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Week 9- "What is 'Good' Music"?

So I've been trying to answer this question lately (Nope, there's no friendly intro to this, we're going full steam ahead my friends); "What makes music enticing? Why does some music stand out so easily"? To this point, I don't have anything concrete, but I've got a few strong feelings and well, what are blogs for right? Exactly, I don't really know either. Let's do this.

**WARNING; This post has a lot of quotes- I mean it, there's so many "Quotes". If it makes you more comfortable, say "Quote-Unquote" to yourself every time I use them, it'll be pretty entertaining.

It is impossible to say what "Good" music is. It's subjective at every turn. Now, moving past that, we can certainly distinguish strong, thoughtful, well-crafted music from the opposite (I bet you wanted me to call out a certain genre or artist here, but I respect Pop Punk and people like Lil Yachty too much to ever do that). What separates the top artists is the attention to detail, the undeniable confidence in the inner workings of the song. It's no accident that Top 40 songs become Top 40, and it's also not surprising that music from the 60's and 70's still lives on with us today- it's worth the loyalty and attention it garners. If I was going to get technical, I could pass everything off to just opinions and suggest that really none of them matter, but thats just plain untrue. Collective opinion determines the success of a song, no matter what level we're talking about. Now, I want to be very clear on this; If you're not writing for you, you're never going to truly love the song. There's exceptions, of course, if you actually are writing for another artist, but in this blog I like to assume that people are primarily writing for themselves and aiming to express themselves in their music. Realistically, we're human, we will not connect with every single song. Stop treating yourself like some sort of fruit that can be endlessly juiced. It's impossible to get deep with every song. But you should be always be trying. Contrary to popular belief, deep songs with a lot of emotion don't always have to make you feel vulnerable. You're an artist because you express what others have trouble with, don't shy away from your ability, embrace it! Your emotions, along with your flaws, your achievements, your mindset, your charisma, they all make your songs uniquely you. And realistically, that's where the "Strength" lies in the song. Does your audience hear the song? Or do they listenKnow the difference- when they hear your music, they should want to listen because it makes them feel something that they love feeling (and oh hell yes that can be sorrow too- just because people are afraid to be sad doesn't mean we don't all need moments to release a bit!). Authentic music speaks volumes (Ha music pun) over well produced music with the top musicians on the tracks. That's not to say that the sonic quality isn't extremely important- of course that matters towards your professionalism, but unfortunately spending time and money on those things for a song you don't truly believe in, well that's just a waste. I write more "Bad" songs than "Good" ones, but that's because my emotions don't always show up. When they do, however, I almost always end up with something I love, or at least a song with tangible raw potential. 

One of the issues that every artist will encounter is that your "Best" music is not your audiences "Best" music. So what do you do when the golden child song of yours gets an "Eh" (Hope you're still sticking with the quote plan here) response from your friends? First off, do not get angry. The reality is their reaction to your song is not their reaction to you as a person. If they're giving you an honest opinion, you thank them and then you reflect. Trust me, it's not them misunderstanding you. The people listening to your music are the ones who dictate where that music will end up, and they should not have to work hard to like it. If you feel like you still know better than them, maybe you should watch this video from a pretty successful guy who explains this a bit more in depth. The reality is if people aren't responding to the music that you believe in, and you've covered the bases on production and you're not sure what else to do with the song, then chances are you're not giving the most honest representation of yourself. I've made the mistake for years of basing my songs off the feedback I receive and never considering that I'm not trying to change internally. You can dress up a song to be perfect for a listener and they could still quite easily tell you it's not their favorite, because really I think they will know that it's not where YOUR heart is. I can tell this is getting more and more unclear, so to summarize; MAKE MUSIC YOU LOVE BEFORE EXPECTING OTHERS TO LOVE IT. And if they still don't love it? You keep writing what you love, because there's an audience out there for it that has been waiting years to find someone like you. 

Well, that's my article for this week. I hope you "Enjoyed" (I'm thinking about removing the quote button from my keyboard for next week) it! Let me know what you think makes a song great! Thanks!

-Jamie

P.S. No one tell Lil Yachty about this article, seriously, I respect him so much. 

Week 8- "Working Through The Rough Patches"

Hey everyone, hope you're all finding this well. This is midterm week here at Berklee and I'm looking forward to crossing the finish line in another month and a half. So yeah, that's how I'm doing. Anyways, this week will not be as dark as the title seems. I want to approach the setbacks for artists, because realistically, none of your idols have become your idols without some pretty intense frustration and perseverance. Let's get into it.

