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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Music Success in Nine Weeks - Week Three

This week's challenge is about optimizing your website, which is something I did when I was working with Ariel before.  Not a lot of changes I need to make to the existing status quo from the last time I worked this chapter, but I may change my pitch and add it to the My Space, Twitter, and Facebook pages.

My biggest problem?  Lack of consistent follow-through.  I have great ideas but don't execute.  I write great songs but don't record them or finish them.  I get email addresses at my gigs but don't add them to the list until 4 months later and/or never send a newsletter.

I signed up for this blog contest to hopefully stimulate some more consistency from myself.  Because I feel like the consistency will pay off.  

It's not like I just sit on my duff, though.  I am still recovering from a pulmonary embolism and blood clots in my leg from March.  I have an almost 5 year old who I am the primary caregiver for 4 days a week (wife works those days).   I played 9 gigs a week all summer long.  So I am still catching up, but I am hoping this contest stimulates my "follow-through" muscle.

For example, I look at all the awesome-looking websites that the other participants have and see how I have not updated mine in eons.  I even got Dreamweaver as a Christmas present last year, but here it is Christmas again and I still have just cracked the first page of the manual.   Can't afford to hire a web designer.

One tool that Ariel provides which really helps to list FIVE SUCCESSES every day.  Because otherwise So I am going to start with that (making 2 of them music related):

1)  Had 2 musically successful gigs the last two days - played some originals at both of them (mostly I play covers).

2)  Sold 10 CDs Friday night, Sold 7 CDs last night.  Average price paid - $6.   The CDs are original music.

3)  Writing this blog is a big step toward consistent action!

4)  Took my daughter trick-or-treating.  We went to just enough houses and had a really great time.  She gives up most of her candy so the "Halloween Fairy" can give her a present.

5)  Got home from the gig last night at 4 AM (it's 2 hrs away).  Got to bed at 6 and slept a full 8 hours until 2 without waking up.  With all my sleep issues of the last couple of years, this is a major thing!  

6)  Did not get angry at the little things today.  Contained the impulse to lash out.  :-)

Anyways...on to week 4.  I may re-examine this chapter to make sure I've really worked it to my satisfaction, but my time is short and I am volunteering to make phone calls for my congressman tomorrow to get out the vote.   Vote Patrick Murphy for Pennsylvania's 8th District!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Music Success in Nine Weeks - Week Two Part 2

"The Pete Seeger of goth-reggae"  or "The Woody Guthrie of goth-reggae"

"Sings like Steve Winwood, writes lyrics like Beck, plays guitar like Jerry Garcia, and dances like Anthony Michael Hall in Sixteen Candles."

I honestly can't decide.

I'm going to post some thoughts in the Mastermind forum and see what people say.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Music Success in Nine Weeks - End of Week One/Week Two

Ok, I set my goals!   I am also working with this coach named Gary Ryan Blair and his "100 Day Challenge" which has you set intense goals from the very beginning.  I wrote all the goals out and am printing them out to post on the wall of my studio.  Some highlights:

- enhancing my YouTube presence by recording a series of video and videosongs
- finishing my next Chris Huff record
- finishing my long-stalled children's record
- relaunching my online guitar lessons website
- creating a soundtrack reel for TV/film backgrounds work
- making more money :-D

Now on to Week #2, which in the book involved creating your perfect pitch.  The pitch I came up with last time through the book was:

Sounds like Bob Dylan and David Bowie jamming in Jamaica

which worked for me, for awhile.  Ariel liked it.  Carla Lynne Hall liked it a lot.  I remember using it at CMJ and this guy from a radio station in Seattle said, "Who are Bob Dylan and David Bowie?"  Most people raised their eyebrows and said, "Hmm, interesting."  But it didn't knock them out.

I want to knock them out!   Need a better pitch and something that is a little more generalized - when you list specific artists, you run the chance of them not knowing

So, following the exercise in the book, here are my lists:

1)  Genres of music played:  Rock, roots rock, reggae, folk, folk rock, country, alt-country, punk, jazz, funk, soul, R&B, classic rock, British Invasion, psychedelic rock, 80s rock, jam band.

2)  Artists people say you sound like:  John Mayer, Dave Matthews, David Bowie, James Taylor, Steve Winwood, Jerry Garcia/Grateful Dead, The Beatles, Sting, U2, Tom Petty

3)  Artists and things that have influenced you:  Bob Dylan, Robyn Hitchcock, Lou Reed, abstract art, surrealism, Beatles, Stones, Who, Bob Marley, Bruce Springsteen, film noir, Morrissey, Robert Smith, and the list is really too long to finish...

4)  Write down all of the feelings and vibes that you want to create or convey with your music.    I want people to experience what I experience when I hear great singers or players:  some sort of transcendent, almost out-of-body experience.  I want people to relax and have a good time, I like a mellow psychedelic (but not out of control) vibe.  The way you feel after meditation or a great yoga class.  Or a couple of drinks sitting in the sun.   And with all that, some cerebral stimulation in a thought-provoking lyric.  Funny, sometimes heavy, sometimes confusing, sometimes strange, sometimes political.   I want to shake people's minds, bodies, and spirits.   Booty-shakin symbolist surrealist spiritual poetry.

