Thank you Pete Seeger for teaching me guitar

The Red Book by Pete SeegerMy father was a banjo player. He had a book titled, “How To Play the 5-String Banjo” by Pete Seeger. Known as “The Red Book” – even after it came out as a green and blue cover.

In that book was a page of several songs that required 3 chords.

C, F, & G7. Those who play will recognize, the 1, 4, 5 progression – basically, I was learning everything I needed to know to become a rock star!

My First Guitar

We also had a beautiful Guild classical guitar. I still have the guitar.
The Guild Classical I first played

And a Mel Bay book of chords. From the Mel Bay book of chords, I learned to tune the guitar and learned those 3 chords… The “F” chord being the most challenging even in it’s 4 string version.. Anyone remember that first bar chord?

The first song I learned was the Crawdad song (“You Get a line and I’ll get a pole, honey.”). Yesterday, when I discovered the passing of Pete Seeger, I recorded this short video tribute and thank you. Enjoy!

Find the AMAZING

One of the “Amazing!” things I was blessed to see this week.

A small lizard I caught while working in the yard. My daughter’s friend was probably more “amazed” that I was letting it bite my finger..
Lizardingarden

 

Apparently, I’m known for saying, “That’s Amazing!” often. Whether it is what I see in nature, in music, in business, with people, etc. There are just a lot of amazing things out there.

The image below is part of a birthday card my youngest daughter made for me several years ago. It depicts me, looking at a sunset over some mountains and exclaiming, “That’s Amazing!” It related to how I see life, people, and my clients. Click on the image to read more about being AMAZED and how it related to the coaching I do.
That's Amazing

You did your best and other lies

Want to achieve more? Want to have greater success? Want to have more confidence?
I did my best and other lies

I’ll assume you are nodding yes. Or struggling not to.

If you want these things, you need to stop lying to yourself.

One of the pet phrases I believe hinders people’s growth is, “You did your best!” Or perhaps you’ve said it to yourself.

“I did my best.”

A variation on this is when I speak about some past failure, a time when I did not reach the goal I’d set, someone is bound to say..

“You did your best at the time.”

I understand the sentiment. People want to build you up. They want you to feel okay – that mistakes or missed goals are a “part of the process.”

Here is the problem with that phrase and sentiment.

In many case, I didn’t do my best. I did far less than my best. I, quite frankly, blew it!

And it doesn’t matter what the reason or excuse is. Perhaps I didn’t have the talent or I was too ambitious/far-reaching given my current resources, or I was lazy. Or I lost interest.

Whatever the case, there are times – many times – that our failures are caused by us failing to do our best or even close to our best.

When we “fail” to recognize this – when we gloss it over with pet-phrases like:

“I did the best I could at the time.”

or, when someone wishes to explain away my failure (or their failure) they offer…

“Everything happens for a reason!”

Yuck!! Yes.. there was a reason. The reason is often that I (and you) DID NOT do our best! Sorry.. you didn’t!

Personally, I hate the pandering comments that people use to try to make me feel better about those times when I did not do my best. It feels so dishonest. I’ve spoken to others who feel the same.

I don’t believe that such comments really help you feel better about yourself. In fact, I am certain of it. I’m certain it feels a sketchy and dishonest. A little bit slimy.

Now, of course,  you might be saying, “Umm.. thanks Matt. I feel lousy about myself or this failure and you don’t want others to encourage me?”

Au contraire my friend. I do want them to encourage you. I want you to encourage yourself. I want this blog to encourage you!

Part of recognizing that you DID NOT do your best when you, in fact, DID NOT do your best means you recognize clearly you could have done better. That you have the capacity to do better. That’s awesome! That means it is just a matter of resetting and executing!

Sometimes the truth is, what we need to hear the most is that we didn’t do our best and need to plan and execute better. The honesty is refreshing! It removes excuses and give a much clearer and honest perspective on what needs to be done!

Below are some steps for when you next blow it; when you next “fail!” at a given endeavor
[....and I can hear someone getting ready to quote Thomas Edison about not failing but finding 1,000 ways to NOT build a lightbulb.. Shhhh.. stop… I get it. But the truth is, he had lightbulbs that clearly failed and he knew it. He then went back, planned, executed, and improved! HE KNEW HE COULD DO BETTER!!!]

What to do when you didn’t do your best:

  1. Recognize it honestly as a sub-par performance

  2. Don’t excuse it.

  3. Determine why (lazy, poor planning, failed execution, etc.)

  4. Reset goal
    don’t disband your goal and do not give up!

  5. Plan for the new goal (quickly – read why action beats analysis)

  6. Execute better and more consistently.

The truth is, you probably still won’t do your best. It’s hard to sustain the energy to do your best every day at every moment. But doing your best occasionally and doing “well-enough”  or “really good” most of the time is probably going to result in great success!!

By the way, this blog entry was not my best on the subject but I did execute and get it done! And I believe it is good enough for human consumption!!

