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Stay In Tune

 They say that one really can’t be successful until they get their mind, body, and spirit “in tune”.

in tune mind body spirit triangle

What does that mean exactly?

If an instrument is not in tune it is displeasing to the ear. Hell, it evokes hostility in Kelly and me. It induces uncomfortable feelings of dis-ease and horror, plugging of the ears, tilted heads in an audience, and empty rooms. A listener cannot be attracted to music for too long if there is utter dissonance.file4671348049272

The same is true for your life and your artist career.

Whoa!

Think about that, it’s worth repeating, the SAME is true for your life and your artist career!

You have to learn to get in tune and stay in tune or you become unattractive.

I would have to say that for an artist (because we all crave attention and acceptance) becoming unattractive is probably the single most frightening scenario imaginable.

When one’s life is out of tune, the ripple effects are debilitating and constantly problematic.

Do you feel like this with your career sometimes?

I think “in tune” means several things to an artist.

 

 

The Mind

 

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I think that your mind has to really be in tune with your artistry.  Many artists never accomplish this (even though everyone of ‘em thinks they have).

Many artists are vague about exactly where their respective artistic lane is, so they continue emulating a.k.a. being derivative.

Many artists simply won’t and therefore don’t put in the work necessary to discover a unique artistic lane.

It’s a process.

in tune the only way out is throughThe only way out is through.

Many artists are simply too scared or private to dig down that deep and share their truth with a bunch of people they don’t know.

 

I get this by the way.

 

Most people, artists or not, are scared to discover their truth; even privately for themselves. This is a natural human reaction and quite frankly the willingness to share and be that exposed to the world is what makes real artists so special to all of us.

Real artists speak to our inner souls by being that uncovered, that raw.

Many artists are not in tune with the business side of music, so while they may be making something incredible, nobody is ever going to hear it which makes it impossible to fulfill a dream of being a professional at any level.

Follow me on this next metaphorical concept.

When I watch Kelly produce a vocal, it’s a work of art.

in tune Kelly and Rachel working on a vocal  I’m astounded.  I’ve learned from Kelly that what makes a killer vocal is not only the attention to big notes that everyone is drawn to (because it’s obvious and easy), rather the attention to the little, quick, passing tones and notes.  When those notes are in tune, and the artist is selling the lyrics that fall on those notes, the vocal soars with confidence.

It’s the difference between a mediocre vocal and a stellar vocal.

 

 

Think about that in terms of staying in tune with your whole artist experience.  If you only focus on the obvious stuff and overlook the crap you get bored with easily you are not in tune.

 

It’s attention to detail.

It’s the difference between a mediocre career and a stellar career.

Many artists are not in tune with the simple desire to constantly improve.in tune work hard stay humble

Some are lazy, and aren’t willing to do the necessary work.

Some are delusional, devoid of humility, and think they’re amazing.

Some are both.

They get ate up with glitz and glitter of their artist daydream and how they feel it should look rather than working on being better and accepting the fact that real life is never like you imagine it will be, artist or not.

If a situation or opportunity presents itself that isn’t consonant with the script in their daydream, it is shunned, ignored, forgotten, left to rot, with no action taken.

This is far too common of an occurrence.

 

The Spirit

in tune Mind Body Spirit cool logo

I see so many artists that are unfortunately spiritually broken.  Sadly, the uber-sensitive, spiritually-shattered artist is what typically makes compelling art.

But there is the search for your spiritual truth and spiritual peace.

There is an art to getting comfortable in your own skin.

This pursuit requires work as well.in tune LOVE YOURSELF

 

Work many of us are not willing to do.

 

There exists a delicate dance between a tortured past which has to be forgiven but never forgotten so one can function at the highest level in life, and the cathartic exercise of reliving the past, to write about it, which helps in processing the pain and hopefully healing.

The Body.

 

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Just because it looks good doesn’t mean it’s in tune.

Just like everyone I fall off my workouts and slowly dip into lethargy like the proverbial frog in the pan where the water is slowly heated up.

Here’s the kicker, every time I get off my ass to get back to the gym I INSTANTLY feel better.

Yes maybe a little sore but my energy level immediately spikes and stays more consistent throughout the day.

I handle good stress better.

I handle bad stress better.

I drink less.

I eat better.

I feel better about the way I look and therefore immediately become more attractive.

That’s what we want right?

in tune law of attraction

 

To be more attractive?

More attractive to our fans.

More attractive to business prospects.

More attractive to our significant others.

 

What exactly are you doing to keep your mind in tune with your art?

What exactly are you doing to get your spirit in tune and settle your soul?

What exactly are you doing to get your body in tune?

I want y’all to think about that.

 

Stay in tune.

 

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Quit Being Derivative

Derivatives Mona Lisa Selfie

I get about 3-8 emails every week where people send me music and ask for advice.  These artists come from many different genres.  I’m generalizing to be sure when I say they mostly suffer from the same issue, they’re derivative.

They’re mostly derivative, right?

Don’t be derivative.

Look, don’t get me wrong, if a derivative artist has a budget we’ll record them, that’s just business.

I’m talking about real art here, though.

I’m talking about future icons.

I’m talking about a way to break through the noise on the market RADAR screen.

Strictly on a business level, if you don’t have a MAJOR financial backer who can capitalize on a market trend, what exactly are you exploiting?

What’s the point?

Sometimes I wonder if it’s laziness.  I wonder that because I certainly suffered through my share of lethargy in my artist years if I’m being honest. Initially my main goal was to be on MTV.  Once I got access to our producer’s “other band”, The Allman Brothers, I realized it didn’t have anything to do with MTV.  I was being lazy.  I needed to dig deeper.  We all have to go through that door at some point.

