KoriSoron (me), Feedback Analysis (and You)

KoriSoron

Last year on this day, I wrote a post called Due Versus Do.  The post talked about the need to put the work in and pay dues in building your craft and building an audience and outlined a plan for building a regional audience (If you’re playing live music – you might find it to be an interesting read).  It’s also a good example of setting up a parameter for feedback analysis.

Feedback Analysis

I first read about this term in a book called Heart, Smarts, Goals And Luck which was a book that talked about self assessing those areas on a HSGL scale to determine where the reader’s strengths were as an entrepreneur.  The quote below is from notes I made from the book – so I believe that it’s paraphrased from Peter Drucker.

Whenever you make a key decision or take a key action, write down what you expect will happen.  9-12 months later compare expectations (with outcomes).  Otherwise it’s too easy to rationalize a decision Ex Post Facto.

This is something I happened to be doing in goal setting – but was remiss in going back to see how well those things actually worked!

What This Means for You

Feedback analysis is a great way to look at how your goal setting is actually working.  It’s not enough to just write down goals.  In reviewing them you can also see what’s working, what’s not working and how to best steer your ship from here.  It requires looking at what you did, warts and all, and coming up with an honest assessment.

As an example of this process using the web post from a year ago – how did KoriSoron do with feedback analysis? (again the initial post is linked here in case you’d like to compare Due Versus Do).

1 / 2.  Open Mics (play in front of people) / play traditional non traditional venues.  We didn’t explore this a lot.  Largely because we put our focus on working on new material and playing new venues.  It’s something I’ll probably explore solo to try to open some doors – but the yield of getting people from an open mic to a show was non-existant and the open mics didn’t yield gigs in and of themselves.  It IS a good way to network (in a legitimate way like making friends instead of a slimy way of using people), but it requires showing up every week to do so.  Typically it’s a 3 hour investment in an evening to play for 5-10 minutes but probably worth it if you’re trying to break into a new market / venue.

We played a number of different venues, and that coupled with the monthly gig at Arthur’s has been REALLY useful for us in terms of feedback for what works and what doesn’t work for the show.

For me, it’s interesting to see the yield of what I practice that I think will work versus what works in a live setting.  No matter what methods I use, it always tells me something different and I can only get that information playing live.

3 /5   Developing Marketing material / Social Media / Get Visible and Record material.  We made some strides here.  Farzad pulled together a strong website and we did a lot via Facebook.  We wrote a lot of new material and got Dean Mirabito to play percussion with us (which added a whole other dimension to what we do) and  started digging deep to get into the nuances of the tunes to improve our performances and live shows.  This also involved a lot of experiments with arrangements and live sound options and involved a lot of trial and error.

We also started recording every show (and using a standalone recorder for a live mixer as well) and that’s been great pre-production for going into the studio.  But recording is the next thing that we’re targeting in a big way.

4.  Network.  This is something that needs improvement.  Our tunes are very difficult to play and require a lot of practicing.  It’s only now (a year later) that I’m starting to get a sense of what the tunes are and what our sound is enough to start going back out to shows in a consistent way.  Everything is this business is based on what you can do and who knows what you can do.  Again – I’m not into spammy networking, you have to have legitimate relationships with people – but if you don’t network you’re going to play in your room forever.

6.  Build bigger.  Here’s a GREAT strategy from Heart, Smarts, Guts and Luck that encapsulates this –

Think Big – Start Small – (Scale Fast)

I put scale fast in parenthesis because in business you need to scale quickly.  In art, you need to scale at the rate you can scale.  You’re developing a foundation that you need to build on.  To modify the suggestion strategy:

Think Big – Start Small – Output Constantly – Review – Revise – Repeat

I hope this helps!

As always, thanks for reading!

(and hope to see you at a KoriSoron show soon!)

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Don’t Let Time Become An Excuse For Not Starting Something

Hi everybody!

I just wanted to add a post to go with the new series I’m running on my podcast. (if you like this post you might want to check it out if you haven’t already!)

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Time and Fear

It can be scary to start a new project, take on a new initiative or choose a new direction. One fear-based response I hear from people consistently for why they don’t want to take on something new is some variation of this:

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“Well…what if I put all of this time and energy into it and it doesn’t go anywhere?”

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The Tough Love Part Of The Post

Here is the reality check for this line of thinking:

Your time has no fixed economic value before you start something.

Let me clarify this.  If you’re currently making six figures a year in your day job, you are sorely mistaken (or outright delusional) if you’re taking on something new at the ground level and assuming that your time in your new venture will initially have the same value as what you’re currently making.

If you open a hot dog stand and sell five hot dogs in your first hour, SOME portion of that wage (and given the cost of supplies will be a negative figure in this case) will be your new (hopefully temporary) hourly wage.