I'll be very honest, I am struggling at the moment. Struggling to write the music I want to write, struggling to advance my career, struggling to figure out exactly what my career is supposed to be. And I am so frustrated. But in reality, I'm doing fine. Why? Because I have come far enough to face these questions. I know that success can be just over the hill and it's perfectly natural to trip a bit before you keep going. Hell, I trip more than I walk some weeks. But that's part of the experience. What's to appreciate about success if you didn't earn it? The hardest fought battles are the most satisfying victories. I know I am never alone in my struggles. There are many artists who are way more talented, business minded, and creative than me who have the same struggles. That's how I know that it's not necessarily something I'm doing wrong. I won't sugarcoat it though, knowing this does not make the struggles easier. In fact, it makes them more aggravating because the seem endless. 

OK, we've talked more than enough about me, so here's the real blog post;

"You're doing what you're supposed to be doing"

Soak those words in. Artists don't get to hear those words often (until they've reached a biblical level of fame where they can pretty much do whatever they please). I think the reality is it doesn't matter what you're doing; whether you're a Musician, an Entrepreneur, a Writer, a Doctor- if you're struggling, it's because you're pushing yourself, it's because you're digging out your path in front of you. If that was easy, we wouldn't respect you so much for doing it. You've set an intense goal for yourself, and you know deep in your heart that it would feel trivial if it was handed to you. Naturally, humans go away from pain and towards pleasure. You're doing something incredible and inspiring, and there's nobody that can put a stop to your progress except you. I can't begin to say how impressed I am by the hard working people who put their heads down and make their dreams into tangible successes. How do they do it? There must be some sort of silver spoon, or maybe they caught a lucky break, right? No. No way. Look money is money, fame is fame, you can put forward all sorts of excuses as to why you will not succeed and why person X did, but at the end of the day, person X just made it happen. I'd be willing to bet quite a bit of money that it wasn't without some otherworldly stress, some tears, and a lot of shutting out the noise that says they should give up. I'll bring myself back in for a second- I think all the time about what if I just quit? Just stopped the music and picked a new career? I could. I might. But not unless I KNEW that it was what I truly needed. But for the moment, I have a dream and nothing can cut me off from it, not even myself. OK- back to the important thing; You, and your "soon to be" successful and amazing career that will offer inspiration for everyone who someday follows in your footsteps. If I can offer you one thing to get through the struggles it's this; DO NOT CUT CORNERS. Did you catch that? Hang on.

DO.NOT.CUT.CORNERS.

Look, it is so easy to want to just write your song, it's "good" and you pat yourself on the back and then feel like Leonard Cohen for a week (If you are a songwriter and don't know who that is, please look him up, please). But really, if you want this music to spread its' wings and take off, it has to be "Amazing". The kind of song that your friends keep on replay, the one people ask you to play at shows. Maybe they even know the words to it. And on the business side, if you want something to happen, don't wait on people to make your career happen for you. They won't. Sorry. You need to be quick on every response, don't be afraid to follow up two or three times with a venue- they're seeing your emails, trust me. Be a fighter and don't feel ashamed of how hard you will push. Be the kindest, most courteous and consummate professional that you can be.  It goes further than someone liking your music. You need them to love working with you. Don't be cheesy, but you should make it known to every potential employer that you appreciate the opportunity to the fullest. Give respect to get it. If you follow this model of living, the world will eventually give into you and your struggles will slowly break up. 

You're going to have some dark days. We all do. Sometimes that's life, other times its because you're being tested. Stay resilient, go seize your dreams. Thanks for reading, I hope anyone who is struggling currently can push through soon, feel free to reach out to me if you need an open ear. Have a great week!

-Jamie

P.S. I love this article, it's short and it's honest and informative, go take a look! It's very specific and a good place to start when you're looking for new angles to work. http://www.musicthinktank.com/blog/how-to-succeed-in-the-music-industry-on-your-terms.html

Week 7- "Smile (Or Make A Really 'Cool' Face)"

Welcome! So I got a bit smarter in the past week- the title is now at the top, you don't even have to scroll! And that revelation only took me a month and a half! 

