Steven Blanton ~ Leaderocity

Read my blog on Leadership / Small Groups / Life @Leaderocity


A Charlie Brown Christmas


Adam Lambert and Tiger Woods-Bigger Than Life for Real

There is a saying in show biz that has echoed in the ears of performers with some trepidation. I am not sure of its origin. Maybe you can track it down and drop me a comment. It goes something like this; “All publicity is good publicity.” Hummm, I am not sure about that given the possibility of being immediately roasted alive by the jokesters on late night TV and every internet outlet on earth. Many a politician, athlete, and entertainer have had an abrupt end to an otherwise fabulous career by protracted discussions among the various talking heads because of some malfeasance or indiscretion.

We have all seen the endless reruns of the footage of Adam Lambert and Tiger Woods, for example. This says two things to me when I analyze the impact of living a public life; 1. Sins will find you out and 2. Some sins are easier to forgive than others in the public eye. I think there can be forgiveness for some very bad judgment choices and some careers can recover from negative publicity. Lambert
expresses no remorse while Woods has openly apologized. We have yet to see the ultimate cost of their public and private actions. But why risk a shipwrecked career and the scorn of the public. It seems much more reasonable to just keep your nose clean, so to speak, and work on building your career with positive press.

Many of us have a ways to go before we are up on the radar of most of the media moguls. Still, fan-base building is about connecting with your fans on their terms. My advice to all creative people on their way up is to build bridges rather than burning them. Careful attendance to how you are perceived by the public is of utmost importance.
As your fans hear and see your name, they will form an opinion of you which is actually only an image from their perspective. You will actually be bigger than life for real to them. They will imagine they know you and will require and even demand certain things from you. I believe in acting in a professional manner at all times. And if there is any possibility of it affecting your influence as a performer, whenever it is within your power, always do the right thing.

There is another saying in show biz that should be the mantra of everyone who aspires to earn an income while living the life of a public performer. It says that you are owned, at least in part, by the public and have an obligation to be a real pro without disappointing your fans on or off the stage, “The show must go on.”

©2009 WalkWay® Group All Rights Reserved, Steven Blanton


Reframe a Bad Gig Thankfully

Often, the source of disappointment and discouragement is our own inability to find proper context. We sometimes get caught up in the ideals of someone else’s career. From the outside we look and seeing success, we imagine that their journey will be our journey as well. After trying to replicate that journey, we realize that things aren’t working out in the same way for us as it did for them. It can become “career envy.” This can be a source of struggle for the musician or other creative brains out there.

We should always capture as much knowledge as possible from those pros, but we must distill from that knowledge only the transferables. Transferables will be those concepts that work in a universal sense including work ethic, connectivity, networking, commitment, creativity, and longevity. Those are the things that will make for a successful career in any field. The biggest challenge for musicians and the creative community in general is to act on that belief. Success will be about the individual as much as it is about the music. In other words, healthy, long-term, success is built on doing the right things and abandoning those things that are not. When we are able to look at our careers from a bird’s eye view, we can see that some things seem to work and some things fail. If we learn early on what those things are, it will move the process forward, perhaps saving us years of “hard knocks.” We then can better appreciate the success of others to get a leg up on our own future.

It is a great time to reframe our failures; to see what good can come from them. Each failure is a real opportunity to replace it with something that works. Every bad gig gives us a chance to redesign the show. Maybe it is the order of songs or perhaps the wrong songs altogether. Maybe the band needs more rehearsal or the frontman needs a key change. Just don’t beat yourself up. No good can come from that. These are the pieces that come together as we choose to view “failures” as points for “course correction.” This is what reframing is all about. And when you see it that way, it’s something we can be thankful for.

And in the spirit of the last blog, here is a list of things we can glean from some tough exposure to reality in the music business.

10 Things You Can Learn From a Bad Gig

1. Never work for that promoter again.
2. Get clear directions to the venue.
3. Bring your own sound guy.
4. Get in-ear monitors.
5. What’s a “Rider?”
6. Rehearse more.
7. Do some cover tunes that people know.
8. You are also in marketing.
9. Use good gear.
10. When do we get paid for this show?

A lesson learned is a success earned. Flops and failures are the perfect opportunity to do it better the next time.

©2009 WalkWay Group, Steven Blanton, All Rights Reserved


When to Call it Quits / Top 10 Reasons to Pack it In

Being a music publisher and a career coach to creative people, I have sat across the table from some wildly successful artists. It is one of the easiest things I do. When working with these people, we are finding new and better ways to build on their past successes. The second easiest thing I do is work with new artists who seem to be on an unstoppable path to fame and success. The world is before them and my task is to point out and help them build on the necessary stepping stones for career and mental sanity in a crazy-making business. These people represent the top of the heap and are the pacesetters for the world of music.

