It’s important for me to make a living as a musician. Working with clients can be… tricky. The philosophy that keeps me out of trouble may seem harsh to most people:
I refuse to collaborate on other people’s projects for free.
First, the energy is unbalanced. What are they giving back? After all, I love giving energy to making a project better, and I love receiving energy in the form of appreciation and payment. It makes sense.
Second, it’s a bit cruel to myself. What does it say about me if I don’t charge appropriately? I care about creating music that carries the story and is appropriate, so it makes sense for me to charge for that.
Third, if I do something for free once, they think I’ll do it for free again. Yuck!
Whenever I meet with a potential client, I am upfront with them by saying I charge what I’m worth, but that I love to talk and hang out. Having good people to interact with makes me a lot happier as a human being.
It’s so sad to see so many wonderful musicians settling for free when they should be paid a lot more.
Music… Is… VALUABLE!!!
How many articles are out there on this one little acronym, SEO? I don’t know. All I do know is that I have a visceral response to these three letters; Almost immediately, I feel constipated.
I can’t imagine a better name for this effect:
My morning is incomplete without coffee. I choose my beans wisely, I use a burr grinder, I use an aeropress, and top it with organic whipping cream.
When I’m in a new town, trying to find my morning cup, I have a two simple rules to follow to assure that I get the best coffee possible. The first:
Beware of the coffee shop that offers 3 different prices of either lattes or cappuccinos.
I think this is Pareto’s Principle at work. When coffee shops limit themselves to making one single latte or cappuccino size, they get the ratio of espresso and milk correct, every time. Coffee shops that don’t do this are ones that haven’t dialed in the exact taste of the coffee they wish to present, or probably just don’t really care.
My second rule is this:
Beware any coffee shop if they have more food options than coffee options.
Again, they won’t be as focused on getting that ideal taste in coffee. They’ll have a lot of food options though, and maybe they are good. But the coffee? Nope. Probably not very good.
To me, just about all drip coffee tastes the same, so I always go for the smallest drip coffee at a coffee shop I’m wary of.
But, if you find yourself at a coffee shop that has just one size for a latte, cap, or cortado? Don’t be scared. They probably care a lot about making a tasty morning beverage. Get it! It’s most likely heavenly.
When my father died, my mom gave me his favorite pen: A Mont Blanc Meisterstück, issued by his employer for his dedicated work to the company.
Lemme tell you: This pen writes like a dream. I write about three pages of goop everyday (this habit works wonders for creativity), so I was surprised that the ink lasted for a year or so on the original refill. But, when it was gone, I had to replace it. Enter our villain: Monteverde refills for Mont Blanc.
I bought some Monteverde refills to keep the party going, and I was immediately taken by surprise about how hard I had to push down on the pen to make the ink flow. I was annoyed by how often the ink would stop flowing, mid word, but would pick up if I twirled the pen about 45 degrees. I often cursed out loud, about my writing utensil. Yeah, I went there.
I put up with this nonsense for three years without thinking there was an alternative. Eventually I got fed up and bought the real thing: Mont Blanc pen refills by Mont Blanc.
Within writing two sentences, my hand immediately relaxed into writing again. I’ve not had a single hand cramp in the past week. The sentences have flowed easier. My enjoyment of writing is back to its original state. The rollerball never loses traction, the sentences and words flow on.
What can I say? Though expensive, the refill for a pen matters. Or in other words: When you go Mont Blanc, you can never go back.
I have been committing to memory all of the transpositions of the orchestra. My intent is to begin writing in their transposed pitches as opposed to concert key. I’ve started with the flute family.
I called the Db Piccolo the Db Pickle, and the C Piccolo the C Pickle.
Off to the coffee pot…
Part of my work as a musician requires waiting. Reaching out to people I’d love to work with, reminding them I’m still alive. Working on parts of my administrative system for optimal workflow management. Or simply, reminding the great mystery that I still love composing music and it will make the world a better place
Sometimes, in the thick of these moments of stillness of projects, times when things aren’t exactly working according to plan (ha! Plans!), I’m reminded that it’s okay to be in the creative intuitive space where it’s more important to go back and reorganize things that desperately need reorganization. If you’re a musician and you’re reading this, I wanted to share a couple of ideas that can help make a slow time a bit faster.
Join a performing rights organization and register all of your works.
Copyright an album that needs that official stamp of ownership.
Learn about something new, like synthesis, orchestration, or perhaps how to develop a melody.
Reach out to friends who know you and your work ethic.
Do some cold calling. Though this isn’t for everyone, I can say without any doubt that nothing stirs the pot quite like a blast of cold calls to people you’d love to work with.
As this period of stillness is coming to an end this summer, I wish you all the best and may the projects come rolling in.
Overheard by a musician working the cash register at a local Austin shop:
I hear the same old stuff coming from Nashville, all the time. Three chords, same old pile of garbage. I could write that in an instant and make millions.
I hate to point this out, and maybe it’s just me who’s thinking this, but what’s stopping you?
I was a little shocked and silent nonetheless. The person he was talking to stopped talking too; maybe we were thinking the same thing?
…that maybe it’s better to just engage and see where that leads?
I was just musing: Is the fact that most musical territory has already been explored necessarily a bad thing?
The argument many people have with music is something like, “That’s not original. Someone else has already done that.” Well, no shit Sherlock.
Let’s take an obscure example: Coltrane practiced Slonimsky’s Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns towards the latter part of his life. He explored it deeply, and had he lived longer he could have explored it more fully. However, Coltrane applied this to his music. His group towards the later part of his life (after McCoy and Jones and Garrison) was his vehicle to bring that study into sonic format.
Now onto the thought experiment: What if a band with an established voice, like Radiohead for example, started to study the same text that Coltrane studied. Would Radiohead make free jazz? Maybe, maybe not. But undoubtably, it would sound like Radiohead. And yes, I’d buy it too.
The age where original musical ideas created on brand new theoretical ideas is pretty much gone, with exception to those lone classical voices creating music in academia. The age of original voices using the same established theoretical models is happening now.
In other words, pop and country and hip hop inspired beats mixing together to form bro country is just one iteration. All it takes is an original voice willing to explore something different to give us all something brand new, fresh, and exciting to groove on.
Originality is overrated. It’s better just to establish a voice and then take it on a musical journey from there.
David Hamburger, a fantastic guitarist and film composer in Austin, asked me last year if I were interested in helping him out with some filming. Since I’ve been around the block with multicam guitar lesson editing, it was an honor to help him. I took a couple of shots of the sessions we’ve been doing:
And the results have been really great so far: