Like most actors in Hollywood, I have no idea how I became successful but I’m going to give you advice on it.
Harpy Friday, Here’s something to get you in the mood to read this today:
Settle down, settle down class.
Right, Let’s start from the begging.
What’s a Residency?
Well, a ‘Residency’ is when you have a gig that repeats and keeps repeating on a weekly or monthly basis or all one big cluster. you could have a 3-6 month residency on a cruise ship for example. It’s pretty great! there are many perks, Someone parks my car sometimes!
The Residency is idea for pianist and harpist who are their own accompaniment. Finally, that crippling loneliness lands you a killer gig! I mainly have my residency at the Hilton because they can’t fit their baby grand piano into the restaurant, win for Sammie!
How do I get one?
well, like most actors in hollywood, I have no idea how I became remotely successful but I’m going to give you advice so you can also attempt this!
I’d like to say I got my residency through hard work and being the best harpist in Cardiff, which is probably not true, there are some pretty famous harpist here. I got my residency through busking… yep, good old fashioned sitting on the street, singing Bette Midler classics!
I was playing ‘The Rose’ and the lounge manager for the Hilton gave me his card and I drop them an email on the way home.
I went in for a trial session and then about two month later they booked me full-time.
So, ‘How do I get a residency’? be lucky. sorry. Be lucky, go ask places you could see yourself playing, you’ll find it pays to be bold! ask local businesses and make sure you don’t go crazy with the prices and let them know your taster sessions are free! (that’s the main fear, that even if they don’t like you they may have to pay you).
You’ve Gotten your residency, now what?
well done my friend! First thing’s first, make sure you state your demands early on, you want X amount of money, a latte waiting for you each session and full access to the spa and gym. This is where I messed up, when I got my residency I was so scared of annoying members of staff and getting kicked out that I didn’t push the limit at the beginning. I didn’t make outrageous diva demands, which is what you’re SUPPOSED TO DO!!! I didn’t even ask for a coffee or if I could use the piano stool from the lobby… I was there for 6 months until I realised I didn’t have to bring my own stool in from home! I also didn’t get some fancy drink ordered every time and now have to wait at the bar for tap water like a chump! So remember:
- Make crazy demands
- Don’t annoy the staff
- Ask annoying questions about stuff.
The saga I have to explain to all of my friends when I talk about my work is that the hilton didn’t pay me for almost 4 months after I started working there! crazy I know!
It takes big hotels ages to pay their musicians, this is just something you have to deal with, the Hilton, Celtic Manor and I’m sure any other hotel with a harpist have a terribly tricky time doing it all. So my harpy friend, Just wait it out! but do follow up and be pushy about it because otherwise they won’t actually pay you…
Know that you don’t know your audience!
When you’re playing a concert you’ve got a program, the people who like what you are playing have come to hear you play, or how like your instrument etc. With background music, you are not the reason people came. you are simply a delightful addition to the experience!
So, try new things, vary it as much as possible! when I do my stuff I start with Jazz and meander through musical theatre, some folk and whatever else takes my fancy on the way. as long as you’re good at your job you’ll be fine!
Just keep it interesting and remember that you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to because most of the time no one cares what you play! just play it well!
Practical check list
- Talent? (are you good at it? great!)
- Luck (They aren’t going to find you magically)
- Gumption! go ask people for things!
- A good repertoire (I just use lead sheet and improvise chords with my left hand)
- Outrageous demands, Mini-bar in the shower? but of course!
- Killer wardrobe. I’m kidding I’ve wore the same dress to work for the last 3 weeks and no one’s noticed!