We are living in unique and unprecedented times. The situation we are facing is one unlike anything we’ve ever faced in our lifetimes. Depending on where you live, your life may have changed quite dramatically over the last few weeks. I realize some of you are in locations where your day to day life may have not been as dramatically affected, and perhaps some of you are going about your day to day life more or less the same as before. But all of us have been impacted by the Covid-19 situation in one way or another at this point, directly or indirectly.
I’m doing my best to make lemonade out of lemons throughout this situation. I’ve developed a new routine in order to adapt to the situation where I am located currently, where life has changed dramatically in a very short period of time. As I mentioned in my last post, for the moment I’m stuck in the Caribbean with no flights going in or out for the time being. I’ve purchased two flights back to the states, on two different airlines, and both were cancelled due to the Covid-19 situation, with no refunds, only a credit to be used at a later date.
Originally there was a curfew from 8 PM to 6 AM, but that was changed to 5 PM to 6 AM a few days ago. So that means, any errands I need to run, like getting food, walking my dog, getting water, etc have to be done before 5 PM. Anyone out after this time risks being arrested. All the restaurants, bars and non-essential businesses have been shut down for now.
So, that’s my current situation and one of the things that has surprised me the most about this whole experience is just how quickly I’ve adapted. I now have a new daily routine that revolves around the new rules and restrictions in place. It goes like this…
I get up early, around 7 AM. I make coffee, eat fruit and do my morning meditation. I work for a few hours on HTLYM and make daily updates, answer emails, etc. I break for lunch around noon. I come back and post my song of the day (I’m posting a song a day on social media throughout my lockdown). I work a few more hours. I do a daily walk/swim on the beach around 4. I’m back home by 5 to avoid being out after curfew. I then meet my neighbors, who live in the same building and both play music, on our rooftop for our nightly, open air jam session, which we’ve been filming and posting highlights of on my Youtube Channel, which you can see here. Then I eat dinner and usually work on new tracks for several hours. At the end of the day, I usually hang out and watch Netflix with my girlfriend and then proceed to fall asleep, exhausted from a full day of activity.
In many ways, life feels quite normal, until I stop to think about just how strange the entire situation really is. But, humans are incredibly adaptive, and certainly my ancestors lived through much harder and more arduous times than this. This whole thing has really made me grateful for just how easy my life has actually been, relatively speaking, up until now. Suddenly, all the petty things that bothered me a few weeks ago don’t seem like such a big deal.
The upside for me is that I’ve been writing, recording and sharing more music than ever. I’ve been writing new songs almost every day and sharing more music and performance footage online. Although the restrictions on my freedom and movement feel confining, it’s also made my life, for now, very, very simple. I joke with my girlfriend each night and say, “What should we do tonight? Hmmm, I say, after a thoughtful pause, how about we just stay in tonight”. Then we both have a good laugh. Humor is important in times like this.
When your options are limited, life becomes simple, and in some ways, actually less stressful. I’m using this period to catch up on all the things I’ve been putting off due to my normal schedule and I’m choosing to view this as a great opportunity to be productive and creative in areas that need more attention.
In terms of HTLYM and HTLYM Premium, I’ve been making some major changes to the site and using this time to update the content in the member’s area. I’ll be announcing a major promotion later this week, the biggest in our history, that anyone who wants to use this time to further their licensing, songwriting and composition careers will be able to take advantage of. Look for an email with all the details in a few days.
In the meantime, stay safe, stay productive, stay creative and keep the music flowing.
My neighbors and I have put together a band, a project that will last as long as the lockdown/quarantine lasts. We're calling ourselves "Bandits Of The Apocalypse", which is a pretty kick ass name for a band if you ask me. We're doing a series of rooftop concerts which we'll be posting footage of on my Youtube Channel. Here's a clip from our first performance:
Listen to the audio version of this blog on my podcast:
First of all, my heart goes out to all of you that have been impacted by the Covid-19 situation. A lot of musicians, particularly performing musicians have been hit particularly hard and have had months of events cancelled. So, if you’re in that category I feel for you.
I don’t make a significant portion of my income from performing these days, but I was in the midst of performing in the Caribbean when all this started and have lost several weeks worth of gigs as a result. It was really bad timing for me because I was experiencing a real rejuvenated passion for performing again and was busier performing live than I have been in a long time when this whole situation took a turn for the worse.
