Inspiration

Week 10- "No, I Am Not Talking About The Election"

Well the title should tell you at least what today's article won't be about. Yes, I have my opinions just like the rest of you, but I don't feel like being crucified for supporting one side or the other, or neither. It's a discussion I'll save for 2020 when Kanye runs. Anyways, I hope your respective candidate wins, unless that is not the candidate that I support, in which case you can soon expect a barrage of some factual, some not so factual information supporting my claim splattered on your Facebook wall. 

So this weeks topic, in the spirit of gathering a group of like minded followers and leading them to high places, is about the effectiveness of social media. In 2016, we as artists, producers, engineers, thinkers, comedians, household pets who somehow created their own instagrams, know that social media is the best form of distribution and promotion that you can get for free. You can reach millions of people with the touch of a button, you can connect with fans thousands of miles away who you have never met, the possibilities are endless. But, here's the catch- you have to work to get there. The thing with social media is that there's always this white noise buzzing in the background, someone is doing something somewhere, and they're most likely getting attention for it. And since attention is a finite resource, obviously you are going to be competing a little bit for other users time when you want to reach them. Yes, you are unique, and you are most likely an incredibly talented and poised individual, but you're a small fish in a big pond. So for the fun of it, lets talk about how you evolve to the point where you can grow legs and walk right out of the pond where everyone can see you (And yes, I suppose we'll also assume you can breathe air by that point- thanks Bill). *Disclaimer- I have not claimed social media fame as a priority, and therefore I am not someone who has had monumental success- but I feel that through extensive research, I can tell you what you'll have to do to reach that point. 

First off, you must be committed and consistent. One good post every few weeks is just simply not enough to interest a potential fanbase. Plan on posting 3-4 times a week, and if it's not a decent quality photo or video, or a clever inspirational quote or piece of advice, forget it. People notice when you're running out of things to say, or songs to perform. Now that being said, those things should not happen if you start to schedule your posts for yourself. Make a day out of it, maybe every wednesday is a new age cover of an older song. Maybe every friday, you do a quick 30 second video looking back at the week behind you. People start to accept those things as habitual and feel rewarded when they can anticipate it and eventually they will want some sort of involvement in your posts. But without your consistency, there's nothing to really gravitate towards and slowly they will miss the things you post and your audience will start to shrink. The second habit that you will need to get into is engaging your audience. Find some dedicated people who like every single thing you post and ask them what they like about your page, what are some of their favorite posts from the past. Did those posts do well for you? Well, it would be pretty stupid to go away from what works. Reach out to your followers and see what really interests them, is it covers, or small blogs, funny or inspirational messages, sharing good music from your contemporaries? There's definitely more that you could be doing to please them. Make it known how much you appreciate the support, and respond directly to people whenever you can, it goes a long way. A lot of the people who support you will also have their own interesting and exciting pages, make it your priority to be active on their pages as well. Don't just "like" something, leave a comment, tell them what you actually liked. It's easy to convince yourself you don't have time to do that, but you do, it's just not as easy as pretending like everyone should just love you and your posts with nothing being given in return. The more you can establish strong relationships with fans online, the more reach you will have when you want them to tune into something. This brings me to my next point, the 7-to-1 rule. The rule is simple; For every 1 post you self promote with, there should be 7 that are just simple entertainment, advice, or engagement towards your audience. The endless self promoting may or may not feel necessary, but I promise that after a bit your followers will not look so fondly upon it. Use that one post to highlight an important event, like a contest you've entered or a gig you really want to get people to. There's times when this rule should be interpreted more loosely (i.e. when you release an album), but generally, this is the trend you'll find on major pages. Don't ask for too much of an already dedicated audience, they're doing more than enough by just supporting you. Self promotion must be shown wisely, when you're careless, it leaves a real bitter taste in everyones mouths. So the last point, and I am always going to be a broken record on this one- Be You. Look, not everyone is an extrovert that's always prepped for a photoshoot and constantly interested in getting themselves out there. Personally, I do not have that trait and I don't possess that type of mindset when I approach social media. But I don't act like someone I'm not. You should always be cognizant of the fact that some of these people know you in real life, and if they're expecting a fireball of emotion and a big personality, and get none of that, it's very detrimental to your image and by extension, your success. People will eventually see through it, and while it's important to try and please people, you have to do it in a way that truly reflects your spirit. That's just so important. Don't compromise your integrity just to get a few more likes on something. Be true to yourself, and other people will join up to your truth. I promise. 

Well, I'm off to a guitar lesson now, I hope the election works out your way, and if not, remember you can always move. Have a great week everyone! Thanks for reading!

-Jamie

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 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 5

Hello everyone! I'm back, a little late, but I'm back nonetheless. I've been hearing from various people in my life saying they actually read these posts so I'm excited to dive into this weeks. So without further ado (minus the 3 days since I was supposed to post this)...

