Invoking The Power Of Asking

Questions can open doors.

Every gig I ever got was the result of someone asking a question.

 

These are either gigs I got because:

  • someone asked, “Is there a guitarist who can play this stuff?” and they were directed towards me (for example the video game soundtracks I played on, John French, Glenn Branca, The Bentmen and gigs I had to turn down (like the Grandemothers of Invention.))
  • OR gigs I created (asking people to play and creating gig opportunities with people like Don McLeod, Butch Morris or Sahba Motallebi)

This second category is one that bears more investigation.


In retrospect, one HUGE advantage to growing up pre-internet in a small town is that the responsibility of discovery was put squarely on you. There were no venues to play shows – so if you wanted to play shows you had to create your own opportunities. 

As I’ve mentioned in prior stories, we’d organize our own battle of the bands (which got other people to organize their own battle of the bands) and talent shows to have the opportunity to play.  This didn’t mean much at the time but proved invaluable years later when I’d have to hustle to make things happen.

When I tell people that when I was growing up that buying ANY kind of music beyond top-40 (which I could usually find at Ames department store) required a minimum 45 minute drive each way, they typically don’t believe me – but it was true.  There were a handful of specialty music shops and going there to get music became an event.  It also gave each music acquisition it’s own tale and solidified my attachment to it.

It’s easy to loose that ability to ask as a call to action as you continue to play.

You get comfortable.  You find players you like and use them on every project.

Another secret advantage I have, is that I moved – A LOT – as an adult.  This eliminated the ability to play with the same people consistently and forced me out of anything resembling a comfort zone.

I realized the other day that I had approximately 20 different residences in Boston.  Then I moved to LA and had 3 different residences there followed by a move to New York City (1 residence there) and then a move to upstate New York.

When I left Boston to go to CalArts – all the people I played with in Boston were either gone themselves or still there entrenched in their own projects there and not able to work on something via email.  This meant I had to find all new people to play with.

When no one knows who you are – that (typically) means you need to be the one asking to create playing situations for yourself (unless its a Craigslist ad for a cover band or something similar). 

When I got upstate, I was looking for people to play with.  I had advertised for a percussion player but didn’t get any responses.  I went to a Persian Film festival in The Electric City – Schenectady, NY (that I’m now an artistic director for) and saw Farzad Golpayegani playing and saw enough of a thread in what he was doing that I thought we could work together.  I asked him if he wanted to do something and I think initially he wasn’t that interested but then he saw some videos of me playing and got interested.

We played as a duo for a while and I found a business card for a tabla teacher in a local Persian Restaurant and the player turned out to be the same town as me (it turned out that he lived 4 blocks away from me! 2 years of looking and there was a guy in walking distance!).  I lost the card and then found it again and finally contacted Dino Mirabito and asked if he wanted to play with us.  He checked out a show and was playing a gig with us a month later.

Had I not asked those 2 questions – KoriSoron never would have happened.

80 – 90% of the gigs in my life came from opportunities that I created by asking a question.  I think that unless you’re a successful sideman that goes on the road with different acts all the time this will generally be the case (and even in those cases those players hustle A LOT to create opportunities for them to play).

For example, the gig Carmina Escobar and I did with Mia Mikela (Solu) at USC’s Vision and Voices lecture/concert series.  For those of you who are not familiar with her work, one of Mia’s many art endeavors  invokes film editing as ritual and edits short films in real time in front of an audience (See some of her amazing work here!).

Some live audio captured on a ZOOM H4 for posterity’s sake:

How did I get us on that bill? 

I asked her.

I saw she was playing a show and was familiar with her work.  I did some research and saw that she was doing student workshops at USC and that a performance was part of her her overall event there.  I sent her an email and asked if she needed any music to accompany of the student films.  I explained that Carmina and I did live improvised music and that that style of accompaniment might be engaging for the audience and for the films.  I sent her some links and she really liked the music and suggested that we do something together live.


So asking questions can help but there are a few “hidden” rules to asking the questions  that can help create you own opportunities.

