Accomplished. Distinctive. Authentic.
Our artists bring a wealth of talents to help realize your vision on the operatic or concert stage.
While most others are enjoying the changing colors and crisp air, to those in the opera industry Autumn means something else: audition season. Throughout the summer travelling to festivals and meeting and speaking with young artists we are asked again and again, “What is missing from my presentation? What do I need to get to the next level?” The answer I find myself giving a lot of the time surprises many of these singers, because it is not a more polished technique, greater attention to languages, or even musicianship. The answer very simply is – you. You are the missing element.
Think about this: we have all heard the statistics of the number of singers who are competing for the relatively small amount of work. When you reach the point where you are actually doing main stage auditions most everyone who walks in the door is an excellent singer and musician and has a good understanding of the languages. If that were not the case, they should not have gotten this far (though there are exceptions!). The only absolute thing that you have to offer that will make you stand apart from everyone else is yourself. What you have to say through this music, because your story is different than anyone else’s. The ability to fearlessly tell that story is what makes a great artist.
I get a pretty wide range of reactions to this theory, but for the most part I am met with understanding nods of recognition. Because deep down we know this is part of why singing artists are drawn to what they do. But somewhere in the journey from being someone who loves singing and for whom which singing is their best and clearest form of communicating the human condition, to that of a professional singer, their unique personal stamp is lost. And instead of a vibrant individual with a story to tell, a singing machine walks through the door, announces its name and what it would like to sing, and proceeds to hit all the notes with great accuracy. And that’s great. But it is not enough. And after the first few measures, frankly, it gets a bit dull. If you don’t have something to say, your audience will lose interest. And while there are some aficionados who may be at the opera to hear the sheer mechanics of a trained voice (which can indeed be very impressive), the majority of people are there for another experience. They want to be moved. They want to feel. As we have become more connected through technology and the Internet, we become less connected from one another. We would rather text someone than have real human contact. People go to the theater to experience humanity, and it is your job as an artist to provide this experience. But if you are cut off from yourself, you cannot hope to take them on a transformative journey.
Why does it happen? Why do we become disconnected from our true selves? The reasons are as varied as the individuals who leave themselves in the hallway! But in my next couple of entries I would like to explore a couple of common experiences which I hope will speak to some of you who may be reading this. In the meantime, remember why it is you got into this in the first place. Remember who you are and that we are excited to meet you. Come on in! We’ll be glad you did.
And it begins…
Singers look at the fall season with expectation and great anxiety. While those who are still in training may have a better chance to prepare their new audition arias, those at a professional level can find that it’s a bit tougher to find the time to prepare and polish their audition package. In either situation, the works has to get done!
Auditions are a way to let companies to get to know you and chart your progress from season to season. Auditioning is an art; a crafted performance of introduction. It is an artificial, contrived, necessary evil that isn’t really a reflection of what you can do in performance but a snapshot of who you are as an artist and vocalist. It’s important to see it as a mini performance with a captive audience that won’t applaud.
Many professionals offer insight and opinions about the audition process. One of the best in-depth studies of auditioning comes from the blog of Kim Witman, Director of Wolf Trap Opera & Classical Programming. While she primarily discusses the process of a top-notch residency program, the information is easily applicable to every stage of career development.
All three of our managers will use our next several posts will focus on the ins and outs of auditioning. Send us questions if you have anything you’d like us to try and tackle!
We all know that there is not one way to make it in this business, or “make it” period. We feel we are constantly battling the elements to survive. If you’re not careful, you allow yourself to look at those that are one tier above us and pine for their success. At the same time, however, they are scheming to either sustain that success or reach new heights.
In between flights, work outs, business planning and subway rides I am fascinated by the psychology of the opera business. I discuss this with my colleagues and we wonder about it and try to come up with explanations and reasons for the constant roller-coaster ride – real or imagined. I compare it to the stock market: very hard to predict but somehow there is an interesting sense of order.
In the past 18 months every area of the industry has felt the effects of the economy and as a company that takes our responsibility to our artists seriously, we want our artists not only to survive but to thrive. One of the common factors I have noticed is that the people that take a gamble in finding their special unique “brand”, are able to sustain a level of success, while the ones who diversify too much have a greater chance to get lost in the shuffle. If you were an investor on the stock market, you might put your money on Apple hoping the iPad does as well as they hype promises, since it is so unique and innovative. But the risk is higher. If you wanted to play it safe, I guess you could invest in Dell, they have been selling the same thing forever and doing… um… ok.
Branding = Entire process involved in creating a unique name and image for a product (good or service) in the consumers’ mind, through advertising campaigns with a consistent theme. Branding aims to establish a significant and differentiated presence in the market that attracts and retains loyal customers.
