Hi! If you're checking out my website because the WSJ Article spurred your interest, thank you! I also urge you to check out my most important musical project, the folk-rock/Americana harmony trio, Gathering Time. It has been my greatest effort and reward as an original songwriter and touring musician, and also probably my most commercially viable project in the music business today, offering specialty tribute shows of culturally significant 1960s music, re-imaginings of historic traditional folk songs, and creative arrangements of songs by many top contemporary songwriters, as well as our own compositions. Plus it's the most fun! I hope you'll give it a listen, and enjoy the music as much as I do.
Now, on to the first blog post:
A Folkie in the Wall Street Journal
Not everybody knows, but before I became a full-time musician I had careers in advertising, journalism, and (briefly) in public relations. I hated selling advertising for a local shopper and slightly less for an actual local newspaper; I liked it a bit more for the Long Island rock radio station. I didn't like selling it, but I liked writing it, and coming up with creative concepts. But selling advertising taught me how to knock on doors and make phone calls, write business letters and make pitches. I also worked on the editorial side, for several groups of local papers and for Long Island Business News, where I learned how to ask questions and distill information for an audience. And all of this came in handy when I decided to become a professional musician.
Music, after all, isn't just an art, it's a business. If you want to make money at it, you need to treat it as such, unless you're one of those lucky ones who have a manager to handle the business end of things -- and even if you do, you better understand what they're doing or you'll end up fighting with them a lot.
There's a lot I learned from selling advertising -- the number one rule is it's not just about the sale, it's about the relationship and the trust that while of course you want to make a living, you want to do so by meeting their needs and helping them meet their goals as well. And once you make the sale and nurture a good relationship with the client, you make more sales. And the same goes for gigs. If you're a good musician, the best marketing tool is the chance to have your talent be seen and heard. It sounds obvious, but I've been surprised at the number of musicians who've passed up gigs because they weren't convenient, or required them to learn some music that was out of their wheelhouse. Gigs lead to more gigs, and broadening your musical horizons is like branching out into other goods or services you can offer. Most of the really good musicians I know have widely varied tastes in music, even if they do have one or two they specialize in.
I learned a lot in the business world that has applied to my music career. But I've also learned a lot doing music and leading a band, valuable lessons that apply in the business world -- so many that I'm thinking of developing a speaking program about it. For example, different musicians have different talents, but all are necessary for the band to succeed. I'm a credible guitarist, singer, and vocal arranger, but only a fair-to-middling drummer. How ridiculous would it be to expect my drummer to be as good a guitarist as I am? But I've seen many managers who expect their hires to be almost clones of themselves in terms of abilities, and give little regard for the employees' own special talents.
Other lessons: attitude matters over everything -- talent can be nurtured and developed, but a bad attitude makes everything else impossible. Relationships matter, within the company and between it and your allies, advisors, and even competitors. Competitors can sometimes be allies; competitions can be friendly. Showing appreciation and giving credit where it is due are two of the best things you can do for yourself and others; it'll pay many dividends down the road. Mistreat others and you'll end up mistreating yourself. If you think only of what's best for you at the moment, you might not only hurt others but hurt the possibility of something even better down the road. Be flexible and easygoing, and you'll be someone people come to with ideas that might benefit you big time.
More thoughts to come.