The Best Way To Predict Our Future Is To INVENT IT

Future Road Sign image

If I put a gun to your head and demanded that you name the top 5 most popular Country artists today, the majority of them that you would name wouldn’t have careers without auto-tune; they just aren’t great singers. Additionally, some of those same top Country artists don’t even write songs.

So how come they are famous and you’re frustrated?

2 major reasons: Because they work HARDER than you and they work SMARTER than you right now. They are smart enough to HONESTLY assess their artistry and then put forth an effort and a career plan that addresses their artistic strengths and weaknesses; they understand where they are good and they understand where they suck.

Do you?

Do you really?

Do you think about your weaknesses or do you ignore them and tell the world (and yourself) you’re perfect?

What are you doing about your short comings??

What EXACTLY are you doing to get BETTER?

Back in the day, you had to get a record deal.

Then the Label would put you with the best writers, engineers, producers, players, studios, PR firms, etc., to surround you with real talent.

Today, that isn’t gonna happen because the labels aren’t developing acts anymore no matter how talented they are.

You have to develop yourself.

You have to think like a label back in the day to grow as an artist today.

That’s worth repeating:

You have to think like a label back in the day to grow as an artist today.

You have to work harder and smarter to really be effective and find your lane. When you find your lane, your career will blossom; you will instantly get momentum.

Today we are going to ask some questions about your dedication.

We are going to ask some real questions about your artistic lane.

We are going to ask some real questions about the methods you are using to reach your artistic dreams and goals.

So take a deep breath…

Most of you aren’t going to like your answers, but that’s good, man. This should feel FREAKING UNCOMFORTABLE! If it doesn’t you don’t care and you’re not trying hard enough. Improving as an artist is all about getting outside of your comfort zone.

This should feel FREAKING UNCOMFORTABLE! If it doesn’t you don’t care and you’re not trying hard enough. Improving as an artist is all about getting outside of your comfort zone.

If it doesn’t you don’t care and you’re not trying hard enough. Improving as an artist is all about getting outside of your comfort zone.

When you find the lane you are SUPPOSED to be in, and get into that lane, it is amazing how much energy comes your way and how FAST it comes. If you think back in your life, you will recall moments where this has happened to you; where things just sort of lined up. Granted, there are times where it just seems like you are pushing a huge bolder uphill and nobody gives a shit, but if you are in your proper lane, the work and struggle is worth it.

If you think back in your life, you will recall moments where this has happened to you; where things just sort of lined up. Granted, there are times where it just seems like you are pushing a huge bolder uphill and nobody gives a shit, but if you are in your proper lane, the work and struggle is worth it.

If you think back in your life, you will recall moments where this has happened to you; where things just sort of lined up. Granted, there are times where it just seems like you are pushing a huge bolder uphill and nobody gives a shit, but if you are in your proper lane, the work and struggle is worth it.

If you think back in your life, you will recall moments where this has happened to you; where things just sort of lined up.

Granted, there are times where it just seems like you are pushing a huge bolder uphill and nobody gives a shit, but if you are in your proper lane, the work and struggle is worth it.

The proverbial juice is worth the squeeze.

Let me give you an example. I was an artist back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. In high school, I put together a band or rather the best guys around my small town area sort of ended up together in a band because we wanted to be GOOD. I facilitated and curated the talent in this band because I wanted to be GOOD; my dad always told if it’s worth doing it’s worth doing RIGHT so don’t lie to yourself and don’t screw around. Believe me; this process came with some heartache. We had more than one occasion where I was kicking a friend out of the band for somebody better because we wanted to be GOOD. Sometimes that meant the person leaving was good but wasn’t willing to take the next step with the rest of us, so SEE YA! We were friends but we had a mission. You were either on board or you weren’t; at least I had a mission.

We were a heavy metal band; say what you will but that shit was happening in the 80’s! I was just a guitar player in Future Hericane Alice Poster imagethis band and our singer could BLOW!! He could CRUSH the Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, and Queensryche covers! When everyone was covering Warrant and Ratt, we were doing something different by covering the heavy stuff. Our drummer was SICK!! Our other guitar player was SICK!! Our bass player was SICK! Our main goal at the time was to get into this Milwaukee club that we heard advertised on the radio all the time called T.A. Vern’s. This club had two stages and always had the AAA touring acts along with the brand new National acts. So we busted our asses to get a shot at this club and, BOOM, we finally get our chance. The owner of the club finally returns my call and tells me that we have a shot to open for some hot-shit Minneapolis band called Hericane Alice (yes, the spelling is correct). Now Minneapolis was SO HOT back in the day, there were literally 10 clubs that paid AAA money in the Twin Cities area; this was right around when the Purple Rain record was out.

