New to the conversation? Check out my greatest hits!


DFW Bands: The O's

Most  bands aren't worth your time. 

Having attended billions of local/national shows for both business and pleasure, I really can't stress this enough. Unable to play their instruments, bad stage presence, insulting the audience, derivative songs...  Crap, everywhere. Bleh.

The real shame is that lame bands scare people away from seeing the AMAZING local talent we actually have! There's brilliant, life-affirming beautiful music out there, waiting to be heard!

So I'm gonna make life a little easier on you and I'm going to introduce local bands worth giving a shit about. This series will be sporadic, since I'm only going to talk about bands actually worth seeing and not have "filler" updates. All genres included; I may be in a metal band but I love (almost) all music. You'll thank me.

So I saw these guys a few years back at the Dallas Observer Music Awards Festival. I was currently in a big Wilco, Drive-By Truckers and Heartless Bastards kick, feeling the alt-country vibe pretty hard after denying it for so long.

So I sauntered in Bandera Bar and saw The O's. These two guys are blowing up on the scene with their heartfelt and genuine folk/bluegrass/indie music. The songs are quite a departure from the unnecessarily complex music I often listen to, and I think it was the simplicity of their songs that drew me in. Bought their CD immediately after they got off stage, and I was singing along with the songs within a week.

Honest music. Makes me smile.

Be a Fan

It's easy to get caught up in the business of running a band. Promoting, writing, keeping everyone from stabbing each other... There's an infinite list of things to do, and it's easy to lose why you're doing this in the first place.

We make music because we love music.

When's the last time you were a fan for someone else? Whether it's a simple as saying to an artist "Hey man, I really dig what your music is saying. It's inspiring!", buying a beer for the drummer, or something as involved as starting a tribute band, being a fan is what music is all about, and it's what will keep you pushing when you go through The Dip.

All we have are our fans.

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT: This week, show three bands you adore the love they deserve. Extra credit if they're a smaller, lesser known band and they don't get love as often. How you express love is up to you. (Please, no stalking though. Rooting through their garbage is not advisable either)


The Entrepreneur's Brain: Learning from Failure

I won't embellish it, it was a failure.

A few weeks back, I attempted to make the leap from selling guitars personally to selling over eBay. I was in no way prepared for the negative response. Coming from the safe bubble of my friends and family's support, I already envisioned all the "Great Bass!" remarks and, even more, the profits rolling in. I completed a full time-study on the bass, tracked every expense and ran profit projections.

Mmm... feels good to lounge in dream-land, doesn't it? Nothing but feel-good nacho cheese waterfalls and day long naps.

Actual responses:
"Is this a joke?"
"Great job on the 'custom' bass?"

Owch. What happened? I had yet to ever hear any comment about my work other than a "That's awesome!" so I was a little unsure of what to think.

The issue was this; I made this bass by hot-rodding an entry-level SX Jazz Bass a set of awesome pickups, a custom paint job, and a tune up correcting simple manufacturer issues that happen on low-end basses (Such as fret leveling & crowning). (Protip, the two most important things for a guitar's sound are wood an electronics.) I'm proud of this bass for sound, looks, and playability.

So naturally, I wrote a powerfully written ad.

However, I decided to get all MBA fancy and call it a DM Custom Bass instead of what I should have called it, SX Bass - Upgrade or HOT-ROD SX Bass.

Bad move.

People read the ad about a custom bass guitar and expected everything to be hand-crafted. The market thought different things when it saw my ad than I expected. When the customer saw the dissonance between what was an upgraded bass and the custom bass they expected, they lashed out with full-on internet-hate.

Lesson 1: Improper or inaccurate marketing is a searing insult to potential customers.

So it's back to the drawing board on developing the right sales environment for my guitars. Lesson learned.

This event brought to mind a fascinating article from INC that made the rounds on the blogs recently about the difference between how successful entrepreneurs and successful corporate businessmen think. 

The study essentially took in entrepreneurs and corporate folk, and had them make a business plan and deal with "problems" as they arose. Through the whole process, everyone thought out loud and recorded their thought processes.

The big takeaway from this study: Entrepreneurs had fluid goals and eschewed "fancy modeling" in favor of trying to sell the product first to get market information directly from the customers. The corporate businessmen used models, created hard goals, and created "structured plans to success." Both are very effective strategies. Like penguins and ostriches, each individual developed strategies that was effective in its own environment but would be useless in any other climate.

If you're a corporate musician, you don't need this blog because someone is paid to do all this for you. For the rest of us, we need to think like entrepreneurs.

Lesson 2: Musicians are entrepreneurs selling an unproven product. To be successful, they must maintain flexible goals and adapt to the marketplace to survive.

There's many ways to the top if you wanna rock and roll. Remember that.


"Idea People" Are Worthless

You've met them.

Enthusiastic and often intelligent, they approach you with their grand idea. Create a documentary to build a community, design the ultimate educational video game, construct a pyramid, release a four-album progressive rock masterpiece etc. But they can't get started just yet, they "need some help, man. You know, and some cash so, like, we can do this thing, you know?"

Or the guy at your office who is "totally gonna start his own business to get away from the boss, you know?" Or someone who says "I really want to eat healthier, I just don't have the time though..."

