Here is a transcription, kindly offered by celebrated writer Doak Turner, of her talk, which she called MPWR – The Path to Artist Empowerment. As this is an interpretation of her colloquial and informal spoken word, taken by Doak in an effort to capture the message, rather than her direct written prose, please keep this in mind as you read.
gilli moon (transcription from live talk):
Being independent does not mean you have to sign “The Deal” and trust others will work for you. It is a good thing to know you can work with all companies. If you hold out waiting for the big deal it may not happen for you. The music business is all about the business. Music is the catalyst. I feel many artists look for happiness as commercial success, the big money and things. That does not mean happiness to everyone. The business changes, there are fewer and fewer openings to get your songs heard, to get the shelf space in the record retailers. Even if you do get the shelf space, they are rented out by the majors, the posters and exposure takes a lot of money to compete with the majors. Why not give it a shot as an independent artist? It may not give you the big dollar, but this is a big company with a lot of holes to fill. I look at wealth as not how much money you earn, but how much you spend and are able to save. We spend money on silly stuff that we do not need.
I wrote a book called. “I Am A Professional Artist”. I am going to discuss a couple things that are in the book. I believe that it is important to define your strengths, to work at what you are good at for the business. Spend the time on your strengths making those your competitive advantage. You as an artist needs to find your strength. Uniqueness plus talent equals your competitive advantage. My favorite term is “Commenceaphobia”. Get something done! Self doubt, fears wondering when someone else is going to do it for you – why not take that step on your path? A small step leads to large steps. You have to be passionate or do not do it. Rejection, criticism, negativity from family and friends can take your positive energy. It is a choice to choose to be an artist. People complain about it is not happening for them and they use it is a crutch. You made the choice, if it is not happening, move on, go find your way in the world. It is about you finding your way on this two way street.
I used to have the wrong producers who did not know or understand what I really wanted to say. It is about communication, developing relationships that nourish, not zap you! My three O’s – Optimism, being positive and surrounding yourself with positive people + Organized, learning time management and planning your day and how you want to live as well as the business side sending your e-mails, mediation, playing or whatever you have to do. Optimism plus Organized equals Opportunity! If you have a positive outlook, you just smile and endorphins get released to give you a natural buzz of energy and enthusiasm. Loving what you do, plus what you do in your business and creating. Opportunities come when you least expect it. If you sit on two chairs, you will fall between the cracks. Choose what you are going to do! Do not spread yourself too thin, or you won’t get much done. You can work for a publishing house in Nashville, while you are developing networking, developing websites and get more computer savvy that will help you. Diversifying is a key. You start somewhere and make your journey towards your destination; you can have turns on the way. But eventually find where you are going. Being a businessperson as well as an artist is also important.
Find the people you want to work with on the journey. This is YOUR career. We have heard the stories about things that happen to artist, they get screwed because of bad deals. We can change what happens with our careers. The industry is right in this room! You never know what project can happen with someone in this room. The best way to do it is to “un-network”, that means, don’t think of yourself and your needs first when meeting people. See it as an opportunity to create relationships. The word “networking” has such a bad connotation these days. Some people go to events to meet people that can do something for them, so they can move up the food chain and become famous. It is so me, me, me. Life is about giving to each other, coming together and helping each other. The WOW Factor is working together and seeing things happen – that is what it is about. Not wanting that quick fix.
Let’s educate the youth of today what time and energy goes into a record, - the passion, and the people that make the music to work to touch people and create a reaction. We can do it at the grassroots level and create your own groundswell. Do your thing and take care of your art; the people will come to help you in your life. It will come.
Knowing that everything is in abundance is important! I am very much an “I AM” Girl. “I AM a professional artist”. I AM who I want to become, …. write it down for yourself. It is OK to have ambitions, but success is not necessarily commercially driven. Your goals are different from others. Finding your own goals can make all the difference to finding what you really want. It can take a lot of work and it is a lifelong journey. It is about waking up every day and enjoying what you do every single day. Telling yourself at night that you love your life and art! If you do this, you have succeeded! It is not all about playing the game to get in bed with Clear Channel to get on the radio and spend millions of dollars! The radio is so manipulated. Janet Jackson goes #1 before anyone has heard her song. Does that tell you anything? Hey maybe one day my label may work with a major label, but the right relationship at the record company is so important.
Learning the business – education is so important. Developing relationships is so crucial! Being the businessperson is the biggest thing right now. We all just want to sing, but you have to be in control of what you do. Artists have had to sue labels, managers, CPAs to get their money. The right people will come to you in time. It is a group effort, no one makes it on their own, and every artist needs the right team. Why not share a little of the profits with the team around you? There’s enough for everyone.
