The Entrepreneurial Musician Blog by Andrew Hitz featuring articles on being an entrepreneur in the music business. Show notes for The Entrepreneurial Musician Podcast.
Filtering by Category: Quote
"I'm a big believer in stepping stones. It's very rare in life that all of a sudden at the snap of a finger or the drop of a hat you are on top of the world with everything you possibly could ever imagine for your career. It's a process, and I think it's really good for young artists, or just up and coming artists, to realize that. So, as long as you're going on the trajectory that you want to see for yourself, you should consider yourself a success at all times.”
—Ranaan Meyer of Time from Three (from TEM125)
LOVE this reminder from one of the best and most successful bass players in the world, Ranaan Meyer.
This quote has extra meaning for me because Ranaan has been one of my best friends in the world for close to 20 years and this quote is reminding me that when I met him, he was "just" a really good bass player who happened to be a ridiculously nice guy.
He wasn't one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the music business. (yet)
He wasn't a household name for bass players. (yet)
He wasn't living in a huge house with an awesome wife and two beautiful children. (yet)
The fact that nobody starts on top is always most easily brought into focus by thinking of the people we have known for a very long time who happen to be very successful. Not only do you know firsthand that the Ranaan's in your life didn't start out on top but you also know they weren't "overnight sensations" (whatever the hell that means.)
I remember getting a call from Ranaan telling me about Time for Three when they had just started out. He was full of joy about it. But he certainly didn't call to tell me he had formed a band a week ago and that they were already booked to headline shows in Australia the following month! There was a very slow build to their seemingly meteoric rise.
Hell, 95% of all success stories I know in the music business sound something like Ranaan's story. Supremely talented and motivated musician who works his or her ass off eventually finds the right fill in the blank (people to partner with, their niche, their dream job, whatever) and the rest is history.
Unless you are longtime friends with Ranaan or Sara Bareilles or Jacomo Bairos, you first hear about them when the rest of us do. When they've already "made it." But we always have to keep in mind that just because we weren't hip to their long journey before they made it onto our radar doesn't mean it wasn't a long journey filled with lots of stepping stones.
So focus on the next stepping stone and the next thing you know you might be lucky enough to work your ass off until someone labels you an "overnight sensation."
The hard part is "steady."
Anyone can go slow. It takes a special kind of commitment to do it steadily, drip after drip, until you get to where you're going.
This goes for learning the Facebook ad platform, for learning double stops and for building a social media following.
Anyone can do a sprint. Anyone can do slow.
Steady takes self-awareness, discipline and a plan.
"Never do research in prime working time."
Well this quote sure was a kick in the pants for me. Actually, the entire book it comes from, Do The Work, has been one giant kick in the pants.
(Note: In the very near future, an upcoming episode of TEM will be a "Book Report" about this book. It's awesome.)
In his book, Pressfield warns about researching too much. To break down his argument to its simplest form, doing too much research is a crutch for not actually doing the work you are avoiding. He warns that it can become resistance.
We are all guilty of that from time to time. Some people are guilty of that all the time!
What I really love about this quoteis how he warns about doing research in the prime working hours of a day rather than doing actual work. This immediately led to me examining my working habits and making sure I'm utilizing my time and my brainpower to the best of my abilities.
As a side note that doesn't pertain directly to research, I have stopped cleaning up my inbox when I first sit down to work in the morning after my shower and coffee. This is prime mental capacity time for me (which I've only recently put my finger on since I'm finally paying attention to such things) and that is wasted by returning simple emails or deleting others.
The corollary to that is that I am pretty much braindead every single day at 4 pm. I don't know why but I am. If I try to pump out another 500 words for my next book at 4 pm it will take me four times as long as it would at 9 am. And it will suck!
So the combination of really paying attention to the data of when I work best (in terms of time of day, how much sleep I've gotten, what I've eaten and many other factors) and Pressfield's advice of not doing research in prime working hours has been a boon to my productivity.
"We don't have a talent problem. We have a shipping problem."
—Seth Godin from "Linchpin"
First of all, if you are the skimming type, at the bottom of this post there is a link to a book that Seth Godin has been generous enough to let me offer to my audience for free. Follow the link to get your free copy.
First of all, if you have not read Seth Godin's book "Linchpin" you should immediately stop reading my little blog here and go purchase it immediately. No seriously. Go do it right now. (And for the record that is not an affiliate link. I would of course let you know if it was. You just need to read the book because there is some life changing stuff in it.)
I just finished reading (actually listening since I am an Audible junky) "Linchpin" it for the second time and there will be a third time through it very soon.
The title of this post is a quote from the book and it is a blatant call to action.
