Mistake Number Seven:
Not Spending Enough Time on the Phone
(an excerpt from the book, Called To Sing: 13 Mistakes To Avoid When Starting In Music Ministry (Volume 2 by Dr. Naima Tonya Johnston © 2007 7thirtyseven Logos Publishing)
Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but when dreams come true there is life and joy.
(Proverbs 13 Verse 12)
The phone: the lifeline of the emerging artist’s music ministry. Inquiry emails are great, sending a press packet might peak some interest, but the ministry opportunity becomes a booked date when the deal is sealed on the phone. I hated to get on the phone and talk with people about my music ministry, I always looked at it as shameless self-promotion and I hated that thought. But I realized after much prayer, some growing up in the Lord and not enough singing engagements to make the bills, that if the Lord had given me this music ministry, and in fact wanted me to share it with the world, then I in fact had better promote this ministry as much as possible! Getting your music ministry out there is not about pride or a lack of humility on your part, it is truly about doing the work that the Lord has called you to do. So exalt Him in every booking conversation and watch Him open the doors.
When I first started in music ministry, I always tried to avoid the phone. I spent a great deal of time trying to locate a booking agent who would be interested in booking my shows and ministry engagements for me. My desire was to spend time in prayer, write new music, practice and then just show up and minister or perform. I didn’t want to have to be responsible for the details. But what I found was that every agent I contacted would not even consider me seriously until I was doing at least 50 – 75 shows a year. Well that was nuts, how could I do that many shows if I didn’t have someone to get on the phone and book me? Next I tried recruiting friends to serve as booking agents, and this is an approach that works well when you have a motivated individual with the time and talent to tout your musical ministry. But I didn’t and so it came back again to me getting on the phone and serving as my own booking agent.
At first I set small goals for myself, trying to call ten places a day and then call one more after I had finished the initial list of ten. This worked well and I greatly increased in booking ministry events, activities and shows. I often solicited my friends to find new venues or to ask them to suggest me for events, I scoured the web to find churches that had concerts and reviewed the sites of other artists to find new venues and this increased my bookings as well. And I read everything I could find about booking, booking agents and artist development, but what really turned the light bulb on was reading an article written about an independent artist who was bringing in over $100,000 a year, playing over 200 dates a year and he was doing his own booking!
The artist wrote how other artists flocked to his side inquiring about the secrets of success and once he told them his fantastic secret of success their hopeful faces fell flat. The artist shared that the secret to his success was simply that he spent 8 Hours On The Phone, Doing Booking At Least Four Days A Week! He called everyone, nursing homes, schools, churches, cultural centers, venues and nightclubs, festivals and fairs, if they had music he called, sent a press packet and then followed up. He stated that over the years he had developed such as extensive network that much of his current booking was people calling him to set up engagements! But he didn’t rest on his laurels, he continued to work the phone, exploring new opportunities, shoring up relationships, making contacts and sealing deals. After building a following he’d been approached by professional agents and labels, but he was making so much money, he didn’t want to give them a cut!
Many of us can’t imagine spending that much time on the phone, we don’t even know where to obtain that many phone numbers. But the Lord spoke to me and told me that there was favor on the phone – so I better work the phone as much as I can. The squeaky wheel gets the grease and I can’t tell you how many bookings I have gotten because I began the booking process with a phone call and ended the booking process with a phone call. I work under the assumption that most people won’t call you back when you’re starting out no matter how great you are. So if you want to increase your booking – get on the phone, promote the gift that God has given you and watch the doors begin to open!
Lessons Learned From The Phone…
I know many artists who just send out a bunch of press packets and then wait to be called to be booked for a date. This is a killer and the wrong approach to take. Research and an initial phone call can save you a multitude of money, resources, time and grief if you take the time to prepare before you begin the booking process. What type of research should you do? Well you should make sure that the church or organization lines up with your own doctrinal beliefs or that the differences are so small they really don’t matter to your faith. For example, I believe that the gifts of the Spirit are still in operation today, so I have been blessed with the gift of tongues, I don’t exercise this gift when I go to a Methodist Church, but the difference of doctrine does not in my opinion disqualify the church from my booking attention. Other types of research – well if you call before you send the packet you can find out all kinds of good things: Who the packet should be sent to, does the church even have concerts, and does the venue accept submissions from your genre?
Never send out a hard copy of your press packet unsolicited, this is a waste of money and resources. As a past promoter I can tell you that we threw away a ton of press packets, recycled the folders for own use and had a glut of extra CD cases.
Looking for places to find contacts? Try Christian Happenings, open the phone book and call churches, search the web, seek referrals, call the local radio stations for suggestions, and check in with arenas, fair offices and festivals. Don’t forget about nursing homes, schools, community organizations, bookstores and even the mayor’s office! Take this approach in every city you travel to and follow this simple booking formula: Pray – Call – Send – Pray – Follow Up and see the bookings increase!
Dr. Naima Tonya Johnston is the author of: Called To Sing: 13 Mistakes To Avoid When Starting In Music Ministry (Volume 2) With a PhD in Education from Ohio State University, Naima is a Christian Recording Artist, Minister, Educator, Author and Speaker with a mission and passion to see people achieve their God given dreams! She travels extensively engaged in fulltime music/teaching ministry doing upwards of 80 dates a year. For more information about Naima or to purchase her book visit: www.naimajohnston.com