Primary Blog/Gigging Musician Podcast/Episode 206 - Finding Your Unique Groove: Navigating the Gigging Musician's Bell Curve

Episode 206 - Finding Your Unique Groove: Navigating the Gigging Musician's Bell Curve

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

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Episode Recap

In this episode, Jared Judge delves into the art of finding your sweet spot in the world of gigging musicians. Drawing from a discussion with one of his Fulltime Music Academy Platinum members, Ken, he explores the concept of the "bell curve" in both song selection and the uniqueness of your act. Discover how to strike the perfect balance to increase your chances of booking corporate gigs, weddings, and high-paying events.

Best Quote

"The money is in the prolific zone, somewhere between the edges and the middle on either side."


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What's up gigging pros! It's Jared Judge. Welcome back to another episode of The Gigging Musician Podcast.

Okay, I wanted to share something that might help you have a little more success, booking, corporate gigs, and weddings, and the private gigs. And actually, I believe this will also help you book more public choose to.

And this was based off of a discussion that I was having with one of our Fulltime Music Academy Platinum members, Ken, about, you know, why? Why has extreme strings had quick success in Denver.

And, you know, of course, I mentioned this back, when we were talking about the Corporate Gig Challenge about the concept of a bell curve, which, if you're not familiar with the bell curve, it's basically a graph that people flat out that starts low, and then rises up in a curved fashion, and then rises back down in a curved fashion, so that it looks like a bell, like the Liberty Bell.

So I talked about this bell curve in terms of the song selection that you play. And I mentioned that on one side of the bell curve, the really far left side where you'll get fewer bookings is niche covers.

This is like if you run a an Ozzy Osbourne tribute band, and there's only a small percentage of people who are diehard Ozzy fans, if you're an Ozzy Shan, I salute you.

But the thing is most corporate gigs, corporate event planners wouldn't hire an Ozzy Osbourne tribute band, because it won't please the entirety of their guests. Like not all of their, their guests will love Ozzy.

And he may actually offend some of them by bringing Ozzy Osbourne on the other side of the bell curve, the far right, which is still low. Right, this is the part that slopes down. Still not going to get too many bookings, is unfortunately, originals.

So you know, original music is great. And if you're a songwriter, once again, I salute you. However, a corporate event planner, is not looking to try something new at their corporate event, they want something that's tried and true, something that they knew is going to please their audience.

And while your your original music might be fantastic, I've never heard it, corporate event planner has never heard it. And their guests have never heard it either.

So it's seen as a risky, risky business to bring you in for a high stakes corporate event that they're spending 10s, hundreds of 1000s, possibly millions of dollars on.

So that's why, you know, originals are on the right side of the bell curve. And then as we get to the top middle section of the bell curve, smack dab in between niche covers, and originals. That is where the money lies in the crowd pleasers.

Now, this shouldn't really be new to you, because I think I've talked about this bell curve in the past. But there's another bell curve, a secondary bell curve, that you don't really want to be directly in the center, top of and this is in Ken's opinion.

And I do kind of agree with him. This is why extreme strings has had fast success in a new city, which is that I'm not on the top of the secondary bell curve.

Secondary bell curve would be the type of ensemble or type of act that you actually are. And I'm not saying that you need to change what instrument you play. Because that's huge.

That's like asking you to, you know, be a, don't be a human be be a cat. Well, you could learn a new insert, but you can't learn to be a cat. So maybe that's not the perfect analogy.

However, let me explain the bell curve, and then we'll see what you can do about it to shift what you're thinking. So the secondary bell curve is the type of actor that you are.

And we're actually going to start at the top center of the bell curve with what is most frequently seen by people in general. So I want you to take what is the most common instrument, that common instrument and configuration.

Somebody has heard a live musician in five seconds. Okay, if you said solo acoustic guitarist who sings? Well, you're probably right. Because I believe in the gigging world.

That is one of the most common types of acts simply because you know, that's the instrument that most people learn, you know, guitars. I mean, I don't know that The hard data behind this, but I imagine that the sales of guitars outnumber the sales of any other instrument.

So that maybe piano but even then I think it does outnumber piano, you know, by by a significant factor. So people are used to hearing solo acoustic guitars and hearing people sing with it, that's just the most common top center of the bell curve.

