Due Versus Do

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Korisoron

As I mentioned in the last post, I’m playing in a new acoustic duo called KoriSoron with an incredibly talented guitarist and artist form Iran named Farzad Golpeyagani. If you happen to be in the Capital District of New York, we’re having a soft launch of the project tomorrow evening with 2 sets in Schenectady, NY on Saturday, August 23rd.

Flyer - August 23 Moon and River Cafe001

I’m the Michael Chicklis stunt double on the left.

We’ll have a fully realized site on KoriSoron.com and https://www.facebook.com/korisoron in the weeks ahead.   For now – here’s an event page with some information.  https://www.facebook.com/events/1538544056367629/

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But what do the people on Craigslist think?

As an interesting aside, someone posted a rather pointed question on the Albany Musicians Craigslist page about a venue owned by the same owner of the one that we’re doing the soft launch at.

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ArthursMarket; worth booking (Stockade Schenectady)

Have an offer to perform at Arthurs Market, the owner also runs Moon &River Cafe up the street.

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Anybody ever played at either? If so, how were tips? The owner does not pay so tips are the only compensation.

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Both places sort of worry me. Seem dingy, cluttered, unkept. Sort of like some hippy den instead of a real concert place. No phone, dim lights, no credit cards. Real dumps. But tips might be good anyway. Have you played there? Any advise?”

This was followed by a tirade of people weighing in on the necessity of musicians getting paid whenever they play a venue as a definition of professional.  Most of the following “re:” posts seemed to think it was a bar of some type (they’re both cafes with an emphasis on vegetarian food) and talked about how bars shouldn’t have bands if they don’t pay them directly.

I’ll come back to the professional aspect that was brought up but let me first answer this question with a question..

Have you paid your dues?

Do you have a local or regional audience?

Will you bring people to a club because they are there to see you?

And the answer to this question is no.

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Paying Dues

I can say that, because if you have a local audience then you can reasonably estimate how many people will show up at a gig in general and there should be little to no mystery in what you’d make in tips.  If you’re asking that question, it’s because you’re depending on the venue to provide the audience or depending on the other acts on the bill to provide an audience.

Most bands play for years without making a living wage.  That’s because building an audience takes nurturing and time.  It doesn’t happen overnight.

“But what about the unknown bands that play for thousands of people on bills with big bands?”

Did you know that many large bands that play outdoor sheds (i.e. large outdoor arenas) actually charge opening bands to play for them?  It’s because they don’t need an opening act.  The fans are coming there to see them and the opening act is just poaching their audience.

Do I agree with the ethics of charging an opening band and having them rely on whatever merch or tour support they have to keep them on the road?  No I don’t agree with it.  I think it’s disgusting.  But it’s also a power dynamic.  If you haven’t paid your dues by being on the circuit and having a draw then you need to pay your membership dues to the people who are allowing you to enter their club house and try to capitalize on their work.

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My Local / Regional Plan

When Farzad and I first talked about this.  I laid out my plan for this project with him and it’s a plan that might work for you if you’re looking to make a go of it in a regional market.  We plan on following through with everything, so even as an experiment in accountability you might find this interesting.  I’ll also tell you the secret about why this plan won’t work most people.

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1.  Play Open Mics (and/or play in front of people).

When you start a new venture (particularly when you’ve relocated) you can’t just pick up where you left off unless you’re a name recognized act on a major label (even then it’s still a step back.   For all of Audioslave’s hype – they never got to the level of success of either Soundgarden’s or Rage Against The Machine’s success and they still had to do all of the promotion that is associated with any new act on a major label.).  You have to build a local audience and start all over again.  That’s the bad news.

The good news is that once you’ve already put the work in, it takes much less time to build a following and get your platform built.  The fact that I’ve released eight books and that Farzad has six full length releases under his name opens doors for us.  On a professional level, when people see our bios, they’re more likely to check out what we’re doing or take a meeting with us.

All that does on a fan level though is potentially get people through the door.  At the end of the day both the music and the performance need to be strong enough to get people to stay and, ideally, to come back again.

So why play open mics?