While it doesn’t mean that’s what you’re worth –  it does mean that’s what you’re making at this moment.  Five years from now your artisan dogs might support a dozen stands selling hundreds an hour and bringing in real money – but at this moment – in the simplest equation – your business is valued at the dollar value generated when expenses are subtracted from assets and revenue.

Later on, once your project has inertia, your time will have a definitive value and there will be numerous things fighting for your time.  But initially, it’s like going to court in that just as you don’t get compensated for your time to appear in court – you don’t get back the time or energy in a project that went bust.  It’s gone.  Eat the loss and let it go.

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Sometimes you take a step back to move forward.

When I realized that my fretting hand technique was holding back my playing I had to re-learn about 1/2 of what I “knew” how to play.

It was a drag, and initially it felt like a huge waste of time taking a step that far back and I resisted it for a year because I didn’t want to wast my time taking a step back when there was already a lot I could do on guitar.

But what I could already do wasn’t getting me any further ahead in the long run.  The process of revamping my technique made me re-evaluate my relationship to the instrument and to music as a whole.  I began to hear my playing differently and began to hear other people’s playing differently.  Ultimately it got me the fluidity and clarity that I admired in so many other players playing that I was always wondering why it was missing from mine.

I sometimes wonder if people get frustrated when they talk about whatever they saw on the internet or TV (i.e. “if your time is so valuable how exactly are you spending it now?”) and then go on to ask the initial question:

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“Well…what if I put all of this time and energy into it and it doesn’t go anywhere?”

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Here’s the answer:

The good news is that if the project is a bust (and if you haven’t invested EVERYTHING into it) you can quit and take what you’ve learned from this venture to move on to the next one.

I copped this from Seth Godin who once said that quitting is undervalued and that the problem with quitting is that most people quit something when it’s too late.  The time to quit is in the early stages BEFORE you take the second mortgage, empty the bank account and realize that if this doesn’t work out that you and your family need to move back in with your folks.

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And now the caveat!

If this website has a one word core idea, it’s balance“.

Before I played guitar, I started off as a drummer in junior high school.  If I didn’t quit drums in my first year and later switched to guitar I never would have stayed in music because by the time I had enough time in on drums in high school I wouldn’t have had the energy or interest to transition to learning guitar.

If I quit my pursuit to revamp my technique too early, I never would have made the progress in my playing that I did.

The balance is the hardest thing because the onus of understanding and maintaining that balance falls on you, the individual.

Balance will play a huge role in the posts and podcasts ahead!

Starting any new project will take inertia to keep it going.  Once you get the project going you’ll have plenty of opportunities to evaluate your use of time and address it’s value in a real way, but don’t let that short circuit your plans for starting something.

More content coming soon.  As always, thanks for reading!

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Do You View Your (Music) Career Like An Actor?

I just saw a documentary on Netflix called “That Guy Who Was In That Thing” which is about a number of instantly recognizable character actors and their paths to get to claw their way to the middle.  ; )

The documentary is thoroughly engaging by being both entertaining and thought-provoking.  There also happen to be a number of parallels between performing in the film/television industry and performing in the music industry.  The subjects spoke at length about the difficulties that come with the ebb and flow of work that their careers take.  They talked about how they were (and are) out of work for years before they get a few gigs or hit a streak of work and all of them had stories of other parallel jobs that they worked while trying to make a living acting and tales of losing gigs for any one of a dozen reasons.

Two things grabbed me right away.

1.  The subjects spoke at length about how the number of actors out there willing to work for less has caused many of them to make less money than they did before. The thinking being, we don’t have to pay you that anymore because there are 10,000 other people who will kill to sit in that chair for less money.  The number of parallels with this and recording musicians (and performing artists) was striking. I’m paraphrasing here, “You realize that they don’t need you to fill the role, they just need to fill the role.”  Does this sound familiar to anyone performing and/or recording music out there?

2.  Musicians might actually have it easier than actors.

Here’s my thinking behind this.  Actors need vehicles to act in.  So the model they use is basically variations for  Advertising / Televison / Film.  For a TV show, this might mean

  • auditioning for a pilot with hundreds of people
  • getting a callback with maybe 50 people
  • getting a second callback with 20 people
  • doing a test with 5-6 people
  • having a series of negotiating calls made to see what you will cost them
  • testing in front of the studio executives this will limit you to a group of maybe 3 people
  • if chosen, you then shoot a pilot
  • the pilot then has to get picked up and
  • then you hope that the series doesn’t get cancelled after the first few episodes

The interesting thing to me was that this paralleled musicians and major labels.  The thinking was for years that you had to be in a band and signed to a label to have a career. Online distribution changed that model forever.

