Hey everyone! Welcome to the latest episode of Teen Jazz Radio! Summer is halfway over, so I hope that you’ve been making good use of your extra time to fit in a bit more practice or songwriting. I’m Shannon Kennedy, your host and I’d like to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to listen to our show and to the fantastic young artists we feature as part of each episode.
Today on Teen Jazz Radio I’m going to discuss how we, as musicians, can look to other vocations for inspiration on a variety of things – the day to day tasks, marketing and more. In this episode I’m going to take a look at independent authors in particular, what they’re doing and how we can apply it to music.
Also in this episode, I’m also going to feature the music of Nick Colionne, Paul Taylor, Terje Lie, Tim Owens, U-Nam, and Vernon Neilly.
As I mention at the beginning of each episode, I know that many of you are listening to this podcast for different reasons – some of you may be here for the advice offered as part of this episode and some of you may be listening to check out the music we feature as part of the show. So, as I mentioned in the last episode, I’m going to try and space the music and the advice out evenly throughout the podcast so that there’s a little something for everyone.
So, before we dive into today’s tips, let’s check out our first music set. This week I’d like to introduce you to guitar player Nick Colionne and saxophonist Paul Taylor. The first song you’ll hear is Keepin’ it Cool by Nick Colionne from Keepin It Cool and second I’m going to feature Velvet Rope by Paul Taylor from Undercover.
Once again, the first track was Nick Colionne from Keepin’ It Cool. And after that was Paul Taylor with Velvet Rope. You can find more information about Nick Colionne at nickcolionne.com and Paul Taylor at paultaylorsax.com.
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.” Steven King, On Writing, p. 145
I love that quote from Steven King and I believe the same can be said for music. If you want to be a musician, there are two things you must do: listen a lot and play a lot. Or if you want to be a songwriter: listen a lot and write a lot. As he said, there’s not way around doing those two things.
So why I am talking about advice from a writer to other writers?
I think that as a musician, or in any field really, there’s a lot to learn from observing other comparable industries. Like musicians, many writers have been turning towards the independent route as a viable means of establishing a career doing what they love and much of what they do can teach us, as musicians, something.
Brainstorming and Working With Your Audience to Create Great Content
Before I get into the first point, I want to make sure you understand that when I say “content,” I’m talking about your music regardless of what form it’s in – audio, live performance, video, etc.
The first step to creating successful content, is to come up with ideas for the content itself. During this phase, brainstorming, feedback is critical. It’s not enough to play your new song for mom and dad and then expect it to be a success just because they liked it. You need outside, unbiased feedback (sorry Moms and Dads – that doesn’t mean we don’t value your opinions, it’s just that we need a diverse collection of them to make the most informed choices).
So how do writers do this?
Independent (and sometimes even “signed” writers) often blog as a way to help find usable ideas, get to know their audience, develop their personal writing style, and get feedback on their writing (both on the blog and in their published works).
Musicians, like writers, can also blog to get to know their audience, but there are tons of other tools we can use to do the same sorts of things. So if writing isn’t your thing, that’s not a problem.
Youtube, for one, is a great way to post videos of live performances or even rough recordings of new songs to find out what your audience and peers think. It’s a great way to get feedback on your songwriting, your performance, etc. and there’s a nice variety of ways that you can use Youtube to not only get in touch with listeners, but to promote your music as well.
With Youtube you can create a video tour diary, give music fans a behind the scenes look, share “acoustic” versions of songs, live performances, music videos, and more.
If you’re in the process of putting together an album, you can see what music of yours your friends and fans enjoy and this can be incredibly useful when you’re selecting songs for an album or when you’re in the songwriting phase.
You can also use the statistics on past album and single sales (if you have any at this point) to see what works and what doesn’t. Which tracks are the most popular? Which were the least popular? Figure out what you did that worked and what didn’t and then focus on what’s working for you.
Soundcloud is another great way to share your music with your audience as is Bandcamp. Soundcloud allows you to post clips or entire tracks and listeners can add comments that link to certain sections of a song. Bandcamp is an online music distributor that allows your fans to listen to your music and even purchase it. They also provide you with insightful stats such as how many plays you’ve received, where they originate (through a widget or the site directly), how many times a track was skipped and even if it was listened to partially or all the way through.
Instagram is a fun way to share behind the scenes photos with your audience. As is Facebook. I could probably spend an entire podcast on how to use each social media tool to promote and share your music, but that’s already been done several times over, so I’ll let you do a bit of research and explore some of that yourself if you’re really interested. There are posts on Facebook and Twitter promotion on Teen Jazz, so I’ll include links to those with the transcription of this post.
So to sum this first section up, when brainstorming and developing ideas, you basically need three things: a way to capture your ideas whether that be video, live performance, or recording; a way to share your ideas (a platform such as a venue, Youtube, Soundcloud, Facebook, whatever); and a way to collect feedback.
Our second set of music for today’s show is going to feature Terje Lie and Tim Owens. The first song you’ll hear is So Retro by Terje Lie from the album Urban Vacation and second I’m going to feature Somethin 4 My Soul by Tim TiO Owens from Realife.
Once again, that was Tim Owens with Somethin 4 My Soul and before that was Terje Lie with So Retro. You can find more information about Terje Lie (“Terry Lee”) terjelie.com and Tim Owens at tiomusic.us.
Focus on the things that you do that sell
Opportunities that pay are the things you should focus on first, the rest can come when you have time left over. What do you record or perform that interests your audience? That is what will keep opportunities knocking at your door. If you create music just because you want to create it and not because people want to listen to it, you may never turn music into a viable career. In this case, it might only ever be a hobby that brings in a little bit of money. Is that what you want for your music?
