One of the problems of being freelance in a crowded market is working out what the buyers are actually after. They don’t have to hunt too hard (usually) to find someone that fits their bill, so there’s no real incentive for them to be micro-specific about their requirements – they can just post up a rough ad, wait for applications to flood in, and pick someone that looks like what they want. No one’s going to bother sending detailed explanations of why they rejected you; it’s considered a sign of better than usual breeding if they bother to actually send a rejection rather than just an empty silence. Certainly very few clients are going to come to a musician going ‘I have this job. What I really need is this. Can you do it? If not can you recommend someone?’ Either they will be certain you are suitable (almost certainly meaning you’ve worked for them before), or they just won’t bother and will advertise. There is, again, no motive to try and shoehorn someone available into a role that might not quite be them when you can easily find someone else who is suited by dangling about £100 in front of Facebook.
Then again, of course, because everyone near starting out is desperate for work, they all (including me) make serious efforts to claim to be specialists in everything. Summary of every freelance player’s application for every role ever: I AM THE GOD OF MUSIC. ‘I don’t have a very professional attitude’ said no one, ever. ‘Still building up experience’ ditto. ‘Just finished university and still got some growing up to do’ ‘Not my main genre but I’m sure I can wing it’ ‘To be honest I really don’t enjoy playing musicals, but I’ll do it for the money’ etc., etc., etc. Conversely ‘I’m not female but I can wear a dress?’ written so often I suspect it’s not always a joke. Germany’s Eurovision winner notwithstanding, I’ve always felt my facial hair precludes me from pushing it that far.
So what’s to do when prioritising promotion? What, for instance, do I headline on my website? (probably not ‘passionate blues violinist’ or ‘lover of obscure Classical viola pieces and everything by Carl Stamitz’) What, indeed, do I showcase in the theoretically upcoming (don’t hold your breath) video showreel? It all seems like shots in the dark, except that distributing my shots all around the compass runs a genuine risk of spreading myself too thin (I love a good mixed metaphor) and impressing nobody.
Sometimes playing music seems like the least part of it!