You need contracts. You need to learn contracts. I have my own contract that my attorney drew up for my business. I learned how to write a contract, my attorney checks it. Why not pick up the phone yourself instead of asking people to make phone calls. Find the right people; find the right rewards for them. Define success on your own terms. Enjoy what you are doing. Know not just spin your wheels. Personal achievement is what it is about. People will tell you that you cannot do it, ignore them! There is a place for every single person to shine.
On page 143 in my book, there is a great amount of information on goal setting. I do goals backwards. I envision myself by closing my eyes. Envision where you are in 10 years time. Think about it, it is not too far way, where are you, what city, who are you surrounded by, what are you about to do, what have you just done, who are you married to, or not, … it is about living, family friends, and finding balance. Write it down what you want in 10 years. Once you finish it, completely written everything that you want, the money and stardom, laying on the beach (hah ha!), and then bring it back to 5 years away and do the same thing. Then 2, then 1. All of a sudden, you’ll have worked out a way to reach your dreams. Just by putting it out there. Then put that little piece of paper away.
It is your own voice, your music and your goal,… find your own place. My music is not Brittany Spears, it is totally different. Find that for yourself, what you want in life. Age does not matter for what you want! Age does matter because you would not have known what you know today. We have all had hardships, struggle relationships and it is all part of you.
How to do it the indie way? Number one- get started – get into the studio, record, get something on tape, let people know what you are doing! This is such a refreshing town to see so many people have such passion for their music. Recording – these days everyone it seems to have a studio, the CD burners, recording at home, it is so amazing what is out there and is now affordable. Finding other songwriters or producers to record and write with that has their own studio. Work together to make it happen. Art programs on computers make it easy with programs such as PhotoShop. I did it this way! You have to learn do it. Cheap printing and CD duplication are out there in every city. Study the bar code options. Short run CD’s like $150.00 for 200 CD’s and a 4-page booklet with the CD. www.mixonic.com have short runs. Type in short run CD in www.google.com and they will give you a list of places for these CD’s. CD Baby is an on-line store for CD’s. www.americasprinter.com has posters, fliers, and postcards. You get 2,5000 fliers for about $125.00. Discmaker.com offers free CD booklet and designs. My non-profit organization www.songsalive.org is a great resource for songwriters.
Making the CD does not mean that the world wants to hear it, we all thing everyone wants to hear our songs. So many bands spend 10 years together, and then they get a break and then they tour and have hardships during the first tour or recording the big first record. You have to be in it for life, it is not a quick thing for success. You will be going on so many journeys. It is not about blaming the radio and the labels; it is about looking at choices. The radio promotion is important. Bryan Farrish is located in LA. He has a place called Brian Farrish Radio and they talk about payola, under the table and bad stuff that has happened in the business. Brian is very proactive for indie artists’ rights in radio. Good guy to know!
WE are dealing with finding the crumbs to get airplay. I am not looking at those major stations. I believe in target marketing, certain areas. I micro-market by planning my years and target that market one fan and one step at a time. I will give you example, the Northwest region of the country. Great place for the summer. Sleep on the beach; do not spend all our money in hotels. We would book the gigs, call a friend of a friend, call the colleges, get on the yahoo groups such as www.indiegirl.com and www.gogirls.com to network, create my own groups through www.warriorgirlmusic.com www.musicthoughts.com run by www.cdbaby.com and there are so many groups to help each other in the towns. Call the venues, as I have an assistant to help me that used to work at Clearchannel. She works very hard and takes on A&R, management, whatever is needed to make the phone calls. Call the community radio stations in those towns. Send the stations a CD and let them know you are coming to town to see if they will play your songs and interview you. If I have my songs on the radio, you have to be out there and working it, it is a 100% job. I get the gigs lined up. Some gigs pay for the gigs that did not pay. You have to believe that it is a good opportunity. I have met amazing people on the tour. Promoters have been very good, they refer others to me. When I went to New Orleans, I called the local CBS affiliate. They liked the fact I came all the way from Australia and wanted me on their local TV station. When I play with my band, I paint on stage, which is a unique performance that separates me from other artists. I call it Sensuart, bringing the music and art together. Dynamic energy on stage is what it is about. Community TV can also work in some markets. Sell your CD’s out of your trunk to the audience. Pass out fliers to develop one fan at a time at the venues. Have a great relationship with your PRO such as BMI, ASCAP and SESAC; let them know stations are playing your songs. I would encourage you to join one of these affiliations. 70% of your income is likely to be able to come from your PRO’s. TV royalties will get paid by one of these groups. Always get a cue sheet if you get a song in a movie so you can keep track of where it is played. You can down load it in the sites of ASCAP, BMI and SESAC.