And they want you to do all of the work because they're too weak to do it themselves.

As you develop a reputation for actually accomplishing things, these self-identified "Idea People" begin to smell success. And they begin to circle, hoping to get some table scraps thrown their way. Waiting for someone else to do the work necessary to achieve their goals.

Listen: Anyone who identifies themselves as an "Idea Person" will not achieve their goals. They're too weak.

People define themselves through story (more on this in later blog posts). One of the ways we attempt to make sense of our identity is through the use of labels. I'm a mom. I'm a musician. I'm a politician. I'm an Idea Person. These labels help give us a means to interact and make sense with an endlessly complex world.

So let's look into the connotations of an Idea Person. This label emphasizes creative, innovative thought. Great, swell. But it also hints at helplessness. If you're an idea person, your only job is to "come up with a good idea". Then you have someone else do all the work because your job is done. 'Idea generated, my work is done." you rationalize, "Now someone else do something." And then you take credit because it was "your idea, as the resident idea person".

Do you see the passive-aggressive behavior? If the idea is a success, thank the Idea Person. If the idea fails, it was someone else's fault. That's not the job of an idea person, so they can't be held liable for failure.

Idea Person, Noun: Someone who wants all the credit for doing no work.

Famous artists are not idea people because they actually do something with their idea. If they sat around thinking about ideas all day but never did any work, they would not be an artist.

If you do not push, strive, hustle, and fight for your idea, you are the reason it failed. If you care about your child, you do everything you can to ensure their life is a success. If you care about getting in shape, you go to the gym and work out until you can't stand any more. If you care about your music, you practice until your fingers blister, promote until you can't talk, write, perform to an empty room, fail and keep trying because you care.



Bring The Beef!

Once again hip-hop, still one of the youngest major genres, delivers us new strategies for the new music economy.

Being positive all the time is dumb and can even hurt you. Sure, as a general rule it's better to have positive relations with the local names in your industry, but when someone craps into your cornflakes you'd better be willing to stand up for yourself. 

Sometimes you have to get mean.

Enter the promotional genius that is the diss track.(Note: This is not to make light of the Biggie/2Pac murders. They were terrible and took things way too far. I speak only of the less-violent and more 'for show' beefs.) 

For those of you unfamiliar with the idea, a diss track is a song a rapper writes solely for the purpose of insulting another rapper and usually results in a volley of tracks between each rapper until both either make amends or get bored of it all. (See Jay-Z_vs._Nas) Hip-hop is built off being tough, so what better way to enforce that image than throw some insults at someone who, for some reason or another, you don't like? 

Not only is a great move for living the image of your music, it's also brilliant business move. Even more so than doing a collaborative track, a diss track builds visibility for both actors because it creates drama for fans of the music. No one wants to watch a tv show where everyone is happy and nothing goes wrong. It'd be boring and dumb. Professional wrestling is built off the principle of beefs between its larger than life personalities. The conflicts between characters are what make everything so interesting. (Hulk Hogan versus Andre the Giant anyone?)

Drama creates stories lead to emotional investment. 

And stories are how we make sense of our lives.

Never forget, The better a story you give your fans to tell, the more devoted they will be to you. 

Ever thought of starting a beef with another musician for mutual marketing gain? Being angry with someone might be the strategy your business needs.


Quick Link: How to Trademark Your Band's Name

Great post over at Digital Music News on the how and why of getting your name and symbols trademarked. It's written by a copyright and trademark lawyer so I won't bother summarizing the article since he does a much better job of explaining things.


The Music Success Formula - Rough Cut

So I got the idea of creating a "back of the envelope" formula that will be a quick way to determine a band's potential of "breaking through" to the next level. This has the potential to be very useful to many musicians, but I need your help refining the idea. Please, poke holes in this so we can strengthen the idea!

What i've developed so far is based off the simple equation for force  (force = mass X velocity) except replacing the variables with things related to bands. It would measure, on a scale of 1 to 10 the band's potential to reach their ""fan goal" (which goes into the equation) 

You'll notice music quality is not central to the formula. The reason for this is, due to the subjective nature, it's often difficult to tell which music will sell or not. The goal of this formula is to get bands to focus on improving their strategies of getting their music out to the world. The formula makes little distinction on the music itself, it's up to you to ensure your art is as refined as it can be.

Band's Potential of Reaching their fan goal (scale of 1 to 10) = quality of the band    X   quality of promotion.

This would be broken down further into:
   quality of the band = music quality + music production quality + live show quality + merch quality
    where each item would be on a sliding scale like so
    -Music quality (this has to be subjective, on a scale from 0 to 3)
    -Music production quality (0 = home recording, 1 = midrange qualty, 2 = professional quality)
    -Live show quality (0 = mojque, 1 = crowd interaction & presence, 2 = effects light show & "crowd pleasers", 3 = Lady Gaga Sized production)
    -Merch quality (0 = no merch, 1 = some T shirts-OK quality 2 = run by merch girl with lights & pro level equipment)

   qualty of promotion = {current "pull" at shows + (fans contacted monthly X conversion rate X 12  } / "fan goal"

By filling this out, the band would know what their relative chances of meeting their "fan goals" within a year are.

I need your input. This could help MANY people if we get this refined!