But I digress.

Derivative anti cliche imageI hear male country artists singing “Bro-Country” about tailgates, tan legs, barbed wire fences and beers in the console.

I hear female country artists singing hostile ex-girlfriend lyrics trying to outdo Carrie Underwood or Miranda Lambert.

I hear endless rap artists who cannot seem to avoid the most obvious lyrical clichés like “bitches”, “ho’s”, and “n****s”, etc.

In the 80’s we all had long hair, ear rings, and leather pants.  In 2014 every hipster has a close cropped haircut and beard the size of Texas with 60’s styled horn rimmed glasses.  (Will that hairdo be remembered as some sort of 2010 version of the 80’s/90’s mullet?)

Every genre has it, man.

Every generation has it.

Every Iconic Artist found themselves at some point

I’m simplifying once again by this statement, but every iconic artist found themselves at some point.  They found their own unique take on a derivative tangent.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWait, huh?

C’mon you mean you really can’t tell how badly Petty wants to be Dylan?

Dylan wants to be Woody Guthrie.

Clapton wants to be Muddy Waters, etc.

Realistically the only way to avoid being derivative is to be yourself.  The most interesting artists are telling their own story.

Being Derivative is a timeless artistic problem

Being derivative is a timeless artistic problem deeply rooted in every artist’s beginnings and nurtured by label suits afraid to take a chance in artist careers for fear of a poor quarterly report.  (Don’t hate them, that’s just business.  If you’re smart enough to play the game professionally, you get that.)

Think about it, we all begin as artists imitating our heroes; this is necessary.  It’s the first inspiration. We artists connect strongly with the superstars whose message and image speaks to us.  We relate to them and pay homage, right?

So where then does the imitation stop and the originality begin?

The “me-too” acts with talent, money, savvy, gumption, and connections will probably get their 15 minutes of fame but they will be forgotten.

It’s the originals that we rememberDerivative 100 percent ORIGINAL stamp

It’s the originals that we aspire to be

It’s the originals that become icons

So what is the road map to true artistic innovation?

Work.

Work is the one thing most people aren’t willing to do that much of in any industry, unfortunately.

Artists especially avoid this act because unlike a regular job where you are compensated regularly for your effort, the artist must continue to invest time, money, and their spirit into a massively delayed settlement arrangement.

justiceDelayed financial, spiritual, and social reimbursement means you pay it all up front for a chance at evening the scales later on…usually much later on.

So naturally, most artists seek the path of least resistance and fall into an uninspired creative rut; this is human nature.

If you don’t want to spend too much time writing (working), you copy what you hear.

Instant gratification.

We covet what we see every day.

The original artists are constantly creating, always working.  The work provides the necessary steps to uncover the real artist deep down inside.

Every song is a stepping stone towards something greater.

The roots come up to meet the inspirational artistic input and they weave a new, unique fabric.

The work IS the compensation.  It has to be. If an artists doesn’t feel like that then the business model is doomed to fail.

This is who will create real impact.

That’s terrifying to an artist.  It requires removing your mask and being truly exposed.  Most artists who claim to be vulnerable really aren’t; at least they choose not to be in their art.

When you’re not vulnerable in your art, you’re derivative.

 

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Get Comfortable With Uncomfortable

Uncomfortable head in a jar with water image FEATURE SIZE

In our podcast episode entitled “What Is Producing”, Kelly and I discuss the many hats we find ourselves wearing as artist developers.  One hat is that of a psychologist to our artists and writers. Artists are, and should be, constantly uncomfortable. They need guidance, assurance, a friend, a shoulder to cry on, a champion, a white knight, a mentor, a disciplinarian, a protector, and a confidant as they navigate their way not only through this crazy music business, but in their private lives as well.

I am preparing for a meeting we are about to have with an artist who has struggled a bit trying to find his groove as a writer.

I am thinking about pain.

I am thinking about panic.Uncomfortable Panic image

I am thinking about anxiety.

I am thinking about what it means to be uncomfortable.

I remember as an artist I was in a constant state of “uncomfortable”.  Not only was I searching for the tools, processes, and pathways to advance my artist career, but I was trying to be a better person as well.

I was growing

I was effing uncomfortable.

I was always the least talented musician because I chose to (and was lucky enough to) be surrounded by guys with far more musical talent than me.

We worked our butts off and found ourselves in a relationship with a regional booking agent offering a club tour and we had to rise to the occasion.

We had to step up our game as a professional organization

We had to intensely scrutinize the vocal and background vocal components of our live show; because it needed it.

We had to become better musicians

We had to do it fast.  There was a tour coming.  No pressure.

We had to put an incredible amount of attention towards our look and stage presenceUncomfortable No Pressure No Diamonds Black

We had to step up our promo and create a poster for the booking agent to use as a sales tool.

We had to reevaluate our set list which would have ROCKED Milwaukee, WI but nowhere else; which was a disturbing discovery.

We had to overcome the complexities of 5 distinct personalities plus the road crew in a confined space for long periods of time.

We had to learn to say “NO”.

We had to discover and practice politics with club owners, road crew, booking agencies, and the occasional law enforcement officer.

 

We had to become pros because when we were signed to this agency we were amateurs.

Uncomfortable Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort ZoneWe had to improvise, adapt, and overcome because the “next step” is never anywhere near how you envisioned it to be.

We worked harder and then a producer became interested in developing us.

Guess what?

We had to rise up again.  Now we had to repeat all previously mentioned steps because we were operating at a higher level than before.  So new politics, new challenges, new relationships, and a lot more at stake.

We kept working and that helped us create a relationship with a major record label.  All new politics, new challenges, new personalities, and it never goes the way you imagined it.

