Summer is here and so is Wedding Season! Anne Roos, author of Musician's Guide to Brides: How to Make Money Playing Weddings, offers a complete 'How To' guide for harpists booking events - From handling the initial request and writing up contracts to strategies for making the 'Big Day' go flawlessly! We had the pleasure of catching up with Anne and ask her a few questions.
Outdoor weddings and events are so popular! What is your policy for playing outdoor events?
If I didn't play at outdoor events, I probably wouldn't get many wedding bookings. I live at Lake Tahoe, one of the top wedding destination areas in the western U.S. The blue mountain lake features prominently as a backdrop to summer weddings. However, our weather can be inclement, even in the summer, with afternoon thunderstorms a possibility.
I specify in my performance agreement that my equipment is sensitive and I need shade from direct sunlight or shelter from adverse weather. Most clients don't know what "adverse weather" means, so I spell it out for them very specifically: temperature ranges, high winds, blowing dust, precipitation, weather service storm warnings, and threatening weather. I won't unload my equipment if clouds are gathering, distant thunder can be heard and lightning can be seen. I explain that once I am set up outside, it is pretty difficult for me to avoid rain.
It's also necessary to ascertain what kind of performance area my client is providing. If I'm outside and performing on a beach, do I know how far I'll need to hike to where the bride wants to get married? If I'm performing at a backyard wedding, is the ground level, or is it covered with gravel and sloping? And do I need electricity for my amp? How can I get juice when performing far, far away from an electrical source? A clause in my contract explaining your performance area requirements is also necessary to avoid unpleasant surprises when you arrive at the wedding site. (I have an entire chapter in my book dedicated to contract items to consider.)
I actually have become a bit more lax in some of my performance requirements, because I own a [Heartland] carbon fiber harp that can withstand a little rain and only weighs ten pounds. I use this harp just for such tenuous jobs (but it doesn't stay upright in windy conditions when unattended). I use my [Triplett] wooden harps for the bulk of my performances, indoor or out.
It's important to understand that a bride has a firm idea of what she wants her wedding to look like before she contacts us to play. If she has her heart set on an outdoor wedding, even if the weather doesn't cooperate, she may still hold the ceremony outside.
I've done many a "heater lamp wedding", when it is so cold that no one can sit outside without tall, metal propane heaters. Some guests won't even sit in chairs to witness the ceremony; they huddle around the heater lamps instead. At these weddings, I insist on being seated between two heater lamps to keep warm and to keep my harp in tune!
What sort of equipment/gear/accessories do you make sure to always take with you to a job?
I take a LOT of gear to a job, and actually, you'll want to read my chapter on this in my book and my past articles in the Folk Harp Journal for the details. But in a nutshell, I like to have a spare for everything and anything that can break down. I call this "Noah's Ark Rule"-two of everything. I have had many equipment failures over the years, and no one can bail you out if you have a faulty cord, a battery-operated amp that runs out of juice, or a misplaced tuning wrench.
My suggestions for the most important items to take to any performance:
1. A copy of your contract and your correspondence with the client. If you have any questions about the location, set-up, music list, cues, etc., bring everything that has been agreed upon. If the Client conveniently forgets how much they owe you, you can remind them by showing them your written agreement.
2. Hand sanitizer. At some point in your performance life, your clients will sneeze or cough right into their hands and then reach out to shake your hand. Or they will want to shake your hand after eating fried egg rolls and barbecue chicken wings. Yuck. Or, there may not be a bathroom in sight and you need a quick clean up before your performance. Keep individually-wrapped towelettes or these little plastic bottles of hand sanitizer with you and in your car.
3. A cell phone. Your GPS took you to the wrong side of town, or you are driving around in circles looking for the house number of the backyard wedding. Or, heaven forbid, your right front tire blew out on the way to the wedding. How will you contact your clients for assistance? This may seem pretty obvious, but I've performed at many weddings where one of the vendors forgot their phone somewhere and were in a pickle.
As obvious as a cell phone may seem to you as necessary equipment, it should be also equally as obvious that it must be turned off upon your arrival. Don't just turn down the ring tone--Turn it off. Or better yet, leave it in your car. You absolutely cannot have it ring or vibrate at a wedding. (People can hear vibrating phones.)
The same goes for checking texts and emailing from your smart phone during the ceremony, or anytime while on the job. A ceremony is a sacred time, and texting during it looks like we'd rather be somewhere else. (I know of a few vendors who overused their smartphones during weddings, and the wedding sites took them off their recommended lists.)
How has social media changed the way you run your business?
I run my business the same way I have always run my business. I always make final booking arrangements with clients by phone, not via email. I want to talk with my client, get to know them, and find out things about the job that they might not disclose over email. Besides, my hands get tired typing emails, and I'd rather reserve them for performing. I still print paper contracts, and I bring hard copies of my email correspondence with clients to the jobs.
