Both Sides Now is a series that charts my findings as an arts (benevolent) double agent, working both on and off stage. There will be tips and tricks for all, the development of a meandering manifesto and plenty of ridiculous emails, interactions and situations. Names have been omitted to protect the foolish.
TL;DR – Timing is everything. Don’t let your hustling become hassling.
Let’s talk about hustling. It’s an integral part to the life of the artist and I don’t think it’s anyone’s favourite part. It’s a necessary evil. Like freelances in every field, we dream of the day when offers for wonderful work land on our doorstep and sometimes they do, but more often that not, we have to go out into the world and be pro-active and seek it out.
Some people are really, very good at this. Others are not.
Here are some of the more nefarious breeds of hustler we see out in the wild…
- The Relentless – This type of hustler relies on exhaustion through bombardment. If I send enough emails, calls and take every face to face opportunity to pitch myself, the programmer will be so worn down as to offer a gig just to make it stop. I’ve seen it work on many occasions but it doesn’t tend to work more than once per person.
- The Entitled – This hustler adopts a demanding/reprimanding tone in their communications, simply affronted that you haven’t yet offered them a gig and don’t you know how much they deserve it? They tend to like listing their accolades and refuse to engage with any normal process as they are far too important and it is beneath them. They also tend to avoid promoting the gigs they do have, seemingly at all costs.
- The Last-Minute – This kind of hustler may also be hybridised with the others – you may encounter a Last Minute Entitled, for example. They may have an otherwise fantastic pitch but they send it in 3 weeks before the gig date.
- The Ninja – This one may have a cool name, but their methods are as questionable as the others. These hustlers avoid working with the normal protocol of contacting a programmer, instead opting to hustle where and when you least expect it – on your personal facebook page, through a friend or family member or when you’re in the queue at the pharmacy. They rely on the ambush effect.
In the last month or two, here are some encounters I’ve had with some of these creatures –
- Someone asking to discuss dates for a gig when I had literally just stepped off-stage from a gig, still with trumpet in hand.
- Someone who, in a single day, called my personal mobile, the office, left a voicemail and sent two texts regarding a gig.
- Someone who explained in no uncertain terms that they wouldn’t be requesting a gig in the normal way because they were too important and should be given the respect they deserve then came to the venue to ask a colleague ‘Who is she anyway?’ (I was in ear-shot…)
It’s really, very vitally important to realise that people who work in the arts aren’t all on-call 24/7 and that the smart ones keep strict office hours because they want to do other things with their lives too.
So when you see a programmer or a festival director out in the world, try talking to them about ANYTHING OTHER THAN YOUR GIG. It’s a great and under-rated technique to foster lasting relationships with people professionally. And it’s way more enjoyable than the cold, hard sell.
And remember, don’t let your hustling become hassling or else you may end up as an anecdote.