Get the picture?

This was far better than the contrary, you know, the scenario where I surround myself with people who are “beneath my pay-grade” solely for the purposes of feeling comfortable.  So I can feel relaxed.Uncomfortable save yourself from settling 2

Content.

Kelly and I operate Daredevil Production the same way.  Hell, it’s WHY we named our company Daredevil Production!  The picture of the man performing a handstand on 2 legs of a chair that is balanced on another chair that is balanced on 4 Coke bottles, that is balanced on a tower of platforms that are balanced on top of a B-29 Superfortress is actually Kelly’s Great Grandfather, the Great Al Dault. That is the home page image on our website.

If you’re not feeling these things then you’re doing it wrong.

You’re stronger than you think

You’re smarter than you think

You’re capable of much more that you can currently imagine; I promise.Uncomfortable Rise Up Feature image

Comfortable is for people on their death bed.

Artists that are moving forward are risk takers.

If risk taking was an FDA approved drug the side effects would be:

  • Fear
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Elation
  • Euphoria
  • Devastation
  • Vomiting
  • Paranoia
  • Joy
  • DelightUncomfortable Side Effects image
  • Jubilation
  • Pleasure
  • Depression
  • Despair
  • Hopelessness
  • Satisfaction
  • Financial stress
  • Financial freedom
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Anal leakage

 

Screw comfortable.

 

Unless you’re dying.

 

 

Uncomfortable get comfortable with being uncomfortable

 

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12 Thoughts On Un-Professional Songwriters

Professional red ball image

By Johnny Dwinell

I was having coffee yesterday at The Red Bicycle in Germantown (holy crap their crepes are AH-MAZING) with an artist writer friend.  We got involved in a passionate discussion about song demos and some different perspectives to consider before recording and pitching them. We were discussing what it means and what it takes to be professional.

To act professional.Professional Unprofessional image

To be perceived as professional.

To be taken seriously as a writer in this town.

There are a slew of different common mistakes writers and artists make when it comes to the art of recording a song demo.

Remember, a SONG demo is a demonstration (aka demo) of your SONG, not you as an artist. It needs to be treated this way. The purpose of a song demo is to demonstrate the lyric, melody, and vibe of your song in such a manner that an artist can “hear themselves” singing your song and then subsequently cut your song.

I am perplexed when I hear songwriter’s wax about their elitist, unwavering passion for “quality” in their songwriting juxtaposed against their proclivity for cutting corners to save a few bucks in the recording process.

Quality song, inferior recording. What’s the point?

brokenCD2It’s like they put their blood, sweat, tears, and whole heart into creating a killer blue print of a house and then constructed the house out of rotting balsa wood & weathered duct tape. They built this with novice builders too, and as you can imagine, the house looks shitateous and is unlivable.

Then, after all this, they get butt-hurt when they’re judged by the professional world on exactly what they built.

Huh?

 

Don’t present crappy, novice song demos and expect to be treated like a professional.

This topic gets some songwriters really pissed off. In fact, I wrote an honest article about it last year called “10 Worst Song Demo Mistakes” and I believe it was the most provocative article I have written to date.  Some songwriters got it and others clearly got emotional and defensive about these mistakes. Many songwriters anonymously wrote negative comments about how a professional community would react to unprofessional song demos (many also wrote negative comments about completely different subject matters which is always amusing).

The song demo “audience” is comprised of producers, A&R execs, song-pluggers, publishing companies, and ultimately artists.

All of which are professional.Professional Judged Empy Picture image

All of which are human.

Here’s the deal, you don’t know what’s going on with them.

Maybe they’re having a bad day and your messy sounding song demo is annoying to them.

Maybe they’ve just listened to 200 PROFESSIONAL sounding song demos, they’re exhausted, and your song demo sticks out like a sore thumb because the sonic quality and performances are so poor.

 

I mean, why would you think these human beings could read your mind and hear the way you wanted the demo to sound?

If you read some of the previously mentioned article comments you will see a couple responses like “A real producer should be able to hear past the production on a good song, so you suck and I’m not going to listen to your advice…blah, blah, blah

Did it ever occur to you that your audience isn’t just judging the song?

Professional My Song Demo CD imageDid it ever occur to you that they’re judging you as a professional too? After all you are now in a professional environment, right?

What does that amateur sounding song demo say about you, the songwriter who is trying to be professional?

 

 

 

 

What does that say about your craftsmanship, attention to detail, work ethic, and intelligence?Professional DIchotomy KEEP RIGHT image

I mean, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well, right?

Did you ever think that your audience may be hung up on the fact that you have a professional opportunity and you choose to display something that is incredibly unprofessional?  You know, like showing up on a construction site and demanding to use your plastic toy hammer.  Everyone is like, huh?

 

 

 

Here are 12 thoughts I have about unprofessional songwriters:

  1. You’re lazy; if you weren’t you’d do it better.
  2. You’re cheap and unwilling to put skin this game you want to dominate so badly.
  3. You don’t really believe in yourself; if you did, you’d do it better.
  4. I wonder if you can’t hear the difference. If you can’t tell that your recording is second-rate than what else are you naïve and uneducated about?  How will that affect our business relationship?
  5. If you can’t tell the recording is poor than maybe you’re one of those artist writers who is insanely arrogant about their art and not really interested in getting better. These kinds of people are of no use to me in any aspect of my business.Professional Arrogance is Weakness Disguised as Strength
  6. You clearly don’t mind “cutting corners” on your product which infuriates me because I’m ALL ABOUT QUALITY.
  7. You’re not resourceful. I’ll bet you have some really good excuses as to why the demo sucks. Therefore, your professional behavior in the workplace leans toward making excuses instead of overcoming challenges. I need people that can handle challenges; they’re winners.
  8. You’re a novice and I need a professional.
  9. I have artists that need professional writers and we are counting on these writers to deliver consistently on a professional basis. How can you be trusted to deliver for them?
  10. What will my artists think of me if I put someone unprofessional with them?
  11. You have clearly demonstrated your inability to operate at the professional level required in this business.
  12. I also wonder if you even care because your song demo has confirmed you have no pride for the work that you do

 

Whoa! Read that last one again, man. Yikes!

Think about this for a second.  I PROMISE you that if any hit songwriter like Dallas Davidson, Kacey Musgraves, Craig Wiseman, or Michael Garvin called ANY Producer up and said, “I just wrote a song I think you should hear, but I only have a work tape of it.  Will you give it a listen?” they would ALL listen to it with an open mind and an open ear to give the song its due attention.

Now, think about these writer’s and their publishing companies and how much money they spend on song demos every year at $600-$900 per song.

Stay with me now…

This is business right?

How much money could the writers and publishing companies save each year if they stopped making full production demos knowing their best writer’s songs will be considered with less expensive recordings?

Professional Think Quality Don't Cut Corners

 

I mean they have proven hit songwriters writing hit songs that are pitched to the best producers and industry execs in town who should all be able to hear through bad production, right?

While there are always exceptions to the rule, all the publishing companies and hit writers continue to pay to for professional song demos.

They do this for one reason.

 

They’re professional and they want to compete.

 

If you want to be a professional songwriter, act like a professional songwriter.

 

Then watch your world transform.

 

 

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4 Career Team Building Tips

Team Together Everyone Achieves More

By Johnny Dwinell

I entertain so many conversations from artists and songwriters about how difficult it is to build a team and break into the music business.

They go on and on about how much they want it, how much they need it, how they were born to do it, and then, ultimately, how they’re frustrated.

I get it.Chances team Kidd Gypsy image

I really do.

Remember, I was an artist first.

I hear their frustrations.

I feel their pain.

I’ve been there, man.

Look, this business is rife with hindrances when you’re really in it.

It’s impossible to succeed if you are just “sticking your toes in the water”.

It’s impossible if you’re working from a playbook that is ineffective because it’s outdated, naïve, ignorant of your strengths and weaknesses, and non-responsive to the constant industry changes.

Are you really on the field playing or are you commenting on the game from the cheap seats?

…where it’s safe.

Some of the conversations I endure are akin to someone sitting up in the nosebleed section of a professional football stadium telling everyone how they want, need, and were born to play pro football while complaining that the quarterback never throws the ball to them.

I’m so not kidding.

You’ll need to put together a teamSONY DSC

I promise that if you are going to have a chance in this business you are seriously going to have to pull your head out of the clouds (and/or your ass) and put together a team, a plan, and a business model that will move you forward.

I got news for you, that team is different for everybody.

Therefore the plan is different for everybody.

Nobody is going to hear your song and come to your door to make you a star.  It doesn’t work that way.

Team Golden Ticket 2That is a fairytale.

Maybe it’s happened to one artist but that is an asinine plan of attack to pin your hopes, dreams, financial resources, and reputation on the perceived evidence of one enchanted lottery ticket.

It’s doubly idiotic when you consider the fact that you don’t live the rest of your life like that.

I mean you don’t tell your landlord to “wait for the rent” because you just played the lottery do you?  No, you go to work every day and create cash flow.

You make it happen.

For someone else’s team, btw.

When you put a team together you initially have to look at each relationship intelligently and pragmatically.

You want to determine how you can bring value to the relationship and whether it’s a relationship that is valuable to you right now.

Every opportunity is not opportune.Team Opportune Time

Oftentimes the best way you can bring value to a relationship is with money.  Start doing business with someone that can offer you something you need.

The benefits are unlimited.  At Daredevil Production, LLC we have many relationships with artists that started with them paying us to develop them; to deliver a killer radio ready track and all that statement entails.

These artists paid for the tracks and certainly received their money’s worth.

They also now have real relationships with hit writers, musicians, artists, industry executives, movers and shakers, and any of our friends that may be hanging out at any given time during their project.

Get it?

You’re not ready for some relationships.

Team You can't build a reputation on what your going to do

 

In fact, getting the big representation for many of you would actually be the kiss of death for your career.  The more you accomplish before the big relationships, the better deal you will get and all the better position you will be in to capitalize on that opportunity.

The world doesn’t care about your potential because they don’t know you. As such, they will judge you and any explorations of a future relationship with you based on what you’ve already done.

The only way to prove your value in the industry is to do something. SOMETHING!!

 

Here’s a few thoughts to consider when building your team.

  1. Hungry teams are more productive.
    • It’s more important to have a team that is invested, that wants to play ball than a bunch of marquis value names.Team Chase Rice
    • In the beginning the bigger names are of no value to you and you are of no value to them, don’t take it personally.
    • Make sure they are as enthusiastic about your project as you are!
    • Have you heard of Chase Rice? He co-wrote the Florida Georgia Line smash hit “Cruise”.
      • Florida Georgia Line was developed arguably by one of the top 3 most powerful songwriters in Nashville; Craig Wiseman. Craig could have tons of high value names on his team but one of the names he had was Chase Rice.  My guess is that’s because Chase was a good writer with a good work ethic and a solid head on his shoulders.

Are you picking up what I’m putting down?

Now, not only is Chase a rising star as an artist, but he is the co-writer of “Cruise”.  He wasn’t any of those things when he co-wrote “Cruise”.

