Archive for February, 2009

How To Avoid Sending Mixed Messages To Your Music Provider

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Last night, my band and I played a Mardi Gras party/fund raiser for a local civic group. The event went pretty well, but suffered from “mixed messages.”

One lady hired me, another phoned me – just prior to the event – to go over details, and a third gave me marching orders at the job (which conflicted with what the previous two ladies had said.) Also, the stage area had been subdivided with pillars and ferns, and the decorator had used up every power source within 12 feet of the band stand for stage lighting. (Don’t get me wrong – lighting is great. But you can’t dance to it. Bands today require electricity, as even a quick glance at our contract would have told my employers.)

My point is simply that this party – like a lot of similar events – had an abundance of chiefs, none of whom (apparently) had sole responsibility for the band. And so, each of our bosses probably assumed that one of the others had taken care of making sure that the stage decor didn’t conflict with their contractual responsibilities – whereas, in fact, nobody had done so. Nor did any of the chiefs seem to understand that they were giving contradictory instructions.

We all got through it, and I doubt if most of the guests were any the wiser. Plus, organizations like the one who hired us depend on volunteer help, not professional (ie. “paid”) party planners. So there are bound to be some areas of overlap and others of gaps.

But – for your next event – you can make your life (and mine) ever so much easier. Put one person in charge of interfacing with your music provider, of being sure that you are in compliance with whatever agreements you have signed, and of disseminating all the who, what, where, and when that applies to music. Your band or deejay will thank you, and your committee won’t get stressed out by having other co-chairs over-ruling their carefully worked-out plans.

It’s Never “Too Early” To Alert A Band To Your Special Song

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Every bride who hires me receives my Wedding Work Sheet, which lets me know what she wants to happen (and when), plus the names of all the key personnel (groom, Best Man, Maid Of Honor, parents, clergyman, etc.) There is also a spot for any and all special songs. I ask all my brides to return the completed sheet to me, two weeks before the wedding.

But – and let me make this perfectly clear – any bride who already knows what song she wants for her first dance is welcome to share that information any time. The earlier, the better.

I just heard from the mom of a bride-to-be (in 10 weeks) who wanted me to know that her daughter had selected “Always” by Bon Jovi for her first foray onto the dance floor as a married woman. This was great, for two reasons:
1. The sooner we know what the first dance will be, the sooner we can learn it, and the more times we can have performed it, prior to the that bride’s wedding. (And we can get a lot more familiar with it in 10 weeks than 2.)
2. When the mom told me “Always” by Bon Jovi, she automatically excluded any chance that we would accidentally play the wrong “Always.” (Like a lot of romantic song titles, there’s another – very well known – tune with this same name.)

By giving me the information early, this bride and her mom have checked one more item off their “to-do” list. That’s good for them, and good for me as their music provider, too. Everybody wins.

And – you know what? – I love it when that happens!

Last Minute Bargains (And Risks)

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

Good News! – the Economy is tanking. Or – to be more precise – certain sectors of the Economy are in distress.

How can this possibly be “good news?” Well, if you are planning an event (and if you are a bit of a gambler), you may be able to get much more party bang for your buck.

If you were to call me today (in mid-February) for a Christmas party, the cost of my 8-piece band would be $3,500. But, if you called me today for an event this coming March or early April, I’d be prepared to wheel and deal. You could either get the 8-member group for less, or could hire fewer players (to save even more money!)

Venues and other party suppliers are also willing to negotiate, as open dates loom closer. This is where your willingness to gamble becomes important. If you are secure in the knowledge that some music provider and some venue will be available on your date, then waiting until 4 to 6 weeks prior to the event to do your booking can save you 15%, 20%, or even more.

Why? Vendors who wouldn’t dream of offering discounts 3 months out can become amazingly receptive to negotiation when those months become weeks. Most agree that it is better to make some money than none at all.

Granted, waiting until near your chosen date raises the chances that you won’t get that special band or venue. But, if you’re willing to run that risk, your Chevy budget could reap Cadillac rewards.

Fundraiser/Parties: The Delicate Balance

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Simply put: the goal of a fundraiser is to make money, while the goal of a party is for everyone to have fun. To achieve both goals from the same event requires balancing skills worthy of The Great Wallendas.

At a fundraiser this past Saturday for a Catholic school, this balance was achieved in a way I haven’t seen done successfully before. I suspect that its success is the result of both a lot of experience on the part of the planners and the attendees.

Instead of trying to make all 4 hours of the event a 50/50 blend of fun and funds, the planners laid out the evening this way: Hour One was almost all-party – music, food, and drink. Auction items were available for inspection, but no pressure was put on anyone to bid (yet).

With Hour Two came dinner, and – once everyone was seated – the emphasis shifted 180 degrees. The goals of the event were spelled out in detail, so that everyone present knew exactly how much money the planners hoped to raise, and exactly where it would be spent.

The really big financial push came in Hour Three, with repeated announcements of the approaching close of the Silent Auction items and with the Live Auction. Normally, I recommend using professionals to conduct these auctions, but – here again – the planners drew on experience. One of their committee who was comfortable being center stage (and who knew virtually everyone there by name) did an excellent job of pushing the sales prices up and up.

By Hour Four, both planners and guests alike were free to kick back and enjoy the party. Other than a couple of announcements reminding Silent Auction item winners where and how to pay for their items, all business had already transpired.

Those who stayed for the full event got a perfect 50/50 meshing of business to pleasure. And I learned that there is yet another way to accomplish a worthy purpose, while attending a really great party.

