Branding – Step One – Being REALLY REALLY picky

You hear the word branding a lot these days, why? Well, that’s because every time you hear that word a douchey marketing major gets his wings. If you’re completely clueless. Branding is defined by Business dictionary as

Meet Brad, he’s just about to get his marketing wings.

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The process involved in creating a unique name and image for a product in the consumers’ mind, mainly through advertising campaigns with a consistent theme. Branding aims to establish a significant and differentiated presence in the market that attracts and retains loyal customers.

Read more: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/branding.html

I​ like that, it’s easy to follow. In Crazy Legs’ terms, It should be everything you want everyone to see and hear about your band. That sounds easy to manage, and honestly, it is. But there are a few mistakes that every budding band/artist makes. Let’s list a few things that we can do to get our brand up and running like a well-oiled machine, and maybe give a few frat boys their wings in the process. 

I​ recently went to a Nashville songwriters convention and the first thing that really stood out to me was the Brand Bible. 

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O​ur topic today is on our first step with branding.

Create a brand bible – I want you to be incredibly meticulous with your bible. You are Moses stepping off Mt. Sinai. Do you understand? This is Leviticus it’s thick and boring as hell. It has everything little rule for your brand. Can you get your ass out of the mire on a Tuesday? I don’t know, refer to your brand bible. What fashion style should you be wearing when seen in public? What is your color scheme? You don’t have to look like the white stripes… but you should decide a few colors that you want your logo/posters/shirts/band to be seen in. Let me give an example with a photo, it doesn’t have to be anything complicated.

In this photo we have orange as the color, it comes in a few different shades. You wouldn’t have to put orange in every single photo/shirt/whatever the hell you’re making. But you should start thinking about something around that style. You shouldn’t push this then have a pastel pink logo. It wouldn’t make any sense, it’s confusing. Most people get that, I just to make sure we’re all on the same page.

L​et’s move to the shirt. This is a statement, maybe not a bold one. But it is a statement. It automatically puts a type of person in my head, more importantly, it puts a sound in my mind. I can hear it without this guy playing a single note for me. If he started playing bluegrass wearing that shirt, it wouldn’t be a bad thing, but it would be unexpected. What I’m trying to get at is… what you wear matters. I know this is obvious… but I have made this mistake more than a few times and I want to touch on a particular example I see A LOT – Freaking bands taking pictures in formal wear. 

If you are not going to wear formal wear almost every show you play. I would highly recommend NOT taking a band/artist photo in formal wear. I’m sure you look sharp – don’t post that photo though. Keep the old photos, frame them, put them on the mantle, do not put it online. It’s confusing! Not just to fans. It confuses venues, blogs, playlists, new listeners. If you’re wearing formal wear, you should be making a statement with that formal wear. Take yourself out of the equation and think about it, if you saw a photo of a band, and they’re all dressed in suits or a dress, what would you think that they play? – I’m not saying be someone else. Be true to you, trailblaze. But I have met only a handful of musicians that I would say fit the formal wear scheme, and they either lightly strum an acoustic guitar, or they play jazz. Clothes make the band. 

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You should be using the same font on posters. Every. Single. Time. Don’t stray from your look! Everything needs to look recognizable to your fanbase. The rule of advertising is that a customer has to see something seven times for it to stick. If you change it up… well it just seems kind of stupid, doesn’t it?

Y​our band logo should reflect the group, this is obvious. You should also have ONE logo. Don’t mix it up and have four different things that represent you. Obviously, with the time you’ll come out with more art and that’s okay. But you shouldn’t be introducing new logos often. 

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I​ like the idea of giving yourself a phrase to help keep you on the right path with all things “you” – An easy example is Rustic Chic. When I say that, suspenders and sundresses and twain should pop into your mind. I’m not saying follow your phrase religiously, or even that you should tell any of your fans this phrase. I’m just saying give yourself a heading and something to refer to when you make decisions. If the phrase is “Sentimental/Comeback Blues” Then try to picture what you think that looks like, and cultivate that band closet to fit that. Don’t wear pink up on stage. Get the drummer on the same page, he probably shouldn’t be wearing shorts if that’s the look you’re going for. You don’t have to all wear the same thing, or color (yuck, I’ve always hated that terrible idea) just make sure you have the same style. 

Elenora is just about to drop her new clothing line – Chick Chic

I​ like the idea of giving yourself a phrase to help keep you on the right path with all things “you” – An easy example is Rustic Chic. When I say that, suspenders and sundresses and twain should pop into your mind. I’m not saying follow your phrase religiously, or even that you should tell any of your fans this phrase. I’m just saying give yourself a heading and something to refer to when you make decisions. If the phrase is “Sentimental/Comeback Blues” Then try to picture what you think that looks like, and cultivate that band closet to fit that. Don’t wear pink up on stage. Get the drummer on the same page, he probably shouldn’t be wearing shorts if that’s the look you’re going for. You don’t have to all wear the same thing, or color (yuck, I’ve always hated that terrible idea) just make sure you have the same style. 

