Where Are The Business Cards?

Among the litany of routine industry rituals is the business card exchange. In fact, I feel safe proclaiming that most administrators in this business take having business cards for granted and one of the most prolific environments for exchanging business cards is at a convention. Nevertheless, my time at last week’s International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) conference made me realize that orchestra musicians were not provided with business cards issued by their respective ensembles…


This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed this but it never fails to strike me as odd every time it happens. Additionally, I find it even more unusual that musicians from the larger budget ensembles (which comprise the ranks of ICSOM) have no business cards issued by their organization.

There were no shortage of business cards from the contingent of union representatives, attorneys, and even the small number of orchestra managers in attendance but I didn’t encounter a single orchestra musician brandishing a business card issued by their ensemble. Unsurprisingly, many musicians had their own business cards but they were printed at their own expense and only one of those referenced their ensemble. Most simply had the musician’s name, instrument, telephone, and email info.

None of musician business cards had any official looking logos or type font associated with their ensemble whereas all of the union representative business cards had their respective Local’s logo and/or the AFM seal.

Given all the talk about increased connections with the community these days, it seems that orchestras would want to generate one of the most fundamental pieces of business identification used in social introductions for its most valuable artistic employees (not to mention the most numerous). After all, napkins aren’t always handy.

Unfortunately, there are some inherent snags when designing a useful musician business card as orchestra musicians do not have individual office extensions or email addresses (although there’s no good reason for the latter). Nevertheless, this doesn’t make the task of issuing business cards impossible; in fact, you can even create a cost effective way to generate cards for the entire ensemble.

For example, an orchestra musician business card could simply feature the organization’s name, logo, business address, musician’s name, and instrument on the front of the card and leave entries on the back for the musician to personalize telephone, cellular, fax, and email contact information. The picture to your left (click to enlarge) illustrates how this would look (feel free to use this as a template to develop your own orchestra musician business card).

If your organization has the resources, a better solution is to have each individual musician complete a form indicating which contact information they prefer to use and print out cards based on that. If any musicians don’t want cards, then so be it.

Orchestra Managers: Does your organization print business cards for all of the musicians (not just the music director or concertmaster)? If so, how often and what sort of information does it contain? If you have samples to provide, send them along in an email – I’m sure readers would be interested in learning more (if you don’t have a digital copy, feel free to send a hard copy along to the mailing address found at the top of my business website and I’ll scan a copy to use for publication).

Musicians: Have you ever asked your orchestra managers for business cards? If so, what was the response? Do you find them useful? How did you incorporate telephone, cell, email, and fax contact information? Does your organization allow you to use the ensemble’s name and logo if you have to design and print your own business cards?

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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15 thoughts on “Where Are The Business Cards?

  1. I disagree with Marc. Being a professional in the music business makes me a business person. Whether I see myself as the a business person or not, any opportunity to look as professional as possible is welcomed. When I exchange phone/email with colleagues, it is alway on cards that I have made up.

    The idea of cards was mentioned to our management, but they stated it would be too expensive. To me, each time I would hand out a card would be free advertising for the group; a group that sorely needs butts in seats. That is the goal here, since it is the business part of making music.

    Interesting comment about the potential of cards as putting butts in seats Elizabeth. I wonder if anyone has ever considered the idea of putting box office info on musician business cards and a season long promotional code card holders can use to redeem a discount when purchasing tix.

    If you take the idea even further, you can set it up to work like an affiliate system. I’m not sure that would jive with whole non-profit structure but it is worth exploring and beats the idea of telling players they are morally responsible for selling tickets (I’ve seen that happen in some organizations). ~ Drew McManus

  2. By their very name, business cards declare that they’re for businessmen, and most musicians in major orchestras don’t see themselves as businessmen. They don’t see themselves that way, and they don’t want others to see them that way. It’s much easier to see yourself as free and independent if you don’t have pieces of paper on your person stating the opposite.

