When I worked in sales I came to understand that the part of the job that mattered most was not sales skill, product knowledge or 'positive thinking'. It was graft. That meant the part of the job that everyone disliked most: booking sales appointments. If you had lots of people to talk to you'd make sales. Talented sales people would make more, the not so talented ones would make fewer, but if you had people to see you'd make sales. If you didn't, you wouldn't.
Now I find that if I have gigs I'm a musician, if I don't, I'm just pretending. And guess what? Producing them is the bit that we all most dislike. It's a chore. It means contacting people and asking them to promote you; it means facing rejection; it means accepting that there are those out there who fail to see 'one's artistic value', 'one's unique contribution to the canon'.
Of course, there are 100 artists for every hour of stage time and it's a buyer's market. I promoted concerts myself for a while in the form of The Bromley Acoustic Music Club. Along with a group of friends in the early 2000's (mostly met through the club itself), I staged monthly concerts with guests that included Bert Jansch (the first gig), Ron Sexsmith, John Renbourn and Jacqui McShee, Iain Matthews, Boo Hewerdine and Davy Graham. What always surprised me was how easy it was to get these great players to play at my modest event. Often they'd offer words of encouragement, telling me how important it was that venues like mine continued to thrive. John Renbourn, memorably, seeing that the room was less than full, told me that I didn't need to pay him the full fee if it would put me out of pocket. He valued the existence of the gig in the long run more than making his money that night.
The point is that in the chain of factors that combines to make a music event happen (promoter, artist, venue, audience), it's not the artist that is in the shortest supply. On the contrary, good promoters are like hen's teeth and audiences aren't easily coaxed into parting with their money in the face of all the competing distractions available to them.
So, I have to keep making the phone calls if I want to call myself a musician. It's the bit I like the least – but it's the bit that proves that I am what I like to imagine myself to be. It's the bit that proves I really mean it.
Anyone got a gig?