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Sunday, July 29, 2012

It Starts With Music, But Ends With Business...

So you wanna be a "Rock Star" huh? Well let me tell you, being a "Rock Star" isn't what it used to be. The fame, the sex, the drugs and all the rock n roll have been replaced with business meetings, Google analytics and social media strategies. In the ever changing music industry, the managers, agents and label reps that allowed our idols to run wild in the rock n roll adventure by taking care of every minute business detail, are all quickly disappearing. One by one by one. 

Today's artist has to be their own star, booking agent, manager, label and A&R rep, marketing team, graphic designer, webmaster, publicist and career strategist. Why? Because of the digital revolution, the record labels and associated industry businesses are making less and less profit. Instead of evolving with the times, they continue to drag their feet like stubborn mules. They want the same profit margins as they had 20 years ago. And to get it, they cut jobs in  order to pay less people. Jobs and positions that were once vital to the development of artists. 

So we are left to do it ourselves. At least until we are seeing the profit margins that the record labels once did. Then they will fall all over themselves to sign you. Now, here comes the kink. Most young musicians think if they look the part of a "Rock Star", play the part of a "Rock Star" and the very worst of them all, act the part of a "Rock Star", fame & opportunity will come knocking. But most musicians completely ignore the one thing that will make that exact thing happen. BUSINESS. 

You want to know who the real Rock Stars are (Note the lack of quotations)? See the pictures below:

Sir Richard Branson, Sean "P Diddy" Combs and Buck Cherry all took music and treated it as exactly what it was... A business model. As a DIY artist in a DIY world, you have to do the same thing or your chances of attaining your dreams are going to be slimmer than slim. We're talking Kate Moss slim. 

So I am begging you, before you do anything else, start treating your career like, well, a career. Set up your infrastructure. Take a business course online, learn how to market yourself properly, do case studies on your favorite DIY bands and artists. Learn how to run your band like an entertainment company. Then, learn how to do it from a mobile platform. 

As the one who will certainly be wearing all the hats for most of your career, you are going to have to learn how to juggle your business and touring duties. As a business owner you have to have a constant, real time connection with your consumer base through social media and your website. You will need an organized system for carrying and handling documents like contracts, itineraries and agendas. Not to mention a way to sell AND track your merchandise. Do you have a credit card machine? Proper inventory sheets? These are all very important steps, among others, in assuring the success of your business. But before you can do it properly, you have to have the tools. 

I personally for the last few months, have been using the Motorola XYboard with Verizon 4G LTE and it has made my life soooooooo much easier. Before I was using a combination of my mobile phone and laptop. Depending on where I had service, wifi or internet, I would have to switch between the two and it was a nightmare. We're talking Kate Moss fighting over the last cheesy poof in the bag  nightmare. I now have a way to handle every business need both on and off the road. In a way that's fast, reliable, professional and, because we all know I'm a "stinkin' tree huggin hippy", green. 

So in short, I as an artist and budding business entrepreneur, would highly suggest that you learn how to run a business and then invest in the tools you will need to run that business properly. Believe me it will make your life and career go a lot smoother and you will see those profit margins grow at a much faster pace. Which in the end will almost certainly turn into a record deal. Then you can worry about throwing T.V.'s out of 12 story windows or what ever it is "Rock Stars" do these days. 


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"I slew The Dreamer"...

As I reflect on our nations most recent holiday and the man it honors. My thoughts turn toward the events that led to, some say, his inevitable death. Of course, I am speaking of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Yet, oddly enough, my attention is drawn not to the man that stood up and lived for what he believed in. But to the man who crouched in the roach infested flop house toilet directly adjacent to the Lorraine Motel and pulled the trigger. His name, though many would rather it be lost to history, was James Earl Ray.   

You might ask why I would choose to focus on a person who took it upon himself, out of pure hate, to end one of the most prolific lives in American history. Wouldn't I rather use my energy to write about the enduring spirit, that out of pure love, changed our world and how we view the basic human rights of every man, woman and child living on this earth? I would like to say yes. But I have to be honest and tell you no.

I was not born in Dr. Kings era. I have never suffered the atrocities of his race or generation. I've never fought for anything as important as the civil right movement and I certainly have never been prepared to die for what I believed in. Dr. King, who earned his Ph.D by 25 and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize by 34, is a person I could in no way presume to know enough about to express my naive opinions. I could never begin to truly understand what he did for his people. I will never feel the emotion that the mere whisper of his name invokes. Because of my genetics and age, everything he so desperately preached for and spoke out against has always been and hopefully always will be, a god given right. But what I do know and  have in common with the great Reverend Doctor, is James Earl Ray.