Week 5; "Finding Your 'Thing'"

When it comes right down to it, successful people know why they're successful. They know themselves down to all the finer points, strengths, weaknesses, people they work well with, people they need to avoid. And for everyone one of those people, they have a trait that makes them "Them". It's their hallmark, the thing everyone knows them for. They'll have plenty of other skills, but there's one that is top quality. And not so strangely, thats the one they'll advertise. Why? Because you gain notoriety for being a master in one thing, rather then a participant in many. That's not to say you shouldn't have plenty of tools that you bring to the table in any given situation. I can confidently say that I could play 3 instruments for anyone at any given time, record them, mix (not well, but I can), and I am an experienced writer that's eager and ready to collaborate. But when someone wants to know what I do, I am a Singer Songwriter, and then take that a step further, I'm a Pop Rock Singer Songwriter who is always going to entertain and attempt to create inspiring music. That's my calling card. It doesn't have anything to do with my perception of my own ability, fanbase, or anything else. I know who I am, what I am, and I am confident in my convictions. That's what most industry experts need to/want to know right off the bat. The thing that really separates professionals from amateurs is an X factor. Can you play 2 guitars at once? Do you pull out a puppet at your show and be a ventriloquist for 5 minutes? Great! Make it known to people. If you're an engineer, pride yourself in precision and timeliness, if you're a writer, make sure people know that you'll spend any amount of time that they'll need to write the best song. All that being said, have I found my X factor as a performer yet? Nope, and I'm in no rush. It comes with time (or so i'm told) and when it does, it will be authentic. Authenticity is vital to creating a real buzz. I am personally not the guy to deliver dramatic monologues at shows, or show up in costume, I won't have flames shooting out of my guitar, I know my demeanor and I want to be the same person on the stage that I am off the stage. However, if you're a dynamic individual, then be yourself, don't be shy to go off at any performance, you will develop a name for yourself based on how you deliver a show. Regardless of how you act on stage, trust me, you want the crowd to feel like they know you as they leave the room, and better yet, you want them to tell their friends about the experience, whether it was wild, subdued, intimate, violent, amazing, etc. you want to leave your mark as "that artist". Like I said, this comes with time. But when it's there, you have something priceless that is uniquely yours. So if I wanted to sum this week up; Be you, and be the best at being you. Nothing will make a louder statement than having an honest and believable image. That's what the "thing" is, you're you and everyone knows you for it. So I managed to only be slightly cheesy to this point but here comes the downpour you were most definitely expecting. Keep being amazing at what you do, it's going to show if you let it.

Thanks for reading!

-Jamie

Jamie's Blog Week 4

Hey everyone, another busy week but better to be busy when you're trying to make your way up in the world. Hope all my friends in school or at work can feel the same way. So let's get down to this week's topic;

"How To Handle Success"

I was reading over my past posts and I realized that in week 2, I talked about all types of failure and dealing with those feelings, but I totally forgot to mention the (much more fun) counterpart. What do you do when things go your way? Your band got the gig, they picked your song, you're playing the venue you always dreamed of! First of all, congrats! Success is never an accident, or luck, so don't write it off or take away from your achievements. You worked hard to get to where you are, appreciate it! However, the tricky thing with success is that it usually marks the ending of a period, rather than the beginning of a new one. Success is that "release" feeling where we take a load off, and revel in a bit of our glory (born from weeks, months, or years of frustration and perseverance), and I'm not here to say that it's not deserved, but remember- strike while the iron is hot. You're confident, keen, and on top of your game. You're entitled to your day or two of satisfaction, but these windows of opportunity are gratifying for a reason-they're only occasional. I could compare it to building a house of cards, it's a magical feeling when you've stacked up the second level, but the longer you wait to keep constructing it, the more likely that something will happen to set you back. Enjoy that analogy, it's probably one of the last one's i'll try to force in the blog. Anyways, so how do you build on the success? Same way you got there in the first place, only at a higher level (Now my analogy makes more sense). You'll contact bigger venues, strive to sell more music, get a record deal with an established label, etc. It's a slow process, but you'll be riding a strong wave if you coast off the successes you achieve (is that an analogy too? I hope not). I may not be the example of someone who has built their career, but I do know that I am much farther along in my development than I was a year ago. I didn't believe I could ever reach labels, or open for well known artists, it just wasn't something I could picture. But when I got small chances, opportunities, I turned them into bigger ones, and kept working at it. I think the secret is constantly being motivated by the feeling of success, without ever letting it consume you. I have always been afraid of coming off as conceited, so I tend not to broadcast every small step I take on the journey, but I do think about it as I spend hours searching for new places to gig or making new connections, and knowing the accomplishment that I will feel when something fits into it's place. If I can suggest a piece of advice for other artists in my place, it's that I firmly believe that the artists who exercise a healthy work ethic while staying happy are the ones who rise to the top. It's not easy by any means, but that's why we're allowed to be proud of our successes. We dedicate our lives to them, and they give us direction in our lives. Fair tradeoff to me. 

So unfortunately, I am going to have to head off to a voice lesson, but as always I hope this finds you all well and helps some of you, and if you want to tell me how you deal with success, I know I could learn something from you! Thanks!

-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