  • You have to know that asking a question is an option.  This was my single biggest failure at Berklee.  I didn’t know I could ask for things and I didn’t know I could ask for help when I really needed it.  It turned out that there were resources for me that I could never utilize because I didn’t know they were there (or then how to ask for them – Shades of Kafka’s “Before The Law”!).
  • Asking is location based.  You have to be in a situation where you can ask.  This is a BIG lesson for me that I’m still learning with regards to booking.  Up here – people need to know who you are to book shows.  That means they need to put a name to a face and most of those deals are worked out in person.  I sent a lot of feelers out to people via email and never heard back from anyone.  To get a gig up here people have to know you.  That means going to shows and events.  The catalyst for KoriSoron thing only happened because I went to the Festival Cinema Invisible (FCI) event and saw Farzad playing.  If I just sat at home, that never would have happened.  This is a difficult one for me because I spend a fair amount of evenings teaching or practicing which makes getting to shows difficult – but that’s MY thing to continue working on.
  • Before you ask ANY question – you must ask the question from the stand point of, “What’s in it for them?”  That’s not a Robert Green / Machiavellian angle of deliberate sleight of hand (As in “appear to address their interests but serve yours”) you need to REALLY be looking for how what you’re asking can benefit other people.  (Check out this old post on altrustic action and selfish motivation!)  With Mia, I was fully willing to go to USC and accompany films for free.  I figured that if nothing else, I might find someone who liked what we did and was willing to work together in the future.  That was what was in it for me.  It turned out that there was something in it for her as well. (some past articles of mine (see this or this ) address this topic more specifically from the standpoint of networking).
  • Never ask something that you are reluctant or not willing to do.  See the previous point.  Don’t offer something if you aren’t willing to do it gladly with a smile on your face. If you feel like you’re being put-upon that will show in every interaction you have with other people and spoil whatever good will you are building.
  • You have to have a skill set to provide something valuable to other people and provide that thing without drama or inconvenience to others. 

This is a BIG deal. 

You can get the gig by asking but you will only keep the gig if you can follow through.   

  1. Do NOT oversell what you can do. 
  2. Eliminate any barriers that people may have to work with you. 
  3. The indispensable player who adds more to the show than is needed is the last one to get let go (and usually the first one on retainer).
  • Get to the point in a sincere way.  It’s good to build a little rapport (“I got your name from so and so”, “I’ve been following what you’ve been doing with x”) before your ask but don’t go into some ten minute “this is all the awesome sh*t I do” rant.  Make a polite and concise introduction, ask for what you want, explain how it can help both of you and what you can bring to the table.  Be clear on what you want, what you are asking for and what they can expect from you.
  • You have to let people know that you are looking.  I had a conversation with a friend of mine the other day who said (about himself and paraphrased here),  “If you don’t let people know that you are looking to gig and available to gig you can’t complain about not having the gig.”

People will only refer gigs to you if:

  1. they know that you’re available
  2. if they know your playing will fit in what other people will work for
  3. if they know that you are easy to work with.
  • You have to be willing to have people say no to you and not be bitter.  I have seen people ask for things not get a response (or get a no response) and then fly off the handle.  (“F@ck that guy!  He’s dead to me!”)  If he wasn’t before – he certainly is now.   Bridges are easily burned.  Don’t make it easy for other people to do so.
  • You have to be willing to follow up.  People are busy.  If this opportunity doesn’t work out – keep moving forward and present them with other opportunities in the future.  Sometimes you just need to be in a better position for people to realize that they want to work with you on something.

So don’t be afraid to ask other people to create opportunities – just make sure to make it a win-win for both of you before doing so.

Okay!  That’s it for now.   I hope this helps and, as always, thanks for reading!

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Asking The Right Questions And Being Clear On What We Do

Asking the Right Questions

I read a lot of different material.  I believe that reading is, at least, as important to what I play as what I listen to – just as I would also say that what films, and television I engage in is equally important.  This goes back to some of the statments echoed in Swami Childvilasanda’s The Yoga of Discipline (yes I had to go to my book shelf and pull down my copy to get the spelling of the name correct, which talks about how important it is to be vigilant about what we expose ourselves to because it all influences (and ultimately becomes) a pat of us in some way.  The book is a collection of essays on discipline (discipline in Seeing, Listening, Eating, Speaking, Silence and Thinking) as a path towards spiritual liberation. It’s a very interesting book and one that had me take several lessons to heart.