  1. Find your class
    • Develop relationships within your class that will add value to your team.team Let's do Business
    • Get in touch with potential team members (songwriter nights, engineers, producers, etc.)
      1. You may need to pay them professionally if they’re upperclassmen.
    • Doing business is a great way to start team building with upper classmen and you also get something immediate from the exchange.
    • Teambuilding within your class is more about personalities and projects than money.
    • Once you get to know them figure out what you can do for them to deepen the relationship.
    • We have had many writers trade construction work and such for studio time. Pretty cool.
    • Interns who work tirelessly to be on the inside. (Our interns freaking ROCK, btw!)
  2. Eliminate the dregs
    • Friends who would take a bullet for you are not necessarily good for the team if they don’t add value.
    • Loyal band members are of no use to you if they are the weak link in the band and can’t play. Is there some other place in the organization that will exploit their highest and best use?
    • You need a killer live show; a good team is paramount to that.
  3. Understand the nature of the beast
    • Booking agents work off of a percentage (unless you can pay them)
    • Managers work off of a percentage (unless you can afford a salary)
    • These people will come to you in droves when you are ready for them so stop lamenting the fact that you don’t have them yet.

Get in the game.

 

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The Impeccable Artist

By Johnny Dwinell

Art is a craft and as a craft, I realize that there are 2 kinds of craftsmen.  Some are born with the innate ability to rise above all else with their art; they’re supremely gifted.  Most are born with the love and fascination for a particular art form and choose to follow it.

Craftsmen require mentorship to succeed at making a living, of any kind, with their art.

Here’s the key, both kinds of craftsmen require mentorship to succeed at making a living, of any kind, with their art.impeccable mentor definition image

For the artist prodigy born with the skill set to emotionally move people with their craft, they need mentorship on all the tasks that orbit around a career created by amazing art.  Just because they’re a born songwriter with a golden voice from God doesn’t mean the artist understands how exactly to make a record; which is different than recording.

It doesn’t mean the artist has an audio engineering skill set whatsoever.

It doesn’t mean the artist knows how to produce or make records

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt doesn’t mean the artist understands how to produce and it usually means they NEED a producer to foster them while they grow.

It also doesn’t mean the artist is excellent at executing the business side of a career.

Maybe artists shouldn’t have to.

I totally get that.

But one should definitely understand the concepts and cash flow of their business.  If you don’t someone else will; and they’ll be smart enough to know exactly what you don’t know.

Understanding and overseeing is one thing.

Doing the day to day is another.

If a business manager always has to get checks signed by the artist, it keeps them in line.  They’d better have a story for every vendor the artist doesn’t immediately recognize.file9581279077716

We have a few multi-platinum artist friends, some are more involved in the business side and some prefer to turn a blind eye.  It comes as no surprise to me that the artists who choose to turn a blind eye have many stories of getting screwed over and the business-minded artists have a different outlook.

Get it?

 

Here’s a link to the Beatles “Revolver press conference August 24, 1966 (this is just interesting and entertaining to watch, btw).  Notice how they put all the business questions onto their manager Brian Epstein.

Point of comparison: When Jon Bon Jovi finished the “Slippery When Wet” tour in 1987 he sold 12 million copies in the USA and had made about 93 million dollars from record sales, publishing, ticket sales, tour merchandise, etc. When the Beatles broke up in 1970 they had sold over 600 million records and each of them was worth about 10 million dollars (which equates to around 29 million each in 1987 dollars).

Yeah, man, read that again.impeccable slippery when wet

Bon Jovi is a businessman too.  The Beatles weren’t back then.

So many of you lament the business side of the music but as I mentioned In a previous article, if the word “professional” is valid in your music career, then commerce must exist. Since commerce is present in ALL professional careers, one should really know about it, yes?

If you’re a consummate artiste then you need to at least understand what goes on in the business and sign your own checks or you will almost certainly be pilfered.

Even Oprah says, sign your own checks.  How do you think she came to that realization?

Lastly, I want to share an exchange of ideas I had with a friend this past 2 days.  My friend is a good artist who has made the short list for our reality show. He was expressing frustration with the music business and the broken system.

It is broken.

It’s up to us to fix it; which means reinventing it.

He was wishing it would go back to where “Record labels took a chance on real artists and real artists didn’t have to be so self-promotional”.

I shared with him these thoughts.  Wishing for any label to go back to the old way is like wishing for Pennzoil to make pancakes; it’s not in their business model.

One of the biggest selling country records 10 years ago was Shania Twain’s “Up!” which sold around 12 million copies.  I believe Luke Bryan has the biggest selling country record last year and it was barely 2 million copies.

That’s only 16% of the sales from just 10 years ago.

How would you survive on 16% of your current income?

Then you factor in that each record sold generates 1/3 of the revenue it used to and you can clearly see that it’s not that the labels don’t want to develop talent, they can’t afford to.  So wishing for it or worse, planning on development from a label is setting yourself up for failure.

Labels want to buy small, profitable businesses and expand on the spark that was started by the artist and the art.

That means that even if you intend to pass all the business off to someone else tomorrow, you still need to learn to be a business person today.

Not-for-nothing, but learning that now will help you to keep an intelligent eye on it later.

 

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Your Artistic Journey

Artistic Journey Your Journey Begins Now

 

By Johnny Dwinell

I’m always thinking about artists.  An artist’s success is quite literally paramount to our success at Daredevil Production, LLC.

Last night I was watching Howard Stern’s movie, “Private Parts”, for the umpteenth time but with a whole new set of eyes; artistic eyes.

It turns out this movie is an awesome articulation of an artistic struggle to the top.Artist Journey Private Parts image

I wanted to break it down in that perspective because I feel it’s really enlightening.

If you have seen this movie and you are an artist, watch it again and apply this perspective to your artistic struggle.