I’m Here – a sweet love song

I'm Here  - a song by Matthew Moran

No really! It is! Simple, sweet, pretty. Well.. I think so.. and some early reviewers do as well. I hope (and believe) you will as well.

The recording, as published here, is a work in progress. This means that I’m going to be overwriting the file as I add violin, backing vocals, additional guitar, and possibly some keys. The goal is keep it simple but add some color. Updates to any of the free downloadable songs will be mentioned in the newsletter, via twitter, and on Facebook. So.. join me in those places.

It’s a song that will be part of a songwriting project I started last year titled, “Conquering Athena.”

Conquering Athena

I’ll write more about this project. I haven’t really written about it; just alluded to it from time to time.

Athena is the greek godess of just war, courage, culture, and a myriad of other noble concepts.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athena

Conquering Athena is an ode to strong women who, when provided a safe place to do so, allow themselves to be conquered; a sweet acquiescence to the privilege of their heart.

“I cannot contain you but at your command
I’ll part the rivers of heaven, take your soul in my hand.”
– from Conquering Athena – Copyright © 2013 – Matthew Moran

I’ll write more about that project soon – but for now, enjoy this song and let me know what you think.

Play the song using the player below or download the mp3 file here.

I’m Here

Copyright © 2013 – Matthew Moran

VERSE 1:
I want to kiss you in the moonlight
So cliche but so brand new
I want to feel your body tremble at my touch
And feel my body next to you
(chorus)

CHORUS:
I’m not much more than simple man
With a loving heart and gentle hand
But baby if you need that… I’m here

VERSE 2:
Let me escape into your prison
Bound in sweet captivity
& find my way into your loving arms
your loving arms will set me free
(chorus)

VERSE 3:
Somewhere North up in Montana
A cabin lit against the chill
I swear I can hear her calling out to me
If I can get to her I will
(chorus)

2014 – My Year in Preview

I know.. a lot of people do their year in review around this time. I didn’t. I know what I achieved and what I did not. We can summarize big things quickly:

2013 Rapid Review:

  • New Book – Building Your I.T. Career
    This is a rebirth of sorts for me.

  • New Business – Pulse Infomatics, Inc.
    Much greater focus and a more concrete action-plan.

  • New Relationships
    This will make it into the preview as well.

  • A big move to Los Angeles
    The girl is attending a performing arts school. She was commuting an hour and fifty minutes by train – ONE WAY – high school. Now we are 4 miles from the school. Very exciting!

There were other significant events mind you (songs and other writings). But I’m going to stop at those as having the most concrete set points. I can sort of hang my hat on those accomplishments and say, “Well done!”

Now What?

And today, January 1st, 2014 (er.. January 2nd), the question becomes, “Now what?”

I’m not asking this question today. As indicated in my prior post, The Resolution Farce, January 1st is not a day for making resolutions. It is a day to reflect, assess, and refine motion forward. The items I cover in in the preview of 2014 are things I’ve been thinking about and working on for some time.

I’ll break them into personal and professional – although for some things, the lines can get a little bit blurry. For instance, relationships often cross over between personal and professional. My work at learning to draw as well.. it is primarily a personal endeavor but I do, at some point, wish to create a book of sketches and writings.. ala Eric Sloane or Shel Silverstein.

You get the picture… (pun). And to that, here is my 3rd drawing.
A glass jar on my coffee table

Important to note: I have not put the items in either category into order of priority or importance. Also, I reserve the right to alter/adjust this list and perhaps add new items as needed.

Personal Items to Work on/Achieve for 2014

The following is a sort of FILDI manifesto!

Relationships

I don’t often write about my divorces. Yeah.. that’s plural kids.. I’m obviously not very good at this marriage thing. But an interesting thing happens when you married and when you are divorced.. Many of your relationships are part of, or built into, the marriage. Other married couples, etc. And one person in the marriage often runs the social calendar.

Post divorce, I discovered that people take sides or don’t really know what to do with you. Also, I have been out of circulation for a bit of time. I don’t really have people I hang out with.

My youngest daughter asked me why I don’t hang out with friends more often. And then I had a conversation with the older daughter about this as well. She and my friend Mike from high school both said something like, “Invite to be invited.”

So, don’t be surprised if you get invited to something I am doing.

Oh.. and officially, I don’t date so it isn’t that kind of relationship I am talking about. As I like to say, “My daughter is my girl and music is my mistress.”

The other part of this relationship thing is family. My children, my siblings, my parents, cousins, aunts and uncles, etc. I plan to work on these relationships too. It could be an even scarier piece of the puzzle – but I plan to enjoy it.

Drawing

I’ve always wanted to draw. I’ve spent 30 years telling people I cannot draw a straight line. Low and behold, in speaking to some pretty good artist, I’ve discovered that is a bad way to determine if you can draw. Straight lines are no small feat. But in general, I’ve always had an affinity towards pencil or pen drawings.

We were at the bookstore and there were sketchbooks on sale. My daughter wanted one so I bought her one but also bought one for myself. The above image is one of my first sketches. I’ve put it under “personal” items because, at this point, it’s a bit presumptuous to roll it into my professional life. Future goal, however, is a book of writings and sketches. I’ll post occassional sketches on my blog.