Believe it or not, some musicians will fail at being successful. This is antithetical to all I have been writing in the previous blogs. I know this is self-demising too, since I am in the business of helping musicians succeed at their craft. It’s hard to get someone to pay you to tell them to pack it in and go back to Peoria. We all want encouragement and need to be bolstered along to strengthen our confidence. It’s kind of anti-American to say to someone, “It’s time to stop accumulating gear, quit pitching your songs, stop spending money on your demos, give up on your dream and get a job in radiology so you can pay the bills.” The very thought of that goes against everything we have in us that says we must be successful and have a right to try.

It is incredibly difficult to fully predict who will “make it” in the music business and who will fail. But there are some very strong indicators and people with the right kinds of experience and insight can, with a high degree of accuracy, predict who will go on to make a living and who will fail and move on to some other field. The following list will help in identifying some of the main areas of concern for the musician who wants to succeed. If you find yourself listed among these “negatives” it would behoove you to address them now or make the tough decisions for a career choice.

I am going to give you the Top 10 Reasons to Pack it In (or make a change).

1. You aren’t organized enough to make contacts
2. You hate criticism and are immobilized by it
3. You hate rehearsals and the thought of repetition
4. You think of fans as a nuisance after the show
5. You have an all consuming job that occupies your every thought
6. You quit easily
7. You don’t have fans who follow your music and don’t know why
8. You don’t have your music in a purchasable form
9. You are uninspired and uninspiring
10. You are out-of-control in the rest of your life

There are at least 10 more, but any one of these reasons can be devastating to your music career. If you have several of these reasons working together it is nearly a sure thing that you will not succeed in the business of making a living in music. Make the changes necessary to put yourself on the road to a great living in this crazy music business.

©2009 WalkWay Group, Steven Blanton, All Rights Reserved


I Want in the Music Biz Part IV: Success… Habit or Hobby

There are many ideas of “success”. I think success has more to do with your goals than anything else. For example, if your goal is to learn to fly without crashing, then every time you take off and land and don’t break stuff, you could call that “success”. It says nothing of the ride in between the take off and landing. You may have had several near misses… just barely avoiding the electrical wires, the water tower, the cell tower and that tall guy standing on the hill. The idea of success for your potential passengers will be based on an entirely separate set of goals! This speaks to the fact that quality is part of the story of success. Who dares fly with a guy who can’t keep the plane upright even if he never crashes? Most people would rather take the bus. And so it is, metaphorically speaking, in the music business.
Maintaining a consistent image, a solid sound, good recordings, and a reputation for doing a quality show, has everything to do with your success. Getting by with near misses can sustain you only so long. If your goal is only to put together a band and go play, with no view to the future, you may have short-circuited the real success story you are trying to accomplish. You may imagine yourself in an arena playing your newest hit but it takes more than imagination to make that happen. Like the unstable pilot, there is a lot that needs to happen between take off and landing. As I mentioned in the last blog, you must take a step back and decide on your vision statement that encapsulates the philosophies for accomplishing your goals and objectives. Then you act on them to put the pieces in place.
Bands and artists who want to make a living in the business will have to take the necessary steps that lead to the intended goal. It is rare; very rare that success simply happens to musicians. In most cases, the band or artist is deliberate in their attempts to build on past experiences, leading them to positive results. Like stepping stones over a creek, forward progress is made one step at a time, and sometimes you have to throw a new stone into the water. In the same way every footstep is deliberately placed on the stepping stones, a business plan can be put in place. This is true for any business and is no less true for music. The fact that the product we musicians deliver is creative in no way diminishes the need to plan for success.
Being a musician myself, I know the challenge it is to manage the business side of things when all I really want to do is play the gig. But without setting parameters for what “success” looks like, I may never know if I am building an organization that will deliver what I am thinking of for my future. The downside of failing to plan could mean that I may play and play for years, while working at a side line job, that after time becomes my only income and music is only a hobby. If I want music to be my hobby, then I have been successful. But if I am trying to earn my living from the thing I love to do, then I must do the things that will make that a real possibility for me.
The fact is that we must brand ourselves as a product in order to help people find us and identify with our music. It doesn’t mean we have to be an international pop icon like Michael Jackson or U2. We simply need to find the group of
fans who will be endlessly loyal and follow our career to every level, buying every piece of produce we put out. Without buying fans, we cannot hope to move our career from the hobby level to the pro level. Again, I ask the question… who is looking for your music?
©2009 WalkWay Group, Steven Blanton, All Rights Reserved


