6 False Beliefs That Can Turn a Good Musician, Bad.

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Featured: Wonder (@TheRealWonder) and Eva Walker (of The Black Tones @TheBlackTonesSeattle)

6 False Beliefs That Can Turn a Good Musicians, Bad.

FALSE BELIEF #1 – If you do music for money, you have no passion or soul.  People only respect artists untainted of greed for money.

Selling out.  A wiseman on top of a mountain once said, “the only people that shame a ‘sell out’ are people who don’t have the talent to do it”.  Selling an art takes skill and care and a heck of a lot of creativity.  Building business can be just as creative as writing a song or playing a show.  So you wrote a song – woop-dee-doo!  How are you going to make a song that you wrote valuable to someone else who maybe doesn’t care?  Of course you care.  But other people don’t.  Taking a raw idea or inspiration and translating it into something palatable for an audience takes great skill, care, and service.  It’s also fun and makes producing art a sustainable avenue.  If you’re producing quality music for the “passion of it, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to be a musical servant… it’s okay to ask for money!  And selling something you’ve made to someone, creates an experience actually strengthens the connection.  And isn’t that the key thing music is supposed to do to begin with?  Whenever you can, go ahead. Sell. Out.

FALSE BELIEF #2 – All you have to do is tell people to buy your CD – People naturally care about your music because its made by YOU!  Plus no one likes empty shelf space.

Just because you care about your music, doesn’t mean other people have to.  It has to connect.  What are you doing to serve the people that listen to you?  Make it interactive  Do you slay at your live shows?  Are people glad they came to your show?  Would they come see you again?  People work hard for their money, so if they give it to you, don’t waste it.  If you betray that opportunity, you won’t see that audience again.

FALSE BELIEF #3 – If you behave with an air of self-importance, people will think you’re famous and care about you.

This is not what “fake it till you make it” means. That’s just a faker.  If you are that self-imporant, you’re either a poser, or delusional.  And I don’t understand these Instagram pictures with random inspirational quotes underneath with nothing to do with music.  Pretentious much…? Pretending that you’re famous isn’t going to inspire mystique and draw people in, it’s going to do the opposite turn them away.  Playing music and sharing it is a gift and a joy, so be gracious and appreciate the village of people that it takes to keep music alive.  The more insightful and gracious you are when thanking people, the more lasting impact you will ultimately make.

FALSE BELIEF #4 – Get drunk and do drugs at your show – the drinks are free, and let’s face it, you’re a rockstar now!

I’ve seen people walk around like they’re hot shit just because they’ve been on stage before.  Nobody cares.  You’re not a rockstar until you’re paying your band a salary.  And even so, keep your shit together.  You’re there to do a job and share music.  It’s a nice gesture to be a patron and order something, and you absolutely must take care of the staff.  Learn the servers’ names.  Send them applause.  You’ll be noticed if you do that.  Because I always notice when musicians shout from the stage, “Hey, sound-man,” because they didn’t bother to learn their name….that’s rude.  When places hook you up with a bar tab or a sound man, enjoy it professionally, but remember that you are at work.  It should be fun work.  Every time you play out, somebody is hearing you for the first time.  If you suck, or are drunk and sloppy for just one performance, there could be a handful of people that assume you’re always like that.  And if it’s the first time that patron is at that venue, they might then assume that the venue has terrible music.  Your performance is a reflection on you and everyone who vouches for you.  Most of the time crowds are pretty receptive.  But also, sometimes they’re not and they will chirp about it: good and bad.  So don’t be drunk and annoying.  And tip your server.  Always.

FALSE BELIEF #5 – Real artists make it all about the music – so wear whatever you want, because it shouldn’t matter.

Wardrobe choices tell people how you want to be treated.  If you show up to the show in jeans and a t-shirt, that tells me you are a comfortable plebeian who is content with where you are.  If you look unkempt and have gross greasy hair, it tells me you don’t care and don’t challenging yourself.  However, if you show up (*on time) and your “look” matches your music and style, your merch is beautifully displayed, and you look “show ready” (…whatever that means in reference to your particular show), that tells me that you work hard, you are thoughtful, and want my attention.  That’s the kind of person that gets people inspired to help.  It’s an overall presentation.  It’s a pass/fail system.  Either the crowd wants to keep in touch with you afterwards, or they don’t.  Give folks a reason to look, and that will give them a reason to listen too.

FALSE BELIEF #6 – The less training you have, the more your “raw talent” will impress people – so don’t practice.

Someone commented on a video of me singing and in attempt to compliment me and my “raw talent” because it didn’t sound like I “had any formal training” and it was rare and refreshing… Now, check it.  I’ve studied voice almost half my life, sang in every style, I have a degree in musical performance and on top of that, 10 years of professional experience singing classical to radio pop.  Should I be offended that they discounted my hard work and grind???… HECK NO!!  For the record, it takes an awful lot of work to make performing look that easy, and I’m glad that I’m tricking people.  The truth is, you have to learn technique, and practice, and rigorous discipline to play music – in however way you get there.  But when it comes to performance, you have to internalize all that rigidity and teacher-voices in your head so that you can be the expressive creative force that you are!  In training, sometimes you have to get “worse to get better” (which I definitely hated when people said that to me: learn and then unlearn?), but the point is to have tools, vocabulary and options up your sleeve. The stronger the foundation, the more space you have create and flow and challenge the rules.  And I hate rules.  So, practice your instrument.  Constantly learn and improve.  And don’t be under-rehearsed at your show – we can all tell.

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