Musician Impossible!

Hello readers! If you are anywhere near the big apple, I hope you are staying inside and warm away from the storm! New York City keeps going despite any weather conditions…right now, one of my clients is rebranding of her online presence, message, and her career. I’m so excited to be a part of it! Days are longer with graphic design, proofings, streaming testing and planning, but the end result is always worth it.

To relax after an intense day, I’ve grown an addiction to Food Network’s Restaurant Impossible. Have you seen it yet? It’s absolutely fascinating, inspiring, eye-opening and a hint of hilarious. Robert Irvine, a successful entrepreneur and chef, steps in and helps failing restaurants figure out what they are doing wrong, give them a whole entire rebranding and gives them hope for success!


^Robert Irvine in front of one of many restaurants he’s helped on Restaurant Impossible.

A few episodes in, I saw a parallel in what these restaurants needed to go through in their saving owners from their branding mistakes (or lack of) and what I am working on in my client’s rebranding project. Not as intense, but lessons are to be learned. As different as music and restaurant business may seem, here’s what I learned from *guilty* a marathon of Restaurant Impossible:

Lesson 1. Fresh eyes! 
A term commonly used in the restaurant business, a run of fresh eyes always does the business good. In other words, from time to time you want fresh eyes on your overall look, your message and your interactions. As a musician, this is your website layout, your images, your bio, and your press quotes…A lot of things that folks tend to put up once and then forget about.

If you are feeling blah about your site or see your google analytics telling you people are leaving your site in less than 5 seconds – start by asking some friends, family, colleagues, or even better, strangers to look at your site and give them their opinion! People love giving their opinion.

Tip: An easy way to gather opinions is to build a survey and send to your mailing list as well as social media sites. Allow them to look at your site, your photos, choose their favorite press quotes, etc. and get all that great free feedback! However, participating can be swayed with a free song download or answer them any question they have as a fun reward.

Lesson 2. Consider your target.
Quite a bit of these restaurants were attracting older crowds, yet they were wanting to bring in more families and younger customers to bring in life to their dying business. One quick look at the menu by Robert, and it became painstakingly clear – the menu took 20 minutes to read through and even though there was a quantity, this hurt the restaurant as they couldn’t make all those items fresh and tasty and provide quality. Changing their menu to family-friendly meals that kids and parents will love, picking a few specialties and making them great makes sense because it brings in their target customers AND keeps them coming back for more.

See what they did there? They got exclusive. And as much as you want to say ‘I want everyone to listen to my music!’, that ain’t gonna happen. Derek Sivers says it best here:

“…know who you are, and have the confidence that somewhere out there, there’s a little niche of people that would like your kind of music. They may only be 1% of the population. But 1% of the world is 65 million people!

Loudly leave out 99% of the world. When someone in your target 1% hears you excluding the part of the population they already feel alienated from, they’ll be drawn to you.”

Tip: Write down a list of artists you don’t like, or whose fans who would probably not like you. Do the same to whom you do like and whose fans would probably like you. Look at their message, their online presence and find inspiration (or learn what you hate) and learn from them!

Lesson 3. You can’t do it all yourself.
In one episode, the owner had a difficult time letting anyone do their jobs. Losing money, she lost trust in her capable team, resulting in them acting up on the job. Robert took her aside, putting each task on a chain, and asking her one by one – what do you do in this restaurant? One by one, the chains went on her neck, getting heavier and heavier. The physical weight was a metaphor for the weight she was carrying in her job. After she realized she couldn’t do it all on her own and be successful, she took each chain and delegated them to her staff.

This goes the same for you, musicians, working to rebrand yourself. Here’s some common sense that you need to remember – You can’t do it all yourself! You may think you are saving money by designing that business card yourself, researching the perfect venue for your release party and scheduling your rehearsal, but truth is, it’s overwhelming, you’re wasting time, and it’s probably not your forte.

Tip: If you are on a budget, go to elance.com or freelancer.com and post your project around – ask for examples from any applicant you have a good feeling about and let them what they do best, in your budget & on your terms!

So there you go – interesting, right? Next time (or the first time) you tackle a rebranding, take these tips and get a head start!

5 Things I learned on the road.

Wow, what a month it has been. I got home last Thursday evening, exhausted, worn out but genuinely sad to have the tour end. I spent the next day catching up with mail ( a pile was waiting for me), with the boy who treated me to a great meal, and with a good night’s sleep! I didn’t know how tired I was! Ha!I hope you have enjoyed my photos and stories while on the road – what I did share was only the sprinkles on the sundae to say the least. I learned so much about musicians, touring, concerts and myself. Today, I want to share with you the things that stuck with me – the 5 things I learned while on the road.