With that in mind, I tend to do a lot of reading on a lot of different topics because I find that I’m able to implement ideas or strategies from a business book in a different way than, say learning a melodic minor lick to play over a chord progression.  In this case I was reading a 99U book, Make Your Mark The Creative’s guide to building a business with impact and came across a Tim O’Reily quote that engaged me.  I’m going to hijack that quote, bracket one term that can be replaced with practically anything and add bolded emphasis for what I think are the two critical takeways:

“I was in a brainstorm about the future of the US economy recently , and it was all about the decline of the middle class.  It reminded me of so many  conversations that I have had with [*major labels].  They ask, ‘How are we going to preserve our place in the ecosystem?’ and I say, ‘Nobody cares about that.  That’s the wrong question.’  The right question is, ‘What does the world need?  What do my customers need?  What can I do?’….So you have to clarify: Who is your actual target?  What are you trying to accomplish in the world?  Everything else should flow from that.”

* This was originally [publishers], but could also be [live music venues], [musicians], [artists] etc. etc.

(For what it’s worth, here’s a related quote from the same interview that you may find interesting:

“Aaron Levie of Box tweeted something great about Uber recently.  He said, ‘Uber is a $3.5 Billion lesson in building for how the world should work instead of optimizing for how the world does work.'”)

This is something that so many artists, including myself, frequently get wrong.

We make it about us.

When asked the question, “why” we (as in we musicians and artists) often focus on what we do. We set up a scenario that works on the idea that because we are doing good work that the nature of that good work will attract other people – like bees to a flower.

That’s nonsense and I’m occasionally guilty of that thinking as well. “Nobody cares about that.”  That’s what people don’t realize about getting internet traction.  People don’t care about what you’re doing until you give them a reason to care. That means engaging them and making it something they care about.

If you’re a musician – it’s not all about you.

“The right question is, ‘What does the world need?  What do my customers need?  What can I do?”

I don’t engage people because I play guitar.  I engage people because I have something to say that they want to hear.  What we do as musicians is tell stories.  We move people.

People come to see us because of how we help make them feel before, during and after a show.  That’s what our customers need.  That’s how they become fans and come back to our shows.

What I work on technically is in service to that goal.  I work on those things so that I can express myself in the most honest and direct way possible and not have that engagement with the audience interrupted with mistakes or other issues.

I was reminded of this because I played a show with KoriSoron on Friday and it took me about four songs to get into the groove.  The volume levels were mismatched and I was distracted and it took a while to get into the zone (and even then it was hard to stay in the zone – realizing that I had counted off one tune too fast and was not going to be able to execute the ending figure cleanly at that tempo I had to re adjust the form to make it work).  Part of me was really disappointed with my performance that evening but the audience liked the show and will be bringing even more people with them next time.

Is it about me or my perception of the show?

“I can’t believe I wasn’t playing better!!  The audience will tear apart my performance (assumes Piper Laurie voice from Carrie, “THEY’RE ALL GONNA LAUGH AT YOU!”)!

Or is it about communicating something honest with the audience, being genuine in the moment and giving them an experience that they can take with them?  The audience liked the show, warts and all.  That doesn’t mean that I can stop and sit on my laurels and just slide – it means that I should keep working to the best of my ability but rather than getting hung up on one particular aspect that it would behoove me to remember why I’m practicing the things I’m working on (to make an optimum performance for the audience and not stroke my ego and say, “look what I can do!” to no one in particular.)

If you’re not getting the results you want from what you’re doing you may not be answering the right questions.  Once thing you can do is to harness the voice of your inner 2 year old niece or nephew (the one who always asks “why” after everything you say.)  When you state something, ask “why?”  and when you answer it, again ask “why?” and keep challenging your beliefs and assumptions until you get down to the core of what it is you’re doing.

A quick note and a quick plug:

For those of you who are in a rut and/or interested in developing your lead and rhythm playing I’m developing an exciting new group program that will help take you to the next level in the shortest amount of time.  I’m pulling the material together now and looking to launch later this year or the beginning of next year.

Please be aware that about the only thing in the world i hate is hype.  This is no hype or no miracle cure that “works” on osmossis or some other ridiculous claim.  This is a hyper-focused, results driven process that combines effort and efficiency to get players who are willing to put the work, time and dedication in to get where they want to go.

I’ve been doing a lot of research and I haven’t been able to find anyone that’s using even a remotely similar pedagogical system.

I’ll have more information about this in the months ahead, but if you’re interested in the meantime – send me at email at guitarblueprint at gmail [dot] com.

A quick plug (for those of you in the capital region of New York)

KoriSoron frequently collaborates with FCI (Festival Cinema Invisible) on their film series (Korisoron’s Farzad Golpayegani does the poster designs and I help with the press releases and event planning).

