A Consumer Resource for Independent Artists

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Carpe diem: why you should!

Yesterday and last night were harrowing for many people in the SouthEast.  A series of tornadoes tore a path from Mississippi to New York.  This particular tornado is reported to have been over a mile wide and to have remained on the ground for 200 miles and 6 plus hours.

In my part of North Georgia we were under a tornado watch, but where we live, it really only rained hard.  As far as I can tell, we didn't lose any trees or suffer any damage.  I have one Asiatic lilly that was semi-uprooted, and that is all.  How is this possible, when some folks have nothing left to salvage?  The death toll in Alabama is over 131 and counting; Georgia is reporting loss of life, as well.  I just received a call from an uncle who lives in SouthEast New Mexico.  They are experiencing wildfires, particularly due to the fact that they've had absolutely no rain since last September.  A lot of his acreage is burned, but his home, thankfully, is intact.  They have lost a home to fire in the past.

Crises put many things into perspective...life is exquisitely fragile and the future is uncertain.  We should never wait for tomorrow to begin reaching for our goals and to seek to fulfill our dreams.  For some, tomorrow may never arrive.

*Public Service Announcement*
If you would like to celebrate your good fortune by donating to the American Red Cross, you can do so HERE.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Potholes in my road to success.

At times I feel like a bit of an impostor, seeing as how I am offering "indie career tips" when the truth is that I don't really possess the secrets to success yet.  I'm still seeking it, and this blog is one way that I can document what works and what doesn't.  Hopefully my experiences, whether good or ill, can provide insight to others.

I am beginning to really understand where my personal potholes (i.e., vulnerabilities) are as a student and as a business person.  Although I have many positive traits, including attention to detail, tenacity and a powerful work ethic (thanks for that example, Dad!), I find that there are several mental habits that slow down my progress, particularly when I am tired or when my life has been particularly challenging.  In the last 3 years, this happens to have been a lot, but hey--I know people who are in worse shape.  I have no business indulging in self-pity.

Here's a list of some of the most common potholes in my road to success:

Unforgiving of personal mistakes.  Nobody is as hard on me as I can be with myself.  I set my bar higher than it needs to be.  I am not this extreme, but I have my moments.

Negative attitude.  Ah, but if you had a nail where poor Eeyore does, you would be cranky too.

Negative thinking.  "Here you go with the negative waves.  Have a little faith, baby...have a little faith!" ~ Oddball

Hesitant, you are!  We could all stand to take a little advice from Master Yoda.  

One neat thing about dark thoughts is that they don't hold up very well when I shine some bright light on them, and really, that light is everywhere and inside so many people.  I see it in my husband and in my kids, in my friends and in my heroes.  All I need do is tap into it.

So...no matter how dark it seems, I must bear in mind how very important it is to always look on the bright side of life, and then get to work patching up those potholes.

*Obligatory Disclaimer*
I claim no copyright for any of the YouTube videos that I have embedded or linked to from this post.  They are, however, clips that bring me enjoyment, and some days I really need that.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Finding content in a busy life.

As I typed the above title, I realized that it contains two meanings.  The topic of this post was initially about how I'm trying to find interesting stuff to write about in this blog (i.e., "content") at a time when I'm busier than a one-legged tap dancer in a butt kickin' contest (hey, I live in the South...gotta use those awesome colloquialisms occasionally in order to keep my street cred!).  I typed that title and realized that it also speaks to finding happiness (i.e., "content") in the midst of a busy and sometimes complicated life.  Woah, dude.  That's kinda, you know, like, deep.  Yeah, okay, I'm in a silly mood this morning.  :)

I've been a Very Busy Person (TM) since June of 2010, when I enrolled in Full Sail University's online Music Business Bachelor of Science Degree Program.  I was a busy person before, but now I am truly a very busy person.  It makes finding time for personal creativity and decompression extremely difficult.  The best metaphor that I can think of for how I've felt most of this past year, is that of being underwater; I'm coming up for air occasionally, but not nearly enough for physical comfort.