Have you been "in the process" of writing a book for the last 18 months? I dare you to look in the mirror and say out loud that the reason you haven't published it (whether that means self-published or with a publisher) is because you are waiting to become a better writer.
Even if you might quietly think to yourself that that is a factor, I bet that if you say it out loud your bs detector is going to go off. In fact I guarantee it will.
(And you can substitute performing a recital, composing a symphony, opening a teaching studio, booking a tour for your band or anything else for writing a book.)
Because what's the way to get better as a writer? IT'S TO PUBLISH MORE DAMN BOOKS.
It's not to think about becoming a better a writer. It's not to read blog posts like this. And at some point (which is a lot earlier than a lot of us like to admit) it is not to read books, listen to podcasts, or watch videos telling us how to be a better writer.
You can accumulate all the information and inspiration in the world and if you don't actually write (and ship!) anything then what the hell are you really doing? Not much is the answer.
That's because the only way to truly learn anything is by shipping.
I used the word "you" in this post over and over again. And obviously I have shipped albums, podcasts, books, websites (all plural) over the years. But I promise you I am writing this post as a reminder to myself.
What the hell am I waiting to acquire more "talent" (whatever the hell that even means) or more knowledge or more financial support before I ship? Avoidance and fear never lead to learning. But shipping does.
So go ship.
Through the incredible generosity of Seth Godin I can offer you a copy an ebook copy of "Seth Godin: Live at Carnegie Hall" for free. You can click on the cover or click here to get your free copy.
"I'm no longer sure what the question is. But I do know the answer is yes."
I love this quote.
The more I pay attention to the people already doing what I want to be doing more of in the music business, the more variations of "saying yes" I hear.
I know I need reminding of this from time to time.
"Ideas are worthless without execution. Execution is pointless without the ideas."
—Gary Vaynerchuck from "#AskGaryVee: One Entrepreneur's Take on Leadership, Social Media, and Self-Awareness"
There aren't too many people in the world who are really great at both ideas and execution. There are some, but there aren't many.
If you are reading this right now, there is a very good chance you are great at one of these and only good at the other. Or great at one and average at the other.
This is why partnering with the right person (or people) is so imperative for anyone looking to be an entrepreneur. Find someone who compliments your strengths and weaknesses well and move forward with them. (That's why I partnered with this knucklehead to form Pedal Note Media.)
If you don't want to partner with anyone, outsource whatever it is you aren't great at. Even if you had the time to get great at everything (and if you're a human, you don't), I argue you shouldn't be wasting your time learning how to do these other things at the expense of spending more time doing the work you think will change the world.
And the key to all of this is self-awareness. If you are brutally honest with yourself about what you can and can't do, it informs who you partner with and even what you attempt to bring to the world in the first place.
Self-awareness informs the ideas and the execution. So the question is what can you do today to get a little more honest with yourself?
"Most people fail in life not because they aim too high and miss but because they aim too low and hit."
Is your big entrepreneurial idea really big enough? Would the rest of the world agree that it is a big idea or is that just your perspective?
When in doubt, dream bigger. The ideas that catch fire in the world of business are the ones who have lots of impact. They can impact many. Or they have a huge impact on a smaller number of people.
I don't know about you but that Les Brown quote above scares the crap out of me in a good way. It is making me challenge my beliefs that some of my ideas are big ideas and that is healthy.
When in doubt, aim higher.
"I don't think there is a shortage of remarkable ideas. I think your business has plenty of opportunities to do great things. Nope, what's missing isn't the ideas. It's the will to execute them."
—Seth Godin from The Purple Cow
This is especially true in the music business and in the arts in general. Artists are by definition creative people. We produce creative ideas for a living.
You have plenty of great ideas, many of them quite creative. The problem is so does your competition.
Execution is the name of the game.
It is infinitely harder to get your great idea for a chamber group booked for concerts than it is to come up with the group in the first place.
It is a lot harder to write a book than it is to come up with a good idea for one.
It is much easier to think of a great idea for a website than it is to actually build it.
If you are wondering why you are not having the same amount of success as your competition the answer is almost certainly execution. The X's and O's but also the will to execute.
"If you're great at marketing and your product is $#&@ it actually exposes you quicker because they have more awareness of how sucky you are."
—Gary Vaynerchuck from The Ask Gary Vee Show: Startup Grind LA
I harp over and over again in speeches, on the podcast and on this blog that getting noticed is the number one obstacle in 2016 for any artist "making it" in the music business. This point can't be made too many times.
But Gary Vaynerchuck makes a really great point in that quote above.
If you spend a lot of time mastering your marketing and engaging your potential customers where they are hanging out you need to make sure that one thing is true: that your product isn't sucky (as Gary colorfully puts it.)