FCI is kicking off a cool new bi-monthly series “Pathways to Iran” that explores Persian culture through film and dialog with “Food Stories – Uncommon Recipes, Common Humanity” a film screening and recipe tasting at Proctors GE Theatre on Sunday, September 13th at 4pm.

This cultural event features a rare screening of two films from Iran; “Five Pieces on Iranian Dishes” (a documentary directed by Sepideh Abtahi, 54 mins.), which looks at Iranian society of the past century through food, and “A Perfect Meal” (a short directed by Pooria Jahanshad, 8 mins.) which uses a formal meal setting to examine food and culture.

After the screening there will be a panel discussion on the role of food in Iranian culture with audience Q&A and a recipe demonstration and tasting of various dishes from Iran.

1. Abgoosht: A meat based traditional, middle/working class food that now is turned into an adventurous favorite. There will be a demo of the food on one of the films, and the panel will talk about its cultural connection. There will be a tasting of Goshte Koobideh, a part of this food that tastes good even cold.

2. Borani (vegetarian): a mixture of yogurt and spinach with variety of nuts, was used as food, but today it is mostly served as dip.

3. Salad Shirazi (vegan): A uniquely Iranian salad which is also claimed by Israelis and Arabs. The organizer calls it the “Peace Salad” because of the stories he will share about his travels to Israel and Palestine.

Additionally, there will be handouts with the recipes for guests to take home: Persian style tea is also included in the $10 admission. Tickets are available at the Proctors box office or online at proctors.org/events.

(The next event will be on Sunday November 22 and will feature a performance by KoriSoron (!!), two very cool documentaries on music in Iran and a panel discussion with some special guests! Future events include the topics of Women in Iran and Outsiders in Iran.)

That’s it for now!  As always I hope this helps and thanks for reading!

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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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Guit-A-Grip Podcast #17 – Building An Audience Business Panel

Hello everyone!

Episode #17

Guit-A-Grip Podcast Episode #17  is out and available for download/streaming.

Subscription Notes:

  • You can subscribe through iTunes here:
  • You can use this link to subscribe with any other feed based service:
  • or you can right-click here to download it.
  • or you can stream this episode below.
.

Show Notes:

BuckMoon Arts Festival Panel Workshops

This podcast features an audio recording of a panel discussion from the BuckMoon Arts Festival which was held at Fulton-Montgomery Community College in Johnstown, NY.  There’s more information about this on episode #16 but the “Promoting Your Art – Building An Audience and Building A Buzz” panel with panelists Bill CoffeyMike DiminYvonne Lieblein, Patrick Longo, Brian McElhiney and Mark Swain.

The event description was “Online access to consumers has given artists more possibilities than ever, but how do you get your voice heard above the din?” and the panel went into a number of related areas to how does one get one’s voice heard in the world.  Hopefully you’ll hear some interesting stories and find some things that help you!

Technical Note:

While we did have a feed off of the PA to record audio for the event, not all of the panelists were able to get near mikes and in some cases the audience members audio was inaudible.  Attempts have been made to smooth some of these large jumps out but despite those efforts the audio quality is spotty in places…..

Panelist Bios:

Bill Coffey  was raised in Douglaston, New York where he began, at age 12, working in a local woodworking shop as he went through school. After college graduation and armed with a degree in photography, Bill joined the corporate world. He worked for companies such as HBO, but always had his hands in woodworking as a budding creative interest. Not one for convention, for a two year stint Bill decided he wanted to learn the art of welding and even worked in that industry for two years.  It is here that independent artist Bill Coffey, orchestrates a graceful collision of the old and the new with stunning results. Bill has a passion for the mountains and a keen eye for using unique resources. Each piece he creates is one of a kind and Bill’s work can be seen in galleries nationwide including NYC, Jackson Hole, WY, Telluride,CO and Glens Falls, NY.

Since Bill’s ideas had outgrown his current gallery space, his new studio is under construction and with an anticipated opening Fall 2014 in Northville, NY. You’ll find it at the intersection of Rustic and Contemporary!!

