My first conversation at last week’s Youbloom conference was with a super-friendly guy who, as far as I could see, was in charge of keeping things moving along smoothly. His name was Jeff. You could tell that he was the type of guy who could talk to anyone and his energy was so warm and welcoming that he was basically the Sun around which we all revolved that day. I was the first person to arrive at the conference (this is a regular occurrence for me as I am perpetually early everywhere I go, and hence the least cool person at every party) and Jeff just came right up to me and started chatting away. To set the scene, I was playing a show the night before, so I arrived that morning clutching onto a take-away coffee for dear life in a state of under-slept, hungover anxiety; all of which was made slightly worse by the fact that I was the first person there and didn’t know anyone. But all that aside, I enjoyed the conversation as it really pushed me into the gear I would need to be in for other conversations later in the day. The gear where you have to talk about who you are and what you do, simply and with confidence.
Here’s what it looked like:
JEFF: Nice to meet you Pixie! Tell me what you do.
ME: Um… well…
JEFF: Are you an artist?
ME: Yeah, I’m a solo artist.
JEFF: So what do you do?
ME: Well… My music is really hard to define… it doesn’t really fit into a genre, which is a blessing and a curse… I mean, it’s great to be unique but it’s hard to market yourself when you don’t have a genre…
JEFF: Stop! If we were in an elevator right now and I was getting off on the next floor, what would you say?
ME: Um… I make people cry for a living.
JEFF: Good! Now I know what you do and I’ll remember that. I’ll remember you!
I have to say, this conversation – although fast and furious and slightly daunting – was exactly what I needed. A half an hour later we were scheduled in for “speed sessions” – think of it like speed dating for industry people – and if I hadn’t had the elevator conversation beforehand, I would’ve been a muddled up mess when it came time to pitch myself to about 15 people for no longer than 5 minutes each. This is not to say that I didn’t struggle with it to some degree. I do find it hard to explain what I do and sometimes I just couldn’t seem to get the words out. For instance there was one guy that just cut right through my “uhhhs” and “umms” in a way that almost felt aggressive. “Ok,” he said abruptly, stopping me in my tracks, “you have to tell me what I can do for you. Now. Say it!” It was mildly terrifying but we got there in the end.
But what I took from this, is that ‘saying it in an elevator’ is a way to cut through the artist babble and get down to business. And that’s what we have to do as musicians and artists if we want to have ‘successful’ careers. We have to be able to manage the artistic stuff AND the business stuff. We have to understand the nuts and bolts of the industry. We have to know how to market ourselves and deal with the piles of admin that come with managing your own career. There’s a lot to it and up until now, I’ve been quite reluctant to dive all the way in. Because with art, you’re not just selling a product. You’re selling a part of your soul. You’re selling yourself. And on top of that, it takes a lot of time and energy to do all this stuff. Time and energy that we might prefer to spend creating. This week, I haven’t touched my piano once, and that’s unheard of for me. But there are only so many hours in a day. Anyway, I digress. And that’s the point. I need to stop rambling and just say it in an elevator.
In last week’s post, I mentioned my nervousness regarding social media, but I think the elevator thing is relevant to that too. I mean, how many times have you whizzed by a long-winded post on Facebook because you just couldn’t be bothered spending 30 seconds reading it? Life online has made us all pretty impatient. Maybe this is why Twitter works with 140 characters… so we can get to the point fast enough that our followers will actually read what we have to say without getting bored and scrolling on. Maybe social networking is the proverbial elevator.
Anyway, back to the conference. After lunch, Jeff led the room in a rather nerve-wracking everybody-introduce-yourself-in-2-minutes exercise. I don’t know why but ever since I was a kid, I’ve had a bit of a phobia of public speaking, so my heart was pounding as I waited for the 20 people in front of me to tell us who they were and what they did. Eventually, Jeff pointed at me. “Pixie, tell everyone what you do”. I took a deep breath. Say it in an elevator, say it in an elevator… “Hi,” I said from the back of the room, trying to project as much confidence as I possibly could, “I’m Pixie Saytar. I’m a solo artist. My music is dark and different from pretty much anything you’ll ever hear. Someone has to write the sad songs, and it’s me.”
I don’t know if I said everything I would’ve liked to, or if I did my work any justice in those few sentences, but later, as I was waiting for a masterclass to begin, Jeff walked by me and smiled, “Well done Pixie. You did it!” So I guess I did an alright job with it! And I definitely learned something. I’d say that I still have to perfect my pitch for future endeavours, but at least I know now to stop worrying about exactly how to portray my sound and just say it in an elevator. Lesson learned.