So off we go on a Saturday night to open for Hericane Alice at T.A. Vern’s with the expressed intention of impressing the bar owner so we could play there regularly and be on the Milwaukee radio spots! I remember we started our set and were doing our thing when I realized the whole band we were opening for was standing off to the side of the stage watching us; wide-eyed with their mouths open. Now we don’t know these guys from a can of paint. Turns out they were the HOTTEST band in Minneapolis and they LOVED us!!! Also turns out that the guitar player (not the one in the video as this was before they were signed to Atlantic) owned a huge regional booking agency up there. After we were done with our set the band all came over and told us that we HAD to open for them up in Minneapolis! They had a huge show on Christmas Day Evening, there were 40 bands that would KILL to have that opening slot, and they wanted to give it to us. Then Hericane Alice did their show and all 5 guys in my band plus our token roadie sat off to the side of the stage with our mouths wide open. HOLY SHIT they were REALLY GOOD!! We took the gig. We ROCKED it up in Minneapolis in front of 2,500 people with National act production; amazing. We opened for them like 10 more times and then went through some more member changes (because this gig was getting REAL now) and then we went on tour for a full year with that booking agency.

The energy was flowing to us; we were in our lane.

Luck = Preparation + Opportunity

It was luck, but luck is defined as preparation meets opportunity. If we weren’t serious about our mission, if we weren’t honest with ourselves about what was GOOD, if we weren’t TRULY PREPARED then we would have opened that show and that would have been the end of the story; no more energy. After we signed with the booking agency, I immediately asked them who their BEST band was so I could go see them and find out exactly who we were competing with and how we were going to compete! I was 19 years old. I had to get special permission to get into the club from that killer band’s manager. Btw, he is someone I am still friends with to this day; he’s a real heavy hitter in the music industry these days. I didn’t let something stupid like my age stop me. Or ignorance of the marketplace, I wanted to know WHO WE HAD TO BEAT!

See where I’m going with this?

Are you honest with yourself? Is music what you really want to do or is it a hobby?Future invent it image

Are you happening to the world or is the world happening to you?

The best way to predict your future is to INVENT IT.

After that year-long tour, we fired our singer (because he was a douchebag) and I told the guys in the band that we needed to start writing more if we were gonna be serious artists. I also told them that I was gonna be the front-man because I knew I could handle the crowd better than the last guy who was freaking clueless. This was a MAJOR deal because I really couldn’t sing all that well, but I knew my lane; I could SELL IT on stage. They got behind me and Future Tascam 8 Track Recorder imagewe purchased a Tascam 8-track cassette recorder to record the songs we were going to write. So that summer, in the basement of my parent’s house, the guitar player and I started writing and recording some songs. Man, the recording process was so unbelievably SEXY to me, ya know? I just LOVED it! I LIVED for the creativity and process of writing and recording so much so that during that summer Darrell (the guitar player) and I were working, getting laid, or writing and recording; we were obsessed. We managed to complete like 5 or 6 tracks I think, and I must say the recordings were terrible as it was our first rodeo. We KNEW these recordings needed some help, so we enlisted a friend of ours who was an engineer at a world class recording studio in Lake Geneva, WI to come and help us mix the demos. He complained because the recordings sucked, LOL, but he did it. Now the story gets interesting.

We got the mixes done and a dear friend of ours (who was your quintessential artist; she was a painter/drawer/designer that only thought out of one side of her brain), Vanessa, wanted to forward the tape to her friend Bud Future ABB imageSnyder in the Allman Brothers camp. We said sure! So unbeknownst to us, Vanessa put the tape we gave her in a double-cassette-boom box and pressed record to duplicate the not-so-good-quality demo tape; but she left the mic function on the boom box in the ON position. So the tape that Bud receives is the duplication, of course, with all the conversations Vanessa was having while tape was duplicating, ugh. Bud calls me the DAY he receives the tape. He is trying to ask me if I wouldn’t mind sending him another copy because the quality of the one he had was horrible. I was trying to tell him I KNEW it was horrible because the recordings were crappy as we were just learning how to record and we went around and around for about 10 minutes before he communicated the duplication debacle to me. Here’s the thing the songs were GOOD. Bud could hear it through the all the crap. Still, we wouldn’t be shopping that recording to anyone else but our attention to the craft of writing songs helped us convert on that opportunity. We immediately went into the studio with Bud and recorded a proper demo tape that was as sonically solid as the songwriting was so we could compete when we shopped the demo.

Once again, the energy was flowing to us. We were in our lane.

