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What Do You Own: Shifting the Focus

September 5, 2019

Small business is arguably the backbone of the modern world.

(...what a way to open a singer's blog, huh?? 😉 )


Economists know it—for years, they’ve been writing articles for Forbes Magazine and USA Today, touting the importance of the small business owner’s role in our larger economy.


There’s something to be said for owning your own business, being your own boss, managing yourself rather than simply being told what to do every day.


Choosing to not simply be the day laborer or the gig worker, but someone who actually owns something, is a massive shift in perception. Suddenly, it isn’t just about you or your role in the process—it’s about the entirety of the company as a whole entity. It’s about who you are, what you produce, how well your product is reviewed and where you’re headed.


It’s a ‘man up’ moment, a call to take responsibility for yourself and your product, and to lay out for everyone exactly what you’re bringing to the table.


…so why should an audition pre-season blog be about anything else? 😉



As we begin a new audition season, it’s worth considering --what exactly ARE you bringing to the table?


What do as a small business owner actually ‘own’?


If we are all shopkeepers, what exactly are you keeping in your inventory?


And--far more useful--what you can help build on your way to owning even more leverage?


You might own a kind of permission asset–you’ve got an incredible ‘team’ behind you with all the ‘right people’. You might have a degree from a well-respected program, or be able to list a prominent YAP that you’ve participated in. You might have an incredible teacher offering you their attention, energy and reputation by association.


Maybe you own a patent on something—you’ve got a skillset that’s particularly difficult for administrators to locate. Maybe it’s a notoriously difficult piece that you sing rather easily, or your unique ability to trill ridiculously fast on command. Perhaps you’re one of those wonderful people with whistle tone, or you’re able to sing the most delicate pianissimo ever heard. Whatever it is, utilize your leverage in the audition room—plan your repertoire so that you can highlight these gifts right away for the audition panels. You want everyone to know you’re aware of your inventory.


Maybe the only asset you can claim is your reputation, one that gets you better projects and a bigger say in what happens next in your career. Maybe word has gotten around town that you’re the soprano to call when a director needs to fill a role fast, because you learn music quickly and accurately. Maybe you’re a baritone known for your incredible acting skills, and now everyone who’s producing Othello desperately wants you to audition for them (how nice to suddenly get a say regarding who you work with next!). Maybe it’s just that you’re a damn nice person and people want to work with you. Don’t laugh—being known for being enjoyable to work with is an asset, one that will inevitably lead to more work.


Maybe—just maybe—you don’t ‘own’ anything yet …or if you do, you’re not aware of it. Maybe you’re just starting out, a bootstrapper heading out into the classical musical wilderness, ready to chop down gigs and start building up your own career cabin. If this is the case, you do have an asset, one that’s exceedingly precious and that your higher-level colleagues likely do not currently have: TIME.



You’ve got time to develop and grow vocally, time to experiment and go searching for your gifts. Time to think about who you are as an artist, about what you want to say, how you want to say it, and who you want to work with. Time to sleep, to workout, to focus and concentrate on your art form. If you owned nothing but the next eight hours of your time and had nothing else to do, what would you do with it? How would you spend it in a way that re-invests in your ‘company’? The asset of time likely won’t reoccur the older and busier you will get.  


As we dive head-first into an endless series of audition rooms, it’s helpful to take note of your assets. Think of each audition as an interview to acquire a business loan rather than a gig—it makes rejection a little less personal. They aren’t saying no to you, but rather to your business proposal. Remember:


You have a personal inventory of special gifts that offer a unique value to an employer.


The number of contents in your personal inventory is not as important as their quality.


The quality of the contents in your inventory are not as important as your usage of them.


Your inventory will help you to create your career, but you are not strictly the sum of their collective worth.


You are deserving of a career that fulfills you, that serves your gift and allows you to serve the art form in turn. As a singer, you are a small business owner--which means you must act in a way that responsibly grows and invests in your business. Don’t give away your gift cheaply.


Switching your career focus off ‘Met or bust’ and onto a sustainable small business practice not only eliminates a ton of pressure and stress from auditions—it’s empowering as an artist. That’s why we keep showing up: to mold something unique, to offer our own voice to the cacophony of our time. So that you can show up and get paid what you’re worth. So that you can show up and make good art. Even better, so you can make a difference that you’re proud of.


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