Introduction

Hi. I am Heather Andrews Miller and the voice behind Facebook’s Prairie Promotions: Everything Music. I started this page and this blog after a one-year experience as manager of a very successful Edmonton-area musician, Ryu Yokoo.

Ryu Yokoo and Heather Andrews Miller, co-hosts of the Saturday Night Open Stage at The Carrot Community Arts Coffee House.

I have been involved in music all my life but it wasn’t until I was immersed in Ryu’s performances and in the business of promoting him to the many venues in metro Edmonton that I realized the power of music. For performers. For fans. For the venues that provide opportunities for people to hear these talented musicians.

Making music part of our lives

Are you like me? Do you use music to reflect your mood? If I’ve got to be ambitious and give my little condo a tidy-up before company comes, I listen to upbeat rock and roll songs. I find the chores get done quickly and enjoyably.

On the other hand, if I’m feeling blue, saddened by news from around the world, or by an unfortunate personal incident, I listen to soft, relaxing music, and sit and reflect on how I can deal with the news. Or if I want something to soothe me or occupy my mind so I don’t have to think about it, I listen to powerful lyrics, like the music of Leonard Cohen or Eric Clapton or John Denver. Or Ryu’s YouTube channel, as he plays the easy listening melodies that attracted me to his music from the beginning of our friendship some 18 years ago when we taught at a couple of music studios in Edmonton and first became acquaintances. Listen to this very beautiful version of Stairway to Heaven. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-QaxhFTnCg&list=PL7g4SOC7rvhmcEG9NT5WIbsG7iYcW3A1K&index=13&t=0s

How do you feel when you go to a live music event. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Cher at Roger’s Place, Burton Cummings at River Cree, or a local musician appearing at L1 Lounge in Fantasyland Hotel at West Edmonton Mall, you are part of the experience. Do you listen to the words and identify with them? Have you shared the experience of the song writer? I watch the audience when I’m attending Ryu’s performances. At one table the patrons are listening intently and I see a nodding of the heads as they feel the same emotions that Ryu is singing. I see a guest who is an amateur guitarist himself, carefully watching the riffs and solos that Ryu is doing with his unique guitar stylings. And of course, there’s other tables where the patrons are laughing and talking amongst themselves and not really paying any attention to the music, although I am sure they are conscious of it in the background.

Do you have music on in the car? In the shower? In the house? Record or watch any music show on TV? Is music a really big part of your life?

Do you want to play an instrument? Did you play at one time but your skills are now rusty?

Ryu and I are both music teachers and we hear this all the time. “Oh I played guitar (or piano or ukulele) years ago but I forget it all now. I’m probably too old.” Or “I’ve always wanted to learn to play a musical instrument but it’s probably too late now. I wouldn’t know where to start.”

Well, guess what! It’s never too late or you are never too old to play an instrument. We welcome students from 7 to 77+ and they all do well, especially if they are willing to repeat the work we show them between lessons. (You will notice I don’t say “practice.”) It’s more just playing what we did together in the lesson. Rehearsing. Remembering. Experimenting.

If you are interested in lessons on piano, guitar, bass guitar, ukulele, harmonica or theory, contact us at hcmiller@shaw.ca or by calling 780-904-6575.

Are You an Aspiring Musician Who Wants to Perform?

Do you want to hear more about how, in one short year, Ryu went from a relative unknown on the local music scene to performing in classy top-notch venues on the much-coveted weekend engagements?

I didn’t know anything about managing a musician. I am a promoter by personality and I believed that more people than crowds at open mics in small local coffee houses should be hearing this talented musician. He loves to perform. I thought his talent was hidden and I knew there were audiences who would love to see him perform professionally. But where to start?

Performing at The Carrot Friday Night Music Series

Well, all I can say is “If we did it, you can do it too.” And, briefly, here’s how we did it and some suggestions as to how you can follow our pathway:

1) Write your biography stating your experience and education. Be sure to include a picture or two. Go to Ryu’s biography elsewhere on this website for ideas. Save it in PDF format. Plan on starting professional pages on social media sites and a presence on YouTube or other channels to provide samples of your music in the near future too.

2) Rehearse three or four songs until they are sounding very professional. Find a nice background, play the songs, get a family member or friend to record them as you perform. This may require several takes but keep at it until they are really good. An iPhone camera does a pretty good job but if you have higher quality equipment go ahead and record them on it. You need some still shots too. These video clips and the biography mentioned above are considered your Electronic Press Kit (EPK) and will be included in every query you send out.