Singers and artists in general, need to know what their brand is. Apple or Dell, Nike or Reebok. What makes each company different and unique? I wont objectify musical artists, but lets use a celebrity example. Angelina Jolie vs. Reese Witherspoon. There is a pretty clear brand for both these actors. I don’t think this is merely coincidental… these two ladies have carefully crafted an image for the product that defines them, that makes them special. Could you imagine Angelina as the bubbly lawyer wannabe in Legally Blonde, or Reese as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider? They are both actors and they both should be able to play either character, right? But would people buy it? Would you?
The buyer (Opera Companies and producers) want you to tell them what your brand is… especially those artists that they are learning about or investigating. They want you to know yourself well enough to explain, project, and deliver a product that is unique and the best of its kind (usually in an eight-minute audition). Write down your ideas for your brand. Consult your team of teachers, coaches, mentors, managers. Look at the feedback you’ve gotten over the past year. It doesn’t mean you will have to remain in a “fach” straightjacket, but its a great way for people to get to know your strengths. Then once they discover the person behind the artist the sky is the limit!
In periods of economic hardship, artists and the organizations they work for all must tighten their belt to keep their careers and seasons thriving. From the artists’ perspective, make time to take a hard look at your flying habits and take control and credit for having to be in the air as part of your job.
In the recent past, arts organizations frequently flew guest artists in to perform using the best economy rate available to the company. Sometimes arts organizations had a sponsorship from an airline who provided a certain number of seats each year to assist non-profit organizations. If that is the case, and the company you are working for has guest passes on a sponsor airline, there is little you can do as a flier other than be thankful that there are still companies out there looking out for the arts in general. However, few of these sponsorships remain, even at the largest companies across the United States. A little advance planning on your part can reap big rewards later if you take the time to think ahead.
Consider how many times you fly in a year – for business and pleasure combined. If your average one-way flight is 750 miles and you fly on average once a month, you would likely qualify for the lowest level of any major carrier’s Mileage Club. These clubs are not what they once were, but during the current economic crunch, airlines are taking loyalty seriously from their customers.
Find out which airlines have hubs in your most frequently traveled cities. Pick one, jump online and sign up for their Mileage Club. If you can, check out the possibility of taking out a credit card affiliated with your air carrier. Be loyal to your airline. When contracts come in, ask if the company hiring you will please book you on your airline of choice. If they find a seat for you on a different airline that is $30 less expensive than a flight on your preferred carrier, offer to pay the difference, or ask if you book the flight yourself if they will reimburse you the cost of the fare they found. The benefits for taking these steps can be many. Airlines notice patterns. While they don’t advertise a specific policy, many of them allow people into their mileage club who haven’t quite reached the requisite number of miles.
If you are a Mileage Club member in good standing, your fees for checked luggage can be severely discounted if not free altogether on your preferred carrier. Sure, paying $30 for a ticket on your airline stinks in the short-term, but companies are not going to pick up the $50-125 in fees you incur checking baggage en route to start work with them, either.
As you begin to rack up miles in your account, and climb into higher levels of Mileage Club rankings, you may start to get complimentary upgrades for certain flights. Your cell-phone minute-eating hold time when you have travel-related questions or diversions will be reduced as you’ll be given a different number to call than the general public. Many airports have special security lines for frequent travelers who are a part of a mileage club, reducing the time you’re stuck behind a first-timer going through the screening process. Finally, you’ll have extra miles with which to purchase upgrades, or a future flight for someone special who might be able to join you on the road. As you begin to tailor your flight habits to a single airline and to meet your needs, you’ll find the travel process much more enjoyable and familiar as well.
More than once in the past few weeks, I’ve talked to singers who are on the road and in desperate need of sheet music for one reason or another. Perhaps they are working for an opera company that has asked them to perform at an informal gathering of donors or sponsors. Maybe they are traveling for personal reasons and have the chance to sing an impromptu audition for the local symphony or opera company. Alternatively, they could be performing a recital and (after traveling to the concert venue) realize they have forgotten to pack a favorite encore selection to cap off their program. Do you need to pack your music wherever you go? Maybe not…
As we live in an ever-increasingly digital age where connectivity abounds, it’s pretty easy to develop a personal online digital library of your music. Take your audition folder, recital book, or favorite party pieces and scan them to pdf files. Sign up for any number of free or almost-free online document storage sites, download your sheet music, and you will always have your important pieces online – or literally at your fingertips as many of the best file storage solutions today come with their own applications for iPhones and Blackberry devices. You should make sure to make your stored files are private so that you do not violate any copyright laws, but you’ll never be stuck again without music – in your key with your original markings!
