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5 Strategies That Guarantee Success

Strategies That Guarantee Success feature

By Johnny Dwinell

Artists are mostly brooders; we are, let’s face it.  We worry too much.  We are constantly tripping about where we should be and therefore look down on ourselves about where our careers currently are and as a result, we get depressed, crotchety, upset, and some of us get downright mean.

I got news for you, this mental process is breaking the 10th commandment; THOU DSC_0059SHALT NOT COVET.  This isn’t a religion thing; it’s a great piece of 2000 year old advice.  Somebody already articulated the damage and ruin that Coveting creates ages ago!

Coveting is a killer of artists, creativity, and careers; oh, and a completely nonproductive exercise.  Yeah, yeah, I know, most of us can’t help ourselves; it’s what makes us artists!  However, mastering the art of avoiding nonproductive thinking and behavior is what makes us successful in whatever endeavors we choose to pursue.

It’s what makes us mature.

It’s what makes us true professionals

It’s what puts food on our table

It’s what makes us ready!

Here are five Strategies that Guarantee Success

  1. Don’t Look In The Rear View Mirror: David Lee Roth summed it up best by saying “If you Strategies That Guarantee Success rearview imagekeep on looking in the rear view mirror, man, you will drive off the road and keep on going.”  We can grasp a simple calming perspective by internalizing the fact that our past is EXACTLY that; the past.  There is literally NOTHING you can do about the past, so spending 1 second of energy on it is an EPIC fail and a colossal waste of time.  The past is what got us here; our successes and failures are part of who we are so we have to embrace them.  I mean, WTF else can you do with them that will help your future?  When I was a pro artist and depressed, my manager, Barbara Strauss, used to make me sit down and think about how far I have come and everything I accomplished to get where I was.  I highly recommend this mental exercise as it always helped me kick the blues.
  2. Focus on What You HAVE Instead of What You Don’t Have: I promise the answers to all our future career questions and successes lies within the blessings we currently have, NOT in what we don’t have.  Think about that for a second, it logically HAS TO; every artist that we know did not break and become the icons we love by getting something they didn’t have.  Simple math really.  Any thoughts we entertain about what we don’t have is a cop out and quite damaging as it only sets up excuses to quit; negative thinking will never help us succeed, so STOP IT.
  3. You Can Only Control RIGHT NOW: Strategies That Guarantee Success Let's do the work imageThe past is the past, the future is the future the ONLY thing you ever have control over in your life is RIGHT NOW.  So worrying about the past is a waste of time.  Worrying about the future a fruitless search.  We have to take action and work TODAY…RIGHT NOW!!  Think about that, it’s the ONLY way we can possibly succeed and realize our dreams.  Huge selling artists like Motley Crue, Brantley Gilbert, Florida Georgia Line, Ratt, and the Zac Brown Band thought this way.  They all had success and record sales LONG before they had record deals, y’all.  They went to the negotiating table with the majors that ultimately signed them with a ton of leverage.  How could they have achieved all the record sales and success they did BEFORE they got signed if they were sitting around saying, “if we just had a record deal so we could get paid, then we could be stars.”  They didn’t wait for anything.
  4. Work: Work creates momentum.  We have to work.  When we are feeling really down about where you are there is literally no better remedy for the artistic blues than redoubling our efforts towards our careers.  I get it, you don’t want to get out of bed when you’re depressed, but often times the simplest task of working on SOMETHING that advances your career will create the feeling of momentum in your head and make you feel better; the depression starts to subside.  Motion creates emotion!  Working out doesn’t hurt either!  Physical exercise is a GREAT remedy for depression
  5. Ignore the Haters: Especially the most powerful hater which is our own internal negative Strategies That Guarantee Success Haters make us famous imagevoice!  Again, listening to that voice or any other hater only leads to one result; an excuse to quit.  Hollywood will tell you that if you are an actress, you need to be beautiful, perfect and really young to break.  Try telling that to Sharon Stone who didn’t “break” until she was 35 and went on to an amazing career including an Oscar for her role in “Casino”.  Try telling that to Rodney Dangerfield who had a family and sold aluminum siding up until he broke in comedy at age 45.  How about Joaquin Phoenix who overcame a hair-lip and a hump back (which he still has btw) to become a star.  How about Melissa McCarthy who is obese but still a brilliant successful Hollywood comedic actress.  Every label in town passed on Van Halen TWICE before they finally got signed to Warner Bros.  Nobody wanted to sign Winger until their producer went to bat for them.  Etc, etc, etc.  I promise you for every reason you and your haters can create to predict your failure, I can find 10 people that overcame the same hardships and succeeded.  It’s all up to you; nobody else.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post y’all!

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Are You Failing or Conceited?

failure Is not an option SIZED

A reporter came and asked Thomas Edison, “How many times are you going to fail at creating the light bulb?” Mr. Edison replied, “Son, I haven’t failed! I’ve simply discovered another way not to invent the light bulb!”

Are You Failing or Conceited?

“Failure is really a matter of conceit. People don’t work hard because, in their conceit, they imagine they’ll succeed without ever making an effort. Most people believe that they’ll wake up some day and find themselves rich. Actually, they’ve got it half right, because eventually they do wake up.”
Thomas A. Edison

Genius!Are You Failing or Conceited? Thomas Edison image

Thomas Edison was an artist

He was an artist because he had more grit than anyone else; thus, he remains an icon in our history even though he didn’t invent the first light bulb.  (He did, however, invent the first incandescent light that would last and was practical)

Edison had enough grit to contradict society when they laughed at him, chastised him, tried to embarrass him, and publicly accused him of failure with regards to his creativity/inventions.

Do you have this kind of grit?

Edison had enough grit to push back on thousand-year-old beliefs like religion and government; he cared not what anyone thought of him, he only kept creating and making sense.