That being said, don’t paint yourself into a corner or feel like you have to fit into a stereotype. Think about how you want to be perceived, then make sure you’re perceived that way by sticking to what you’ve set. – If you’re going for that chic rustic look. Every time you perform, make a video, take a photo, You should be seen wearing a something rustic chic. Don’t wear white jean shorts with Michael Kors glasses… I’ve made my point. I’ll move on. 

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You can sell odd things that fit your style. If you’re a blues band, maybe think about putting your logo on a flask, or a guitar pick. Find something unique that someone in the group can make. I know it sounds crazy, but I one in a band where someone made duct tape wallets… AND THEY SOLD! Who knew? Not me at the time. It was a refreshing learning experience though! 

Where you play is a big deal. At first, it’s a good idea to take what you can get, but after a while, it’s a good idea to be a little more selective with where you play. I have played a few country bars in my day. Let me tell you… I bombed, hard. If you’re a blues rock band, it’s kind of weird if you have a lot of children’s festivals. Once again, I don’t want to play into stereotypes. But you’ve only got a finite amount of energy, don’t spend it on things you don’t need. 

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Now, you might think… “Legs’, this is a little overboard.” Well to that I say

Screw you! You are WRONG! 

I’ve had a few different people from Nashville tell me just how important this is. Labels pay attention to that stuff, your fans pay attention to that stuff. Do you know how David Bowie in his personal life… I don’t either, that’s because he carefully cultivated his persona. I’m sure he was a strange man, but I will never know. And sure, at the grass-root level, it’s essential to connect with fans, they need to meet you and see who you are. I’m not saying “Be fake, pretend.” I’m saying put your best foot forward like you would on a first date. Don’t send a ton of mixed signals. If your thing isn’t jumping around on stage, then don’t. It’s okay! if your good people will like you for anything short of killing a puppy up on stage (why would you even think of that? You’re sick.)

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When should you start branding yourself/your group? You should start now. Make your group/yourself a bible to follow. Write down the rules of how your group is perceived. Then cling to those rules as if they would get you into heaven. Use the old Pinterest board and create a collage to help get the idea across. It doesn’t have to have any people in the photos, you and your team are the only ones who will see this board. It’s just to liven the old brand bible up.

You can rebrand yourself, it is tough though! Have you ever been part of a band – made a social media profile – then had to switch names? I have multiple times, and I lost all of my fans multiple times. You may think “Oh, they’ll know to switch over.” But I promise you they won’t. They are not invested like you are invested. Sure, a few super fans will move over, but the rest will lose the association with you and your music. 

I will end by saying – Be YOU! Just be sure to decide who you are. Does that make sense?

On Mental Health and Music – The Clock Stops Now.

Being able to write music has been one of the most cathartic things in my life. It has also driven me to the point of madness. I want to take a quick minute from your day and talk about something that I feel a lot of artists need to hear. 

You still have time. 

You’re not too old, you haven’t spent your final chance. 

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I​ remember being eighteen and feeling that if I didn’t break through then, I never would. I remember being twenty-six and in Europe and thinking that if I blew it I would never get another chance. But the truth is that you will always have another opportunity to roll the dice. It is normal to feel like what you’re doing right now is the only thing that matters. That right here and right now, this is your one and only shot. It’s natural to feel like you’re running out of time. We need to acknowledge that we feel that way – and then let go. 

T​hat’s easy to say and hard to do. It is essential for you to do. 

If you still feel like time has passed you by, here are some artist that broke through after the age of 30.

  • Wayne Coyne – 32
  • Sheryl Crow – 32
  • Bill Withers – 32
  • Debbie Harry – 33
  • Michael Fitzpatrick – 40
  • Leondard Cohen – 50

All of these artists we’re banging their heads against the wall trying to break through before they actually made it. I don’t want you to focus on that level of success though, because anyone who actually makes it is the exception to the rule. Breaking through is not going to make you happy. I have learned first hand that another’s opinion will never make you happy. You could have ten thousand opinions and it will not matter. You will never find peace outside of yourself. You need to turn your focus inward, you need to examine yourself to find the answer. I would argue that most of this stem from the worst word in the English language – anxiety.

Our culture has changed quite a bit since I was young. I remember hearing the word anxiety and picturing the cartoon character with frizzy hair, someone far from me, someone I couldn’t relate to.

Yep, just like that, it was comical. I wasn’t real. Sure I knew people with anxiety. They were crazy, and although I was crazy, it was a different kind of crazy.

All of this is laughable to me now. It wasn’t until I was talking with a friend a few years ago that I learned everyone suffers from anxiety in some form. I think the exact moment I learned this was when I was describing how I felt this overwhelming feeling that hindered everything, and she responded: “Yeah, that’s anxiety.” If you don’t have a friend who can shoot it to you straight, you need to go make that friend right now.

Obviously, I was a little behind the curve. But if we all suffer from this from time to time… then can we learn to use it to our benefit, or at the very least, learn when we’re feeling it and how to work through it?

Where does this anxiety come from? Does this anxious feeling help drive you? Do we need to linger in the darkness to find some sense of creativity? It reminds me of that classic Almost Famous question, “Do you have to be sad to write a sad song?” Well, I have to give you a typical blog answer and say – “It is different for each of us.”

