Today we have a guest blog post from Andrew Hand, one of the smartest and sweetest musicians I know. His musical journey led him to NYC where we met, and now he’s enjoying life in Bozeman, Montana, teaching guitar lessons, and following the beat of his own drummer. Enjoy!
Teaching guitar lessons on the other side of the US…Indeed I wouldn’t believe it. See, I was living in New York City and trying to make connections there and get my music spread to a larger audience. I didn’t have any plans to leave the Big Apple, but life had some other things in store.
Let me just say that I’m where I am because I made choices, it’s not like life happened to me, I was creating a scenario of events that led me to make other choices…and so here I am in Montana…Long way from NYC.
I think the important point, and the reason that I’m writing this, is to share with my fellow musicians, and perhaps all readers; that there are always more opportunities around us than we recognize.
About six months after landing here in Bozeman, I started thinking that I should see about connecting to the music scene here and perhaps try to teach some of what I’d learned about music, songwriting, recording and such. After a few months of trying a few things, I started teaching guitar at the local music store. The first lesson I gave felt so good.
I’ve been teaching guitar for about four months now and have really enjoyed every student I’ve had. They have all been different and each has had their unique pace and style of learning, which has made me adapt some of my teaching and past notions about what people needed to learn first about guitar and music.
The reason I tell this brief tale is to share my realization that I am learning more from teaching than I am from when I’d just make teaching videos for my guitar teaching website. Seeing how people actually process this information in person has been enlightening. For some the eyes glaze over when we enter music theory land, and for others, an ah-ha moment happens.
I think the takeaway for me is that although I might be doing something other than 100% focussing on my music, I am able to keep involved with music and actually feel less burdened and stressed out about all I have to do to get myself out there. When a student wants to learn “Ring of Fire” or “Speak Now” by Taylor Swift, it gives me a reason to go and really look at these songs and see what’s making them tick.
Since beginning to teach (and for some time before) I’ve been working on a guitar teaching DVD. Because of my student interaction and getting to test things out, I find the product is becoming better and giving me new ideas. I thought I was done with it last week, but on reflecting, I felt that I had put too much information in and not enough ‘practical’ teaching. So I’m re-shooting the whole thing, and so far it’s getting better and better. Yet another bonus!
For me, what I’ve gotten done since starting to teach, was cover “All Apologies” by Nirvana, do cover video lessons for “Come Together” by the Beatles, and “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash. I’ve created chord charts/scale charts, PDF’s, set up websites and even performed with my students in our recital. It was fun to sing with these kids…
I have been trying to find an answer for the last year, and have met lots of internal resistance, stress, and a whole host of up and down swings. I’m not one to look at things as obstacles. I haven’t found an answer, other than what I feel to be right. And that is to continue going with the flow and trying to contribute value to others and pass on whatever I can. It’s the same approach that’s guided me in my songwriting and personal/business connections.
There are opportunities, so many in fact, that I have to try and best choose those to pursue, while still reminding myself that music is a part of my purpose here.
My hope is that this little posting has met those who needed to see it and been of service. My thought to you would be this: Listen to the little voice that nudges at you, saying ‘hey, maybe you should try this.’…and then do it. Especially if it’s something that you tell yourself you don’t want to do the next minute.
I’d love to hear from you, so please reach out and drop me a line.
My Very Best Wishes to You,
About Andrew Hand:
Andrew is a songwriter, guitarist, and singer with a passion for teaching and helping others to discover and bring out their musical voice. Having started his musical journey at 24, with absolutely no previous training or experience in music, Andrew has gone on to write, produce, and record some 300 songs, and continues to make music that speaks to the human condition and the things we face in life. More of Andrew’s music can be checked out on his personal site AndrewHand.com
Over this past weekend, I tweeted the following quote from tech entrepreneur Chris Dixon: “If you aren’t getting rejected on a daily basis, your goals aren’t ambitious enough”.
Although Chris was referring to entrepreneurs being rejected by venture capitalists, this was a message that I felt my musician readers could also relate to. Surprisingly, or not so surprisingly, my tweet with Chris’ quote was retweeted over 500 times, and favorited over 200 times. This blew my mind, and made me search for my vintage June 2002 VIBE Magazine article on the subject of rejection. I had originally titled the article “F*ck Rejection”, but the editor later changed it to “Don’t Quit”.