This grit, this unshakable attitude, is what I feel must be at the core of all TRUE artists.  You must have this outlook to keep creating and ultimately succeed or you will certainly fail at it.  The world needs your art!

At Daredevil Production, I like to instruct our artists that creating is just like food-pasta-bolognesecooking spaghetti; you throw it against the wall…if it don’t stick…KEEP COOKING!  In other words, we EXPECT a certain level of failure to achieve success!  We EXPECT pot holes, pitfalls, challenges, and huge hurdles, and we RELY on them to get us one step closer to greatness!

 

All great achievers in our world will admit that they have failed more than they’ve succeeded.  It was all the lessons they learned from the failures when applied to their famous achievement, that guided them down the correct and most productive path; thus producing the triumph.

Whoa, think about that!

Here’s another thought to ponder, “The ability to make good decisions come from experience, and all experience comes from making bad decisions”.

I freaking love that one!

In plain English, let me save you the suspense, you are going to fall off your horse in front of everyone.  You are going to make mistakes.  You are going to fail along the way; people you know and people you don’t know will be MORE THAN edited IMG_8002HAPPY to point out these failures!  Knowing this, we need to shift our energy away from WORRYING about failing to LEARNING from the INEVITABLE mistakes and moving forward!

Belief and execution of this thought process absolutely gets us artists one step closer to greatness!

Here are some AWESOME Thomas Edison quotes that I thoroughly enjoyed reading and consuming to write this post.

How do they specifically apply to the thought process of your music career and your art?

Have they or will they change the way you approach your art?

I would LOVE to hear your thoughts so leave a comment!

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
Thomas A. Edison

“Five percent of the people think;
ten percent of the people think they think;
and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”
Thomas A. Edison

Are You Failing or Conceited? miss opportunity“We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work”
Thomas A. Edison

“Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”
Thomas A. Edison

“The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.”
Thomas A. Edison

“When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this – you haven’t.”
Thomas A. Edison

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is to try just one more time.”
Thomas A. Edison

“Vision without execution is hallucination.”
Thomas A. Edison

“Negative results are just what I want. They’re just as valuable to me as positive results. I can never find the thing that does the job best until I find the ones that don’t.”
Thomas A. Edison

“What you are will show in what you do.”
Thomas A. Edison

“Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.”
Thomas A. Edison

“i never did a day’s work in my life. it was all fun.”
Thomas A. Edison

“There is no substitute for hard work.”
Thomas A. Edison

“Your worth consists in what you are and not in what you have.”
Thomas A. Edison

“Discontent is the first necessity of progress.”
Thomas A. Edison

“To do much clear thinking a person must arrange for regular periods of solitude when they can concentrate and indulge the imagination without distraction.”
Thomas A. Edison

“There is time for everything.”
Thomas A. Edison

“This problem, once solved, will be simple.”Are You Failing or Conceited? The problem
Thomas A. Edison

“Unfortunately, there seems to be far more opportunity out there than ability…. We should remember that good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation.”
Thomas A. Edison

“Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits.”
Thomas A. Edison

“There’s a way to do it better – find it.”
Thomas A. Edison

“I never did anything worth doing by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by work.”
Thomas A. Edison

“Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing”
Thomas A. Edison

“Nearly every person who develops an idea works at it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then gets discouraged. That’s not the place to become discouraged.”
Thomas A. Edison

“There is no expedient to which a man will not go to avoid the real labor of thinking.”
Thomas A. Edison

Are You Failing or Conceited? hell there aint no rules“Hell! there ain’t no rules around here! We are tryin’ to accomplish somep’n!”
Thomas A. Edison

 

 

 

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Are You A Sellout?

Sellout feature

By Johnny Dwinell

What is the tribal dynamic that we encounter when other artists and purists admire a great artist (and for that matter great art) upon discovery and reject them (or at least get sour) after the work ascends into the stratosphere of pop culture and begins making pant-loads of money?

Should You Sellout?

Why is there an implication that this kind of popularity somehow degrades the quality of the art and artist? How exactly does this kind of regard or esteem for a certain piece of work really make the artist less of an artist?

Sellout Neon sign imageIs this because a mass audience cannot truly experience the same art in the same way with the equal intensity as a fellow artist and/or original fan would?

Who cares? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As an enthusiast, I only need to be concerned with the fact that I LIKE the art, not how or why other people like the same art and certainly not how many other people like the same art. I would also need to consider the fact that If I was an artist with my finger on the pulse of the community, or if I was an original fan, I was simply EXPOSED to the brilliant work earlier than everyone else; after all, if its REALLY good its REALLY good, why wouldnt I expect everyone else to react in a similar fashion?

Is there some kind of grief, sorrow, or sense of loss that arrives when too many people join a group or tribal experience that we like to associate with? Is there a psychological dilution of perceived value (or ownership) in this artwork to the (early) beholder when mass quantities of people are exposed to it and hop on the bandwagon?

I know that I feel the closest to God when Im creating, so as an artist, I would define Heaven as the ability to create whenever the muse arrives unencumbered by monetary responsibility. In plain English, man, I wanna create when I wanna create and not have to worry about paying the bills.

But wait

Make a Living Creating

The only way to really accomplish this (my) idea of Heaven is to actually make a living creating; otherwise the production has to wait until Im done with my crappy job and any other hurdles, challenges, and/or speed bumps that life is going to throw my way today.

An artists job is to create, emote, and continually improve the quality of the works, right? By this definition then, an artist is truly improving everyday they are making a living at it. My artist experience was GREATLY improved and elevated the very first time I went on the road. Up until this point we had lots of rehearsals and maybe 1 or 2 gigs a week at the most. Then, BOOM, we did 28 shows in 28 days. WOW, we were a different band after that run, truly professional because we had the luxury of applying any knowledge, mistakes, epiphanies, and creativity to the very next performance which was happening today! That was an artistically amazing growth experience.