I personally don’t think you have to be sad to write a sad song though. It is true that in the hardest times of our lives we come up with some of the best stuff to write. But I feel that if one does it right, that your art should help you come out of the darkness. Depression is a heavy burden to carry. For some of us, it’ll be one we hold all of our life. But moments of solace come in creating art as a way to communicate that weight we feel. I want you to remember that your material was still crafted by your hand. It wasn’t handed down from Mount Olympus. No my friend, you have done this great thing.

I don’t want anyone to trick themselves into thinking that it is hardship that gives them their material. It is LIFE that gives you content, and although I am in danger of saying something supremely clichè here, if you’re open to life – to the new experiences, to keeping those ears and eyes open – I swear to you that you will always have a well to pull from.

You are not running out of time. You don’t have to stay in a dark place to write. Be kind to yourself, do a little bit every day and when you feel down about the slow progression, take a moment and count the things you’ve already done. 

ONE MORE THING!

I want to take a quick moment here and plug a band that I love! Michael Barrow & the Tourists is one of my favorite groups! Their song “Sweet Honey” dropped recently, I want you to take a minute and listen to this guys! I think you’ll fall in love with them like I have!

The Art Of Making Money -The Merch Table (T-Shirts)

I want to start by defining a term I will be using throughout this column. I call it the “Costco Mindset” – commonly known as a bulk discount – This means when a company lures us into buying two-hundred things at a discounted price. I want to caution you against this! STAND STRONG AND RESIST THE URGE!

At the grassroots level, it’s tough to make any money in streaming music. Really, really hard. From CNBC.COM 

“Here’s the math: Spotify pays about $0.006 to $0.0084 per stream to the holder of music rights. And the “holder” can be split among the record label, producers, artists, and songwriters. In short, streaming is a volume game.”

Okay, so Drake is doing just fine! But I’m barely getting a couple thousand streams over a few songs. I could sell CD’s but let’s be brutely honest here. Very few people still listen to music via CDs. Sure, we have a few hold outs, if you’re having a hard time believing me (I have no idea why you would, this is common knowledge) then ask yourself, “How do I consume music?” If your answer is CD’s… then I want you to keep asking people you know until you get the answer “I stream music.” Then I will feel validated. What I’m trying to say is… I think you’re wasting your money on creating CD’s – and maybe I’m wrong (I would be happy to hear that here)! But if you are thinking about spending money on CD’s to sell. I highly recommend only making a few CDs at a time. Then create more as the need arises.

It’s unlikely you’ll see much (if any) income from streaming right now. So what can you do? This game is expensive!! Recording costs thousands of dollars, marketing costs thousands of dollars. What can you do to start spreading your band brand? 

THE TOPIC OF THE DAY -T-SHIRTS

I want you to invest in making AWESOME (always all-caps) merchandise. I want you to invest in creating some AWESOME designs (trust me, you want you to invest in this). Break out of the creative box you’ve placed yourself in, it doesn’t have to specifically say your name on it. Have you ever seen a really nice shirt on someone and approached them and asked where they bought that shirt? No? Maybe I’m just super extrovert. 

Let me tell you what I usually don’t like… I usually don’t like something that says EXPRESS or CALVIN KLEIN in bold across the front of the shirt. I love the shirts that have a cool logo. I love a shirt that is made with a mindblowing comfortable fabric. I know you’ve seen the Joy Division T-shirt “Unknown Pleasures” Well, If you haven’t been in a hot topic, the shirt is simple, it’s awesome… it’s a great shirt, and many a child has thrown it on without listening to a single note from that awesome band! I’m not an elitist music snob here (which is laughable if you have seen my recently added playlist) it’s okay that people haven’t listened to it. The art surpasses music and has become another form of art to consume. Congratulations, you’re a brand. I will list two rules of thumb when creating your band brand.

1​. Make Something That Is High-Quality – Get the nice fabric, pay someone to design the shirt if you’re not savvy.

2​. Don’t Buy In Bulk – The Costco mindset doesn’t work in the first round. No, the first time I wouldn’t spend more than $250 on a T-Shirt concept. Don’t get tricked into buying fifty shirts for $1,200. You’re not going to move that many shirts right now. In making something “limited edition,” you’ve just given your fan another reason to buy your merch! Remember the rules of supply and demand. If you start to notice that you sell a lot of women’s tank tops in small… then buy more of those as needed. You don’t need fifty shirts. You need twenty. These T-shirt companies will try to trick you into spending more than you need to. Don’t fall for it! 

Sell the T-shirt for $20-$25. Be firm in not giving them away to friends. At the very least don’t give them away until you make back what you’ve spent! Through most T-shirt services, you should sell ten shirts to get your money back. YOU ONLY HAVE TO SELL TEN SHIRTS! Incredible! If you create something people will like to wear, that can be done in a single show, even if you don’t pull a lot of people. 

Take your war to the streets. Become more than just a Singer/Songwriter and become an Artist. If you make a high-quality product, people will invest in you. I guarantee it! 

This Is Why You Haven’t “Made It”

Welcome! Take a seat, I brought you here to talk to you about something important. This kind of stuff is hard to talk about, so I appreciate you being cool about this. So… you suck and I’m not sure you actually deserve to take up the space you’re occupying. Also, your dog is dead. 

