Essential aspects of a career in music: Focus and Commitment

  Until they become the same, keep a balance of work for livelihood and work for your dream. 

Maybe in the beginning its 90% livelihood work and 10% passion work.  In music usually one can start closer to 80/20 because it’s already a luxury if music pays for your livelihood at all.    You can gradually shift that percentage towards 50/50 and then, hopefully, beyond that. 

You are competing(for lack of a better word) against people who are able to put 100% of their time into their music so your 20% must be focused and consistent.  Short consistent practice beats occasional marathon sessions.  The 80% of your work may eat up a lot of your energy but if the 20% is taken (at least) as seriously as the 80% then you will see results and progress.

Making an album from the artist perspective vs. from the marketing perspective.

Making an album from the artist perspective vs. from the marketing perspective.


The artist mind will begin working on an album asking: How can I express myself and my creativity?

The marketing mind will begin working on an album asking: What audience am I making this for?  


They are opposites.  Artists wants to express their inner vision,  the marketing person wants to make something that reaches a group of people.  

To only listen to your inner vision can be naive.  

To only think about the target audience can be shallow and calculated. 

 Strike a balance.  


Many artists are repulsed by the idea that their album should be calculated.  

Marketing people don’t take people seriously who say their album “doesn’t sound like anyone else” or is “totally original.”   


A middle ground must be struck for the artist who is conscious about building their career.  

Separate your ego from your product:  Of course it won’t encompass everything about who you are as an artist.  Live concerts can showcase aspects of the artist that is not captured on the studio recordings.  

The album is a product while the artist can be a process. 

Frequently Asked Question: Should I make my album by myself or should I collaborate?

Should I collaborate or should I do it alone?

Think about the song man in the mirror by Michael Jackson. It was a #1 song.  People listened to it and said “Michael Jackson is great, I want to buy his cd/go see him in concert.” Meanwhile, look at the credits:

  • Written and composed by Siedah Garrett and Glen Ballard
  • Produced by Quincy Jones
  • Co-Produced by Michael Jackson
  • Michael Jackson: Solo & background vocals
    • Featuring Siedah Garrett, The Winans and The Andrae Crouch Choir
  • Ollie E. Brown: Clap
  • Dann Huff: Guitar
  • Greg Phillinganes: Keyboards
  • Glen Ballard, Randy Kerber: Synthesizers
  • Siedah Garrett: Background vocals
  • The Winans: Carvin, Marvin, Michael and Ronald Winans
    • Andrae Crouch and his Choir: Sandra Crouch, Maxi Anderson, Rose Banks, Geary Faggett, Vonciele Faggett, Andrew Gouche, Linda Green, Pattie Howard, Jean Johnson, Perry Morgan, Alfie Silas, Roberto Noriega
  • Rhythm arrangement by Glen Ballard and Quincy Jones
  • Synthesizer arrangement by Glen Ballard, Quincy Jones and Jerry Hey
  • Vocal arrangement by Andrae Crouch


Michael Jackson only sang on it and co-produced it yet the average listener hears it and will give all the credit to him.  Of course it's not their fault, the radio DJ will only say "That was Human Nature by Michael Jackson." Spotify will only say "Human Nature by Michael Jackson."  There are some of the worlds greatest musicians/producers listed above but people are used to giving all credit to the person whose name is on the album.  Because of this, most people who hear your music for the first time won't know or care who played what. They'll only be deciding if they like it or not. That's why you have to hit them with the best possible product.  If you can get someone to play bass (or any other instrument) who is been devoting their whole life to be great at that instrument and it sounds even 1% better than you playing the part yourself then it may be worth using that person. 

Frequently Asked Question: I want to learn to record myself.  What gear/equiptment do I need? 


Here is a list of gear for a first home recording setup.  There are virtually infinite possibilities when it comes to choosing/adding recording gear.  An important principle is to make the most of what you have and to add as necessity dictates.  


1. A computer:   a computer will allow you to record digitally 


2. Recording software - otherwise known as a DAW(digital audio workstation.)  A DAW allows you to record music with maximum flexibility for editing and postproduction.  


    Most popular DAWs: Logic, Pro Tools, Ableton, Garage Band


3.  An interface:    an interface connects the computer with musical instruments or with microphones 


    three examples of (relatively) inexpensive interfaces:  Focusrite Scarlett, Apogee ONE, NI Complete Audio  


4. A Microphone -  3 (relatively) inexpensive options:   Shure SM57, Shure SM58, Audio Technica AT2020


5. Microphone Stand  


6. A pop filter - a pop filter eliminates annoying pop sounds that can occur when singing or speaking


7. Cables - USB cable for interface to laptop, XLR cable for microphone to interface, 1/4 inch cable for instrument to interface 


8. Headphones - so you can hear the music back and so you can avoid “bleed” (when sound is unintentionally picked up when recording.)

Frequently Asked Question: I want to record my music(single, EP, or Album) for the first time, what do I need to know? 


The recording process is traditionally divided into three stages: 


1. PREPRODUCTION:  this includes writing the song, being able to perform it properly, choosing how and with whom to record it


2. PRODUCTION: this involves actually recording the song.  You may record it one instrument at a time or with a group playing simultaneously.  Each instrument will be on its own "track" so they can be individually adjusted.  


