Great idea, very hard to do. When you have no real business experience, you rely on your studying to get you through. Still, unless you go through a business college program, which I have not, then you have to pretty much gather whatever information from whatever source you can and piece it together, which I have. Or at least that has been my method thus far.
So now it’s a matter of putting everything together, but those little ducklings…they like to wander. Sometimes I get so focused on one thing, that I ignore something else and it’s like, UGH!!! ‘Will you little guys please just stay in line?’ Like my website, over a year’s out of date since I started writing these blog entries. And my e-newsletter, which I’ve only sporadically been publishing to my e-mail list.
Time to get a schedule going. I need to put stuff on my calendar because I just need to do them. I need to give myself an…ugh…task list to get things done. I don’t really see any other way of doing it. I can’t keep it all in my head. The Getting Things Done method says to put all your Next Actions task in a folder and start doing them one by one, to NOT put everything on the calendar. However, you CAN use your calendar for stuff that has a specific date assigned to it. The idea is not to impose deadlines on yourself, to not to calendarize everything, but only what definitely needs to be on there.
As I go through my Next Actions list, I now there are daily, weekly, and monthly activities that I need to be handling, so they’re about to get on the calendar. Google Calendar is my choice, so I can share it with my wife and my bandmates.
Get in line little duckies, time to get some work done.
So here I am, trying to move into a music career, or rather to make a set of jobs that will help me get to my current salary at my….ugh…”day job”. How do you balance it all? Work at work and work at home. Most days I get home I’m dog-tired, or there is so much stuff going on family wise that doing at work on music at home seems almost impossible.
But I can’t give up. I don’t want to give up my dream, and frankly I don’t think I need to. I read an article about the guy who owns Virgin, the guy who owns the record label, the airline, the racing team, and oh yeah, the international media conglomerate too. Richard Branson, yeah, that’s the guy. Anyhow, he basically has a gazillion businesses, but he started with just two. And then he added more and more until now he’s a multi-billionaire.
So maybe I need to do something like that. Focus on one business at a time and add more as I go, changing things up. I’ve also ready that to start the transition from your “day job” into other fields, like music, you need to rethink it, to consider the day job as one source of income. It is no longer the ultimate end-all thing, but one of a portfolio of activities that you do to earn. From there, it is simply a matter of doing more, until ultimately, if so desired, you phase out the original day job and focus your attention on your other things.
They are about the same thing, about having multiple income streams, a portfolio of businesses that earn some money and, altogether, they create a “career”.
But it’s still a balancing act. I’m going to go with the one thing at a time idea. Get ‘er up and running, and then keep on putting things in motion as time permits. Mr. Branson, here I come!
Who knows? Everybody’s a little bit different. Creativity is always the same…nobody really knows where those creative like sparks come from. I suppose God gives them to us, but that’s just my take.
Nevertheless, it all starts with a thought. Depending on what field you are applying it in, it could be a thought about anything, a new invention, an musical phrase, a sweet textile pattern…whatever it is, you need to be ready to get it down.
I recommend a pad and pencil for visual ideas. If you have a large phone or like to carry around an tablet, then there you go. Most people can’t type fast on a regular keyboard, even the speedy thumbs of texters. I say, just voice record it. Get the idea out best you can without anything hindering you. You can decyper it later. Just DON’T LOSE IT!
One you get the idea down, then you have to apply craft to get it worked out into a form that can be shared. That’s the point right, sharing? Anyhow, yeah, here is where the real work begins, and for many where it goes no further. Whatever it is, you have to now apply craft to make it a reality. But sometimes you get ideas for things, like big things, like things you have no idea how to make.
I have ideas for cool websites that I have no idea how to build. If you have an idea, you have some choices.
- Forget it – this is what most people do. They have a great idea, but do nothing with it. Sometimes they are perfectly capable of seeing the entire idea through to fruition, and get scared or whatever. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of too much work, or too little financial reward. Whatever it is, many just chuck out that great idea and make the world do without it. Of course then there is the inventor’s remorse when they see others doing the same thing and being successful. Forgetting it is for wussies. C’mon man, DO SOMETHING WITH IT!!
- Outsource – there are lots of people out there who would love to work on your creative idea. Or so I heard. I have friends who say , “You should take that idea to a VC!” The Viet-Cong? No, a Venture Capitalist, aka The Money. There are people out there with money who would like to help you with your idea, if it’s worth it. And then there are people that you can hire to do it for you, where YOU are the VC and they work for you. eLance is a great site for people who can do things for you on-line, like design a web page or make an animation, whatever.