Michael Dimin “wrote the book” on the art of solo bass, through his groundbreaking books, “The Art of Solo Bass” and “The Chordal Approach” and as columnist for Bass Sessions, Bass Guitar Magazine (UK), Bassics, Bass Frontiers Magazines and as a guest columnist for Bass Player Magazine. Mike has taught clinics and master classes at Gerald Veasley’s Bass Boot Camp, The Bass Collective, the National Summer Guitar Workshop, The Detroit Bass Fest and many more. Mike is a clinician for Zon Guitars, EA Amps, Boomerang Music and Thomastick Infeld Strings. “Mike’s taken his revolutionary approach, unparalleled technique and mastery of the instrument and combined it with a sense of musicianship and lyricism that transcends the site of a solo bassist on stage.”  http://mikedimin.com

Yvonne Lieblein uses pedal-to-the-metal curiosity, music (music and more music), and over two decades worth of high-octane experiences as a writer, producer, and marketing strategist to fuel her creative life and passion for helping artists and entrepreneurs flourish. Yvonne’s debut novel, The Wheelhouse Café, will be published later this year and features an 11-song soundtrack. She has produced several music festivals and poetry experiences on the North Fork of Long Island. Yvonne is also a co-founder of theBOOKPROJECT, a novel night out for readers.

As a marketing and communication strategist, Yvonne thrives on delivering innovative solutions and inspiration. She began with a Triple Word Score role at the National SCRABBLEAssociation and then launched her own company, liebleinassociates, in 2003. Yvonne continues to be a champion and compass through her ongoing Mind Your Own Business (MYOB) workshops for entrepreneurs, True-U personal development retreats for women, speaking engagements and consulting projects.

Website:  http://yvonnelieblein.com.

Patrick Longo is an author, keynote speaker, composer, musician, screenwriter, husband and father to two young boys.  He also is the founder of Upaya Productions (ooh-pie-yuh), Upaya Publishing, and Team Earth, an environmental awareness apparel company.  Patrick is a former full-time Creative Writing instructor at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, and currently is a literature adjunct instructor at Schenectady County Community College and Director of Talent Acquisition at Transfinder, a global transportation logistics and location intelligence software company.

A graduate of the prestigious Graduate Creative Writing Program at Brockport College, Patrick majored in Creative Writing, with a concentration in poetry.  He moved from NY to San Francisco where he wrote, directed, produced, and composed music for his second play, The Curse of Funston Munley and played drums, sang, and composed music and lyrics for the band Moe Road.  In addition, Patrick was involved in the writing, production, music composition, and promotion for several short films. After “Funston,” Patrick was inspired to write a sung-through musical based on Cassandra, the cursed prophetess of ancient Troy and after raising $23,000 on Kickstarter, is set to debut a concert version of Cassandra, The Musical at Proctors Theater in Schenectady, NY on September 12thand 13th, 2014.

He is the co-author and editor of Great Salespeople Aren’t Born, They’re Hired, as well as Hire, Fire and The Walking DeadFind Your Spinach, The Just Disease, an illustrated children’s fantasy novel named The AcesJeb’s Wish, a traditional novel, and the play Toast and Coffee with Frank.  Patrick is currently writing and publishing pop music, working on a traditional musical, Oops! I Married a Nazi, continuing to pitch his steam punk screenplay, Chasing the Pigeon, finishing his next business books, Service is a Table Stake and I’m a Sales Doctor, Be Patient!, developing curricula for business culture, and making occasional appearances as a personal and business self-development speaker.

Website:  http://cassandrathemusical.com/

Brian McElhiney has written about music and art in the Capital Region and beyond for more than six years. He is also a musician and visual artist, and is currently the Sunday editor of the Leader-Herald in Gloversville.

Mark Swain is a business and faculty member at Fulton-Montgomery Community College.  Mark earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Brunel University (England), a New York State Teaching Certificate from Siena College, and Master in Business Administration (MBA) from University at Albany. Prior to joining FM’s full-time teaching faculty, Mark worked in business for the first ten years of his career in both in the U.K. and the U.S. After leaving the U.K. in 1995, he worked at General Electric as a corporate financial analyst for several years and moved on to become an Associate Director at MVP Healthcare, working in their model office. Mark began teaching in 2003 which included work at Schenectady County Community College as an adjunct professor and teaching business fulltime at Galway High School.

As always, I hope this helps you with your own goals – or at least keeps you amused until the next time!

See you soon and thanks again for listening/reading!

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Guit-A-Grip Podcast #16 – “Developing Your Business Plan” Panel Discussion

Hello everyone!

Episode #16

Guit-A-Grip podcast episode #16  is out and available for download/streaming.

Subscription Notes:

  • You can subscribe through iTunes here:
  • You can use this link to subscribe with any other feed based service:
  • or you can right-click here to download it.
  • or you can stream this episode below.

.