Fitness

I went to the doctor back in 2013. When they took my pulse, they took it a second time to be sure. 49 bpm. That’s pretty low for 47 (now 48). And low in a good way – good blood pressure, etc. He said, “You are in pretty good shape for a 30 year old.”  Hee hee. I thought that was pretty funny of him.

I do plan, however, to drop some more weight – mostly through portion control and upping my veggie to protein ratio. I also plan to start doing Yoga. I keep being told I would like it and it would help bring my fitness into a more rounded and emotional space. I am not sure what that means but, sure, we’ll give it a try.

Reading Fiction

I used to read a lot! But the truth is, I haven’t read a complete work of fiction in more than 10 years. As I plan to start on a novel this year (see writing below), it would probably be a good idea to read a couple. I have one sitting on my bedside table that my daughter asked me to read. I started it and am 10 pages into it…. after 3 months. Hmm…. Yeah, more reading is in order.

Professional Items to Work on/Achieve for 2014

Writing (books, articles, blogs)

My heroes have also been authors and now I am one. I sometimes forget this fact although I LOVE bantering around phrases like, “I was talking with my editor and…” It doesn’t matter what comes after that. The “and” is incidental. It is the fact that I used the phrase “my editor” in complete honesty. That means I have “an editor” that I can somehow lay claim to. She’s mine! (hi Mary Beth).

I have some other editors too but she’s my first.. sort of de-virginized me into the publishing world. And your first holds a special place right? She does for me!

I’ve been blessed to be published in book form, articles, essays, and even some poetry. I plan to do more of this for 2014. And across multiple disciplines. In fact, blogging is a big one. I have been negligent and half in/half out, for the most part of 2013. There will be a schedule and there will be blogging.

Finally, I have an official treatment and some notes on a novel idea that has been running around my head for several years. Sort of a Southern lit/John Grisham crossover novel. There is some family history in the story and then some embellishment.. and even a murder or two. I will start that novel this year.

Consulting & Coaching & Speaking (oh my)

Pulse Infomatics, Inc.

I launched Pulse Infomatics, Inc. this year. I already linked to it above. Basically, once we decided that we were moving into the heart of the beast (downtown Los Angeles), I figured I was near a LOT OF BUSINESS. Burbank, Pasadena, Glendale, and surrounding areas.

I’ve got some aggresssive goals with Pulse and have a new sales director working with me. What we do at Pulse is create custom reporting and document assembly systems. Basically, we consult companies and customize software to pull data from multiple systems into a single, consolidated series of reports. We also do document and contract assembly.

However, much of year 1 will be focused on helping small businesses connect Quickbooks to SQL Server and other databases.

CIO/CTO/I.T. Departmental Coaching

I’ve been asked to coach a couple small I.T. departments on better business communications and more proactive I.T. solutions. This is far less technical and more about business acumen and recognizing how and where they are valuable to the organization. There is also a solution design component that requires the I.T. group to be more aware of (empathetic) to how their users actually work. How the business actually makes money.

This is fun work and there is a lot of self-discovery. There is also some weird push-back from I.T. professionals who feel you sacrifice technical skills to be a better communicator and to better understand the business. I could not disagree more… and that is what makes this fun!

Music / Songwriting

I write some good songs! There! I said it! It’s not arrogance to say that. It’s a realistic self-assessment. In the same way that I knew/know I could write for pay, and did in short order once I started, I know this about my songwriting.

I have some wonderful connections into that community and plan to both record my own songs and also place my songs with younger, prettier, and more talented people. I was asked whether it would bother me if someone else took one of my songs and it went big! I was like, “Yeah.. that would be awful. I would cry with every royalty check deposited.” NOT!!

And lest I forget, I’m starting the Hillside Village House Concerts. This is not so much a professional item for me – I won’t make anything with them.  – In reality is is more a relationship item but it falls under music as well, so that is where I’ve put it.

Video & Audio Podcasting/video updates

I’ve been half-in/half-out of this world for too long. I’ve had a couple well-received podcast and won business through my tech and business update videos. But I have a more lofty and aggressive agenda in this area.

Basic updates and music

I started last year (and even the year prior) at consolidating my online presence. I’ll be updating the MatthewMoranOnline youtube channel more diligently. I’ll also post general updates, rants, technical tutorials, and information about and for songwriters and artist. And if that doesn’t cover enough, anything else that comes to mind.

Documentary style production

I’m going to start small here. But, I’m a HUGE fan of This American Life on NPR. I think it is the most well-produced and interesting radio show ever!!. Ira Glass has some great storytelling resources online. I’m not sure what I’ll produce but some of it will be autobiographical. They say, write and produce what you know.. and I’m getting to know me. Other topics include: dogs, parenting, music, and whatever else catches my eye.

Conclusion

So, there you have it. 2014 neatly bundled and wrapped, ready to be devoured and shared all at the same time.

