3 (Suggested) Ways To Break Into A Scene Without Having The Scene Break You

East Nashville Performing Artists Co-Op, a.k.a. “The Purple Theatre”

There’s a lot going on in East Nashville, my neck of the woods. Entrepreneurs, musicians, and artists run amok. Hipsters, too. Lots of voices to be heard, events to be experienced, and venues to support.

Amid the hustle and bustle of the bumping East Nashville scene, a newcomer may just feel a tad – overwhelmed. On Monday nights in Five Points for example, she can check out David Oakleaf’s and Anthony Billups’The Building,” an up-and-coming hotspot for new music and visual art, stroll down to the Purple Theatre, a.k.a. the Performing Artists Co-Op to hear spoken word poetry or prose by beatnik locals, and/or shimmy over to the Five Spot, home of the relentless “Motown Mondays,” where unstoppable R&B music is danced to by young, sexy Nashvillians in cool outfits. Enough to make one’s head spin.

If this imaginary newcomer to East Nashville were, or intended to be, an entrepreneur, she would also have to deal with HOW she would like to spend her energy on Monday nights. Perhaps she’s a musician, and she’d like to showcase her talent at the Building, hoping to carve out a niche in the East Nashville New Music Scene. Or maybe she’s a poet, and she’d like to rap with the silver-tongued wordsmiths of the Co-Op. Could be she’s both of these things, but she also likes a social life where she can just let her hair down and get down to some Earth, Wind, and Fire. Finally, she may simply wish to stay home and work on her business, her art, or herself.

This is one of the benefits, and dangers, of living in such a vibrant community. So much to do, to explore, and to be a part of; yet only so much one human being can do, explore, and be a part of. For us artists, we want to support the scene as much as we want the scene to support us, but how to do that so we don’t feel the need to throw ourselves off a bridge?

Here are some ideas from your local budding musician-entrepreneur:

1) PICK and choose where to spend your energy. This can be the hardest thing to do, especially when it could all serve you. But it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Going out is important, so find a venue or event you really connect with, and frequent that event with semi-regularity to give the impression that you are serious about being a part of it.

2) Alternate between venues or events. For me, showing up at the Building one Monday, then the Co-Op the following Monday, and the Building the Monday after that, and so on, has allowed me to be active at both venues.

3) Trust the process. Breaking into a new scene is never an overnight affair, as I can certainly attest. For an entrepreneur who is using a scene to fuel his or her business, baby steps are in order.

That’s just my two cents – take it with a grain of salt. Chances are, if you’re reading this post, then you, like me, are just starting out. A place like East Nashville has a lot to offer – but trying to dive into all of it can be detrimental to your health! That being said, enjoy whatever scene you find yourself in, and take as much of it in as possible.

A Day In The Life Of A “Budding Musician-Entrepreneur”: A Rant

You’re tired. You’re hungry. You’re not in the mood to do anything except eat and sleep. You just got home from a long day at work. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you’re a musician. You haven’t had a chance to practice yet because you’ve been catching up on unpaid bills and other loose ends. There’s an event you need to attend tonight because of the indispensable networking opportunities and the chance to showcase your hard work. And you… still need to write a blog post?

Michael Hyatt, author of Platform: Get Noticed In A Noisy World, writes that three to four blog posts a week is ideal for a functioning platform. Let me repeat that: three to four blog posts a week. He says frequency is the key to traffic. For those of us with full time jobs, projects of our own, families, and the need to keep our sanity, this may sound a tad demanding. And you know what? It is.

I’m not just talking about blog posts. I’m talking about the whole litany of tasks we are expected to complete as creative entrepreneurs, most of which are to be done online. Yes, folks, it’s not enough anymore that we be creative, brilliant, vulnerable. Now we have to publicize everything on that wonderful, vast expanse of cyberspace: the Internet.

It’s not enough that we put our hearts and souls on the line by composing soul-wrenching music or tantalizingly transparent poetry. Now, we have to upload everything we create. And after doing that, we have to tweet, post, blog, tag, and respond, in a constant fashion, everything we think, do, and say.