You want to find income from various levels that will help you keep doing what you want to do. Do not be so narrow in one area. I have songs in many areas, to be recorded by others, pop, some for movies. We talked about the Northwest. Sometimes you can be out there too much. Create an image and what you want to represent yourself, That can be your dress, your website, what you say, your business and through publicity, reviews, Find quotes to help you form your own image. My CD’s are a concept of what is going on with me.
A lot of songwriters get together in their community. In LA we play songs for each other, but I still need to get out of my town to play. Get out of your own space with short run tours can help your career. Every time you perform make it in a way that you are showing your best songs and performance. You never know who is going to be there in the audience. Think about managing how much you go out, how many songs you put on your CD. Sometimes you want them to know you as an artist and person, other times the mystery speaks best. My Woman CD has 18 tracks. The new one has 14. You want to show a dynamic range and have people get to know you. The first 3 songs have to hit them right between the eyes, have your best 3 songs, show them what YOU do, not someone else, find you in the CD, not someone else. The listener wants to feel what you are feeling in the production.
Radio play can be done in small steps, whom can you call to get lists of radio stations. The Indie Bible – www.indiebible.com/sa then you can get a discount through songsalive. Get the local press in that market. Send specialized e-mails to the targeted market. Be very direct and give them what they need for their article, sometimes line for line. Put a link to your site in the article so readers can learn more about you. Publicity is excellent. On the website www.songsalive.org you can click on “getting reviews” and it will walk you through of how to get distributed, to get on the web and other aspects that you will need for publicity.
If you can find a publicist it can help your career. You want to know you are going to get the best attention from that person. I had a company that promoted Ani DiFranco and thought it would be good for me, as they know how to talk to the stations every week. They would always promote Ani, and I would get lost in their talk to the stations. They cared mostly about Ani, obviously. Money can be spent in a better way. I have to target each territory. I had success with a song in Phoenix. I went there 12 times and opened for the group “Simple Minds”. It was a 2,000 seat audience and had the performance of my lifetime, had people in line to sign my CD, they signed up for my e-mail list. Develop a community on your site. Go to http://groups.yahoo.com and find out how to start your own yahoo group for your own community. Mine is a newsletter called “Warrior Girl eNews” and Artistlivingroom an interactive discussion board for all artists www.artistlivingroom.com. I also have Songsalive! Enotes that is an interactive group for songwriters.
Publicity – public awareness and press, that is media, on-line e-zines to get your name out. You need to back it up with talent. I use my website that attracts people to the site, I have a diary and the people feel like they know me. Bios, photos and performances and a touring schedule keep everyone in touch. Oh yeah – there is a CD at the site for sale. Of course! The website is a big key to getting your name to the people and is YOUR store front. Use it, promote it, bring people HOME to you.
Some servers limit you to how many e-mails that you send at a time, it is not your outlook or outlook express. You need another program such as Go Sender and you can send a million transactions a year. It passes your ISP to send your e-mails. A million e-mails are about $99.00 a year. Bulk mail by e-mail. There are other programs that you can research to help with your efforts.
Marketing – how to get the attention of your audience. Use street promotion tools such as posters, postcards, flyers for gigs and cd launches, stickers, cool swag and merchandise, little things that draw people to you to buy your cd and get to know who you are as an artist. Learn about branding your name, your cd name, your website name, getting into people’s minds. I love postcards. When I receive a postcard it’s hard to throw it out. I have to put it somewhere, like my fridge, or on my desk. The paper is solid cardboard and I feel people have spent money on it so I hang on to them.
Distribution – use CDbaby.com (etailer), Amazon.com/advantage, TheOrchard.com, 101distribution.com, local distributors for mom and pops. Anything you find to get your music out there. But your website, again, is your home. Always link back to your site. Distribution is changing from being the hard core bricks and mortar to online downloads. Soon, consumers will be able to go into a store and have your cd music and cd booklet (skins) downloaded from your site, whereupon you will get immediately paid electronically by the retail store for your share of the profits… instantaneously. No more shipping and storage issues. In fact, no more duplication costs! Distribution is changing and artists can be ahead of this game. Artists to consumers direct. That’s what I’m talking about!!!
We live in a world of change. Don’t be intimidated by it. Embrace it and get on with it. What else are you going to do?!
- gilli moon
Doak Turner is a songwriter in Nashville, the editor of the Nashville Muse www.nashvillemuse.com and the correspondent for www.musicdish.com in Nashville.
© 2003 gilli moon