I would love to hear what your 2014 plans are. Even a single item you are going to put into play! And I mean Play!!! Let me know in the comments below!

The Resolution Farce

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. I don’t recommend them. I do, however, have no problem with people establishing goals and using some demarcation point – the New Year is fine – as a time of assessment.

NOTE: I have not checked for usage and grammar. If that hangs you up, you probably aren’t going to achieve your goal anyway. Get over it!
– the management

The problem with resolutions is that people make grandiose plans to completely change their life based on this demarcation point. The problem is, they have not developed, nor clearly thought through the discipline, internal integrity, and the skills necessary to implement such a change.

It is because New Year’s Resolutions are a farce and have failure built in to them.

For instance, Diet & Exercise:

This is a big one for the resolution crowd. They’ll decide, sometimes prior to Thanksgiving, that they will eat anything and everything without any governance or temperance as a way to “get it out of their system,” prior to starting their new Diet and Exercise regimen after the New Year.

Armed with a new workout outfit and bag of gear, plus a year’s membership to a nice expensive gym, and a trainer, they determine that January 1st is “their time.”

The problem is, they’ve trained themselves only in compromise and putting it off until some future point. They’ve already determined that “change” isn’t something they really want.. they want the result and they are fine with that change occurring in the future. They are committed to their current lifestyle because they don’t really want to give it up.

They hit the gym – day 1 – excited. They, and the other resolutes, show up and congratulate each other. They workout, they sweat, they meet after at the juice bar and “replenish” with a wheat grass shake.

Day 2 – their sore! Oops. Day 3, their even more sore. And well, you don’t want to injure yourself. Plus, they’ll be back on it by Day 4 or 5.

There are variations on the theme but by about mid-January, most have missed 2-3 workouts. Because workouts are NOT how they view life. They’ve also been dipping into those sweets and pies and other stuff left-over from the holidays. Can’t let that shit spoil!

Diet and exercise are impositions on the life they’ve trained for. In fact, they went into a hardcore boot camp through the holidays. Eat whatever, whenever, to get it “out of their system.” Remember?

And by February, they’ve “failed” at the resolution. Once you’ve failed at the resolution – because the resolution is always a “future” item, it is easy to now point to some other future point – the beginning of February. President’s day! The start of spring. June 1st. The end of summer.

Soon –  because the future is always soon – we are starting November where it is pretty easy to see New Year’s around the corner. They can they say, “Okay.. after the holidays I am gonna do it!” Lather – Rinse – Repeat!

The resolute life

I have no problem with resolutions per se – but trust me, if the resolution is in the form of, “after the holidays” or “after this pack of cigarettes is gone” or “after this week I’ll get serious about my business” – you are simply NOT ready to make the change. There is no “after…” in a resolute life.

There is only the next resolved action.

This is helpful because you will fail and/or slip up repeatedly – particularly as you change the way you live and think.

Diet and Exercise in a resolute life:

Again, using this because it is a common one but the concept applies across business, finance, relationships, etc. It is ultimately about creating repeatable patterns – and avoiding destructive patterns – or at least avoiding patterns that do not fit your resolute life.. your goals.

“I’m taking a walk today and I’m going to eat a little less and a little better today. “

And then you do it. It leads to two things.. 1 – a small success, 2 – you are hungry.

Pre-determined actions/patterns

This is where patterns and pre-determined actions come in.

You see, if any tells you, you can lose weight without ever feeling anything like hunger, they are lying to you. I repeat, they are lying to you! If they tell you, you can “intend” to lose weight or that there is a magical pill – lying again.

They key to making a change in anything and avoiding failure as much as possible, is to pre-determine actions that break destructive or unwanted actions or patterns.

What is not intentional is usually accidental

Here is the thing about breaking patterns. You cannot just identify the new pattern or habit, you need to have a pre-determined way to address the old habit. If not, it will just happen.

So, let’s visit diet again. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with having ice cream or chocolate. I love those things. I’m particularly fond of vanilla ice cream or rocky road. I can eat a LOT of it. Multiple large servings.

So.. for me, I keep it to a single small scoop or a small cone 1 time a week. This is NOT a cheat day! It isn’t even a reward. It is simply the pattern for my diet. I do NOT buy a half-gallon of ice cream. I buy a small cone – and tell whoever is making it to make it 1/3rd the size they normally make it. Or I buy one of those small cups of Haagen Daaz at the store.

I allow myself 1 per week but I’ll be honest, I probably eat 1 per month. It just doesn’t figure into my day to day that often.

On the other hand, if I have 2 in a week, that’s okay too.. but my pattern is pretty much established.

If you are going to a friend’s house and you know there will be pie, cake, etc. eat it! That’s all good. Just have MUCH smaller portions and NO seconds.

Filling your plate for dinner.. fill it and then remove 2/3rds of it. That’s probably enough.

And have your snacks.. just not chocolate. Don’t have it around and lie to yourself and say you won’t eat it. Instead, buy celery, cut green peppers, etc. – without ranch dressing. Just don’t have the option available to you.