Having said that, artists on labels are/were the only people getting tour support. (They’re  generally the only people to also get tour support via sponsorship. )

For actors, working with studios means you get to keep your SAG card.  You get to keep your benefits and the SAG card is key to the audition process (and the securing of roles).

It doesn’t say it directly in the documentary – but some of these actors slogging it out in endless auditions seem to be afraid that the new (up and coming) actors are just getting pulled from YouTube.

I don’t think it’s the case for major films – and won’t be for a while.

Studio legend Tommy Tedesco once related a story where some MI students went with him on a session and one of them said, “I don’t understand.  Someone who’s been playing a year could play that part.”  And Tommy said, “yes. that’s probably true.”

The student pushed it more and said, “But you make triple scale, why do they pay all of that money to bring you in when they could get someone to do it much cheaper?”

Tedesco replied, “Because when you spend 50 or 75,000 on a recording session with an orchestra, you don’t want to lose money because some guy might screw up his part.  You’re going to get the best players on the session to make sure that absolutely nothing goes wrong.”

Again, I’m not knocking YouTube – but a YouTube performance doesn’t mean you can handle the rigors of any gig that comes your way.  While it might get you an audition, in and of itself, it’s never going to give you traction if you don’t have the skills to back it up.

Here’s what bugged me about the documentary.

No one talked about going DIY.

No one talked about making their own films.  Writing and staging their own plays.  Starting their own companies. All they talked about was a variation of the formula:

Get call from agent + audition + a dozen factors MAY = a gig.

It’s easy to view a music career like this.  Waiting for a shot – the right moment, the right contact – to make a big pay out.  It’s the lottery mentality to which I say, “sure, put a couple of bucks in and see if you get lucky, but putting your life savings in it probably won’t pay off.”

Those development contracts like Joan Crawford were on back in the day are never coming back to the movie houses.  Those days of getting signed to a label and having a carer carefully cultivated over multiple releases are never coming back.

Elvis already left the building.

While I’m fully in favor of seeking out opportunity – by and large you make your own opportunities and the formula for that is:

Do really good work + Do it frequently + Affect, motivate and/or move other people = being the go to person for “that thing”.

If what you do services a niche audience, you might not get rich but it’s probably the best way to build a long-term career.

Thanks for reading!

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A Late Lesson From Michael Jackson

It’s been a strange week in news. But one story over the weekend caught my attention in a large way.

Numerous news outlets covering the Michael Jackson wrongful death trial reported that  testimony from sleep expert Dr. Charles Czeisler described Jackson may be the only documented human who went 60 days without REM (Rapid Eye movement).

In order to combat insomnia (and a number of other related issues) Jackson’s tour physician put him on propofol, a powerful drug that gives a patient the sensation of feeling refreshed.

Unfortunately, it does this by usurping the sleep cycle and blocks REM which, it turns out, will kill you. In lab tests, rats who had no REM died within 5 weeks.  Had he not had a heart attack he probably would have died within a few days anyways.

“The symptoms that Mr. Jackson was exhibiting were consistent with what someone might expect to see of someone suffering from total sleep deprivation over a chronic period,”

According to a CNN piece, these symptoms included:

“…an inability to do standard dances or remember words to songs he sang for decades, paranoia, talking to himself and hearing voices, and severe weight loss.”

Sometimes a shortcut will kill you.

He took a shortcut, because the stakes were enormously high.  Even when he was no longer “the king of pop”, a concert tour ending would equate to losses of hundreds of millions of dollars.  That’s more than many nation’s GNP.

That shortcut cost him his life.

And this has what to do with guitar?

A lot actually.

One of the mantras I come back to repeatedly is that the more you invest yourself into any instrument, the more the instrument will give back to you.

The deeper you go into your instrument – the deeper you go into yourself.

There is no short cut for that.

It’s investing focused time and energy.

Once I had a student who was irritated that his fast licks weren’t coming out very clean.

“How come I can’t play this lick fast?”

“Because your body is trying to cash checks that your mind hasn’t deposited yet.”

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So this is a reminder….it’s a mantra I keep coming back to.

Be wary of the short cut.

Be wary of the the fast pay out.

Don’t sell yourself short and deny the gains that can come from pursuing things on a deep level.

The payoffs will come flashes but each one of the usually has years of fuel behind it.  No matter how strong the spark is, without that fuel, you won’t get fire.

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The best philosophies are simple and sustainable.  As familiar themes and messages are revisited here, I’m reminded of a W.A. Matthieu quote (that I’m reduced to paraphrasing unfortunately), “There are only 12 notes and they take forever to learn.”

More thoughts coming soon.  Thanks for reading.

