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The Value and Practice of Advertising Among Professional Musicians

BY J. FRANCIS COOKE, MUS. B.

BEHIND THE SCENES.

It is often surprising to note the ignorance of the general public regarding the importance of advertising. I have known people to stand in open-mouthed wonder when they hear for the first time that the last cover page of some publication such as “The Ladies’ Home Journal,” or “The Youth’s Companion” is often worth from $2000 to $4000 for a single insertion. “Do the advertisers ever get their money back?” they ask. They most certainly do, or they would not continue to advertise year in and year out.

The preparation and placing of advertisements is a business of such significance that many of its followers succeed in deriving a yearly income of over $100,000 from it. Probably the highest salaried officer in the modern department store is the one who prepares the advertisement for the daily paper. The introduction of artistic display in recent years has done much to raise the standard of advertising, and to-day it is an art in itself. It is the voice of trade, deep, full, and rich in every note.

PROFESSION ADVERTISING.

The advertising of a profession is, however, so different from that of a business, that entirely new methods must be employed. There is nothing in business itself for the professional man to be ashamed of. It should be his pride to make himself as independent as possible. The day has passed that found the man of talent a serf to a titled house, and it is the democracy of business that has freed him from his thraldom. Imagine Mozart being ejected from the house of his patron, and as a family servant made to suffer from the whim of a drunken noble. I have no sympathy for the fancy-struck fools who spurn business on general principles, as if music was dependent upon penury. We all must live.

ADVERTISING AMONG PHYSICIANS.

Just why it is that a young doctor fresh from a medical school is supposed to wait in his office until some patient happens to see his sign and he receives his patronage purely as accident of fortune the physicians themselves are unable to tell. Suppose that he was to have prepared, in a readable manner, a little booklet giving information to the public in a business-like way just what particular branch of his profession he intends to pursue, his office hours, and his address. Have you any idea that the community would think any the less of him if it was not for the ludicrous and bigoted barrier he has inherited from his predecessors?

Very fortunately no such relic of a decadent school of etiquette exists among musicians. Our forerunners have observed the very wise distinction between egotism (a truthful and consistent consciousness of one’s own ability) and conceit (an overestimation of self)—have left us a legacy of liberty in the matter of advertising unknown in any other profession.

BUSINESS PRINCIPLES.

It is well for the musician to understand in the beginning some of the principles that business men have in mind when about to advertise. First of all, there must be something to advertise; that is, there must be something distinctive about your ability, something enviable in your career, something that will make your time valuable to other people; for all that advertising is, is to talk honestly of your business—just exactly as it is—in as dignified a manner as possible. Time and money spent in advertising anything that will not inspire genuine confidence are simply wasted.

REPUTATION VS. NOTORIETY.

Here we must draw the distinction between reputation and notoriety, upon which all good advertising is founded. Reputation is the regular growth of popular admiration. Notoriety is a forced condition of publicity, usually resulting from some objectionable performance. Thus, if a pianist depends upon long hair and affectation to attract public attention he may become notorious, but it is only by meritorious work in his profession that he adds to his reputation. A pianist who depends upon radiograph pictures of his hand to create popular interest, very often has much difficulty in redeeming himself at the keyboard. So, for the time being, let us agree to condemn anything that leads to notoriety as bad advertising, and maintain that whatever adds to reputation is good advertising, and then take up the different branches open to musicians.

PERSONALITY.

A musician’s personality is one of the first things that will bring him business. This is especially true in the case of teachers, for as surely as you make yourself objectionable personally, you will lose the interest of the public. This pertains to your appearance as well as to your manners. People appreciate neatness in a musician just as much as they do in a physician or a minister. Bohemianism is a complete failure in music teaching— your patrons are much more liable to advertise your tolerance and patience than your temper. Because Kalkbrenner, Henselt, and von Bülow have made eccentric fools of themselves is no reason why you should.

About a year ago a very able young musician came to me with a “tale of woe” about his business. Much to his indignation I advised him to put an end to one of the most alarming habits of profanity I have ever known. When among ladies he was fortunately able to restrain himself, but his notoriety among men preceded him. He stopped, and is just beginning to see why he had always been unsuccessful. Of course, this is an extreme instance, but it illustrates by contrast the meaning I desire to convey.

Thus it is that society enters the question. It is the musician’s behavior to the outside world that gives him personal respect. A singer in a New York music hall can bring herself to public notice by bathing in milk, but a respect such as that enjoyed by Emma Eames comes through a strong character, a lovely disposition, and a dignified demeanor. This last instance is, to my mind, an ideal example of good social advertising. We all love Emma Eames for the life she leads.

THE FIELD.

It is more than probable that many of the musicians who read this article suppose that their field of action is limited to the small circle in which they work. You could never be more mistaken. Your field of action is this whole great world, and the more your good deeds are known, the more good you will be able to do. If you are a teacher in a little country town, and the musical world knows that you have done something to your credit, that “something” is not to be forgotten. There is, however, a direct dependence upon the immediate society. Please do not think me to mean that a musician should go “nosing” around in people’s parlors after pupils or engagements. Far from it. But I do maintain that it is his duty to himself and society that he should not ostracise himself from the body upon which his support depends. Let the musician meet society in its own field as often as he can afford, and the word “musical crank” will disappear from the vocabularies of the world.

PUPILS’ RECITALS.

The common opinion of some twenty teachers whom I have consulted in reference to the present article is that the most profitable advertising they have used is the “pupils’ recitals.” It is certainly one of the fairest means of advertising, but is often abused by well-meaning teachers. By this I mean that a teacher often unconsciously neglects the real musical education of a pupil during the preparation for “pupils’ recitals.” This I know to have been the case in many prominent music schools.

A PUBLIC IMPOSITION.

Another abuse is this: If a pupils’ recital is to be given to exhibit a method or a teacher’s ability,—in other words, to advertise,—it should be honestly classed as an advertisement or exhibition recital, as the Virgil Clavier School has done, and not represented to be solely for the purpose of inspiring confidence in pupils when before an audience. Integrity amounts to something nowadays, and we draw nice distinctions. Exhibition recitals are sometimes boomerangs, especially with young pupils. Parents are justifiably proud of their children’s ability, and I have known jealousy, born at a pupils’ recital, to steal many a promising pupil away from teachers. Tact, of course, can prevent this.

(Another phase of this subject will appear in “The Etude” for August.)

 

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You are reading The Value and Practice of Advertising Among Professional Musicians from the July, 1898 issue of The Etude Magazine.

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