And so the problem that that creates is that it's expected. And when I did the Corporate Challenge-- Corporate Gig Challenge, I mentioned that these corporate event planners, one of the things they're looking for is an element of surprise.

They're looking for uniqueness, and experience that will cause their guests to to be to have a memorable experience to remember it. And so the problem is not that you don't play a guitar and sing beautifully and excitedly.

But if you're just playing cover songs, the way that everybody else does, like, Hey, I'm actually going to call out another marketer in my space, where they, they have an ad saying, if you know three chords, you can get a gig?

Well, sure, but it's not gonna be a very good gig, you know, it's gonna be one of those 50 bucks in a tip jar kind of gig. And you're putting yourself right at the top of the bell curve, top center of the bell curve.

And in this bell curve, it is not the most ideal thing to be at the top center. Because, again, it's expected to the degree that it's overdone in these corporate events and weddings, and it doesn't stand out. So how can we fix this?

Now, let's, let's talk about the other ends of this bell curve. Cuz dog wants to be on the podcast, was that puppy? His dog, I swear, every time I walked by this house, his dog just wants to tear me to pieces. I get it, though.

So anyway, the other sides of this bell curve. I don't exactly know what goes on which side. But But we, I don't know, in corporate events, we can say that the other ends of this bell curve, or like, one end is a type of act that is so niche and unique, that it actually wouldn't be appropriate for corporate events.

So this might like you ever heard of Burning Man, the festival. It's like a art and hippyish festival that takes place in the desert. And people make these gigantic art installations. And some of which are musical instruments.

Like, I don't know, a dragon that breathes fire that has a keyboard, that when you play the keyboard, plays a note and plays fire. You know, that's the kind of instrument that I'm talking about.

On one end of the bell curve, that has a very low chance of getting booked for a corporate event is, I don't know many corporate events, that one, a fire breathing dragon keyboard, at their corporate event, actually sounds pretty cool.

But again, kind of like Ozzy Osbourne covers its niche, it's not necessarily going to be crowd pleasing enough to the point of making it well, it'll definitely make it memorable. But it's, it's not going to please everybody.

And I think if it were to be hired, it would be for its uniqueness for the fact that it would be like, you know, hiring stilt walkers to walk through the event space. It's unique and different. And they hired a because it's unique and different.

Then, on the other end of the spectrum, would be more like standard musical configurations that just don't work for corporate events. And I don't know, let me think about this.

Because I actually have never really talked through this before. But, you know, I'm thinking like a symphony orchestra has a very low chance of getting hired for a corporate event.

Like there's just no precedent for a large 100 piece Symphony Orchestra string section, winds, brass percussion conductor at a corporate event. Right? That's it's a standard musical configuration.

It makes a lot of money in the Symphony Hall, but almost totally inappropriate for a corporate event. And so I'll say that lies on the opposite end of the spectrum. So in this bell curve, you do not want to be on the edges.

If you want corporate gigs and weddings and other high paying gigs, but you also don't want to be right at the center at the top. There is less money in there because it's not unique.

So where do you want to meaning, you want to be slightly off center somewhere between the edge and the middle on either side. And the way to do that without changing your instrument or without changing, the fact that you're a singer, is by introducing some unique element to your playing that other people aren't doing.

If they're in the BMO the top of the bell curve, back, one of my mentors calls it the prolific zone. The prolific zone is the spot that he's not what everyone is doing. But it's also the spot that's not so out there and crazy.

It's somewhere right in in the middle, like right in between those two. And there's actually a graph in one of his books, I think it's actually in expert secrets by Russell Brunson that shows the bell curve.

And he said the money is in the prolific zone. And there are two prolific zones, one on either side of the top of the bell curve, but it's not at the top of the bell curve. And it's not away at the edges.

So what are some unique elements you can add to your performance, that would take you to the prolific zone. For my accent, I can only talk from my experience, I can maybe make suggestions for you.

But like, from my experience, electric violin with backing tracks, is in the prolific zone. Because one, it's not at the top of the bell curve. Not everybody is doing this. You know, violin is novel and unique. For a corporate event.

It's also novel and unique for violin to be able to play Led Zeppelin or Taylor Swift, or even EDM, like dead mouse and cascade. So that is why that this act is not at the top of the bell curve. backing tracks is also kind of not at the top of the bell curve.

Because most, you know, musicians typically don't use tracks. So that does take me away from the crowded top of the bell curve, and put me a little off, off center.