1) Pack light.
I consider myself good at packing just enough for any trip. For a 3 week trip, I packed enough for each day. Just a few days in my trip, I realized I could have probably brough only HALF of what I did. Why? A big reason is because most of the venues had laundry facilities. With load in times 4 hours before a show and have a few extra hours before (and during) the show, I could have easily done a couple loads of laundry. Some of the hotels also offered laundry facilities, but most of the band waited to grab a convenient free wash at a venue – something that was new to me!

2) Research hotel / venue ahead of time.
For this tour, I was navigating a bus driver to places neither of us have been too. You’d think you could assume each venue and hotel would have bus parking, right? Wrong. I learned very quickly that you need to research where you will be ahead of time and find out exactly where the bus or vehicle of choice should be parked. When arriving in Evans, GA, we couldn’t find a sign for the event space that was apparently in a very small parking lot – FYI, HELL for a big tour bus. I was talking on the phone to a guy not giving clear instructions and trying to voice that to a frustrated bus driver who had just scraped the side of the bus by a tree in this tight parking lot. Turns out, the venue was right behind us IN THE LIBRARY (which had maybe 3-4 signs up). If I had asked or researched this ahead of time and known the venue was in the library, I would have saved minutes of frustration and the driver $100s of repair for his bus. Consider that lesson learned.

3) Get familiar with the space and staff.
5 minutes before arrival, I would call up the presenter and make sure they could meet me by the door. Once the bus stopped, I hopped off and greeted the presenter right away and ask for a tour of the space. “Show me the green room, show me the dressing rooms, show me the stage, show me the front of house, show me where the bathrooms are!” I learned to do this after the first few gigs and once I started, the days got easier knowing where everything was right away – because the band will ask YOU where everything is. Even if you are doing it on your own, get familiar with the space as soon as you can. The next thing? Shake hands with everyone on staff and introduce yourself with a smile. You want to be able to ask favors from these guys for the next few hours- whether its a run to CVS for a case of water or help with loading up the van after the show – and stay on their good side. Giving your CD or a piece of merchandise as a thank you also helps. Leave them on a good note.

4) Treat the band (or yourself) once in a while.
With this tour, I got caught up with making sure where everyone was, checking the itinerary every other 30 minutes, running through what I need to do the next morning, worrying if the driver knows where we’re going…it can get overwhelming. But, the sound engineer (and experienced tour manager) on the tour reminded me that if you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right. The band is away from friends, family, loved ones and away from their homes. Treat them once in a while. I found a late night pizza after the show delivered to the bus or a bottle of champagne for our last night all together did the trick. Remember that behind the planning and logistics, these are still people and they need to relax and enjoy their time on the road!

5) It’s all about problem solving and staying calm.
A heavy message I learned while being on the road managing 8 other people’s time, is that emotions have to be left at the door with any problems that WILL come your way. And you have to stay calm about it. This tour single handedly taught me that things will be okay and it built my strength and ability to stay calm & problem solve. For example, there was a last minute decision that the lead wanted to come out after the show and speak on music education (he authored his own string teaching method) and then sign CDs, I knew I had to step up and contact presenters as soon as possible to discuss the game plan. When we saw that getting our own mic/speaker to set up in every lobby wasn’t going to work (Guitar Center’s don’t exist everywhere, by the way), I had to chat with every presenter and discuss if the plan would be better carried out on stage, in the lobby, and who would take him to where he needs to go. I could have easily gotten overwhelmed or frustrated when things weren’t exactly how we envisioned, but you learn to work with what you have in order to make the show go on!

I could write pages and pages of my experience and what I learned, but I will leave you with what I can fit in this post.
I can happily say, I’m ready to tackle touring in the future and be more prepared than ever before! What tours are coming up in 2014? Can I come?

Here’s to the next adventure,
Fiona Z

Last Day on the tour

Working my last show tonight for this December tour in Wausau, WI..incredibly bummed that I won’t be going to the west coast with the band to finish out the tour! This has been a priceless experience and I am so thankful I was able to come for the ride! Who’s ready for December 2014? This girl!

SoundCheck

Sound check from December 9 in Evans, GA.

Morrow, GA

We spent two nights in Atlanta, GA for a matinee show at Clayton State University at the beautiful Spivey Hall on Sunday afternoon. A really great surprise for me to see the magnificent hall. Check out my shots during soundcheck:

Set up and soundcheck went much quicker this time around – the band is jelling and getting more comfortable with the sound they want to create so the process is smoother. We got some delicious Vietnamese food for dinner (first time I had it!). My first lesson was to try and get the restaurant to bag them individually and label them with either their name or order number. This is just to make it easier on the band. They don’t need to be searching for their order in a big sea of orders!