Show Notes:

BuckMoon Arts Festival Panel Workshops

This summer I had the opportunity to get involved with the BuckMoon Arts Festival which was held at Fulton-Montgomery Community College in Johnstown, NY.  One of the ideas I had was to create workshops for artists in the area who were looking for ways to monetize their income.  The workshop idea was replaced with a panel discussion with the purpose of utilizing some of the artists and professionals we had access to.  This made for some great discussions and interactions throughout the day.

This podcast is from the “Developing Your Business Plan” panel with panelists Mike Dimin, Yvonne Lieblein and Mark Swain.  The event description was “The business of art – Setting up your business, creating a business plan and building your team.” but it went into a lot of different areas.  If you’re interested in developing your art as a business, you might be interested to listen to hear how these people are already doing it!

Panelist Bios:

Michael Dimin “wrote the book” on the art of solo bass, through his groundbreaking books, “The Art of Solo Bass” and “The Chordal Approach” and as columnist for Bass Sessions, Bass Guitar Magazine (UK), Bassics, Bass Frontiers Magazines and as a guest columnist for Bass Player Magazine. Mike has taught clinics and master classes at Gerald Veasley’s Bass Boot Camp, The Bass Collective, the National Summer Guitar Workshop, The Detroit Bass Fest and many more. Mike is a clinician for Zon Guitars, EA Amps, Boomerang Music and Thomastick Infeld Strings. “Mike’s taken his revolutionary approach, unparalleled technique and mastery of the instrument and combined it with a sense of musicianship and lyricism that transcends the site of a solo bassist on stage.”  http://mikedimin.com

Yvonne Lieblein uses pedal-to-the-metal curiosity, music (music and more music), and over two decades worth of high-octane experiences as a writer, producer, and marketing strategist to fuel her creative life and passion for helping artists and entrepreneurs flourish. Yvonne’s debut novel, The Wheelhouse Café, will be published later this year and features an 11-song soundtrack. She has produced several music festivals and poetry experiences on the North Fork of Long Island. Yvonne is also a co-founder of theBOOKPROJECT, a novel night out for readers.

As a marketing and communication strategist, Yvonne thrives on delivering innovative solutions and inspiration. She began with a Triple Word Score role at the National SCRABBLEAssociation and then launched her own company, liebleinassociates, in 2003. Yvonne continues to be a champion and compass through her ongoing Mind Your Own Business (MYOB) workshops for entrepreneurs, True-U personal development retreats for women, speaking engagements and consulting projects. Website:  http://yvonnelieblein.com.

Mark Swain is a business and faculty member at Fulton-Montgomery Community College.  Mark earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Brunel University (England), a New York State Teaching Certificate from Siena College, and Master in Business Administration (MBA) from University at Albany. Prior to joining FM’s full-time teaching faculty, Mark worked in business for the first ten years of his career in both in the U.K. and the U.S. After leaving the U.K. in 1995, he worked at General Electric as a corporate financial analyst for several years and moved on to become an Associate Director at MVP Healthcare, working in their model office. Mark began teaching in 2003 which included work at Schenectady County Community College as an adjunct professor and teaching business fulltime at Galway High School.

 That’s it for now!  The next podcast will feature the panel discussion from the “Promoting Your Art: Building An Audience and Building A Buzz” with panelists: Bill Coffey, Mike Dimin, Yvonne Lieblein, Patrick Longo, Brian McElhiney and Mark Swain!

As always, I hope this helps you with your own goals – or at least keeps you amused until the next time!

See you soon and thanks again for listening/reading!

-SC

 

Another Lesson From BuckMoon Part II – Opportunities Are Generally Made Not Found

Another Lesson Learned From The BuckMoon Arts Festival

For those of you who tuned in last time, this is the next in a series of lessons I learned from my involvement as a moderator of a series of Artists Panels at the BuckMoon Arts Festival.  (For those of you who missed the previous post, you may want to read part 1 of this series if you haven’t already.)  You can read about the panel discussions and the festival here.

Opportunities Are Generally Made Not Found

The BuckMoon Arts Festival had a series of panel discussions that were intended to bring up issues related to monetizing one’s art.  The second panel in the series was this one:

Promoting Your Art: Building An Audience and Building A Buzz”

Panelists: Bill Coffey, Mike Dimin, Yvonne Lieblein, Patrick Longo, Brian McElhiney and Mark Swain

 

Description: Online access to consumers has given artists more possibilities than ever, but how do you get your voice heard above the din?