I Want In The Music Biz Part III; Branding My Music

Last time, we took a brief look at the beginning process of building fans through name recognition. This is a tall order and requires repetition and consistency. The process takes months and sometimes years to see meaningful results. It is a full-time commitment for the serious band or artist. Nearly every story of success will reveal how many hours the band spent connecting and building their brand before they “made it big”. There are those groups that pop up on a fluke. But “flukes” are not a plan and most successful bands or artists make it happen by planning for success. Plans drive longevity and therefore, careers. This is one of the ways groups like the Rolling Stones, are still playing and drawing enormous crowds.
The first thing you must do to
brand your band and music is to identify who you are. Can you describe your sound, look, and goals in what is known as an elevator speech? This is a brief statement you could deliver on the way between floors, inside a minute, if someone asked you about your music on an elevator, though you don’t have to be on an elevator to share it. It must be concise, but very descriptive in order to elicit interest in your music by the potential fan, and should include repeating the band’s name. This “elevator speech” is the basic vision you will use to determine what your focus will be in building a business in music. This requires that you step back from your music to take a global look at who you are and what you want to project to your fans. The questions you must ask are; “What is my goal for my music, what do my fans want from my music, and how can I deliver on the image I project?” When you can establish a baseline on these questions you can begin to build an image and sound that will separate you from the rest of the crowd. The specifics will vary and may morph as you define yourself and your sound. Individuating yourself is the process of branding. It is a process requiring time, commitment and some capital.
Obviously, the music itself is a brand that is uniquely yours and yours alone. It is your number one asset in the branding process. Having a cool logo, flyers, photos and a
MySpace are only the pictorial images of what you sound like. The sound is the single-most important identifier of your band’s brand mark. When you catch a song on the radio, you know who the artist is because of their sound… no image needed. This is what you must aim for to build fan response and loyalty on or off the radio. This is accomplished by doing or using unique things that others cannot replicate easily. The frontman vocals, the keyboard sounds or lead guitar licks and on and on can differentiate your sound from thousands of other groups or artists out there. Even the type of arrangements you write for the music you play is a strong force for making you identifiable.
Another way to brand your band, or you as and artist, is the actual live show you produce. I saw a group play a small venue that I had heard on MySpace. Their sound was unique and their show was first class. They used different back drops and special lighting. The lead singer sang one song from a standing position on his piano… the whole show made a deep impression on me. The show coupled with the skill and sounds of the players left me with an indelible memory of the band,
You may not be able to produce a crazy light show or be willing to stand on your piano, but you can deliver a memorable experience to your fans and those who happen upon you and your band in whatever venue you are playing. Even the softest-vocal folk singer like
Alison Krauss, can deliver on the goods when it comes to branding their sound for their fans. It may be the way you place your vocal mic or the type of guitar you play. Or it may simply be the quality of your voice. Whatever your mark is, use it with finesse and let it speak to your fans. They will remember you for a number of things, but it is always about the music. Brand building will help send them home with your fabulous CD tucked under their arm. That helps keep you out their doing what you and your fans both love... music.

©2009 WalkWay® Group All Rights Reserved, Steven Blanton

I want in the Music Biz II: What’s My Name Again?