  • Because testing your material in front of a live audience is worth more than months in a rehearsal space.  It’s just a completely different thing and you find out IMMEDIATELY what works and what doesn’t and how well you really know something.
  • Because the stakes are low at an open mic.  It’s a good place to experiment and try things and if they blow up it’s not a big deal.  This is a much better place to potentially fail at something than in front of a large crowd of people who paid to see you.
  • Because a lot of times – you end up with fans.  Particularly for the music I play, a lot of times other musicians are the first to pick up on some of the challenges with performing that material.  Some of them will come to the gigs that I play and possibly bring people.

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“But open mics don’t pay!  Professionals get paid for what they do!”

Did you know that Robin Williams would frequently show up at comedy clubs well after midnight unannounced and get on the stage to test out new material?  Did he get paid for that?  Is he a hobbyist for doing so?

Professionals do things pretty regularly without getting paid but they do it for a pay off down the road.  Think of the contractor that comes to your house to give you a free estimate on work that’s going to be done.  That estimate is only free as there’s a payoff on the back end if it goes through.  The band that plays the local TV station morning show at 7am?  They might be paid later on if they own the copyright on the song they’re performing – but they don’t get paid for the show.  They do it because it exposes them to a larger audience.  There’s a payoff on the back end.

When people talk about bars paying bands – they’re talking about a decades old performance model that has no basis in the current economy – unless you already have an audience that is specifically there to see you (i.e. you have a real draw).

So let’s take the same person who asked the question and apply it to the rock band bar model.

Your band wants to play bar X.  You send materials to the booking agent and start a lengthy dance for a night to play.  Eventually you get on a bill with 3 other local bands (HA!  I played a CBGB’s gig once where there were 12 other bands on the bill!).  You each bring 10 people paying a $5 cover.  You get a dollar a head for each person who comes in.  So assuming they don’t make you pay for the sound or light guy, someone in the band waits until 2 AM when the venue closes to collect the $10.

Let’s say it’s a duo for simple math.  Divided by 2 – that’s $5 a person.  Let’s hope you didn’t buy a beer or you lost money!  Good thing you waited 5 extra hours for that pay out!

Now let’s say you play a small venue where there’s no cover and it’s pass the hat (or you play a house concert – where it can be an expensive ticket for the same thing).  Let’s say there’s 10 people there to see you but it’s pass the hat and you make $40.  No pay out.  No waiting.  You collect the money and go.

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The exception to the rule.

If you’re playing a dinner club gig where you’re the entertainment for the evening and playing human jukebox for the night you should be making more (and guaranteed) money.  You’re playing longer than a single set and you’re doing a gig that I wouldn’t be comfortable doing, “I know you’re a jazz group but would you play ‘Piano Man’?  I love that song….”  As a side note, with alarming regularity I see people taking those gigs where they’re playing for 2-3 hours for no money and possibly getting  a meal during a break.  That is insane.

For that gig – or a gig where you’re a cover band in a bar and playing for 4 hours….the criticism above that you always get paid is, in my mind, a completely valid criticism.

I’m talking about groups that play original music and do so in 30 – 45 minute sets.

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2.  Play traditional and non-traditional venues.

One of the gigs we’re playing is a library.  I’ve done entire regional tours playing at libraries where I sold merch and added names to my e-mail list.  You capitalize on existing opportunities and create new ones where possible.

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3.  Develop marketing materials.

Promo shots.  Websites.  Social Media.  Performance videos.  Audio recordings.

Two words here: GET VISIBLE!  People can only support what they know about.

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4.  Network.

I’ve written a lot about this.  You need to develop legitimate friendships and relationships with other artists, musicians, movers and shakers in whatever community you’re in.  You do this by going to shows, playing out locally and introducing yourself to people.

You can do this online by reaching out to FB groups, forums, meet-up groups, etc., but without a local support network anything you do on a larger scale will fall apart.  This is what happens when you play some shows in Europe (to large audiences) and then come back and play to 2 people in a bar in Brooklyn that are there to see another band.

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5.  Record material.

With all that rehearsing and playing out playing out you should have some tunes very much under your belt.  I’ve been saying the LP was dead since we did the Visible Inc. Eps back in 2000 or so – so the goal here is multiple short releases over the year so that you have something to promote.

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6.  Build everything bigger and better.

So the basic steps here are:

  • Build an audience
  • develop your product
  • develop your support network
  • build off of the foundation you built and make everything better than it was.  Constant improvement.  Better performances.  Better songs.  Better venues.  Better connection to fans.

This goes back to the pay issue.

Yes – I’ll do a soft launch for no pay.

