How to Succeed in the Arts Without Really Trying

How does one succeed in the arts world without really trying?

1. Have a trust fund that can support you until you die.
2. Pick another career path.

Frustrating huh? What I’m trying to say is that it is NOT easy to succeed in the Arts, but it IS possible.

Far too often, people come up to me and say:  “Man, you’re so lucky! You have so many gigs and  it seems like you’re working all the time! How do you do it?”

My response goes something like this: “Luck equals preparation meeting opportunity! I’m not lucky, I just work hard and take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to me.”

Then they leave me alone. (Job well done.)

Seriously though, luck has nothing to do with my success. And anyway, what is success?

You must define what success means to you.

Success is defined like this in the dictionary:
1.the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors
2. the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like
3. a successful performance or achievement
4. a person or thing that is successful

So what does success mean to you? How do you define success?

Do you want to play every night?
Do you want to travel?
Do you want to write/arrange?

Do you want to teach?
Do you want to simply play your instrument?
Do you want to work a day-job?
Do you NOT want to work a day-job?
Do you want to play in an orchestra?
Do you want to play in a big band?
Do you want to play the best music all the time no matter what the cost?

Are you willing to make sacrifices in your life to achieve these goals?

As soon as you can define what success means to you, you can begin achieving it.

Have a general idea of what your life will look like. It doesn’t have to be set in stone. It should be malleable, yet set firmly in reality. For example, I will not define success for me like this:

I want to be the best trombone player in the history and future of the entire world. I would also like an island, shaped like a trombone named after me.

Ain’t gonna happen. But my actual general idea of what I want my life to look like goes something like this:

I want to play great music.
I want to play great music with incredible musicians.
I want to play great music with incredible musicians and be able to pay bills and life comfortably.

If I can achieve 2 out the 3 above, I consider that a success.

So, set goals and work a little everyday to achieve them.

How do you do that?


“It’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know.”

-Who you know will get you in the door and what you know will keep you there!

Networking is now a 24/7 endeavor! Through Social Media, you have the potential to connect/interact with your fans and your potential fans at any time and they have access to YOU.

So, how does Social Media fit into all this?

A simple question with a simple yet very complicated answer:

Create and maintain an online presence

Social Media is a place to share your views and thoughts, not just for promotional use.

  • Engage with your audience/fans
  • Make sure you’re in a two-way conversation with people consistently
  • Leave comments, don’t just ‘Like’, interact
  • Drive web traffic to one place of your choosing based on your goals.

All the above is your new ‘day-job’.

But…”My music should speak for itself”. That’s just great and I’m happy for you and your music SHOULD represent you, but if no one is there to hear it, then the music is speaking only to itself and not potential paying fans.


–  Tell people WHEN and WHERE you are playing!
– Go out and meet fellow artists, get to know them
– Pass out business cards as you collect them. Email your new ‘acquaintances’, be polite
– Social Media doesn’t replace the ‘old’ marketing/networking, it enhances
– Shut up and LISTEN!
– Ask Questions
– Read blogs! Check these out:

Music Think Tank
One Working Musician
Indianapolis Social Media
Owl Studios Blog
The Jazz Artist Survival Guide
NPR: A Blog Supreme

In conclusion:

There is no fool-proof method to promotion. Don’t let the non-music activities interfere with the musical activities. Find a good balance, take chances. If something doesn’t work, stop doing it, but be patient. This is a slow developing business. Eventually, if you keep at it, with a consistent presence on-line, you will begin to see a nice Return On Investment (ROI) and you will meet or exceed your original goals!


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Filed under Marketing-Publicity-Getting the Word Out, Music Education, New Music/Ideas, Uncategorized

A Saxophone Recital of Note

Dr. Paul Bro

As some already know, my undergraduate degrees come from Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana.  I spent 5 great years as a student of the Department of Music. (Congrats on the Department of Music becoming a School of Music this year!)  One of the main reasons I chose ISU over places like Indiana University, University of Cincinnati and others was because of the size of the classes, allowing for more personal development with the professors, and the saxophone instructor Dr. Paul Bro.  Paul taught me quite a bit about playing the saxophone, being a performer and studying music.  Every once in a while I try to make it back to ISU to catch up with the professors, support my alma mater and hear some great classical saxophone.  January 26 was one of those evenings.  Paul performed five great pieces by Mark-Anthony Turnage, Paul Bonneau, Lori Laitman, Charles Koechlin and Marcel Mihalovici.  I won’t do a run down review of each piece here, but I will say each one was great and it was absolutely wonderful to hear Paul perform again.  It always makes me feel great to think I am still welcome as a part of the classical saxophone community even though I rarely have a chance to perform anymore.  So thanks Paul for a great recital.  I especially liked your rendition of the Bonneau Caprice en forme de Valse and Lori Laitman’s beautiful work I Never Saw Another Butterfly, a setting of six poems written by children in the Terezin concentration camp during World War II (I strongly suggest everyone to seek out this collection of poetry and read them…haunting beauty in all of them).  So thank you Paul, I can’t wait to hear your next recital.