Hmm, too harsh? Oh, and completely untrue. 

You are awesome! We call that routine the classic “hook and shag” (never said that before, I’ll never say it again). There are some huge reasons that you are feeling stuck right now. Together we will go over some things we can start enacting so that we can get that big ole ball rolling. 

A Poor Practice Routine – Raise your hand if you don’t have a daily practice routine. Ok, now put your hand down, you’re reading this off your phone, you look crazy. Confession time, I have been guilty of not have a practice routine. Let’s make one thing abundantly clear. If you are not practicing technique almost every day, you will not progress. Do not trick yourself into believing you don’t need to practice (Insert dated Allen Iverson quote reference here). 

Do you sing? Well, then you should be taking lessons, or at the very least have a heavy practice regime in place. YOU HAVE TO DO THIS! No excuses! I know it’s not always fun. It doesn’t have to be 5 hours a day, you need to stay in shape though, respect the craft, take lessons, find a mentor. I have been self-taught most of my life, I am telling you right now, I would have really benefited from taking lessons earlier in life. I’m looking for guitar lessons now! You can always learn more, you can still get better. If you don’t have anything in place, scour YouTube and set yourself a routine today! If you want to break through, find a teacher! 

The People You Surround Yourself With – Let’s blast right through with some more tough love. The bass player you have has only been playing for three months. He’s not planning on getting any better. He doesn’t really care about what the band is doing. It’s time to dump him. Stop picking people that suck all the time! Be nice! Don’t burn bridges! Start investing your time in something really worthwhile. Invest your time in finding a PR person that really cares about what you are doing! Find a bass player that actually knows what they’re doing! Let them contribute to the group. 

Accept that even if someone is very talented, they might not fit in the group, it happens all the time. I believe creative differences can drive a group to do something incredible. I also think that someone consistently pumping the breaks will damn the band into non-existence. I’m sure it is unintentional, but you don’t need that kind of daily stalling! We need momentum! I’m not saying that this isn’t a revolving door business and that you can’t have someone on for a short amount of time, I’m saying be honest with yourself about people. Is this person helping further the goals? No? Then they are just a fan and don’t get them involved in the band decision-making process.

Time Management – You have twenty-four hours in a day, the same as everyone else. Have you ever seen someone else who seems to get four times as much done in as much time as you do? Well, first off that is an illusion. I promise if you got to follow them around for the day you’d see their life is a mess. 

You need to dedicate time to planning out your day/week/month. Give it a couple hours a week. Don’t pretend you don’t have time on a Sunday to make it happen. Plan out when you practice alone and with a band. Plan out when you will write music. Allocate time to promoting your group, and a separate time that is explicitly booking. It doesn’t have to be a full hour for each thing, it doesn’t have to be every day. I guarantee that 30 mins of sheer focus will reap far more rewards than 3 hours of half-assing a project. Lastly, set apart time to do something that doesn’t involve music at all. 

The phrases, “I’ll work on that tonight after I’m done with everything,” is NOT planning. You will be tired tonight, even if you get through whatever you’ve set to work on, you’re not fully invested and therefore, you’re not optimizing your schedule. It is better than nothing, but not by much. Sometimes you will have to “catch up” when you get home, but avoid this by scheduling a proper time to get through the checklist.

Empires have succeeded because of solid planning, and they have failed due to poor planning. You can have poor product work for you with proper planning. It doesn’t have to follow any crazy scheme, you don’t need a Franklin Covey planner. Just plan it out the best you can! Expect it to fall through, so be sure to make backup plans. Respect your time (and others) by planning things out.

You’re Thinking Too small – Every open mic has dozens of people playing guitar/piano and sing. What you’re doing has been done before and that’s okay! It’s our job as creatives to find a way to take something and make it our own. I read columns like this all the time and it drives me nuts when they’re so cryptic; unfortunately, I finally get why. I can’t tell you what to do here. I can’t tell you how to be different, you just have to experiment and find a way to be different, you have to think bigger! 

Are you solely playing birthday parties and random open mics? Maybe you’re playing all covers at the next show, but you want to be an originals band? You’re planning a FB live feed in the middle of the day? There’s nothing wrong with an entirely acoustic album, but maybe you could think a little bigger! Push yourself! Make mistakes! The only way you get better is by trying new things and living in that zone where you feel a little uncomfortable. 

You’re Thinking Too BIG – I hate when blogs do this, (say one thing and then go back on what was just said) but I must! What you are searching for is in the balance. Are you planning on saving a song for your fourth album? Can we stop for a second and realize how dumb that sounds? If you have something incredible, use it now! Trust in your ability to continually write great stuff! Are you planning five guitar swaps next show? Maybe a crazy light show? Three different singers are coming up to rotate and sing with you? You’re constructing a new backdrop for the stage? You have a music video planned out with a budget that would make Kayne blush? You want to do a compilation album featuring a local artist on every song and it needs to be out by the end of the month? I commend that you for having a great imagination and being creative. I want you to think about this though. Every time a movie is made, there is what we want to happen and what is possible. Don’t overwhelm yourself! Start with things that you know you can do, then expound on those things over each show experience.