Yes – I’m a professional guitarist.

Yes – this is a good idea because I’m executing a plan that ultimately benefits me.

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Here’s the secret I’ve learned

It’s a big one.  It’s why outlining something like this won’t matter for most people.

Most people aren’t willing to do the work.

They’re not willing to put the time in and invest in themselves for the pay off later.

They’re too caught up in their own egos and thinking about what’s owed to them rather than what they work for.

What’s due to them rather than what they do.

So they sit at home not playing because the model that worked for them 20 years ago is not making them any money and they can’t get out of their comfort zone to start over or adapt to the current climate.  Instead they get online and complain about how the scene sucks, and people suck, and the venues suck….

An open mic is beneath some of these people.  They want the money now.  They want the audience now but they don’t want to put the work in to build one.  That takes a long time and a lot of playing.

You gotta put in the work.

I’ve had to re-teach myself to play three separate times.  From scratch.  It sucked.  The last time almost killed me.

It built character.  It taught me how to keep my eye on the prize over the long haul.

So when I sit there and say, “All we have to do is play to the best of our ability over and over again, build an audience and expand our visibility.”  I say that knowing it’s an easy plan to conceptualize and a hard plan to actualize because it requires endurance.

Endurance and Vision are symbiotic for long term execution.  Without both of them you don’t have anything.

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So why do a soft launch at that venue?

Because people listen there.

The thing that really struck me about the open mics at that venue is that people seemed to really listen to what musicians were saying with their music.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve played bars and the bartender balked at the idea of turning the sound off on the TV so we could play.  I get it.  The people sitting at that bar are the ones tipping him.  They certainly didn’t come to see any of the bands I play in.

If people are listening, it’s the first step to making a fan.  If they’re not listening (or if they stop listening), it’s really hard to get their attention again.

So the possibility of getting people who come to that show to come to another show is high,  Perhaps those people will bring other people with them.

Years ago – I got some great advice from someone who basically said, “Don’t bet on the lottery.  Bet on yourself instead.”

The work you do today sows the seeds for tomorrow.  Pay your dues through what you do, not what you’ve done.

I hope this helps and, as always, thanks for reading.

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The Ghost Of The Guit-A-Grip Podcast (Or Lessons Learned From Setting Up A Podcast)

Hello everyone!

Episode #15

Guit-A-Grip podcast episode #15  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.
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Show Notes:

Wait….There’s A Podcast?

Yes sir or/and ma’am!  There’s definitively a podcast that was going on with the posts.  I set it aside for a while while I was looking for a house (we moved in February), and took some time to really review what went so horribly wrong with it.  The dissection of all the gory details can be found in the podcast, but the short story is that I made a series of assumptions that didn’t work out they way I thought they might and learned some good things for the next go-round!

I reference a martial arts post in the podcast, that I’m fond of (despite the knee jerk inducing title).  That post can be read here.

Overall, I feel like I may have helped some people by going over all the things I did wrong – but hopefully I’ll be able to help a lot more people in the future.

That’s it for now!

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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The Sonic Literacy Regional Tour And Other News

Hi everybody,

I hope this finds you well!

I just have a few updates that may be of interest to readers of this blog.

The “Sonic Literacy” “Tour”

I’ve decided to take a different approach to promoting my Minor Pentatonic book

theminorpentatonicscale-front

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and give a little something back to the local communities at the same time.  Growing up in upstate New York, I used to spend countless hours in public libraries just reading and feeding my brain.  I think they’re incredible resources that often get over looked, so I’m pulling together a “sonic literacy’ promotional tour that will go to regional libraries and present the material in the book in a short clinic / lecture format that’s free to the general public.  Hopefully it’ll introduce what I do to some people and perhaps it’ll get some people looking for a free lesson to reconnect to the resources that  they have on hand.

Dates are getting set, but I’m kicking it all off at The Gloversville Public Library on Saturday 12/14/13 at 12pm.  It’s only slated for an hour with set up so it should be short.  If you’re in the area, I hope you can drop by!

I’ll post more details when I have them.

In related news…

I have a few other projects in the works…. I’ve been hitting some open mikes in a low key fashion to try out some new acoustic material and it seems to be received fairly well, so that should get recorded soonish.

There are some live silent film accompaniment gigs lined up for 2014 -and I hope to have a unique spin on it but I’ll post more about those when I have more info.

