Case in tow wherever you go


My apologies to piano players.

Carry your instrument with you wherever you go. You never know when you’ll be called upon to share your latest song among friends, even better if strangers are within hearing distance and are drawn in.

I know people who have been asked at clubs and other venues to ‘sit in’ simply because they showed up to someone else’s gig with an instrument in tow. This in turn leads to meeting more musicians, agents and fans, all of whom can be instrumental in getting you the next big gig or songwriting opportunity. Make sure you give them a way to remember you and a way to get in contact with you (a business card will do nicely).

Carrying your instrument is like a walking billboard. It says alot about you, but it’s more subtle than handing out flyers to everyone you see.

Even playing an impromptu song or set at a small party or on the street corner can connect you to important people, like future fans. Don’t underestimate the power of fans to create opportunities for you. This is word of mouth, grassroots marketing, the kind of free promotion anyone can afford.

Just the fact that you have your instrument with you, gives people an opening to engage you in conversation. It may prompt them to ask you questions, like ‘What kind of music do you play?’ Here’s where you might say ‘I’m a songwriter,’ adding a few well chosen words about your work, goals, dreams. Let’s call that your one sentence promo.

It is imperative that you figure out your one sentence promo ahead of time, write it down, refine it and rehearse it. Put it on your business card, brochures, press kit and any other printed marketing materials. For more details on the one sentence promo (OSP), I’ll refer you to the Songwriter’s Tip Jar online archives.

Scroll to the bottom, enter 31 in the Message # field and click Go. (It’s our issue 29, Yahoo’s message # 31.)

You may think this tip only applies to those who can accompany themselves on an instrument. But remember, it’s the song that’s important, not your playing or your voice. So if you believe in your song, you may be able to get the essence of it across, despite any perceived limitations as a singer or instrumentalist.

Stay with me now as I go completely around the bend. Even if you can’t play an instrument, I recommend that you carry around an instrument case, as a form of free advertising. The instrument case instantly identifies you as a musician. (And yes, songwriters are real musicians, even if they don’t sing or play an instrument.)

When people ask you about your case (and they will), you can say ‘I’m a beginner on the guitar/fiddle/accordion and only use it to write songs. Songwriting is my main thing.’ Then, if they’re still listening, continue with your one sentence promo. At this point, it’s a good time to whip out your business card.

Some people stencil their name or their band’s name (or logo) in large letters on their instrument case. That’s a free billboard. Don’t forget to put your band logo on your vehicle and your drummer’s kick drum, as well.

While we’re on the subject of self-promotion, make sure you have plenty of your business cards handy at all times, no excuses. When you meet people who express any interest at all, give them your card and get theirs. Then follow up with a phone call. Don’t expect them to call you.

Looking back over this tip, I realize it contains more than one gem worth remembering, if I do say so myself. So I’ll summarize.

1. Always carry your instrument with you, wherever you go.
2. Don’t underestimate the power of fans.
3. Create and rehearse your one sentence promo.
4. Have plenty of business cards handy at all times.
5. Put your name in large letters on all your cases, vehicles, etc.



Had my 1st “Drive-by” Friday at the bus stop. A fellow in a truck did a U turn and pulled up to the curb. I figured he wanted directions, ‘cos he rolled his window down and asked if I was “local.” I said “Yes” and he asked “Is that a banjo on your back?” And again I answered “Yes” and then he asked “Do you play Bluegrass?” to which I again answered in the affirmative.

He gave me his business card and said “We have a group — right up the hill — and we need a banjo player.” I’ve been looking to get into a band for a year and this was the first time I had taken the banjo to the VA — just for something to do while waiting for my 11 o’clock appt.!!! (usually I take the gourdolin or uke — cause they don’t take up as
much “travel room.”)

Now where was that ezine that said “Carry your instrument around — even if you don’t play it???” LOL

Thanks!! 🙂


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