Elemental Harmony is vocal trio currently comprised of three of our Listers: (L to R) Kris Wildman, Ter Lieberstein, and Jacque Mahoney. They’ve seen significant success in the local community, and their combined creativity and business acumen show potential for continued growth. With their upcoming ‘Voices of Women‘ concert on 5/25 and the particular idiosyncrasies of marketing for a small independent ensemble, we’re pleased to welcome them as guest bloggers: the collaborative effort below will get your own wheels turning…
Marketing for a Unique Ensemble: Fitting into a Non-Existent Box
Elemental Harmony, an a cappella women’s trio based in Southern California, has been performing for some years. We have an eclectic and exciting repertoire that has changed through the years (depending on who is in the group at any given time). We have a beautiful sound, we’re fun and funny, and we always receive very positive feedback (and even the occasional standing ovation).
And yet we’ve always had the same dilemma: how do we find our niche?
We’ve tried to fit into many different ‘boxes’:
- Corporate (parties; at one point in time, as The Andrews Sisters)
- Holiday (clients usually want SATB costumed groups)
- World music (festivals and fairs)
- Women’s groups (Red Hats, church groups, AAUW, etc.)
- House concerts (can’t seem to convince them that it’s okay to feature something other than folk singer/songwriters)
- The a cappella community (no beat boxer; too far ‘out of the norm’)
- Concert series (recommended group by L.A. consortium)
- Churches and temples (pay for 3 people is extremely low)
- Senior living facilities (pay for 3 people is extremely low)
- Self-produced (friends get tired of paying)
We have booked gigs in all of these venues. However, the marketing and follow-up are challenging, since each potential booking venue requires its own type of promotion. And we all have a LOT of things on our plate!
One thing we realized this time around is that we were doing a lot of marketing to our friends and colleagues, most of whom either have their own gigs or, like us, are struggling to some extent and often don’t have the money to spend. This time, we have tried spreading flyers and handbills not just to the music stores, but to the record and book stores. Hopefully we’ll be catching not just musicians but the music lovers – the audience types.
We do a lot of world music but we aren’t “from there,” which is what some of the world music venues want, and we do music from many different cultures, not just one.
We really tried hitting the a cappella community for a long time, but even when we made a big splash at the local Harmony Sweepstakes (the big annual a cappella competition), we only got a few long-lasting fans. This audience is overall just as rigid in expectations as the house concert folks.
When the Southern California Consortium of Chamber Music Presenters put us on its top-ten recommended ensemble list, we thought we’d found something. The committee was intrigued and impressed with our being “out of the box.” Here again, however, the traditional won out. We are not a recital or a string quartet or a concert pianist, and that’s what most of these presenters want. We had three concert bookings over three years, and they were very well received. One presenter even said he was excited because we brought in a different additional audience from his normal patrons. But presenters are a conservative lot. Most weren’t willing to take a chance on us.
The corporate party might be something we should try again — we’ve done this previously, doing Andrews Sisters rep, and that sold. Then we changed and that rep wasn’t right. Now, however, world music is still having it’s day, and we’re more accessible and available than many groups from another part of the world. The same philosophy goes for the women’s groups. They don’t have big budgets, but maybe get into the circuit and do hordes of them….
We are still left with the ongoing question: do we try to specialize? Promote to only one market potential? Ultimately, how do we find our audience?
…and how do you find yours? Every performer has this dilemma: We all love to perform, but finding the right audience for your particular forte can be difficult.