My name’s Sam and I’m a singer. But I’m a real musician too. Eagle-eyed readers will spot that I’ve referenced the name of an instrumental album in the name of this column so I’m definitely the real deal (note: I wanted Bitches Brew but that was taken). I’ve practiced 25 hours a day for the last 78 years, and my vocal calluses are pretty thick at this point. All this is to say: please take me seriously at the jam.
Do you like singers? No? You must be really hip and intellectual. Congratulations on not having a soul! I’ll let you know if your shadow turns up around town.
What did you think of my performance? My self-esteem depends on the opinions of random drunk men. Also, your unsolicited advice is very welcome at this stage in my career. How can I improve? A red dress you say? I’d love to oblige you with a new clothes purchase but it turns out having food improves my singing more than shopping. Please tell me what the song I just sung means right in the middle of my set. Oh, sexual connotations? How convenient!
Explain my repertoire to me. I was singing European jazz? Well, if European jazz means material written by American composers in the early 20th century, then yes. Ah, you say, but I was singing in Spanish at one point. Well, Portuguese but yeah I know it all sounds the same. Well then, you say, it *was* European jazz. News to me! (I can’t wait to tell the Brazilians, they *will* be pleased).
Now we’ve established how smart you are, I’ll let you have the rest of this column with both barrels. Charlie says it’s got to be about 800 words so do try and stay conscious.
Despite repeated attempts to enjoy a ‘proper job’ over a number of years, my first love, music, ruthlessly hunted me down when I moved to Brighton for a second time and immersed myself in its healthy* jazz scene (*the scene that is, not the musicians). My hobby, singing, got out of hand in 2016, much like just about everything that year, and when I came round I found myself in the middle of my own gig with a full setlist and everything.
Before that, I worked in arts marketing. It was an exciting time where many arts organisations were being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, 11 years after the rest of the world. ‘New Media’ departments were working with technology that was old enough to take its GCSEs. Arts marketing was having a hard time letting go of the old ‘make-a-poster-and-cross-your-fingers’ school of thought. Fortunately, I ended up in some forward-thinking organisations that had pools of data to play with, and huge banks of audiences to survey, meaning that campaigners could make informed decisions about the best places to spend their money to get the word out.
One curious quirk about a lot of arts organisations, is that every year they would use their strictly-labelled training budget to send out teams of young marketers to arts marketing conferences to hear about developments in arts marketing and inspirational case studies. On their return, newly enthused, they were met with the inertia of the arts marketing cycle. It’s just considered too risky to do anything different, too time-pressed to reflect. And who can blame these managers in a world where arts organisations are fighting over the same ever-dwindling pool of cash, constricted by budgets sitting in siloed pots? It’s enough to drive you a bit crazy.
The lessons and case studies I learned on conferences resonated with me however, and my time in the larger arts organisations showed me the power of, amongst other things, quality over quantity. Better to talk to smaller groups of people well, than shower a huge email list with a metaphorical hose of bland.
Now I am freelance, I am my own marketing project. I don’t have much budget but I have an insane amount of data obsessiveness and patience that I will bring to bear on my singing career, fuelled by a deep desire to eat and have shelter. I’ve experienced the deep satisfaction of trying out marketing practices I didn’t get the chance to do when I wasn’t self-employed, and seeing them work (yes, I know, I’m a geek, this is my idea of fun). I *wasn’t* going mad all along.
I don’t know what direction this column is going to take, but I have a feeling I’ll be looking closely at the point where self-promotion and the practice of being a jazz musician meets, and sharing my experiences as someone whose dream career is a hilarious choice for someone who gets palpitations at the thought of having to talk to strangers face-to-face.
Tl;dr: Singer talks about herself