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Acceptance: Be the Bee

Be the Bee Feature image 2

Be the Bee Jungle Love image

Have you ever listened to a song you’ve heard a thousand times and then really “heard” it? Or heard something you’ve never heard before in that song? The other day I was listening to Steve Miller’s “Jungle Love which I’ve heard literally a million times, but this time I HEARD the bass line for the first time. How inspiring and badass!

We are going to do a fun little artistic exercise today

This got me thinking. We are going to do a fun little artistic exercise today. Some of you are aware of the 90’s Seattle band named Blind Melon. Some of you have heard their big hit “No Rain and some of you haven’t.

Be the Bee Blind Melon No Rain image

Here’s the deal. I want you ALL to take a 4:06 artist date with yourself and watch this Blind Melon video right now.

I don’t care if you have heard this song a million times, or seen this video a million times.

Listen to it AGAIN, right now.

Watch it AGAIN, right now

 

Focus on it. Do whatever you have to do to get your head right so you can really experience it for 4 short minutes of your life.

Then I want you to read the rest of this post.

and GO!

We need to belong, we HAVE to belong to something

Part of the human experience on this planet is the hard-wired instinctual need we have for acceptance. We need to belong, we HAVE to belong to something.

To live, we HAVE to feel loved.Be the Bee Desire for Acceptance image

Think about it, this need is so instinctual that we often belong to groups or organizations that are bad for us or beneath us simply because they let us belong and make us feel welcomed.

Many of us never reach our full life potential because we are deathly afraid to leave our comfort zone of acceptance even though we have emotionally surpassed everyone in the group. Everyone has experienced this, is experiencing this, or knows someone right now that is experiencing this.

Some of us don’t leave the hood, some of us don’t leave our small town, some of us don’t move forward for fear of not being accepted somewhere else.

Some of us don’t think we are good enough.

Some of us don’t think we are worthy.

Some of us don’t think we deserve better.

We all secretly want to drink the Kool-Aid and are wired up to mortally fear a lack of Kool-Aid

Be the Bee Kool Aid ImageI believe the video y’all just watched to be a microcosm of the music industry. I see this video as a clever metaphor for our amazing artistic community (and all of life for that matter).

Did you notice that the community did not find our little bee?

Did you notice that our little bee had to find the community?

 

Did you feel for our little bee as she suffered the rejections?

The cool thing about this new music business is that, as artists, we have the ability to find and cultivate our own little, very specific field of bees.

With the access we all have to the internet, we can find the communities that fit our needs as they pertain to our current location on our respective journey.

The old music business created a homogenized, very sterile field of bees that are willing to follow any artist that shows up on their radar screen because that artist can be “force fed” to the bees.

The old music business was about chasing a “formula” that they felt was “guaranteed” to work in the pipeline they created.Be the Bee Control image

The old music industry had the power to control what the field of bees were exposed to.

The old music industry had the power to control who was allowed in the field.

Our core artist in us hates this fact. We don’t want to be forced to compromise our art to gain acceptance amongst the pre-chosen bees. We want to be like the bee in video and find our OWN field of bees who like us just the way we are.

Now you can.

It’s all out there for you and most of it is free; at least the start of it is free.

I got news for y’all, the “powers that be” on radio, television, running record labels, booking agencies, management companies, bloggers and mass media, you know, the ones whose help you need to achieve success they’re bees too.

They want to belong too.

They need to be a part of something.

YOU have to create and distribute your own Kool-Aid just the way you like it.

You have the power to connect with people who are looking for your kind of Kool-Aid; even if they didn’t know it!

If enough people are drinking your Kool-Aid the “powers that be” will too; because they’re just bees like you and I.

Be the bee

 

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Good News For Indie Artists!

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How To Create A Killer EPK

EPK Feature Image

By Johnny Dwinell

These days a killer Electronic Press Kit (EPK) is becoming increasingly necessary as an effective, immediate method to demonstrate yourself as an artist to live venues, booking agents, PR firms, promoters, investors, labels, Lawyers, etc. A good EPK is tricky to put together mostly because artists get confused as to the intent of the EPK, who the audiences will be, and precisely how it will be consumed. Whether you want to believe it or not, whether you like it or not, a poorly or naively constructed EPK is a red flag that defines you immediately. If you want to look professional you better have a professional EPK. Lets define these formerly mentioned items and then Ill break down some solid, common sense strategies on how to create a killer EPK.

What is the Intent of Your EPK?

Intention EPK image

A good EPK is like a mission statement/business plan/band brochure for interested parties that are considering doing business with you. What an EPK is NOT intended for is ego stroking, Behind the Music type documentary content. All too often I see 30 minute long EPKs and they never get consumed when theyre that long, no matter how good the band isso dont waste your time. I promise you that your audiences will not waste theirs. Just think about your own time. Think about when a friend sends a video that is awesome or cool or funny and you see that it is 15 minutes long; you inevitably think ugh and pass on it or stow it away to watch whenever you get more time. I mean, would you watch a documentary of any length from a band you didnt know or are you far more interested in documentaries from bands you LOVE? Get my point?

Who is Your Audience?

 

Audience EPK image

Your audiences are professionals in the music business and they are not only crushed for time with their respective job requirements, but they also have families, private lives, other obligations, charities, etc. so you must respect their time. Your audiences are decidedly NOT consumers, fans, or groupies so they wont consume this material as such. Since the audience for your EPK is professional they are interested in if they can make money working with you and then exactly how that will happen. The more you can stick to business the better off you will be. Not for nothing, but the more you stick to business in your EPK the more professional you will look as well.

How Will Your EPK Be Consumed?

Consumed EPK image

Quickly!

They dont have time. Think of the time factor from their perspective; which means LARGE volume. If they need to experience 500 EPKs per week and they consume just 5 minutes of each EPK thats almost 42 hours per week and I promise you their job description requires far more than just viewing EPKs.

Get it?

They are going to view the most efficient summary of the content (called a One Sheet or Elevator Pitch) and decide if they will commit any more time from there. The bio is the LAST think they will consume and only if they have a slow week or the previous content in the EPK has simply enchanted them. Common sense says spend the time and limited budget on making sure the one sheet is awesome and leave the bio for last as most of your audiences will not to the bio even if they decide to hire you.

