigging?

You've certainly heard the phrase, "Don't quit your day job". But in this economy, many are choosing to leave their day job to do exactly what they want in life, and to make a living doing it. If you're between jobs, plan for your next career step. Whether you are a gigging musician, or a gigging freelancer in another field, I can help you to make a living doing just what you want to do, to find your own happy niche in the marketplace (and to help you manage the inevitable lulls in business).

I'm available for personal consultation and mentoring. Contact me via email to get started. And in the meantime, if you have some fabulous ways to manage the lulls in your business, please share them here.

Cheers, Anne :-)

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