    Good points Marc! But I still don’t think that means they shouldn’t be dragged – kicking and screaming if necessary – into the world everyone else lives in. Those not privy to the inside of this business still see business cards as a sign that an organization finds said employee to be important enough to represent them publicly.

    As such, business cards are a form of social introduction and the personal connection with potential patrons is worth the effort. Also, in the end, they are employees just like the Music Director. I would go so far as to say they are more akin to key employees with regard to the fact that no one else in the organization can do what they do. All the more reason to give them some cards.

    If there is any place for compromise I would say that at the very least, any musician serving in a capacity that requires some form of public or professional interaction with those outside the organization should be required to carry cards; for example, the orchestra committee members, conference delegates, those involved in education efforts, etc. ~ Drew McManus

  3. For those of us who play in a number of groups, freelance, and teach (for me that means at two universities and privately), it could get rather complicated.

    I have my own business cards. Yes, printed at my own expense, but that’s fairly minimal since I do them on my own computer/printer. I don’t include all of my employers, nor do I actually want to.

    I do think of myself as self-employed, even with those orchestras. After all, it takes all of my jobs to come close to a decent income. I put it all together, I am my own manager. 😉

    I guess I could see those “Big Guys” having business cards from their orchestra. But I wonder how many want them? They aren’t out looking for gigs like the rest of us … or are they?

    Just my little thoughts. Very little. 😉

    I think those are very valid points Patty, which is why I made sure to note that the players I was referring to were all ICSOM folks, where most of the musicians play in only one salary-based ensemble.

    For per-service players your points are quite valid. Along the same lines, I wonder how many musicians run into problems with not being able to secure permission to use logos or name usage from one or more of the ensembles they perform as a contracted musician.

    I also think it’s interesting to see how you are perceiving cards as a way to help secure gigs whereas I was thinking of them in the context of social introductions. If anything, it demonstrates the flexibility of having cards handy.

    And trust me, if you were self employed, you would be paying a lot more in taxes. I recommend that you take advantage of having someone else pay the taxes as much as possible!

    I would be interested to know if you use any of the logos or names from the ensembles where you are a contracted member and if so, did you ask for permission (or do they even know you use logos/names)? ~ Drew McManus

  4. I’m not sure I agree with Marc that the problem is “business cards declare that they’re for businessmen.” I certainly take his point about the name, but in my experience an awful lot of people carry business cards who don’t necessarily think of themselves as “businsessmen.” I haven’t kept careful track, but as I recall most of the composers I meet (especially at music events, even if they’re merely audience members) have cards. I think the reason for this is that composers have to be constantly networking in order to make contacts both with performers and with other composers. You carry a business card if you think of yourself as the kind of person who needs to be networking.

    The orchestra musician is in an interesting position as simultaneously a representative of an organization and potentially a free agent who can take other gigs. This is where I agree with Marc — if your networking interest has to do with getting extra gigs you don’t necessarily want to diminish the free-agent feel by giving out a card that declares that you’re taken. And chances are that you don’t think you need to network for your orchestra, or at least not often. Business cards generally aren’t given to people who aren’t regularly in a position to need them, and clearly “networking” isn’t generally considered a key part of the musician’s job.

    So you end up with nobody having cards from the orchestra, and some having their own cards which don’t bother mentioning the orchestra.

    But suppose instead of either issuing or not issuing organizational business cards the orchestras offered to print _personal_ cards for its musicians which used the organizational branding not as a stamp of ownership over the musician but as a sort of resume item. If instead of using the musician to represent the orchestra the orchestra were able to frame the business card issue as enabling the musician to use the orchestra as a selling point for personal networking a lot of the calculus changes. The card would have the orchestra’s logo, the musician’s position, but also any other groups the musician plays with, and personal contact info, clearly labeled as personal contact info:

    Ima Musician
    Principal Viola, ABC Orchestra
    Viola, The XYZ Quartet

    Home Address:
    123 My Street
    My City, ST 12345
    Home: 555-555-5555
    Cell: 555-555-5555
    email@email.com

    http://www.mywebsite.com / http://www.orchestrawebsite.com

  5. Hi Drew,

    I did know you were referring to those with the Big Jobs. But I like to throw my voice in now and then. Just because. 😉

    No, I don’t use logos of anyone. I’m into a very plain and simple card, so this suits me just fine. If I DID use a logo from one of my employers I would probably ask permission. My son does design work. I wouldn’t want to “steal” someone’s design without permission, just like I would prefer no one steal my music, pictures, or whatnot from my site.