8 Points to Creating a KILLER EPK

8 Ball EPK image

Here are 8 essential points to assembling a super effective EPK. I will put them in order of importance the best that I can. I say this because different bands will be stronger with different points so you need to focus on putting your act in the best possible light. If your band is ugly, then photos are necessary but not what you want to lead with and so on.

  1. One Sheet A one sheet is the summary of everything about your act on one sheet. In the world of business plans this is called an executive summary. This is the first thing your audiences will see in your EPK but should be the last item you create for your EPK because you will need to view all the necessary components of your EPK to get a feel for strengths and weaknesses to create a potent one sheet that has sizzle. Your one sheet should have a few of the following items:
    1. A great photo
    2. Quick list of milestones/accomplishments
    3. Press quotes
    4. Contact info for:
      i. Band
      ii. Management
      iii. PR
      iv. etc
    5. Band member names and instruments they play.
    6. Links to your 2 or 3 most popular songs (dont attach anything or they wont get downloaded due to fear of viruses)
    7. Link to live video
    8. Link to press page on your website or links to a few choice reviews or press interviews, etc.
    9. Social Media links These should demonstrate your popularity on whatever social media sites you choose to be on.
    10. Check out a decent one sheet HERE
  2. Great Photo A photo is worth 1,000 words. Learn it. Live it. Love it. This is usually the first way in which you will communicate with your audience; thus, its THE most important way to communicate. GoodPhotography EPK image photos = more press. Bad photos = no press, no listens, judgments that you are unprofessional. Your photo immediately defines you; think about that for a second. If you were a hippie, folksy, organic, acoustic band you wouldnt take a photo in biker leathers and boots like a heavy metal band, right? HELL NO, it would give people the wrong first impression. BTW, up and coming photographers are always looking for good content so dont be afraid to ask for a deal, man! The worst thing anyone can say is no but if you serve it up like your band could add quality content with the photographers talent to the photographers portfolio, you just might get a deal. If you have friends that are a bigger act than you are, ask them to piggy back on a killer photo shoot. My band was shot by Princes photographer (3-rolls of film) with Princes make-up lady for just $600 because my buddy who had the budget was shooting with the photographer earlier that day and lined up a bonus deal for me. Here are some important points to remember:
    1. Your photo has to be awesome its the first line of communication!
    2. Dont waste time or money on a crappy photo.
    3. Dont use a friend to save money, use a professional
    4. Check out an example of a killer creative photographer HERE
    5. Check out an example of a killer live photographer HERE
  3. Press Press quotes offer social proof that you are making a dent in the music scene. This is what will get promoters excited to work with you. Do NOT put quotes in from friends or family as this will make you look unprofessional. More press = better no matter how small the periodical or blog may be. When you list the press quotes, list the most important press first and least important last, etc. If it is possible, provide the quote in the form of a hyperlink to the actual quote to offer a quick 1-click method to corroborate your story with the truth; again, think time constraints here. I would include:
    1. CD reviews
    2. Live Show Reviews
  4. Music Video – this is super important, especially for the live venues. If your audience is a booking agent for Music Videos EPK imagea live venue it stands to reason that they would want to see videos of you performing for a packed house, right? You definitely wanna show your band in front of a jam-packed house. If you dont have a big draw, then make sure you are in a super small club or a friends basement, LOL. If the club isnt standing room only get good angles so it seems like its crammed! Getting good talent to shoot your video can be a bit of a challenge. I recommend scouring your local universities for film students who are looking for some content. You can also check out a pretty cool website called Radar Music Videos. This web site puts directors all over the world with bands and their respective budgets. Pretty cool open source opportunity. Live videos show that:
    1. You can actually play live
    2. You have a draw
    3. Your Stage Presence
    4. Professionalism
    5. NOTE: dont show any overtly violent mosh pit shots, instrument destruction, etc. Its much easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.
  5. MP3s Next I would put the music in there. Definitely do NOT attach mp3s as you will likely get most of your EPKs deleted due to fear of viruses. Simply provide links to 3 of your very best songs on your website, MP3 Audio EPK imageSoundcloud, Reverbnation, etc. Unless they are sporting some killer consumption statistics, I always advise our artists to link to mp3s on their own website as there are no metrics to judge how many people have listened. Perception is reality. Your EPK is not the place to put demos, or iPhone recordings or anything unprofessional. There is simply no excuse for sonically crappy recordings anymore so if you dont have good recordings you really dont need an EPK. You will be judged. Again, remember how many EPKs your audiences are consuming every week. Every other band is professional you had better be too. If you think because they are professional promoters that they are going to hear past crappy production you are nave.
  6. Gig/Tour Calendar – This is obviously important. The more gigs you have the more attractive you look. If you dont have a ton of gigs yet, dont put the calendar in the EPK. If you do have some pending dates make sure:
    1. The gigs are constantly up to date. Dont blow this off or you will look like an idiot. Consider listing a few shows in the EPK and a link to your tour/gig dates on your site.
    2. Define types of venues, frequency, etc.
    3. Remember that you are looking for appropriate venues, not to win over everybody.
  7. Social Media Links These demonstrate your marketing prowess and marketing momentum. These links will show how many fans you have and demonstrate how engaged they are. For instance, if you have 100,000 Twitter followers but all your tweets only get retweeted or replied to 5 times, there is a problem.
  8. Bio This bio should be short and sweet. Nobody cares about your whole story until youre famous. I thinkBio EPK image of the scene in the movie Bull Durham where Kevin Costner is preparing Tim Robbins for the major leagues. He says, Your shower shoes have fungus on them. You’ll never make it to the bigs with fungus on your shower shoes. Think classy, you’ll be classy. If you win twenty in the show, you can let the fungus grow back and the press’ll think you’re colorful. Until you win twenty in the show, however, it means you are a slob. Unless your story is super compelling AND famous I would stick to the basics. A bio should have the following:
    1. Where your based
    2. Short summary on your professional milestones/work accomplishments
    3. Band member names and instruments they play
    4. Nobody cares about your struggle

Conclusions

Here are some quick points to think about in conclusion:

  • You should always be looking at other peoples EPKs to keep up with the latest trends. Good artists borrow; great artists STEAL.
  • Keep your EPK short; no more than 5 minutes. An EPK is NOT A MOVIE; it wont be consumed as such. So keep a Directors cut to scratch your filmmaker itch if necessary but deliver a short, potent, EPK for business purposes; remember that all your audiences HATE reviewing EPKs so make it as painless as possible.
  • I recommend that your first draft have everything you want in it and then chunk it down to 5 minutes from there. If you have to make decisions on eliminating quality content, this is called a High Class Problem.
  • Constantly cultivate your EPK by replacing old content with more up-to-date substance.
  • Take higher profile gigs regardless of financial compensation to bolster the legitimacy of your EPK.