So anyways, down to business. This week I'm going to talk about the importance of image in the music industry (and all other industries for that matter). Before we begin, let me clarify that I am not basing image off of "Attractiveness" or some other subjective and useless term. I'm talking about making yourself into an established and conceptualized "brand" of sorts. A very good friend and advisor of mine Danielle Kolachik (You can and should go see her unbelievable photography- Danielle has taken countless pictures for me, including two album covers!) introduced me to this idea about a year ago and I have had a great time incorporating it into every decision I make these days. Basically, your brand is your personality taking shape as a business. It's something you want your audience to support and buy into, and like I have mentioned in past blogs, they will eventually come to know you as you've branded yourself. Are you very artsy and down to earth and you wear a silk scarf 365 days a year? Perfect, make that look iconic. Are you very introverted and you don't really have a distinguishing feature? Well that sounds somewhat unfortunate, but if you go and own that, you are now unique with your image. Simply conveying who you are goes a long way with people. After all, a fan doesn't want to feel like they only know your music but not you. If you're quirky and they're quirky, they won't have to work too hard to love your sound because they've already signed on to you as a person. What Danielle loves to have me think about is the small details for things, like color scheme (if you're not familiar check this out), and really figure out what colors speak to my personality and how that will affect the viewer. We also talk about things like hand positioning in pictures as well as when speaking to a fan and the way that your hands can show the demeanor you bring into an environment. If you really want to know more about this, I am not the expert, I am just a student, but there's countless articles online detailing creative ideas for branding in businesses of all varieties. Branding comes into play at every turn of musicianship. The website that you are currently reading on was designed with very specific concepts and colors in mind (yes, yes, I know the blog is black and white, but legibility is important too, there's always a balance to find). Realistically, the only restriction on designing anything for your brand is that it has to speak to YOU. It's not going to matter if I or someone else doesn't quite gel with it, if it's authentic and it embodies you, it's bound to find it's place in people's hearts. So stay at it, don't be deterred by some opposition at the start, it's part of defining yourself and your image. 

That's this weeks post! Little shorter but I think you all get the point. Also, if you're looking for a killer photographer/videographer, wanted to give a shoutout to my friend Kevin Prunty- he's an Arlington graduate currently studying film at Pace in NYC and I promise you he is great at what he does and he has a fun time doing it so hit him up! Anyways, thanks for reading everyone, see you next week!

-Jamie

Jamie's Blog Week 2 (Inspiration and Experience)

Thanks for tuning back in to those of you who read (and hopefully responded) to my first blog post last week, and to those just seeing this for the first time, thank you for checking this out! I hope this is helpful to you or makes you more confident that you're not alone in the world! 

Let's call this Blog Post Week 2 

"What Qualifies As 'Failure' and When Should You Care"?

Start here; Failure is not a deterrent. Failure can mean any range of incomplete tasks or attempts at achieving something, but to be more specific to music, most of the time it will mean you didn't get the gig, you didn't land the deal, your album did not reach a certain amount of sales or plays online. And guess what? That's what any good musician will eventually thrive on. Failure for me has been contacting over 200 different venues in a summer, all personal emails or phone calls, and only getting 15 of them to have me play. I also never got to the end of a record deal with a label that had displayed mutual interest to begin with. Both stung, both made me feel inadequate, and so I kept working at my craft, kept pushing myself and started to move forward. When something doesn't work out for you, be quick to remember that the only way to guarantee success is to be the best at what you do so no one can refuse it, and that even at that point, they'll still refuse it sometimes. I used every venue that didn't answer, every label or group who didn't quite like what they heard, as motivation instead of condemnation; No, I'm not saying I'm some sort of Cinderella story. I'm saying that as creators, musicians will always have hurdles to clear. The key is to learn that you can't run faster until you jump higher. Inspire yourself with the possibilities that lay before you. The worst thing you can do is quit making the music that you express yourself with because some mythical venue owner in the faraway land of (insert somewhat cheesy venue name here) has not felt the emotions you had hoped he would. I'm not saying that venue owners don't deserve respect, but they're just people like you and me, and if they don't quite gel with your music, that's alright. Keeping in mind that they're also running a business, you might just be looking in the wrong place (Never send an email to a potential venue without knowing what sort of music they normally host!). My point is when you get turned down, maybe a few times, by different venues that you KNOW you're a good fit for, be reflective, and be O.K. with critiquing yourself. Are you writing sincere emails that are quick to the point, include your info and links to songs? Are you making sure that you tell the venue what YOU can give them? Sorry, just food for thought. If we don't try to use failures or rejections as springboards for success, then we'll get dragged down by them. It's a never ending battle, because at every level you'll have your share of both. The only way to truly fail, is to give into failure, which you'll never do because you're a driven, talented, and knowledgable musician, right!? I'm reminding myself of an infomercial, and I'm probably starting to run off topic, so I'll wrap this up. We deal with failures on a large scale because (P.S. This part is for everyone, this transcends all occupations) we believe in our work, and we know it has it's place in this world. Somedays will be harder to fight than others, but life is predicated on doing what you want to do with it, and nothing makes success sweeter than a struggle to get it. 