    Oh … as to having taxes paid … YES. I can’t believe what I have to pay due to my private studio income. (And yes, I report it.) At the same time, a friend of mine managed to put all of her expenses — even those from employers — on the Schedule C somehow. I’ve yet to have the nerve to do that. She was audited … and won on that point.

    Ramble ramble … back to the Giants game …

  6. Elizabeth,

    You disagree with me that most musicians see themselves as businessmen? In major orchestras? Really? This comes as a major shock to me. They don’t all see themselves as primo artistes, but I think most would enter “gourmet cook,” “gardener,” “instrument repairman,” or “cyclist” as their occupation before “businessman.” Give ’em all cards, I’m fine with that. You can’t expect everyone you meet to enter your cell-phone number into their phone, after all.

  7. Well, since I am in the business of making music, it seems perfectly logical to have cards with my business info on it. Not a total requirement for everyone, but for those that want to represent their groups, it is a perfect solution. Plus it gives the players even more professional respect…instead of just the “hired help” that so many big groups treat their players. Seriously, most players do have superior education to those that hire them. And those people have cards!

  8. I am working with my marketing director to equip our symphony call-center callers with business cards. The cards will have the symphony logo and the call center’s phone number, with a line for the caller to fill in his/her name. Most of these folks are extraordinary multi-taskers, with more than one job. Who knows, our cards might end up as scratch pads for non-symphonic connections, but wherever they float they’ll represent the symphony and possibly generate leads.

    Any ideas if the outfit does the same for players? ~ Drew McManus

  9. I am well aware that my employer is busy, and the concept of preparing 75+ cards could be a “nightmare”, but what about this: for those interested they can go to a preselected website or business store and say “hi, I’m with the XYZ Orchestra, I’m here to fill out my personal contact…..” The store or website would already have the approved template and logo there. Those that were interested in this would do the leg work. Not too difficult since most staffers already use the templates. And one more thing, raising money for the orchestra happens from every member of that group, whether they are doing it directly or indirectly. Many orchestra players really do have important contacts with so many individuals that could give to the organization. We just need some help in delivering the message is all and I’m sorry to read that the arts manager above is simply too busy to help out their own artists.

  10. >From a practical standpoint (I’m an arts GM), getting individual business cards printed for 80+ musicians sounds like a nightmare. If you could reach them all through a standard office email address and phone number, fair enough, but you can’t. They all have personal email addresses and cell phones, and they will all have different needs re communication. Us arts administrators (with our lack of “superior education”) just don’t have time to manage projects like this! We’re too busy raising money and getting paying gigs for the musicians!

    It might help your situation to simply distribute a form to players during rehearsals and if your organization doesn’t maintain an email list for players I find that unusual and certainly an exception to the rule (where even the majority of smaller budget ensembles maintain a lists – or at the very least rely on the musicians’ orchestra committee to maintain a list).

    I agree with the problems involved with the variety of individual contact info, as such you might find the template included in the above article to be useful (which allows an organization to sidestep that issue). It’s free for the taking so use it any way you think would be useful.

    Beyond that, don’t be so rough on yourself; if you don’t change I fear you’ll burn out sooner than later and that does no one any good.

    One question: why are you trying to secure gigs for the players? Does your administration act as an agent for individual players and/or small ensembles? ~ Drew McManus

  11. Drew,

    To answer your query – no, I’m pretty sure we don’t supply business cards for players, but I am checking with one more person to confirm one way or the other.