We were doing what we were supposed to be doing. IT DAMN SURE WASN’T PERFECT, but we were doing it; and because it was GOOD we were getting results, almost instantly. We ended up working with Bud and learning so much from the Allman Brothers. Just watching them work in the studio was a trip; I realized that I had a lot to learn.

Are you getting momentum? If not, why?

Do you want momentum? Do you REALLY want it?

Are you standing in your own way?

If music is what you HAVE to do, then you need to be honest with yourself.

Why don’t you have momentum?

To quote a great line from Jerry Maguire, this is not show-friends, this is show-BUSINESS. This concept applies to YOU when you are dealing with YOU; show BUSINESS!

Is it because your songs aren’t great? What are you willing to do to fix that?

Is it because your recordings aren’t great? What are you willing to do to fix that?

Is because there is a weak link in your band? What are you willing to do to fix that?

The smart person is going to understand that NOBODY is born with all the tools they need to accomplish their goals. I made an art out of surrounding myself with people who were better than me; an art of discovering the tools and knowledge I needed to succeed. It works wonders, you should try it. Yeah, you feel like you are always the dumbest guy in the room, but I simply practiced the age-old discipline of keeping my mouth shut and appearing stupid than opening it up and removing all doubt; I got better and smarter every day. The real funny thing is that the people I was afraid of looking stupid in front of APPRECIATED the fact that I wanted to learn! They WANTED TO HELP!! They loved that I was honest with myself more than anything.

If you’re songs need to be better (don’t they always need to be better btw?) than working with someone who writes for a living is going to be quite the artistic experience. How much would you learn about your own writing? How much would you learn about the quality of the songs you have already written? Are you afraid someone might say they suck? OF COURSE THEY SUCK! Everybody’s first songs suck; just ask John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, etc. You probably won’t hear anyone say that to your face but inside you are worried that’s what they are thinking. SO JUST GO THERE. ASSUME THAT’S WHAT THEY ARE THINKING. What are you going to do to rectify the situation? What action is required to improve your writing? After all, it’s going to have to improve if you’re going to make a living at it, right?

How about the recording quality? Are you one of these people who pride themselves on the cheapest demo cost? Are you the guy that has always gone to your buddy down the street who only charges $50/hr for the recording studio, so you feel like you got that all covered? Let’s ask the question: How’s that working out for you? Is this why you don’t have momentum? Maybe you should revise the plan a bit. Maybe your songs are good but nobody cares because the recording quality blows. Or the musicianship blows. That’s a hard one if you’re new, really hearing that the bass isn’t locking up with the drums, really hearing that the drummer you have thinks time is a magazine. These are the things that separate the pros from the rookies. Which one do you want to be?

I promise you that just because you can’t hear it doesn’t mean the pros that can help you get to the next level can’t hear it. They can, and they will judge you.

I mean if you have recorded 10 songs at a cost of $4,000 with the intent of getting major artists to cut your songs and nobody is cutting them, did you really save any money or did you waste $4,000 pretending to be real songwriter? Don’t get me wrong, if you are recording your songs for posterity, then it really doesn’t matter. For the writers who want to make a living at it, you have to ask, When ALL the publishing companies are paying for solid demos with KILLER musicians and you are submitting sub-par recordings with sub-par musicianship that sound like their cheaply made, is it really surprising that you have no momentum?

You know exactly how to fix it!

So why are you frustrated?

Maybe you don’t know and you’re not smart enough to know that you don’t know ya know? Would taking your 4 best songs and spending the same $4,000 on KILLER recordings that will compete with what everyone else is submitting be a more intelligent approach? Would that actually be more productive? Would that improve the chances of someone important wanting to help you with your music after they listened to it? Would that help you to be really PREPARED when an opportunity comes along?

I have this conversation at least once a week with a frustrated writer. It’s like their hitting themselves in the head with a bat and complaining about the pain at the same time. If you want to make a living in any industry you simply have to compete with what is out there. It escapes me why singers and songwriters can’t understand this or hear this. You can’t really compete as a swimming pool installer if you are digging the fucking holes with a teaspoon, can you?

Are you the artist who already paid for a CD and has 950 of them stacked up in your closet because you can’t move em? Then what do you need to do to learn how to sell your CD’s? It’s not rocket science, because there are people that are selling CD’s and downloads of their music every day. So what are you missing??

If you keep doing what you’ve always done, then you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got! Simple math.

If the lane you’re in has no momentum, switch lanes. If the methods you are using to get ahead are not getting you ahead, change your methods. FIND SOME HELP!!

But stop complaining about your lack of momentum because YOU have the power to change it and no one else will! It has to be YOU!