Conventions and Corporate Events
Musician, Aug 2008 by Bob Popyk
There's a tremendous amount of money to be made
playing corporate gigs. Many AFM musicians who make serious
bucks at these events are kind of below the radar. They don't
have recording contracts and don't make concert tours. They
aren't regional or even local stars. Most of the country has
never heard of them, but they work steadily.
A dedicated core of musicians in hundreds of
cities around the country earn a comfortable living entertaining for
corporate groups who meet regularly in cities like Nashville, Dallas,
LA, San Diego, New York, Atlanta, Miami, Orlando, Denver, Detroit,
Cleveland, Chicago, San Francisco, and others. What's
interesting is that these corporate conventions, meetings, and events
might also be going on in a town close to you (if not in your town) and
you might not even know about it. Event coordinators could be
bringing in musicians from other cities because they don't know you
These corporate meetings and programs involve
industries as diverse as the automobile, funeral, grocery, insurance,
real estate, snowmobile, motorcycle, pool and spa, kitchen and bath,
RV, boat and motor, cable TV, computer, casket-making, sports
equipment, and other industries. The list is almost endless.
It's interesting work. Convention shows
rowdy like some rock concerts, but they can be lively. They can also be
fun and lucrative. The Associated Press recently ran an
musicians who work corporate events as a major part of their income. "I
get Mike from sales up on stage to sing 'Mony Mony.' That's a
run," said one musician interviewed in the article. His band
performing for conventions for 20 years and does a minimum of one
corporate show a week.
A few years ago, one corporate
entertainer/musician worked out a special song, while performing with
Tammy Wynette for GMC truck dealers.
"Instead of her 'Stand by Your Man,' his band did
'Stand by Your Van,'" the AP story recalled of the late singer's
classic hit. On cue, corporate officials rolled a van out on
at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry House.
Got the idea? Clever and creative gets
same musician performs before a few hundred to several thousand
spectators, doing blazing versions of "Rocky Top," "The Devil Went Down
to Georgia," and "The Orange Blossom Special."
The musician went on to explain, "We give them a
little bluegrass, a little country, and maybe a little Southern gospel,
and a medley of patriotic songs." He's done hundreds of
Memphis, Nashville, and elsewhere for some 20 years. The
money is many
times what we could make playing at a club.
One fiddler and singer with a degree in vocal
performance from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, does a few
dozen corporate shows a year hoping the gigs will be a springboard to a
recording contract. The article said that she performs "a
good range of
the spectrum," covering songs by Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder of Local 5
(Detroit, MI), Shania Twain, Reba McEntire, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
This kind of publicity is invaluable, but the work
can be a little tricky as you need to know your audience.
shows with a lot of Amish there. I've worked Amway sales
psychiatry conventions," commented one musician. "I try to
questions beforehand and be sensitive."
And there lies the secret. It takes
homework. It takes some persistence and
perseverance. It takes some
business sense. You have to come up with some ideas that will
client's interest. You have to learn a little about the
going after, something about the event, and who the check-writers are.
To get corporate gigs and convention work, you
need to think beyond the clubs and wedding work. These big paying gigs
with companies as large as Ford, Apple, GE, Toyota, Kawasaki, 3M, Sea
Ray, Alcoa, Prudential, Yamaha, and Disney, plus smaller companies with
names you never heard of, are out there, even on a local
have national meetings, regional meetings, and local events.
to find out where they are, who to talk to, and how you can be
involved. You need to be an ultimate schmoozer, a musician
play anything put before you, and a businessperson as well.
You need to
know the people at your local convention bureau, as well as the
point-people in surrounding towns. Being clever and creative
And remember this: Once you get some interest and
someone asks you what you charge for playing the show/event/meeting
(and helping to put the program together), don't be afraid to ask for
five or 10 times scale. Professionals want to deal with
A CEO or business executive earning $400,000 a year is not
flinch when you quote a month's pay for two-days work. They will
probably flinch if you come in too low, plus they may not think you're
There is a ton of this type of work out there.
spite of the economy, the stock market, and the gas prices, these
corporate events are going on. You just have to go after them.
by Bob Popyk of Local 78 (Syracuse, NY) and Local 283
Copyright American Federation of Musicians Aug 2008
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