Ideas are just a starting point. The real trick is taking an idea and making it happen as well as possible. Derek Sivers defines ideas as a multiplier and I think that’s a useful way to look at it. He even gives some definition to the values with a so-so idea worth half as much as a good idea and that in turn being worth half a brilliant idea.
The real trick is the execution. That’s the tough part. You can’t phone in execution from your hammock in Bimini despite what Tim Ferriss might tell you, at least I’m not convinced. Execution is the perspiration generating part of the job and ultimately it is what makes things happen.
This is clear if we’re thinking about a business idea but I think this is a useful model to apply to any aspirations we may have. Writing a song is more than plucking an idea from the bosom of Euterpe.
To start with the idea needs to be captured somehow, written down on paper, sung into your cellphone or tended in your memory until it can be preserved somewhere. Then the execution can really begin. The idea needs to be developed unless you’re lucky enough to have dreamed up a complete work, melody, lyrics, chorus, bridge etc.
Sure a great idea can make a song better, but a rubbish arrangement will kill it stone dead for sure. Value good ideas but recognise them for what they are, a starting point and value the execution.
Modern music production software is brilliant stuff. It gives us the capability to do so much that was previously only possible in expensive studios and with the help of several musicians. There is even the potential to sync to picture and even some (pre-)mastering capability. In the words of Harold Macmillan, “[we have] never had it so good.”
Power brings responsibility though and one area where this capability can introduce friction is in writing music. The problem is that there is just so much to tinker with, synth patches, eq, effects, bussing, display colours… It just never ends.
Most of this capability has little to do with creating music. It falls firmly in the realms of editing. The problem for me is that writing can be a difficult process and the desire to procrastinate huge. There may never have been a better procrastination tool for me than ProTools.
At the other extreme when I was at music college in the 1980s there was an ongoing debate among the composition students as to whether one should even use a piano or other instrument while writing music. The idea was that the purity of the music was better served by creating it only in your head and jotting it down on paper immediately. There is a certain purity to this idea, but it was only taken seriously by us students. The professors, being more experienced, stayed well clear of such matters and just stuck with whatever worked for them. Continue reading
The internet has created a landscape of huge potential for aspiring musicians. There are lots of sites purporting to exist to help you claim your spot in the pantheon of your heroes. So why aren’t you selling millions of albums a year and wondering if it’s blasé to put your 20th Grammy in the downstairs toilet?
The internet offers some great tools to independent musicians (i.e. those without major-label contracts), but they are only tools. It’s up to you to pick them up and get to work.
The (really) bad news is that success requires hard work. Talent helps too, but hard work is vital. Another piece of bad news is that if you are trying to make any money from your music you are in business.
The internet offers you many opportunities to publicise your music and to learn about your fans (should you be fortunate enough to have any). The major change of all this technology is only that your reach is wider and that you can do much more of your job (never forget this is your business) from your own home in your pants if you so wish.
There are several folks out there giving some great advice on how you can do this magical music career alchemy. In my opinion the best starting point is Andrew Dubber’s New Music Strategies. This is a free 96 page e-book full of advice and perhaps more importantly a framework for thinking about how you can use technology to further your career. There are lots of great posts on his blog too. It’s well worth reading through and subscribing to the feed.
I feel that the most valuable thing you can do at the start of your musical internet adventure is establish your brand (that’s brand not band). People need to know who you are and what you do before you have any hope of selling them anything. Be prepared to give lots of stuff away, your time, your attention and even your music as free downloads. Continue reading