Working For Music – ‘Til We Can’t Get It Wrong!!

I was reading some musician’s opinions about DW drums last night on (an excellent resource for real-world drum gear insights!) when a forum contributor said this:

“Amateurs practice until they get it right. Professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong.”

Wow. What a GREAT quote. After years of gig prep and woodshedding, I know exactly what they mean… and couldn’t agree more!

These days though, fewer people are working for music than ever. Why? Digital music trends mostly. Unfortunately, music streaming has had a hugely detrimental effect on musician’s INCOME streaming. For specifics on that, read the bad news in THIS POST.

I want us to consider today WHY and HOW we should continue pouring our time and energy into music, despite bad news, bad timing, bad labels, bad revenues… bad whatever!

There are more reasons than ever.

Crazy Much??

Some of you may have read Sean Barrett’s excellent Part One article on “Gain Staging” here at SeriousGas. If you’re a guitarist and you haven’t check it out HERE. You’ll be glad you did.

I was talking with him yesterday about some music business decisions I’m making, and how so many old avenues of the biz don’t work anymore, but I’m still at, still pursuing it, despite those who say it’s crazy to try anymore.

He responded with what I have already known for years:

“It’s in you. You can’t NOT do it (music). It’s what you were made to do.”

He was right. No matter what obstacles I’ve faced in my decades in the music industry, it’s always come back, for me, to one thing: the SONG. Writing is all I’ve ever wanted to excel at, and now, decades later, it feels great to see that I not only understand the intricacies of songwriting more than ever before, and still utterly enjoy pouring into this craft as well.

Now that’s what I call a winning combination!

Have you been told that you’re crazy to pursue something? Are others pointing you to safer, more consistent but also more mundane and unfulfilling work?

There are times when we must bite the bullet and work something just to be responsible, but let me encourage you to also… be crazy! Never let your passions lie neglected. Even if it means you work the dream AFTER your day job and on the weekends, eventually, if you keep at it, you’ll probably be able to leave that dead-end workplace behind.

But that’s only if… you don’t give up.

Music as Meditation

I had a thought recently that was new, intriguing, and regards music and life in general. It didn’t come from reading, or watching a YouTube video, or talking to a fellow audio engineer or musician. Instead, it came from just putting my own personal “2 and 2” together…

I like to meditate. Usually for 20 minutes at a time. I have a special chair that I sit in (one o’ those cool “kneeling chairs” that I finally bit the bullet and bought!) that I put in front of the clear-windowed sliding glass doors that lead out from our living room and face the east.

In the morning, when the sun has risen above the trees at the edge of our backyard, its warm streaming goodness spills all upon and around me as I take a few moments to just… clear my head… breathe, and let go the torrents of demanding inner monologues and emergency sirens that so often keep our attentions.

Buddha, and Christ, both talked about it: be here. Now. Live in this moment. Take it in. Appreciate it for what it is… for what you are… right now.

What I realized this month is that music, and practicing, can be approached with this kind of mindset. In fact, I think most of us who practice already do this, without even really knowing it.

This all came from a comment someone made that basically said, “You musicians must live a lot in the moment since you are concentrating so much on what you’re playing.”

By Jove, he’s right! I thought about this as I practiced a song soon after, and thought, “I am so dedicating all my senses to this music right NOW. It really is partly like meditation.”

The only thing lacking for most of us is to simply recognize that; to, as we play, think deliberately “This music, my music, IS this moment. The music, my listeners, myself… we all… exist together, right here, in this moment… together.”

Talk about being one with everything!

I think we can listen to music this way too – using it to anchor us to the present passing seconds, and feeling the appreciation for life as our favorite music washes the stresses of the past and the future away on a tide of temporary irrelevance.

Try it. You may find Zen isn’t so foreign and far after all. 😉

Being Better Without Trying

Your axe in your hand is worth two in the Guitar Center, right?! No one will refute that practicing does wonders for your technique.

But too often I’ve seen musicians waaaaay too tense during practicing. This not only promotes bad technique, it allows psychiatrists to make waaaay too much money off their anxiety, and eventually… they retire in the Bahamas off of YOUR STRESS!

So, let’s not give our money and control away so easily. We can do this, but we can do it WITHOUT tension about the past, present or future.

I put it this way to all my beginner students: “Don’t try to play better, faster, stronger, bluesier, with more swing, more legato, more staccato… whatever!! Just PLAY. And when you do… enjoy it. Have FUN. If you do this, you’ll get better naturally, without even trying.”

After all, that IS what we do with music, right?? We PLAY it.

What is certain is that if you practice daily, with joy and excitement and the focus that comes from real, undying interest… guess what – you WILL get better, faster, stronger, bluesier, with more swing, more legato, more staccato, ETC. As Roxette says on one of their latest albums, “It Just Happens”!! Or as I tell my students, “practice makes progress”. Notice I did NOT say perfect. In art, there’s usually no such thing.

So don’t stress out. Just pick up your instrument and always make it a point to remember why you first got into this instrument – because you were interested in it, and it soon became FUN.

As you continue to just play for the sheer pleasure of it, you’ll find yourself becoming, more and more, a stellar musician. And THAT is surely one great reason to keep up the good work in music.