3) Search Facebook and Google for “live music venues Edmonton” and start attending some of these venues. Watch the musicians and watch the crowd responses. Will your music fit at this venue? There’s no use approaching the manager of a hard rock neighbourhood pub if you play country music! So it’s a matter of elimination. At this time you should also get some printer paper for business cards and design one using the templates that can be found with most word processing programs. Just print a few to start with because you’ll find you need to tweak it to get it just right. It’s also a good promotional tool to print out little handouts to give to audiences, with your contact information written on it and where your next appearances will be. I print these four-up on a page and then use a paper cutter to trim nearly between them. Never miss a chance to promote and hand these and/or business cards out at every opportunity!

4) Start sending out your biography and video clips to the people you’ve identified as booking at the different venues. Usually it’s the venue manager, but not always so it’s important to find out. Some actually use professional booking agents so this takes some time to track down but you have to do it if you are going to get a gig on that stage.

5) Get a manager. I know, I scared you with that one didn’t I. Well, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on a professional manager although some day, you will be successful enough to have one. But even at the beginning, it’s a good idea to have a manager and he or she can be extremely helpful. Most new musicians can’t afford it when they are starting out. In our example, I was just a good friend who believed in Ryu’s talents. As a musician myself, I had managed to get a following at retirement homes, singing the old songs I heard my parents singing at home when I was growing up. So that’s the first place I tried to get him into, and I was successful. Try to recruit a friend or family member to help you out. Or two musicians might team up and promote each other in the manager’s role. It’s hard to promote yourself. Can you imagine saying to a bar manager “Hi. I’m a really good musician and I’m hoping you’ll hire me to play at your venue.” A little difficult, right? But I can say “I am manager for an elite guitarist, Ryu Yokoo, who plays amazing guitar solos in several different genres. Can I send you his biography and video clips? I know your audience would love him.” See how much easier it is if someone else promotes you rather than yourself? And if you have a manager, it lends some professionalism too. Having said that, if you are a really outgoing personality and don’t feel shy about promoting yourself, then maybe you don’t need a manager. You decide. It’s a better use of time if musicians concentrate on learning new songs and arranging old ones, rehearsing and adding to his repertoire, while managers spend time on the phone and sending out emails.

One of the many retirement homes that Ryu performs at regularly, South Terrace. Another guitar: a National, which is very unique. Make sure you get an appropriate repertoire for the seniors that includes some of the songs from their younger years.

6) Start with smaller venues. Coffee houses and neighbourhood pubs. Don’t forget seniors residences. You’ll get a dedicated audience there! Get into farmers’ markets. All this contact information is on the internet. There’s usually an application form for the farmers’ markets. Then once you have performed at a venue or two, add that experience to your information for new locations where you want to play so your list of performances steadily grows.

On stage at Edmonton’s 124 Street Grand Market summer of 2019. Farmers’ markets have a great atmosphere for a performer!

7) Attend Open Mics and Open Stages. Gain more and more experience playing in public. Make friends with the other musicians and find out where they have played that welcomes newcomers like yourself. Watch their performances. Do they play crowd favourites to get the people’s attention and then possibly play an original that they’ve written for their second selection? Do they engage the crowd? You may also have the opportunity to play in a group at an open mic too, and that’s a whole other enjoyable activity that may lead to playing with other musicians at a venue. Make eye contact with crowd. Let your emotions show.

Ryu enjoyed a four-month engagement, every Thursday night, at the L1 Lounge in Fantasyland Hotel at West Edmonton Mall last fall.

Are you wondering about fees? We appreciate the pubs and lounges and other venues where live music is welcomed and want to stay within their range while still getting worthwhile performance opportunities. So be prepared to negotiate.

Ryu, Jim, Darren, and Paul jamming at The Carrot Open Stage.

8) These are just a few thoughts on how you can get started. You’ll find others for yourself and you’ll learn more from other musicians and venue operators. If you can concentrate on working hard, on constantly expanding your repertoire, on paying attention to markets and opportunities, you too will be successful.

Do watch the video posted below. Ryu and I both love the music of Gordon Lightfoot, specifically Song For a Winter’s Night so we performed it recently at a house concert. Enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DUM8aWtoByA&feature=youtu.be