 

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There Is No EZ Button!

EZ Button 1 Epic Event Image

By Johnny Dwinell

The music business, like your life, is all about how much work you put into it.

There is No EZ Button!

Our personal and professional lives are shaped and determined by what we do consistently, not any one event. We work, or choose not to work, every day on our relationships, our jobs, and our dreams. Single, positive, epic 1 Epic Event imageincidents put emphasis on our momentum and feel really good, especially when we are truly prepared to take full advantage of the serendipitous event. Single positive epic incidents also happen when we are not prepared to take full advantage of them. These feel good and we feel validated, but they are short-lived and we gain little from them. Conversely, a single negative or devastating occurrence can temporarily spoil our forward progress but we continue on, we move forward, because we must. We still have to wake up, we still have to go to work, we still have to raise our kids. The show must go on! Our lives are no different from the music business.

There is No EZ Button!

Many of us are thriving at a job right now that we got because a friend referred us or made us aware of it. We got the opportunity because of our relationship and the job because of our talent and personality. Life is about relationships. The music business is no different.

There is No EZ Button!

Every day we go to work and perform our daily tasks to execute our job requirements. We would be FIRED if we told our boss that we were waiting for a big break which entailed someone coming in and doing our job for us. Our job is no different from the music business.

There is No EZ Button!

(What are your artistic daily job requirements? Just a thought.)

 

EZ Button Lottery imageYou work every day to create monthly cash flow because your landlord or your mortgage company will not wait for a big break in your life, like winning the lottery. Can you imagine? Yes Mr. Landlord, I understand I am 2 months late but you dont understand, I am super talented/lucky and I am going to win the lotteryTHEN I will pay you! Your housing situation is no different from the music business.

 

There is No EZ Button!

We have to raise our kids ourselves. Some of us really care about our kids, and as a result we are constantly trying to learn and improve our parenting skills. We are also learning from our kids and improving as humans from the time spent. Some of us dont give a shit and those kids will grow up to be terrorists. Raising kids requires constant attention and consistency. Raising kids is no different from the music business.

There is No EZ Button!

Every one of us has had to deal with a terrible loss: a family member, a friend, a lover, a band member. It hurts. We loved them. Losing a loved one is no different from the music business.

There is No EZ Button!

One of the hardest lessons any of us has to learn is how and when to let a friend go. Its extremely difficult to shift gears in a long-valued relationship when the other person stops bringing any value to it. The music business is no different.

There is No EZ Button!

The very first day on our job, we were a rookie and we felt vulnerable and certainly uncomfortable because every EZ Button First Day Imagejob feels foreign on the first day. We went the second day because we had faith we would learn, we had faith it would get better with time, we had courage! Now we OWN our job. Now we are a valued member of the team. Now, we have mastered our exact job description, daily requirements, office politics, upper management assholes, insubordinate underlings, glass ceilings, self-solving IT issues, software workarounds, where to park, where everyone eats, who needs schmoozing, who needs to be left alone, the sharks, the dolphins, and all the little things we do that help us excel. The music business is no different from our current job because it entails all these things.

There is No EZ Button!

EZ Button Every Time You Spend Money image

To get any decent paying job we have to spend money. We spend a lot of money on a college education, clothes, tools, power tools, trucks, cars, qualified leads, advertising, supplies, continuing education, child care, transportation, travel, paid coaching seminars, trade shows, technology, etc. The music business is no different from any other business because it costs money if you want to do it right.

There is No EZ Button!

An ungodly percentage of us have received a degree, and while it helped qualify us for our current job and maybe taught us to think (maybe!), we dont use our degree to make a living. Those of us who do use our degree and those of us who dont use our degree realized the first day we got our job that we didnt know anything. We realized it takes WAY more than school to be good at what we do. The music business experience is no different from your job experience.

There is No EZ Button!

EZ Button Dent in the Universe imagePeople judge/evaluate us at our current job, even its a menial job. Were perceived somewhere on this continuum: as a rock star who always excels, as a mediocre worker who never rocks the boat, or as a lazy one who lingers at the bottom, skating by, always about to get fired. Our artistic dream of creating a dent in the Universe reflects the exact same work ethic. No matter the job: if its worth doing, its worth doing well! Of course, the music business is no different. We will be judged and evaluated.

There is No EZ Button!

We enjoy being with our friends and (sometimes) with our family because we love them and they are a great hang. We work at deepening these relationships by providing value or we ignore these relationships and constantly float on their periphery. We despise time spent with people who steal our energy and suck up all the air in the room; we avoid that scene at all costs. The music business dynamic is no different. So, be a great hang, not someone who sucks all the energy out of the room.

There is No EZ Button!

We all need love. We all need to be loved. All of us have had romantic relationships that were complete disasters. From this point we either choose to be a victim and wallow in the sorrow & despair or we choose to learn and move past it. We can choose to grow. Those of us who choose to learn and grow realize that we were partly responsible for the tender wreckage regardless of how it manifested itself or in spite of getting screwed. We choose to be accountable for the mess. Then we move on and try again because we all need love. We all need to be loved. We decide to be bitter and closed off, willing to be vulnerable again, or we learn to be willing to be vulnerable again. Love is always a risk. Still, we do it, dont we? The music business is no different from your love life; its COMPLICATED!

There is No EZ Button!