Here's one of the reasons why I am so busy:  I spend a great deal of time studying...I agonize over every quiz, every essay, every assignment, as I am constantly second guessing myself.  "Was I thorough enough?  Did I dot all of the 'i's and cross all of the 't's?   Is the content original enough?  What about the APA formatting....did I make any mistakes?  Was I sloppy?  Is this my best work?"  This obsession is the result of having been a very average high school student.  To be honest, I didn't really study.  I was disorganized, undisciplined and easily distracted.  I procrastinated like crazy.  I had innate talent in English and could sound articulate, but I didn't work at it.  In short, I winged it, and this was reflected in my grades.  I didn't think I was "college material" at the time, so I didn't worry too much about the grades.  Consequently, I was truly mortified when, at age 43, I ordered a copy of my high school transcript and took another look at my not-so-stellar GPA: 2.63.  Dead average.  I decided that if I was going to commit to spending this money (I despise debt, so student loans are very frightening for me) and to spending copious amounts of time, I was going to do it as well as I possibly could.  The result has been 10 classes in a row with a final grade of A+.  For the first time in my life, I am boasting a GPA of 4.0...it feels great!  It also puts me under pressure to keep it going.

I am officially working harder than I ever worked before in my life.  Which brings me back to finding content for this new blog and learning to be content in my busy life. From morning until often late into the night, I am going non-stop.  I'm either working, studying, cooking, cleaning, shuttling kids, communicating with the people I care about, or trying to make sure I don't drop any of the knives that I'm juggling.  I haven't had time for exercise, (my own) music and creative outlets, or rest.   Especially today, as I finish a very challenging Marketing assignment and prepare to drive 90 minutes away to witness my second oldest stepson wed his lady love this evening.  Balance is hard to achieve when you aren't even sure which direction is up, but somehow today, I've managed to find some content (for this blog) and maybe even a little content (for my life).  At this particular moment on this particular day, I think that's enough.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Staying organized, old school.

I firmly believe that one of the best ways to maintain an aura of professionalism is to be organized, particularly with regards to one's schedule.  If you are a gigging musician or someone who manages one, this is extremely important!  It is absolutely vital to maintain some sort of a day planner, and by this I mean a hard copy.  This is not to say that you can't keep your calendar straight by keeping upcoming obligations on your computer or smart phone, but it is a good idea to have a place where you write it all down first.  I have an inexpensive Mead Monthly/Day Planner (can be found at your local Wal-Mart), and unlike other scheduling devices that I've used in the past, I can truthfully say that it has never let me down by crashing.  It doesn't quit working if I accidentally drop it and it never needs to recharge.  If I spill coffee on it, it will continue to tell me what I need to know.  It lives in my briefcase, and I refer to it often. 

I've tried keeping my schedule in electronic format only.  For several years I had PDA that I carried.  It was glitchy.  Even though it could be backed up, it was far too easy for the data to become corrupted.  By keeping a hard copy of dates, notes and contact information, I have spared myself a lot of stress and misery.  

So, tell me...what do YOU use to keep track of your schedule and important bits of information?  I hope it isn't Post-it Notes.  I know someone who does that, and the results are, well--sticky.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The benefits of Facebook.

Are you using Facebook to promote your brand?  If so, are you fully optimizing this useful social networking tool?  Here are some common mistakes that I see people making:

  • No Music/Band page
  • Have a page, but it is unsearchable (no username)
  • No activity
  • Not utilizing tools that interconnect with Facebook (ReverbNation, Damn The Radio*)
  • Unprofessional posting behavior
No Music/Band Page.  When I hear somebody new that I really like, I'll search for their Facebook Page.  If they don't have one, I wonder why.  Facebook is a powerful networking tool, and every serious musician needs to be using it.  