The greatest band in the entire world could, in theory, spend its entire life expectancy locked into a rehearsal room. Being sequestered during rehearsals is pretty normal. Nobody wants to show the clunker licks you are still trying to get right. And that one weird vocal thing you are working on should stay sequestered until you are really good at it. In fact let me just say, “Thank you” for not forcing me to hear it until you have it nailed. But there must come a time when you have to put it out there, in front of someone, if you want to play where people can enjoy your hard work.
This is where we discover “The Fan”; a fabulous, creature made of enthusiasm, loyalty, devotion and a taste for more. They have been known to camp out at the prospect of getting a good seat or simply a ticket to the show. And these wonderful people cannot wait for your next piece of product to hit the street. The Fan is the backbone of why we do what we do, where we do it and how often we do it. And they have total influence on how well we get paid for our hard work.
I drew an analogy between the book publishing industry and the music business in my last blog. Every author needs someone to buy his book. And every band needs someone to buy their concert tickets and CDs or downloads. The question is then, “How do I make fans?” The answer to that question is pretty broad. I can’t give you a total business plan in this blog but I can point you in the right direction. Every band will need to develop and utilize its own opportunities as they arise. Some strategies can be planned for, but others seem to fall on us and we just seize the moment.
Assuming you have a decent show and have a viable sound, you start by playing everywhere there is a stage. I heard in a Disc Makers’ seminar that the first thing that happens after you play is that everybody forgets your name. Since we know this, use every chance you get to mention your name, using collateral (handouts and printed info) to reinforce the impression, anytime you can. Get volunteers to be your “street team”; guys and gals who will help you connect to your fans. I saw this used in a concert where this one guy with a guitar was playing BETWEEN the real acts, who had to introduce himself. After each of these really terrible spots on the show, he had his street team moving through the crowd handing out flyers about his new album coming out. I remembered his name because of the flyers… John Mayer; the new album coming out… Room for Squares. The point is that every player needs name recognition for people to decide they want to follow the music and people have short memories.
This is a given, but I must mention the fact they you all need to be out in the social networking scene. MySpace, Twitter and Facebook are three of a number of places to connect virtually. This is free advertisement that you should tap into. You should get help from your street team if it becomes too tough to manage on your own. You are electronically passing your name out through the crowd… maybe by the millions. Every possible point at which you can build name recognition should be used with succinct purpose. Think of it this way; you are building a brand. Your brand has a look, a feel, a sound, that triggers an image in the mind of the fan. That fan will be responsive to that brand if you take care to build it correctly. Your fan will walk past a hundred other CDs to buy yours because you have developed a “relationship” with the fan-base that more or less requires loyalty. This may come as a surprise but bands don’t make hits… fans do.
Next time, we will explore more ways to build your brand so please stay in touch… I am building my brand for you. Thanks again for reading.

©2009 WalkWay® Group All Rights Reserved, Steven Blanton


I Want in the Music Biz (But Nobody’s Looking for Me?)

I recently signed a publishing agreement to publish my new book, Right Words & Music: A Songwriter’s Manual to Writing Great Songs! It should be out near the end of 2009. Apparently the chances of getting a book published by submitting a four chapter query are about as good as getting a record deal by sending in a demo. Hummm… It makes me wonder if the two industries, book publishing and music production, are perhaps cousins; maybe the kissing kind. They certainly do have many things in common. Since I have my hand in both pies I am not casting aspersions on either. There has been plenty of mud-slinging at both since the digital domain began to reign supreme.
I did my research, as I am wont to do, and I discovered that POD (print on demand) is a huge industry. No more does an author stand with hat in hand, humbled by the shear brute strength of a massive conglomerate referred to as The Publisher (the ‘p’ capitalized out of respect for its eminence.) And for thousands of authors who would never have a real chance at getting published, POD is fantastic news! One can write a book on his laptop today and have it in print within the week. That is no small change in the paradigm. It means there is a colossal proliferation of books in circulation in a dazzling array of topics with very proud authors hawking books through every conceivable outlet. But, as Hamlet noted, “there's the rub.” There are now millions of books where none existed before. I recently read that the average self-published author sells about 170 books after two years of talking his relatives and friends into buying his book; a demoralizing thought for the author and the friends. Having written a book, I know the work it takes and the time commitment to get it into a submit-able manuscript form. I want somebody to buy, read and tell others about this fantastic brilliant new author… er hum… but I digress. The real problem has to do with who is looking for my new book. Having it in every known bookstore will not sell books, since the chance of someone stumbling and accidently happening upon my book is quite low.

It isn’t that hard to make the intellectual leap to what this means allegorically speaking, for the new CD you just made. Now that music is digital and vocals are often cut in a master bedroom instead of a master session, everyone who has access to recording gear can make a CD, have it manufactured like a pro by Disc Makers, or just burn it himself. This has made the music market very crowded, often with subpar product. The usual and time-honored system of filtration by A&R, radio DJs, producers and record distributors has disintegrated. Everybody can now, distribute to millions of outlets simply by connecting with CD Baby or TuneCore. But the question is the same as it is for POD; who is looking for your music? It won’t matter if you are in every music outlet on earth if nobody walks in asking for your record. The real issue is demand; creating a need and then filling it with your music. Check in next time for more on that subject… Thanks for reading… you make writing worth every minute!

©2009 WalkWay® Group
All Rights Reserved, Steven Blanton


We Are The Hands by artist, Aaron Blanton
Words & Music: Aaron Blanton, Nate Sousa/Don’t Forget My Music / ASCAP, James Thiele/Universal Music Publishing and Cumberland Belle Music (Admin. by UMPG) / ASCAP
All Rights Reserved

Butterfly Boucher/Gun For A Tongue

Opryland Hotel in Nashville Gets Flooded

Kei­th Ur­ban -​ Mak­ing Mem­o­ries of Us acous­tic