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5 Twitter Marketing Strategies

5 Twitter image

By Johnny Dwinell

Twitter is an awesome surgical marketing tool

Twitter

With over 250 million active users, you have an amazing FREE tool for finding people that are like-minded and connecting with them; like a cocktail party of sorts.  After you have recorded your masterpiece, you need to bring it to the world.  Twitter allows you to find people that are predisposed to liking your kind of music and facilitates a relationship if you have the balls to reach out and the brains to do it intelligently.  Here are 5 Twitter marketing strategies to help you get your music out there and build a tribe

Define And Find Your Audience

Who is your audience?  Is it EDM?  Is it Metal?  Is it Folk?  Is it Country?  Twitter even allows you to find sub genres within a certain genre, like Pop-Country, Country-Rock, Death Metal, Black Metal, etc.  I always tell file0002005996090my artists to think of what artist they would love to open for if they could be on any tour.  Typically this is going to get the artist thinking of the type of audience that would most likely dig their music.  For instance, if you are a Metal band and think that Metallica fans would love your bands music as well, then an opening slot on a Metallica tour would be super beneficial to your band, right?  Well Metallica has about 2 million Twitter followers that you can connect with.  Simply go to the search bar and type in Metallica.  You will then pull up their Twitter account.  Now, click on “Followers” and you have all their followers at your fingertips.

Twitter # Search and @Search

file3371281797656Continuing on with the Metallica example, anybody on Twitter that is talking about Metallica would probably like your music as well, yes?  So if you go to the search bar and type in @Metallica you will bring up many different Twitter accounts that have recently posted a comment about Metallica.  You can also use this same method for #Metallica.  What if you have a song that has the same vibe as a certain song, say like “Margaritaville”.  Simply type in #Margaritaville and you will find a slew of people who just used #Margaritaville in a recent tweet.

FOLLOW THEM!

Now you need to follow these people.  If you have a relatively new account you can start by following 30 people per day for a month and avoid account suspension.  Then Twitter Follow imagebump that number up to 60 people per day for a month then you can safely follow up to 120 people per day and not be suspended.  If your account is older than 1 year and seasoned (meaning you have been tweeting every now and again) then you can start following 60 per day for a month and then bump up to 120 people per day.  This is called the “follow first” method.  Think of it as an introduction and a handshake.  A certain percentage of these people will follow you back.  Then you will want to Unfollow the people who don’t follow you back.  I would only Unfollow as many people as you follow each day.  Tweepi, FriendorFollow, Tweetdeck, Hootesuite, are all different sites that will allow you to easily discover who is following and who isn’t; they all have free account levels for you to try out.

Content, Content, Content

The more you tweet with content that you like the more you will build your Twitter Content imageTwitter tribe.  For instance, live footage from shows, BTS (behind the scenes) footage backstage at a show, videos of music you like, videos or links to your favorite movie scenes, links to other artists you like, inspirational quotes or quotes that resonate with you are really good content that tends to get retweeted often.  Avoid hype for your band.  Hype works when you are using a branding marketing approach because there are tons of eyeballs or ears that are watching or listening to one message at the same time.  Please understand that hype doesn’t work on social media because everyone’s experience is 1 on 1.  If you use hype on any social media platform you will just look like an idiot; total turn off.  This content will begin to foster and deepen relationships with people online.  At Daredevil Production  we blog every week so this provides content that people like to consume.

Expose Your Music

HINT: Start THANKING and stop asking.  I hate it when someone follows me on Twitter or when I follow them and they come right out of the box with “Check out my music”; it’s annoyingTwitter Exposure Hand image.  Even if they ask politely it’s a total turnoff.  It’s REALLY EFFING annoying when they panhandle, like “I really need help PLEASE check out my music”; ugh.  Think of it this way, you meet someone for the first time at a cocktail party and you say “Pull your pants down I want to have sex”.  Oh wait, you ask POLITELY for them to pull their pants down because you want to have sex.  99.99% of the time it’s not gonna work man.  Twitter is the same way.  Think of it as a cocktail party.  I recommend you start THANKING people and give something back.  You are NOT using social media to sell so much as you are using it to create relationships.  GIVING is a great way to start a relationship.  Send a DM or Tweet “Wow!  Thank you so much for the follow.  I want you to have 7 free songs!  Enjoy!”  Watch how many downloads you get!  Now, assuming you are not sending out total crap, you will begin to develop a following.

Are you using Twitter to expose people to your music?

Are you thinking of Twitter as an appreciating asset?

With this method and CONSISTENT cultivation and Twitter activity you can gain at least 1,000 new, targeted followers each and every month.  I can tell you that Daredevil Production gains a solid 1,800 per month so 1,000 per month is easily doable.  Do the math, man, that’s 12,000 followers per year; and it’s constantly growing.

P.S. if you use Tweepi you can find your audience and then sort by location.  Think about that, you can use it to follow every like minded Twitter user in your region to help boost your live following!

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Don’t Sing On Your Song Demo Dummy!

By Johnny Dwinell

Don’t sing your song demo dummy!

If you do, especially if you’re a novice at creating song demos (not necessarily singing), you will inevitably limit your opportunities to file000819242154sell the song; you will end up casting a “smaller net” regardless of your vocal ability.   All too often, I see aspiring songwriters who haven’t really gotten the performing/recording artist bug out of their system spend good money and confuse the intent of a song demo with that of an artist track.  They want to sing, I suppose, to scratch their respective artist “itch” and I TOTALLY get that!  Just make sure you are clear on what you need.  One can’t expect a minivan, which is super effective for hauling groceries and kids, to perform like a Ferrari and take corners at 90 mph.  Conversely, one cannot be upset that a Ferrari will not hold 4 kids and all the groceries.

Huh?

Listen; whenever you spend money, especially when there is little money to spend (which requires you to make decisions), you need to ensure you are spending wisely.  So the first thing you need to ask yourself is what is the intent of the recording?  What function is the recording supposed to serve?

Let’s break them both down.

 

Artist Tracks

The intent of an artist track is to sell the track and the artist.

A producer’s job is to put the artist in the best possible light sonically & artistically and blow people away so that they will spend money purchasing the product (aka the CD); this is selling the artist.  This takes more time and certainly expertise in the studio.  More time and expertise in the studio cost more money.

As an artist, you intend to sell the track.  Higher union rates will apply if the intent of the recording is to generate revenue; again, more money.

If your band will actually be doing the recording then you will need a combo platter of multiple takes during tracking session to get the recording tight and probably some editing on the back end to help, depending_DSC6357 on the musicianship of the players.  Either of these two actions requires time and expertise in the studio which requires more money.

You want people to say “Wow!  Who the hell is that singing?”  This means your producer better be crafting a KILLER vocal track, man; make no mistake this is an art form.  This art form requires time & expertise and that costs money.

