“You’re always going to play well if you’re a trained musician. The things that make it better are the details and the logistics. There are so many great performers, sometimes that’s the only way you really can stand out.” – Rich Barry
Legendary guitarist Eliot Fisk described him as “one of the most innovative musicians of the twenty-first century.” I would describe him, in turn, as one of the most savvy GigMasters members on the site today. He understands not just how to work a crowd, but how to best network with one. Whether he’s playing for the patrons of a lounge or the CEOs of any given Fortune 500 company, he has a firm grasp on what it takes to be a successful, professional musician in a day and age where mp3s reign supreme over the demo tape. I took a highlighter to his career as a guitarist and found that it’s the detailed attention he pays to developing his own brand awareness that separates Rich Barry from the pack.
Remembering Your Roots
“When I was little, my parents would take me to bluegrass jams in the back mountains of Pennsylvania. I didn’t appreciate at the time how special that was,” Rich recalled when we last spoke. As those displays of local culture dissipate over time, remnants of them left behind for big businesses to swoop in and commercialize, Rich’s past experiences draw upon the importance of supporting your local arts. As a child exposed to the music native to his region, Rich uncovered a raw talent for the guitar that had him performing his first major show by the age of nine and studying with famed university instructors by the age of 12. If that’s not reason enough to sustain local arts and culture for the youth, I don’t know what is!
Knowing Your Audience
For a performer who has studied at several of the world’s top conservatories, including both Julliard and The Royal Academy of Music, and played at the foremost venues in every city from London to Abu Dhabi, I was fascinated to learn that some of Rich’s favorite gigs have been of the intimate kind at lounges. As a regular performer at a lounge, Rich shared, “It’s nice to have a venue to call your own.” In addition to the comfort that comes with having a ‘home’ in a particular lounge, is the excitement of a revolving audience: “You get a different crowd every night.” I asked him then how he handles all of the unknown variables that come with the varied audiences he encounters as a performer. “It’s about being adaptable to the situation and knowing how to engage with a crowd. In fact, I think the act of knowing how to engage is more important than just engaging.” Upon hearing that, I tilted my head in wonder, thinking “He’s even adopted an artful approach to the art that is playing a live show…”
Even more than knowing how, Rich encourages knowing who to engage with in any given audience, particularly when it comes to corporate events. He suggests you study up and know as much as you can about the company and its history. In fact, for an evening gig he had the day we spoke, he told me, “I’ve already researched who their CEO is and what he looks like so that during the gig I can make eye contact with him.” Additionally, he suggests that “with every single client you have, try to get a link from their corporate website to go to your website” in an effort to drive traffic and boost your online presence (smart SEO is the way to go!) After all, Rich points out, having a strong online presence is everything these days: “You’d be foolish not to be online! It’s like trying to sell yourself without having a market or place to do so.” GigMasters then has proved a powerful tool for expanding Rich’s virtual marketplace as a performer: “[GigMasters] holds the Internet’s place of being the booking agency and it’s really just amazing.” He went on, "It’s a numbers game and GigMasters has revolutionized the search engine so that literally if you Google ‘guitarist in Kansas’ they've allowed musicians to just be on the front end of the search engine. And today, that’s the most important part of your business.”
Whether it’s creating and adhering to his own “Operations Manual” for all performances, or making the time to reach out to all of the brides he’s worked with— over 500 and counting!— on their anniversary dates, Rich pays critical attention to every detail that goes into his business as professional guitarist. And that, in turn, is what has helped him transform his name into a brand itself.
Don’t believe me? Google the word “guitarist” and take a look for yourself…