Thanks for reading! Check back in next week for Blog Post #3 and if you have anything to add to this article, comment on it! What kind of failures did you deal with and how did they push you? Did you succeed in the end? Looking forward to seeing some responses! 

-Jamie

 

Welcome To My Blog

So as of this past Sunday, I'm officially a young adult, and my teenage years are behind me. I've been trying to think to myself how I'm going to move forward and keep building on what I've been working at as a musician and as a person, and with the help of a close friend, came to realize I have things I'd like to speak about. I'm a very introverted person, which gives me excessive time to think about life and what i'm doing with it, and I'd like to work on my socializing skills and make that an open forum. I'll be writing in this blog once a week, hopefully until I'm too busy to do it every week, but I have a lot of topics I want to discuss, and I want my peers and people I haven't yet met to talk with me and we can all get stronger and smarter, as well as share a few laughs along the way. Thanks for tuning in, hope to hear from all of you!

Week 1; "Who Am I? And Who Are You?"

After 20 years, I thought I had a pretty strong sense of self identity, but the past summer has really opened my eyes. I got serious about my music and my career, and studied the music industry and how to be a successful DIY musician. I wore several new hats that I had never thought I could take care of myself as my own booking agent, publicist, and producer. I came out with a debut EP and I'm now promoting it (more to come on how self promotion is the most necessary evil in my life). Things have changed a lot for me as a musician and as a person. I'm now embarking on my second year of college at Berklee College Of Music, I've moved into a Boston apartment with a long time friend of mine, and now I'm blogging (that is definitely the biggest surprise to me). My approach to life has changed significantly, and now I don't question my independence, as a student or a musician. That being said, this was a long summer. I was lazy in the way that I didn't get a job, but to say I stayed busy would have been an understatement. I took "Free Time" and really put it to use by building the frame for a career in music and establishing connections as well as starting to put myself out there as a viable performer and writer. I want to share a small experience that I had with my EP because it totally changed my outlook on how to approach my craft. The EP from start to finish took 6 months. That shocked me. I spent about 3 months picking songs, revising and rewriting, making new demos, and then another 3 recording, working with the engineers on the mixes and masters, and then ultimately releasing it and creating CD's for it (they're available on this site if you're interested!). I've never been good at taking my time, I prefer to jump on things and get them done right away. That doesn't mean I never cared about quality, quite the contrary, but I never was willing to do 20 vocal takes for one line, or spend 10 straight hours comping takes for a song. It teaches you about patience, and also giving time to let the dust settle so you can really make sure you're doing your work justice. It was a valuable lesson to me, even though I could get frustrated at times by not getting what I wanted out of the work, I learned to let things take their course while I work. I'd recommend that same mindset to anyone tackling a project in their lives, or even day to day activities or tasks. I did not have a normal college summer, there was no beach trips, or baseball games (played a gig outside of a baseball stadium though), but I feel what I have accomplished and my growth has made up for that. It's interesting how sometimes the experiences that really stick with you are experiences that span months, and conclude over a period of days. So to the title of this first blog post; "Who am I?" I'm a hard working, driven musician who is starting to get his bearings on what he'll need to do to succeed in the industry and will always be trying to learn and grow from experience. Now the better question is "Who Are You"? What are your habits when you work? What motivates you to get the best work? I'm always trying to speak to the people who inspire others with their actions and I have a feeling that if you've read to this point, you've probably experienced similar feelings while working and I'd love to know about what you do! Thanks for reading, tune back in next week for a new blog post! Make sure to subscribe to my newsletter while you're here if you enjoy staying up to date with this, and as always, I appreciate the support!

-Jamie