As I write this, I am in NYC attending one of the biggest performing arts conferences in the U.S. called APAP (Association of Performing Arts Professionals). I interact with fellow artists, agents, and presenters worldwide, sharing music and creating opportunities for future concert engagements. This year they say that there are 2,800+ attendees - one of the most considerable numbers. The conference hotel is sold out. People are buzzing around and interacting everywhere you turn. Loud, lively, overwhelming, and energizing all at the same time. They seem more than ready to resume creating art for the world after a long pause during the pandemic.
I was supposed to attend an opening night reception dinner tonight where one mingles with hundreds of people passing by, introducing each other and networking. I diligently prepared for my 30-second elevator speech to introduce myself. Then in the last minute I decided to hide in my hotel room and have a quiet evening alone. As much as I feel bad about missing out on a potential opportunity to create a great connection, I don't feel bad about knowing my limits. I am getting better at gauging a fine line between what I can do and what I will do instead for a healthy balance. In the next four days I will have plenty of time to connect with the most extroverted side on my sleeve, hiding my introvert inclination.
"Do you have an agent?"
To make a long story short, the answer is no. But to make a short story long, yes, I do. I created my own booking agent company five years ago called Namus Classics, and I am the CEO and the sole artist in the company. I hired a manager, a PR agent, a graphic designer, and people for other work that needed to be done project by project. I travel to performing arts conferences throughout the year to represent myself. I manage my schedule, create funding, and scope out what works and what doesn't for each project. (Exclusively for Korea, though, I have a contract with a classical music agency.)
I always find that being my agent is one of the hardest things. Where do you even start after being fresh out of school? It requires a high level of marketing, branding, planning, organizing, social skills, and networking, which is a daunting task for one person. None of the curricula in my higher education taught me about these hidden aspects of being an artist in this era. I had to learn from trial and error. Yes, it is a lot of work, but it is liberating at the same time to create a life path and take action on your terms. I never wait for opportunities to come to me. I go and get them. A great sense of freedom comes with this effort that can’t compete with anything else.
One of the lessons I’ve learned from being my agent is that whenever I am unsure about things, I say that it is an experiment. "I am experimenting with this to see if it might work.", "I don't know if this feels right yet, so let me experiment with it."
When I put things into an experimenting category, it seems okay to accept the potential negatives and easy to embrace them. It is all about trying it and experiencing it as it comes. I don't have to make a label or judge good or bad, but be. Let it go.
This week I will be experimenting with many things; I will experiment with how I interact with new people. I will experiment with how I like being my agent all over again. I will experiment with talking to strangers.
Maybe life is all about experiments.
What are you experimenting with nowadays?