Now, to be clear, I’m not suggesting that you sell out. Not by any stretch. There are things that you are doing, that you enjoy doing that can be monetized and there’s no reason to do something you dislike to make money. It’s a matter of finding a way to make the music you love make money. This is definitely an art, but if you want people to pay attention and make money for what you do, pay attention to the things you do that people connect with and focus on them.
How do writers do this?
They blog. As I mentioned before, blogging gives writer’s a way to connect with their audience and get feedback. Part of this gives them insight into what they’re doing that works and what doesn’t.
As a musician, this is where posting your music and performances really come in handy as I said earlier. You can put your stuff out there and see what works and what doesn’t, just like writers do with their blogs.
Another thing that some writers do, is that they offer free copies of their books before release to a select group of readers or their mailing lists in exchange for free feedback and reviews. The same can be done when we’re getting to release an album and this is also a great way to pull off a successful album launch.
This is a point that I make almost every time I discuss content creation. I’ll link to a few posts where I talk about it more in depth, but I want to mention it again here in today’s podcast.
+ Practice Tips
+ Paralyzed by Perfection: Why the Single Release Model Can Help You Keep Moving
You need to deliver consistent content. In little ways, your audience relies on you and your clients (people who hire you) rely on you for consistent releases and performances. If you stop releasing music regularly, your audience is going to look elsewhere for something new. If you show up for gigs and don’t perform consistently (meaning the quality of your performance varies too greatly), they’re going to bring in someone else who can do a great job every time.
How do writers do this? They write everyday, even when they don’t feel like it.
Make a commitment to your art. Practice regularly. Write regularly. Record regularly. Consistency leads to improved output, it’s something that builds slowly over time. You’ll grow with your audience and with your opportunities. You just need to be willing to put in the day-to-day effort to get there.
Some days it may be easier to write or practice than others. I can tell you from personal experience that there are days it feels impossible and quite miserable, but you can’t rely on outside sources for inspiration or motivation. Inspiration comes from your consistent, hard work. You can’t expect to pull off a brilliant performance or release a number one hit single if you aren’t putting in the effort on a regular basis behind the scenes.
Yes, there may be times where something magical happens and you succeed effortlessly, but that’s only because you put in the work at some point. You can’t expect to write an amazing song if you’ve never written a song before and you can’t expect to play an epic jazz solo if you’ve never picked up an instrument or improvised.
Consistency helps build confidence which is the next thing you need to succeed.
Daily practice or daily songwriting allow your output to be of a higher and more consistent quality (yes there are always exceptions and bad days and horrible songs that make you wonder what happened). But if you’re putting in the work regularly, it’ll show and it will make you feel more confident about your playing or songwriting. This confidence, in turn, makes it easier to sit down and write or go perform in high pressure situations because you know you’ll do well.
I also want to point out that confident and egotistical are not the same things. There’s knowing you can do something and being overly certain in a way that can come across as quite obnoxious (especially if one of those bad days happens to show up). Learn to differentiate between the two and make a point not to cross that line!
Writers and musicians both have the same fears – they worry about not being good enough, about running out of inspiration or ideas, not meeting expectations and of failure in general. These can hold us back, but you have to try to push through them. Music is something you’ll spend your life working on and getting better at, it’s something that doesn’t have a defined end. You may never feel like you’ve “arrived” and know that it’s okay.
These fears don’t disappear with time, but they do lessen. Try to work through them and not against them. You’ll only burnout and get frustrated if you’re constantly fighting yourself. Try to focus on when others connect with your work (which is usually more often than when they don’t if you’re doing it right).
Our last set of music for today’s show is going to feature Vernon Neilly and U-Nam. The first song you’ll hear is I Was Made to Love You by Vernon Neilly from A Tribute To Stevie Wonder and second I’m going to feature C’est Le Funk (feat. Nivo Deux) by U-Nam.
Once again, that was U-Nam with C’est le Funk and before that was Vernon Neilly with I Was Made to Love You. You can find more information about U-Nam at unammusic.com or in our interview with him on Teen Jazz and Vernon Neilly is at vernonneilly.com.
Before I close out the show, I’d like to invite you all to check out Teen Jazz if you’re interested in learning more about me, Shannon Kennedy or the community. As I just mentioned it’s TeenJazz.com.
Or if you just would like to say hello, come and say hi at our Facebook page – that’s facebook.com/teenjazz. I promise to say hello back!
All the links that I’ve mentioned as part of the show will be up on Teen Jazz and Teen Jazz Radio, so if you’re interested in learning more about these talented artists, please stop on by – I know they’ll appreciate the love! You can leave comments on any of our posts at TeenJazzRadio.com.
A very special thanks to Jazz and Bossa Radio for featuring Teen Jazz Radio on their web radio station. We recently partnered with them back in May to share our artists with a wider audience and we are excited to have joined the Jazz and Bossa Radio family. You can visit them at jazzandbossaradio.com. All of our Teen Jazz Radio podcasts are featured over at Jazz and Bossa Radio on Sundays at 3pm EST and on Wednesdays at 5pm EST.
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In this week’s episode, you heard the music of:
- Nick Colionne – “Keepin’ it Cool” from Keepin It Cool
- Paul Taylor – “Velvet Rope” from Undercover
- Terje Lie – “So Retro” from Urban Vacation
- Tim Owens – “Somethin 4 My Soul” from Realife
- Vernon Neilly – “I Was Made to Love Her” from A Tribute To Stevie Wonder
- U-Nam – “C’est Le Funk (feat. Nivo Deux)“