Monday, February 6, 2012

Inside Out: People Power

In this first article in's "Inside Out" series, Marion Harrington, clarinetist, guest blogs.

People Power: The Reasons Why Marketing is an Ensemble’s Collective Responsibility - No Exceptions!

Should you care to trawl through history, you’ll find numerous examples of the importance of connection:

  • English poet John Donne (1572-1631) wrote “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main”
  • The Russian revolution in the early 20th century did not come about as the result of the actions of  an individual
  • And since the invention of the Internet, no lasting change has ever been achieved by a single web site orbiting alone in cyber-space
Similarly, deciding to leave all public relations and marketing to one person, you may be a member of the the most talented classical music groups this side of the Orion Nebula but you’ll find that the ensemble’s opportunities and, ultimately, its success is going to be severely limited.

Where I’m Coming From

Back in 2008, after more than a decade in the business world, I came to a major crossroads and spent about a year immersing myself in personal development material in an effort to try and find out out I was really supposed to be doing with the rest of my life.

One guy who had a profound influence on me was Bob Proctor. A life coach who’s been knocking around for the last 50 years, I figured he must have something to say that was valuable so I started paying attention.

The subject matter of one of his webinars concerned a formula for success = consciousness, creativity, connections. The one element I didn’t have at the time was connections, Neither did I have any real plan for making any. So I pondered, then promptly forgot about what I’d heard!

Fast forward a few months...

Fortunately I love people - they fascinate me - so you can imagine that when I discovered social media along my journey back into the music professsion, I took to it like a duck to water! As I slowly established on-line relationships over a couple of years, by default I built a solid network of connections worldwide some of whom I’ve already met face to face several times.

The story starts to get really interesting when I launched Classical Music Connects (CMC) last year. It started out as a crazy idea to play my way to America that subsequently took on a new group focus and life form of it’s own.

It’s Not About “Me” - It’s About “We”

Stretching across 5 countries and 2 continents with a minimum of 14 gigs, the project simply wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without the connections we made.

To date, 10 collaborating musician colleagues, 2 composers and 2 companies with the “know-how” are helping me with various tasks ranging from logistics to spreading the word in an effort to capture interest, secure seed capital and firm up arrangements.

Above all, a lot more buzz in the industry is created - especially online when every member of an ensemble is excitedly talking about the same subject.


Any sort of sale is, in essence, a numbers game. The greater the number of people you can reach with your offering - obviously avoiding any spammy activity - the more sales you will make. The same applies to a successful crowd-sourcing campaign and CMC still hasn’t got it 100% right.  

If you’re anything like me, I struggle to come up with 100 people with whom I feel comfortable enough to contact to ask for money. Let’s say I identify 50 and every member of the project (or ensemble) does the same. Including myself, that’s 750 individuals that can be reached. If, hypothetically, every one of those donates $25 - statistically the average “give” - that’s $18,750!

Even if 10 contacts from each collaborator contributes, that total is still a respectable $3,750 in place of my own effort of $250.

Caution: It only takes one collaborator failing pull their weight and the funding maths begins to break down. Each person has a responsibility so if you’re really that enthusiastic about taking part in a crowd-sourcing effort, it’s up to you to put in the time. This is no time for diva or divo behaviour.

Venues and Accommodation

Why limit yourself to one particular area or country? Don’t you know of anyone outside your own neighbourhood? If not, Chances are that another member of your ensemble can help out here.

The net result is you’ll be able to take your music far further than you ever thought possible.

Warning: If you take on the responsibility for finding a venue and/or accommodation in a certain place and then fail to deliver, it’s likely that the order of an entire tour will have to be changed.

Most musicians and gig organisers work on tight budgets. Wouldn’t you prefer the benefit of putting a little extra money in your pocket and stay with a trusted contact in a far city as opposed chilling out in an anonymous hotel room?

Believe me, I’ve done enough travelling on business over the years to know that the gloss of swanky establishments soon wears off. Besides, touring on your own does get really lonely at times.

Individual Benefits

Being an active member of a group often brings with it some welcome individual attention:

  • As the group profile grows, so will yours as a solo performer, far more so than if you’re a rank and file member of an orchestra

  • Rehearsals, performances, after gig never know who you’re going to bump into or what opportunities will arise for you personally

  • It’s far cheaper for a group to engage professional expertise such as a photographer for ensemble pics and then include a few solo shots, splitting the bill between everybody than it is you footing the entire bill as a solo player
  • An ensemble gives you the ability to divide labour not just on the basis of time spent but also depending on individual strengths and weaknesses
  • Coming back to the simple maths I used when talking about funding, try similar calculations in pooling your contacts in efforts to attract capacity audiences
  • Finally, life is indisputably more fun when there’s more than one to share experiences!

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