I would argue then, that If the ultimate purpose of art is communication, and artistic communication is derived from the sharing of said art, then isnt an artist becoming more of an artist the more people are exposed to the art?

More exposure means more communication is happening, right?Sellout exposure image

More exposure means more people are being moved by a brilliant piece of work, right?

How then is someone who wants to make money as an artist, presumably constructing an environment allowing them to grow into a better artist, to be considered a sellout?

Is it jealousy amongst the have-nots?

Thou Shalt Not Covet!

On the inside here in Nashville, I can tell you the true artists understand the ups and downs of an entertainment career. They understand that there are fluctuations in success AFTER they begin having hits, AFTER their mainstream career has diminished and thus, appreciate any successes of any artist because they know its special when it happens. I also feel this is good karma, man.

I get that some artists get to that elite top-tier status and begin creating art to satisfy the pressure from the suits (and ultimately their own spending habits); thus, making art for the purpose of making money. I agree this degrades the quality and intent of the art. But thats their trip, not ours. As artists, we alone are responsible for, and therefore must control the quality of our art.

Extraordinary art is a gift!

I propose we all take a breath and just experience the art in front of you. Open up to it. Learn from it. Feel it. Grow from it. And keep the negativity to yourself.

Id love to hear your thoughts on this!

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What Is The Best Predictor Of Success?

Success feature

By Johnny Dwinell

 

Answer:  True Grit

Success True GritFor months now I have been telling y’all that you should be reading the Lefsetz Letter.  Bottom line, if you’re in the music business, Bob Lefsetz always provides and intelligent perspective for indie artists backed up by real data.  I REALLY want to share this blog that Lefsetz posted in September (I just got around to reading it last night as I caught up on all my blog subscriptions via a nasty bout of insomnia) regarding a study about how grit trumps talent.  I’m gonna offer up a few comments and strongly suggest you read the Lefsetz post and subscribe if you already haven’t.

Success Study Shows Grit Is The Best Predictor of Success

The headline here is a study done by University of Pennsylvania psychology professor Angela Duckworth where 100% of the 2,800 subjects studied showed that grit, which is defined as passion and perseverance over long-term goals, is the best predictor of success.  Wow, read that again because it’s so important!  Grit is the best predictor of success even when negatively offset with poor/mediocre talent!  (I proved this my damn self, LOL)

I can tell you with absolute certainty that my experiences as an artist, songwriter, and a producer constantly confirm that in the entertainment world, sticking around longer than everyone else is willing to, will pay off eventually.  Frankly, the longer you have to wait for the “big break” the more prepared you will be to handle it emotionally and business wise.  .

Truthfully, in my artist career, I wasn’t going to EVER win a vocal talent contest; I was a very mediocre singer.  I was really pitchy and I took tons of lessons to get my voice to a point where I could pull it off live without driving people out of the club; I literally clawed my way to “middle management” as I like to say.  Since my voice was mediocre, that meant I had to write good songs with lush background harmonies in the choruses, have a KILLER band around me (all of whom were better musicians than me), and be fascinating on stage to offset my ho-hum vocal ability.  It was time and perseverance that allowed me to learn my lane (i.e. my strengths and weaknesses) and adapt to formulate my portion of our act that was going to keep people coming back.  We were 4 kids from small towns in Southeastern Wisconsin who somehow managed to make a living touring for the better part of 6 years; all because we had grit.

We took risks.

We weren’t afraid to fail.  Did we fail?  HELL YES!  FYI, our first Midwest tour in 1988 lasted about a year and grossed around $120,000 (about $240,000 today)…it cost $128,000!!!  After that, we KNEW how to be profitable; we LEARNED from our mistakes and continued on.

Admittedly, back then, speed bumps pissed me off.  I was so damn negative in my head (like mostSuccess True Grit artists) but we still moved forward.  We all learned to EXPECT challenges on a daily basis and eat them for breakfast.  We learned that negativity was nonproductive; focusing on exploiting what we had instead of bitching about what we thought we needed turned out to be far more productive.

Ya know something else that comes to mind?  Grit spawns at least 1 immediate tangible benefit; respect.  When we moved to Florida to be developed by Bud Snyder with the Allman Brothers, we were blessed to be the recipients of constant good will from every angle simply because people respected that we had the balls to move down to Florida to follow our dream.  Many mission critical favors were handed to us simply because people knew or felt that we had grit.

Winston Churchill said “Responsibility is the price of greatness”.  The longer you continue to pursue excellence in the music business, the more you learn about how much responsibility is required to make it happen; the closer you get to greatness.

I hope you take a few minutes and read this post from Lefsetz.  I hope you realize that despite the negative voices in your head, which we ALL have, you can make a living in the music business.  Job requirement #1 is grit.

How bad do you want it?

Get to the Lefsetz post HERE.

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How To Successfully Produce Yourself

produce yourself Producer Wanted image

By Johnny Dwinell

Ok, ready for the answer??

YOU DON’T.

At least most of you don’t and shouldn’t.

Why would you produce yourself?

Money?file000819242154

Huh?

I mean would you home school yourself for college to save money and claim you’re an economics major? Then go forth unto the economics world with a “home spun” degree and try to impress people and try to get a job with it?

No?

Does that sound preposterous?

Why, EXACTLY, does that sound preposterous?

Are you afraid a professional might see you for what you really are…A home schooled novice with a lot of heart? But they see a novice nonetheless.

Why is everyone so misguided in thinking that they can produce themselves musically?

I think of the lines from John Mayer’s “No Such Thing”

Produce Yourself John Mayer image“So the good boys and girls take the so called right track
Faded white hats
Grabbing credits
Maybe transfers
They read all the books but they can’t find the answers”

This is so important because the answers aren’t in a ProTools book or at a recording school, or at your best friend’s home studio.

The answers are in the doing – the experience. The answers are in the journey. The answers are in 10,000 hours of experience to be exact (reference Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Outliers”).