But, in this post I want to discuss ways we can all make the most out of this strange situation we find ourselves in and make a little lemonade out of the big bowl of lemons we’ve been abruptly served. None of us can entirely control the circumstances we find ourselves in, but we can always control how we respond. This entire situation is a great reminder of that fact. I really would love to go back to several weeks ago when I was out playing gigs, rehearsing with my band and going about my day to day life doing all the things so many of us take for granted.
But, here we are and to be honest, there’s something about the entire situation that I find oddly inspiring. Don’t get me wrong, it sucks on one level. But there’s also something about the intensity of the situation and just how much things have changed in such a short period of time that I find awe inspiring.
Like I said, I was in the Caribbean playing gigs when all this unfolded and my flight back to Chicago which was scheduled for the 21st of this month, was cancelled at the last minute due to the Covid-19 situation. I have another flight back to the States that is scheduled for the 31st, but there’s no guarantee that it will leave, as things are changing day by day and no one seems to know exactly what’s going on. The US Embassy is closed due to The Corona Virus, the Airlines seem as clueless as everyone else if and when you can get through to them at all, and no one seems to really know exactly what’s going on. I have surrendered to the fact that this is out of my hands at this point.
So here I am, for the moment stuck in the Caribbean, not entirely sure when I’ll be going back to Chicago. And before you think oh cry me a river, you’re trapped in paradise, it could be a lot worse. Well, it's not as ideal as it sounds. Pretty much everything is closed, with the exception of supermarkets and pharmacies. There are long lines to buy food as only a handful of people can go in at a time. The streets are eerily empty. Most people that you see are walking around with masks on. The only place that seems somewhat normal are the beaches where you still see a few kite surfers that have remained and seems to be the only place where the expats that are still here quasi-socialize, with a healthy amount of social distance and fresh Caribbean air between them.
So, I’m more or less on lock down and with the exception of my daily walk on the beach and my bi-weekly trips to the supermarket, I’m spending most of my time in a little apartment I’m renting here with my girlfriend, across the street from the beach. There’s an 8 PM curfew, so everyone is required inside from 8 PM to 6 AM. Not that there is really anything to do outside anyway.
That’s my situation. It’s taken me a few days to adapt to the unfolding situation, but like I said, I’m now finding the experience strangely inspiring. I’ve already come up with some really productive ways to pass the time and make the most out of this experience, however long it lasts and wherever I am.
Here’s a list of things I’m doing or will soon be doing to fill the extra time inside, stay inspired and make the most out of this situation:
Write New Music - This one is a no-brainer, but if you’re a writer and/or composer now is a great time to write and record more music. What I've heard from all of my contacts in the licensing industry that I’ve been in touch with the last few weeks, the licensing industry is moving forward relatively unscathed for now. Content is still being curated, shows are still being scheduled and strategized, music is still being created and supervisors are still looking for music. Some productions will definitely be affected in the short term, but I’m still getting requests for music almost daily for ongoing projects.
Regardless of what happens going forward, now is a great time to beef up your catalog, finish your tracks that are unfinished, write and record new music and keep moving forward as a writer/composer. Writing music is a fairly solitary endeavor anyway, so in many ways now is a really ideal time to be a songwriter/composer and many of us are probably already used to spending a fair amount of time alone working on our craft.
Post Music Online - Like I said, I’ve found this whole situation strangely invigorating and I’ve actually decided to write, record and post a new song on Facebook every day throughout this ordeal, inspired by the whole experience (see below).
In many ways now is perhaps the best time we’ve ever lived through to be posting and sharing music online, because there are way more people online with a lot more time to kill than ever before. I’m finding that people are really receptive to checking out music right now. Plus, people need music and connection at the moment, and since many of us are locked inside, I don’t think there’s been a better time to express yourself and share your music with the world. My plan, like I said, is to write a song a day, for however long this lasts and then at the end of all this, take the ones that have been best received and package them together into an official release for Spotify, Bandcamp, etc.
Practice – Now is a great time to practice your instrument or instruments. I’m spending at least an hour or two playing guitar each day. I play a lot in general, but when things are “normal” I tend to go through spurts of practicing where I’ll practice a lot for a few weeks and then something will inevitably come along and rob my attention and push my practicing to the back-burner, whether it’s a new business project, my social life, etc.. But now, however long this lasts, I’ll have an extended period of time to focus on all those new licks and songs I’ve been wanting to learn.