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In the panels, I’d ask a series of questions which would then be answered and discussed by the panel members and then I’d try to keep the ball rolling with follow up questions, related anecdotes and other miscellany and then open it up for audience discussion.

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As part of this particular panel, we got into an extended discussion on the necessity of networking and making connections with other people working in your field and related fields.
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I’m going to stress that again.  A key focus of this discussion was NETWORKING.

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At the end of our time, the panel had an audience question.  The audience member was a costume designer who couldn’t figure out why she couldn’t get any work as a designer locally.  In response, every member of the panel spent about 2-5 minutes talking about strategies and options and trying to help this person.

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While this was happening, everyone on the panel was excited because one of the panelists, Patrick Longo, was there to talk about how he had successfully kickstarted a project for a stage production of his original material at Proctor’s Theatre that was premiering this September.   Before the panel started, Patrick had introduced himself to EVERYONE in the room and gave them a card promoting his event.  So, even after the panelists introduced themselves at the start of the panel everyone there was familliar with what he was doing.

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As panelists, we were all thinking some variation of, “This is great!  We’re actually going to be able to help somebody directly today!”  At the end of the panel I asked everyone to stick around for the last presentation and as we took a break between sessions the person who asked the question stood up, walked out the door and never came back.

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We were stunned.  Patrick came up to me and said, “I’m so confused.  What happened there?  I NEED a costume designer.  Why didn’t she come talk to me?”

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Unfortunately that response to that opportunity was the answer to that question .

In a profoundly over simplified math equation, opportunities are approximately 60% positioning yourself to be in the right place at the right time and about 40% having the skill set (and the wherewithal) to be able to capitalize on that.

You can practice in your bedroom forever, but you’re never going to meet other players / artists / likeminded people and/or people in a position to be able to help you advance until you go out into the world and meet them.

Related Story #2:

I was looking for a drummer.

Unless you already know talented players in your area or are in a position where you’re well known and making real touring money and can attract upper level professionals – this is always a nightmare proposition.

I reached out to a drummer’s group on Facebook, posted some video and audio and asked if anyone in the area was interested.  One person contacted me to say that he was interested but really busy and probably didn’t have time to play before he went back to the school for the summer. (I’m still baffled at the point of that correspondence).

Another second person messaged me with a contact information and I contacted him.  We played phone tag and finally talked about what I wanted to do and about getting together to play.  He wanted to hear more of my material (he didn’t have any recording of himself – which is always a bad sign) so I sent him some and then I never heard back from him.  So I sent a few followup emails that weren’t returned and about a week later, I called to see if he got the material.

Drummer (Sheepishly): “Oh yeah – I got the material….Uh you’re really good.  I didn’t know if I could play with those odd time signatures.”

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Me: “Oh…that’s too bad.  If we had gotten together we could have tried it out and if it didn’t work I would have just played easier material to see if there was a decent chemistry and see if there was something else we could do.”

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Drummer: “Oh!  Well I guess we could get together next week.”

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Me:  “Sorry.  If you can’t follow up now at this stage, it just tells me that you’re probably going to flake later, and I can’t spend my time hunting people down to find out where they are.  Good luck though.”

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That wasn’t said with any snark whatsoever.  I truly did wish him well, but I wasn’t willing to let him take up any more of my time.

A few takeaways

One thing that EVERY artist is guilty of at one (or many) points in his or her career is getting in their own way.  They’re often prone to second guessing themselves and being afraid to open the doors in front of them.

Here are two observations that I try to be mindful of myself

  • Opportunities are made not found. They are made by putting work into developing skill sets and positioning yourself (i.e. being conspicuous) so people can experience what you do.
  • Networking is based on sincere and legitimate connections to people.  I think of it as developing friendships instead trying to capitalize on something from the get go.  If you do have a internal question question when you meet people, make sure it’s  “What can I do for this person?” instead of “What can this person do for me?” and that’s because….
  • It’s more about who knows you than who you know.  My knowing other players won’t get me a gig.  Other players knowing me and knowing what I do (and more importantly what problems I can solve for them) is what will prompt any discussion between people that includes “oh hey let’s get that Scott Collins guy for this”

As always, I hope this helps!

Next time – I’ll talk about lessons I learned from mistakes that I made in setting up the panels!

Thanks for reading!