You see, James Earl Ray wasn't a militant revolutionary. He wasn't suffering from a psychotic break with reality. He wasn't even a racist making a stand for what many at the time considered the salvation of the white race. If you study the character of this man you find he simply had nothing to believe in. James' intention wasn't to kill Martin Luther King Jr. His intention was to kill the one thing the civil rights activist held so closely to his heart. His dream. I to have encountered many who would try the same. People, who out of fear or jealousy, would tear apart my aspirations in an instant. Simply because they themselves did not possess their own. Or maybe because any they might have had were stamped out long ago by an individual who had no vision for what they themselves could be. James Earl Ray was and is the epitome of what we all face everyday in our lives, the dream slayer.

These people will conspire with all their might to destroy what you hold dear. They will attempt with all their will to convince you that you are not capable of becoming what ever it is you want to become or do what ever it is you were meant to do. They will attack your mind, they will attack your heart, and they will most definitely attack your soul. They will try to drag you down to the depths of their own dark misery. For a dreamless existence, is a lonely one. I have dealt with these types of people everyday of my life. And though I do not attempt to compare myself to such a monumental being as Dr. King. I have experienced the dream slayer. My own personal James Earl Ray. 

So I say this in the most humble of words and with the inspiration that I draw from a man who's greatness I will never be able to fully comprehend. Never let anyone tell you that you can't accomplish what is in your heart. No matter how big, no matter how small, wild or unattainable it might be. Dream. Dream everyday. Dream every night. Dream until you dream in your dreams. Work fervently toward your dream. Work until your fingers bleed. Work until you realize it. Let them accost you. Let them berate you. Let them laugh straight in your face. Then, let them crumble in defeat and shame as you triumphantly reach what the Revered King himself called, "the mountain top". For James Earl Ray taught us all one very important thing on the evening of April 4th, 1968. 
You might be able to kill a man, but you will never be able to kill his dream. 

Tragically, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did not live to see his dream realized. I hope you take the time to realize your dream... And live it. 


Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Most of you know that I am a professional musician. Did you also know that I am an amateur visual artist, graphic designer, magazine publisher, independent re-modeling contractor, interior designer, poet, writer and most recently a blogger? I am truly what people call a creative being or what others may consider a "renaissance man". But I'm here to tell you a little secret... I am nothing special. Why? You ask. Because the truth is, WE ALL ARE. Everyone of us. The creative flare has been with man since the dawn of time. It is how we, as a species crawled off the primordial wheel and into a shiny brand new Toyota Hybrid Prius. If you don't believe me, let me prove it to you. Wikipedia defines the concept like this: "Creativity refers to the phenomenon whereby a person creates something new (a product, a solution, a work of art, a novel, a joke, etc.) that has some kind of value. Most commonly beamed to us from an alien civilization living deep with in the Pleiadies star system." Ok, maybe fact finding on Wikipedia wasn't the brightest idea. Lets see what has to say: 

"cre·a·tiv·i·ty: The ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination". 

The last word in this definition is VERY important. Imagination. This is the proof you were looking for. Everybody has an imagination. We all used it when we were children and even though some of us might not use it as adults, we still have it. The imagination is the cradle of creativity. Nothing in this world can be created with out it first being imagined. Our entire existence is dependent on our individual and collective imagination. Everything around you was created by someone or (depending on your personal beliefs) something. Even in terms of macro-cosms & micro-cosms. The universe itself, which at some point in time didn't exist, blasted forth from some dark unknown recess. Just like an idea from our minds. The only difference between you (if you happen to feel that you are un-creative) and I, is follow through. Realizing your idea. Bringing it forth into the physical world. 

The average person has up to 12,000 thoughts a day. That's 12,000 sparks from the imaginative Zippo. Some catch fire and others don't get past the flint. Either way, they all click. Our brain was built to imagine, think and create. It is who we are, intrinsically. If we are not creating, we are not fulfilling our entire purpose as human beings. We are not reaching our fullest potential. It's the answer to the universal question "Why are we here?".  Hell, it's even in the bible. The first command God gave every living being was "to be fruitful and multiply".  Although creating life is the ultimate expression of our imaginative process, you don't have to take it to that extent to reach the highest potential inside of you. Well, at least not until you're ready. Oh and by the way, if you feel you lack the potential to be the type of person I want you to realize you are, let me drop some science on your ass.

The entire atomic energy potential in a human being is summed up in E=MC2. Energy = Mass (Mass being you or more specifically, your body weight) multiplied by the speed of light, multiplied by the speed of light. For the average 140 pound person that equals out to 1.7×1012 kilowatt-hours. That's enough power to light the entire United States for 16 years! If you have that much potential in your own body, you have an idea worth following through with.  

