We hear the phrase all the time, but what really makes an event professional the “total package”? Is it all about having an established expertise at one’s craft? The ability to effectively communicate with clients? Or is it about upholding oneself to certain business standards? For premier saxophonist Edmond Baker, Jr., it’s about all of these points – and a whole lot more. His a story of not only thinking outside of the box, but of taking the initiative to build a box— or in this case, a distinct brand— of his own.
When Edmond was in the 6th grade, he recalled in our recent interview, he had gone with his mother to see acclaimed gospel saxophonist Bernard Johnson play at his local church in Brazoria, Texas. He described the immediate and overwhelming inspiration he felt in that moment to play the saxophone when he grew up. When he voiced this hope to his mother, she turned to him and said, “Why wait until you’re grown up?” And so, at the age of 11, Edmond took up the saxophone. More than 30 years later, he’s now a full-time, professional saxophonist – and one of GigMasters’ top-rated players, at that! So the next time you set a long term goal like “I need to build upon my musical repertoire,” or “I need to start making follow up calls with clients after gigs,” ask yourself, “Why wait?” Take the initiative and just make it happen.
“When I first started playing as a full-time saxophonist, I knew I had to have an image; I had to have a brand. For me, that became the ‘Uptown Saxman,’” Edmond explained. He recognized that in order for him to turn his passion into a profit, he’d have to alter the way he viewed himself. “I’m not just an entertainer,” he went on, “I’m a company. So when I make follow up calls, I introduce myself and my business, because we’re one in the same.” This is a great piece of advice for any solo event professional. Don’t be afraid to create a title for your business, one that isn't simply your personal name. In his own Southern style, he introduces himself over the phone saying, “Hi ma’am, this is Edmond Baker with Exceptional Music for All Occasions…” Similarly, Edmond stresses the importance of your “character quality” in establishing your brand. For him, this means arriving on time, looking the part, and being capable of professionally interacting with guests at an event. These are all things, he says, that contribute to your image, and therefore the image of your brand. Because, as Edmond correctly states, you are your brand, and your brand is your business.
One thing really stood out in our conversation about personal brand-building: when describing how to separate oneself from the competition, Edmond said, “You hear the phrase ‘be yourself’ all the time, but that’s really difficult to do if you don’t have yourself figured out.” For Edmond, figuring himself out has meant establishing a strong sense of self-awareness when it comes to knowing what works for him as a musician, and what doesn't. "I don’t tend to play covers. I've built my business off of playing my own material.” This is something he then makes very clear when talking to potential clients about his services. It’s also the reason why he chooses not to play at clubs or lounges. He recognizes that because a musician is asked to play a lot of requested cover songs at those venues, performing at them often winds up being a conflict in his style as the “Uptown Saxman,” who’s built his business on playing original songs. Don’t be afraid to be unique, Edmond encourages, even if that means you don’t fit the bill for every gig: "If you try to tell a client what they want to hear and take a gig just for the money, you won’t wind up performing well. The client won’t be happy and you’ll wind up getting a poor review. It’s just not a good idea.” You need to know where, when, and how you perform your best. It’s all a part of ‘being yourself’ and adhering to that mantra.
Edmond and other top GigMasters members find success in their ability to take initiative, while also knowing where and when to draw the line for the benefit of their business. They also recognize the importance of viewing themselves as their business. If they project themselves to potential clients as an established brand, they’ll often be regarded as one. I’d venture to say then that these are the things that make event professionals like Edmond Baker, Jr. the “total package”.