Now that I’m reprinting this article on my own blog, I can title it whatever I want!
by Carla Lynne Hall
When Lenny Kravitz was searching for a record deal, labels told him his music wasn’t “black enough.” Record execs told Toni Braxton she couldn’t sing. Madonna was told she wasn’t ready yet. Get the picture? Chances are good that you and your ego will suffer some bumps and bruises on the way to stardom. The wannabes who believe that everything will be smooth and glamorous are usually the ones who give up too soon.
Truth is, if you’re frustrated, then you’re probably on the right track. You’re working hard and getting yourself out there. But if you’re sitting on your butt every night, smoking weed and bitching about “the scene” or how people “don’t get” your music because somebody didn’t like it, you’re wasting valuable time. Remember, anything worth having involves sacrifice, determination, discipline, and persistence. Check out these tips on how to cope.
DON’T FEEL ALONE. Every artist gets rejected at one point or another— even the famous ones. “We somehow believe that other people aren’t being rejected,” says Dr. Eric Maisel, author of Fearless Creating. “We envy people who seem to have it easy. That isn’t to say that some people aren’t doing better than others, but envy ruins your spirit.”
KNOW THYSELF. Having a healthy belief in your talent is key. “If you have two singers, both with good voices and creativity,” says Dr MaiseL “the one who feels self-directed and trusts herself is the one who’ll make it.” Seeking approval from others without believing in yourself is a shortcut to heartbreak. “A lot of people take rejections hard because they depend on others to judge them,” says producer Swizz Beatz.
STAY TRUE. Remember that the music biz is driven by opinions, which are subjective. “If you’re coming with something new, it’s automatically going to be rejected,” says Beatz. “It’s easier for an A&R person to go against something than to go with it—people want to play it safe. Record people didn’t want DMX’s ‘Ruff Ryders Anthem’ at first because everybody was sampling and it was different.” Don’t change up and go with the status quo to try and get put on faster.
DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP. While waiting for your big break, keep tightening your skills. “The more people kept telling us no, we just thought, Well, that’s another person who’s gonna regret not signing us,” says Ali from St. Lunatics. “We would go back and work on more songs. We’d write more raps, work on more projects. We kept shopping them, and it gave us the strength to keep going and work even harder.”
RECOGNIZE. Some criticism is constructive and some isn’t. Don’t get them – twisted. “The rejections that have informational value are the ones where the person turning you down tells you that your voice isn’t strong enough, or your music isn’t fresh,” says Dr. Maisel. “You have to process that information and decide whether what the person is telling you is accurate or not.” Ask for feedback from your rejecters.
THINK POSITIVE. If you pump yourself up on a daily basis, you’ll be better able to keep your rejections in perspective and not internalize them. “You need strength and courage to accept rejection and the difficulties inherent in being an artist,” says Dr. Maisel. “It doesn’t matter whether you think it’ll be easy or you think it’ll be hard—you can think what you like. What’s vital is that you rebound and keep trying.”
PS – Episode 2 of the upcoming Rock Star Life Lessons podcast series features this live interview with Dr. Eric Maisel in its entirety. Stay tuned for the podcast launch, scheduled for Fall 2011.
Local SEO for Musicians
by Carla Lynne Hall
Hundreds of people go to search engines like Google every day seeking musical talent in your hometown. While they might not be looking specifically for you or your band, they are using music-related keywords to find a local band or music teacher. By optimizing your band’s website or blog for certain keywords, you can attract new visitors to your site.
After learning this little-known technique, I couldn’t wait to test it out. To find my own local keywords, I began by brainstorming musical categories related to my local area…
This post is part of a group blog event organized by MusicianWages.com. The topic is “If you could go back to 1999 and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?”
Dear 1999 Carla,
Hey Girlfriend, it’s 2009 Carla. I know you’re going through a lot, and I want to let you know that it’s okay. Right now you’re feeling sad, and questioning continuing your future in music because:
• Ahmet Ertegun, Founder and CEO of Atlantic Records (and your newly-adopted music biz Godfather), just told you that you were too old to be a recording artist, and that you should just become a publicist.
• You were recently fired from EMI Music Publishing’s Synch department
• Your mom died this year, and after spending half a year in Miami to take care of business, you wondered if you still had the guts to return to your music career in NYC.
