Updated: Nov 9, 2019
A Long Story With Lots of Twists
Blogging from The Beach
There's a saying in business that the difference between a man with money and a man with experience is the man with experience gets the money, and the man with money gets the experience. Drum roll.
When I stared writing songs seriously, trying to go professional, I realized my songs, my guitar playing, and my voice weren't good enough. I studied how to write songs from Tom Warren, Ralph Murphy and bands like the Beatles. I got voice lessons from Ken Tamplin (well worth it). I got guitar lessons from Doug Marks (Hawk). I got more voice lessons from Jim Guillette (Nitro).
After about two years of constant struggle, my songs and music skills were getting better. Not so much my voice so much. But my songwriting really started getting somewhere. I knew that when working with songwriting coaches my songs were just as good or better than theirs. I valued their experience, but I started trusting my own judgement. I realized they were simply taking my money and giving me experience I no longer needed. None of these people, or their contacts, knew how to make money in the business, other than take mine. That's when I began trusting my own authority and trusting my own experience. From here, I wanted to get the money myself.
But, I needed even more experience. So, I took about $6,000 dollars and sent my songs to Stu Epps (Elton John, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Twisted Sister) for mixing and mastering. Stu did most of the vocals. And he did a great job. One song, "Everyone Needs A Hero" was sung by Lisa-Marie Falloon. She was AMAZING! When all of the songs came back from across the pond, I was so happy. I finally had professionally produced music in my hands. But I still wanted to make money.
So, I needed a publisher, right? I pitched the songs to several publishers, and Eddie Caldwell (Beyoncé Knowles, Alicia Keys) from Chicago picked them up. I signed a 5 year contract with him to pitch songs to his connections at Warner Brother's, Sony and the like. As of this writing, I still haven't seen a dime. I only cost me another $25 bucks for him to evaluate and select my songs. Still, I knew something was wrong. Nobody was going to work harder than me to get my material out there. Still, I'm stuck with this contract for another three years. There's nothing I can do. I signed it.
Still, no money in my pocket. Nobody is going to do a better job of marketing my songs than me. I'm just going to have to do the work.
That said, I listened to Stu's mixes. I don't know everything he did, but I started getting pretty close with my Mac, and GarageBand...believe it or not. Just listen to the music! Is it "professional"? I don't know. But I'm definitely better at music production these days. And I really don't know what I'm doing. I just learned from experience.
What's the experience? Everyone in the music business gets paid before the artist gets paid. That's why there are so many producers, A&R guys and labels advertising on websites that are more than happy to take your music and your money, and give you the experience. If you're "good enough", you might get a deal. Chance are you won't. You aren't in control of the music business. And you know what? Most labels, especially big ones, are gone now, thanks to Napster.
But you know what you can control? Your email list, a website, and your facebook page.
So, I picked up some lessons from Leah McHenry. I'm still learning from her. But her services are a bargain compared to my "experiences". Her system puts you in control. You might not make any money for a year or so, but you will see progress if you stick to the plan.
Today, I have a website started. It's a work in progress. And I have to say, I'm not in love with it completely. So, I'll likely move on. And that's OK. Experience is the best teacher.
And I'm building my fans up. Starting to work on my culture. Develop MY brand. And I'm doing this as I'm discovering my niche.
I don't need to tour. I don't need to have producers and publishers. I can do everything from where I live. On the beach. And that experience is well worth the money.
If I can eek out a living here with my music, by taking slow and controlled measures, follow Leah's advice, I'll likely go further with less money than I've already spent gaining experience. For what she teaches, it's the best bargain out there. I'd rather give her my money, because she's the only person in the business who's never ripped me off, and has actually given me solid advice on how to go even further.