Would you trust your brain surgery to someone whose third cousin’s dog-walker has a best friend who knows a guy who owns some surgical equipment? (Insert clip of Jeff Spicoli HERE. “Relax, my old man is a television repair man. He has this ultimate set of tools!! I CAN FIX IT!”)

It still baffles me how so many artists and writers I speak to every week behave like total SERIOUS artists with regard to the care and sensitivity they put into their creative process only to trust their future career to some local hack button-monkey with a crappy home studio to render the project in the form of a final mix. Yes, that hack may be you if you have the home studio. THEN, inevitably, they take the substandard recordings and put them up for all to see in the world while they suffer (like every artist does when it’s time to reveal their art) because they are always concerned about what the world will think. All of us artists suffer during the reveal stage. Personally, I always took comfort in knowing I worked with some stellar cats so if someone didn’t like the music it was a taste thing, it wasn’t because they were turned off by the inadequate recording.

I know some of you are very green and simply can’t hear the subtle differences between a great track and a crappy track. That’s my point! Making records is not taught at engineering school. That knowledge comes in only one form: on the job training. You HAVE to be able to hear the difference, man. You HAVE to be able to hear if the bass player is playing behind the kick drum. You HAVE to be able to hear if the drummer is keeping a pocket of some kind. You have to understand SPACE. You have to HEAR these things first before you even start making decisions on the arrangements.

“You’re playing exactly 15 milliseconds behind the kick drum”

This reminds me of a hilarious and famous industry story of an intern engineer working at a world class recording studio here in Nashville. This engineer went to school for ProTools and still hadn’t mastered the art of LISTENING (or keeping his mouth shut for that matter) which is what you had to do with analog tape before we had ProTools. This engineer makes a comment to one of the most famous and well-respected bass players in the business. The engineer says, “Hey man, I’m looking closely at your bass track here (referring to the ProTools clipboard) and I noticed that you are actually playing exactly 15 milliseconds behind the kick drum hit. I’ll be happy to ‘clean’ that up for you, dude.” Everyone in the session gasps; there is a huge awkward silence.

The bass player responds, “Hey, MAN, it took me my whole f**king life to learn how to play EXACTLY 15 milliseconds behind the kick drum, but if you feel you need to ‘clean it up’ and scoot that track forward, be my guest!” and he walked out. Of course, the session broke out in laughter and the engineer felt like a moron, mostly because he was.

Do you see the dichotomy here? How can you possibly be so sensitive towards what the world thinks about the final rendering of your project when you know you TOTALLY cut corners on the production just to save money? You treated your musical project budget like a third-world surgery effectively getting a surgical procedure in a back alley at midnight in the ghetto because it saved you money.

Now you don’t know. You don’t know if they didn’t like the music because of the amateur recording or because they didn’t like the music. YIKES! At least with a pro recording you can eliminate some things for people to turn their nose up at!

Here’s some TRUTH to ponder on.

Engineering is an ART FORM in and of itself.Produce Yourself Artform image

Producing is an ART FORM in and of itself.

Mixing is an ART FORM in and of itself.

Mastering is an ART FORM in and of itself.

Quite often a professional project will have separate people responsible for each of these art forms because it is rare to have someone who effectively and professionally handles two or more; there are many people who make good livings just performing one of these tasks. Think about that for a second.

A good engineer does not guarantee a good producer or mixer.

A good producer does not guarantee a good engineer or mixer.

A good mix engineer does not guarantee a good producer or tracking engineer.

All these professional recording engineers, producers, and mix engineers were MENTORED at some point. They learned from constantly being around other people who did it for a living and then applied their own unique spirit, creativity, and work ethic to that knowledge to become who they are today

Why wouldn’t you wanna learn? Why wouldn’t you be excited to get around some professionals just for the education of it all? Why don’t you wanna know just as bad as you wanna make it? Even if that education means you can afford two songs instead of ten. Thinking like this will only improve your art, ya know? Watch how many people take you more seriously with a KILLER product.

Look, maybe it’s just me, but I remember getting my first shot at becoming a professional musician with the opportunity to sign with a HUGE regional booking agency that would put my band on tour. The FIRST question I asked was, “Who’s your best band?” I HAD to know what the competition looked like! Who we gotta beat, man? I just wouldn’t ever settle when it came to my music; I wanted it to be GREAT!

Always shoot for the stars!! If you miss them you’ll hit the moon!

The other part of the brilliance of this approach is connections. Every single industry in the world is built on connections. Your current occupation is built on connections. Hell, half of y’all reading this probably got your current job through a friend or family member; think about that. People get ahead because of who they know. Life is not fair in ANY industry so why pretend it is here in the music industry? The money you spend on a pro producer is going to pay off ten-fold. You will develop friendships, connections, information resources, mentorships, and you’ll get a KILLER sounding product with which to go forth as a sheep amongst the wolves.

You’ve got to LIVE, LIVE, LIVE! Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!

Produce Yourself Auntie Mame image

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Professional Artists Don’t…

Professional Artists Don't

By Johnny Dwinell


Professionals Artists Don’t – Talk about being professional because they are.

Professionals Artists Don’tProcrastinate

Professionals Artists Don’t – Let life get in the way of their mission

Professionals Artists Don’t – Make excuses as to why they can’t be professional.

Professionals Artists Don’t – Have to win every creative debate/argument, they are in search of the truth, not superficial, short-term, self-perceived accomplishment.

Professionals Artists Don’t – Get swallowed up in the speed bumps of life, they see them for what they are, simply speed bumps.

Professionals Artists Don’t – Put friends who aren’t professional in charge of their artistic vision, they work with professionals.

Professionals Artists Don’t – Live a pain-free life, they suffer just like you.Professional artists STOP Making Excuses image

Professionals Artists Don’t – Ever get bored of being professional, they reside in a constant state of wonder, curiosity, and excitement with regards to their art.

