Corporate Gigs and Dedication

Corporate Gigs and Dedication

Marianne Bennett is the founder of Marianne Bennett Productions and Element Music, two high-end music event companies that book entertainment for private events. She got her start in the music industry in  the 1980s as a rock/pop singer/songwriter, performing in venues throughout New York City such as The Bitter End, Kenny’s Castaways, The Limelight and CBGBs. She first got involved in the music events industry when she worked as a wedding and private events vocalist for hire. Eventually, she combined her love of performing with her passion for the business side of music and decided to start her own music event company.

 

 

Recently, I got to talk to Marianne about her experience in the industry, how artists can break into the private events space and why passion and dedication are critical to a successful career in the music business.      

 

Musician Coaching:

 

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, Marianne. How did you get started in music?

 

MB:

 

I started as a songwriter and a performer in an original rock/pop band playing all the downtown New York City clubs, like The Bitter End, Kenny’s Castaways, The Limelight, CBGBs, etc. I just was always performing all the time and had a great love for songwriting and singing.

 

Right after college, I decided to pursue my artist career. At that time, which was in the 1980s, the music business was very different from how it is now. Obviously we didn’t have all the social networking we have now or the internet. So the way artists carved out their own path was to constantly approach label people, play as often as possible, try to get their demo tapes in the right hands at the right time with the right people, etc. It was a very different time. I played frequently in the clubs and tried to meet and greet whoever I could. Eventually I got hired at CBS Records, which is now Sony. I was trying to get myself in front of whatever record executives I could so I could have people around to submit my demo tapes to. It was a very exciting time, but very different from the way things are now. I actually think this is a great time for artists, because there are so many possibilities, and so many different ways to get yourself exposed and get people to see who you are.

 

Over the years – after pursuing my artist career and realizing I was meant for other things in music – I slowly started getting into the event industry and producing music events for social occasions, everything ranging from corporate events, weddings, fashion release parties, opening night galas for Broadway shows, etc. It’s been a great journey and a lot of fun. Now I run Element Music, which is a high-end music events company. We have people that travel throughout the world and the U.S. But primarily, most of our work is in New York.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

I get asked all the time by artists, “How do I get my band hired to play covers at corporate events, weddings and other similar places?” How did you make the transition between being an artist and getting corporate gigs?

 

MB:

 

Like many things in life, this happened by chance. When you’re an up-and-coming artist trying to get yourself out there, you still have to pay your bills. I started doing wedding work as a vocalist to pay my rent. And as I got more entrenched in that business, I found it really interesting how every weekend I found myself working with unbelievably talented people. There were so many people like me that were original artists and needed to pay their rent. I found it to be a really great time to get to know a lot of musicians, songwriters, etc. So, how I really transitioned was through that need to put food on the table,  get the rent paid, etc. But it ended up being something I really enjoyed. I had also always enjoyed the business side of music. And in the event industry, you really have to have the ability to deal with all different types of people and their needs, and that happens to be something I’m good at.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

Having access to musicians certainly seems like the easy side of the equation. But how did you go about putting together the right marketing materials? Also, a lot of people try to put together event companies and have live music for hire and fail dismally. What is it about your corporate approach that is different from the approach of the other people that don’t make it?

 

MB:

 

I think really it’s about dedicating yourself to what you’re doing and having a passion and love for what you’re doing. If you have those elements, the people you work with will pick up on that. I feel really strongly that anyone who is an artist, whether  a songwriter or a person that runs an event company like myself – if you are anyone who has something that involves your passion, you really love what you do and know how to present it to other people in your marketing tools. Truthfully, I never had really fancy marketing tools; I just had a great love for what I was doing and a great belief in myself. I portrayed that on a day-to-day basis with all the people I would meet in my travels as a musician. I find that all the musicians I’ve known over the years that have had great success in their own careers – even if it’s in different legs of the music industry – all have this one thing in common:  A dedication to working hard every day at what you do, and having the ability to share that with people you meet all the time. I can’t say I had any fancy marketing tools in the beginning, because in the beginning there was lack of cash flow, so I could only work with what I had.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

I am surrounded by musicians who are having the damndest time getting gigs. And it sounds like both on the artist side and on the corporate side, you’re not even bringing that topic up, because it sounds like it has never been a big struggle for you; it always came naturally to you. How is it that you found yourself always playing, and what advice would you give for someone that wants to always find ways to play?

 

MB:

 

You have to grab every opportunity. If you’re a vocalist – and I tell this to all the singers that work for me – whatever your craft is, you have to take every opportunity you have. The opportunity might be singing for free in the library, but you need to get heard wherever you can and wherever there is an audience. The gig might be paid or unpaid, but it’s about honing in on your craft and perfecting your craft. If you’re a great performer and a great entertainer, people are going to be attracted to you and offer you work. It’s that simple. If you have something that is engaging and keeps people interested, people will offer you work. I’ve always followed that principle throughout my career.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

So, it’s honestly just about playing as much as possible and being known, using one gig at a time to meet people. And it sounds like that’s what enabled you to found this corporate company.

 

MB:

 

Yes. In the earlier stages of my career, anytime anyone had an opportunity for me, I grabbed it, no matter what it was. You never know who is listening to you or who is in the room. I have a great story about that. Years ago, I performed at an event. It was at a really cheesy catering venue out on Long Island. And there happened to be someone at that event that thought what I did was great, and he offered me a job. You never know who is out there. It’s a willingness to get yourself out there and be dedicated to it all the time. I was just reading about an artist yesterday that said the same thing. She said it was just about doing it night and day. She gets up in the morning and does the things she needs to do just to pay for her life. While she’s out – whether it’s at her job or just when she’s out for coffee – she’s always talking about what she does with other people and all that is involved in what she does. It’s about networking all the time and constantly talking up what you do. Personally, I think it’s a non-stop process.  And then people pick up on it. I wish I could say there was some magic answer, but there’s not. It’s just an intuitiveness and a belief.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

I agree with you. I don’t think there is a magic pill. If you met yourself now when you were just starting out, is there any advice you would give yourself that you think would’ve helped you out a great deal?

 

MB:

 

Yes. Throughout my own career, there are many times I see opportunities that I didn’t recognize. When I look back at my accomplishments, I’m pleased with what I’ve done. But I definitely would’ve changed how I handled certain opportunities. I think if you have an opportunity, it’s important to jump on it right away, and not  even wait a few days to get back to somebody or to give a bio or your photos out. You really have to be on top of your emailing. Of course, when I started, it was about phone calls and tapes and sticking things in the mail and getting your photo out. That’s one thing I wish I’d done better.

 

To learn more about Marianne Bennett and her work, you can visit the Marianne Bennett Productions and Elements Music websites. You can also follow her on Twitter as MBennettMusic.