Live Streaming – I’ve seen a ton of musicians live streaming the past week or so. It’s been really cool to see so many musicians I know playing music online and getting their fans and friends to rally around them. Many musicians are asking for donations, linking to where people can buy their music and support them. Again, with so many people stuck inside and going online, now is an amazing time to get your music out to a larger, more receptive audience online. I haven’t started doing this yet, but my band and I are trying to figure out how we can live stream together, while still adhering to safe social distancing guidelines and plan to do something soon.
Sell Music Online - Bandcamp had their single biggest day of sales last Friday, when they waived all their fees for musicians for a period of 24 hours. Again, people are online and they’re receptive. I also think people in general are very empathetic right now. They understand we’re all in this together and are willing to help in any way they can. So, if you have music online for sale, now is a great time to put together special bundles and promotions for your fans. Let people know if you’ve been affected by the Covid-19 situation. Tell people how they can help and support you. They won’t know if you don’t tell them.
Podcasting – This whole thing has actually motivated me to re-launch my podcast. I haven’t done an episode for a few months, for a variety of reasons which I’ll explain in more detail in the future, but I’m really feeling inspired now to stay connected as best as possible to the outside world and help my fellow musicians out in any way I can during this time. I have some great new ideas on how to do that via my podcast and blog, which I will be exploring in the near future.
Meditation / Reflection / Awareness – Finally, this one isn’t exactly related to music per se, but many people, myself included, have noticed and mentioned there is a spiritual component to all of this. It’s hard to put into words, but I certainly feel like something is different, apart from the obvious. Maybe it’s the result of our lives being disrupted so much, in such a short period of time. Or maybe it’s because in a sense we’re all being forced to take a step back, slow down and reflect. Whatever it is, I feel it, as have many people I’ve spoken to and I think it’s contributed to the sense of inspiration I’ve derived from all of this. It sort of feels like this is one of those very significant cultural moments where we need to collectively come together and raise our frequency. I realize I sound a bit like a hippie here, but, well, so be it.
Surrender – And finally, also not directly related to music, but I feel like this is one of those events, so big, and so clearly out of our individual control, that ultimately there’s not much we can really do but take a deep breath, relax and surrender. I think one of the reasons I’m feeling more and more relaxed, after a few pretty stressful days, is that I realize this whole thing is out of my hands. All I can do is do the best to focus on the things I can control, one day at a time. For me that involves staying healthy, staying calm, making and sharing my music, keeping my girlfriend and dog safe, and getting a good night’s sleep.
Everything else is out of my hands. In the meantime, the birds are singing outside my window and I’ve never heard them this loud and this happy. Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention before.
Like I said, I’m writing and recording one new song a day, however long this whole Covid 19 / Lock down situation lasts. These are all very sparse productions, using one mic and one or two takes, guitar and vocals. My idea is just to focus on writing and connecting with people for now. At some point I’ll go back and pick the strongest songs and record them and release them “properly”.
You can check out my first Covid-19 / Lockdown inspired track, “A Couple Months Ago” here:
Well, it’s been an interesting few weeks to say the least. We have all watched the events unfold over the last couple months, culminating in all the recent changes that have affected our way of life and economy in a very short time. I can imagine we’re all experiencing a lot of different emotions right now. I know I am. It feels like I went to sleep in one world and woke up in another.
In late January I started really paying attention to the Corona Virus and was following closely the events transpiring, at the time, in China. I started following a couple different Youtubers that were breaking down the data and what to expect going forward. They were urging people to start stocking up on food and start taking precautions for what more and more was looking like a probable pandemic based on the known rate of infection and the mortality rate of COVID-19, aka "The Corona Virus".
For several weeks, I vacillated back and forth between being very concerned, and even urging several friends to consider taking precautions and start preparing for something big, to assuming this would all just blow over like previous health scares in my lifetime have. Most of my friends playfully made fun of me and assured me there was nothing to worry about. I’m somewhat of a hypochondriac about germs and disease by default, and so I thought maybe I was just blowing the whole thing out of proportion. I mean, after all, I’m no virologist and what do a few random Youtubers really know anyway.