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p.s. – One last hidden lesson – Michael Jackson’s life ultimately became a cautionary tale.  Don’t let your life become one as well.

The Perils Of Panaceas And Instant Gratification

That’s MBTI to you, Buster!

Most people have their first exposure to the Myers-BriggsType Indicator (MBTI) assessment either in a college psychology class, a life coaching session or in a work-related retreat / team building exercise.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the test, participants are given a (psychologically loaded) questionnaire that’s been specifically devised to determine individual preferences and based on those, to then extrapolate the test taker’s decision-making process and world view.

In context, it can be a useful tool.  When participants get their four letter code that determines their personality type, they then typically get the equivalent of a score card to determine what the letters mean and to offer some guidelines on the types of decision-making process that they make.  Again, in context it can be a useful tool where participants might see themselves and their decision-making process in a whole new light.

However,  there always seems to be at least one person in a session who finds this to be something between a milestone and a revelatory experience and the next thing you know, every discussion with this person centers around Myers-Briggs.  Every interaction is analyzed and put through the Myers-Briggs filter.   “Oh well he must be an “I” which means that….”.

And then, eventually, someone calls them on their nonsense.

Myers-Briggs typing starts to break down in the real world, because while it’s not a bad contextual lens for gleaning some information, it’s not a good lens on its own and it certainly has limited validity as the sole filter for information.  Additionally, people don’t dig being typecast in any scenario, even when you’re trying to be helpful.

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“Cure’s All that Ail’s ya!”

The web is full of these observations and cure-alls for whatever ail’s ya.  “Become a guitar god in a week by following these 3 weird simple rules.”   Or forums where one observation is yielded, “I had good success using product x with gear y” and soon you have other people who have never used product x or gear y saying, “Well if you use gear y YOU HAVE TO USE product x!!!”

Take any one-size fits all methodology, philosophy, strategy or any  solution with a BIG grain of salt because, in my own experience, there is no one panacea for anything. Just as there is no one filter that will make previously hidden elements of the world fully visible and comprehensible to you.

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Instant gratification and false entitlement

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The simple fact is that things that are worth having, have to be worked for.

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As a society, we have mutated this concept through advertising and sold people on the concept that because they do work hard in other areas of their life, that they deserve everything.

“It might take you 3 years of saving to buy that 60″ flat screen TV.  You’ve worked hard establishing a line of good credit and you deserve to be comfortable in your twice re-financed home.   Pull that piece of plastic out of your pocket and you can walk home with it today!” – where you will set it up, take it for granted almost instantly and then spend 5 years paying it off and paying more than twice the actual cost of the item.

As Pascal said, “A trifle consoles us, for a trifle distresses us.” It should be called instant gratification because you’re gratified in an instant and your gratification lasts just as long.

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Guitar playing isn’t like that.  Certainly pedagogy and information transfer has occurred to the point where people can progress technically much more quickly on the instrument than ever before.

But the problem is that guitar playing isn’t merely a skill like typing.

More than a skill set, a guitar is a vehicle for expression.  Technical facility might impress people, but if there’s nothing behind it in terms of depth of expression, you won’t make a long-lasting impression on them.

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Having the depth to truly say something, takes time.  Plain and simple.

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A good way to think about this is something a great luthier John Harper told me about guitar.  As you play guitar over time, the vibrations of the notes actually affects the wood on a cellular level.  The vibrations literally change the make up of the guitar over time.  This is why guitars that have been “played in” over time sound completely different than they did off the shelf.

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There are plenty of shortcuts to becoming a fast guitar player.

There are plenty of shortcuts to becoming a better guitar player.

There are no shortcuts to becoming a great guitar player.

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Truly great players, have a completely different relationship to music than most other people.  Music not only nourishes them, but eventually the musician starts communicating with the music rather than just the audience.  That conversation helps them gain further insight into themselves and actually helps to develop them more as people.

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Not only is there no shortcut for that – but if you think about it, you really might not want a shortcut in that area. For example,  if you had the opportunity to meet anyone in history would you rather have the conversation with them when you were 4 years old or 34?  It might be exciting to meet them when you’re 4, but you really wouldn’t have anything to say.  It’s only with the passage of time and experience that you can start to meet the music part way and have that conversation. For every person, that time is different but putting the time in now gets you closer and closer to being able to have that dialog.

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Be wary of the cure-all, the quick fix and the over-arching shortcut.  Work hard and work passionately and know that what you truly put of yourself into anything can ultimately pay dividends for you.

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As always, thanks for reading!

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The Perils of Panaceas and Instant Gratification

Hello!

Thanks for coming to this page.

This post has been moved to Get-A-Grip.com.

You can read it here.

Thanks!

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