You’re Using Social Media Wrong – Hmm, I don’t know if I should say that there are overtly wrong ways to use social media, but I do think there are a few ways that we could improve what we’re doing. The greatest appeal of social media is interaction. Have you ever had your post liked by a celebrity? It’s funny how it makes you feel especially – well, special. This is all bullshit of course. Instead of putting a song up every day, or solely focusing on getting people to a show. Try focusing on connecting with people. Learn names, make a personal response to the comment. It’s time-consuming, it’s also totally worth it. I think the biggest thing is just staying involved in other peoples business. Be proactive in learning about those friends and fans. Promote their stuff!

Have you heard of the 70-20-10 rule? 70 percent of all you post should be on valuable, relevant content. 20 percent of what you share should be shared content and 10 percent should be self-promotion. That 70 percent should be a place where you endear your audience. It can be fun, it can be funny, it can be sweet and tender. As a musician, you’re really selling yourself. Give them something they can talk about. Something that doesn’t involve buying something. The 20 percent is sharing another’s post, it could be another artist’s upcoming show, maybe an old song they’ve released. This helps to build a sense of community! Scour SoundCloud and find an unsigned artist. Push songs that mean something to you. Push yourself to discover new things to listen to. Maybe a big fan of yours just created an Instagram page for their photography. Share that page and their art! The final 10 percent is where you promote that upcoming show, that new merch you’ve created, that new song you just dropped. That means 1 out of every 10 posts you make should be about things other than you and your product.

You’re Using Old Techniques – If you’ve ever said: “well that’s how the stones did it.” You’ve never been more right, and you’ve never been more wrong. The world has changed so much since I started playing music! Most of my favorite artists got their start around Napster. I can’t use the same techniques that they used. They’re archaic! They will have a minimal effect on helping me get out there. The spirit of the stones’ technique works. It’s a good idea to have a residency somewhere. A good rule of thumb goes as follows… would you stop to listen to a band if you just saw a lame poster in a coffee shop? I wouldn’t. If you were handed a business card on the street, would you most likely throw it away later that day? I WOULD, and I’m a musician! I’m not saying it never works. It just rarely ever does. 

If its the only way you’re marketing yourself, is it really any surprise that you have progressed? I’m not going to exaggerate this… I see at least 50 band posts every day on Facebook/Instagram. I might listen to one of them (and that’s usually only because I know them well). I’m not saying, “Don’t do it!” I’m saying rethink how you are doing it. Start thinking about actually engaging with others so they will want your product. Start small, what’s better than one fan? Two fans. 

Y​our Product Sucks – I need to preface this by saying first off… the important thing is to get yourself out there and be terrible. I was terrible for the first five years of playing… then I got adequate for the next five. I’m just now feeling comfortable on stage and I still have a long ways to go! My first recording experience was in a closet. The song was terrible. Here’s the thing though. I knew it wasn’t my last attempt, I knew I’d get another shot and I kept pushing to get better! – Now, some real talk. If you record on GarageBand, it’s going to suck. You will touch some people, but you will not progress far. Is it possible, yes? But the exception to the rule never treats themselves like the exception to the rule! You can make this work! I promise you can! Just stop treating yourself like the exception and PUT IN THE WORK! Create a well-made product. Push to be great! You don’t need millions of dollars, but you will need money. There are ways to get it! If you keep doing your best, your best will get better! If you make a great product, people will take notice. That is ALWAYS the case. It’s a long process! Start to create excellent art today and you will get there, I promise you will get there. 

You’re Only Relying On Word Of Mouth To Promote Your Product – Another rule of the game is the 50/50 rule of music. If you spent 3k on your last album, you should be putting 3k into marketing your album. I know that seems like a lot. But if you really stop to think about it… it makes sense! You spent all of this time and energy and MONEY into this project you LOVE! But you haven’t given it a chance to be heard at all! Social media has provided us with more than a few ways to promote ourselves… but I will advise you to put money and time towards getting involved in playlists and getting influencers to promote your music/product. Give them some incentive to share your product. Let’s be honest here, money is the fuel! If the only way you’ve marketed your music/product is posting about it on your story… you’re not giving it a chance to make an impact.

You’re Not Active In Your Community – I touched a little on this before, but it deserves to be its own point. If you don’t give, don’t expect to receive! Get involved! Find stuff that you like in your community! Don’t limit it to music. Buy local and the love will come around to you! 

If everything was based solely off talent, many should break through, but it’s not exclusively based on ability. I have been lucky enough to hear a lot of great acts, and it’s sad that a lot of them didn’t break through to the next level. Most of that is just being unlucky. Don’t bank on just being lucky to make things work for you. Remember that you’re pursuing a passion because you LOVE your passion (haha that’s a funny phrase). I should rename this post as “How to get the most out of your passion.” But it doesn’t have that same click-bait feeling. Success, on any level, will be fleeting and won’t give you that satisfaction that fulfillment brings. I promise you that hard work will bring you pleasure. 