• You still haven’t recorded your first CD
I know, after looking at these issues, you’re wondering if you should just run back to Miami, get married and have kids, and just forget this music nonsense. But I must tell you now that your passion to make music is bigger than you are. Your determination and persistence will take you farther than you could ever imagine. I want you to hang in there, so I’ve come up with some life lessons to share:
Life is Too Short to Be Afraid
For too many years, you’ve hidden your gifts after comparing them to others’. All your hesitation is a waste of time. Just because you felt out of place in music school doesn’t mean that you are not musical. There is a place in this Universe that only you can fill, but you’ll never know if you don’t go for it.
It is fine to be a black chick playing acoustic guitar in a world full of R&B Divas. Stop worrying if your music is black enough, or if you can SANG. You do not need to sound like Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston. You are a soulful singer who touches people with your own unique and powerful vocal gifts. Just be you. You are enough.
I know you’ve been worried about how much music you’ve written so far in your life, but this will change. Your skills as a songwriter will eventually improve, and you will even write songs for others. Just keep working at it.
Writing and Teaching
After coming from a family of teachers, you will continue to grow as a musician who teaches other musicians how to build their own careers. It’s in your blood so don’t fight it. You will write countless articles and eBooks, which will become another way to support yourself. However, do not hide behind your teaching. By continuing to perform, you will remain relevant as an artist, and evolve with the music marketing skills that you teach.
Practice and Study
Guess what? Practice actually works. When you take the time to shed your songs, work on your guitar playing, and learn your choreography, it shows. Natural talent is nice, but preparing your performances makes the difference between being good, and being great.
Your Music Business
Over the next few years, you will grow as an entrepreneur. You will release 4 CDs on your own label, in addition to even having another artist on a subsidiary label. Instead of negotiating synch licenses for EMI Music Publishing songs, you will one day have synch licenses for your own musical catalog. You will become a performer, writer, and teacher on a global level, and even coach others.
Trust Your Instincts
When the first MP3 player hit the market, you asked Ahmet Ertegun if it was possible for this technology to endanger the music industry as we knew it. As you remember, he scoffed at the notion. Well, he was wrong. If he could be wrong about MP3s, then he could be wrong about your marketability as a recording artist. As a matter of fact, he was wrong about that too.
Never underestimate the influence of the leading men in your life. The wrong guy will affect your career progress, so choose wisely. Your love life will continue to be colorful, and your experiences will also lead to some wonderful songs. When choosing a partner, always pick a supportive guy who believes in you and your music. Stay away from energy vampires. Never settle for less.
Take risks. Follow your own rhythm. Make mistakes.
Girl, you got it. Now it’s time for you to believe it. So go for it!
Me with Cameron Mizell and Dave Hahn from MusicianWages.com
Around this time last year, I spent a lot of time at Yahoo! Answers, answering all kind of questions. In addition to the ever-popular “What should I be for Halloween?”, someone asked the question “Is Halloween evil?” No way could I ignore a question like that!! Since my answer was quite long (I did give it some thought. I even provided Wikipedia links!) I figured someone might find it interesting here too. So I’m republishing it this year for your reading pleasure.
Halloween is not evil.
Since the dawn of time, humans have always celebrated holidays to mark special days, and the passing of seasons. Originally known as the Celtic holiday Samhain, Halloween was originally known as a special day that celebrated the end of the harvest.
Before Christianity came into being, women were understood to produce life, and it is believed that humans, also known as pagans, worshipped a Mother Nature/Goddess. It is also believed that these nature lovers were mostly peaceful folk.
When Jesus “the Christ” (means “the Anointed”) lived, his power for love, forgiveness, and healing changed people, and the world forever. Long after His death, his devoted followers passionately spread his teachings throughout the world.
Pre-Christian practices were then named evil, in order to discourage followers. Before Christianity expanded, Friday the 13th and black cats were considered very lucky. After Christianity was established, pagan beliefs were then said to be evil, or the work of the devil.
Pre-Christian holidays such as Samhain were too popular to destroy, so they were “baptized” with a new Christian name and story. Samhain became “Halloween”, which is celebrated every October 31st. As Samhain (now Halloween) was the day believed to hold the veil between the living and the dead, to be safe, November 1st became “All Saint’s Day”.
Unfortunately, some of Christianity’s strongest champions employed ruthless methods to convert non-Christians into believers. In addition to physical methods such as torture, pro-Christianity propaganda was also employed.
After a few hundred years, no one even remembers why the name changed. But whatever you want to call Halloween, kids (and bands!) love it as a day to dress up in costumes, and try on another persona. So no, Halloween is not evil.
But in my humble opinion, Mother Nature should have fired her publicist!
