Thursday, 24 April 2014

A few thoughts and observations from a life long musician

Nothing good in this life comes easy and if it did for you, be damn thankful. I have, during the past several months, been running a variety of shows which included featuring other musical artist. It’s a great way to keep things interesting for the audience that come out to my shows locally and a great way to expose the amazing talent that resides here in the central Vancouver Island region. One of the things that has amazed me is the number of performers that are not very astute when it comes to self promotion. In today’s entertainment business you have to constantly strive to keep up with technology and trends. Learn your craft. That means more than just wood-shedding guitar chops or honing the craft of songwriting. It means learning about all of the aspects of your endeavour. How to maximize on social media, press releases, networking, socialize at jams and open mics, find out what’s going on in your area. I have been amazed that many musicians don’t even know the ropes of facebook!
John T the Drifter AKA John Massop
My two oldest brothers helped me along in the early part of my musicianship, my apprenticeship if you will. Brother John showed me the street level skills required to find gigs, work a stage and an audience. He showed me a lot of things our parents wished he wouldn’t have being 18 years senior to me and being quite the “rounder”. Brother Gerry, my eldest brother, started to give my musical endeavors a guiding hand when I was about 24. I had over 10 years of performing under my belt at that point and showing no signs of slowing down. Gerry saw that and taught me about the “pro” side of music. He was a well respected musical journalist who had lots of savvy and always drove home how important understanding the business side of music was. “When you look at the words ‘music business’ you’ll notice that the word business is nearly twice as big as the word music. Treat your career the same way, you need more than just talent to survive” he would say.
JR and brother Gerry jamming with Chico
Gerry also told me often to think globally and act locally which has proven to be valuable advice over the years. International radio airplay and sales wouldn’t have happened for me without thinking globally.
These days the music industry is changing more rapidly than ever. It can make your head spin trying to keep up with emerging technologies and trends. As a modern musician you have to constantly be searching out not only new venues to perform at, but also keeping your ear to the ground in an effort to understand trends and what’s coming. Yes, maintaining web sites, facebook, twitter, blogs and all may cut into a little practise time. Still, you have to find a way to balance all these elements in today’s music world in order to survive and thrive. The music is the muse and sharing the music is why we all get into this. It is easy to get hooked on that stage time adrenalin, so you have to have a good musical foundation. Without that element, you’ve got nothing. In reality it’s not all that you need. Raw talent on it’s own does nothing to help you through the maze of today’s industry. Everywhere you turn companies stand with their hand out offering to help you for a fee. It seems to be a trend many are using for survival, so be cautious. Talk to others who have used these services before signing up to anything that puts it’s hand in your wallet. Some companies are reputable and will deliver as expected, others are less scrupulous and once they have your money can be difficult to deal with. While no one is an army by themselves and your career will be helped along with the right people assisting you, choose carefully and wisely who you tie yourself up with. Un-doing those ties can be costly and difficult. As my life long friend and ex-bandmate Dennis Olsen use to say, “love many, trust few and always paddle your own canoe”.
Until next time, happy gig hunting and trail blazing through the mind boggling maze of the music biz. Brother T.