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Turning My Music into My Career - Observations

Finding Friends in Total Strangers

It's pretty safe to say that we wouldn't still be here if people hadn't helped us along the way. Whether it's a heavy tip that carries us through to the next show or a place that offers a warm shower, the folks that found some light in who we are, have undoubtedly torched our path towards success.

It seems like every time we've hit rock bottom, someone has always been there to help us get through it. As if that wasn't enough, this occurs without us ever needing to ask for any help at all. When I say, "seems like every time" I mean really... almost every...single...time.

Make a List of Business Principles

Why does it seem to work out like that? - I think it's because we created some guidelines that naturally provoke good situations to occur. We started following these strategies for success way before we ever booked a single show and we still follow them today.

About a year ago, Rebecca and I were sitting in a beat up, leaky, old, RV, about to go see 'Driftwood' (A fantastic band from Binghamton, NY) play at the 'Alberta Street Pub' in Portland, Oregon. Prior to the show, we had our first real meeting; we were tasked with the planning of our first tour, and more importantly, how we would go about turning my passion for music into a viable career.

Like any good business, we started out with a set of business ethics that would have to stay true to our work... no matter where it took us.

This is what we based our music business on:

  1. Stay Kind - If you always come across as a good person, you will likely be put in a position to meet other good people in the industry. (You know, the kind of people who you actually want to meet: the one's who want to see you succeed!) It seems like a no brainer; but, it can be tough out here. Often times, you don't even get treated as a human being at first. When venues are dealing with hundreds of emails, you become another musical pawn. It's easy to get the urge to communicate with a shorted, more negative tone than you would normally find appropriate. Some of the responses you receive can leave you feeling down and out. Let those responses guide you. Accept your truth and know your weaknesses. If you're not qualified, go work on getting qualified. Keeping a level head has been our number one asset to booking multiple shows. I found this to be true on and off the stage. BE KIND.

  2. Stay Genuine - Nobody wants to meet a person with a big ego when they aren't established yet. With confidence, talent and a solid work ethic, you will do just fine acting as yourself. Again, it seems simple; but, it's not always easy for people to spark up conversation. When folks want to meet us, we choose to engage with as much enthusiasm as we can authentically give. We are just people out here meeting other people. If someone offers a place for us to clean up, we would much rather take the opportunity to make some new friends than shower at a Planet Fitness....again. Those opportunities don't happen if you don't give folks your time; and, believe me, you want those opportunities. If it wasn't for us relying on number one and two as major success principles, we would have most likely failed already.

  3. Stay Open to Compromise - It's okay if success doesn't look the way you had always hoped. It's okay if your music veers off in a different direction than you originally anticipated. It's going to be okay if you drive down a different avenue, as long as it rides adjacent to your main path. Finding financial freedom through the arts can be a diverse and beautiful phenomenon; we all need to be flexible to find where we fit.

Give 100 Percent

Jack Canfield, in his book, "The Success Principles" talks about the importance of giving 100 percent and how much easier it is to give 100 percent towards a goal than 99 percent. Jack mentioned this to his readers, "99 percent is a bitch. 100 percent is a breeze." When you give 100%, you don't have to worry about making any exceptions. You set your mind towards something and you give everything you've got towards achieving it. Everything becomes more straight forward.

For example - At the time, I had never thought of buying a new car as a good idea. I didn't want to commit to that much debt at once. When it came to touring, I was nervous about the commitment of buying a newer Transit Van, so I spent $6,500 on an RV...

  1. I sold my used Subaru for $10,000

  2. Bought the RV for $6,500

  3. Spent another $6,000 fixing the RV

  4. Sold the RV for $6,900

  5. Bought another used car for $4,500

  6. AND finally sold the car and bought a 2018 Transit Van anyways.

Buying the RV and giving 99% was a bitch, just like Jack said.... a huge bitch. Giving 100% and buying the van was an easy and beautiful commitment towards my goals in the end.

Value Your Work

This one is less obvious and I'm not sure if I am right or wrong here. A lot of people go with the, "say yes to everything and all work" approach. I really do love that approach for several reasons; however, a while back I decided that I was going to be part of a community of musicians and venues that value the arts appropriately. It's a lot of work to practice, perform and pour your heart and soul out everyday. So, I have developed a strong opinion that musicians, as well as others in artistic fields should be compensated appropriately by those who require, or desire, their services for their own financial benefit. Developing your rate is important to your emotional and mental health, and ultimately the sustainability of the business.

The BIG exception:

The universe provides you an opportunity that will be so major to the development of your business that you must invest your time accordingly. YOU be the judge!

Set Goals and Aim High!

SUPER IMPORTANT - We have always been a goal oriented business and continue to push our dreams out of the stars and into reality. Set long term goals, short term goals, medium term goals, lifetime goals. THEN - check yourself! Reverse engineer - Imagine that you've already completed those goals and work backwards. How did you get there?

It's age old stuff bro... just give it a try.

Great Reads - The Success Principles - The Secret - Think and Grow Rich - The Power of Positive Thinking - The Power of Now.

"If you aim for the stars and land somewhere in the sky, you will have still achieved quite a bit of success in the end." - Yulia Drummond (A dear friend, Model, and CEO of Voda Swim).

"The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it." - Michelangelo

It's not just a passion for music, it needs to be treated like a business. Take it seriously and people will take you seriously ... most of the time.

Have Fun and Trust the Process

- It takes time to build anything from scratch. It's all good. It will come with time. Do not give up. - Note from James

Note from Rebecca

- We couldn't write this post without a few honorable mentions -

So, this is to Paula and Robert, Kristin, Chase and Sam, Dustin and Yulia, Chris and Eileen, Bob and Penny, Tina, Richard, David and Faye, Josh from Dapple Farm, Gabby and Jason, Debbie and Brad, Loren and John, Alan in Crab Orchard, and to the countless people who have filled our stomachs, hearts and pockets.

If nothing else, these past few months have taught us that there's much more good in the world than most of us realize.

With love,

A couple of dreamers

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