You want people to say, “That unexpected band break is freaking COOL MAN!”  This means your producer is allowing the band the time they need to craft something unique and special.  You guessed it, that extra time costs more money.

20131129_140442As the artist you make choices with regards to arrangement, song structure, song choice, production, genre, key, vibe, etc. that are consonant to you artistically and refined to your lane; which is more subjective than objective by definition.  Ultimately the intent of the recording is to move people with your unique artistic stamp.  If you are a professional artist the track must generate revenue by definition. This activity will hopefully generate additional returns through sales of subsequent merchandise, concert tickets, sponsorships, endorsements, etc.

The juice should be worth the squeeze financially, but you get the picture, right?  An artist track is all about YOU.

 

Song Demos

The intent of a song demo is to sell the song, specifically the lyric, melody, and vibe of the song to a major label producer, a major label A&R exec, a publishing company, or a major label artist.  A song demo is not supposed to Song Demo Melodyspotlight YOU in any way as an artist as they fully intend to re-cut the song with their band and their artist on the mic.  It is naïve to hope that an amazing vocal performance would possibly get a producer interested in working with you (as an artist) seeing as they are focused on finding songs for the project currently at hand. Statistically, this is just a distraction from your mission, which is the song pitch.  Remember, in the new music market the responsibility for artist development falls on the artist there is very little ROI for producers and labels to develop acts anymore as the business model has simply changed; they just aren’t equipped to do it.  So a tactic like this is a high percentage shot, like a full court basketball shot that’s nothing-but-net; possible but highly unlikely.  A better tactic would be to make the most effective song demo you could and increase your chances to get the cut!  That will garner more attention from more people who could help your career than betting the farm on a limited set of ears that you are engaging with because they are focused on entirely different projects.  Simply put, getting a cut gets your talent far more exposure than crossing your fingers that the few people who hear the demo will defocus from their current job to explore a relationship with you as an artist.  Make sense?

 

If you are a GREAT singer

You will have a unique stylistic approach to your song.  Yes the vocal track will be amazing but what if your style doesn’t resonate with the major label artist you are pitching it to?  What if the producer recognizes that phrasing the vocal in a different manner could make the song become viable for multiple genres or lanes within a certain genre; thus creating more opportunities for the song to get cut?  Could you effortlessly change your phrasing?  You want a cut, right?

 

If you are an AVERAGE singer

(Like me) you will have a unique stylistic approach to your song.  You will end up spending more money on the demo on multiple vocal takes during the session and in post production (vocal tuning) time to make it less sucky.  This will needlessly increase the cost of your demo. file0001596147731A song demo shouldn’t result in some epic production with the track because that’s too subjective for the intent.

What if the artist you are pitching too doesn’t like your taste in production, will that color their decision to cut your song?

What if the artist you are pitching too loves your taste in production but their project is going a different way, will that affect their ability to “hear” themselves singing your song for this particular project?

Will the production you create “date” the track making the demo recording less durable over time?

If you have artist tracks that you wish to use a song pitches, you might consider spending a few extra bucks to get a pro singer to cut the vocal and a new mix solely for the song demo.

The song demo is all about the SONG; keep it there.

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What’s In Your Toolbox?

By Johnny Dwinell

What’s in your toolbox?  What’s in your emotional toolbox, your artistic toolbox, your business toolbox, your marketing toolbox?

Huh?

I used to have a huge fear of commitment.

OMG, what??

Years ago after I got off the road as the lead singer for a hair band I realized I was having challenges creating relationships with file6161313070963women that were deeper than just sex.  I was really worried that I would end up old and alone with a house full of cats (LOL, I’m TOTALLY a dog person, but you get the point).  As you can imagine after a good 7 years as a full time 80’s-rock-band-front-man-on-permanent-tour, I had encountered many women. I also managed to experience some longer, emotionally profound relationships with a few quality women who I found intriguing, smart, and captivating; but still, scared to commit. Yikes!

 

I definitely needed some help so I sought out therapy at the brazen request of a freshly-fired girlfriend who assumed she was leaving Nashville with me to move to California (I still don’t know how the hell she thought that, man, it wasn’t like we were living together or dating that long, but I digress).  She actually handed me a number of a therapist in Pasadena (SO RANDOM) and sternly told me to call him the minute I got out there.

I did call him and I recommend therapy for everyone.  Therapy is like college for your own soul. Therapy is all about finding out who YOU are and feeling comfortable in your own skin; which I desperately needed.  This therapist, Stan, was amazing and is still a great friend and spiritual adviser to me.  During the first session he asked me why I was there and I explained.  As the session ended he said, “Johnny, I’m gonna bet that you don’t have sisters or if you do, they are younger and by at least 4 years.”

I said, “WTF??  How do you know that?” (Not expecting the fortune telling element at all…he was right, I have 2 amazing sisters 4 years and 7 years younger than me)

He replied, “Because you don’t know shit about women.”

I laughed out loud at the silly man!  “Stan, I have forgotten about more women than most men will ever have.”

Stan countered, “Yeah, I’m sure that’s true, man, but you still don’t know shit about women so you’re scared to death of getting too close to them.”

Game! Set! Match!

I was cornered with logic. He went on to explain that a boy with older sisters or sisters who are closer to his age (close enough that they are in his social/peer groups growing up) offer a front row seat to the trials and tribulations of romantic relationships from the female perspective that said boy is more inclined to respect, internalize and learn from.  When the sisters are younger and out of your peer group they are just a nuisance.assorted_tools

True story again!

I was essentially lacking a tool in my emotional toolbox and I had just defined exactly what tool was missing.  You see, that was half the battle.  Now I could move forward with a clear plan to improve my life.  Identifying the missing tool actually got me excited to learn about the ever fearful unknown.  I was totally stoked to explore, which lessened the fear of the unknown.  This internal encouragement couldn’t have happened had I not understood that I was lacking somewhere.  Get it?

You Have To Find the Missing Tools In Your Toolbox

As humans and especially artists we are (hopefully) inclined to constantly improve.  We want, need, and search for new steps in the staircase of development that lead us to higher plateaus of emotional and artistic impeccability.  However, this requires change to occur.  As humans and especially artists, we are quite resistant to change; this results in pain and suffering.  This pain and suffering causes stagnation, idle artistry, and (gasp) mediocrity!

