Well, here we go. Another blog entry… this one will be kind of stream of consciousness, so I hope you don’t mind!
Where do I start? Well, as some of you already know, I am in the midst of moving to Nashville. Yes, this is exciting! Yes, I am not finished moving out of my Old Louisville apartment (still a few boxes full of random items and food that I may or may not keep…anyone want a decent-sized TV? A decorative tree? A nifty lamp?). Yes, my financial assets are…limited (that’s putting it lightly). But I am doing it, I am taking the step, and you know what, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little scared…but courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway!
As I take a brief repose from the mind-scrambling chaos of moving, I thought I would take a moment to reflect, in a public blog, my thoughts on a few topics having to do with Music and Life In General, given recent events of my career and the direction I see the music industry going. I am, as are all my fellow indie musician friends, an entrepreneur. Being an entrepreneur means so many things in today’s…market, industry, whatever you choose to call it. It’s a rush. I mean, a real trip. The ultimate freakout. An amazing miracle, but also a hair-tearing plague of blogs, vlogs, tweets, feeds, syncs, apps, and iEverything.
What exactly am I talking about here? Well, if you are reading this, you already have the first part of the answer. This blog is itself part of My Musical Image. And, by God, we all have an Image to uphold! Not just musicians. Butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers. We’re all part of the same playing field now…it’s called the Internet. Forget about playing for a crowd of living, breathing people who could, through a thing called word of mouth, spread word of your name to other living, breathing people . Those things are so forty years ago. Now everyone’s measured by the same criteria: how well can you manage your online profile? How often do you update that blog? How many videos you got on your YouTube channel? What’s your Facebook? What’s your Twitter? Are you LinkedIn? Google+? Tumblr? Oh, don’t worry, they have an app for all those that you can download on your iPhone (OK, OK, some people still use Droids…). And yes, you need to be updating all those CONSTANTLY. That’s called an INTERNET PRESENCE. If you don’t have it, you ain’t doin’ nothin’.
Am I ranting? Perhaps. Nonetheless, this has been on my mind. There’s no denying that the music business has mutated so insanely that if anything in the biological world were to resemble it, it would be some sort of life form that would suck all other life forms into its ever-expanding…too weird? Yeah, I’ll leave that one alone.
The bottom line is that if you are one of those courageous, insane souls who want to support themselves with an independent, autonomous business, one that you create yourself, if you are of the league of superhumans called Entrepreneurs, well, you are not a normal person. You have chosen a path of infinite discipline, samurai-like dedication, and newsfeed updating. And, ON TOP OF THAT, you must be creative.
Now, if you’re still reading–which I doubt, and if you gave up at the second paragraph I don’t blame you–if you’ve made it this far, please allow me to beseech you to hear me out and not dismiss this entry as overly cynical or negative! I’m sure I’m echoing the frustrations of countless other young, ambitious entrepreneurs who are indignantly sitting on their blogs and social networks, wondering what their next move should be, their next clever Facebook quip or funny Tweet, their next career-launching blog or vlog post. And I’m here to tell them, if God willing you should be one of them, I’M ONE OF YOU! I too am frustrated, I too am stressed, I too am wondering what the hell will become of me and my art, which I don’t even understand anymore. BUT, lest that last bit carried an undercurrent of hopelessness, I am NOT GIVING UP! Which brings me to the topic of Transparency.
Everything I have just issued forth onto this public display is my honest thoughts and feelings on a matter I consider to be very important in this day and age. True, there are streaks of frustration and cynicism, but that is because, truthfully, I am a little frustrated and cynical! I’m not going to pretend that I like everything about what the music business demands today from us “indie artists.” Truthfully, I think it’s obnoxious–to be on a constant Internet vigil when our first concern should be making the best music we can. HOWEVER, I also recognize the necessity of this change. The music industry is “not what it used to be” because, well, “things ain’t what they used to be.” But I’m allowed to complain about it, aren’t I? And let’s face it: I’m complaining about it because I’m not very good at it!