A couple of the most popular storage options available for little or no cost:
Take a little time to find a great new copier that will convert your copies all in one step and send your music straight to your email… you’ll be happy you did!
When I joined ADA Artists this past October, one of my charges from Ana was to update the look and feel of our young, dynamic agency… logo, letterhead, cards, and website. Our new online home went live yesterday, and while we are still plugging away loading new data and publicity materials (press kits, audio samples, videos, photos, etc.) I’ve been getting many inquiries asking who is responsible for the renovation. This was a major update for ADA Artists, and I knew that the decision of who to trust with the project was a big one. Instinctively, I turned to Michael Mahoney at Hat Head Studios. I’ve known Michael for about a decade now, and watched his business thrive due to his unique skill set. First and foremost, Michael is an artist. Not just a visual artist, but an artist in every sense of the word. He is an actor, photographer, entertainer, painter, graphic designer, singer, comedian, poet, and skilled debater (sometimes irritatingly so!). Second, he is my most technically-savvy friend – always ahead of the latest programming curve, and never scared to quickly ramp up his knowledge whenever required by a new project.
Ana and I spoke with Michael via email in October, secured his involvement and settled on a time-line in which to implement this image makeover. Our new logo was developed in a matter of days. Cards and letterhead followed shortly thereafter. Finally, in late October, we met with Michael in his Manhattan studio to discuss what we wanted in this new interactive publicity machine. As the budgets of performing arts organizations get tighter, and artists are forced to make important decisions about their own finances, it has become crucial for companies to be able to find high quality information about our artists in an extremely efficient manner. Casting directors who can no longer afford an annual trip to New York have little choice but to rely on colleague recommendations and thorough online profiles to assist them with last-minute as well as long-range casting strategies. Artists who might be working during audition season or cannot afford to take expensive audition trips need to be sure that their talent is being well-represented and accurately documented in their absence.
We requested a site that was user-friendly, clean, intuitive and artistic. We wanted it to comprehensively showcase the compelling individuals who populate our roster of artists and reflect the ever-changing nature of our industry. The design and framework he provided us a scant two months later surpassed our rather lofty hopes and expectations, and I believe that we’re poised to be able to meet the demand of companies and fans across the globe. Just after our main site went live, he introduced us to the sleek, simple design of our roster-driven travel blog. Today, we were treated to a preview of our email newsletter which further dazzled us beyond measure. I can’t wait to send our first official email announcement to all our friends and colleagues detailing our company’s distinct branding and renewed commitment to our artists’ careers. Take a moment to sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of any page on our new site and when our digital newsletter hits your email box you’ll see one more reason to hire an artist in tech-geek’s clothing!
Welcome to 2010, a new year, a new website and a new chapter for ADA Artist Management. These are very exciting times for our team and artists, and we can’t wait to share it with you. It comes as no surprise that our business, and our country, has been going through rough economic times. Instinctively, I saw this as an opportunity to grow and invest in what was a small, personal endeavor and has now expanded.
It has been five and a half years since I decided to open my own management firm. Based on my experience as a singer and administrator, I wanted to create a company that saw the industry from the artists’ perspective. I envisioned a management team that worked as hard as their artists in the pursuit of perfecting their craft. Several years later, I am a now joined by two fantastic colleagues helping me take the company to the next level. We are a young, energetic team with diverse backgrounds and one common goal: to make a positive impact in regularly connecting our “Accomplished, Distinctive and Authentic” artists with great performing organizations throughout the Americas and the world.
We hope to use our new website not only for industry professionals searching for artists to populate their seasonal rosters, but also to reach aspiring vocalists, conductors and directors. For those starting to gain a foothold in this business as well as more established artists, information is power and a new perspective can be invaluable. Whenever possible we will strive to provide information and opinion about the industry from our side of the table. This business is a dynamic one that thrives in a constant state of flux. For opera-lovers, we hope to provide an in-depth “backstage” look at the process, the ups and downs of an artistic existence, and our personal thoughts on the Business Of Opera.
Everyone on the ADA Management team is a performing artist whose career has taken a new turn. We intimately understand how difficult every stage of a career in the music industry can be, and we’re committed to our artists at every phase of the journey. We understand that this career is an ongoing process – one that we love for its passion, flexibility and transformative potential. Its character is cyclical and yet utterly unpredictable. A quick glance at our calendar provides a roadmap for this rewarding voyage, and we hope that you will join us, and our artists, for this hectic ride from audition and preparation to performance and celebration…there will be many wonderful milestones ahead!