So, eventually I got tired of paying so much attention to the whole story and since no one else seemed very concerned, I sort of forgot about it for a couple weeks. I even wrote a blog post back on the 9th of March, less than two weeks ago, where I downplayed things and basically said there’s not much to see here, which more and more was how I was starting to feel at the time.
Since then, as we all know, things started taking a much more serious turn in parts of the world and in the USA, where I’m from. First a few dozen cases, then a few hundred, then a couple thousand and growing. As of this writing, there are now 10,781 cases in the USA and over 230,000 cases worldwide, with cases doubling on average every four days.
The last few days in particular have seemed somewhat surreal. I’ve been describing the feeling to friends and family as the feeling of being in a movie. I feel like I’m the character in the latest Hollywood blockbuster about an outbreak. Except, as we all know, this isn’t a movie. This is our reality at the moment.
When I was younger, I used to always say that I wished I was living in a more interesting time. I would read about more tumultuous and volatile times in history, like the 1960s for example, and look at all the amazing art and music that was inspired by the challenges of that generation and wonder what it would have been like to have been alive in such interesting and culturally vibrant times. And, well, although this isn’t exactly what I was hoping for in terms of living in more interesting times, I think we can all sense the historical significance of what we’re living through at the moment. The significance is palpable.
It’s taken me a few days to sort of begin to process the changes we’re going through and will likely continue to go through for the next few months, or possibly longer. A lot of questions remain unanswered. How long will this last? What will the short and long term impact be on the economy? What will the impact be on the music and music licensing industries? What will the impact be on my business endeavors? What will the impact be on our social lives and our mental health?
I don’t have all the answers to these questions and I don’t think anyone does at the moment. For now, I’m simply taking things day by day, doing my best to adapt to what’s unfolding in the world. I think that’s the best we can do; just deal with things as they come.
As a fellow musician, I hope it goes without saying that my thoughts are with everyone affected by the COVID-19 pandemic both in the music industry, and in general, around the world. The good news is that since HTLYM and HTLYM Premium is for the most part online, and doesn’t require offline interaction, my team and I will be continuing to operate as usual. Myself, Gary Gray and everyone connected to HTLYM remain committed to providing the best resources available to songwriters and musicians working in the licensing space during these challenging times. Regardless of what changes happen as a result of the COVD-19 pandemic, we will adapt accordingly.
I’ve been thinking a lot of different ways that we can better help our community of songwriters and musicians out there during these difficult times. At some point I’ll likely be introducing several new programs and discounts our community will be able to take advantage of during this period of uncertainty and increased time spent inside. At some point, when the timing feels right. For the time being, I’m just going to take this all in and focus on living life in the moment.
For now, I just want to say, hang in there. I’m here for you in whatever capacity I’m able to be. If you need anything, feel free to reach out or leave your comments below. How has your life changed the last few weeks? Are you working from home? Have you lost gigs? Are you working on more music as a result of spending more time inside? What good do you see coming from all of this?
Every crisis presents both danger and opportunity and this situation is clearly no exception.
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. - Franklin D. Roosevelt
For weeks now I’ve been putting out content in the form of blogs and videos, doing my best to go about life as usual and ignore the giant, crown shaped elephant in the room that’s on everyone’s mind and being talked about non-stop in every news outlet around the world. I’ve avoided discussing it because it doesn’t really have anything to do with music or being a musician directly, and since I’m not a medical expert, I didn’t really feel qualified to discuss the subject. But it’s such a prevalent part of what’s going on in the world at the moment and it’s having such an impact on the world, including the live concert industry, that I feel it would be somewhat out of touch to not saying anything at all about it. Of course, I’m talking about the Corona Virus and like many of you I can assume, it’s been on my mind a bit the last few weeks.
When I was younger, as in my pre-teen years into my early twenties, I was a pretty major hypochondriac. I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but I used to spend a lot of time at my local library researching different diseases I thought I might have and I would freak out every time I had what I thought was a symptom related to one of several different possible diseases or conditions I could hypothetically have. Once I had an episode of chest pains that led me to the emergency room. Six hours later, after several tests I went home with a clean bill of health and a 900 dollar hospital bill.