What has changed is the marketing for my business. Gone is the need to pay for much print advertisement, and I only print enough brochures for an upcoming bridal fair and for the chamber of commerce to distribute. Most of my social media connections are for networking with other wedding service providers (who may send me clients), reaching out to fellow harpists and potential harp students, and selling my recordings.
I rarely connect with brides directly on social media. They usually find my website doing a Google search, from a link on another wedding provider's site, or on a directory listing (such as the local wedding and honeymoon association). Or they find me the old-fashioned way-They get my phone number from one of the other wedding service providers whom they have hired.
Do you feel that it makes sense to spend more money from your marketing budget advertising over the Internet or do you feel that you still rely heavily on trade shows? Are there any wedding music collections that you especially recommend?
My marketing budget is very small for advertising online. The only advertisements I pay for are the ones that come with membership in my local chamber of commerce and wedding and honeymoon associations. There are many, many ways to market for free online. However, it is time-consuming to do it right-I'm consistent across many online platforms and spread my info far and wide.
I am very choosey about the trade shows (bridal shows) where I'll exhibit. It's all about ROI-Return On Investment. I need to meet or exceed the investment I put into attending a bridal show for it to be worthwhile. That means that I should be able to make a profit by booking one or two weddings at the show. So yes, I still rely on bridal shows, but only the well-produced shows that are relatively inexpensive for booth space.
I don't think there are any particular wedding music collections that I rely on exclusively. I rely more on titles that interest me, and then I purchase the songs I like. My preference is to play from fake books and lead sheets. There are a number of wonderful wedding-themed fake books available. I also buy easy piano versions of modern popular songs and use those arrangements for sight-reading or as a springboard into creating my own arrangements.
Ready-made harp arrangements that I particularly like include: Sylvia Woods' Pachelbel's Canon (for harp, duet, and ensemble in D and G), Barbara Brundage's classical music books, Sunita Staneslow's Jewish wedding books, Beth Kolle & Laurie Riley's lever harp wedding music book, Barbara Friou's Adagios book, and of course, Dewey Owens' Wedding Music Book for lever harp (a classic, in my mind). For hymns, Ray Pool's Hymns and Harmony collection is very useful when performing for a variety of denominations. Sylvia Woods' Romantic Songs book is a good one to have on hand for brides that don't want traditional wedding music. (Keep in mind that I play lever harp, not pedal harp.)
Do you have any wedding horror stories to share? Or a favorite wedding story? What's the most unique wedding venue/theme/music you've ever played?
I've played at all kinds of unusual weddings, and I don't particularly like to share horror stories unless I can learn something from them (I've listed many in my book). Many horror stories are derived from sad accidents (for example, the bride's veil catching on fire over the Unity Candle). In my opinion, and the opinions of many wedding coordinators whom I interviewed for my book, most problems at weddings are due to inebriation or being high on drugs at a wedding.
My absolute favorite wedding: A gentleman from New Jersey phoned me to hire me to play at his destination wedding at Tahoe. He had it all planned out, just his bride and their grown children standing at an overlook to exchange vows. Only one thing: He hadn't proposed to her yet. He intended to propose to her the morning of the wedding day. I took the job with the one concern: What if she says, "No"? But he was a car salesman, and I assumed he knew what he was doing and could "close the sale" on his proposal.
Sure enough, on the wedding day, I arrived at the location and the minister was there. He told me the groom popped the question that morning, she said, "Yes!", they signed the marriage license, and they would be arriving any moment for the wedding. The couple and their grown children arrived in a limo, wearing t-shirts, shorts, and tennis shoes, and they exchanged vows. It was one of the sweetest wedding ceremonies I have ever witnessed, two people just engaged and getting married without any fanfare, just a bit of harp music with cake and champagne.
I play a lot of unique music, because I like to play what the bride requests. And at least 50% of my clients don't want traditional wedding music. Probably the most unique weddings are theme weddings. Not just Renaissance weddings, but Disney music weddings, Beatles music weddings, Broadway music weddings, etc. It's fun to play music all of one genre and experience how it all fits into the wedding festivities.
Do you feel that dressing up in costumes boosts your market? How did you get into that? Can you tell us more about your costumes?
I've had costumes available to wear as I've performed at weddings, because I performed at Renaissance Fairs before ever playing at my first wedding. People rarely hire me to perform because I have a costume that fits into their theme. They hire me because they like the music. Being able to match their theme is just a plus.
Clients like to know that I am conscious of the fact that photos are taken at weddings, and I don't want to stand out and look odd. The harp, after all, is as much a visual treat for the audience as it is an auditory treat. So how we look is equally important (it's a scientific fact that people make first impressions on what they see, not what they hear).
My costumes are period costumes like Renaissance and Victorian dresses (hand-sewn by friends), and they are period-style dresses, formal gowns, and an assortment of wedding hats (mostly purchased from sales at bridal boutiques and consignment stores).
We are grateful to Anne Roos for providing such detailed insight on being an extremely professional wedding harpist!! -The Harp Connection Staff
Follow Anne Roos:
My blog http://celticharpmusic.blogspot.com/