    I want to point out that I’m making business cards available to our callers as sales tools primarily. However, not everyone is comfortable with drumming up business face to face, so I don’t plan to attach any quotas to the cards. What I am relying on are the several people who understand the potential and can’t wait to get a business card out there! Like Elizabeth, they want to “deliver the message” and I’m just giving them another tool. Their excitement and success will encourage others to be bolder.

    If the business card template were available through the organization’s intranet for example, then orchestra members could access and use them for their own purposes, within their comfort levels. I agree with Camilla that it would be a burden to any office to have to maintain business cards for all players whether they want them or not.

    That’s an interesting idea about making a template available on a company intranet. That might be tricky if programmed from scratch, however, using online tools like a survey program (even free tools like surveymonkey) would allow an organization to collect info online from musicians at the player’s leisure – and save a few extra trees.

    Thanks Andrea for looking into the card situation at your outfit! ~ Drew McManus

  12. Drew
    In my first season in Springfield MO, we handed out buy one get one free ticket vouchers to the musicians that were actually slightly oversized business cards (about 30 each), and asked them to all put their names on them and give them away to anyone they came in contact with they thought would like and use them. They went fast, most of them were redeemed and now many are subscribers. Each year we come up with a way to make that kind of personal connection between the musicians and the audience, always with musicians input, so that they feel like part of the process and not just the marketing tool. I read the comments and agree that it would be difficult to please everyone with the logo, and layout, so how about making it a very simple economic proposition. If musicians are using their own business cards anyway, then instead of designing them the musicians would, and the orchestra could pay 50-75% or even all of their printing costs for new cards if they were to simply put their position, the orchestra name and either/both the phone and the web site somewhere on the card. That way they have full control of their layout logo etc…and if a deal is struck with the printer the orchestra normally uses, it could be very reasonable priced also, for everybody
    Ron

    Fascinating stuff Ron. It’s no secret that most buyers tend to place higher value on something with a sizable discount as opposed to a comp and I’ve often wondered how much impact offering a standard discount for single tix sales via a discount code unique to each musician would impact sales. In essence, it’s the same thing as referral programs at places like Amazon.com etc. and orchestras could print the code and terms of use on the reverse side of musician business cards if the musicians wanted to participate in the program.

    There are details to work out but it would be interesting to see just how much impact that would have on not just ticket sales but musician participation. ~ Drew McManus

  13. With all the complications of printing and cost acknowledged, the bottom line for me is the simple professionalism of a ‘business’ card over scribbles on a napkin or envelope that rarely make it home with the other person. Perhaps we should just revert to calling it an old fashioned ‘calling card’ to make it feel less ‘business-y’. But the reality is, even in large, well paying ICSOM orchestras, most of the musicians do a variety of additional professional work, from university teaching to chamber music to studio gigs. So in fact, they are business-people with themselves as the main product. Call it what you will–artist and businessperson are not necessarily mutually exclusive terms, but all part of the so-called portfolio careers that most of us live.

  14. The Nashville Symphony has provided all their musicians with very nice business cards. And we were given a choice about what stuff would be included on it. They’ve been very handy.

    Thanks Stephen, that’s exactly the sort of thing I was hoping someone would write in about. ~ Drew McManus

  15. Drew
    To update you: I had a meeting with our development director and we have put together a proposal called the Orchestra Referral Program. It is an a program to encourage musicians to include our information on their own cards either by a sticker on the back that we will provide, or by a big discount on new cards they wish to print. The details are still being worked out, but it will be on the agenda at our orchestra committee meeting next week and our exec committee meeting on Sept 4. One thing we are including in the proposal is to offer the same thing to board members also. The wrinkle here is that many of our musicians have full time jobs with institutions and other businesses, so we are formulating a permission request to go along with the program. Thanks for sparking this idea, and I will keep you posted..literally and figuratively! Kudos to Nashville!
    Ron

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