How do You Measure YOUR Success?

I’m in the middle of recording a brand new tune to release as my latest single. It is taking WEEKS of focus, skill and effort to bring to completion. I’m doing the majority of it all by myself in my studio.

When I’m finished I’ll upload it on various Indie music sites and see what happens.

It could very well go viral! Or it could only get a few hundred hits and just sit there. Is either result better? Well, if we want success and profit, then obviously the first one.

But what if the measure of our success was not profit? Or fame? Or exposure? What if the simple act of creating and then setting the creation free was our most desired reward??

It’s hard to live in the real world and not expect, yea, even demand, recompense for our efforts. We gotta eat, right?? But the need to make money off of our art can often lead us down avenues of focus that aren’t even true to who we are or what we want to really do.

And then there’s the nasty side-effects: disappointment, or worse, depression, if our efforts don’t launch us into financial stratospheres like we hoped.

I went to an Art Fair this past weekend. There were, as usual, all kinds of art products. Some made me think, “What a cool idea!”. Others made me think, “That’s just… kinda dumb”.

One of my friends was there selling some of her art products for only the second time. She was lucky, in that she cleared her expenditures. But did she make a lot more than that? Not really.

So she should give up, right?? Stick to her dependable day job, slink down into the coach of consistency and turn the tube on after another inane work day ’til bedtime. Yes??

Forgive me if I say, “Not unless you absolutely HAVE to!” I’ve certainly worked my share of jobs that weren’t what I was really skilled at. Still do occasionally. But I’ve never given up the dream of making my TOTAL living off of what I’m really good at. For me, that happens to be songwriting and producing in the studio.

How about you? What’s your dream? What are you really good at? What “fills your tank”??

I once heard a great bit of advice. It goes like this: “Where your joy & passion meets the world’s need, THAT is where you should be spending your time.”

Sounds like what I would call real success.

Here’s hoping you soon find the prosperous road to the top of your passion’s ladder, whatever it may be!

What Are All These Tools??!

These days, it’s not all about the music anymore. Unless you have a major record contract, where everything is provided and done for you except the music, you must be working at other things if you want your songs to fly into people’s hearts, where they belong.

Software programs, hardware options, social media platforms, merch manufacturer decisions, agents and managers research, website integration – these are all things that matter now almost as much as the melodies that pour out of your instrument of choice.

The new normal is that more and more of most of those proliferate every day, making our ability to hone things done to the essentials more elusive than ever. Just yesterday I discovered yet ANOTHER digital music marketing website, guaranteeing (don’t they all) that theirs is the site you should be on, if you want artist success and recognition.

It’s clear that if we want to keep apace in today’s music market, we must apply our nose to the social media grindstone right up there with our recording and live concert equipment. These are the new weapons of advancement, and we must keep them sharp and wield them diligently if we’re to make a lasting impact.

The good news is… they’re FUN! Since starting up this website I’ve applied myself to Twitter, Instagram, GooglePlus, Pinterest, Facebook, and I’ve gotta say… they’re quite enjoyable. I make it a point not to spend to long on each one, lest my day suddenly be over before I’ve even written anything! But if you’re careful, social media can be as creative as music, just in different ways.

The same can be said for all the new music production tools we have today, both in hardware and software. Yes, there’s always a learning curve; some are worse than others. But if you approach it as an entertaining, empowering experience, that will leave you stronger and more skillful than ever in your music, then you can fly through those 3x-transliterated User Manuals in no time. Heck, ya might even learn a little Japanese. So keep at it!

And now… a Piece in 7/4!

In my 20s, I read a book full of wisdom that has stayed with me and still inspires me to this day. It’s called “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, by author Stephen Covey.

This read had an immediate impact on me; I instantly began to look at my daily routines through a lens of focused relevance, something I had not been very deliberate about before.

Its principles have proven to have a life-long effect my decision-making. It’s now years later, but I still make decisions about just about everything with the seven principles in mind. Covey’s insights and suggestions have consistently helped align my internal compass with, what I believe, is what matters most, and how we should truly define success.

In fact, I can easily say this: of all the life-counsel books I’ve ever read, I would place this one in the number two slot, right behind the Bible. So much of the time, other self-help books just sound like they’re trying to be Covey, but not quite making it.

If you haven’t read Stephen’s excellent resource, I highly suggest you PICK IT UP HERE and apply the principles to your own passions and life path. You’ll soon find your inner man or woman flourishing and thriving… becoming truly profitable, in all the most important ways.

Why You’ll Win the War

I can think of no better way to end today’s post than to quote one of my life’s heroes, Winston Churchill, from one of the greatest speeches he ever gave, right in the middle of World War II, to his Alma Mater Harrow School. For anyone wondering if continuing to work for music and success in this field is worth it, let his words speak to you how they will:

“Never give in – never, never, never, never… in nothing, great or small, large or petty; never give in, except to convictions of honor, and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Never give in.

Whatever “enemy” might be trying to derail your success train in music, let Winson’s words be a wind in your sail today, blowing you to pleasant harbors where the winds whisper… “Winning!”

I’ll be watching for your success.

Now, go… make… sounds!!



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