The thing is, our lives and our art can be constantly improving if we understand one simple concept; you’re human so you never have all the tools you need.  I find this to be a common roadblock with the talent we work with as they have a naive understanding of (or simply ignore) the process of artistic development; it IS A PROCESS and it takes time.

The main part of the process is to be open to the process.

Part of the process is to understand your strengths and capitalize on them.Toolbox process image

Part of the process is to recognize your weaknesses and improve upon them.

Part of the process is unfettered exploration; the constant search for tools you don’t have and the curiosity to discover how they will benefit your journey.

Part of the process is to identify mentors.

Part of the process is to allow yourself to be mentored artistically, businesswise, relationship-wise, marketwise, communication-wise, etc.

Part of the process is humility.

Part of the process is acceptance.

You are born with some great tools. Maybe you have incredible talent, maybe you have incredible drive, maybe you’re an expert politician, maybe you’re a good leader, maybe you’re good at creating relationships, and maybe you understand business.

But you don’t have all the tools.

What are you missing?

Do you need:

  • Business acumen?
  • Marketing expertise?
  • Vocal lessons?
  • Recording experience?
  • Better people-skills?
  • Communication skills?
  • Songwriting proficiency? (It’s not magic it’s a CRAFT!)
  • Stage presence?
  • Attitude adjustments?
  • Ego check?
  • More practice?
  • More knowledge?
  • Focus?
  • Clarity?

So which ones are you missing?

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10 Superstars Who’d Fail On American Idol

American Idol Feature image

By Johnny Dwinell

What is your lane?

Do you really know?

Should it change? Are you sure?

Keith Urban on American Idol

I was inspired by Keith Urban after hearing his comment on American Idol last week. He said something to the effect of (and I’m paraphrasing), “If these people would just listen to our suggestions American Idol imageinstead of simply reacting to the failure they might learn something.” Wow, I see struggling writers and artists deal with failure like this all the time. They focus on how they feel about a particular rejection rather than HEARING the feedback. I know a lot of you reading this post are suffering and struggling simply because you are focusing on the wrong lane. Once you are in the lane you are supposed to be in, rejection feels like a matter of taste which is not a judgment on you personally, rather than a catastrophic bomb that ruins your self-esteem. A rejection feels like you made a ham sandwich and someone doesn’t like ham as opposed to that person not liking YOU. Then I got to thinking how much of a specific lane American Idol is. There are amazing singers and then there are amazing vocalists; there is a definite difference and AI requires amazing vocalists.

Just because you’re not an amazing vocalist doesn’t mean you can’t achieve your artistic dreams. Setting appropriate goals, defining YOUR lane, and staying in YOUR lane are the keys to achieving your dreams and avoiding the heartache of unnecessary rejections. Let me explain.

I made a living for the better part of 10 years in an 80’s hair-band called Kidd Gypsy. I remember American Idol Kidd Gypsy IMagealways wanting to be a guitar shredder but I never had the right-hand skills (no matter how hard I practiced) to pull it off; this left me incredibly frustrated; for years this pissed me off. Once I realized that tasty guitar solos was my lane instead of shredding guitar solos, I eliminated a huge amount stress that was completely pointless and preventable; I was trying to be in the wrong lane. I was NEVER going to win any vocal competitions either, man, but it sure didn’t stop me from being a great front man and a decent enough singer not to drive people out of the club, LOL. This, in turn, allowed me to make a living doing what I loved to do instead of being depressed all the time. Kelly is a vocal GOD; it’s true. If you go to our Artist Tracks page on the DDP site and listen, 99% of the BGVs are Kelly; he’s like a machine in the studio. I could NEVER pull that off. I KNEW my lane was never going to be in the vocal God category; I had to entertain, I had to find a different way to be an artist.

Get it?

Find your strong suit and work on that. Constantly improve your weaknesses to be more well-rounded, but make sure that you are not trying to make a career out of your weaknesses. All this will do is leave you discouraged.

This got me thinking about how many SUPERSTAR artists are not great vocalists. Here is a list of 10 Superstars who’d fail on American Idol. All these artists are famous, some of them are considered more artistically important than others, some of them are amazing business people, some of them are amazing entertainers, some of them are good singers, but not one of them is an amazing vocalist.

