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If performance is your business – music, singing, speaking, and magic – the era of social distance seems to be an insurmountable barrier. The Broadway League recently announced that Broadway will remain closed at least until January 2021. The Cirque de Soleil has filed for bankruptcy and cut 3,500 jobs, citing "immense disruptions and forced closings" as the cause.
Aside from the tragedy of more than 126,000 deaths in the U.S. on July 2, 2020, there are shadow effects on businesses and employees around the world. While small businesses are not an industry category, they employ tens of millions of people in the United States. McKinsey’s latest research suggests that between 1.4 and 2.1 million U.S. small businesses may close permanently as a result of the first four months of the health crisis.
Entrepreneurs from the world of art and entertainment are at the top of the list of those affected. Speakers and moderators feel the effects. Most live events were stopped immediately. What should these small businesses and solo performers do? SBA tools and grants have had varying degrees of success in supporting small organizations with W-2 employees. The legions of 1,099 U.S. employees, who reportedly had 35 million in 2019, were much more affected – as many lacked the knowledge or banking relationships to successfully apply for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) as a sole proprietorship. Even worse, the requirement that employers who receive PPP loans have to use funds for payroll expenses has left 1099 earners double in the cold as the level of work previously available to freelancers is decreasing.
Speakers, performing artists and musicians are generally affected. This week my own business partner Lauren Solomon, CXO for our agency, dealt with the situation on the show, which she moderated with Amy Osmond Cook, "Good Day Orange County". They asked these questions to three well-known participants in the performance sector: the musician and speaker Freddie Ravel, the vocal and speech trainer Roger Love and the Winnipeg-based magician and speaker and performer of corporate events Ken Sky.
For the production of their July program, Solomon and Cook have made another premiere by remotely recording and producing their entire show from the various US locations where they and their guests are housed.
These three renowned artists, in their interviews with Solomon and Osmond Cook, said the following about the difficulties – and opportunities – of running a freelance company in times of extraordinary challenges and change.
Freddie Ravel, American keyboardist and keynote speaker
For several decades, Ravel has traveled the world as a keyboardist with Earth, Wind & Fire, Carlos Santana, Madonna, Sergio Mendes, Prince and other musicians. He also works as a keynote speaker and speaking coach / trainer in LA.
"After years and years of traveling and playing in about 82 countries and spending a lot of time on planes and at airports … What do you do when all of this is shut down?" Ravel said. "And what do you do when you can't go out into the world?"
Ravel has worked to bring the world of music performance into the room of his home studio. "We access parts of the world and bring this to our viewers."
How did his previous life prepare him for the current pivot? Ravel talks about particularly important lessons that he has learned from cooperation and partners. One of them was with Yolanda King, the eldest daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King. She worked with Ravel on song number one for his solo recording. Afterwards she invited him to take part in her book "Open My Eyes, Open My Soul". Through this endeavor he recognized the need to connect his musical life with diversity and inclusion and a message to bring humanity to a higher place. Why not use the world's universal language, music, to do this?
Deepak Chopra was another crucial influence for Ravel. In their work together, Chopra emphasized that the spaces between the notes in a musical composition are equally important for the notes themselves. The concept has remained with him ever since. He used the basic elements of music – melody, harmony and rhythm – to create a program called Life in Tune. And he shares the Zoom program through music and lessons in 25 countries.
The high-speed technology enables a note he plays in LA to be heard in South Africa a nanosecond later. And it works for Ravel and his close-knit team of participants. Thanks to technologies such as zoom, it is possible to see the eyes of the recipient, feel them breathe and make the chat glow, he reports. While the ecosystem of books, travel, and facilities is disrupted, technology enables more data to be played more directly and personally in more time zones and to produce what Ravel calls "E3" – E to the third power for an "Everybody Everywhere Experience, "he says.
The experiences develop into a book, a course and a TV show to bring Life In Tune to all parts of the world.
"Many people call COVID" The Invisible Enemy, "" says Ravel. "Well, I call music The Invisible Hero … it's the undisputed language that we all know and that elevates us."
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Roger Love, American vocal and language coach
Roger Love is the famous American vocal coach who has worked with music groups such as the Beach Boys and The 5th Dimension, soloists such as Gwen Stefani, Selena Gomez, John Mayer and Eminem. Perhaps most notably, he has taught many non-singing actors like Kiera Knightly, Bradley Cooper, Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon to sing in the film. His vocal techniques were also instrumental in the powerful speaking voices of moderators such as Tony Robbins, Suze Orman and Tyra Banks.