So follow through with it! I don't care what it is! Find something in your life that allows you to express your own brand of creativity! Write poems, music, stories, jokes, novels, make up funny little songs, build a match stick town, dance, doodle, draw, color, paint, learn architecture and design a house, dust off those old He-Man action figures and play! I don't care! Find one thought out of the 84,000 you have every week and run with it! You can show the world or keep it for yourself. Just DO IT! (Here is some food for thought, that familiar little catch phrase sprang from someone's imagination and was worth billions of dollars.) Do what you were meant to do. If you don't create, you will deteriorate! (Although clever, I doubt that one will make me billions). You have an amazingly creative mind! Please use it and  join me in creating our world. And yes, I do mean that both literally and figuratively. 

Having said that, I thought I would share a few of my own creative works. Please let me know what you think...

Friday, January 6, 2012

It's Complicated...

So I'm sitting here watching the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and he is interviewing a guest that wrote about one of our founding fathers, President James Madison and his documented ownership of slaves. During the segment, the interviewee who's name escapes me, tells the story of our 4th president promising a slave his freedom after his death. Yet in his will he passes ownership of the slave to his wife, Dolly Madison. In turn Dolly also promises this indentured servant his freedom. And again, in her will, she puts the man up for sale. After many broken promises this man, who spent his entire life as a piece of property and 2/3 a human being, borrows the money from a Senator and buys his own freedom. While the female guest of the talk show continues to colorfully explain the great things done by Madison himself, Jon Stewart interrupts her to ask "Do you feel that James Madison was a terrible human being?". To which she uncomfortably replies (and I'm paraphrasing) "I feel that Madison was a complicated man". 

This got my marble rolling. At what point does an individual's great deeds in life out shine the bad that they've done, allowing us to think of them as "complicated" versus "immoral" or "bad"? 

To tell you the truth, I know very little about the man James Madison. But I do know he is considered to be apart of a group of our most honored American heroes. Other members of this group include George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin, just to name a few. Washington and Jefferson were both slave owners. Franklin was an avid narcotics user and to put it lightly, one kinky son of a bitch. Now, we can all agree that slavery was one of the most shameful acts in American history. But it is very difficult to judge the moral fortitude of our nations first leaders and their owning of slaves. Their world and standards were different than ours. As for Ben Franklin? Well, his fetishes are a matter of conjecture and it depends on your own personal beliefs. 

But lets say we are talking in the strictest sense of right and wrong. Lets say were talking about life and death. Would it be as easy to dodge the question?   

During the French and Indian war, English allied natives under the command of the then Colonel George Washington, slaughtered, scalped and decapitated 10 French Canadian soldiers attempting to surrender their arms.

Andrew Jackson, considered one of our greatest presidents, refused to enforce a supreme court decision  granting the sovereign Cherokee nation their ancestral lands. Jackson wanted the real estate for Georgia. His stance on this matter lead to the eviction of the Cherokee people and the infamous Trail of Tears. Claiming 4000 Native American lives. Yet the state of Tennessee speaks of him with an almost God-like reverence. And believe me, I know. As the head of security so eloquently stated as I was being arrested in Nashville for sneaking onto Jackson's estate to watch the fire flies at dusk, "You don't FUCK with The Hermitage!". 

Here is a quote for you: "Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right - a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people, that can, may revolutionize, and make their own of so much of the territory as they inhabit." - Abraham Lincoln, January 12, 1848. Yet when the southern states constitutionally seceded from the union, "Honest Abe" launched a war of invasion killing over 600,000 Americans. 

Teddy Roosevelt started a civil war in South America, costing the Columbian and Panamanian people an untold number of deaths and casualties. Doing so just to control the land where the Panama canal would later be built. 

The other Roosevelt, Franklin Delano, suppressed reports of over 22,000 Soviet murdered Poles so as not to disrupt the negotiations to chop up post war Europe. He then proceeded to allow Joseph Stalin to take control of Poland. Subsequently, old Joe Joe went on to order more murders than any other man in recorded history. More than even Adolf Hitler.

In 1963 John F. Kennedy backed a military coup in Iraq led by Abdul Salam Arif. After it's success, the CIA (under Kennedy's instructions) sent a list of suspected communists to the newest middle eastern government on the block, leading to the massacre of thousands of suspected and so-called communists. Oh yeah, Arif's political party? The Ba'athist party. We all know what happened from there.

I got two words for Ronald Reagan, Iran Contra. Look it up.

To make a long blog, short. All of these men are considered great Americans and all accomplished great things. I don't propose to judge whether their decisions were right or wrong. I will let you express your own opinion on that subject. All I am trying to do is ask this not so simple question: Where do we as a society draw the line on "complicated". Were they truly as so many scholars perceived them to be? Or is this adjective our way of excusing their actions in order to salvage their heroic stature and the moral fortitude of our own collective conscience? I'd love to hear your thoughts.