And so the other thing is that, you know, violin, in general is, is not super tough at the Bell curvy, because, you know, as far as like gigging is concerned, if you were to go to a bar and hear your nearest band, odds are you would not hear a violin, you would expect to hear them in a concert hall, like a symphony center, and not in a bar.

But here, here's this unique instrument, violin out of place, in a situation that is typically occupied by a more common instrument. The other thing, though, is that I've actually gotten a lot of feedback.

Even recently, I played I sponsored another nice event, National Association for catering events, sponsored another one of those by playing electric violin with the DJ. And I got feedback on like the unique shape of my instrument.

So if you've got an instrument that has a unique feature, or unique shape, unique look to it, even unique sound that can take you away from the top of the bell curve. So that I think is what is working for me on the electric violin aspect.

The reason why I'm not on the edges of the bell curve that make no money is because one, it's not a fire breathing dragon keyboard.

It's it is, you know, people know that it's a violin like, that's it's not a new instrument, the sound that comes out of it is a standard violin sound, I've just added a ton of reverb.

And then on the other end of the bell curve, why I'm not there is that I'm not playing classical music on the violin, right, it's not a standard way of playing the instrument.

And that standard way would take me way down on the bottom right of the bell curve, because not too many corporate events, want just a standard classical configuration.

Now, that being said, standard classical configurations are great for corporate events, especially when they're looking to do an elegant, you know, cocktail hour, where suit and tie or tuxedo is appropriate.

So, I guess one of the other things like these are not hard and fast rules. These apply differently to different situations. I'm just trying to make some generalizations to make your life easier.

Because what you want to do is you want to find somewhere between the bottom of that bell curve and the top of the bell curve without having to change your instrument.

So can you add different songs can I think as a master of this, he is able to play a such a wide variety of songs done really well?

To the point where I think that brings him off the top of the bell curve because you know, everybody can play Wonderwall on acoustic guitar, not everybody can play.

I don't know I can't remember his exact song list, but I know that he does like Ed Sheeran, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. And he goes all across the genres with that.

And I think that's one way to take yourself off the top of the bell curve is by expanding your song list. And including genres that are unexpected. So that's, that's one way.

Another way is, could you add other elements to like the instrument that you you do that you play? I'm not saying to modify your instrument, but like, can you add additional sounds to it?

Like, you know, I add a ton of reverb, not that I'm saying that refurb is unique by any stretch of the imagination, but a violin with reverb that is different. So can you do some effects processing.

I know a lot of guitars sometimes go into looping, that could work if done tastefully. Um, that could be another unique aspect of it. Some singers, you know, they use a harmonizer on their voice.

That is another way to add uniqueness and bring you off to the top of the bell curve. backing tracks would be an easy way to do that. And I know like backing track websites like karaoke, you can remove the guitar part from your backing tracks.

So you are the one playing the guitar. So that is the secondary bell curve. And so to recap, there are two bell curves. The first bell curve, this is a long podcast episode.

The first bell curve if you do want to be on the top of if you want corporate events and weddings, which is you want to play crowd pleasing songs. Right? Ken plays Red Hot Chili Peppers, that is a crowd pleaser.

Most people know who the Red Hot Chili Peppers are. You know, we don't want to play niche niche covers, or at least we don't want to only play niche covers. And we also don't want to only play originals.

So be on the top of that bell curve. I should start naming those, I'll get back to you on that. And the second bell curve is the uniqueness of your act, we do not want to be on the top of this bell curve.

This is where every solo acoustic musician is at the top of that bell curve. And you also don't want to be on the edges of the bell curve and play a fire breathing dragon keyboard.

And we also don't want to play you know Symphony Orchestra. So be somewhere in between the edges in the middle without one. So if you need some help on that, let me know. Do more than happy to help you brainstorm this.

I did get my master's degree in orchestra conducting so I actually can coach on artistry as well. Not many people know that. So happy to chat with you one on one if you're interested. In fact, let me open up my calendar.

If you're interested in chatting more about this, go to and book a free session with me. And there's no no pressure to buy anything. I just want to want to help you. So that's that for today.

Hope you got some good stuff out of this long podcast episode. And thanks for tuning in to another episode of The Gigging Musician Podcast.

Remember, "Your music will not market itself!" Bye everybody.

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