What does an expert do who has been training and preparing live performers when live performances and film productions have slowed down? The public speaking business mostly stopped at one cent. The few organizations that have dared to reproduce their presentations virtually have tended to treat these presentations far more informally. Will the level of excellence that love teaches fall by the wayside as the world of speech and music performance evolves?
At the age of 16, Love was already the second largest voice expert in the world, who worked for 17 years as a junior partner of the number one expert, who had trained countless singers and groups from Sinatra to Earth Wind & Fire to Stevie Wonder. It was his own singing lessons that gave him the innate ability to hear the way a voice sounded and the opportunities to make it sound better.
Love received increasing requests to support speakers. He initially resisted, but the candidates would always come back. Ultimately, Love realized that speaking and singing is based on pitch, tempo, tone, melody, and volume. Today he trains so many speakers and singers (Tony Robbins actually recognizes Love's influence in his Netflix special "I'm not your guru").
Training is in-depth, he emphasizes, because the emotion, intonation, and diffraction of our voices are as important to us as the words we say – like anyone who is wondering about the intent of an email or text or them misunderstood, can testify. Fortunately, he managed to translate many aspects of his training into the online world through courses and videos that are available as free treats or extremely economical options for moderators and speakers through his online business The Perfect Voice.
Does social distancing create more or less requirements for optimized speech quality? Visual cues are sometimes missing via zoom or online channels and in many cases are somewhat subdued, making the audio tone of a person's voice even more important as a convincing means for effective business. Love also speaks about the importance of verbal pronunciation and volume when people speak through masks. "Because we equate volume with anger, it seems that everyone generally tends to turn into a murmur when we speak through a mask," he notes. Yet this is a new skill and a new area of training that the current era of business requires.
Relatives: 3 easy steps to become a confident speaker
Ken Sky, corporate magician and orator
"Man of Mystery" Ken Sky is a mind reader and keynote speaker from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Sky is no stranger to mastering life's challenges since he grew up in Paraguay. He moved to Winnepeg 17 years ago in 2003.
Since childhood, Sky remembers how he made his corncob toys by adding arms and legs and turning them into people. When he was five years old, his mother started teaching him the magic of words and language. She spelled the alphabet with a stick to form letters in dirt. He was intrigued and explained that his life direction was chosen. He wanted to be a teacher. As he grew up, his father pointed to the sky and taught him the presence of airplanes and satellites and the dream of one day moving to Canada.
Since the family had ancestors from Canada who had moved to Paraguay, the opportunity arose to move to Canada and become a Canadian citizen. To take advantage of this opportunity, you had to live in Canada for a year before you turned 28. Determined not to miss this opportunity, Sky moved to Canada in 2003 with his wife, two suitcases, and $ 200. Since then, they have forged their entrepreneurial journey from Winnepeg.
Since his family couldn't afford formal schooling, Sky worked in Paraguay in all sorts of professions – shoemaker, chocolate maker, wire mesh maker. He even delivered fresh water to the schools from a tractor, with the books he was studying by his side. He worked his way through high school and college. He remembers that his favorite job was as a sound engineer for a radio station. Computer skills proved to be his salvation as a freshman in Canada who didn't speak English. However, during his childhood he loved the stage and every opportunity to perform – to play the guitar, to sing, to perform and to make people smile. When his little son suffered from health problems, a musician came over to cheer father and son on with a personal magical performance. Again it was an experience that appealed to his soul and he refined his skills as a musician. Now he had the opportunity to teach, to entertain and to introduce new products to an audience through magic. It was a fascinating field of work that took him around the world.
Today, of course, he had to pan again because of the cancellation of the trip. He watched the magical presentations on video and was overwhelmed. When he saw the opportunity to excel, he invested 50 hours in his first one and a half minute magical video. He reduced his illusions. At the same time, he found new elements that could improve his presentations. Now it is perfectly geared towards customers who are experimenting with "virtual galas".
Overall, as these three performance entrepreneurs demonstrate, there are new opportunities for those who are willing to learn, strive and grow in the new and changing environment. You will find and create bright spots in the new scenario of the world.
My husband and I also find these opportunities. Although our love of live concerts and performances is temporarily thwarted, my husband and I were finally able to see Hamilton together after several years of desire and planning. No, we didn't travel to Broadway, but we were able to see it on our own large-screen TV thanks to the Disney Plus channel. It was a ray of hope and another opportunity in an increasingly different world.
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