Trying to Figure It All Out

Making money with music is not easy.

Today, most people don’t want to pay for music. Why should they? It is so easy to copy music, I can just find someone else who has it, find it on Spotify, or find a free download somewhere.

I’m hard pressed to find another art form that is pirated as easily as music. Visual art is not often printed from a computer, framed, and hung above the mantle. It isn’t uploaded to a digital picture frame and hung in the living room. A professional print is purchased. An original is bought from the artist.

Musicians are trying to figure out how to make money at this craft. It is becoming increasingly difficult. The latest avenue we are going to be attempting is Internet-broadcast concerts from our home.

It sounds a little weird, but think about it: you buy a digital ticket to a virtual concert with 20 other fans. You get to watch the concert from the comfort of your own home, in your pajamas, not having to pay for a baby-sitter, no parking fees, no long drive home. Not only that, but you also get to interact with the artist by way of a chat feature.

In exchange for this cool “virtually intimate” venue, the fan has the option to tip the artist on top of the ticket price. No need to carry cash, either!

It’s a really cool idea that we will be trying soon. The difficult part will be getting the general public to warm to the idea, buy in, and buy a ticket. I hope this works – it makes a whole lot of sense for both artist and fan.

Here’s to making 2015 the year of the artist – the year that revenue streams are discovered. Happy New Year, world.

Weekend Warriors

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It means performing gigs on the weekends, returning home for the week. That is the lifestyle for those that have regular 9-5 jobs back home.

For us, it means packing Thursday night, leaving as soon as I get home from work Friday, getting to Georgia between 12:30 and 2 at night, and driving home Saturday after the show. We sleep it off in the comfort of our own bed Saturday night, well into Sunday, so we can regain sanity for the week ahead.

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It’s not an easy life, but I can’t think of anything I would rather do than take road trips with my wife every weekend. I love the great shows and the uninterrupted time with my wife. Music. Love. Long stretch of pavement in front of us.

Road Warriors.

Weekend Warriors.

It Just Feels Right

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I hope you experience times like I experienced yesterday – it was a day where I felt I was doing something I was created to do. Yesterday, I was in the studio playing and recording music.

Growing up in Nashville, I never thought I would be any good at playing guitar. There were too many stellar players around. However, I later came to the realization that every guitar player starts out the same way – not knowing what he is doing. At that point, I started thinking I could do this for a living…

Yesterday was the day my wife would go into the studio to record 3 new songs that will be released as singles in the coming months. She had done a fabulous job writing these songs. Now it was time to bring them to life.

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With the help of our new producer, Neilson Hubbard, and his talented friends (Evan Hutchings – drums, Dean Marold – upright bass, Will Kimbrough – electric guitar and mandolin, Josh Britt – assistant engineer), we got some really great stuff recorded. In a short 6 hours that just flew by, we got pretty much everything except background vocals for the three tracks. The whole time, I was thinking just how lucky I was to be playing guitar all day.

There’s something special with music, and it becomes almost magical when you play music with friends. Here is just a little snippet of one of the tunes we recorded yesterday.

Time to Ramble

It’s 5:15 am.

I can’t sleep.

So it is time to ramble.

Golf has become my latest hobby. Dad told me long ago, “Business is done either over a meal or on the golf course.” He chose over meals because he wasn’t very good at golf.

Here we are, he’s making a conscious effort to be healthier, taking up golf, getting pretty good, and now I have a coach down the street. He knows just enough to get me pointed in the right direction, and I love sports too much to look back.

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I have always loved sports. Baseball was, is, and will continue to be my first love. Football is way up there too. Golf never appealed to me until now. It’s an opportunity to get outside and once again swing a stick at a little white ball.

At the same time, my wife and I are expecting!

Expecting to go back into the studio, that is. Later this month, we go in to record 3 new songs that will be released as singles. We can’t wait!

After a tumultuous first EP recording experience, we have found a producer we like, admire, and most of all trust. We are very excited about what is coming down the pike!

Finally, I’ll say that a lake is heaven for me. I love going on the weekends to a place where time doesn’t matter. Wake up when you wake up. Eat when you’re hungry. Do what you want. Little to no Internet and connectivity to the outside world. Heaven.

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All It Takes Is a Little Progress

Sometimes music gets hard.  It gets frustrating.  It feels like it is going nowhere.  Fast.

That’s when a little progress can help.

This last week, we found a little progress.  My wife has written some new songs and found one by a fantastic and well-decorated songwriter here in town, and we are itching to get them recorded.  This week, we made progress on finding a producer/engineer to help us make those songs come to life.  There is still much to do, but every little bit helps.

On top of that, several shows are coming together.  A show here, a show there.  Each one means another $1 in tips (really, that’s what we average – Nashville apparently doesn’t believe in tipping for music), more exposure, and if we are lucky, one CD sale.  Riveting stuff here, folks.

One day at a time.  One show at a time.  One song at a time.  It all starts with a song, and then that song must be sung.  That song must be heard.  That song must be loved.  Then that song can be sung back.  I can’t wait for that last one.

Can’t wait.

No Two Shows Are the Same

But sometimes, you’ll play the same show twice.

That’s what happened to us last week.  My wife and I were on vacation, and she was smart enough to book a show while we were on vacation to give us some exposure while we were out of town.  She’s a smart one!

Well, here’s how it went down: my wife booked the gig via email, and in the last email she sent, she asked how long we needed to play.  That email went unanswered.  We didn’t think about it again.

Until we finished our set.

One of the guys we had met that week had gone inside to the bar to get another drink, and they said there would be music until 11.  The current time was approximately 9.  We had just played every song we had prepared.

Luckily, we had a good crowd – family and some new best (tipsy) friends!  So we played the same set we just finished all over again!