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Lessons From BuckMoon Part I – You Can’t Cross A Burned Bridge

The Dread Return Of The Podcast

First a bit of housekeeping.  I’ve been cleaning up the audio from the panel discussions that I organized from the Buckmoon Arts Festival and I expect to kick off the podcast with a few of those over the rest of the summer.

First a huge thanks to all of the people who participated in the panels:

Bill Coffey
Mike Dimin
Jean Karutis
Yvonne Lieblein
Patrick Longo
Brian McElhiney
Mark Swain

As well as Mahmood Karimi-Hakak for the screening, Elahe Golpare and Afshin Katanchi for stills video and all the staff that pulled the event together.

You can read about the panel discussions and the festival here.

The following illustrative stories comes from those workshops.  Story #2 will be in a followup post.

Story #1:

There was a lot of back and forth with multiple people to try to get them on the panel discussions.  It was a big ask for everyone involved and I hope it set the groundwork for future collaborations, projects etc.

Trying to organize and run something like this with – what seems like an infinite number of variables (an unfamiliar room, an unfamiliar PA, no idea how many people are actually attending, coordinating with all the different people that need to be in place to make sure that panelists are relatively happy)  – is particularly stressful the day of the event.

The only way to manage that stress in any way, shape or form is to try to eliminate as many loose ends before the day of the show as possible and put extra work in well in advance of the event and communicate clearly to everyone involved.

In this case, managing one loose end involved contacting everyone on the panel and making sure that they would still be there and giving them a “one page” of day of event information – directions, food, etc.  Everyone confirmed they would be there but there were two panelists that indicated that they had prior commitments and would have to leave by 3 pm.  That was no problem.

The day of the event, after the opening presentation, I was helping set up the tables for the panel discussion and checked my phone and saw that an unfamiliar number had left me a voice mail a minute or two earlier.  It was one of the panelists who had confirmed attending earlier in the week but had a prior commitment later that day.  He was now calling to cancel his appearance 15 minutes before the start of the panel.  He said he’d gotten sick the night before and that he wanted to try to ride it out to see if he could make it in and now decided he couldn’t and that he didn’t want to get the other panelists sick.   He was sorry but ended the call with, “I hope you’ll keep me in mind for other events in the future and if you know anyone who needs PR services that you’ll send them my way.”

I remember looking at my phone and thinking, “What is this – high school?  I can’t go to class?  My dog ate my homework?”

Particularly for a person who works in Public Relations – I can’t imagine a way to handle that more poorly.

You can’t invite someone over a bridge you just burned.

For those of you starting your music business endeavors, here are some takeaway points:

1.  Communicate early and frequently.  People get sick.  Things happen.  People generally will work with you for whatever problem you have, but you have to communicate early and not leave people in a lurch.  As an organizer, calling me 15 minutes before you’re supposed to be there is only marginally better than not showing.  Also when you’ve already told me that you have a family function later that day that you have to go to, the sick excuse seems spurious at best and doesn’t really cut it.

2.  If you do ever find yourself in that situation, follow up with people.  Had he contacted me the following week and said, “Hey I feel really bad that I couldn’t make it.  I’m sorry I wasn’t there.  How did the panel discussion go?” it would have been a completely different discussion and at the least it would have added more legitimacy to his story.

The fact that he couldn’t be bothered to make a simple followup call or email just told me that he didn’t want to be there.  But as the person runs a PR company, they should be acutely aware of how badly they just burned that bridge.  I don’t always want to do my own PR.  I need help sometimes with things.  But as a potential client, how can I contact you for my project if my experience with you is that you bailed out on a commitment at the last minute and then didn’t follow up?

When you’re a professional, your professionalism will be measured by your actions.  If you don’t conduct yourself in a professional way, you won’t be viewed as professional by others.    It doesn’t always mean that it’s fair.  But it’s how it is.

(The odd exception to this is that if you’re independently wealthy, you don’t necessarily have to be professional as you can pay people to take on those services for you.  But in those cases, people only work with you because they have money and when the money’s gone, typically so are they.)

If you operate in the public eye you need to act like someone is always watching you.  That doesn’t mean being paranoid but, for example, you need to assume that if you’re inebriated in a public place and making a loud fool out of yourself, that video footage will show up online somewhere.

Conduct your matters with honesty and integrity. If you act unprofessional, you can’t expect a professional reference.

In the next post, I’ll tell another story from the Festival that highlights almost everything that’s wrong about how musicians navigate the music business (and it has nothing to do with file sharing or spotify).

As always thanks for reading!

-SC