I want to thank Felipe Bustillo for letting me use his wonderful eye to make this post pop! Give him some love by following him on instagram @pipe_fx

What To Do When You Feel Like Quitting

I heard something from my best friend and mentor the other day – Rob “The Clap” Gardner – (… hmm, I think we might need to work on that nickname). Our natural state isn’t happy. It isn’t sad either, no, our natural state is neutral. When a healthy body notices that it is feeling down, it releases endorphins and balances itself out. It will feel a high while the brain stabilizes itself. Think of a soundwave, (very apropos for a music blog) if I close my eyes I can see the highs and lows of the wave. A not-so-secret of life is that peace resides in that line smack-dab in the middle of those highs and lows in life. This entry is going to focus the times you’re feeling in the low registry in life. I want you to resist the temptation of trying to yank yourself out of these lower moments. These are merely moments. It’s okay to feel down! All the advice I have will slowly help us get back to stasis. 

W​hat to do when you feel like quitting

If I counted all the times I felt like quitting I’d have to borrow all of your fingers and toes, I only have about 30 people that read this… so it’s not that many times. We all feel like quitting. Take a second and appreciate that you’re not the only one, for example, the artist I’ve been most influenced by – John Daughter Stealing Mayer – felt like quitting. When starting off, he had such severe panic attacks that he was hospitalized! Even in recent interviews, he has admitted that he keeps anti-anxiety medication on him most of the time. He isn’t the only one that feels that way. Lady Gaga, Adele – I’m not going to keep listing them because I probably could put every musician on this list. We all wonder what the hell we are doing; we all wonder what we are doing. I have a feeling that it doesn’t matter what you’re doing if you’re an orthodontist, you probably will feel the same way. 

I​ want you to try to remember this the next time you feel overwhelmed, no one is touching those strings the same way you move them. No one is hitting those notes quite like you are. Your thumbprint is unlike any other. Remember that this doesn’t have to be about making truckloads of money or having everyone know your name. Getting those things won’t satisfy the need.

W​hat to do when you’re feeling restless

Songwriting doesn’t come between 9am and 5pm. It’s a twenty-four-hour commitment! Maybe you’ve already written a song, and you’re waiting to record. Or perhaps you’re even further along and are waiting to book gigs! The trick to dissipating restlessness is to set small goals you can complete within a day or a week. Be proactive and set that recording date. Get out your laptop and start googling places you can play! 

W​hat to do when you’re feeling lazy

This is not always an easy one to spot. We need to give ourselves downtime to recuperate, but we also need to make sure we stay in a nice routine. Plan out your breaks, then make sure you follow through with what you’ve set yourself to do. The only way to push through laziness is TO DO SOMETHING! It’s a lot like feeling restless, oddly enough, except the cure is much easier here, just do one thing. What is something simple you can do? Write a song? Practice scales? Play through a setlist? Write in your journal? Just do something, don’t give into your excuses and allocate specific time to veg out on Netflix. 

W​hat to do when you’re feeling bored

If it feels like you’re playing the same few songs over and over again, break out of the routine. Find out who influenced the people that affected you. Then start playing their stuff. Try learning a new technique on YouTube. I am not downplaying the discipline it takes to pick yourself up and try something new. I’m also saying it is imperative to make sure you push through and fight the boredom. Writing and performing a new song is one of the most exciting things in the world to me! Few things feel as good as releasing a new song. This is a semi-family friendly list so I won’t get into it… I’m talking about sex. You knew that. 

W​hat to do when you’re feeling Stuck

If you’ve felt stuck before, you know this feels vastly different from being bored. Something I’ve done to help me when I’m feeling stuck, I’ve learned to play my songs on different instruments! This helps us to develop as an artist. If you feel like you’re playing these same chords, or singing the same notes over and over. I like to refer to my handy dandy Chord Bible

I​ will look up a new chord and let the sound of that chord inspire a unique sound! If this doesn’t work, I’ll try writing a song on a new pedal! If that doesn’t work, I will try a new instrument altogether. As for lyrics, I LOVE to read, maybe you don’t enjoy it as much as I do (highly likely, as reading is one of my favorite pass times) I would try just reading clips of poetry or prose. A person with the gift of stringing words together like Christmas tinseling is a beautiful art (one could say it’s both joyful and triumphant). One last tip when you’re feeling stuck in the quagmire of writers’ block. It’s actually really easy, just listen to people talk. You’ll be surprised how often a turn of phrase inspires you. 

W​hat to do when you’re feeling inspired

I​ want you to IMMEDIATELY start writing! Don’t assume you will remember that great line, don’t trick yourself into believing it’s so catchy it will stick with you. It won’t. Appreciate those moments of inspiration! My philosophy is that inspiration comes in its own time. But the more you practice being open to inspiration, the more it will come to you. Keep proceeding as if inspiration will come and when it finally does come, act on it right then and there! 

We all feel down from time to time. It’s ok to want to quit, it’s alright to feel lazy, it’s okay to feel bored, it’s natural to feel restless, and you will most definitely feel stuck in your life. Meditation teaches us that when we feelsomething, we should merely take note that we feel that way. Don’t try to fix it or fight that you feel that way. Take note, then smoothly enact the things that help you glide into the next state of being.