As I got older, these sorts of irrational fears and worries and episodes of over- reacting gradually subsided. I think at a certain point I sort of got bored with my own fears and realized the futility of getting worked up over every possible thing that could go wrong health wise. Every once in a while, if I have some sort of new or unexplained symptom, if I’m not careful, I can temporarily fall down the rabbit hole of fear and dread that is the internet, trying to self-diagnose myself and getting sucked into worst case scenario outcomes listed on different medical websites. These days I’m able to avoid letting my mind go there for very long. I approach things more rationally and objectively.
When I look back at all the wasted energy and time spent worrying about things that never came to pass, I realize that all my worry and fear accomplished nothing, or at the best very little. You could argue that evolutionarily speaking, a certain amount of fear is healthy. It’s our survival instinct. If I’m afraid that there’s something wrong with my heart and that motivates me to get it checked out and I discover there is something wrong and I catch it early, then that fear served a purpose. I’m being proactive about my health. And a certain amount of concern over health and well being is good. A certain amount. Just enough to get you to take the necessary action. But anything over that, any time spent ruminating or being anxious or wasting time fretting about things you can’t control is pointless. It accomplishes nothing and robs you of energy that could be channeled into more productive pursuits you could be focused on during your finite time on earth.
It’s the same with over arching fears we have about our lives and our ability to survive. Think about how fear effects the choices we make in the context of something like pursuing our goals related to music. If we fear for our security and survival too much it can hold us back from chasing our dreams and achieving our goals at all and we’ll resign ourselves to living a safe, but unfulfilled life. On the other hand, if we simply throw caution to the wind and go after our dreams with no safety net or back up plan we could, worst case scenario, end up homeless or destitute. So, a little bit of fear is healthy. It’s our mind’s attempt to mitigate the risks of life. But when we let fear dictate our lives and control us, it holds us back. Like the Buddhists say, take the middle way.
It’s been interesting to see the reaction of my friends and acquaintances to the Corona Virus. It runs the gamut from little to no concern on one end, to one of my friends buying hazmat suits for him and his family. And everything in between. I’m somewhere in the middle, leaning towards, on most days, not really giving it much thought. I bought a jar of hand sanitizer and about two weeks worth of Vienna sausages, pasta and water last week. I’m doing my best to stay informed but to also approach things rationally and calmly. I won’t get into the statistics or data in this blog post, because I’m certainly no epidemiologist, and there’s so much conflicting data coming out of an endless stream of news outlets, who all have their own agenda, as do the governments reporting the data, that it’s almost impossible to interpret intelligently or accurately.
But I will say this, even based on the absolute worst-case scenario, in terms of statistics being reported and data we currently have available, the vast majority of us will survive this. Just like we survived H1N1, Ebola, Swine Flu, Sars, Influenza and countless other outbreaks we were told to fear. In the meantime, life goes on and I personally refuse to be overcome by or give in to fear. Plus, fear and stress lowers your immune system, so it’s counter-productive to fighting viruses anyway.
I was talking to a friend recently about the Corona Virus and he seemed concerned. After several minutes of reciting data I had heard and assuring him we’ll probably be ok, I looked at him and said, you know, either way, we’re all going to die in the end anyway, so it’s probably not worth losing sleep over. And with that my friend smiled in agreement and we moved on to a different topic.
I’ve spent the last two months or so playing shows in the Caribbean to tourists from all over the world in my Caribbean bar band, The Garden Slugs. Here’s a short clip of one of our recent performances (that's me playing lead guitar):
I’ve had so much fun the last few months playing live shows that it inspired me to write a post about playing live and how it compares to pursuing something like licensing music. They are clearly much different endeavors and they each have their own pros and cons to consider.
Playing In Bands
I’ve been performing live since I was 16 years old. I played in a hard rock band in high school with three other guys that were all in their thirties and forties. This band played a handful of outdoor shows in and around Kankakee, IL where I lived at the time. This was my first experience playing in a band, rehearsing and playing shows and it gave me a glimpse of just how much fun being in a band and playing live music can be.
Since then, I’ve played and performed with probably a dozen or so different bands, duos and ensembles over the years. Some of my fondest memories as a musician have been hanging out and performing in bands. When everything lines up, nothing beats the feeling of being part of a group, working together to create a collaborative musical experience. From the rehearsals, to the camaraderie that develops as a result of spending so much time together and the experience of playing live shows, playing in a rock band, when it’s working, is the ultimate experience that can be had as a musician. For me at least. There’s nothing quite like it when your firing on all cylinders and things are going well.