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Some frustrated thoughts

Recently I attended a GREAT lecture/discussion at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, ‘A Discussion with Artists: Courage to Pursue the Arts’. I loved the discussion and even jotted down some notes that you can read in my previous blog HERE.

These, however are thoughts outside of the event that I wanted to voice to see if anybody shared my opinion and frustrations. Here they are:

1.     How is it that I didn’t know about this talk until the day of the event? In fact, I found out about this event a few hours before hand. I subscribe to EVERY DAMN ART LIST IN THIS CITY, and I don’t find out that my mentor, my friend, my favorite person David Baker was talking until a few hours before? Really!!??? Come on people! Help me out here! Send out a PR, send an email, post something on your Facebook wall, get this info OUT THERE!!!!

2.     The second thing that I was bothered by was the fact that the microphones didn’t work. The panel was all outfitted with wireless clip-on mics and NONE OF THEM WORKED! The talk was only and hour long. 25% of that time was spent with the staff of the IMA figuring out the sound so that the audience could hear. An incredible waste of time that the audience had to endure.  I felt it was also disrespectful of the very patient panel that was assembled to address the audience!

3.     And now that I mentioned the audience, I’d like to comment on the audience. Why do people show up late to events? Why do people not turn off their cellphones at events? Why do people with babies bring them to quiet events and not sit by the doors, but instead ‘shush’ their children louder than the child is squeaking? This I don’t understand. Being a civil person, I didn’t say anything, but really I was rather distracted.

I just don’t get these things. Help me out here? What gives people?


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Lecture on Courage: MLK 2011

On January 17th, 2011 I went to the Indianapolis Museum of Art to listen to ‘A Conversation with Artists: Courage to Pursue the Arts’, featuring artist Willis “Bing” Davis, author Mari Evans and my mentor David N. Baker. The talk was moderated by Modupe Labode.

First the panelists:

Willis “Bing” Davis is a contemporary artist and educator. He is currently the President of the Board of Directors of the National Conference of Artists. Art to David “is a wonderful way to understand self and to understand others.”

Mari Evans is a poet, author, orator and educator. Her career includes teaching literature at Marion College, Washington University at Sait Louis, State-University of New York, and Cornell University.

David N. Baker is a jazz musician, composer and conductor. He studied music and education at Indiana University where he received a Masers of Music Education. Dr. Baker has served on multiple boards, panels and has received numerous awards for his work including serving as a senior consultant for music programs at the Smithsonian.

The talk was all about courage. The panelists all grew up before the Civil Rights movement and were beginning their illustrious careers during the 60s.  The talk also occurred on the Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday. Many of the questions circled around the idea of courage, being courageous and teaching courage. The panelists were all inspiring and had great stories to tell. I felt invigorated and yet still somewhat ashamed of my acceptance of the way things are instead of challenging and changing my surroundings. Below are some of the thought provoking quotes I was able to jot down during the session:

Dr. David Baker

Dr. David Baker, Distinguished Professor of Music

David Baker:

I can outwork your talent.

Question Everything

One thing you can’t change is the fact you are a human being. If you aren’t’ a good human being, everything else is greatly diminished.

Mari Evans:

Poet, Author, Orator, Mari Evans

The only obstacle I ever faced was my own ignorance.

Facts have meaning when they are attached to other facts.

Don’t say: How do I become famous. Instead say, how do I reach excellence.

Artist, Lecturer, Willis "Bing" Davis

Willis “Bing” Davis:

Ask yourself ‘Who am I?’

Give back what you’ve been given.

You may travel the world, but keep dust on your shoes.


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Looking for Live Music

Bachtrack logo

Looking for a way to find live Classical music around the world?  How about Bachtrack.  I was just told about this site and am still looking through much of it, but it seems to be a really cool thing.  I will continue searching through it and will try to give a report on the good and bad of the website.  So far, though, it seems like if organizations will use the site and upload concert calendars, we may have a hit.  I know RBD and I have always discussed how Indy could really use an all-inclusive site where the city’s performing arts organizations would have a calendar of events updated regularly.  Maybe something to work on this year…


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Can Crowdfunding Help Save the Arts?

A Crowd Wanting To Give Money.

