Music Industry

Week 11- "No, You Don't Have Writer's Block"

So at the end of this semester, I'm proud to say that I will officially be halfway done with my degree here at Berklee, and so I wanted to take this week to share one very important thing that I have learned. 

Writer's Block is not a CONDITION, it is a CHOICE

I can see how some would be offended by me saying that, but I promise you, it is the truth. You might have a slump of bad songs like everyone else, but you are not blocked up. You are lacking inspiration and motivation. But good news; both are all around you, always. Rejoice! From this point forward, you should never give yourself the writer's block excuse again. It's a mentality, and an unhealthy one at that. I've gone through month long stretches, one even close to a year, where I felt like I couldn't produce any quality work and whatever I did manage to write was all white noise. But I never stopped for a second to find new inspiration. I wasn't reading new books, listening to new music, traveling to new places. I was very complacently living life, and yet somehow I still expected my mind to procure interesting and new topics to write about. How is that ever feasible!? It's not! 

So what specifically are we talking about? How do you truly connect to the inspiration that has been eluding you? Open your mind. Remember that children's book that your parents read to you when you were young? At least 10 good songs in there. Have any friends who have a life more interesting than your current one, or maybe they could use a pick-me-up song to help them work through some struggles? You'd have to be crazy to think there isn't hundreds of songs waiting. If you take that mentality, you are unstoppable. Songs are in books, movies, and general ideas (yes, I know it references Writer's Block, but agree to disagree- there's good ideas in that list). 

If you feel that your songs are lacking originality, or that they are all sounding the same, it starts with your inspiration source. If you're writing to your anger all the time, or your unrequited love for someone, well it's not too surprising that the other pieces of the song follow suit. You need to find the unconventional ideas that are floating around in the auxiliary parts of your mind. When you write about love, be creative, the audience will understand from the get go that it's a love song, so you need to throw in a twist in there that revitalizes the meaning and the importance. Or find a new way to say "I love you". Angry songs, I've been there, you just want to spew it all out at once and wreak havoc on whoever is on the receiving end- but that just will not translate to the audience. And I don't believe that you'll like listening to it either when you're in a good mood and you're trying to sing your way through it. If you need to write that song, incorporate a new emotion, like remorse, or pity, because unfortunately hateful songs will not quite hold up on their own when its just unrelenting degradation. The bottom line is, if it seems like something you've heard before, put in something new that makes it yours again. Maybe instead of attacking someone, make the situation into a metaphor and disguise the scenario. Maybe instead of talking about your undying love for your counterpart, tell the world how miserable the world would be without your partner, how they brighten everything around them. Now it still says what you wanted, but it puts a much more concrete image in your audiences mind and they get to peak into the story and make their own conclusions about what the song is supposed to be about. Generally, people would rather get their own input as opposed to having the meaning forced down their throat. There's no greater compliment then when a member of the audience is so intrigued by a song that they come up to you after a performance and try to know more about the background of a song. We're all human, start relating to people and favoring their curiosity!

I don't want to go on all day about this, I think you've all gotten the point. But really, you have a job as an artist or a creator of any sort, and it's to brighten the world with your abilities. Make the world feel your emotions, and allow your audience to unlock theirs. I don't have to tell anyone currently living in America that what we need the most right now is compassion and empathy. Regardless of your political views, this is a unified nation and the only people who will be harmed by fighting or violence is ourselves. I know in my heart that there's been a call from the establishment as a whole for new and vibrant art that lets us all push the reset button as we move into the future. Yes, your song may not travel far and wide, but if it affects even one person positively and convinces them that we need to collect ourselves as a nation, then you have outdone yourself. Keep writing (or painting, or dancing, or speaking, anything expressive) guys, it's what the world needs. 

Thanks so much for reading as always, I'll be back next week.

-Jamie 

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

Jamie's Blog Week 6

Hello friends, family, boys, girls, dogs, cats, ok- whoever is reading this, thanks for tuning in! So I'm going to dive into something a bit personal this week that some people might not look favorably upon, but I write with the intention of connecting with others who are in my place, my profession, or just want to know a bit more about the day to day life of being a musician. Anyway, I hope you enjoy, comments are encouraged!

Week 6- "How To Take Criticism (And When You Need To Stop Listening)"