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, watch it and connect the dots.

****SPOILER ALERT****

Howard learns early on what exactly he wants to do in life

Howard is an unattractive, socially awkward geek with balls so big I swear they rode shotgun with him whenever he drove.

Still, he was unattractive, and socially awkward; sound familiar?

He dove into the local radio DJ scene at his college.

He sucked because we all suck at the beginning.

Artist Journey Suck MeterHoward’s on-air personality was this lame interpretation of who he thought he should be. He was emulating all the crap he was constantly exposed to.

He was fake in the beginning man. Essentially posing, but driven.

Don’t we all start this way? Emulating?

Howard graduates and goes to his first station gig where his boss tells him that he sucks at his art but he’s reliable so he promotes him to Program Director for 2.5x the money; a position which has nothing to do with his artistic dream.

Howard takes the money; he’s human after all.

Then he regrets the upward move and explains to his new wife that he needs to be a DJ again which means less money; his wife supports himArtist Journey Fred Norris and he quits the highest paying job he’s ever had.

They move to Hartford, CT. where he meets an early Stern team member, Fred Norris.  This is huge because Fred was the first person willing to “play in the sandbox” with Howard.

Then he had his first artistic breakthrough.

Howard had an embarrassing moment where he was caught lying on air.  He admits to it publically after the fact and realizes that when he was honest, forthright, and open about himself, he was better.

Artist Journey Time For Your Breakthrough imageHe didn’t quit after being embarrassed.

When he was himself he was compelling because he was unique.

When he was unique he scared people, namely his superiors in the beginning because there wasn’t really an audience yet; they didn’t trust it.  That’s because they didn’t get it.

There wasn’t an audience yet, because it was new, nobody was doing it.

Sound familiar?

Howard pissed off his superiors until his artistic vision began to get a little traction, their ratings constantly improved in Hartford.  This allowed Howard the wiggle room he needed to hone his craft.

Listen to this, man, the beginning of the upward climb to this undeniably iconic career was littered with tough decisions and failure.

The battles NEVER stopped, in fact they just got bigger with more to lose each step of the way.

Sound familiar?

He screws up with his wife in Hartford and hits a major speed bump in their relationship; epic fail.

On the evening Howard tells his wife about a new job opportunity he was offered in Detroit, a much bigger market than Hartford, she confronts him and dumps him.

Howard moves to Detroit without his wife or Fred. A definite step backward…or was it? I’ll bet it felt that way in the moment.Artist Journey Optimist is 1 step forward and 2 steps back is a cha cha

In Detroit, miserable and with nothing to lose, Howard starts to really hit his artistic stride.  He learns that being real while covering divisive subject matter is his lane.

He’s moving past emulation and coming into his own.  He did this through work.

He also learns that his new artistic lane comes with pushback from the powers that be; it’s foreign to them and unproven at this point. He had to believe in himself to endure the climb.

Then there was a monumental setback that was out of his control.

The Detroit station decides to change from a rock format to a country format. He makes a tough decision to leave Detroit to stay true to his lane.

Big BALLS!

His next gig in Washington D.C. is where Howard meets Robin Quivers who was destined to be his now famous sidekick.  He loves the way she riffs with him from the first day.

Artist Journey Robin QuiversNew band member.

His decision to leave Fred behind (temporarily) pays off with a new KEY member of the team.

Howard continues to hone his craft because it’s a craft. He uses his hardships to his advantage by sharing themArtist Journey Without Craftsmanship Inspiration is a Mere Reed Shaking in the Wind with his public following; something no other DJ’s were doing.

He also inherently understood what most artists don’t these days.  The radio station wasn’t going to make him an artist, rather, it was the other way around.  In fact, he looked at the Detroit station changing formats as a failure on his part; he took responsibility for it. His artistry was going to have to create the audience that would make the radio station successful.

He was going to have to create his own opportunities.Artist Journey Musicians Create Your Own Opportunities

Howard’s superiors continue to hate him because all the major sponsors are bailing out due to the “shock value” of his act. Howard continued on with his vision in the face of complete adversity and then the ratings come out; He’s #1 in D.C.

He uses the ratings momentum to pressure the upper brass into hiring Fred.

#1 in D.C. means that Howard obliterated all the local competition which happened to be NBC.  That leads to a job offer from the #1 market in the country which is New York City.  This move came with a HUGE paycheck piggybacked by HUGE pressure to conform to a new, larger market with bigger suits who had more to lose with Howard’s shtick.

Artist Journey Plot TwistPolitical plot twist; Howard WAS in fact hired because of his talent that took him to #1 in D.C.  However, he was hired by suits who were pissed about losing their ratings position in Washington to Howard’s act,  not because they liked it or even heard it.  He was hired on ratings alone.

He just proved himself in D.C. got the big promotion and HAD TO PROVE HIMSELF ALL OVER AGAIN!

All the same shit with monumentally more pressure, more at stake than he ever had before, including a pending family.

Get it?

New, crazy business scenarios form in the way of the highest NBC brass expressing hostility over Stern’s act, and thus firing the executives who made the hiring decision. They couldn’t fire Howard because contractually they would have to pay him a boatload of cash.  They had to get him to quit.

An NBC executive agreed to torture Howard to the point of leaving…which ultimately led to Robin Quivers, his highest ranked sidekick getting sacked in the crossfire. This lead to Robin hating Howard for the perceived betrayal because Howard made the executive decision not to quit with her; Howard stayed to keep fighting.

Ultimately Howard goes #1 in New York City as well and Robin is rehired.  The rest is history.

This is show business people.  If you think there’s a threshold where you reach a point where you “get paid” and you can kick up your heels and relax; you sorely mistaken.