10 Superstars Who’d Fail On American Idol

  1. Mick Jagger – The Rolling Stones are certainly one of the longest lasting iconic bands in history (if not the most). Mick is a great front man, songwriter, business man (he kept the Stones rolling for the 20 years that Keith Richards checked out on heroin), and a sex symbol for sure. However, Mick wouldn’t be your first call to cut BGVs on a pop record.
  2. Bob Dylan – I think all would agree that Bob Dylan is one of the most important and influential songwriters of the 20th century. Listening to him talk can be as difficult as listening to him sing, LOL. Don’t get me wrong. I am a Dylan fan, but let’s face it, it was always about what he was saying not how he was singing. His lane was the writing. We are all drawn in by the message.
  3. David Lee Roth – Van Halen (not Van Hagar) is one of my very favorite bands. DLR is American Idol DLR Flying imagearguably the best front man on the planet. He really took the definition of “Rock Star” to a whole new level. I saw them live on the 1984 tour and he hardly sang! I didn’t care. I couldn’t take my eyes off him! He is a true star, extremely stylistic, and very compelling on and off the stage. However, we would never hire him to sing any demos, LOL
  4. Kenny Chesney – Kenny Chesney is currently one of the biggest stars on the planet; he has very cleverly carved a niche as the new “Jimmy Buffet” somehow. He will out work ALL of you put together and really understands how to be a star. (Just look at his old pictures when he first got signed. He was chubby, and now he’s extremely fit…do you have any idea how much work is required to maintain that?) If you really listen to all his songs, they focus on a very limited amount of notes because big melodies are NOT in his lane.
  5. Tim McGraw – I have several very close friends that work in the McGraw camp and I can tell you for certain Tim is extremely intelligent and a great businessman. They run a tight ship and the crew enjoys working for him. Tim has an uncanny understanding of his brand, of when and how to push that envelope. Tim is one of the few artists who will give all the songwriting credit to the songwriters as opposed to taking some credit and subsequent publishing revenue. If you really listen to the songs he chooses, they astonish with the lyrical content instead of big tricky melodies; they’re simple, honest, and good.
  6. Jennifer Lopez – J.Lo is a dancer, an actress, a television personality, perfumer, American Idol JLo Imagephilanthropist, fashion designer, producer, recording artist, and an incredible businesswoman, but singing is her weak suit to be sure. She was definitely fearless as she became the first Latina actress to make over 1 million dollars on a movie with Out of Sight. After she filmed Selena, she ventured into the music industry despite people close to her expressing their fears that she would ruin her growing reputation with an album. She didn’t let her mediocre vocal prowess get in the way of her 300 million dollar fortune. Ironically she would never get on American Idol as a contestant.
  7. Madonna – In 2013 Madonna’s net worth exceeded $650 million. She is a master at reinventing her music and her image. She is an amazing entertainer; in fact, her last tour grossed over $300 million dollars. I had a friend who engineered many of the Madonna records, I remember him saying that as amazing as she is, Madonna is the poster child for vocal mediocrity. I guess it didn’t stop her at all, huh?
  8. Taylor Swift – is an incredible songwriter, performer, and an extremely hard worker. She GETS IT! Taylor has amassed an incredible following largely due to the songs she co-wrote. She represented a lane that simply was not occupied in the country music market. Think about it, who was writing about, and singing to, teenagers in country music before her? NOBODY! Taylor, Scott Borchetta, and her team created a new lane that was unoccupied – genius! She is quickly becoming a master of the game with regards to television exposure; I think they bring one extra camera to every freaking award show just to ensure they get a million Taylor Swift reaction shots. Taylor accomplished all this, yet she simply isn’t going to win any awards for her vocal prowess. Here’s an example of a particularly bad Grammy performance with Stevie Nicks in 2010. Skip to 2:00 to see what I mean.
  9. Miley Cyrus – Miley got incredible exposure from the Disney show Hannah Montana. She started as an actress and turned that into a singer/songwriter career. Miley’s hard work has built up a $150 million net worth, but again, vocals are not her strong suit.
  10. Paula Abdul – I love Paula Abdul. She’s still just so sexy to me. She also started as a dancer American Idol Paula Abdul imageand choreographer. Then she turned that into a recording career. Paula can’t really sing, either, but she can follow well. In fact that is how they recorded Paula’s 1988 hit record Forever Your Girl. The producers brought in a pro singer named Yvette Marine who sang all the lead vocal parts as guide tracks. Then Paula came in and sang over Yvette’s vocals and they ditched the guide tracks. In fact Marine sued and lost to Abdul’s label, Virgin Records, claiming they left her vocal in the mix on a few parts.

 

 

So there it is. I’m sure you like some of these artists and I’m sure you detest some of them, but no one can deny that massive amounts of people find them absolutely fascinating. None of these artists let a lack of stellar vocal ability get in the way of their artistic endeavors. When I see contestants on American Idol melt down in the face of a “no” or, even worse, constructive criticism, I think they need to focus on singing better but also focus on being mesmerizing.

You don’t have to be the best singer to blow people’s minds.

What is your lane?

Do you really know?

Should it change? Are you sure?

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Top 10 Cover Songs

Cover Songs Feature image

By Johnny Dwinell

Kelly and I are so busy with the marketing and record production duties of Daredevil Production, we don’t get that much of a chance to listen to cool new music.  Enter my cool brother-in-law Randy Ahrens.  Randy is an unusual music consumer, in fact, he is what I have referred to in previous posts as a “Local Tastemaker” and statistically he represents a VERY miniscule part of the music marketplace with regards to purchasing and behavior, but he is extremely influential.  He goes looking specifically for new music on a regular basis via all those crazy algorithm widgets the different music sites use to “market” new music i.e. the “rabbit hole” and “if you like this then you’ll like this” etc..  He’s the guy you grew up with who had all the cool new records and turned you on to all the music that shapes your life.  Randy is to his friends and family what Thom Doucette was to Gregg and Duane Allman; Thom always had the cool records and to some degree shaped the Allman Brothers Band sound by exposing the brothers to the artists that would become their primary influences.

Cover Songs

Whenever our family gets together, Randy and I try to find a little “geek out” time where we turn each other on to the music we have; he shows me new bands and tracks, I show him what Kelly and I have been producing.  Cover Songs Tastemaker lips imageThis last week, up in WI, Randy and I got into a discussion about lame cover song recordings (you may remember my post “How to Record a Cover”)  In it I encouraged artists to be creative and to avoid the lame artistic act of “re-recording” of a cover song copping the exact same licks, tracks, BGV;s, feel, vibe, etc.  Well Randy turned me on to some covers that were not necessarily released in 2013 but I was certainly turned on to them last week.  So here is a list of the top 10 cover songs (that I was turned on to by Randy this year, LOL).  Check these bands out, very interesting and CERTAINLY artistic!

 

Top 10 Cover Songs

  1. Ring of Fire – Social Distortion – When you record a cover, especially a well known cover/mega hit song you better bring something different to the table.  Listen to this track and you can definitely hear the stylistic influence of the band.  Yes it’s a heavier version, but it’s so “Social Distortion” and cool it works.
  2. Sweet Child ‘O’ Mine – Luna – Cover Songs Luna Sweet Child imageThis track rocks.  The vibe is totally different.  The feel is different.  The vocal is an octave lower and clearly the singer took some artistic license with regards to melody and phrasing and decidedly DIDN’T try to cop any of W. Axl Rose’s vocal licks which is refreshing.  Also note that the band eliminated the break down “Where Do We Go Now” portion of the song, it’s these kinds of structural and sometimes melodic artistic licenses that make a cover special
  3. All Mixed Up – Red House Painters – Cover Songs Red House Painters imageWow, this version really spotlights the desperation in the lyrics…it’s almost hard to believe it was a pop song.  I dug this band so much, I listened to more and the Red House Painters CRUSHED it with this next cover.
  4. Long Distance Runaround – Red House Painters – Once again, the Red House Painters bring a very different perspective to a very popular song.  So creative and cool.
  5. Little Wing – Stevie Ray Vaughn – ok so I definitely knew about this cover, but it came up in my conversation with Randy this last week.  This was just such a good idea and so well done, I had to include it.Cover Songs R U A Tastemaker image
  6. Stairway to Heaven – Stanley Jordan – While we’re on the subject of instrumental versions of popular songs, here is a great one with Stanley Jordan.  Enjoy it.
  7. Solitary Man – Crooked Fingers – This is an interesting interpretation, completely different!  Mostly Banjo and a horn section…crazy.  Great song by Neil Diamond.
  8. Miss You – Mirwais – Cover Songs Mirwais imageThis is a killer version of this classic.  TOTALLY Different!  I enjoyed this immensely!  Have fun!
  9. Raspberry Beret – Hindu Love Gods – This track features Warren Zevon on vocals and the members of R.E.M. in the band.  Here is where you can get away with almost any instrumental arrangements if your vocalist is stylistic enough to make people forget about the original track!
  10. Any William Shatner Cover – You either like this or hate this, but this is a very strong example of someone bringing their very stylistic approach to some killer songs and making an effort to create a vastly different perspective.