And the whole time, have a smile on our face, go about our day, and be creative – and, in the case of musicians, practice, transcribe, write, and repeat.

Since I’m a musician, let’s break down a typical day in the life of a budding musician-entrepreneur with a typical full-time job.

7:00 – 9:00 am Roll lethargically out of bed, clawing at your smart phone which is also your alarm. Drag your still half-asleep ass to the shower, then try your best to make a breakfast that doesn’t contain high-fructose corn syrup.

8:00 – 9:00 am Force yourself to practice. Try not to drink too much coffee.

9:00 – 9:30 am If it’s blog day, finish proofreading and editing your newest blog post. Expound on the thoughts you should have begun the night before. If it’s not blog day, congratulations! You get to practice for an extra half hour.

9:30 – 10:00 am If you live in a city like Nashville, you have to hop on 5 different interstates before you get to where you’re going, unless you’re lucky and you only have to travel through a suburban maze, in which case you just might have enough time to pack lunch. Arrive at work.

10:00 am – 6:00 pm Work.

6:15 pm – 6:45 pm Go to the gym. That’s right, you heard me. How can you afford a gym membership? How should I know?!

7:00 pm – some time between 10:30 pm and 12:30 am Network, play gigs, OR stay in and write and figure out how home recording works. If it’s a writing night, and you absolutely cannot come up with anything worth a damn, sit at the frigging piano, or with the guitar, for an hour.

If it’s a networking or a gigging night, you may very well be out until, like, 2:00 in the morning. Wherever you go, make sure you have your laptop or a notebook handy so you can jot down creative ideas that come to you from the omnipresent Wellspring of Creativity. Tweet about some of these ideas.

(12:30 – 1:00 On a networking/gigging night, haul ass back home. Hopefully you didn’t have more than a couple of beers. If you haven’t eaten yet, your blood sugar is probably raging. Don’t worry, you have kale and spinach waiting for you from the Farmer’s Market that you get to cook yourself. Make sure not to eat fast food or put anything in the microwave, because you’ll get cancer.)

11:00 pm – 12:40 am If you were lucky enough to be home by 11:00, get started on your next blog post. If it’s not a blog night, move schedule ahead 40 minutes.

12:40 – 1:00 Try to read something. Anything, as long as it’s a book. Readers are leaders.

1:00 to 1:15 am – Night ritual. This should involve looking at yourself in the mirror and telling yourself how awesome you are. Also, brushing your teeth. Occasionally flossing. Taking any evening supplements or medication that you might be on for any reason, self-prescribed or otherwise.

1:15 am – 7:00 am Five and a half hours of sleep, here you come! (If you’re lucky.) Well, your Pinterest account might be lacking, but I suppose you earned it.

Sound familiar? If you’re not a “budding musician-entrepreneur,” this may sound a bit off-the-wall. Although I can’t say I myself adhere to this schedule strictly in any way shape or form, I include it here to make a point: to juggle all of these balls, one might just have to be superhuman.

If you pick up any amount of cynicism from this post, it’s probably because some days I indeed feel kind of cynical. I believe that the Internet, though amazing for what it is and what it makes possible, is every bit as bad. Or at least, dangerous. It’s forcing us to compartmentalize our time in a way which would seem to any previous generation no less than insane. Hard as I try, I can’t imagine Beethoven tweeting, Facebooking, or Instagramming between writing movements of any of his symphonies. He had bigger fish to fry.

Have you ever been frustrated by the detraction from substance that inevitably occurs through the obligatory requirements of modern day social media? For the budding entrepreneurs like myself: whats are some ways you balance mandatory self-promotion with creative time?

Why My Kickstarter Failed: Thoughts on Transparency, D.I.Y., and Evolution, pt. 1 [subtext: You Don’t Have To Read All This Nonsense, But You Totally Should :)]

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!

 

-Piers