Professionals Artists Don’t – Play naively.  They know the game, the players, the costs, and the strategy; they may not like it, but they ARE aware of it.

Professionals Artists Don’t – Play from the cheap seats, they move to where the action is so they can actually be professional

Professionals Artists Don’t – Survive without professionally creating their art.

Professionals Artists Don’t – Ever stop growing, changing, and adapting.

Professionals Artists Don’t – Behave like amateurs.  They spend money on their product, they seek out collaborations with other professionals, create relationships with other professionals who help market their art so they can afford to be a professional

Professional artists Big Break imageProfessionals Artists Don’t – Sit at home waiting for the one big break to make them feel professional.  They are constantly working because they realize that when the one big break comes they will need a catalog of work to capitalize on the momentum.

Professionals Artists Don’t – Choose their collaborations based on their bank balance, they choose their collaborations based on what is best for their art; even if that means producing less product with better quality to fit their budget.

Professionals Artists Don’t – Stop practicing.

Professionals Artists Don’t – Avoid networking and creating relationships, because they know this is where the real business takes place.

Professionals Artists Don’t – Let haters bring them down.

Professionals Artists Don’t – Get mortally discouraged by rejection, they lick their wounds, recover, and press onward and upward; they know rejection is part of the deal.

Professionals Artists Don’t – Need to be famous, some of them get famous as a by-product of their professionalism.

Professionals Artists Don’t – Believe that there is an EZ Button to professionalism, they work Professional Artists No EZ Button imagetheir asses off.

Professionals Artists Don’t – Cut corners on the creation of their art to save money.

Professionals Artists Don’t – Let fear alter their artistic course.  They are courageous, which means they step up and move forward in the face of fear.

Professionals Artists Don’t – Like to feel professional by surrounding themselves with people who are less talented then they are, they ARE professional because they surround themselves with people who are more talented than they are and they LEARN.

Professionals Artists Don’t – Choose to live in a fantasy world, they choose to work.

 

Some Professional Artists

 

Some Professionals– Make $40k/yr and live beneath their means so they have a life, just like people you know in your town

Some Professionals – Make $40k/yr and live paycheck to paycheck so they will struggle when the gig ends, just like people you know in your town

Some Professionals – Make Millions of dollars per year and live beneath their means so they have a life, just like people you know in your town

Some Professionals – Make Millions of dollars per year and live paycheck to paycheck so they will struggle when the gig ends, just like people you know in your town.

Are you a professional?

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20 Worst Indie Artist Mistakes

20 Worst Indie Artist Mistakes

By Johnny Dwinell

In my job, I get to speak with many indie artists who are at different points in their journey.  They consistently make these common major mistakes.  Changing your approach will change your career.  I made this personal to drive the message home

 

Here are the 20 worst indie artist mistakes!