Final thought. You show compassion to others every day, if someone makes a mistake, usually you will say “It’s okay! Don’t worry about it, it’s a quick fix.” If someone is sad, you want to help them feel better, right?! Then why are you so hard on yourself when you feel sad? Why do you say to yourself, “I’m dumb for feeling sad about this.” I want you to remember this the next time you feel sad, or lazy, or negative in any way shape or form… Show yourself the same compassion you would show someone you love. LOVE YOURSELF! I promise if you do this a flood of inspiration will come and you will drown in the awesomeness that is YOU

The Top Eight Things To Do When You Feel Overwhelmed On Stage

There are many different facets of music. I mean… yeah, no shit. 

Each of us naturally gravitates towards a specific category. Some of us are natural performers, others are technical giants, songwriters, headphone critics, or a mixture of all the above. They often bleed into each other. I don’t believe that you should put someone into a single category. But for the purpose of this blog, let’s clump some people together.

Today I will be focusing on the performing aspect, and I will use myself as an example. I love to write, and I LOVE to perform. I start getting antsy if I haven’t been on stage for a while. Lucky for me, I know a particular babe *Shoots finger pistols* that hooks me up with a lot of shows ( all I had to do was kidnap her family to make it happen, love is a powerful thing)! 

Even though I get to play often, I still get nervous up on stage. It’s true, I still feel overwhelmed up there from time to time, it happens to everyone! We want to shake off some of those nerves. The more comfortable we feel up on stage, the more we will be able to connect with our audience a performer. I have a few tricks that help me out up there. But before I begin, remember this. If you are having fun, then your audience will have fun. 

Photo by the Handsome/Talented Everett Milloy

I will start with an obvious one, then I will move on towards some that may not have crossed your mind. 


  • Practice, lots of practice – Being well prepared will help you feel confident about performing. In preparation for an upcoming show, recognize how long it takes you to start feeling comfortable with a song. For me, it usually takes an hour of playing a new song entirely through. At that point, I feel like the song belongs to me. That doesn’t seem very hard until you have to learn 15 songs for the set. Now you need to give yourself a solid week before a show to make these songs feel natural to you. Take note of how long it takes you to get a song to the point where you feel comfortable, then respect yourself enough to give yourself the time it takes to be comfortable. The green room is not the place to learn a song. 
  • Simplify what you are doing on stage – Are you trying to play a lead part, while stomping a kicking a drum and hitting a snare with your head? Listen to me, CHILL OUT. I get it, I’ve seen Shakey Graves play. It is AWESOME, but that’s also incredibly hard to do, so if it’s not your gimmick, then don’t be stupid and try to multitask on stage. Ask someone to help you out! Don’t know anyone off the top of your head? Go to an open mic sometime and recruit someone! Make it sound you don’t have 15 things to worry about while performing. Even singing and playing can be hard, don’t be afraid to ask for help! 

  • If you make a mistake on stage, don’t tell your audience about it – You are playing LIVE music, you’re gonna make a mistake in almost every song you play. Don’t fret though (guitar pun), perfection is overrated. But this is important, stop giving away your mistakes! It’s not endearing, it makes me realize you are not taking this seriously. You just need to play it off. Hitting a bum note is okay. Even the pros hit the wrong notes! Don’t make a weird face, don’t laugh. Just play through it. Above all else DO NOT start off a song by saying “Hey, I haven’t really practiced this song.” Or even worse, “I’m just getting over a cold, so I hope my voice sounds ok.” You’ve already lost your audience. Don’t give yourself an excuse to suck in front of everyone. Keep your mistakes to yourself. Your audience either heard the error and didn’t care, or they missed the error. Don’t bring attention to your screw up.

  • Try to connect with your audience – It may feel scary while you’re performing, but through establishing eye contact you pull your audience into your world for a moment, and that really helps you to relax up on stage. Just open your eyes – Do you see them moving along to your beat?! They love you! Depending on your act, “rolling” around on stage helps to keep them engaged. There are a few other tricks you can implement into your songs. Some sing-a-long sections, quick drops, and starts, a well placed clapping part, these things will help to engage the audience. Engage your audience, it will help with feeling overwhelmed. 
  • Get to the venue early – This is an easy one that everyone misses. I can’t stand getting to a venue and jumping straight on stage. I need time to adapt to my environment. If your sound check is at 6:00pm and it takes you 45 mins to unload. Get there at 4:50pm. Does that make sense? Give yourself more than enough time. Musicians are ALWAYS late, and it is terrible and detrimental to the act. Have a solid soundcheck do not rush your gear onto the stage. I PROMISE that will make you feel SO MUCH BETTER about the set.

  • Meditate before the set – This creates a night and day difference for me! I use to feel like I needed to drink ten Red Bull’s before a set, to give the right energy for a set. Honestly, I just felt shaky and nervous up there. But if I feel centered, I perform so much better! I realize that I’m in control of my act. I can still pump myself up on stage when I need to, but I can also add dynamic to my act now. Respect the art and your beautiful brain by giving yourself some “you” time before the set. Utilize that green room! 