Soda’s? Just don’t! Juice either.. you don’t need it around the house.

If you pre-determine key actions, they won’t surprise you. You know what is coming up in your day!

If you do not predetermine (get intentional) with easily identifiable patterns and actions, you will “accidentally” repeat the same old pattern.

In Summary

Resolutions that have a future start date – specifically one that provides allowance for continuing bad, destructive or unwanted patterns, indicate a lack of readiness to make the change. The future date won’t help you. It will only reinforce that you can always “do it in the future.”

Like the song says, “Someday Never Comes.”

Instead of working on your New Year’s Resolutions, work on your resolve and create your resolute life!

Some simple steps for goals and their achievement

  1. Determine the desired goal

  2. Determine daily actions that get you there

  3. Identify patterns that derail you or work against you

  4. Create pre-determined actions that circumvent or do not allow for those patterns
    (intentional versus accidental)

  5. Put your first small action in play today/immediately.

  6. Resolve to reset daily if there is a set back (and there will be)

  7. Lather – Rinse – Repeat

What are your thoughts?

 

Is Reverbnation a good social networking site for musicians?

NOTE: This post got a little lengthy. However, it covers some important ground so grab a coffee, tea, beer, wine, or water and cozy up..

reverbnation logoThe quick answer, No! It’s primarily a waste of time.

But there is more to the story and it involves the why’s and what’s of social media, making music, and gaining listeners. The truth is, you could insert a blank where I have Reverbnation above and get almost the same answer.

For instance: “Is Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr/YouTube a good social networking site for musicians?”

The answer would be “no” for all of the above but let’s look at Reverbnation for a moment because it is uniquely positioned as a tool to help musicians grow their career.

What do musicians want from social networking?

The first question is what musicians want from a social network. The answer is new and engaged listeners. Oh.. they might say a place to network with other musicians and get support for their craft. The problem is, that answer is either a) a lie or b) ignorance.

It really isn’t difficult to “network” with other musicians. If you are a musician, you likely know several musicians already. And they know musicians, so in a couple clicks of the mouse, you can be “networked” with other musicians.

As it turns out, generally, when someone says they want support, what they mean is they want someone to “like” their Facebook page or follow them on twitter and, if the stars align, they want them to come out to a gig and support their music.

The problem is, other musicians make lousy fans. The reason is simple… we are narcissistic jerks who want our music featured. We aren’t primarily engaged in networking with other musicians in order to support their music and find new music to listen to.

FYI: This really doesn’t make you a narcissistic jerk by the way. It makes you an entrepreneur/musician.

You see, I network with other business owners to, primarily, help me grow my business. If, along the way, I find a business that I find useful and that I can believe in, over the course of my days, I will refer them to my network. But, I don’t, just because I am connected to another business, necessarily support them.

This is why, I rarely (NEVER) respond to the “Like my Facebook page and I’ll like yours” request. It is also why LinkedIn Endorsements are a waste of time.

MUSICIANS/SONGWRITERS I AM A FAN OF:

That doesn’t mean I don’t listen to new music and become a fan. In fact, here are 4 musicians I enjoy! None of them asked me to “like their page.” I liked their page because I like their music. And by the way, that is because I heard them play live!

Jim Pipkin: I met Jim at the first acoustic showcase I ever played. Inza Coffee in Scottsdale. It’s closed down but it was a cool place. Jim played before me and I became very frightened. He can play and flat out write a song! The first song he played was Tommyknockers. Listen to it.. it’s a scary tune. He gave me great encouragement that night.

Bill Wickham: Bill’s an outlaw cowboy poet. No really.. I met him at the Glendale Folk Festival in Glendale AZ. I was in a songwriter’s circle – everyone just trying to impress the other songwriters in the group. He impressed me! Song after song! One of the prettiest songs I’ve ever heard, “Here I Go Again”.
FYI: Yes.. Bill doesn’t have his website up and so I pointed you at Reverbnation. ;-)

Bill Dutcher: He writes some songs and is one of the most entertaining and talented guitar players I’ve ever seen live. His looping, one-person harp-guitar rendition of Baba O’Riley is crazy! He was gracious and played on several of my songs back in 2009.

Julie Lindemuth: I met Julie at an open mic. She was too scared to climb on stage. We encouraged her to go for it. An open mic should be a safe place. She took the stage and beautiful voice, simple songs that are almost children’s songs but aren’t… and inspirational tunes! I told her I was a fan that night.. and I still am!

Back to our topic at hand.. Reverbnation…

Reverbnation – cool tools, confusing interface, no true engagement

Reverbnation has some neat tools. And for a time, I was really interested in them. The best of all tools was that you could upload songs and create a flash based player widget to embed on your website. People could show up to your site and listen to your music with a pretty effective player. They could join your mailing list. They could share your music.

And if that is what you use your Reverbnation profile for – to get access to those widgets – then cool! That can be effective.