  1. Your Songs SuckConsumers will instantly click past a crappy song on thousands of online radio stations until they find a good song that really moves them in the first 10-20 seconds. You better have GREAT songs. It’s a CRAFT; it always has been. Treat it as such. You need to seek out a few mentors to teach you what they know about their CRAFT and apply your unique vision and perspective to that knowledge. Easy to do with all the online writing societies.
  2. You’re Producing YourselfHave you ever wondered why a record label would NEVER let you or your Indie Artist Mistakesfriends produce your own record? Have you ever wondered why most of the iconic superstars STILL use producers? Why aren’t they saving money by producing themselves? Surely a producer at that level is pretty damn expensive! Get it? Just because you can work Pro-Tools or Logic doesn’t mean you can or should make a record. The label would put you with someone who is not only experienced at the entire process of making records, but a way better musician than you. The smart artist always thrives being around true pros who are better than them to soak in the education and grow to a new artistic level and be fearless of the journey. Most artists will tell people why they can’t or won’t afford a producer and then turn around and spend their money on their 25th guitar and new plug-ins for the home studio thereby avoiding the journey. Do you want to make great records or collect gear?
  3. You’re Not Marketing…At ALLPutting your music on iTunes, Spotify, CD Baby, ReverbNation, etc.Indie Artist Mistakes is digital distribution NOT marketing. Marketing is the art of influencing buying decisions. Having your CD available for purchase “wherever it’s sold” isn’t influencing buying decisions. Twitter, Vine, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Live Shows, Music Blogs, Indie Radio, Internet Radio, and PR are the marketing tools you need to master. These tools create awareness and drive traffic to your squeeze page where you get the consumer’s email address. It’s through their email address (and the communication that you send there) that you will influence their buying decisions.
  4. You’re Operating With An Out-Of-Date Business Model – You are still trying to cut cheap demos to shop to a record label to try to get a deal. You still think radio is the key to marketing your music. You still think that radio will be a powerful marketing tool when you do get your deal. You still think the labels make money selling records. You still think that if you get a deal that’s when you’ve made it. Wake up. That ship sailed a decade ago; you have to develop yourself, today.
  5. You’re Not Thinking Like A Record Label – If you got signed today, the label would surround you with people who make a living writing songs, engineering, producing, doing public relations, marketing, promotion, booking bands, image consulting, photographing, etc. All these people would be highly professional and much more dialed in to the market and process than you and your friends. If you’re thinking like a label, you are looking for a team of people to help you with at least some of these important items.
  6. You’re Not Selling Your Music On Your Website – If you were truly DRIVING traffic anywhere to purchase your music, you would drive them to YOUR site and take all the money. Everyone needs a presence on iTunes, CD Baby, ReverbNation, etc., but why on earth would you pay someone 30% of your record sales to do what you can do with a free plug-in on your WordPress site? If it don’t make dollars, it don’t make sense.
  7. You’re Not Posting Regular Videos To YouTube – YouTube is your new radio with an amazing potential for reaching millions, no wait…now BILLIONS, of people and you don’t need to spend one million dollars to bribe a freaking Program Director for a CHANCE at getting a few spins. The “shelf space” is unlimited (unlike radio) and they pay royalties and advertising revenue. “I don’t get it because I just want to make music” is a cop-out. Why aren’t you learning everything you need to learn about this amazing opportunity?
  8. You Suck At Project Management – If Steve Jobs had approached the first products from Apple the Indie Artist Mistakesway most of you approach managing your musical projects, he would have died homeless. Jobs was a true artist. The first computers he and Wozniak made looked good, worked well, were packaged well, and were made in his garage. Instead of making 500 crappy computers with the limited budget they had, he made 50 AWESOME computers and the market place responded. The opportunities that came from the first run of AWESOME computers provided the momentum they needed to reach the next level. If you want to find someone to cut your songs for $300/song, I PROMISE you will find them. Record your 3 BEST songs for the same price as what you would have to spend on 12 and do it RIGHT with a TALENTED TEAM. It’s gonna cost money, so think of it as an education. Then watch the market respond!
  9. You’re Waiting For Your “Big Break” – Deep down you wish it was the old music business because, on Indie Artist Mistakesthe outside (from the cheap seats), it seemed easier when the labels took care of everything. Well, they did and you would have paid dearly for that “EZ Button.” I got news for you, the superstar artists who are still around today never let the labels take care of everything. They worked smarter and harder than that in a sea of sharks. You have to create your own opportunities, your own momentum. There’s no way around it. Nobody gets “discovered” anymore; so get off the couch, put the bong down next to your baggage and get to work!
  10. You Still Think Record Labels Develop TalentRecord labels don’t develop talent like Coca-Cola doesn’t repair cars. They don’t care about your music, they care about your current cash flow, and how many fans with whom you have a measurable connection. They care about what kind of market you created for yourself and if they can make money by adding fuel to the fire you already started. Think YouTube and Google. Google didn’t develop YouTube, they purchased them. Those smart guys at YouTube had to PROVE that their idea had value in the market place. So do you.
  11. You Don’t Think Of Your Music As ProductUntil you do, nobody is going to hear your art.
  12. You’re Self-Sabotaging – This is the most common and most destructive mistake of them all. Let me save Indie Artist Mistakesyou the suspense: you’re gonna make mistakes. You’re gonna hit speed bumps. You’re gonna be rejected. You’re gonna have to get over it! You have to get out of your own way and just move forward. Stop making excuses. If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you always got. PERIOD. Make a change and watch massive amounts of energy quickly flow your way.
  13. You Are Too Sensitive To Take Constructive Criticism – You would be amazed how many of your favorite superstars were brutally schooled by the label on their first record. They were green just like you! “Go back and write us a single we can promote on the radio or we’re gonna drop you.” If you’re too dumb to know that you don’t know a whole lotta stuff, you’ll never make it. Be professional and LEARN. It’s always better to stay quiet in a room and appear stupid than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.
  14. You’re Listening To Haters – When you do start to get momentum, people you don’t know and, sadly, many that you do will spit poison into every part of your life. Get used to it. You are doing what they can’t.
  15. You Haven’t Defined Your Lane – You are afraid to pick a genre because you write in many. Consumers need ONE lane to connect with you in. Just because you pick one doesn’t mean you are ignoring the others. Get some traction in one lane first. That traction will help expose a project in a different lane to more people. Think John Mayer with his first few pop records and then he did a blues project. That blues project got a TON of exposure because he was now John Mayer, the pop star.
  16. Your Live Performance Sucks – Nothing is more disappointing than seeing a decent band with great songs and listening for harmonies but nobody sings background vocals. Okay, maybe worse would be a crappy band with crappy songs and everyone is singing crappier background vocals.
  17. You’re Not Capitalizing On Your Live Performances – Today’s music market is about endless Indie Artist Mistakescontent and email addresses. You should have constant video footage to market on social media. You should have boatloads of email addresses after every show. You should be moving product from the stage at every show. You should be gaining Twitter followers at every show…THEN you can get laid.
  18. You’re Putting Too Much Stock Into Your ReverbNation Ranking – A #1 ranking for your small town or big city on ReverbNation + $2.54 will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks. How are you getting paid for your songs?
  19. You Don’t Know What You’re Doing On Twitter – Twitter is a simply amazing surgical marketing tool that allows you to SERIOUSLY target your specific market. When done correctly, your following will constantly grow. One year from now you could have well over 10k followers. Then you would have the means to drive tons of traffic to a squeeze page, or to a YouTube video, or to….Get my point? Your fans are out there, go find them.
  20. You Think It’s All About Music, Not Marketing – The truth is that it sure is nice when they expertly market a killer record, but if it was only about the music, there wouldn’t be any crappy songs on the radio. Think about that for a second. Without marketing, nobody cares about your music because they haven’t heard it.

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5 Simple Music Marketing Tactics

Music Marketing Tactics

By Johnny Dwinell

 In my last blog I really dug into the difference between distribution and marketing because I have had way too many conversations with artists who feel they are marketing their music by having it on iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, their website, etc.   Once again, that is electronic distribution; that is definitely NOT marketing.  In today’s blog I’m going to get into some serious music marketing tactics.

Music Marketing is Influencing Buying Decisions

Marketing is the art of influencing buying decisionsBuying Decisions Music Marketing TacticsFor Instance, when you and your friends are in a disagreement as to which movie to go see, each side serves up their best reason to spend money on their preferred movie choice; this is marketing.  Granted, it doesn’t seem like marketing and it doesn’t feel like marketing but y’all are EXACTLY marketing; you are trying to influence your friend’s buying decision on the movie.  Effective marketing influences buying decisions which, in turn, drives traffic to whatever distributors are selling the product like cars, or iPhones, or Tide detergent, or your music.  This means the ultimate goal of marketing is to drive traffic to where ever you are selling or streaming your music.  Once you get the traffic online you will get a mathematically predictable amount of sales.   This is cool, because if you want more money, you just have to drive more traffic.