You need to be sure that what you are doing is worth getting noticed by a large number of people before you attempt to get their attention. Because with all of the options available to human beings in 2016, none of us are going to give you attention again if our first taste was terrible.
(Note: If you want to get fired up and don't mind some profanity, click the link above to hear Gary Vaynerchuck address Startup Grind LA. It is a two hour talk that flies by. It's crazy how much information and passion that guy can pack into one speech.)
So this seems pretty obvious at first glance but I think it is worth sharing.
This quote comes from one of the many podcasts I consume on a regular basis, Hack the Entrepreneur with Jon Nastor.
In episode 159, Bryan Cohen of the Sell More Books Podcast gave his advice for starting a business:
"Combine what you're strong at with what you're passionate about."
He goes into detail about this in the interview but the important part of that quote is the second half of it.
Not a single reader needs this blog post to tell them that they should pursue something they are good at. This is pretty obvious.
The reason that the passion is the important part of the above equation is that being an entrepreneur is really hard work. There have been times when hosting two regularly produced podcasts has not been at all convenient. If I wasn't passionate not only about making podcasts but also the subject matter that's being discussed there is no way I would still be doing them a year later.
If you need proof, check out how the iTunes store is riddled with podcasts that have anywhere from 5 to 20 episodes with the latest episode being over a year old.
That's because producing content like a podcast regularly is a pain in the backside. But so is anything else in life that provides value to people. If it's not a lot of effort, a whole bunch of people would already be doing it and it wouldn't be worth it for you to even start in the first place.
So for just about any endeavor, you don't need passion in the beginning but there always comes a point when that is the only thing that will keep you going.
So make sure you have both parts of that quote covered before you embark on anything.
"The reason it's so hard to follow the leader is this: The leader is the leader because he did something remarkable. And that remarkable thing is now taken. It's no longer remarkable when you do it."
—Seth Godin from The Purple Cow
I would say a full 95% of all musicians I speak with who are struggling to gain traction within their corner of the music business are following the leader. This is a fool's errand.
The brilliant Seth Godin talks about marketing aspirin in his book The Purple Cow. (Bear with me...it couldn't be any more relevant.)
He asks the reader to imagine how easy it must have been to be the first person to market aspirin. It's cheap, easy to try, and solves a problem for just about every person alive. That copy writes itself.
Next he points out there over 100 kinds of aspirin in some form or other currently being sold. He then asks "Do you think it's still fun to be a marketer of aspirin?"
The answer is of course it isn't. That's a nightmare. Where do you even begin?
So the question you have to ask yourself is this:
Is what I am offering the music business (and therefor the world in general) the first aspirin or the 93rd aspirin?
It is also important to note that the manufacturer of each of those 100+ versions of aspirin can easily articulate how their version is different than the rest. Doo you know why that doesn't matter? If I had never taken aspirin in my life and was looking for a brand, do you think I would take the time to listen to 100 different manufacturers explain to me how each one is unique?
The answer is no. None of us would ever do that.
So if your woodwind quintet or your resume for a college teaching position are not obviously unique to your target audience with no explanation (since you won't have the opportunity to give that explanation anyways), you are most likely on a fool's errand.
So don't follow the leader. Be remarkable and lead yourself.
"The market needs a way to compare and contrast. And if you don't give them one they will default to price comparisons."
—John Jantsch from Duct Tape Marketing
Marketer John Jantsch makes a great point here. If there is not a way for your target audience to differentiate you from your competition, they will always default to the lowest cost.
There is a reason why graduation gigs for brass quintets don't tend to pay very well in areas where there are a lot of brass players. The artistic demands of such a gig are not very great. As a result (as Ron Davis explains perfectly in Episode 19 of The Entrepreneurial Musician), the various brass quintets around town are fungible. If any of them can do the job, the customer (that is the person hiring the quintet) will default to price point.
The players from the top symphony orchestra in town may very well charge $1500 or more for their services. If a group of very talented graduate students will do it for $500, the person hiring will probably go with the latter. That's because in the eyes of the customer, both groups will both do the same job equally well.
The take away is we need to make a case for why we are different than our competition in the eyes of our customers. In the case of playing graduations, this is probably not possible. But when developing our product (whether we are a chamber group or someone with a doctorate applying for university teaching jobs), we have to be sure to make it easy for our potential customers to compare and contrast us in a positive light.
If not, it will simply be a race to the bottom in terms of price point.
"Networking isn't about instant gratification. It is about fostering relationships over a career."
-Jeff Conner of Boston Brass from Episode 7 of The Entrepreneurial Musician
Networking is just like learning a really difficult recital program. It takes a plan and it takes having the discipline to execute that plan over the long haul.
A lot of musicians are good at networking. Not many are great.
That is an easy point of differentiation for anyone in the business who is willing to put in the effort.