- Begin – just do it yourself. Outsource somestuff, do the rest. But now you have work to do….ewww, the ugliest of the ugly four letter words. If it is your area of expertise, though, I’m sure it won’t feel like work. Yes, you may need to learn how to work a spreadsheet or plug in your video camera, or maybe even screen print some shirts….but it can be done. You just have to start.
Finally, of course, is to actually share your idea with others. That is, once you’ve turned it into something that can be appreciated, like a music track, a video, an ebook, whatever. Now you have a few more things to do. How best to share? Then there is that weird word that makes you feel all nice a dumb inside: marketing! If you intend on never making any money from your idea (or if your idea just ain’t gonna sell), then just share as you see fit. BUT….if even a little money can be made, you HAVE to understand how to market. And you probably already do on a certain scale.
Marketing for business is a big topic, so maybe we’ll take about that sort of stuff over time. But right now I just wanted to say that if you have an idea for something, make sure you are carrying around a tool that you can get that idea down so you won’t lose it. Then decide what you are going to do about that idea, and how you will eventually share it. If we are talking business ideas, you might want to do the entire things backwards; first find out what the people actually want, then coming up with ideas on how to make it. This is great for useful things, like vacuum cleaners…not so much for artistic things. Who knows what art people will want and how they will learn about it or if they will even want to put down cash for it.
In the future I’ll get more into the artistic side of creativity, specifically music. Read that because you may find some cool ideas that apply to other fields.
As I work through “Getting Things Done” by David Allen, I’ve decided to put all my stuff into Evernote and Google Calendar. I can get at them from anywhere, so that makes it really convenient.
Evernote, in case you didn’t know, helps you get EVERYTHING, and I mean EVERYTHING out of your brain, out of your computer notes, anything you want to be able to recall later…put it in there. It’s free, goes on all my devices, I can even get to it on-line. Ubiquity…gotta love it.
There are certain drawbacks though, it is a note taking / remembering software. It isn’t a spreadsheet program, and somethings the bullets turn into weird shapes and loose their indentation. But it really is a quality product. You can give money to the company, which I will be doing soon, to pay for more upload size per month. And they got a handy company based sharing version too. Have to check that out when I actually have people on my team.
Right now I’ve gotten a lot of my notes and other things I’ve saved on my computer in there. VERY handy. You can put them in as text, or as files. The files are not entirely searchable, so if you can copy-paste in the text. It can do images and sound memos too, but as that takes up a lot of upload size, you might want to upgrade to the paid version if you plan on doing a lot of that.
Google Calendar is sweet for the scheduled stuff because, again, I can get at it from anywhere. The best part is that my wife have a shared calendar. This makes it great when I want to book gigs or whatever, schedule things around family stuff. Very cool.
So this has just been a blog about the tools I’m using to stay organized and get my stuff done. The original “Getting Things Done” book was written a while ago when people actually killed trees for paper. I wanted to go as paperless as possible, and the system works easily with a paperless setup. Next time I’ll share how I’m applying the GTD methodology, so make sure you get the book and read up. It’s not too complicated, but it is worth learning it from the author / creator.
Busy…MAN, I’m just busy. Got WAY too much stuff going on, but then again not enough. Being busy is hard, staying busy is harder. There are lots of things you want to do with your life, but at the same time you probably will need about 10 of you to pull it off.
Sure, you could outsource, but you don’t have enough money to pay for THAT much work. So, you gotta buckle down and do most of the work yourself. No breaks there.
Then there is the juggling, between work, play, wife, kids, pets, house, church, friends, ….and THEN maybe you have time to work on your stuff. Something’s gotta give.
There are many time saving “life hacks” out there, but they don’t cover everything. Sure you could be really organized, but somewhere along the way you are going to have to actually stop organizing and DO something.
I suppose then that that’s the point of my blog, for a while. Me writing down what I’m doing, or at least trying to do, and what I’m using to do it. I hope you find some nuggets in here. Here’s the first one:
Read “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. GREAT book. Takes time to implement. So far I’ve only done a little bit of it, like learning how to get most of my stuff out of my head. I still am not good at actually taking the next step…actually doing something. This blog will be my way of sharing my journey.
Had a great time at 98Rock’s “Noise in the Basement”. Can’t wait to do it again! Thanks to Bryan Jenkins for the photos!
What You Need BEFORE Leaving the Rehearsal Studio
In a word: AWESOMENESS.
As an indie I go to a lot of local shows. I want to find and network with other bands, make friendships, and help support my scene. Some bands are great, some are good, and others are…’eh’.
The really great bands are firing on all cylinders. Great live show, great recordings, great merch table. The other bands always seem to be lacking in certain areas.