No Username.  Additionally, many times I've had a search come up blank and then I'll find the page through someone I know, who is already a fan.  It turns out that  the singer/band has never grabbed their username.  Having a username means that instead of something like "facebook.com/123456789," you will see "facebook.com/yourbandname" instead.  This makes search engines very happy and thus, your page much easier to find.  Note that you must have at least 25 fans to be eligible for a page username, so let all your friends know how to find your page and ask them "like" it, so that you may personalize your username as soon as your fan list reaches 25.  You can go HERE for your username.  If you are a solo musician and already have a Facebook account that is using your personal name, you will need to select a variant for your music page, such as "facebook.com/janedoemusic."

No Activity.  A Facebook page with no activity is almost as bad as no Facebook page at all.  Not only do you need to be posting regularly to keep your fans interested, you need to provide them with rich content that keeps them coming back.  

Not Utilizing Tools/Apps.  There are apps that allow you to customize your band page so that people can listen to your music, view your events, and most importantly--share you with their friends.  I certainly don't know about every possible app that can be used for this, but I'll tell you about the one that I have extensive personal experience with.  ReverbNation has powerful free tools that interface beautifully with Facebook (and Myspace and Twitter).  If you don't already have a ReverbNation account, you can get one HERE.  You'll be able to upload photos, your bio, mp3s, press clips, etc.  They'll walk you through everything.  Once that's done, you can go back to Facebook and utilize the My Band app that allows the two to interface, which you can find HERE.  This will install tabs on your Facebook page that will showcase your photos, music, bio and events.  These automatically update in real-time whenever you update them at ReverbNation, so it's a one-stop way of simplifying what you do.  Additionally, you can use ReverbNation's free widgets to place your music, etc. on your website, MySpace page, and many other places.  It's fabulous.  I also really like their fan mail feature.

Unprofessional Behavior: Avoid Foot-in-Mouth Disease.  The worst thing you can do with your official Facebook page is to "show your arse" in public.  If you really want to look professional, you do not want to be a) talking about your sex life, b) badmouthing associates, c) using profanity, d) discussing messy politics.  Limit that stuff to your personal page, and--for God's sake!--keep the personal page as private as you can, if you do indulge in those types of posts.  The last thing a serious musician wants to do is to alienate potential business, or the parents of potential business.  Now, that's not to say that you can't promote something benign such as "Support our Benefit to Shave the Whales," but stay away from blanket statements, such as "All (insert your hated group here) suck, and if you are a (insert your hated group here), you are stupid!"  I think it pays to keep it polite; bands have crippled their careers by speaking before thinking, and this is particularly easy to do online (Twitter may provide one of the scariest opportunities to self-destruct, ever, because it is so easy to wing off a remark without thinking the consequences through).  If you need a place to vent about politics, etc., do it from a separate, designated blog or online journal...it doesn't need to be on your Facebook page.  Same goes for sharing links to items completely unrelated to music.  Those should remain on the personal page so that you can keep your fans focused on the point: your music.

So, there you go...a few indie career tips with regards to Facebook.  As always, I encourage your feedback, and I thank you for reading.

*Damn The Radio is a new feature that I am researching.  It is designed to interface with Facebook, allowing customization that includes uploading banners and other promotional tools.  The setup process is very time-consuming, so I haven't used it yet; when I do, I'll report back on its pros and cons.  If any of my readers has experience with DTR, I'd love to know about it.

Friday, April 1, 2011

How to burn your bridges in a very vivid way.

Oh, my goodness...I am picking my bruised jaw up off of the floor, after reading the contents of the link that I am about to share with you.  Big Al is a reviewer of independently published books; you can see by perusing his blog that he is very supportive of self-published works and has, at the very least, a decent following.  His polite, yet honest review of The Greek Seaman, by Jacqueline Howett, was met with an astounding chain of increasingly hostile responses from said author.  As we all know, the internet is forever, and this shocking display of poor manners has now gone viral.  This truly is a stark example to self-published authors everywhere of what not to do if your book receives a less-than-stellar review.  Let it be a lesson to us all.