Ariel Hyatt has done it again! After laughing at Billboard’s recent “Maximum Exposure List” (marketing strategies that only the superstar musicians could even pray to attain), Ariel reached out to her dream team of indie music rock stars to compile a list of tactics that the rest of us can actually use!!!
I’m not above mentioning that I’m on her dream team, and that my tips are included in this amazing white paper. Especially as I’m in good company with other cool indie music peeps like Rick Geotz, Derek Sivers, Lou Plaia, Tom Silverman and more! And it’s FREE!
Visit HYPEBOT blog to learn more about this indie music breakthrough white paper.
Ariel Hyatt is the founder of Ariel Publicity & Cyber PR, a New York-based digital firm that connects artists, authors and filmmakers to blogs, podcasts, Internet radio stations and social media sites. Educating musicians is her passion and her philosophy is: combine social media with internet marketing to help artists grow their fanbases and increase their income. This is the subject of her book, Music Success in Nine Weeks, which has helped hundreds of musicians navigate the Social Media landscape.
Motown’s Secrets of Success – DIY Style
by Carla Lynne Hall
Berry Gordy, the founder and CEO of legendary Motown Records developed a simple plan in the early days of his record company:
“I broke down my whole operation into three functions: Create, Make, Sell. I felt any business had to do that. Create something, Make something and then Sell it. Using this phrase as a slogan kept my thinking in focus.”
The Create phase was writing, producing, and recording. The Make phase was manufacturing and pressing of the records. The Sell phase involved placing records with distributors, getting airplay, marketing and advertising. After implementing this plan, distribution difficulties made him add,
“It had become very clear to me that my Create, Make and Sell slogan had to be revised. We had to now focus more on one thing: getting our money – collecting. Because I felt that Create and Make were pretty close to the same thing, I dropped the make and changed the slogan to Create, Sell and COLLECT.”
While the specific methods have changed since Berry Gordy ran Motown, the requirements for being a successful, recession-proof musician have not changed. If you’d like to increase your musical income, review this list to see where you can make improvements or additions to your current music marketing strategy:
Write killer songs
Have a great live show
Develop an identifiable image
Set realistic and tangible sales goals for your music
Perform/tour as much as possible
Contact the media on a regular basis
Go to music business networking events
Find paying gigs in non-traditional venues
Have a band blog with a solid domain name
Maintain and build your mailing list
Have CDs and merchandise at all shows
Sell your CDs on your website(s)
Sell your CDs on online retailers such as CDBaby.com and Amazon.com
Open for bigger acts traveling through your town
Always have an upcoming gig to promote
Hand out flyers all the time
Evaluate your results each month
Have a designated person at shows to sell CDs
Hire a competent accountant to help with your taxes
The following essay was originally published September 18, 2001 in my snail mail newsletter, The Soulflower. Since then, the President and Mayor have changed, as well as my tattooed sweetie. In addition, The Soulflower went from snail mail to email. Regardless of the personnel and technological changes, the message has remained, and I’m happy to share it again, in its original form. – CLH
The Week After September 11th, 2001: A Musician’s Perspective
by Carla Lynne Hall
This morning I woke up spooning my sweetie. In the dawn’s shadow, I noticed his rumpled hair, and the symbol for chaos tattooed on the back of his neck. I took a deep whiff of him, and felt grateful and humbled. It hit me suddenly that there’s a woman on the other side of New York City who started her morning last Tuesday in a similar fashion. And in a single moment, her life was changed forever.
There’s nothing like a slap in the head to provide clarity. I feel like we weren’t paying attention before, but we sure are now. More than ever, I feel it’s important to keep true to your life, and the dreams that have brought you this far. Our consciousness as a nation has been raised. Many of us are thinking, what is important to me right now? Things that seemed so crucial last week don’t even rate a thought today. Other things that had been taken for granted have gained much importance. I read somewhere that there’s an old Russian custom in which people sit down to say goodbye before they take leave of one another. I mean really say goodbye. The practice came about from dangerous times when people knew that there was a chance that they might not see each other again. I thought it was quaint when I read it, but I’m digging that custom myself right now. I want everyone I love to know it, and dammit, I want to play music.