If the live show is THE most important thing for a band, then I think there are certain aspects, certain ‘Standards of Excellence’ that a band MUST achieve before stepping outside the rehearsal room. We just cannot afford to suck anymore, at all, no compromises. That doesn’t mean that you need to be perfect: to play a million notes a second, or whatever. Not perfection, just a commitment to excellence.
Here are a few Standards of Excellence I feel every band should consider the bare minimum before starting to gig regularly, if they expect to get results that is:
1. Tightness – the band must be tight tight tight. This falls mainly, I believe, on the drummer. There can be no wavering of the timing. Think ‘human metronome’, even if your music is very relaxed and you are playing behind the beat a lot. Once the tempo is set, you MUST NOT WAVER! The only fix, I believe, is to practice with a metronome 80% of the time, and 20% off. Of course, ALL the musicians must know their parts. My personal standard is that each member of the band must be able to play the entire tune, correctly, alone, without a recording or a metronome, from memory. You cannot fail if you have it down like that.
2. Pitch – Point blank, if you are singing, you must NOT be pitchy. If you are, then figure out why and fix it. You don’t have to be a musician to know when you hear something out of tune. Believe me, the audience knows, and no matter how much they love you, their ears and their brain are saying, ‘PLEASE MAKE IT STOP!’. If it means you need to get yourself some vocal lessons and/or in-ear monitors, DO IT! Backup singers as well. Guitarists, there is NO EXCUSE for being out of tune. Tuners are cheap cheap cheap, compared to losing all that merch sales because you were playing out of tune. Make sure your bending is accurate, that your vibrato is controlled (and please, SLOW DOWN YOUR VIBRATO), and don’t press the strings to hard and make them go out of tune. If your instrument won’t stay in tune, get a new one (not a used one, a new one from a bonafide music store). Change your strings often, at least before each gig. Yes, I know they cost money, but you will lose money just because you couldn’t spend $5 on a good set of strings. Drummers, PLEASE TUNE YOUR DRUMS…yes, we notice when your drums are not tuned.
3. Image – The first thing people know about your band is your name, and perhaps a photo of your band. These two aspects speak volumes about you before they ever hear your music, on-line or live. This is branding stuff. You are always communicating a message to your audience, live or digital. You must use that to your advantage and form an image that helps people get interested in you and your music. Some bands keep names when they should change them. They are not serving the band because they are not communicating what the band intends. Change them to speak a message, to entice people to want to listen to your music. And, of course, there’s your image. I’ve seen SO MANY bands hop on stage in street clothes or work clothes, not putting any effort into it. ‘Let the music speak for itself’ is not what the pros do. They pick their clothes carefully to form an image that says something about who they are and what sort of music they play. Be willing to make whatever changes necessary to form a congruent image of your band, speaking your message to your current and future fans, about who you are, and what sort of music they can expect to hear from you, live and digital.
4. Performance – If you are just going to play tunes, then don’t gig. Put a CD player on the stage, press play, and there you go. Your live performance must not be a bunch of deadish, stone faced, statues on the stage. Live performance is a VISUAL and AUDITORY experience. Work on it! Please!! Not talking choreography, but move around, and INTERACT with people. Create moments. And don’t just play a set of songs and then walk off the stage, do something fun and interesting, something you can’t get from listening to your CD. You should know exactly how much time you have on stage, and you must use that stage time wisely. You should not be trying to cram in as many songs as possible, play less songs and create more moments instead. I’ve seen bands that ask the engineer “how much more time do we have? Do we have time for a song or two more?” That is not pro. A Pro band will never do this because they’ve known for months exactly how much time they will have, and will rehearse a show, from beginning to end, for that time amount. Everything will be planned out, including that extemporaneous jam with the guest guitarist from another band. At this point, I will defer to the master Tom Jackson because all this is really his material. Buy his DVDs and live them as gospel.
5. Merchandise – Your merch table should NOT be a piece of cardboard with a price list written on it and stuff strewn about. It should be enticing, visually, so that people come and hang out there awhile. Mob mentality is that if something is going on and a group begins to gather, then more will come by. If some start buying and ask for autographs, then others will do the same. Your merch booth is your storefront and should not just be “the place you sell stuff”, but a meeting place off stage, the place where you hang out to meet and talk to people and get photos. Get a table cloth at the bare minimum; put some action on the table, lights, etc. One band I saw recently had a fold out Plexiglas case with their merch in it, like a department store, with light rope around it, and a computer screen with their web page, e-mail sign up form, and a video running in a loop. EVERYBODY was talking about how cool it looked and drew a lot of people to it. Only problem was, there was NOBODY WORKING THE BOOTH!!! They set up this awesome thing, and I actually had to pull the singer over as he was walking by to buy a CD from him.