I’m always telling you guys to think like a record label; so, let’s start there.  When you have a major label deal, the label will try to use radio as their main form of promotion.  They will have distributed your product (aka your CD) to the very same electronic distributors that you can get on your own, with the difference being they will also have companies like Anderson Distribution placing physical CD’s into Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, Best Buy, etc.  They will use PR (Public Relations) and Radio to expose you to the general public and ultimately influence their buying decisions.  I think the magic number is 7, so once John Q. Public hears your song 7 times (if he ever does) the song is in his brain and that’s where the buying decision is influenced.

You have to think like a record label and understand your main goal is to influence buying decisions after the record is made.  Let’s discuss 5 different ways to market your music and drive traffic to your cash registers for a purchase.

  1. Twitter – This is undoubtedly the most surgically effective marketing tool.  We use Twitter to Twitter Music Marketing Tacticsindoctrinate our future fans by creating relationships and letting the music do the talking; we give away the single.  Well, we give away the single in exchange for their email address via a squeeze page.  I say surgical because we have an Outlaw Country artist named Craig Gerdes (@craiggerdes) who has a single called Haggard Fan (Haggardfan.com).  Merle Haggard has 90,000 Twitter followers and growing; are you kidding me?  That one is like shooting fish in a barrel.  Everybody LOVES “Haggard Fan” from that lead source.  We are firing up a marketing campaign for an artist named Jeremy Calley (@jeremycalley) whose record Kelly and I mixed.  Jeremy is a good looking Texas Country rock & roll guy; the ladies go crazy over him.  I went right to Brantley Gilbert’s Twitter following for Jeremy.  We are growing everyday and the lead source is predisposed to love him.  I could also go to Luke Bryan for the same effect.  Get it?  It’s so perfect, but it’s not everything.
  2. YouTube – If you’re thinking like a label, you need to think of YouTube as your radio source; YouTube Music Marketing Tacticsespecially if you have amazing performance talent.  Artists like Karmin, Noah, and Macklemore have been launched into the stratosphere from YouTube.  Karmin and Noah used a clever strategy of recording artistically stylized cover songs with their talent that eventually blew people away and created viral videos.  Karmin’s biggie is at 84 million views now and Noah’s was around 18 million last time I checked.  When you start getting that kind of traffic there are many ancillary cash registers that will pay you money as well (see my blog on 6 Ways To Create Cash Flow On You Tube).  Macklemore release a killer single with a KILLER video and blew up that way, but he blew up on YouTube.  Remember last week’s blog where I spoke about strategy and tactics?  YouTube is a great strategy, but you have to put in the work.
  3. Live Shows – Live Show Music Marketing TacticsThis is probably one of the most effective ways to drive traffic to your cash registers.  First of all a CD from a live show where a fan loves the band is a souvenir as they are (hopefully) intoxicated with the emotion of your live show.  Indie artists like Anthony Orio (AnthonyOrio.com) play over 200 shows per year and move 7,000-10,000 units a year from the stage alone.  Do the math 7,000 x $8 (avg price) = $56,000; that’s enough to record the next record, y’all; and for a bunch of you, that’s a huge step up.  There are some great tactics to push product (aka your CD) at your shows.  Anthony or his bass player Chris will literally hold up a bunch of CD’s in their hand for 3 songs straight while some other band member does a little portion of their endless 4 hour set.  When the first CD is sold, they get which State the buyers were from and start a competition; works every time.  “We just got a sale from KY!  Who’s gonna kick KY’s ass??” get it?  Another tactic was to get the bar owner to agree to give away a $25-$50 bar tab (which costs the bar $6-$12 in booze) in a raffle environment.  To qualify, fans just have to go to the roadie at the merch table with a computer or their smart phone to opt in to the squeeze page.  The artist gets email confirmations from people who opted in and chooses a winner at the end of the night.  Who doesn’t want to trade an email address to a band they like for a shot at winning a $50 freakin bar tab?!?!  Anthony shoots out these really inexpensive rubber wristbands you can purchase for like .09 cents each with his website on them.  Cool little free souvenirs that have a call-to-action on them.  Google search to find tons of competitors for these rubber wrist bands, the company we use is http://24hourwristbands.com/
  4.  PPC Campaigns – PPC stands for Pay-Per-Click if you don’t already know that.  When you PPC Ad Music Marketing Tacticsare on gmail or Facebook typing about lawnmowers in an email to your mother, did you ever wonder how lawnmower deals magically pop up on the right hand side?  Those are PPC ads.  You only pay for them if someone clicks on them.  If someone clicks on them they immediately jump to your squeeze page get a free track which jumps them to your store and puts them in the sales funnel.  These are a bit more advanced as it’s not too difficult to spend too much money, but they are quite effective once you get your head around it.  PPC is an amazing marketing technology that allows you to reach a more targeted audience.
  5. PRWeb.com – Look, this costs money, but for $250 you can purchase a 1-time Press Release PRWeb Music Marketing Tacticsthat will go to tons of music magazines, music blogs, radio stations, newspapers, etc.  The more places you are seen the more traffic you will drive.  On this note, you may consider a PR firm, especially if you’re touring, this can be quite effective especially for the beginning of a marketing campaign.

There you have it.  Hope this helps you get your head around marketing a bit more

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6 Songwriter Business Strategies

Songwriting Business Strategies feature

By Johnny Dwinell

When the game is over, the king and the pawn go into the same box.” – Italian Proverb

Songwriter Business Strategies Chess Box image

This can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To me, in a way, it means that life is just a game and we are all relatively equal players who are capable of creating our own futures. As long as we believe we can achieve. As David Lee Roth so eloquently put it, “Life is a full contact sport; nobody gets out alive.” Then we all go into a box when it’s over. So this game requires strategy, some serious, deep, thought followed by action to play it like a king as opposed to a pawn. One of the things I like about professional chess competitions is the timer; it requires action.