I was able to hang backstage this time as the hall had to control selling merchandise, so it was nice to relax and chat with the band as well as stay on top of them for show time and 5 minute calls.

It was a sold out show and the audience was really warm. The fiddle player in the band said there was a “wow-er” in the audience – after every song, this woman would say, “wow!”. Things like that I found give the band a confidence boost and a little spark of joy, making the concert that much more enjoyable for them!

During intermission, I walked to the box office to make sure merch was doing well and took some shots of the lobby:

I stuck around after the show and sat by the CD signing table. It was so great and rewarding to hear folks talk to the band and tell them stories of how inspiring they are, when they last saw each other, kids being starstruck…it was really nice to see that at the end of the night.

Off to Evans, GA as I type for a show tonight! More stories are still to come, I’m sure. 🙂

Franklin, NC

Our second stop was Franklin, NC. We spent our first night on the bus and I surprisingly slept really well! Each of our bunks have a DVD player and a really comfy pillow and blanket.

image

I headed to bed fairly early since I had to be up to get the driver a room in the morning – he is only allowed to drive 10 hours before he has to stop and rest. He made a few stops in the night, making him about 1 hour behind schedule – but we definitely had the time.

I woke up a few hours before we were due to arrive and rolled up the windows to view the gorgeous misty mountains from Virginia to North Carolina.

Calling the hotel, they didn’t have the room ready and didn’t think they would. But persistence is key. I called an hour before arrival and called when we got there – boom, a room is open. Telling them that the driver just traveled 10 hours might have helped. 🙂

Getting everyone else checked in was a process and didn’t go smoothly, and i didn’t get the last person in before it was time to load in. Fortunately, the venue had a shower so he was able to clean up, but lesson learned, CALL HOTELS AHEAD OF TIME. Once I was able to check in, I sat down and called everyone to tell them we’re arriving early or we’re arriving late, just to give them a heads up.

After loading in, soundcheck started and took a bit more time, so it was good that we arrived early. Being the beginning of the tour, the band has more patience, the sound is still being figured out and these things take more time.

While they were dealing with that, I started to set up merchandise with the presenter. Our shirts were shipped directly to the venue, so I was worried that they might not be just right..but they look great!!

I was worried because when I got to the first venue, we ordered mugs and the logo on the mug came in the completely wrong color…it was blue on blue, making it impossible to see! A huge bummer, but in the big picture, worse things could have happened.

The evening went really well – the band killed the show, the audience loved it. One woman came up to me after the show to buy a CD and told me that she’s been to the venue 5-6 times, and this was her favorite and in her opinion, the best show she’s seen there. What a compliment!!

Right now, I’m eating waffles and stealing some bagels for lunch from our complimentary breakfast…off to write some more and spend our day off traveling to Atlanta!

Thanks for reading,

Fiona

Day 2 – 3 – 4…wow.

It’s going by so fast!

Things are moving along quickly with lots of catching up, rehearsals, final plans, meetings – it’s been difficult to keep up with this blog. So first, my apologies. I know now why tour managers tend to take a few days to answer back. Because waking up at 8AM and working till 12:30AM, and having a hotel neighbor talk all night until 4AM, you tend to pick sleep during your free time. 🙂 

On Tuesday, the band set up for a 12-hour rehearsal in a room at the venue. Our opening night is held at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA – have you been there? It’s absolutely breathtaking. I definitely want to plan a weekend here in the near future. It’s about 2 hours away from Manhattan. Pictures of the place below!

Soundcheck^

Our first ‘bump in the road’ was an issue with the instrument! Our bassist rented a fold up bass, making it easy to transport on the train and plane, but being the first time this bassist is using it, you have to expect something to go wrong.

So, the bass neck comes completely off, strings come off, bridge comes off…it’s quite a spectacle! You can imagine that tuning and set up time is doubled for our bassist, but that wasn’t the only issue coming up.

About 20 seconds into the first song, the bridge comes flying off of the bass! Immediately we all sank and eyes got wide. Is it defective? Is it broken? Are we going to have to get a regular bass? Are we going to have to ship this back?

We all are wondering! But, the bassist calmly picked everything up and said, “No, this should be fine.” He took a second stab at setting it up, had both me and the sound engineer make sure the bridge was straight, and stuck it out! And so did the bass – no more bumps in the road on that one! Whew!

Lessons learned:

1. If you are using a new instrument (or form of instrument), if you can, try it out before the big day. In this case, we had a rehearsal, but imagine if the first set up was on stage and that happened! Be prepared!