I’m a late bloomer in many senses of the word. I think of the many years that I spent thinking about being a working musician instead of just going for it. The time wasted dreaming about accompanying myself on guitar, but not actually doing it. The times that I was too nervous and scared to sign up for an open mic. Last month I participated in a “Month of Fear” experiment in which I overdosed on the things I was afraid of. For me, that was playing guitar in public. One month and eleven open mics later, I have conquered that fear. Until last Tuesday, I was proud of that accomplishment. Now all I can think of is, what took me so long? Why didn’t I do this before?
And I realized something: Life is too short to be afraid.
President George W. Bush and New York Mayor Guiliani urge for people to go back to work, to begin again. For some, that will take a while. There is no longer an understanding of “business as usual”. But to regain our strength as a nation, we must continue. How am I supposed to tell you to keep playing? How can I suggest that you get up and practice your instrument this morning? I feel guilty to speak of making music now, but I must. Because we are musicians, this is what we do. Others will look dumbfounded at you while you make plans for your next show. How dare you be able to think of getting a record deal at a time like this? I’ll tell you why: we all cope in our own way. We are feeling vulnerable now, but we cannot give up our lives.
If there is a backpocket dream you’re holding on to, by all means follow it. In the wake of last week’s tragedy, our excuses don’t amount to a hill of beans. If you don’t do it now, when will you? We can build a historical record of this time musically, and help those who cannot express themselves. It’s important for the bankers to return to Wall Street, but it’s just as important for musicians to write songs, play shows, and keep going. This is how we fight the good fight.
Ars longa, vida brevis: Life is short; art is long.
Madalyn Sklar is the founder of GoGirlsMusic.com (‘Cuz Chicks Rock!), and an all-round cool gal with tons of music biz know-how and resources. Read her bio below to find more places where she shares her knowledge.
Focus On What You Desire
by Madalyn Sklar
We all have dreams of what we want. Some of us want to be rich and famous rock stars while others would be content just making a decent living doing music. Our desires come in all shapes and sizes. But what typically lacks is taking the action necessary to make your dreams and desires come true.
I found this quote a long time ago and it says a lot…
“Remember, success in anything is all about focus, and if you focus on what’s critical, then you’ll get the results that you need to get right now.”
Focus. It’s one of the hardest things for us to do. We get caught up in every day life. And our families. And our work life. You know I can go on and on. But I won’t because you can focus, you just have to set your mind to it.
It’s September and the end of the year is fast approaching. Now is the time to focus and take action. What are your three most important goals you would like to accomplish by year-end? Jot it down. Every day you should look at your list. Focus on it. Take action on it. Do something every day! It will bring you one step closer to achieving what you want.
Another way to hyper focus on what you want is to remove the things that interrupt you like email, surfing the web, tv, your phone. It’s so easy to get distracted. If you can just remove all distractions for an hour and really focus I promise you will be amazed at your results.
So what are you waiting for? Your dreams and desires await you!
Copyright © 2008 Madalyn Sklar, IndieMusicCoach
Madalyn Sklar is a music business coach & consultant, blogger, social networks expert and author. She founded IndieMusicCoach and has spent over 12 years working with a wide range of independent musicians all over the world. Her goal is to help indie artists achieve greater success in the music business by working smarter not harder. She is also the founder of GoGirlsMusic.com, the oldest and largest online community of indie women musicians, with a vision of bringing together and empowering musicians from around the world.
Madalyn is available for one-on-one consulting and coaching at affordable prices. Check out Indie Music Coach for more info.
For the first time this Friday, June 19, 2009, the United Nations will recognize Sickle Cell Disease World Day, and my cousin Shirley Miller will be on hand to share her personal and professional experiences with this life-changing disease.
Sickle Cell Anemia is among the world’s foremost, and at times most lethal, genetic diseases. In the United States, 2 million people are carriers of the sickle cell trait. Shirley, who is the advocacy manager for the hematology-oncology research service at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, TX, is one of 70,000 people who are living with this blood disorder, a disease characterized by a shortened lifetime of anemia and a number of other side effects like infections, ulcers, vision loss, strokes and pain crises.
In the 1970s, the median survival of a person with sickle cell disease was 14. Today, the median is 42 for men, 48 for women. At 53 years old, Shirley is an inspiration to the more than 600 patients she works with at Children’s Medical Center, and everyone living with the disease.
In her speech to the UN, Shirley will share her hope that the first international recognition day will be “the beginning of a renewed and energized fight for increased access to care and services and eventually a cure for sickle cell disease.”
Listen to a live webcast of the UN’s Human Rights Council and Shirley’s speech this Friday at 10am EST.
Article adapted from Children’s Medical Center blog