  • Stretch before the set – It’s surprising how much stress we keep trapt in our bodies before a set. I have a sister who’s talent is only matched by her beauty. She is a yoga instructor, she is terrific. I’m going to give you a link to a video where you can stretch with her. I promise you’ll be better for it! Stretch in the green room, stretch before you get there. Be loose with the whole thing! “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” A quote from the military! A very cool, very accurate quote. Follow my beautiful sister here! Be sure to like and subscribe!
  • Lastly, connect with the other performers – I watched many bands perform up on stage, and sometimes it looks like they kind of hate each other. I understand that in some sections, intense concentration is required. But most of the time, you should be able to goof around with the band up on stage. If I’ve said it once… I’ve said it eleven times. If you’re having fun up on stage, the audience will have fun up on stage. Let’s bring the rest of your group into it too! If you’re having fun up on stage, the band will have fun up on stage! Don’t be afraid to act the fool, to wink at a band member, to tell them they look like a greek god right now. These musicians are literally going through what you’re going through right now! It’s amazing! I would much rather see a band take an extra verse of a song to just goof around on stage than watch a bunch of stone figures sit up there and be proficient. Connect with those performing with you and the ones that have played before or after you. Take note the one that starts that crowd clap is usually another musician. That’s because musicians have a tight-knit community! HAVE FUN ON STAGE! Gosh… 

Lets review, make it easy for you to succeed, practice beforehand and connect with the band and the crowd. It’s easy! I want you to come off stage feeling like no one has done it better! You should feel like you are the BEST IN THE WORLD! 

The Golden Hour – Our Weekend Experiment

In the world of photography, the term The Golden Hour refers to a time of day with the best natural lighting to take pictures. I have a theory that when it comes to creativity, everyone has a natural Golden Hour where everything just seems to make sense and fire on all cylinders. Maybe you think it’s at 3 am – I’ve heard that a lot lately. But today, I’m proposing we try a little experiment this next weekend.

As a creative type, I typically watch the sun come over the horizon in the wrong direction before passing out. I understand some of us are playing shows till 2 in the morning and it’s nice to wind down after the show. Fair enough, but on one of these nights that you do not have a gig, show a little respect for the day (and yourself) and go to bed a little earlier than you usually would.

The night before our test, set an alarm for – well, whenever you want to set your alarm. Then I want you to get a breakfast that doesn’t have a ton of sugar in it. (You’d be surprised how hard it is to make this happen) I want you to follow this plan. 

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Day One 

On the first day, on every even hour, I want you to sit down and force yourself to turn off your phonedon’t listen to music, don’t watch anything.Just sit and write, if you have kids and this is hard to do, it doesn’t have to be for hours on end. Just write – write damn it! After your session, take a break and don’t think about writing, force yourself to not write. 

M​ake sure that every time you sit down to write that you’re time stamping the column. I would start it in a new paragraph as well. You don’t have to continue a story or a thought from the last writing session, that’s not the point of the experiement you silly goose. 

Q​uestions? Concerns? How about this,

W​hat should you be writing? It really doesn’t matter in this experiment. We’re really just trying to find the best time of the day for us. 

M​ake the end of the day earlier than you think it should be. I’m not saying 7pm but make it early.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

D​ay Two

O​n the second day of the experiment, start the day the same way. A good breakfast without sugar (you don’t want to crash, baby) and write on every odd hour. It doesn’t have to be for a full hour, just commit to sitting and writing. 

O​k, so we’ve done this for two days now and we have a lot of information to cipher through. Honestly, it not hard to see the results though. 

O​ur Results

Read through what you’ve written, take note of the length of the paragraphs you’ve written but realize that’snot the most important indicator. No, we’re looking for content here. If you notice that, around 8 am you are a deity with writing prose. Start changing your schedule to work around your golden hour. I know it sounds like a big deal and a lot of work. BUT if you want to write songs or freelance, blog, finish that novel or create anything. You should be taking this seriously. A big reason you’re not progressing at the speed you want to be advancing is because you’re not respecting the day. Hemmingway treated writing like a religion. I think that’s so cool! Here’s a quote from Papa, 

“When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that. When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty but filling, as when you have made love to someone you love. Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again. It is the wait until the next day that is hard to get through.”

I​ romanticize him and his approach to writing. I know I do. I know he’s not the greatest, but damn it, I think he is. 

F​or The Love of The Game

T​here’s another aspect to all of this, it’s something that has come to me very recently. I have a dream of creating for a living. But if I’m not creating, then I’m not living. 

Does that make sense? My heart is still beating, but my soul has taken its final breath. We need to show the day some respect.It’s just as important to show yourself the respect you deserve

I​ hear so many local artists say that their golden time is at 3 or 4 in the morning. Maybe it is? But I have a feeling that you are just oozing with so much talent, and with that comes natural procrastination and it seems like this is your Golden Hour simply because this is the only time you’ve tried writing. Instead of making it the last thing you do before you go to bed, try it out at the start of the day. Try it in the middle of the day. Try it when you’re not so tired! 

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

You are not a slave to your schedule!

We trick ourselves into believing we are, but this is not true! Don’t believe the lie! Work the system! If you’re working another job, making ends meet through multiple revenue streams, talk with your boss about your schedule! I’ve been lucky to have had jobs with flexible schedules. Maybe you’re not as fortunate, that’s okay! We can still find the time to give our creative souls the nourishment it needs! Stop thinking of it as a way to help your wallet, and switch over with me and make creating about helping your soul!The money won’t come if you don’t love it at first, and you will have a hard time creating if you don’t love it at first.