Danielle LaPorte is my business guru. Her digital course “The Spark Kit” (formerly known as “The Fire Starter Sessions”) is easily the most inspirational and helpful guide for any entrepreneur looking to fire up and build an authentic, satisfying and successful business. (If you’re not yet hip to Danielle, I strongly urge you to visit her website: www.whitehottruth.com. Pure gold.) Danielle has changed the way I think about my life and my work and has empowered me in more ways than I can articulate here.
One of the things that Danielle recommends is paying attention to what people ask you about. This can be a good indicator as to where you might find a natural flow with your business and can also clarify how you may be of service to other people. This was a great exercise for me. It was also instantaneously illuminating. Throughout the course of the year, I get countless inquiries about the business of vocal jazz. Many of them are from beginning singers that I meet at a vocal jams. Others come in the form of random emails from people I’ve never met. The questions are pretty much the same:
How do I “break into” the business of singing jazz professionally?
How do I get gigs?
What’s the best way to promote my shows?
How do I hire musicians?
What’s a “book?”
I’m so nervous, how can I feel more comfortable onstage?
And so on…..
I’ve spent a lot of time answering emails, chatting with vocalists out on the scene and having coffee dates with aspiring singers who are looking to make the leap into the world of vocal jazz. I’ve observed that in all of these situations, I pretty much cover the same ground every time. Further, it seems that the information I have to share is useful to people. It occurred to me that I could be of service.
So, I decided to write a book about the business side of vocal jazz.
In my own personal evolution, I learned vocal technique and jazz theory by studying with my teachers (Powerhouse vocalist Greta Matassa and the great pianist Darin Clendenin.), practicing and basically working hard. I want to be quick to point out that this process is ongoing. I am still learning, studying, growing, fine-tuning and evolving. However, when it came to figuring out the business side of the equation, this was a bit of a hunt and peck process for me. Of course, my teachers could and would have been able to answer a lot of my questions around the subject, but it just didn’t come up very often. I think this is probably because our time together was focused on other things. So when it came to the business of gigging, I jumped in and figured things out on my own. I asked questions. I talked to musicians. I made mistakes. I learned by observing others. I read stuff. The most beneficial information that I gleaned was from my own direct experiences. You could say that overall, it was an exercise in trial and error, but ultimately, I learned to comfortably navigate the business side of getting work, hiring musicians, promoting shows and performing gigs.
My book, which presently has the loose working title of “One Chick Singer’s Guide to the Biz of Vocal Jazz,” is basically a summary of what’s worked for me in terms of getting out there and gigging. For someone who is just getting started, I’m hopeful that I can spare him or her some legwork. The book is equal parts how-to and inspiration. At present, I’m about a third of the way finished with the book. This has been an interesting process for me. For starters, I’m writing all the initial drafts of each chapter in longhand. This was not intentional, it just sort of happened. Journaling aside, I rarely write in longhand. Still, there is something very organic and personal about putting pen to paper with this lovechild of a project. Another thing I’ve noticed is how the book seems to want to write itself. Oh yes, I created an outline and plan of attack long before writing a word. But as the process unfolds, I find a sense of natural selection going on with some new information making its way in, other information being shifted and some things being thrown out. I guess a book is like a little kid; you raise it with the best of intentions but it has a mind of its own. But this is cool.
If I’ve learned anything from my yoga practice, it’s about honoring flow.
So in that vein, when Erik Hanson from the Jazz Night School asked me to teach a class on the business of vocal jazz, I agreed. The class will cover everything that’s in the book but with the benefit of real-time immediacy. (Just like jazz itself.) I can answer questions. We’ll swap stories. We’ll definitely have some laughs. I can also get immediate feedback as to what’s clear and what might need clarification. Best of all, a bunch of people who love singing jazz get to hang out together. It’s going to be a gas, baby. I just know it.
“The Business of Vocal Jazz; Jumping In & Going For It” is a ten-week class, which starts on September 20th. For more information and to sign up, please visit: http://jazznightschool.com/jazz_school_classes_business_vocal_jazz.html. “One Chick Singer’s Guide to the Biz of Vocal Jazz” will be available sometime in the early part of 2012. It’s going be a downloadable PDF, complete with video segments that feature commentary from some of my jazz colleagues. A multi-media feast! You know I’ll be making plenty of noise about it along the way, so please stay tuned.
I’ll wrap this up by saying that I’m having loads of fun with this. I love singing jazz. I love to write. I love hanging with people who dig jazz. I love the thought of helping other vocalists. It’s the perfect combination. Bliss. Danielle LaPorte is definitely on to something.
“Passion is easy.”
– Danielle LaPorte