However, their backend interface is confusing at best, too many unnecessary tools and you are subject to a LOT of spam in the form of “opportunities”. I don’t really need to cover those but the opportunities are ways for Reverbnation to monetize their site and you don’t have enough fans or a high-enough profile for those opportunities to be truly meaningful to you. Sorry!

By the way, I know this because, if you did have enough fans and a high-enough profile for those opportunities, the opportunities will be contacting you directly. It’s that phenomenon where professional athletes get free (actually are paid) to wear a product when, in fact, they clearly have enough money to buy the product. And the rest of us, who “need” the product must pay for the product…

I’m not complaining.. I’m just pointing out the law of popularity. Popular, money-making artists, are NOT using Reverbnation to build their popularity.

Reverbnation Charts

This is the big carrot that I find most amusing. Reverbnation has their own charts broken down by music categories. I’ll see artist touting that they are the #3 artist in their zipcode for the sub-genre, “polka folk acoustic punk”.

I’m always interested in knowing who the #1 artist in that category and zipcode is

I see performers posting this on Facebook. “I’m the #8 artist in my zicode for’alt-grunge trance’ – help me get to #7.” And this is the problem.. they believe getting to #7 or #6 or #1 is going to help them sell CD’s and get new fans to performances.

I had a fellow artist who was always publishing this stuff. I asked them about their performances and CD sales. They were discouraged because they weren’t getting anyone out to performances.

There are NO new fans on Reverbnation

That is probably a stretch. I think there are a few fans who do, in fact, sign up as fans on Reverbnation. However, I’ll bet, if you are an artist, most of your “activity” on Reverbnation is other artist. Some become fans without any comment. Others become fans and send a message like, “I’ve signed up as a fan. Sign up as a fan on my page.”

This is the Reverbnation equivalent of “Like my page and I’ll like yours.” To which I always respond, “but what if I don’t like your page?” (remember, I’m a narcissistic jerk).

I’ve even had someone sign up as a “fan” and leave a comment like, “Cool tunes! Check out my songs.” – with a link.

I always send a message, “Which of my songs did you like the best?”

In 2 years I’ve received 1 response that I felt indicated they had listened to the songs.

Bottom line on Reverbnation

Reverbnation is a great idea and has some cool tools. Most of those tools I have no real need for. I semi-maintain a profile (meaning, I login every 2 or 3 months) because.. well.. I feel like I should. I’m considered an “expert” on this social media stuff.

But for the most part, it really doesn’t do anything special for me. I no longer use the widget/players and I run my mailing list with mailchimp at the moment. I can add video and music to my website – built on WordPress – using built-in WordPress plug-ins.

Secondly, it diffuses my effort. This may be the most dangerous part of any social networking site. We all have limited hours in our day. The danger for musicians and entrepreneurs alike (I really view them all the same) is the desire or need or fear of being left out by NOT signing up for the “next” social network.

So.. everyone signs up for everything and all your same contacts follow you and you follow them. It is like a big roving band of gypsies or an incestuous tribe. Everyone is scrapping and clawing and grabbing at the few unpicked morsels and even reducing themselves to a sort of social media cannibalism.

There is a more rational way.

How do I find new fans/listeners?

And there we go.. let’s be honest. You want new fans! You want listeners. You want people to hear your music and to like your music. That’s okay! And it doesn’t make you a narcissistic jerk. You are a narcissistic jerk for other reasons but not because you want people to hear your music.

You want people to hear your music because you are a creator and that is what creators crave! Some type of acceptance of their creation.

Note: drop the B.S., “I only create for myself because it is in my soul.” blah blah blah blah. Then you wouldn’t be performing or on Reverbnation or Facebook or Twitter or even reading this blog.

Now that we are honest, how do we find new fans?

1) Make good music

Yeah.. there is that. That means you need to spend more time making music than you do moving up the “acoustic goth hip hop” charts in Southern Hastings Nebraska.

2) Perform your music… well!!!

Get out and play your music for people. And give them something they can take with them.. your music preferably. At first, it doesn’t matter if they guy a CD. Give it away! 1 or 2 engaging songs. Something! Trade them that for their email. Ask for their feedback. Shake hands with them. Thank them.. profusely! Connect with them.. it’s called “social networking.”

3) Reduce your social media footprint

What? Yes. Be in fewer places, not more places. If you feel compelled to setup an account on every site, do it. But then post information on where they can “really” find you.

My take is that you need no more than the following profiles and places to find you.

  • Your own website. This is where you get to be a true narcissistic jerk. It’s all about you! That’s good. It should have a blog attached. I use WordPress and recommend that. I host at Bluehost and recommend that (although, they’ve lost some luster of late due to some outages). I know some artist who are using Bandcamp and love it. It has great tools for artist and you can blog.But when I say, your own site, I don’t mean, “myname.bandcamp.com” or “myname.wordpress.com”.. I mean, you pay for a domain and you get it hosted. Don’t say you can’t afford it. Go get a job and pay for that.
  • YouTube. I wrote about how my daughter connects with artist and why I should be using YouTube more. I won’t belabor this point. I shouldn’t have to.
  • Facebook. I suppose you should have a Facebook profile and also have a Facebook music/business page. I do. It’s sort of expected. However, I engage with listeners and readers WAY more on my Facebook profile than my “fan page.” This is largely because Facebook continues to remove features that let you connect with “fans” on your “fan page.”Truth is, they haven’t been called “fan pages” for awhile. They don’t let you send messages to your “fans” and  you cannot communicate with them directly via your page. Only through your profile. So guess what, your Facebook profile is probably your real source of engagement.
  • Ummmm… That’s it!

