I was cramming for a gig this last week- a whopper set with over 64 songs and less than 4 days to work it up. Desperate for any edge I could get, I dropped $30 on the practice software AnyTune. AnyTune allows you to organize MP3s into sets, tag specific songs to practice, stair step up and down the tempo and key signature, and much much more.
This week I'm excited to have my friend and fellow Nashville musician DJ Phillips write about what he looks for when hiring pro musicians for his cover band, The Downtown Band.
DJ is someone I admire not just for his quick wit, crazy guitar chops and robust business sense, but also for his uncanny ability to hire and retain top level music talent in a town where it's difficult to hire top talent. My first gig with the band was subbing in for their keyboardist who was currently on tour with Brett Eldridge, and most of the musicians in the group are playing or have played with major acts during their careers. With over 100+ top level musicians in rotation, I don't know anyone better at identifying and hiring successful musicians.
few months ago I played a wedding gig with some great musicians from Nashville. In typical Nashville fashion, every musician was amazing, talented, and fun to hang around with in the green room. Except one guy.
Musicians and artists are in the marketing business, and almost everything that applies to marketing a product applies to how musicians sell their brand. Here’s some of the common mistakes that musicians make when engaging with fans:
If you’re playing a long set, it’s easy to zone out and miss an important part live. Here’s a few tricks to avoid making an embarrassing mistake live:
1. Take notes beforehand.
When I say take notes, I mean chart out every song, write notes for every transition, write in the notes for every solo you play, include which patches you need for each song, etc. It’s very hard to take too many notes, and mentally writing down what you need to focus on in each song will keep you attentive at the gig.
I keep saying this in blogs because its so important: listen. Lock in as much as you can in the feel that the other band members are creating onstage, and blend in. Don’t go on autopilot with what you’re playing, or it will show. It’s easy to sonically get in the way of others when you stop listening to them.
3. Finesse your dynamics, not your notes.
By the time that you’re playing the gig, you’ve probably got all of your notes locked in. Rather than throwing off the other musicians in the group by switching your rhythms or notes, focusing on being subtle with your dynamics can keep you interested while locking in more tightly with the rest of the group.
4. Use self talk.
Keep the running dialogue in your head pointed in productive directions, and make it laser focus on your own musicianship instead of pointing out faults in other players. Above all, stay positive about your performance. Say stuff to yourself like “I’ve got this” and “you’re doing great”. It sounds stupid, but it will make a big difference in your performance.
The music industry is a ridiculously competitive field. With many musicians willing to work for free or very close to free, it makes it hard for professionals to compete. So what’s a young pro musician to do? Here are 5 ways to be more successful at getting work:
As most of you know, I love the music program MainStage. I started blogging about it about 5 years ago when I started this blog, and it quickly became a popular topic. Earlier this year I split out my MainStage interests into a full fledged patch creation company called www.patchfoundry.com, and this week we launched a brand new way of controlling MainStage’s sounds.
This last week I bought a new MacBook Pro (at least new to me). My old model wasn’t quite fast enough for some of the massively multi-track count projects I’ve been working on, and it was finally time. If you’re thinking you need to upgrade, here’s some tricks on making it less stressful:
1. Back up everything using Time Machine.
A time machine backup is the best (and cheapest) insurance for your computer, and helps you restore everything if something goes catastrophically wrong.
2. Copy all of your files to a separate hard drive.
Once you’ve created a Time Machine backup, get an second external drive and back up all of the important data from Documents, Movies, Photos, Music, and anywhere else you have your files stored. This will help you save just the information you need, and eliminate what you don’t.
3. Don’t forget to save presets and other data from your music creation apps.
In the past I’ve forgotten to save patch libraries, channel strip settings and much more when I upgraded. Before you switch, look up all of the locations of the stuff inside apps that are important to you and back them up to your external hard drive.
4. Write down all of your passwords and login items on a piece of paper.
Don’t put it in a spreadsheet- it’s easy for hackers to get that info. Writing it all out will ensure you can actually access the apps and accounts you have when you install them again.
5. Do a “clean install” of all your applications.
I know it’s a pain, but it can really help speed up your system by eliminating corrupted or irrelevant files on your computer.
6. Install any drivers for any hardware you have.
Don’t install the drivers for your hardware equipment until everything else is in place and functioning properly.
7. Don’t wipe/sell your old computer until your new computer is completely up and running.
If all else fails and you accidentally delete an important file or can’t get a program functioning, having your old computer around as a backup will keep you productive while you troubleshoot.
I was introduced to the personality analysis system called the Enneagram a few weeks ago, and it’s been really challenging the way I think about myself and the people I’m around. I’ve been familiar with personality tests (I think they’re fun to do), but the Enneagram takes personality analysis to the next level with incredibly detailed explanations of 8 basic personality types.
So how does this help you in your music career? It helps you understand a little more the reactions of others, and why you might be reacting the way you are to certain pressures. For instance, I was recently working on a publishing deal between two people: I guessed one of the people to be a type 4 and the other person felt like they were close to a type 8 (I’m not good at assessing personality types yet, but I think I was close enough for it to be useful).
Things weren’t going too smoothly, but by understanding a little about the personality types I was able to understand a little more where each personality was coming from. My type 4 friend’s biggest fear according to the Enneagram is “That they have no identity or personal significance”. She was really concerned that the publishing deal would fall through if we didn’t move quickly, and that the music she’d written wouldn’t be remembered.
My type 8 friend’s biggest fear, according to the Enneagram is “being harmed or controlled by others”, and he was reacting this way in the dispute. He was overly concerned that he was going to get ripped off even though that was an unlikely outcome, and told me that he felt he was being manipulated by the other party.
Because I could understand some general motivations for each party I was able to help diffuse the base emotion instead of getting bogged down in the details of the argument. I tried to reassure my type 4 friend that her music is significant, beautiful, and will be successful even if this deal does fall through, and I encouraged her to be patient. I told my type 8 friend that no one wanted to rip him off, and that I’d be with him every step of the way until we reach an agreement that would works for everyone.
It’s not perfect and it’s not the solution for every problem, but understanding the different personality types using the Enneagram structure has helped me understand others better than I have in the past. If you’re in the music industry, I’d encourage you to read through the types and get a basic understanding of each type- you might be amazed how much you’l learn about those around you and your own motivations, and it's a lot of fun!