Last year I played a jazz gig with a drummer. We became friends on Facebook, and he liked tons of photos of me playing rock, pop, and worship gigs throughout the year. A year later we bumped into each other at a show, and he introduced me as “a jazz pianist”.
I rarely play jazz. It’s obvious all over my website and Facebook that I focus on playing pop, rock, and worship music. But my drummer friend only had one slot for me in his mind for me as a musician, and that was as a jazz pianist. I'd got pigeon-holed (now that cover picture makes sense, right?)
My friend isn’t lazy or stupid. He just has hundreds of musicians floating around in his memory, and he has to put a label on each one to keep track of us. I had accidentally pigeon-holed myself with my friend because our one mutual, meaningful contact was playing jazz music together.
Getting pigeonholed isn’t a bad thing for your career. In fact, it can help you stand out from the crowd. If the person who’s pigeonholing you thinks of you first when they have a specific need, and you’re great at that style, you’ll get called first. In my case I’d pigeonholed myself into a style I’m only pretty good at, instead of remarkable.
Whenever you take a show date or a project, make sure that you want people defining you by it. Once someone has you locked in to a category, it’s going to take a lot more than a few Facebook posts to dig your way out.