Before I start, let me say that I am the worlds biggest fan of good, honest critiques, but there's a difference between that and criticism. We are going to be talking the "What if they don't like me..." question today. I will most definitely be covering the value in seeking out trusted opinions at some point, but today will be the look into the reality for most musicians; You can't please everyone. Sometimes, you can't please anyone! Sometimes you'll please your mom, your close friends, maybe even your mom/dad's coworkers, but no you will not please everyone. But, the good news is that's not your job. Your job is to make music that you absolutely love. Until very, very recently I was making music that I felt like everyone should like, instead of songs that I like writing and listening to. And no surprise, when I share the songs I actually love owning, I almost always get a better response than the songs that I "designed" to please an audience. Now, here's the part I hesitate to get into, it's going to most likely come off as self pity, but I promise I share this experience only to show musicians the light at the other end of the tunnel. Ever since 6th grade, I have struggled with immense self doubt, onstage and offstage. I fear the constant talking about me and what I perceived to be shortcomings. Reality was, those voices that I tried to run from or ignore usually never existed. I played, sang, and wrote with this tiny chip on my shoulder for so many years, citing the idea that "no one really wants me to succeed, so let me go and show them". I know now that I am wrong, I have amazing friends who support me in this endeavor, but let me focus in on the criticism aspect. Sometimes, I was subject to criticism, especially for my voice, and at a certain age, I was laughed at a good amount for having a dream. So in terms of handling that, I did a terrible job of it-let me tell you what I did. I LISTENED. I got down on myself, I would kind of pretend that I wasn't serious about my dream, that this was a hobby. I figured if I just made it seem like I was sorry for promoting my work or posting too many videos on Instagram, that people would stop talking or I would at least have a viable defense to the criticism. That behavior stripped me of the individuality that I knew I worked to own, but my only concern was being liked. Not appreciated, or listened to, just liked. I think it should go without saying that what I did was unnecessary and detrimental, but I know that I am not the only artist who has been subject to these feelings. And I am not naive, there's always going to be people who will think maybe I should stop writing, or stop singing, maybe stop playing music altogether. But here's the difference now, I make music for me and show it to the people who I know can use it. That sounds cocky, but I'm not rephrasing. I have been writing things that I fall asleep singing at night and I can dwell on my own lyrics because they carry real sentimental value to me, they are no longer just marketing based. That's not to say I've never written honest songs, I have a handful from the past, but I finally found my place of peace musically, and that's the point of this weeks post. When you hear that awful thing someone said about your music, realize that the one's you're out to please are the people who will be affected the same way you were writing it. If someone reaches out to you with a good critique- "I really liked this, but maybe you can try (insert fantastic idea here)", then you owe it to them because they have actually digested your music the way you wrote it to be. Don't ever turn those people down. But if they put you down, try to take away from your creativity or freedom, you need to understand that your happiness should not be being held in their hands. You determine that, only you. Artists thrive on expression, it's the central principle and the reason to partake. I understand the obvious "Well how are you going to make a living" question, but I will promise it's not from writing songs you don't believe in. I know this post was more emotional than informative, but that's kind of what I want anyone reading this to understand- emotion is what draws people in. It's not the only way of communicating to an audience, but it is the most visceral thing we can offer as artists. If you want  to silence the critics, silence the demons in your mind, that's always going to be the real issue. If you write through those, jump off the edge of the cliff, there's a group of fans waiting to catch you.

Truthfully, I've never been more excited for the future. I have music that feels the right way, I have a direction for it, and I know I have amazing friends out there who will provide the best audience I could ever want. So I know this post really was all over the place, but thank you so much for reading, and I will see you all next week! 

-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 3

Hey there everyone! As always, welcome, and thank you for reading! I have to say I'm starting to enjoy this blogging experience. I was a bit skeptical from the start, worrying if anyone will read these, but what I'm finding is that even a few people connecting back to me makes it more than worth it. I hope that this weeks post serves you all well, and if it does, please reach out to me. I really do love hearing back from anyone! 

Week 3; "Should I Feel Bad About Self Promoting"?

While I am not entirely sure that I'm the right voice to tackle this, I know that this is a struggle for artists of all varieties and businesses alike. In my past blog posts, I have talked about the endless amounts of work that we will do to achieve the art that we have envisioned. Eventually, it gets finished, and sits in front of you on a kitchen table as a CD or on your computer screen accompanied by the iTunes toolbar and it's "Now What"? Well, this is the part where everyone has their own feelings, so I'll stop speaking universally and just speak to my own intuition. When I have invested hundreds of hours of my own time, I feel that promoting my work is not just necessary, but deserved. If I have created something that I believe is a quality album (EP, or any creation for that matter), I do believe that I would be doing myself a disservice by hiding it away upon completion and only telling people about it if they asked. The issue in my case is that even though I think of self promotion as necessary, I fear that I'm not getting my music out there, I'm just bothering friends who may have gotten a bit tired of my repetitive posts talking "Check this out, check that out", etc. Unfortunately, in this day and age, we tend to measure our likability based on our social media reach and the reactions of others. In my case, I have never had a large presence on social media. I've grown to understand how powerful it is, but I am by no means an expert. It does seem, however, that the more I use it, the more I wish there was a better way to reach people with an honest message.

I started to get off on a bit of a tangent (Better saved for another week), so let me refocus; I do not self promote because I think I am just "that good". I promote my work because I made it for other people. I promote my work because I do believe that some people out there will connect with my songs. I promote my work because I believe that the world always needs new music. I don't know if people see it that way, in fact I assume that for the most part they don't, because really it's not their job to constantly watch my every move. But the reality is part of being an artist is committing to expression and finding the eyes and ears of an audience who may or may not have a reaction to it. We need to stop feeling as if self promotion is taboo because it seems "conceited". The reality is everyone deserves to feel rewarded for achievements at least from time to time. The good news is that it is not hard to make someone feel valuable in the course of a day.  I know that it can change my day, my week, sometimes even my month getting a small compliment from someone who I didn't know even heard my music or was following my progress. It goes a long way, and I think you can do yourself a favor by being there for others, even just with a like on a post or a quick text. 

Thanks for reading everyone, I would say this post was a bit of a rollercoaster in terms of emotions for me, but I hope it finds you well and maybe offers some insight or some reassurance. I'm really hoping to hear other people's thoughts on this whether you're an artist or not, you definitely have valuable input into the conversation. Next post in 1 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