But Matt!! What about Twitter? Tumblr? Soundcloud? You are on them? Shouldn’t I be?

No.. if I can convince you to stay off those networks, I get all those fans!

Or…. It might be that you want to spend enough time and effort on your website, YouTube, and Facebook, to get 4 or 5 or 10, 20, 200 or more people engaged with your music. There are enough potential fans in those areas alone. Oh.. and playing live! That’s a topic for another blog entry.

You don’t get fans by being in “lots of places” online. You get fans by creating music that people like, taking the 2 or 3 or 10 people who like your music and provide them the means and the permission to share that music.

There is also the standard, promotion, PR, etc. And there is a place for that. But you need to first work on those first few passionate fans!

Do you agree? Disagree? Have a specific or general question? Leave a comment below.

Paul Walker’s death and the potential tragedy

Paul Walker's deathIt is sad that Paul Walker and his friend died – I don’t really know much about him.. However, this accident is the result of driving recklessly on city streets. We are all lucky that some innocent bystanders were not killed or injured. I don’t consider such events a tragedy because they are somewhat predicable and caused by the individuals involved – his friend in this case.

There is a potential tragedy here. It is that the focus of the death will be Mr. Walker and his friend – and not what they were doing prior to the accident.

I witness, as we all do, people who speed, weaving in and out of traffic, obviously thinking NOTHING about those around them. Typically, but not always, it is young men. Speeding is thoughtless and selfish! I am fortunate that my father did NOT and hounded me early on about it’s foolishness and selfishness. He actually related it to me in physics terminology and used a phrase that I still use.

“Don’t be stupid on someone else’s dime!”

You are allowed to be as stupid as you want in life.. If you wish to do drugs, great, lock yourself in your home – do drugs, drink, whatever. Just don’t get behind the wheel.

And you can drive fast if you want. Just do it on a closed track – pay to be foolish where you DO NOT put others at risk.. that is NOT your call! It’s selfish! Be stupid on your own dime.

My hope that the news can spin this properly to be a wake up call, rather than a senseless tragedy. A senseless tragedy is when a drunk driver runs a light and kills some family on their way home. My fear is that Hollywood will focus on what a great guy Mr. Walker and his friend were.. I mean, they were leaving a charity event after all.

But don’t leave out that they were speeding on city streets, in the middle of the day, putting others at senseless risk! The tragedy would be to obscure THAT important fact.

I remember taking my daughter to Driver’s Edge in Phoenix and them asking everyone to rate themselves as a driver. Side note: if you get a chance to take your child to Driver’s Edge, DO IT!!! 

Guys tend to rate themselves as 8, 9, or 10’s – I KNOW I DID. How arrogant of me!

These professional drivers, who train race car drivers, rate themselves as 7-10 – very few would admit to believing they are a 10. In fact, none of them did. Some of the trainers suggested that there was one person on their staff that they considered a 10 rated driver.

We (the general public) aren’t even close. As with any activity, being a “great driver” requires practice in the most extreme conditions. If these professionals are 7-10, most of us are lucky to break the 5, 6 mark – and that is being generous! If you are a member of the general public and rate yourself as a 7+ driver, you are just arrogant!

Consider playing 1-on-1 basketball with Lebron James or Kobe Bryant. You wouldn’t score a single point if they chose to NOT let you. That is how we – the general public – rank as drivers compared to a professional who trains. They have both a natural physical giftedness and intense training.. we don’t. Don’t be foolishly arrogant about how well you drive.

Owning a really fast car – and driving it fast several times a week – without training and NOT on a closed track makes you an ass, not a good driver.

As the Driver’s Edge trainers pointed out, being a good driver is NOT about how well you drive when everything goes right, it’s about what you are able to do when everything goes wrong!

It is sad whenever anyone dies.. actor or not. However, don’t mistake this as an untimely tragedy. It was the bi-product of foolishness and selfishness. That message MUST get through if Mr. Walker and his friend’s death are to count for something! If that message is lost, that would be tragic!

 

Pulse Infomatics Quickbooks Integration Postcard

My consulting company, Pulse Infomatics, provides custom application development. SQL Server, asp.net, Microsoft Access, and Microsoft Office Automation (Visual Basic for Applications). This past year and half we’ve been integrating these products with Intuit’s Quickbooks Accounting software.

I’ve been putting together a postcard about this service. Here is the first draft. Does it graphically tell a story that is easy to understand?