Of course, things don’t always work out well and often times bands have a high turnover rate and a tendency to self-implode due to inflated egos, creative differences, pressure to earn money and so on. It can be challenging to get four or five people on the same page, working towards a goal that in many cases takes a long time to realize, if realized it all. They don’t always work in the long run, but when they do work, playing in a band is a great vehicle for creative expression, camaraderie and friendship. When a band works, you literally “band” together with a group of people, while working towards a common goal. Pretty cool.
On the other hand, when they don’t work out, there can be a sense of wasted time and spinning your wheels. I’ve spent years playing in bands that, in the end, abruptly broke up and went their separate ways, with little to show for our time together. That’s life of course, there are no guarantees. I used to feel really discouraged when things didn’t work out with different musical projects I invested time in. It was one of the experiences that motivated me to pursue licensing in the first place.
Over the years though, I’ve realized that each project was a stepping stone to the next one and although a project may end up not going the distance or achieving as much success as I hoped, there have been valuable experiences that I’ve gleaned from every band and project I’ve participated in. I’ve also found that with age and maturity, I’m either getting better at picking the right people to play with or I’ve simply become a more agreeable person, perhaps a bit of both. My last couple projects have been much less dysfunctional and just more fun in general, which is my main goal with playing and performing music.
Another great thing about playing live is that you get immediate, real time feedback. My current band plays both covers and originals. I love playing new originals live because it’s really easy to figure out which songs people respond to and which ones don’t elicit a great reaction. Most crowds don’t lie or pretend to like you in my experience. If you play something and it sucks, most crowds will let you know with a lackluster response.
But on the other hand, if you play something and the crowd is really into it, you can feel that based on their response. My current band has tried several of my originals and there have been two so far in particular that crowds seems to really love, so we’ve kept those two in rotation, while dropping a few others that didn’t seem to go over as well and we’re constantly trying new covers as we go, to get a sense of what works and what doesn’t.
This sort of immediate feedback you get when playing live is great compared to something like recording music by yourself while pursuing licensing opportunities. Often times it’s really hard to get quick, objective feedback while pursuing licensing opportunities. The process of writing, recording and pitching your music can play out over months, and it can take a long time to really figure out and get a sense of what’s working and what’s not.
When you play live, you know in that very moment whether people like it. This of course doesn’t necessarily translate to what works well in the context of licensing, they are two very different mediums. But to a certain extent, a good song is a good song and getting feedback on what people generally respond positively to, or not, is very valuable and serves as a good gauge in terms of whether or not what you’re writing resonates with people.
You Get Paid Instantly
One of the other great things about playing live is that if and when you get paid, you get paid on the spot. There’s no waiting around for months and months like there is with music licensing. If you’re playing a gig for money, you get paid at the end of the night. Well, usually, if all goes smoothly. Normally it goes smoothly.
Recording And Music Licensing
The process of writing and recording music is obviously much different than playing live. I love writing songs and the entire reason I’ve pursued writing and recording music is that I want people to hear my music and I want to present my music in the best possible light. I know that in order for my music to have the impact I want it to have, it needs to be “packaged” well in terms of the production and performance.
One of the great things about recording is that you can take your time and make sure each performance is the best you can get it. You can fine tune and edit things. If you record a take and you make mistakes, you can simply do it again. This is both good and bad. It’s good in the sense that it allows you to re-do things until you can get them as good as you can get them. It’s bad in the sense that if you’re not careful, it’s easy to get lazy and to simply fall back on things like auto tune, rhythm correction and so on.
There are some amazing production tools that we musicians have at our disposal these days, but they are just tools to enhance and improve our natural talents. It’s easy to trick yourself into thinking you’re more talented than you really are if you’re only confined to your studio, using plugin after plugin to make yourself sound better. Of course, production is a skill and an art unto itself, so it’s not to say there isn’t a certain amount of “talent” that goes into creating great productions, there clearly is, but it doesn’t necessarily translate to performing live and into other facets of the music business.