Crowdfunding is a fairly new area within the Web 2.0 world with companies like Kickstarter and RocketHub, among others.  I have become familiar with them through my current job as a music label executive by reading discussions on music industry blogs like Hypebot and Music Think Tank about this concept of crowdfunding being a possible record industry saver and possible label killer.  For more information, click HERE for a listing of current posts and comments from Hypebot about crowdfunding.  Basically, the crowdfunding sites allow a platform for fans to show their support for a project or cause by giving money.  Pretty simple and nothing new, just a more social and web-savvy approach to the standard.

However, I believe I was looking at this concept with the blinders fully engaged.  Not only does it make sense for record projects and such, but it makes perfect sense for not-for-profit organizations.  Why did it take me so long to make the connection?  I wish I could say I am the first to think of this concept, but obviously I am not.  I will just say I finally had an epiphany on something that has been beating me over the head for the past year.

So crowdfunding saving the Arts.  How?  I am not saying this is a way to rid an organization of their development team, but I see it perfect for smaller projects in an organization or for smaller organizations who do not have the resources to support a full development team or apply for grants.  A project like commissioning a new composition for a chamber music group like Meerenai Shim did for her organization and reported about in the New York Times.  I love this idea and I wish I would have thought about it earlier.  I think smaller arts organizations with a low budget could really benefit from this concept.  Many arts organizations live off of grants, both government and private, and large monetary gifts from corporations, but how great would it be to connect with the fan-base by saying “hey, we appreciate your support but how about becoming a larger part by giving us a few bucks to help put on this concert and/or art show.  It’s really simple, just go to such and such website and make a donation.”  I really think it could be a great concept and really help interact with a current fan-base, but also create a new fan-base for what many articles are stating is the decline of the arts.  The people who donate could then help decided which composer to approach about a commission, which music to be played at the concert or which artist to offer support for an art show.  How else do you see this interactive crowdfunding concept assisting smaller arts organizations?  Let us know…


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Jazz CD Review: Chris Washburne and the SYOTOS Band, ‘Fields of Moons’

Chris Washburne "Fields of Moons"

Chris Washburne and the SYOTOS Band – Fields of Moons

Recorded by Hal Winer at BiCoastal Music in Ossining, NY

Chris Washburne: trombone, tuba
John Walsh: trumpet, flugelhorn
Ole Mathisen: tenor and soprano saxophone, clarinet
Barry Olsen: piano
Led Traversa: electric bass
Diego Lopez: drums
Christian Rivera: percussion

mda: The first listen to this album, I was a little unsure if I liked it.  Now it is definitely growing on me.  Everything is pretty much a slow Latin groove and band is certainly accomplished and has a very high musicianship.  I enjoy this.  The tunes are a great mixture of originals and standards, with the standards being quite different.  I do feel, however, that the album is maybe 2-3 tracks too long.  a slow Latin groove is great, but it can start to drag on you after a while.  It seems Chris Washburne is a very busy person in the NYC area with freelancing in the classical and jazz worlds and teaching ethnomusicology at Columbia University.  I enjoy his trombone sound and it really fits in well with the supporting band members.  I better turn this over to RBD as I know he is really wanting to geek out on a trombone album…

RBD: As you may know, mda, I rarely ‘geek out’ when it comes to trombone related subjects. I will say though, that Chris is a fine trombonist. It’s clear that the band has a good concept and play together in a complimentary way. The only thing I have to say is that there are intonation issues all over the place. I’m not suggesting auto-tuning anything, but bad intonation just hurts the groove and the band can not gel as well as it should. I think the arrangements are very well done and the tune writing is very nice!

Physical Product/Packaging
mda: I like the fact Chris chose to go with the digipak over the traditional jewel case.  The artwork is nice but what’s up with NO LINER NOTES?  I feel in this day and age of declining cd sales, the artist must add liner notes to make the jazz fan want to buy the CD over just downloading the album on the internet.  It would be interesting to hear Chris’ point of view with the chosen pieces.  Why did he chose almost all slow pieces?  What is the history of the band and where did the name come from?  I think it is really important to connect with the listener on as many levels as you can.

RBD: I couldn’t agree more mda. You almost have to assume that people want to know more about you, your band and your product. When I first saw the album cover, the artwork (which I really like) led me to believe that the album would be full of original tunes and avant-guard playing. The playing is good, not just what the album artwork made me think. Also, I have to say even though the picture of the band is shot probably at the recording session, it doesn’t look professional, well thought out or serious. I understand wanting to have fun and be loose, but sometimes one can be too casual.

The Ratings:
(A description of our rating system.)

mda: *** (Nice Latin groove, good musicians, and enjoyable music.  However, I think it is something more enjoyed in the background with a small party or maybe your loved-one.  There are better albums out there in this genre, that’s about it)

RBD: *** (There is a lot of nice playing on here and very good arrangements, but I think this album would have a tough time holding my attention for an entire third or fourth listening. Too much of a good thing can work against you, and does in this case.)

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