3. POSTPRODUCTION: this involves editing, adding effects, mixing, and mastering


What is MIXING?:  The blending and balancing of the tracks together. This will involve adjusting each individual track to help it to fit into the whole.  


What is MASTERING?: after the individual tracks are mixed, the mix as a whole can benefit from certain adjustments  (for example - adjusting overall volume, compression, noise reduction, stereo width)


While you may get the best results from using one mix engineer and a separate mastering engineer for their recordings, to save time and money people often have the person doing the mixing also do the mastering.  Another alternative is to use new software(such as landr) that will “master” the song for you.    


This can all be done on your own laptop with a microphone or an interface or it can be done at a studio.

Get To Know The Players


PURPOSE: When you are starting as a musical artist, how do you get a clearer sense of your path beyond knowing that you want to be "successful"?  



You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There may be some unique things about you as an artist but in all likelihood, there are some other artists that you are similar to in important ways.  Here's an exercise to help you to get to know the territory.  Who are 5-10 well known artists that you are like?   Let’s call that the “A” group.


Now pick another 5-10 artists that are similar to you who are a level of popularity below that.  Let’s call that the “B” group.



 And one more time pick 5-10 artists who are a level of popularity below that.  Let’s call that the “C” group.


Naming and defining these 3 groups will help you get to know the map of where you are going:

You can research things like: 

what venues are those artists playing at?  

Which artists are they co-billing with?  

How do they use social media?  

What are their fans like?  

While the A group might be inspirational, the C group will more likely show you what your next steps should look like.  


most likely, everybody recognizes some of the names in the A group but if you can’t name and are not fans of artists in the B and C category then you don’t have a map for your next steps.  In addition, you have a much better chance of connecting with and learning from the artists in your B and C groups. 

APPLICATION: Who are your A, B, and C groups?  What can you learn from them? For example, What venues are the C artists playing at?  What sort of image do they project through their website and social media? 

Understand that there is a difference between Music and The Music Business

PURPOSE: a piece of wisdom that I wish someone told me when I was getting started in music.  



In the world of professional musicians everybody is good.  Not everybody is having financial success.   Music and the business of music are two totally different things.  One can be an amazing musician and not have any financial success or one can be a decent musician and have tremendous financial success.   If you go into the music business thinking that you will make money just because you are a great musician, there is a good chance that you will be very disappointed.   If you look around and realize that you are as good as most of the successful musicians out there but you are not having success yourself, then music is probably not the skill that you need to hone.   Start to look at the business as it’s own entity.  As someone wise once advised me: “Wear your musician hat sometimes and wear your business hat other times, but never let them in the same room.”


APPLICATION:  Make a study of the business of music in a similar way that you study music itself.  

A Blog about the music business for aspiring performers, writers, producers, etc.


I’ve been very lucky to have lived out my dreams as a musician.  I’ve had the chance to play with and work with many of my childhood musical heros. Music has allowed me to travel the world many times spending time in the Middle East, India, China, all over Europe, and North America. As a youth I didn’t know anyone who was successful in the music business - I had to learn everything by trying, failing, and trying again. I have treasured and made a study of this learning process.  As a person with a love for teaching, I’m often asked for advice from aspiring musicians.  If the person wants to be an instrumentalist, this advice is easy to draw from my own experience.  However, more and more I’ve been asked about advice for aspiring singer/songwriter/artists.     I have certainly worked with many singer/songwriters but I have not pursued that path myself.  In the spirit of Gandhi who would not give advice unless he himself had direct experience in the subject, I will attempt to take steps on the singer/songwriter path.  I will lay out every step that I take and the philosophy behind it.  I will also add some of the most valuable lessons that I have learned in the past.  This blog is for anyone who is taking sincere strides to add positivity to the world through sharing their art.  Though we live in a culture that is competitive, I believe that it is best for all and most true to our nature to freely share wisdom and knowledge.  




#1 Make Something

Wisdom piece:  A quote from producer Brian Grazer “It doesn’t have to be great, it just has to exist


you have to make something.  It doesn’t matter how good you are if people have no way to hear or to know what you do.   Let go of any perfectionism at the point.  Most people don’t love their 1st albums, 1st composition, 1st whatever.  Put out something and then continue to develop your artistry.   You will learn far more by taking a project to completion than by waiting for for perfection.  Nothing on this earth is perfect.  

Put stuff out. Let me rephrase that: be good, and then put stuff out.  Focus on consistent strong releases.  It used to be that a musician could put out an album every few years and build a career.   That time is over. The power is continuing to move away from the big record companies into the hands of the individual artists.  Get on a regular schedule of releasing music, blogs, videos, and whatever other content you create.  


Application:  Albums used to be the standard format for releasing music.  Nowadays its more common to release an EPs (see below) or singles(single songs.)  

Definition:  An EP (short for extended play) is a musical recording that contains more music than a single, but is usually too short to qualify as a full studio album or LP.  An EP typically has 3-5 songs.  


Personal Goal:  Release an EP by April 1 2018


What is YOUR goal for a release?