J.P. Kallio’s Musician Quick Tips Pt. 16
by J.P. Kallio
Here are this week’s musician quick tips, part 16.. In my nearly two decades as a full time musician I have learned a thing or two about this business. I also have become very fast at assessing what works and what does not when it comes to promoting, recording and performing your music.
These quick tips are simple actions that you can put to use straight away
Empower your imagination
There is a great power in visualisation, in imagining where you want your career to go. This might just give you clarity in your elusive attempt to get to the “next level”. I talked about before how so many musicians are searching for a manager, promoter, record label or a publicist to take them to the “next level”, but when it comes down to it we don’t really know what that “next level” is.
Sometimes using your imagination can be extremely helpful. Imagine where you would like to see your career heading, imagine who you would like to work with, where you would like to perform. Once you have visualised these dreams, it is much easier to work on a plan how to get there.
Remember how you let your imagination run wild as a child? Well from time to time going back to those childish imaginations might just be the best thing for your career. I don’t mean wasting your days dreaming about the success. I mean visualising it clearly in your mind, making it your goal and going after it with everything you got.
The creative work is always a battle to a certain extent. The songs, music, lyrics, art work, writing etc. hardly ever falls from the trees, you need to work on them. Waiting on inspiration I regard as a one of the biggest wastes of time. Sure it is not always easy, but if you don’t give it a damn good go, nothing will happen.
When you are lost for ideas, let the blank canvas inspire you. I on regular basis start writing songs or blog posts without knowing what I am about to write about. I sit down and just write. Sooner or later something starts to make sense and you can then edit out the bits you don’t like. I believe there is almost like an imaginary doorway to your unconscious mind, that will open once it realises you are in a writing, or creating mode.
Art, in its greatest form, portrays an emotion, makes us think and feel something. But the creation part is very much a craft. You need to put the hard work into it to create something great. So when all else fails, just write.
Leverage alternative payments for music
So we all know the price we put on recorded music is not anywhere near what it used to be. Back in the late nineties record labels were able to sell a CD for $14, while the production cost was about $2. Of course the independent labels and artists could not compete with that production price, as their sale figures would still be a lot less. Still looking back now, it was a quite remarkable profit margin!
Now it is hard to put a price on recorded music as most of it is consumed online. And once again it is the independents who struggle to make the ends meet when it comes to recorded music. So we need to relay on live performances, licensing (if we are lucky enough to get any) and what ever we can get our hands on.
So I think it s time to look at other ways to utilise our recordings. There was a wonderful article in the New York Times about the early days of music piracy during the week, which concluded in a release of two albums by competing artists. And as a result it turned out that the artist whose album was leaked first actually went on to sell more. In away, the leak worked as a promotional tool as well.
So for example you could reward your fans for sharing your music. You could give your music away to the people who pay in to see your live show, or promote it. Or you could go even further, why not exchange art for art? Obviously a CD cover design is a lot of work for any designer, but you could exchange your music for a small part of the design. You could exchange your music for a usage rights for some nice photos a fan took at a live show.
Get creative, your music has more value than you think.
Don’t turn your back
Here’s a tip I was taught long time ago, back when I was in School. I was lucky enough to have a music teacher’s substitute for one year whose background was actually being a full-time musician. I think that year I learned more beneficial information in the music class than any other year-
This advice is actually based on acting in theater, but it is very important playing live as well. Never turn your back to the audience. Now there are exceptions to the rule, but they are very few. There is nothing worse than a guitarist turning towards his amp and back against the audience during his solo. You are performing live, so perform. As a young kid I did not read too much in to it, but after watching bands for years I now cringe every time I see some one do this.
Once you get it n to your head, it is not hard to do. If you need to look at the back of the stage, do this standing side ways. If you need to talk to the drummer, walk beside him, not in front of him. And once you are aware of this, it becomes almost automatic.
I often talk about the importance of making a connection with your fans. I thought to continue on the live performance tips a bit more, so here’s one: make eye contact. When you are performing live just make eye contact with someone in the audience for a few seconds, enough for them to realise you saw them and acknowledged them.
This is something I have learned over the years. I used to be very drifty eyed. I mentioned before that my mind is a busy one, constant flow of traffic up there. And my eyes where the same when I was performing live. I was trying to look in to a hundred different places at the same time.
But few years back, after hearing about the power of eye contact from several sources (including the book Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss and Amanda Palmers famous Ted talk Art of Asking) I decided to work on it. And I can tell you, it works wonders. Something as simple as taking the time in the middle of your show to look someone in the eyes in the audience, can really make your performance feel so much special to them.