I promise you haven’t begun to fight. With every rung you climb on the ladder of success there are bigger and more challenging battles. This is why you have to love what you do.

You’re going to have to get used to challenges

Artist Journey Success What people think it looks like what it really looks like

Let me save you the suspense, you’re going to have to get used to challenges; they aren’t going away if you want to succeed.

 

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A True Artist

Artist Ghandi Quote Feature Image

By Johnny Dwinell

Every day I think that if Daredevil Production, LLC is going to make a dent in the Universe with new music we need more true artists.  Thank God the new music industry is all about true artists!

 

A true artist cares about the work

A true artist is interested in and incessantly pursues the truth in their art; no head-tripping allowed.Artist Can you handle the truth2

A true artist is fascinated with the process and not the outcome.  For instance, Billy Joel was quoted as saying something like “I look at my songs like my children. Some of them grow up to be doctors and lawyers, some of them grow up to be delinquents, but I love them all equally and unconditionally.”

The outcome continually improves when a true artist is focused on and fascinated with the process.

 

Artist Billy JoelA true artist has no concern about failing because the work is an end by itself.  For instance, the first record is stepping stone to record two; a snapshot in time of exactly where the artist was on the journey and so on.

 

The task & labor of creation is the satisfaction; it’s even exhilarating to a true artist.

A true artist proves through work that they are worthy and gains confidence in their art.Artist Confidence Thermometer

A true artist gets lost in the cause & forgets all the distractions.

A true artist understands that art can be very objective to the world.

So quality counts.

A true artist doesn’t use the notion that “art is subjective” as an excuse to ignore constructive criticism. For instance, constructive criticism, despite the imminent sting that’s involved, can help define strengths and weaknesses.  Thus, providing a road map on how exactly to work smarter to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.  This is called development and refinement.

Artist art is subjective and objectivve

A true artist doesn’t use the notion that “art is subjective” as an excuse to get by with half-assed work.

A true artist doesn’t use the notion that “art is subjective” as an excuse to be lazy or cheap with their process.

A true artist is driven to continually improve their songwriting, their playing, recording skills, their understanding about the process of making records, their live show, their vocal skills, and their presentation to the world.  They’ll make a living by accident if the energy is right and they’re not self-sabotaging.

A true artist learns through the process of work to ignore the inner censor and entertain all ideas swimming around in their heads.  Write them all down now.  Refine later.

 

A true artist always honors the muse.  When she shows up, drop everything and write it down because you won’t remember.

 

A true artist understands perception is reality.

 

Therefore a true artist doesn’t share their art with the consumer world until its finished and done well; they know they will be judged.brokenCD2A true artists understands that any demos, work tapes, and rough tracks are only interesting and “colorful” to the consumer after they fall in love with the finished track.  Before that it’s just a crappy demo; so they don’t display anything on the world’s refrigerators like Soundcloud, Spotify, etc., until it’s finished.

A true artist knows the difference between a well written song and a song that isn’t ready yet.

A true artist knows the difference in the sonic quality of their music as compared to their idols.

 

A true artist knows it’s less expensive to hire a professional than to hire an amateur.Artist if you think it's expensive to hire a professional wait till you hire an amateur

 

A true artist knows that while well done art is subjective to taste, poorly executed art is objective and crappy.  There’s a difference between a good song and great song, right?  So then is there a difference between a good song and a crappy song.

 

A true artist knows that their mother, best friend, and significant other are the only people who care about their potential.  The rest of the world can only be interested in and react to what you have accomplished.  Getting heartbroken or spiritually injured over anything less is foolish and naïve.

 

A true artist knows that “magic” doesn’t happen out of the heavenly skies until they have their 10,000 hours.  For instance, we see magic happen every day in our studio because we work with professionals who have their 10,000 hours and then some.  There will be no magic with amateurs who can’t play well…that “magic” happens in post-production afterward.

Artist it's all about the magic

 

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What Are You Doing?

Doing Feature Image RESIZE

The last weekly article I wrote entitled 10 Reasons Not To Give Up  received a ton of response.  There was a particular Dreams Clouds reaction that was inspiring to me.

First, I thought I’d share the email with you and then we can dive into my thoughts for this week.

I would love for you to bend your nimble mind around this one . . . it is one thing to hold your vision of the dream and never give up, but for those who really and truly don’t have the skill or talent to make it happen, how can a person accurately gauge when enough is enough and begin to pursue a more attainable dream?  I see it so much – people pouring their life’s energy into a delusion . . . and are crushed when it does not happen.  And that translates to a life of disappointment and pain.  That scenario is far more common than is success in music, don’t you think?

How would you guide a person and advise them via a critical assessment, a self-diagnostic, of their real potential to be successful in the music biz, without shooting them down?

For me, I understand success on a business platform and experience it daily.  Musically there are still a few remnants of fear there and I practice daily not allowing negativity to dissuade me.  I know I will have only the success and fame that I choose to have, given my knowledge of the law of attraction and how manifestation works.  I have done the self-diagnostic and am encouraged 🙂

Your posts encourage me.  I can feel your energy and drive to thrive, brothah!  Keep up the great work!

 

I assure you the person who authored this reply is coming from a very compassionate place, and has asked a real honest, Doing Feature Image RESIZEphilosophical question that I think we all have considered more than once as artists.

 

This brings up a real good perspective to consider, don’t you think?  I’m glad this person reached out!

 

I have an answer to the question that was posed in the reply printed above, “How would you guide a person and advise them via a critical assessment, a self-diagnostic, of their real potential to be successful in the music biz, without shooting them down?”

 

Ready for the answer?

 

It’s simple.

 

What are you doing?