Looking at some new ensemble ideas and pulling a solo set together in a worse-case scenario.  I’m also researching grants, funding and non-profit status for some of the longer-term projects but, again, more info when I have it.

Guit-A-Grip

The podcast is returning but in the meantime, I have a new post I put up about making the transition in self-definition as a “guitarist”.  It also ties into G.A.S. and some other holiday related observations.  You can check that out here.

Guitar-Muse

The Chris Buono interview went up last week.  You can check that out here.

The year will end out with a few reviews.  A review of the Zoom A3’s been submitted and should be up soon.  I have a piece about useful guitar related apps that will either go there or go up here and you might see a review of the Antonio Hermosa AH-50 classical acoustic-electric in time for the big guy to get it down the chimney for you.

Other

I’ve gotten some people asking me about the FnH website.  FnH IS still in business – they decided to overhaul the site, but if you e-mail info@fnhguitars.com you should still get someone to respond.  If it doesn’t work, just drop me a line and I’ll forward your message along to them.

John Harper (the H in FnH) has told me that some stuff is coming back my way – a new FnH model and just as exciting – my double neck fretted/fretless 13 lb monstrosity that he had to make 2 new necks for and completely re-do the wiring for is also due to come back!!  It bodes well for some serious sonic misgivings in 2014! ; )

Still trying to determine the scope of the practice book and the pentatonic extraction books but I think we’re good on more new books until 2014.

That’s it for now.  More news as it develops and as always, thanks for reading!

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Pre-Thanksgiving Updates

Hey everybody,

Just a few quick updates in chronological order.

Guit-A-Grip

Guit-A-Grip is going to have a refocus which will be of interest to readers interested in the Music Business side and career sustainability.

For those of you who have ever read a book and thought, “Hey I can do that!”  You probably can – but there are some things you might not have counted on.   My latest post on Guit-A-Grip shows a little accounting slight of hand from Amazon and details the good bad and ugly of self-publishing (replace the words “book” and “publishing” with “recording” and “music business” and many of the same observations apply) here.

There’s also a new podcast on project management up.  If you’ve decided to hit that New Years resolution early – this podcast might be of interest.

Guitar-Muse

A gear review of the Positive Grid Jam Up and Jam Up Pro app for iPhone and iPad got reviewed here and I would have had a review of their new BIAS software (which looks like the real deal) but my iPad was too outdated. Positive Grid IS working on an iPhone version and I should be testing that when the Beta version is out.  In the meantime you can read some overviews here.

TrueFire Guitar Guru Chris Buono sat down and gave an in-depth interview on teaching, performing, gear, endorsements and more.  That interview should be up on guitar-muse this Thursday.

It looks like there will be at least one more gear review, one more interview and one more lesson on Guitar-Muse before years end, and I’ll post that info when I have it.

A lost gig

Ah….I forgot – it turns out that the 1 gig I got to play with the Children of Mu project last year  was recorded by mastermind/drummer  Justin Wierbonski.  If you like the Onibaba stuff or the Daren Burns stuff you might dig this as well.

You can stream or download the track here.

“The Children of Mu live at Bar 4 from 7.12.12. 100% improvised. Recorded with an Optimus CTR-115 Hand Held Cassette Recorder and a Radio Shack 33-306 microphone.”

Steven Husted – Bass
John (Lavibora) Aleman – Guitar
Nick Herman – Percussion
Scott Collins – Guitar
Justin Wierbonski – Drums

Other

In the meantime, I’ve been playing some low key gigs and open mics to prep for some acoustic and electric recordings  I’m trying to get out the door by the end of the year, writing a book on practicing and editing the pentatonic extraction book.  It’s a lot coming down the pike but it’s good stuff and I hope you dig it!

As always, thanks for reading!

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Guit-A-Grip Podcast Episode #14 – Book Excerpt And Some Project Management Tips

Hello everyone!

Episode #14

Guit-A-Grip podcast episode #14 “Nothing Ever Got Done With An Excuse Excerpt #3″ 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.
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Show Notes:

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The Book

Much of this section of the book came from experiences that I had in, first, getting my Melodic Patterns book written and then, secondly, getting the book in a month project off of the ground.

I’m using that book as a case study, but I believe that the steps behind it help form a reasonable approach to working on any large project that’s unfamiliar (or largely unfamiliar) to you.