This is what I’m talking about with Transparency…the idea that you can tell the world (and when you post something online you effectively are telling the world), that you suck at something…and have that be OK. And the more research I do into this whole entrepreneurship thing, the more I realize that part of it is being transparent, being honest and forthright about your strengths and weaknesses.
As you call can see from the previous blog entry, I recently launched a Kickstarter to raise money for my debut album. You can check it out here: I did it with the attitude of, “OK, let’s see what happens.” I did all the necessary arrangements: made a video, wrote up a Story, prepared awards according to the various pledge amounts, and posted some YouTube videos encouraging people to check out the Campaign. I even spent a whole day learning how to organize a “Facebook Contest” in order to spread the word. Things were off to a good start, I got some generous donations from the get-go…but then I got busy with other things, I went up to Hershey Pennsylvania the second week of April for an APCA conference, and, well, I kind of got lazy. The YouTube videos started to get fewer and further between. My blog started to collect dust. I stopped sending out mass emails to the Mailing List I had spent hours putting together. And, of course, my project was not funded.
Lots of factors could have gone into the Campaign falling short of its goal: asking for a bit too much money given my current fan base, not consistent enough reminders through social networks, blogs, and YouTube, and a general lack of communication on my part. I can even recall some specific examples where some folks had intended to donate money, but did not do so immediately and when they checked back the Campaign was already over (I only gave 30 days for the Campaign). Another thing was that I probably did not put forth sufficient effort in the month leading up to the Kickstarter launch…the preparation was most likely not thorough, and I had even read that it’s the most important part of the entire process.
I recognize all these things, but I think the MAIN ISSUE (I don’t like that word, but whatever) was simply that I SUCK AT SOCIAL MEDIA. I really am not very good at these things, and I believe that is because I don’t really like them all that much. Or at least, didn’t. I felt myself growing frustrated, even dreading putting up another video, writing another blog, sending another email, always reminding, reminding, reminding. I lost the WILLINGNESS because of the way I felt about the whole concept.
Looking back, I know that I was really shying away from my responsibilities, and I hope that anybody reading this who has a similar dream (other frustrated entrepreneurs) can learn from my mistakes. As a solo artist in today’s “dog-eat-dog” music world, you HAVE to follow through with your intentions with the utmost…well, intent. Whether we like it or not, we have an image to uphold. We have a pic to upload (and it had better be high-definition, formatted correctly for whatever uploader the site provides…most vectorized images can be resized with no decrease in image quality). We have blogs to write, videos to make, and Tweets to Tweet. Like it or not, this is what is going on–this is what the business has become. And so now, more than ever, we are mercilessly scrutinized for our accountability, our consistency, and our transparency…because such things are a mere click away!
What is happening here is actually quite a bit more than updating some cyber space. Because of all we entrepreneurs are expected to do, we are actually forced to redesign our lives: to learn time management, how to manage our personal and business finances, how to be somebody that people like (sorry, but in the words of my good friend and fellow musician Zach Longoria, “half of this business is getting people to like you”), how to create our very own brand, and how to organize a devoted team of people who believe in you enough to gather the resources to make your inconvenient dream happen. So, we literally have to change the way we live our lives. We can’t just sit around and write music and hope that some major record label discovers us anymore. We are the label. And so along with the music business, we are evolving. What is happening here is evolution in action. As we develop the new skills and habits needed to navigate this ever-changing industry and so survive, our neural pathways in our brains are forming new connections and yeah, all that stuff you read about in the Talent Code. Which, to me, is no less than evolution. We as human beings have the unique ability to consciously evolve simply by making decisions in our lives. The more decisions we make, the more failures and successes (mostly failures), the more we change as people, the more we evolve.
So that’s why I think this whole big ridiculous thing that’s happening right now is just part of a massive shift in consciousness. Because in order to survive as artists (which is what we all essentially are if we want to live our own lives), we simply MUST evolve. And we must do it together. That’s called Interdependence. And I’m sure I’ll talk about that in the next installment, along with elaborations on the above ideas. This is after all, a pretty big…something.
Whew! That was long. That’s all for now. Happy Evolving!