 

Doing Excuse me WTF are you doing

 

The success, legitimacy, or potential for anyone’s future in any life adventure can be easily measured by the work that their doing.

 

What are YOU doing?

 

Wishing for something to happen is not work.

 

Wanting something to happen is not work.

 

Believing something should happen is not work.

 

Hoping for something to happen is not work.doing don't be upset by the results you didn't get from the work you didn't do

 

Complaining about something that is not happening is not work.

 

Making excuses for why something is not happening is not work.

 

Work is the conduit to success.  Work is where you find out exactly how your story will play out.

Work creates luck, opportunity, relationships, and results.

 

For instance, if you are an aspiring singer/songwriter/artist who is broke, living in B.F.E where there is no music business, married with 3 kids, and you are constantly working by writing songs, you are in it.

 

Your potential is greater than someone who is next door with the same circumstances telling everyone what they want to be and why they can’t get it done.

Just do the work.

doing do your work image

 

Through work you will find like-minded people with similar goals in the smallest towns.  That will lead to other people with similar goals in bigger towns.

 

The artists who work hard will always outshine the artists who talk about work and about the business; REGARDLESS OF SKILL AND TALENT.

 

The artists who are constantly working don’t have time to complain about not making it; they’re too busy creating opportunities for themselves.

 

I have learned that people who really love something are busy working on it.  As a consequence, I always judge my involvement with someone on a business level based on the work that they have done.

 

So any self-diagnostic should begin with an honest assessment of what are you doing?

Where are you spending your time?doing is our time well spent hourglass image

 

If you say, “I have to work a job I hate to pay the bills so I can live and therefore I don’t have enough time to be an artist” then you are right.

 

The kind of living you are making is clearly more important to you than becoming an artist because that is what you spend all your time working on; that is what you are doing.

So again I ask every one of you, what are you doing?

 

Whatever you are spending your time working is where you will see results.

 

If you realize that you are working towards something that isn’t as important to you as your artistry, then change it.

doing let's work together image

 

Right now.

 

If you have good reasons for putting all the energy you put into working towards something that doesn’t have anything to do with your artistry, then that is where you really want to be and should be.

 

 

I know this because that is what you are doing.

 

Stay

In

Tune

 

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Pragmatic Epiphanies

By Johnny Dwinell

 

prag·ma·tism

[prag-muh-tiz-uhm]  Show IPA

noun

character or conduct that emphasizes practicality.

a philosophical movement or system having various forms, but generally stressing practical consequences as constituting the essential criterion in determining meaning, truth, or value.

 

Pragmatic Pragmatic MLK image

 

Utilitarian

 

Sober

 

Realistic

 

LogicalPragmatic Bono Quote image

 

Practical

 

Efficient

 

Down-to-Earth

 

Pragmatic To Do Image

Businesslike

 

I am wondering, how do you run your career?

 

I am wondering, how do you approach your art, your talent?

 

Many of you are suffering artistically and stagnate in your careers because you are trying to be something you’re not.  Some of you are pushing for things you think you need to do and ignoring the lanes that options that will bring actual momentum to your career.

In short, many of you are creating your own obstacles unnecessarily.

Yes, it is much easier and quicker to start a fire with a blow torch or flame thrower, but if _MG_2855you don’t have these things, then the more pragmatic approach is to set up smaller kindling wood stuffed with newspaper. The paper burns immediately catching fire to the kindling which catches fire to the big logs in your fireplace; then just keep stoking.

 

You can choose to lament the fact that you don’t have a flame thrower/blow torch which results in no fire, OR you can work with something more practical, something you do have, and the end result is a nice fire.

 

 

 

EVERY ARTIST has their strengths and weaknesses.

 

Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.

An artist really is not going to gain serious momentum until they can objectively sit down and pragmatically determine where the strengths and weaknesses are in their live show, recordings, images, lyrics, melodies, market approach, business plan; their art essentially Pragmatic Madonna Album Cover image

Madonna is an Icon.  She isn’t a good singer.  She’s a good dancer, a great business person, and a great entertainer.  Her live shows do not focus on her singing do they?

She focuses on her strengths.

Ray LaMontagne has a voice that is like butter.  He is an AMAZING singer/songwriter.  Listen to his tracks.  They are decidedly arranged with space.  Space that allows that voice and those lyrics to easily shine through and change your life; that’s how he touches you.

 

He is accentuating the positives.

Pragmatic Ray LaMontagne Image 2

Ray is not trying to blow you away with vocal acrobatics.  That is not his lane and he knows it.  His lane is in the tone and the story, like Stevie Nicks or Rod Stewart.  These kinds of voices just need to sing good songs and the tone feathers out in your chest like a really good scotch.

 

If you listen to pop music with a pragmatic ear you will notice that many of the artists can’t sing.  Consequently the musical arrangements around their voices are akin to a sonic circus.  By design, they don’t really want you to focus on the voice all that much.  It’s more about the hooks and the feel.  Pop music has always been lyrically “light” so much that the words don’t even have to make sense, they just has to sing well; remember Phil Collin’s “Sussudio”?Pragmatic Phil Collins Sussudio image

Two different approaches.

Each approach is appropriate to the artist and genre, yes?

Are you pragmatic with your songwriting?  Do the songs you write fit your vocal range and style?

Are you pragmatic with your live show?  Does your show accentuate your positives and eliminate the negative?

Are you truly a captivating act?

Are you pragmatic with your sonic production and arrangements in the studio?

Pragmatic Tony Robbins Resourcefulness image

 

Are you overplaying?

Are you over-singing?

Are you over producing a great voice?

How about your marketing approach?

Pragmatic is about focusing on what you do have instead of what you don’t.

Be pragmatic.  Get momentum.

 

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