With any cover song, the most important part of the equation is YOU as an artist!!  Not how well you can cop the original tracks man!  Happy New Year and I hope you enjoy these as much as I did!  May you all get closer to your dream in 2014!

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What’s Your Frame Of Reference?

Frame of reference feature image

By Johnny Dwinell

What’s your frame of reference?

What’s your frame of reference? Your frame of reference dictates your experiences, perceptions and, subsequently, will dictate your decisions and strategic planning. If you want to be successful in any business (especially the music business) you need to ensure that you have an accurate frame of reference. As human beings (especially in the music business), we develop feelings towards certain viewpoints and perceived situations that are certainly strong but often based on inaccurate information. Once you have an accurate frame of reference, it’s quite amazing how much your thinking process will change, which changes your decision-making process, which changes how people respond to you, which changes your experiences, which determines your level of success.

So let’s demonstrate how MUCH a change in your frame of reference can completely reverse your mood, perception, outlook, and the ensuing action you take to deal with a situation. I have a phenomenal story that will exhibit my point precisely. You should know this never happened to me directly, rather I heard it at a seminar and to make the story work, it must be told in the first person, so allow me to do so now.

Frame of Reference

When I first started my new sales job I put up a vision board to remind me and motivate me towards my long and short term goals. One of the pictures on my awesome vision board was a photo of my dream car, the holy grail on the whole board, a new model cherry red Corvette Z06. For 3 years I tirelessly worked, looking at that vision board every day and day-dreaming about the day I would get my prize, that amazing driving machine. Well, that day came. HOLY CRAP, was I excited!! This was the ultimate trophy of my hard work. Purchasing this car meant that I was a success and I executed my business affairs with precision. I worked hard every day and saved every week to afford this reward. I EARNED THIS CAR! So there I am at the dealership, finalizing the deal, my heart pumping harder and harder in anticipation of getting behind that wheel. Then it happens and I proudly drive off the lot.

My first thought was to take it up to Mulholland Drive on the very top of the Hollywood Hills. The weather was lamborghiniperfect, my windows were down, there was absolutely no traffic, I was CRANKING my premium sound system. You couldn’t possibly knock the smile off my face. I was savoring every second of my victory and the incredible views of the L.A. basin and the San Fernando Valley that Mulholland provides. Then I came around a bend and saw a kid ahead in the distance. It looked like he was holding an object of some sort and he was definitely staring at me. As I drove closer, I could see the object was actually a huge rock. This kid was maybe 15 years old. I was wondering why he had a rock and why was he staring at me? As I drove closer, a minor panic attack set in as I witnessed this punk cock the arm that was holding the huge rock. I was in such a good mood, it just didn’t occur to me that this kid had any bad intentions. I didn’t want to believe it. Yes, his eyes never left my brand new vehicle. What the hell was he doing? Playing with his friends? Trying to toy with me? Trying to scare me? He didn’t look thuggish at all so I still couldn’t connect the dots.

Then it happened. BOOM! That punk ass kid hauled off and LAUNCHED that rock at my brand new cherry red Corvette Z06. Life surreally went into slow motion. There was nothing I could file000996461003do! I felt so VIOLATED even before the rock hit. He had been tracking me for at least a few hundred yards waiting for me to get close enough to ensure that the rock was going to hit its intended target: my trophy!! It seemed to take forever as I watched the rock fly towards me with a perfect arc. This kid had a good arm! It first hit on the hood of my beloved ride, chipping the paint and skipping off to CRUSH my windshield.

WTF!!! I STOOD on the brakes and pulled the car over. My face was as red as a chili pepper! As I got out of the car I looked at this kid and noticed he wasn’t running or laughing. I turned to my right to survey the damage from the rock. I went from feeling absolutely dumbfounded to unbelievable hostility. I wanted vengeance! At this moment, I turned to my left, my eyes on fire, sweating, breathing heavily and TOTALLY charged up on adrenaline. I was gonna walk across the street and throttle this kid. I was prepared to chase him FOREVER and beat him within inches of his life. This kid knew this, too, but he still wasn’t scared; he still wasn’t moving. Why wasn’t he scared? I walked towards him with a Sasquatch-like gait, my fists clenched so hard I could have turned coal into diamonds from the pressure! I was staring this kid down, blind from rage, he wasn’t moving. All I could think of was how exactly I was going to kill this kid and why the hell wasn’t he scared?

I got right up in this punk’s face and just started screaming at the top of my lungs. “What the hell is wrong with you? I’m gonna KILL YOU, YOU *$&%@ SON OF A BITCH!!! I just bought that car!!! Do you have ANY IDEA how much I worked to EARN that car??”

He responded, “You don’t understand, I think my friend is dying! He’s definitely injured. He lost control of our car and went over the ledge.” He pointed down the steep hill off the side of Mulholland. He enthusiastically continued, “I tried to flag people down several different times and nobody would stop. Throwing the rock was the only way I felt I could get your attention, PLEASE HELP US!” In those four sentences my frame of reference completely changed from one of rage and violent hostility to absolute compassion as I dialed 911 to help those poor kids.

Wow.

When I heard that story, it blew my mind. This kid tried and failed several times to bring the necessary attention he required to get someone to perform for him in a fashion that would hopefully save his friend’s life.

Do you have accurate information on how the music business really works?

What’s your frame of reference on your career?

Are you angry and frustrated because you thought it would be easy?

Are you overly confident about your abilities and turning people off?

Are you working hard enough to get the attention you need?

Maybe you need to start throwing rocks.

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