Not so sure about the booty-shakin' part lol it's funny, but my new music won't really be like that...

Now I am supposed come up with words and sentences from the 4 above notes that sum me up.   Here's a few I can think of:

I don't like mellow.  My music isn't mellow.  Tuneful and seasoned are 2 synonyms.   People have called me like John Mayer but more soulful.

One thought:  "Like John Mayer if his mom was Grace Slick and he grew up in Andy Warhol's Factory raised by Bowie who forcefed him Dylan records."

It's 2 AM, so I have to continue this later...but I'm going to post this one on the Facebook page and see what happens.  Tschuss!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Music Success In Nine Weeks - Week One

So I am going to take the challenge from the Music Success In Nine Weeks crew, and start blogging my way through the new revised version of the book.   The prizes are sweet and I could use the focus, even though I feel like "I don't have time" for it.  I love Ariel's ideas and there are very few people/websites/organizations providing structure in this unstructured time in the music business.  I believe right now ANY structure is good.

I worked with Ariel Publicity from Oct 2008 to Jan 2010 promoting my Death and Texas LP last year.  While I have to say that I was quite happy with the results (it did broaden my fan base considerably) and I heartily agree with their methods, I was very disappointed in their customer service.  For example, I was told that I received 10 gig promotions with my package and while the 1st promotion did get me an article in the local paper, the 2nd gig promotion didn't happen.  When questioned, the answer I got is "oh we forgot, sorry".  Then when I was discussing with an employee about doing further gig promotions, they basically said, "well it's really hard to get anyone to write something so we don't really try that hard."  Nice.  I did believe her that it is very hard to get a print publication to write about them, but after $2500 and numerous extensions at $250 a month, that was a pretty lame response.  I felt like the woman handling my account could have given a crap;  often it took days to get responses to emails.   I asked a couple of times to receive direct responses from Ariel via email and/or phone (there was one problem with my promo photo at the beginning that was totally on their end and it was excruciating dealing with my account rep who was rude and uncaring).   Ariel never responded, so just to let you know - you'll never hear from her if you ask to speak with her.  You'll maybe get a tweet about something random in the middle of the night, but it also took her 2 months for her to add me to her Twitter page.   Kinda shabby for $2500 + $250 a month for 9 more months.  Also, some months they'd have you mail out 3 packages and then some months you'd have to send like 20 in one week.  Hard to plan for.  That might be standard, but I didn't and don't have a lot of confidence in their "go-getter"ness - I felt like more could have been done in the off months.

So if I didn't like them, why am I back, you might say?  lol  Why trash them in the first paragraph and blow my chances of actually winning the contest?  LOL

Well, the publicity campaign worked.  I made several contacts in the blog/podcast/internet radio area, and in fact got about 50-100 new fans who I still keep in touch with from one internet radio station alone.  I got a whole bunch of reviews of my disc, some of which were great.  Any publicity is good publicity, they say.  Above all, it's the fan relationships I made with people around the world that bode well for the future.   I started moving in the direction of "1000 true fans" (I'd say I probably have about 200).

And honestly, there's no other game in town for what they are doing.  Should I win the package, at least this time going into it I will have my eyes open and know what to expect.   I'm also hoping that my venting gets noticed and maybe their customer service will improve!  

AND....(here's the crux of the matter)...I think like many musicians I have been sitting at the counter of Schwab's Pharmacy all my life waiting to be discovered, "ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille".  For those who don't know, this was a famous drugstore in Hollywood where actors and actresses would go to be "noticed" by producers and directors.   It was rumored that Lana Turner was discovered there, but that is actually false.  To anyone's knowledge, nobody was discovered there.

But I have been waiting most of my life for someone else to come along and do the heavy lifting.  Be discovered by a producer, be discovered by a label, for someone to say "hey, he's really talented.  I'm going to give him a million dollars and put him on TV/Radio/Movies".  Colonel Parkers don't exist anymore, and even if they did, look what he did to Elvis.  

I admit that I gave up at the end of my publicity campaign because I thought "well, I don't have any more sales, I can't support myself on my record sales so I am a failure".   My expectations were unrealistic.

I am willing to start again, to learn anew, to correct my mistakes, and above all TRY not to be so damn SELF-CRITICAL.  I am my own worst enemy.   But I am also my own best friend.  The tools in this book really helped before and I think I can use them to launch myself a little further down the path because now I have an idea of what is reasonable to expect.  

And, like Derek Sivers says, nobody is coming.  Nobody.   That thought comforts him and terrifies me.  But I know I can do it.  I have watched so many of my friends become successful in music and other businesses and I am sick and tired of standing on the sidelines.  I am going to try to discover myself and try to present that to the world in a fashion I can be proud of.   I have a lot of exciting strategies and I am eager to try them out.

So while I think I have "no time" to blog and go through this book, I think I need to give up some TV shows and stop mindlessly surfing the web to commit to some forward progress.  Because I'm worth it LOL.  Cheesiest blog ending line ever!   See, there's the critic.  Work in progress over here.  Time for some goal-setting!