So what is your strategy? It’s amazing to me how easy it can be to put together a winning strategy when you have accurate information and common sense.

My next question would be what action will you take to execute this strategy? The timer in your game is ticking; make a move.

The good news is that in the entertainment industry, strategy and action are more important than your talent; thatSongwriter Business Strategies Chess Timer image is to say, a killer strategy and the fearlessness to take action are often THE most important talents an artist possesses. I’m quite sure you all have a few examples swimming around in your head right now of hugely successful artists that you feel have zero talent; you know I’m right. Now you know why. It is a fact that when Kelly and I are considering talent to develop, we will take a mediocre talent with unstoppable drive and massive work ethic over some artist with a HUGE talent who is lazy and wants to press the “easy” button to succeed.

 

I’ve compiled 6 steps that songwriters can use to create a real strategy for success.

 

Strategy 1:

Always be writing with no censorship; never pump the brakes on the creative flow of ideas. After you fill up 3 pages Songwriter Business Strategies No Censorship imageof possible lines, then you go back and pick or cultivate the strongest lines to put them together in your song, but you never censor before you put pen to paper. Always be writing because writing is a muscle that needs to be developed. The more you work it out, the stronger it gets. I highly recommend that you purchase The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Don’t let the “Spiritual” part of the title scare you; there is nothing religious in there. This book offers up a 12 week program that will teach you to get out of your own way artistically when it comes to writing. The link I provided is one retailer, you can find this book anywhere so I provided one link to get you started. J

 

Strategy 2:

You should be writing with as many different people as possible. Common sense says that the more people you workSongwriter Business Strategies Co Writing Session Image with the more your circle of influence will expand; consequently so will your rolodex. In other words, more people are going to hear your work, which creates more opportunities for your songs on an exponential level. You will always pick up different little tools from different writers that will help your productivity in a writing session.

 

Strategy 3:

Go Where the Food Is – If you are trying to be a serious songwriter from Des Moines, IA, then the talent pool is Songwriting Business Strategies Sam Kinison understandably going to be shallow; again, common sense. I know this is true because all the serious writers from Des Moines live in LA, NYC, or Nashville.

Why don’t you? After all, this is where the business is happening. One can’t go shark hunting in Des Moines, because there are no sharks, right?

 

Strategy 4:

Songwriter Business Strategies Always Someone imageWrite with people who are better than you. You need mentors to mentally expand your grasp on the craft of songwriting; and it is a craft. These mentors will mentally expand your understanding of the business end as well. If you are working with people who are not as serious about the work as you are, you have stopped moving forward. You have to set up your game to achieve momentum. I promise you will not achieve momentum through the mail.

No publisher is going to hear the song you sent in and call you in your little town to deliver the good news; this is a fairy tale, not real life. In real life, ANY progress in ANY industry is built on relationships. All Ford automobiles come with Firestone tires because of a 100 year old relationship between Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone. Relationships with other writers, with publishers, with music supervisors, with artists, with producers, with label executives, etc, are what is going to create opportunity and momentum for you. BTW, publishers are no longer developing writers just like labels aren’t developing talent. That was 10 years ago. The only way anyone gets a publishing deal these days is if they have some sort of social proof that their songs have value in the marketplace, i.e. a hit song. Before you get yourself a hit, you are not going to get a publishing deal.

 

Strategy 5:

You need to write with as many artists as possible. Be a student of the game. Think like a king, and you’ll play like a Songwriter Business Strategies Student of the game imageking. Thinks like a pawn, and you’ll play like a pawn. Record labels are not developing talent because they are no longer making money on the records. Labels need other revenue streams. Back in the 90s, artists like Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, and Garth Brooks, who didn’t write their own material, could exist and thrive on a major label because the labels made millions off of record sales. If you really look at country music in the last decade you will see that all the newer successful acts write or co-write their own material (Lady A, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Taylor Swift, Brantley Gilbert, Jamey Johnson, etc.). Major labels have gravitated towards this business model of signing artists who write or co-write their own material because they can demand publishing from an artist who has it to give. Thus, labels create a very important revenue stream that is integral to the 360 record deals.

Creating real relationships with up-and-coming artists is now the way you are going to break yourself as a songwriter. Hell, it’s the way many artists like Jamey Johnson have broken themselves, through writing hit songs with other artists. Does this make sense? You want one of those artists to get some traction with your song; it just takes one and then everyone in town will think you mean money.

 

Strategy 6:

Be realistic and aware of the market you are writing for; a KILLER song where the lyrics are outdated is not going to Songwriter Business Strategies Market Awarenessget any attention because those lyrics aren’t currently selling. For instance, country songs in the 90’s were very story oriented like Tim McGraw’s Don’t Take the Girl. in the first verse the boy is 8 years old, in the second verse, he’s 18 years old, in the last verse he’s 23. Compare that to one of Tim’s more recent hits, One of These Nights, and you can see a definite change in the lyric style. These styles trend like anything else and staying on top of the trends will help you increase opportunities for your songs. The fact is while Don’t Take the Girl was a #1 hit in the 90s, it wouldn’t fly in today’s market.

People will always tell you that you need to get lucky, even hit writers in this town will say that. The reality is that Songwriting Business Strategies Prep Plus opp imagethose hit writers and you will have created their own luck. Have you ever heard the old adage “the harder I work, the luckier I get”? Luck is defined as: preparation meets opportunity. Strategically speaking, you need to ensure that you are not only preparing, but preparing intelligently, i.e. moving forward and learning from good professionals. If you position yourself in an environment that is rife with opportunity, your day will come; you’ll get the lucky opportunity and be prepared with the perfect song to take advantage of that opportunity!

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