At this point in my musical journey, it’s clear to me that what makes the most sense for me is a combination of both playing live shows as well as writing, recording and licensing my music. It’s not an either/or thing. Also, live music is one aspect of the music industry that is unlikely to go away anytime soon. Although the internet had a dramatic impact on the recording industry and has decimated CD and download sales, the live music industry continues to thrive and is expected to continue to grow in the foreseeable future. (See: https://www.pollstar.com/News/the-growing-impact-of-the-live-business-138039)
So, to the extent that there is job security in the music business, developing and cultivating your performance chops will give you another tool in your toolbox when it comes to securing a career in music. While you’re waiting for your licensing checks to come in, you can be out playing shows making cold hard cash and having a lot of fun at the same time.
Follow me on Spotify
I’ve been playing a ton of music lately. I’ve been rehearsing and gigging with my latest project several nights a week and practicing, writing and playing guitar at least a couple hours each day. I love periods like this because the progress I make is so obvious and tangible. It reminds me of when I was studying music and guitar at Berklee College of Music and used to spend hours each day in a practice room, practicing guitar, and then hours more each night at the end of the day in different jam sessions. I progressed more during my two years at Berklee than perhaps any time before or since. It was non -stop music, all day, every day. I couldn’t help but to get better.
But there’s another kind of progress that’s more gradual and less noticeable until you look back over time. I was going through my archives of old recordings of different bands and projects I’ve played in over the years a few nights ago. I was listening to a show I performed in Chicago in 2004 with my old band Continuum. The first thing that struck me was how much I’ve improved as a vocalist. In fact, I was shocked at how bad of a singer I was back then, compared to now. My vocal performance on every song I heard was really bad. In fact, it was atrocious.
I was so taken aback at how bad I was that I immediately went and listened to a recording of myself singing at a recent show from a few days ago to make sure I don’t still sound like that. I breathed a sigh of relief. It was much, much better. It was night and day in fact. It didn’t even sound like the same vocalist.
This realization that I had come so far as a vocalist over the last 16 years gave me a huge sense of satisfaction. Although at first, I was shocked at just how bad I sounded back in the day, compared to now, I was also really thrilled to hear how far I had come.
The more I thought about the progress I’ve made and just how gradual it’s been, the more elated I felt. Over the years there have been times where I would get sort of hard on myself in terms of feeling like I hadn’t progressed as much as I wanted to or “should” have in music. It’s something I’ve gotten a lot better at over the years. But at times I used to get pretty hard on myself when I felt like I wasn’t progressing fast enough. I think a lot of us creative, artistic types are. Art and music is so important to us, that some of us have a tendency to get down when we’re not progressing or moving forward at the rate we think we “should” be. Whatever that means.
But, despite my own inner critic, I’ve kept going over the years, writing my songs, performing as much as possible, practicing guitar and vocals, licensing my music in as many places as possible and so forth. And lo and behold, I’ve improved immensely, albeit gradually. I’m not sure if the old adage practice makes perfect is true, but practice certainly makes better.
All this is to say, wherever you’re at with music, keep going. Sometimes it can seem like you’re sort of spinning your wheels and not getting anywhere. But if you keep putting in the work, day after day, year after year, you will improve. The longer you go, when you look back, the more stark the contrast will be compared to when you started. And as you improve, you will see results in terms of more gigs, placements, success and so on. It’s inevitable.
To be honest, I still don’t really consider myself a great vocalist, in the traditional sense. Singing, for whatever reason, has just never come naturally to me and it’s taken a long time to become comfortable as a vocalist. But I’ve been compelled to sing and work on my singing because I write songs, and although for recording and licensing I sometimes recruit other vocalists to sing on my tracks, there’s nothing like getting on stage and singing something you wrote, from the heart, for a live audience.
Like I always say, focus on the things you can control. You might not be able to control the entire industry, or the gatekeepers, or the tastes of a fickle public, but you can always focus on improving your craft. Whether it’s improving your singing, an instrument you play, or the songs and compositions you write, your production chops, whatever it is you need to improve… these things are in no one’s hands but your own. When you focus on what you can control, you take your power back, and when you do this consistently, over time, you’ll see incredible growth, which will inevitably lead to more opportunities. For me, this growth and progress make the whole journey worthwhile.
The blog of musician and thinker of deep thoughts, Aaron Davison.