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Yes – we played the same set twice.  That took us to about 10 or just after, and then we conversed with our small crowd.  One guy even bought us a round of my wife’s favorite liquor!  Fireball!

Then he proceeded to buy another.  Oh boy!

All in all, it was a great time.  We really enjoyed ourselves, and we even tried out our new PA system – a Bose L1 Compact.  Man, it did the trick!  We even had one lady ask the waitress if we could turn it down (to which she replied in the negative).

This one goes to all those audiences that have been great to us!

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July + Parking Lot + Middle Georgia = Sweaty

Well, that was…hot.

We played an hour set for the City of Centerville Fourth of July celebration last night. Our set started between 6 and 6:30 (I still don’t know what time we were supposed to start). It was fun, but boy, was it hot!

My wife said, “Why don’t you play in shorts?” I come from the school of thought that musicians always perform in pants unless the specific dress code calls for shorts. My wife had a good idea – playing in shorts was so much better than playing in jeans would have been last night.

We were up on a big trailer in an asphalt parking lot, playing in front of a crowd of people who were in line for face painting, corn dogs, and cold sodie-waters. I think they liked the music – Jessie signed hundreds of autographs (or at least 9), and they all had such nice things to say!

We made sure to dress festivally, wearing our red, white, and blue! Even Nana showed up in the cutest outfit!

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I’m sure I drank 3 gallons of water, but nothing seemed like enough. I think we survived, though, and it was a fun event. Hopefully we get to do it again next year! It’s alway fun playing any chance we get, especially when there’s a crowd willing to listen!

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You Get For What You Pay

“You get what you pay for,” or as the grammar-nerd in my likes to correct, “You get for what you pay.”

Music doesn’t make a whole lot of money.  Sure, there are some superstars, but that’s the exception.  For every superstar, there are hundreds and thousands of musicians (and drummers) who play for fun, play for tips, play for food, and play for beer.

Music, even as a hobby, is not cheap.  Let’s break it down to it’s cheapest form:

Buy a guitar.  That’s a couple hundred dollars, at least.

Take lessons.  You can either take lessons and pay someone for it, or you can learn yourself.  Either way, you’re spending your time.  Someone once said time is money.

Learn songs.  You have to hear songs before you can learn them, which probably means purchasing (or stealing, whichever your conscience lets you do) songs.

There you go.  You’re still looking at several hundred, maybe even thousands, of dollars.  No biggee.

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The masses don’t always understand what it takes to have music for an event.  I get that.  I don’t know what all it takes to build a hospital.  But I do ask others that build hospitals what kind of money it takes to build hospitals.  If I can’t afford it, I don’t build hospitals.  If music is expensive, I guess you’ll just have to go without.

Something that also goes into having music is amplification.  Most every bar, restaurant, clothing shop, and gas station in Nashville has a PA system because they all have live music.  However, go outside of the city limits, and people don’t always think about these things.  I get it.  However, it then puts the musician in a tough place – somehow it becomes the musician’s job to now track down a PA system.

The life of a beginning artist – you learn who your friends are.  The ones that have PA systems.  The ones that let you borrow those PA systems.  The ones that have it ready to go at a moment’s notice.  The ones that let you use it rent free.  Man, I love those friends.

Give Up

Music is hard.

“The perishing is more likely, and will be a lot easier anyway.”  – Samwise Gamgee, “Lord of the Rings”

It’s easier to give up.  Chances are success will not be attained.  Why go after dreams in the first place?

I’ve always been a dreamer.  I used to sit in my room at night and play guitar, imagining I was playing (and sometimes singing) in front of thousands.  I never actually thought I would get to do that, but I didn’t care – I was dreaming.

As a dreamer, I’m not really sure what motivates the “non-dreamers.”  I’ve never met someone that labeled himself a non-dreamer, but I suppose they are out there.  What motivates him to wake up in the morning and get out of bed?

For music, it’s my dreams that motivate my practice.  I want to fulfill my dreams.  Maybe it’s a sense of duty for non-dreamers to practice.  That sounds like it would quickly lead to burn out.  That ain’t my style.

I was fortunate enough to have parents that supported pretty much any extracurricular activity I fancied.  Baseball and guitar were the two with which I stuck the longest.  Music longer than baseball.  I’m thankful for that support – showing up at every game, tee ball through senior year of high school; buying me my first guitar and lessons at age 8; allowing me to take over weekends and summer vacations with days at the ball park; chipping in to help me buy my Taylor in 8th grade; loving me all along the way.

It’s late and it’s time to head off to dreamland.  Luckily, I’m a dreamer.  Tonight looks to be filled with dreams of songs and stories, and I couldn’t be any more excited for what’s ahead.

Bradley – Professional Artist Pep Talker

That’s what I’ve decided to put on my business card.

Being the husband/guitarist/band leader/manager to a talented artist means being a good encourager.  Unfortunately for me, that doesn’t come naturally.  However, I do think I’m getting better.

I was talking to another artist just getting started in this whole creating art thing, and what was quite interesting is that HE HAS THE EXACT SAME FEARS AND HESITATIONS as every other artist out there.

“My art isn’t good enough.”

“No one likes it.”

“It’s not selling fast enough.”

“I’m not good enough.”

Sometimes artists need reminding they aren’t their art.  Their art is a part of them.  It doesn’t define them.  It’s a glimpse of what life and this world look like through their eyes.

We like comedians because they point out the mundane things in a humorous way.  We like musicians because they point out the mundane things with melody and meter and give it meaning.

Keep making your art.  You need it in order to express yourself.  We all need ways to express ourselves.  I also need to see how you see things.  It’s fun.  It’s entertaining.

It’s art.

 

P.S. Check out my wife’s art at JessieSmithMusic.com or on iTunes – Jessie Smith