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I was a student in the Pace Encore Transition Program at which Astrid was a presenter. Her Designing Your Encore Life workshop gave me both practical and psychological insights and helped me manage my transition in ways that were unexpected and highly positive. The possibilities of an Encore life were overwhelming to me and, despite my years of corporate employment law, I was now unfocused. Who was I? What had I done that was transferable? What was it I wanted to transfer? What did I really want or think I wanted?
Astrid's workshop required me to answer those questions and more. She asked about core values, interests, tolerances, passions, work and life experience. She listened carefully to the answers many of the students volunteered, and gave concrete suggestions as to how to develop a plan to move forward in a meaningful way. She did not offer one solution to fit all but, rather, paid careful attention to the needs and desires of each student who chose to share. The experience was empowering.
“As a member of So Percussion, I am well aware of the struggles of the student musician leaving the “nest” of the university educational system. Most of what I learned on how to develop a career in the music field came from trial and error and first-hand experience. After speaking as a guest in Astrid’s class at Yale University, it became apparent to me that she was filling a void that needed filled desperately. Finally, someone was saying out loud what needed to be said to university students: “Your career depends on much more than just practicing and talent.” I wish her class existed when I was in school. Students taking her class are emerging from Yale armed for the real world ahead of them. Aside from her practical and hands-on approach to building a brand, she explodes with energy at every turn, inspiring you to sit up and take notice of every word she says. I have to say, I work with passionate people in the arts on a daily basis, and I have never come across anyone so genuinely excited to help people seek their highest potential. Yes, my experience with Astrid has been tied to the music business side of the world, but her energy, skills, and practices can and should be applied to anyone seeking to be employed doing the thing they love to do. If you have a job in mind that you couldn’t believe someone would pay you to do, Astrid can help you get there.”
— Josh Quillen, So Percussion; Bard College; New York University
Thank you so much for your engaging leadership development sessions at the OPERA America Leadership Intensive last week. It was such a pleasure to meet you and participate in the program. The entire week was wonderfully organized and packed with so many important facets of arts management, but the two days spent with you were particularly personal and useful (at work AND at home!). All of the tools and exercises were relevant and yielded a lot of personal discovery. I also wanted to comment how I wished to have had a professor like you in business school. I did take a class on mindfulness as part of my Arts Management program, but it was certainly not as well-executed and engaging as our sessions with you.
— Garrett C, Los Angeles, CA
One of the most important tools for advancing a career in the creative world is the use of a personal brand. Once the domain strictly of commercial enterprises, the principles of branding are now used successfully by individuals who want to clearly communicate why they are the best person to provide a service to the audiences they want to reach. The same principles that have made Steinway "the finest pianos in the world" and Nike products for athletes who "just do it" can be applied to musicians and artists who want to distinguish themselves from their peers.
Branding is an especially powerful marketing tool for creative artists because having a brand is about knowing your authentic unique gift and communicating that gift to the people you want to attract.
In short, a brand is your vision of who you are and what you do for your audiences. It encompasses:
• a message
• that expresses what makes you unique and memorable
• and distinguishes you from your competition
• so that your target audience connects with you emotionally and wants to work with you.
How does branding apply to professional musicians and artists?
Think of all the wonderfully talented musicians and artists out there. If you perceive yourself as just one of hundreds of talented musicians, it is easy to feel discouraged from pursuing the career of your dreams. This is where having a brand can help turn your career around. Once you see yourself as unique, it reduces the pressures of competition because you know that you have something special to offer. It is the start of trusting your gift. The same holds true when you know why are you are the ideal person to satisfy the needs of your target audience. If you truly believe that you are the best person for that audience, it reinforces your uniqueness.
For example, many musicians I know are eager to shake up the world of classical music and do something out of the box in their career. How they succeed depends on their knowing what specifically makes them great and then identifying the audiences that will appreciate their unique offering. Here are two examples.
One musician I know wants to create intimate music festivals where audiences and performers actively interact through pre-performance discussions and post-performance receptions. He brings his excitement, focus and leadership to open-minded, engaged and curious audiences in order to create a memorable experience for them.
Another musician I know shares his music through private home concerts where he both plays his favorite repertoire and shares his insights about the music so that his listeners feel an emotional connection to the music. His unique contribution is to give his audience exclusive access to an updated "salon" experience that few that music lovers today ever get to experience.
How can having a brand help boost your professional artistic career?
On a practical level, having a brand helps you define your career objectives. Our first musician had a goal of creating one-of-a-kind music festivals that emphasize audience interaction with the performers. Our second musician's goal was to create a network of home concerts. Once their desired results were clear, they were able to map out the actions they needed to take to achieve those meaningful objectives.
Having a brand also helps you work smarter, not harder, because your efforts are focused on the specific audiences you want to attract. Our first musician will pursue audiences who enjoy a festival atmosphere, where the second musician will direct his efforts to finding people who are eager to host home concerts. They save time because they know whom to pursue and what they are going after.
Interestingly, having a brand also has a spiritual component. Once you see yourself as unique in this world, you no longer have the pressure of weighing yourself against the competition because there simply is no one else who has exactly the same offering you do. This is particularly important in the creative world. Instead of seeing yourself as one of many talented artists, you become aware of the abundance of the universe and perceive the world as a generous place with enough success for all individuals with their own special gifts. This helps reinforce your belief in yourself, which in turn helps you attract the right public and flourish in your chosen career.
If you value spirituality, connectedness, abundance and authenticity, your brand is a powerful manifestation of those values. And the more you are aligned with your values, the more motivated and inspired you will be to pursue your goals. Both of the musicians in our example had this experience once they created their brands and began to align their actions in accordance with their brand identity statements.
As an artist, having a brand is a profound way to connect with your music and your audience, and a major step in taking your career to a new level. Just follow this 4-step process to create your personal brand!
(C) Astrid Baumgardner 2010
I would be delighted if you should wish to reprint (for free) any part of this article in your newsletters, blogs, websites, and message boards. Please include the following attribution:
Astrid Baumgardner, JD, PCC is a professional life coach and lawyer, Coordinator of Career Strategies and Lecturer at the Yale School of Music and the founder and President of Astrid Baumgardner Coaching + Training, which is dedicated to helping musicians, lawyers and creative professionals take charge of their lives and experience authentic success. In addition to her work at YSM and her individual coaching practice, Astrid presents workshops at leading conservatories and law firms on topics including Career Planning, Goal-Setting, Time Management, Dynamic Communication, Conflict Management and Personal Branding and Networking. She is the author of numerous articles on the various aspects of how to achieve and live authentic success.