6. Professionalism – Don’t be a ‘rock-star’, please. Nobody has time for it. This is your gig, you are responsible for doing all the prep work and marketing to get people to the show. DO NOT BE ON TIME…BE EARLY. Be respectful of everybody at the gig. Do not break your merch booth down until the last attendee has left. Give before you receive. Help people out, they are all trying to make this their living too. The more you are professional and desire first to help others achieve their goals, the more ready they will be at wanting to help you out. Go to other bands shows and support them. Help out the new guys and get them an opening slot on your bill. More doors will open to you just by showing up and seeking to serve first before taking. And, be personal with people in the biz. Not everyone wants to think music all the time, they really want cool friends to work with. Be a good friend and it will be returned to you.
7. Recordings – This is one area that you cannot afford to compromise. Listen, if you can produce a great recording, a recording that is broadcast quality, ready for radio, in your basement….God bless you! But if you can’t, if it doesn’t measure up, then DO NOT RELEASE IT TO THE WORLD. I’ve heard some awesome bands live, and gotten their CD, listening on the way home…and it SUCKED big time. Am I going to go back to see them live….eh, thinking about it, but probably not. Am I going to tell all my friends about this new band…eh, probably not. Yes, getting a pro level recording is expensive, so the lure is to buy your own gear and DIY. Well…you have to then ask yourself, ‘do I want to be an artist or a producer?’ If you can do both and be good at it, again, more power to you. But don’t fool yourself. One of the primary means of marketing for any band, signed or unsigned, is word-of-mouth recommendations. That means file sharing. You actually don’t want, you NEED to have people like you so much that they rip your CD and share all the files with their friends. There is no better marketing than this. If your recordings suck, they will most likely NOT pass it on to their friends, and if they do their friends will probably not like it and not forward it on to their friends. Again, I know it’s expensive, but realize that if you want to make money, you have to spend money. You need to invest serious cash if you expect to make serious cash. A friend of mine named , once he got a producer and bit the bullet, actually got his music on Billboard’s Jazz charts. NO JOKE! Like…the next CD, radio spins (which also cost a lot of money for a radio promoter). No compromises, your recordings must by HOT or your fans will turn cold.
I know some of this material might be old hat to some, but the fact that many bands fail on these points tells me that we all might need a refresher. I pray that you sell a million CDs and go full time soon.
I wanted to share that I just hired Nashville Producer Eric Copeland from Creative Soul to record my first full length album!
Having my stuff produced by an experienced producer, in Nashville, with the Nashville sessions musicians…you know it’s going to sound OFF THE CHAIN! Wicked awesome, I’m so psyched.
I’m having a Celebration for it at my next gig at Chapala’s Blue Beetle Rock Bar in Burtonsville, MD, 30 September11. I’ll be treating everyone to some awesome chips and salsa and chili con queso. Chapala’s has great food, and is a really intimate venue for bands.
Mark your calendars and celebrate with me! There will be other bands that night too, so it’ll be a party all around.
Stay tuned for updates on the Album; I’ll be sharing the journey with blog posts and videos, maybe a few mixes and teasers here or there.
Seth Godin’s blog today is very inspiring to me. He talks about “the heckler”, that voice inside telling you “You’re not good enough,” or, “you don’t deserve this,” etc.
I’ve wrestled with this phenomenon for years. What’s worse is, as a Christian, sometimes I can confuse the “heckler” for God’s “still small voice”. I get depressed with thoughts like, “Your never going to be good enough.” and “Your too old, fat, hairy, _____________”. Then there are the more spiritually bent thoughts like, “Your so proud…you are not being humble.” or “It’s all about you, you selfish person,” which attack my sense of faithfulness and desire to honor God. It’s really a daily struggle.
I always thought about others, others who are where I want to be, and wonder if they ever thought those thoughts. I mean, how could they? They are successful, they didn’t let doubt cloud their judgment, but pressed through in faith and confidence, relentlessly, right? Well…perhaps not.
Perhaps they were just more successful at ignoring the “heckler” than I’ve been?
I had a great time at Guido’s! It’s a cool place, lots of people were there.
I want to shout out especially to the the David’s for hanging out with me. Jay even put his sound tech expertise to work and helped me set up the PA too.
Here are a couple pics of some new friends from the gig. They won a raffle for free T-Shirts and a CD!
Hope to see all my new friends at Guido’s again real soon.