The steps to follow:

I made a reference to various pieces of advice.  The overall categories of this are:

  • Build off of past experiences (or go with what you know)

  • Whenever possible start with the heavy lifting

  • Beware of the rope swing

  • Be realistic about what you can do

  • Break up overwhelming things into small chunks

  • Contortion doesn’t hurt if you’re limber

  • Projects have a tendency to run wild on their own – so plan on constantly monitoring their growth

  • Be prepared to go a lot of it on your own

  • Be ready to make a lot of mistakes

  • Be ready to improvise because you can’t plan for everything

  • Have a deadline and/or know when you’re done

  • You really can’t do it alone

    Here are a few specifics related to the above:

Beware of the rope swing
The advice I gave for this was a little too vague so here’s a qualifier.  It’s all about balance.  If you jump into something with no research, knowledge or plan, it will generally go badly.  If you put too much energy into research, you may face paralysis in actually acting.

Deadlines
I’d write more about this but I’ve already written on it here.

That’s it for now!

As always, I hope this helps you with your own goals.

See you soon and thanks again for listening/reading!

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Guit-A-Grip Podcast #13 – New Book “Excerpt” #2

Hello everyone!

Episode #13

Guit-A-Grip podcast episode #13 “Nothing Ever Got Done With An Excuse Excerpt #2″ 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.
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Show Notes

The Podcast and the liberal use of the term “Excerpt”

Part of working in a format like this is being able to review things that you wrote a while ago and seeing how they shake out in a conversational manner.  That means that when I’m reading the book I’m editing the text in my head to prevent really awkward (or wrong things from being said.  It also makes for some stilted moments, but the good news it that it tightens up both the podcast and the book in the process.

I’ll talk more about why I do this in the future but (editing this down from a lumbering 23 minutes) I’m hoping to convince you that there is a method to my madness (or vice-versa).

The steps to follow:

Just to recap, these are the steps I reference in the podcast (I skipped a few of them on the audio!!!)  Good thing it’s an edit!

How to manage a project in a few broad strokes

  • Have a clear vision of what you want to do (set quantifiable goals).
  • Align perception with reality and create priorities (in other words make an honest assessment of what needs to happen to reach those goals)
  • Set deadlines and benchmarks.
  • Be accountable.
  • Do daily focused work on those goals and limit distractions and obstacles in the way of achieving them.
  • Make periodic reviews to check your project’s status against the benchmarks and timeline.
  • Utilize available resources when possible/necessary.

Come prepared:

I should have taken a page from the Boy Scouts this time around and been better prepared for a podcast.  Then, perhaps, I would have had something novel like water handy and not had either a coughing fit (edited out) or the scrath voice that comes in mid-way to the podcast before I started coughing.

Related material:

Most of the observations on this site, will work in directly with the podcast posted here.  But the two links I cited specifically were:

It’s not all gold and

Podcast Episode #12

That’s it for now!

As always, I hope this helps you with your own goals.

See you soon and thanks again for listening/reading!

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My New (Free) Melodic Minor Extraction Lesson Is Now Up On Guitar-Muse

Hello everybody!

The Power of Pentatonic Extraction

I’ve posted a few times about one of the new books that I’m working on, Pentatonic Extractions, and I’m really psyched about how its coming together so far.  It’s going to cover a lot of material in an easy and accessible way and make a great addition to the series.

But you’ll get to see what I’m talking about yourself as the good people at Guitar-Muse.com have been kind enough to allow me to adapt some material from Pentatonic Extractions for a lesson on the site.  There’s theory, audio and tab for some ideas that will probably get you shooed of the next open blues jam – but I really dig ’em and I hope you will too!  You can check that out here.

More on that Muse of Guitar

All of the audio examples were recorded with the JamUp Pro app by Positive Grid which is just an incredibly useful app.  I’ll have a full review for that coming up for Guitar-Muse, along with some other reviews, player profiles and interviews.

And For those of you who wish to guit a grip….

Guit-a-grip is going to be serializing chapters from my book, Nothing Ever Got Done With An Excuse, which chronicles the processes and observations I used to release the first four books of the GuitArchitecture series in 5 months.  If you want to get a hold on a project (or a late new-years resolution), this series will definitely help motivate you and keep you on track.  Look for a new podcast this week.

More soon!  As always, thanks for reading!