Bernie Madoff Is A Piker!

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

A Ponzi Scheme is a scam that pays dividends with money from subsequent investors, rather than from profits. New York financial guru Bernie Madoff is currently accused of bilking his clients out of 50 billion dollars. That’s a five, with nine zeroes after it – or approximately Bill Gates’ net worth. Yet, strange as it may seem, if Bernie is found guilty, it should be for thinking small.


Because when it comes to running real big-time Ponzi fraud, Bernie isn’t even in the same league with our own federal government. After warming up with Social Security, then progressing to MediCare, our elected representatives have just passed an 1,100 page “stimulus” bill, which:
1. none of them have read in its entirety,
2. has a bigger price tag than the entire cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and
3. with interest, will cost more than the entire Gross Domestic Product of the U.S.A.

Now that’s ambitious! By comparison, Bernie is a nickel-dime grifter.

But Bernie is facing a prison cell for his actions. Congress gets a generous retirement package (with full medical benefits) for theirs. In fact, they just voted themselves a pay raise!

Poor Bernie – he should have run for office. Because, as Will Rogers said, “We have the best politicians money can buy.”

Must We Always Learn, The HARD Way?

Monday, February 9th, 2009

It seems to me that there are two kinds of things we learn. The first, like the light bulb or the integrated circuit, only needs to be discovered once. The next generation can build on the knowledge already accumulated to refine and improve what already exists – they don’t have to discover it again.

It would be terrific if everything could be learned this same way. My parents would have gladly kept me from repeating their mistakes, if they could have. Their good advice might have saved me a world of hurt – if I’d only listened to it.

And that’s the problem: so much of what we know is apparently only learned from personal experience, the hard way. We are told “Don’t touch that paint – it’s wet.” (And it is.) We hear “Careful! The stove is hot – it’ll burn you.” (And it does.)

We live in an information and technology-rich age. Supposedly, if you know where to look, you could be learning how to make a nuclear bomb right now (instead of reading my online musings.) Anyone with a computer is only a few keystrokes away from learning the reasons for the Great Depression or the Japanese economic crisis of the 1990s.

Why then, are we as a nation in such a hurry to make those same mistakes again? With all the resources available to us, why are we blindly charging down a dead end street marked “1929 – this way?”

Isn’t one definition of insanity the act of doing something the same way it has been done many times before, yet expecting a different result?

Congress is doing just that, with our children’s money. It’s never worked before. It won’t succeed now.

And when it doesn’t, your kids and theirs will be the ones learning “the hard way” the real cost of our inaction today.

The Lady In White Is Always Right

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Having one daughter get married makes for a full-year all by itself. Being the mom of two brides in the same year is financially, emotionally, and physically exhausting!

Complicating matters further is the fact that each individual bride has her own – sometimes very strong – views of how her wedding festivities should proceed. (And smart moms recognize that it is the bride’s wedding – not the parents’.)

Case in point: I will be playing for 2 weddings from the same family this coming March and May. That’s two guest lists, venues, gowns, ceremonies, receptions, and honeymoons – all in a 60 day period. (Not to mention the various showers and dinners involved.)

The daughters are very different, so one event will be formal and big, while the other will be much more low-key and intimate. But that is what the brides have chosen, and that is what their parents are giving them.

I wish all moms-of-brides were as tuned in to their daughters’ preferences. (Though all should be.) Occasionally, I will see a bride who is miserable at her own wedding, because the day reflects her parents’ tastes, not hers.

So, to all parents of upcoming brides, I will simply say two statements that I have found to be true:
1. You had your wedding. This one is hers. And (within budget limitations),
2. The lady in white is always right.

What Do We Call The NEXT “Greatest Generation?”

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

After I performed my musical “Tribute To The Greatest Generation” this past weekend, one of the Seniors from the audience gently took me to task.

While appreciative of the recognition Tom Brokaw’s book title gave to his group of Americans, he wanted me to remember that many, if not most, of those who served in our armed forces during World War II were draftees, not volunteers. Conversely, every single one of the wounded vets he visits regularly at our local VA hospital chose to potentially put themselves in harm’s way, in order to protect our country. “What should we call them?” he asked.

Heroes is the first word that came to my mind. (Selfless and Role Models came next.)

But – with all respect to the gentleman who posed the question to me – I have decided after much deliberation that “The Greatest Generation” is a title still deserved only by his own peers. And I have three reasons why I feel this way.

1. World War II really was a generation-wide effort. Virtually every American sacrificed comfort and luxuries for the benefit of the war effort. Unlike the conflicts since, this was “everybody’s” victory.

2. The draftees fought just as hard as the volunteers. Not every American in uniform may have chosen to go to war, but – once they finished boot camp – the draftees were indistinguishable from those who signed up December 8th, 1941. They were just as heroic, and just as dedicated to winning as the “gung-ho” crowd. And they deserve credit for that.

3. The “greatest” among us are always the last to see their own greatness. Throughout my life, I have always heard veterans say “I just did my job” or “we all tried to do our part.” Real heroes never seem to know how special they really are.

So I’d like to thank the gentleman who posed the question that started all these deep thoughts. And he’s right that those wonderful individuals who have stepped forward deserve all our admiration and support. But I have concluded that, the very fact that he – like so many others of his age – is so concerned about honoring the next generation of heroes is all the proof I need that Brokaw got it right.

They still are “The Greatest Generation.”