I do offer to let readers use my brain, and while for deeper and/or ongoing research or support I do charge, I’ll also give a bit of free advice when the question and my response are useful for a blog post. Here is a question I received last week, and my reply. I have redacted all identifying information about the querent to protect his privacy:
I’m a part-time musician with a day job and a wife to look after in [*] – a small farming village about 2 hours northwest of downtown [big city].
I long for and deeply desire to be more musically active but in the area where I live (small farm village, 7 years residence) there really are no musicians.
Musicians I might find in [big city] or other cities are all under the “if it ain’t rock music it ain’t music” spell so I find that I cannot count on them.
I play an instrument with ancient roots – the Russian [string instrument] – and aside from once-in-a-while exceptions where I can find other musicians to play with once every few months in some other city, it’s a long musical drought.
I’ve tried advertising in musical instrument stores, in grocery stores, in libraries, even in local newspapers and in the [small town] musical conservatory, but people are either ignorant about the beauty and sound of the [instrument] or they’re just apathetic.
When I go busking in the summer in [small town], my [instrument] attracts attention and awe from younger people who have not only never laid their eyes on such beautiful wood work but have never hears such pure and beautiful tones. The surprise and look of astonishment on their faces never fails to surprise me.
I do volunteer my music at the local hospital in [small town] and the reaction is usually the same from patients as well as doctors and nurses. This doesn’t however lead me to establishing more musical connections and more musical opportunities with other musicians.
The style of music this instruments lends itself to is of the genre of Baltic folk/post-folk music as well as Russian folk and some Celtic music.
Can you suggest any other steps or paths I might take towards getting more opportunities with my unusual and beautiful instrument, perhaps becoming more able to perform with my [instrument] as a day job, allowing me to quit my normal day job?
[some audio samples attached]
My first suggestion would be to target an audience who already has knowledge and appreciation of your instrument: Russians and other Eastern Europeans. Some ideas:
– I could not tell from your SoundCloud tracks whether you know/perform any traditional pieces for your instrument (vs. improvisations and originals by you)? If not, research and learn some popular ones so that people who know will recognize them (sort of like a fiddler being able to play “Irish Washerwoman”, “Danny Boy”, and some jigs & reels).
– Research where you can find Russians/Eastern Europeans in your area. A quick Google search found [links redacted for privacy]:
Russian interest MeetUp groups in [his province]
The Facebook page for the Russian Studies Program at [his local] State University
Look for volunteer and paid opportunities in these communities to perform for events, weddings, funerals, classes, etc for people who want to include a taste of “the old country”. And once you make a few connections they will refer you (make sure you have a website with samples of what you would play for such events).
My second suggestion is to make yourself more visible in your general community. I see that you are listed on this site: http://www.[artists_of_his_area_website] both for teaching the [Russian instrument] and for a [related early music instrument] meetup (whose link is now dead). But I see that there are many artists on the list, and links for opportunities for artists. I suggest you contact artists and exhibition planners offering to play at their gallery openings, open studios, etc. You may need to do these for free or as a busking situation, but use them for free advertising and access to their audience, again to look for paying wedding etc gigs. Be prepared:
- have a good website set up.
- always have business cards in your pocket
- record a sampler CD to had out for free or at-will donation (you can get small runs of CDs here: http://www.kunaki.com/home.asp) – make sure your contact info is on it)
That’s my free advice limit for today >;-)
Good luck with spreading joy with your music!