Other articles by John C. Sherwood
The following was prepared as a short speech for "Studio Time," the monthly CD audio magazine distributed by Brayton and Sons Productions, 49 S. Sunset Drive, Coldwater, MI 49036. For subscription information on, call (888) 535-7204.
My name is John Sherwood. My wife [at the time of writing] is Katari Brown, who is a musician, singer and song writer. In the past few weeks, I've been helping her to market her original songs on a new CD album, which is called "Katari: It Rhymes with Canary.". But I'm not here to plug her project -- although don't hesitate to reach us if you'd like a copy.
Instead, I'd like to explain why I surprised my wife when I started talking about how to sell her album, even though I'm not a musician and know virtually nothing about the music business. I'm not here to give you any "insider's tips," either. But I can tell you how to get started in promoting your creative work. I've been doing it since I was 12 and began to do a magic act. I'm pushing 50 now, and in the meantime, I've learned how to promote myself and my creative projects, including theatrical shows and plays, without an agent and without much help.
I'm actually a full-time journalist, but I also spent a year in the advertising business -- and, in my creative pursuits I've always been able to promote my work and generate additional income. And I take a lot of pleasure in my artistic efforts -- and that pleasure is worth more than cash. Over the years, I've developed a national reputation as a magician and writer of magic books, as an actor and producer of independent plays and as a specialist in interactive mystery weekends that are known around the country. I've served as a consultant to publishers, resort planners and gifted-and-talented education groups, ranging from Michigan and Indiana to Pennsylvania and Delaware and even Missouri and Utah. If you visit our Web domain at MysteryVisits.com, you'll find out more about what we do -- and perhaps get some insight into how we've done it, because even that Web domain was something I learned how to set up and market -- all on my own.
If you already have a booking or publicity agent who's good, or if you are more comfortable with turning things over to a good agent, be prepared to pay well for the service. Also, as much as I like people, you can't always trust others to have your full interests at heart, or to do everything you'd like to see done, the way you'd like it to be done. If you're working out of your home and are just now dreaming of getting started in the business of promoting your music, then maybe you'd better stick to this CD track. These suggestions just might help you to become even better known, and your creative output more saleable.
My first hint is simple for me to say, but probably is the most difficult one for people to actually follow: Set aside any sense of fear or anxiety that you may have about others' criticisms. That sums up in a sentence what my old friend and mentor Art Fettig is still preaching. You are going to "sell yourself," and you've probably already come up with a million reasons why you shouldn't do it. People will think you're conceited. People will say you don't have enough talent. You're charging too much. You don't know when to quit. You're out of sync with fashion. You're homely. You think you're beautiful. You are just out to make money.
If you can get a larger audience -- which is, after all, what you really want, especially if you've listened this far -- then all those excuses don't add up to a hill of hominy. Who cares if people think you're conceited or charging too much. You will be a success at what you want to do. Focus on what you truly desire and don't listen to the voices that will only keep you down. Especially the voices that are coming only from you.
If you say, "But, John, how do I do that?" you may need a psychologist, not a promotion adviser. By the way, my wife Katari, who sings and writes music and acts on stage, also is a professional clinical psychologist who's about to get her Ph.D. She might be able to help you deal with your fears. And if you think that's just another blatant plug, you're right. That's what we're here to talk about, and if you've been attentive, you'll realize that you've just gotten another lesson in how to do it.
The other suggestion in which I've already given you a lesson is this: Figure out what you do best, and realize that it has some value in terms of your time and others' enjoyment. Get to the root of why you do what you're doing -- and I'll give you clue: It's probably because you enjoy it very much. If you're not enjoying it, find something else to do.
I've told you what I do. I've told you what my wife does. I've told you that people value what my wife and I do, and that we aren't afraid to admit to the fact. That's hard to do in a world where, somewhere, somebody is always going to be better than us. It's also hard sometimes to remember that, whatever we do, a lot of people are going to admire us for our ability, our talent, our skill, or creativity -- because they don't think they have it to such a degree. Those people are our potential audience, and we shouldn't tell them, however subconsciously, that we consider ourselves to be lesser than someone else.
That's why it's important not to undermine yourself. For example, stop yourself the next time you refer to your "little show" or to the idea that what you do is "just a sideline" or "OK for an amateur." Listen to your own words about yourself -- and refuse to diminish yourself. What you do is what you are, and vice versa. You're putting yourself out there in front of people, and that's brave. Celebrate it. Take joy in it. You don't have to puff yourself up or inflate yourself as something you're not. That's dishonest and a discourtesy to your potential clients. But this effort will allow you, in time, to attach a realistic monetary value to what you do.
Doing that is tough for a lot of folks. But, remember: You're expected to rehearse repeatedly, create your art, travel, set up, perform, break down and travel again -- and put everything back where it belongs -- all within a certain schedule and under agreed conditions. Hey, folks! That takes time, and time is an irreplaceable chunk of your life. That makes your time valuable. Treat it that way -- and calculate what monetary value you attach to that time that's truly worth that time, to yourself as well as to your potential client.
Of course, you have to find a valuable way to spend that time. That's why you have to create opportunities to be creative. The most important opportunities take the form of events. You must think in terms of events that occur in specific places at specific times --and where people will be gathering. Where people are paying -- or in a paying mood -- to see you be creative, to purchase your creative product, or do both.
If you're not yet known, you need to become known. Instead of waiting for someone to miraculously call you, you must find your own venue. You don't have to rent a hall and produce your own show. Instead, visit people who need entertainment -- for example, the local library, service organizations, charity fund-raising events, health-care homes, coffeehouses, holiday community gatherings. Lately, chain bookstores and other outlets are doing some mutual back-scratching with entertainers to bring in music- and art-loving buyers. Talk to these people and offer your services. During your first few months of becoming "known," it's perfectly acceptable to perform for free at events. Your compensation will come in other ways. Such performances are valuable for the publicity they generate, through word of mouth and news coverage. They can establish your reputation as a creative talent whose work is regarded in the community as valuable.
But you must be careful about performing for free. Too many "free" performances can suggest that you don't really attach value to your work. So, limit such occasions to events that are clearly charitable in nature or devoted to a certain worthy cause, and make it clear that you are donating your valuable talent. Never allow anyone to take advantage of you -- and, believe me, people will try. Some are under the impression that artists are "driven" to express themselves, and will perform for "free." Don't let it happen. Develop the bravery to point out that your Time has Value, and that you expect that Value to be appreciated in some fashion.
For example, the event organizer might publicize your performance in some way, or allow you to ....