Connecting Quickbooks to SQL Server and Microsoft Access

Quickbooks is, by far, the most popular small business accounting program on the market. But it is a fairly closed system. Cross-system reporting and importing or exporting data can be challenging. We make those things possible and provide push-button integration between Quickbooks and SQL Server, Microsoft Access, and other databases.

 

Why you and I should be using YouTube more

Subtitled: What my daughter is teaching me about finding and winning fans.

Musicians, songwriters, performers… this is for you.

My daughter loves her music. So much so that she did the research, prompted and pushed, and had me sign her up to attend a performing arts high school in downtown Los Angeles.

We recently moved into the downtown area because she was commuting an hour and 45 minutes ONE WAY to her school. Here are a couple photos of the view from the hill behind out house. It is pretty epic. The dogs are cool too!

Dogs and Los AngelesLos Angeles by day

This works for me too as it brings me closer to both my consulting and opportunities for music.

A Tale of Two Artist

This is sort of an expose of my daughter finding two new artist, how she found them, and how she connects with them. I think it offers some insight into the mind and the method that some people, particularly youth, find and engage with new music.

Artist #1: Echosmith

Echosmith is an alt-rock/indie rock act out of Los Angeles. Young kids – very talented. A few months ago, my friend and music writer, Val King (Rock Revolt Magazine) asked if my daughter and I would like to interview this new act – Echosmith – for her magazine. She is in Georgia and seeks out writers and photographers in various cities.

It is sort of short-notice and we couldn’t make the show that day. But my daughter started listening to them and following them on Tumblr and YouTube. She kept telling me how much she liked them.

Platforms of choice

My daughter spends a LOT of time on Tumblr and YouTube. She’s 15 and I’ve found this to be pretty common. In fact, Facebook, as she describes it, is for 40 year olds. That’s sort of funny considering how it started. I don’t agree with the demographic but I do agree that 15 year olds aren’t connecting on Facebook… why? Their parents are there. We aren’t that cool – even though I know I’m cool.

Tumblr it touted as a blogging platform but it is graphically intensive and easy to post. It is more of a content network than a blog per se. And it’s phone integration works very well.

“YouTubers”

YouTubers are those people who are using YouTube as a primary mechanism for connecting with and engaging their fans. It is easy to post video, has great search tools, can be monetized to earn money, etc.

So, in addition to Tumblr, her primary content network of choice (the place she goes to listen/view content) is YouTube. And she religiously follows quite a few YouTubers. This is where artist and social networks collide.

Echosmith has a new CD. It’s good. Even I like it and I’m old!

We had the opportunity to go see Echosmith for the price of a CD. Good job by the way.. no tickets sold to the event. It was a “buy a CD and get into the show – and we’ll sign the CD as well,” show. That’s smart on Echosmith’s part. You want people to have your music!

But here is the interesting part. While at the show, in a small listening room of a venue called, Amplyfi, my daughter brought up a picture on her phone.

simplyspoons - Jon D

She said, “Dad, is that this guy?” – and she pointed me at a young man who was attending the Echosmith show, talking with his friends. It sure looked like the guy in the photo.

I said, “It could be, who is he?”

“He’s a YouTuber. Rachel’s favorite. I showed you some of his videos.”

So I took her phone, shows the young man the photo, and said, “Is this you?”

He laughed and said that it was. Then he came over and talked to Sara, took a picture with her, and then allowed me to shoot a little video hello to my daughter’s friend Rachel.

Jon D aka: Simply Spoons

Jon is a YouTuber. Well-known and obviously engaging enough to garner some notice. In fact, to my daughter and her friends, he is as much a celebrity as any other artist.

And here is the important lesson. Sara makes no distinction between an unsigned YouTuber or a newly signed major label act or a larger mainstream established act. If they are connecting on HER NETWORKS – they are celebrities to her.

This is an important lesson. I’ve always advocated that your content be strong and you make it the central element of your social media strategy.

However, I’ will also emphasize that you find where your demographic connects. A rough breakdown might look like this – though it really isn’t so clear:

  • YouTube: Everyone. All age groups are on there. Some don’t “subscribe” there but most younger people do. This is where I’m failing in my current social media/content strategy.
  • Tumblr: 14-20 year olds. Irreverent and graphically intensive with video.
  • Instagram: 20-40. Graphically mostly images
  • Pinterest: 20’s. Hipsters?
  • Facebook: 25-55
  • Email: Everyone. There is some confusion and mis-representation of this. But even Echosmith asked everyone to sign up on their email list. Why? Well.. lessons from Myspace. If your social network dies, you want a more direct means to re-engage your fans on the “next” social network.

I thought about this a LOT after that show. I spoke at the Independent Music Conference a few weeks after this. One of my topics was Online Presence and Social Media. I covered the basics but I also discussed this specific incident.

At a show for a more traditionally signed act, my daughter also met another celebrity.. one whose total fanbase was built organically on YouTube. I think this is an important lesson for artist and entrepreneurs alike.

What are your thoughts?