Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Working On Yourself As The Product!


Creating career opportunities for our selves as artists is an important focus. The singers who end up with longevity in their careers are the ones who dig in for themselves and develop themselves into the best possible product they can be. If your career isn't where you want it to be yet.. my questions would be:
Are you truly willing to work your voice until it's a communicative instrument?

Are you working on your live show to make sure you are meeting your audience with the best you can be?
Do you understand your brand identity and how to reach your targeted demographic?

                                             Key Questions To Ask

                               "Does your singing voice communicate who you are"?
Are you maximizing your instrument? Are you able to sing your show night after night without compromising your voice? Could you strengthen and improve your technique?

"                          Is your material right for you AND the very best it can be"?
Finding the right songs is essential to launching a career. You have to know what you sing best and what your audience wants to hear you sing!Whether you write them or not doesn't matter but your material has to set you apart from the rest of the millions of singers who are trying to establish themselves in the market place… Brand identity is very important in terms of choosing material so you have to know what you communicate best to an audience ...which means test marketing your material before spending a lot of money recording it.

"Are the music producers you are working with helping create the kind of recordings that support your next steps career wise"?
A lot of singers throw money at established producers hoping for a hit song without a clear sense of what they are looking for. The song and arrangement and production all have to be in alignment with your brand and what your next steps are in your career. Producers are not magicians they don't make stars can only support an identity you have built yourself.

                                  "Do you actually understand who you are as an artist"?
Who is your target market and what do you represent to them? Do you know what they care about and how best to reach them? If you solve these questions you will have solved the biggest challenges in any career.

                                                  YOU Solve The Problems!

Are the music industry people you are hoping to attract being asked to solve huge problems in your project or are you asking them to help support an already existing momentum?
 YOU have to build it…then they will come.

As a coach I am always watching to see how much of the ground work an artist is willing to do for themselves. The ones that get out there and do the market research and test the product with live shows and video's and social media campaigns etc are the ones who really understand who they are and what they represent to their audience. Thats what it takes to attract a team and to create momentum in a career.

Artists who are armed with that kind of knowledge stay in control of their careers over the long haul and THAT my friends is the secret to success in this business!

Upcoming Performance Workshops

Private Sessions with Coach Micah Barnes


Saturday, June 22, 2013

When Fear Is In The Drivers Seat


Artists come up against themselves in ways that regular folks just don't have to.

When we seek to express ourselves musically we are asked to reveal our deepest parts while inviting the whole world to judge us.

Thats not the reality, but often thats how it feels to us.

No wonder we can become so kooky and difficult to work with.

Ask anyone in the music industry who works with us and they will tell you that there is nothing harder than trying to support an artist in their work.

We are control freaks but we don't want to take responsibility for anything.

We want it to all go perfectly but we're scared to rehearse and prepare.

We are desperate for the world to love us but we don't have any faith in ourselves at all.

                                                          No One Is Safe On The Road!

Artists frequently have "out of control" ego's. Not only is fear driving the vehicle but it's desperate to get us to some perceived goal and isn't paying attention to the road! Thats why there are so many casualties in successful careers.
Often the industry folks who try and support us are met with distrust, outright anger and arrogance, sometimes even emotional violence.

The truth is we are just vulnerable and scared behind all that noise and so if there is someone who is supposed to be responsible for our forward motion and they don't do exactly what we want them to do we panic and lash out.

Why? Their behavior confirms our suspicions. Our worst fears are answered. We're not good enough, thats why they don't believe in us… and so we become angry.. Instead of asking the basic questions.
"What are the challenges you are facing in supporting my career..and  what can I be doing to make this easier"?

It takes a grown up to take responsibility and become a powerful artist who has integrity in what they do. It means our sense of self isn't on the line every time there is a road block or a challenge in front of us.

                                    Taking Responsibility For Our Forward Motion                  
How do we work on our fears about self to lessen it's impact on our lives and our careers?
The best thing we can do is to sit down and write a list of our largest fears.
Whats the worst case scenario? What scares us the most?
Not making it?
Not getting famous?
Never making money?
Not Being Good Enough?

All of these career goals are tied up in self issues. Our sense of self is on the line here and we're asking our career to give us validation and a sense of being OK. Potentially a great motivator but potentially fraught with danger for both ourselves and the people who work with us.

                                      Does Your Ego Have The Steering Wheel?

Have a look at what is driving you.... and you will have the answer to the question of why your career is not where you want to be.

If ego is driving the vehicle.. then fear and panic has the steering wheel.

Quick decisions that can negatively impact your forward motion and take a long time to recover from will be made.

If a sense of faith and trust in both yourself and the universe is present.... then you can experience your career as a wonderful journey with lots of opportunities to learn and grow along the way.

Which reality would you rather experience?

How's Your Live Act? July 20th Singers Playground Performance Workshop

How's Your Career? Ask About Career Strategy Sessions

Contact Coach Micah Barnes about Private Career, Performance and Vocal Sessions

AND...Please pass this BLOG on to those you feel might benefit!
Micah Barnes
Singers Playground

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Warren James has a big warm voice, which makes sense since he's got a big warm heart! In this guest interview Warren talks about his roots on the gulf coast, how his search for a life of integrity lead him to Canada and what inspires him to make every performance a "Big Show"!!!!

Micah: You come from the Gulf Coast which has a rich history musically and culturally. What influenced your artist identity coming from there?
Warren: My parents and my grandparents all seemed to be musicians.  My MiMi and PaPa used to play the piano together in clubs on the Gulf Coast - one on each end of the piano and they never needed sheet music.  My father played the piano by ear and was a master of the trumpet and almost all of the horned instruments.  For a while he headed up a Dixieland Jazz band and he and my Grandfather played the big clubs from New Orleans to Mobile, AL.  Living in and around New Orleans in my earlier years I had opportunities to see some amazing artists like Harry Connick Jr. and I remember seeing him make a video in the French Quarter.  He was a brilliant influence on me then and still is today.  Other strong influences included a rich vein of powerful gospel music since that style is very strong in the South. 

How did growing up with your family  influence you musically?
Both my parents and grandparents were natural musicians and my mother was trained as an alto singer and played the piano as well.  My sister played the flute in high school, and was a classically trained pianist and competed in several competitions during my younger years. My younger cousin today is a professional jazz pianist in New Orleans so clearly music was a huge part of our lives growing up.  Every time we had a family get together or holiday gathering just about everyone had an instrument in their hand.  The neighbors knew our family had a gathering because you could here the noise for blocks around.  It was an interesting upbringing.  

What attracted you to music when you were young and what music did you hear?
In the beginning I was exposed more to contemporary Christian music than anything else.  Growing up in the heart of the Mississippi Delta and "Bible Belt Country", going to church was a weekly ritual.  We were very much involved in the church orchestra which was a huge deal.  I was quickly influenced by voices of Steve Green, Larnelle Harris and Sandi Patty who were all big voices back in the 80's and 90's.  I learned how to develop the same sound and tone that both Sandi Patty and Steve Green carries in their voices.  I recall my first song to sing by Sandi Patty was "Upon This Rock".  My father later introduced me to artists like Bobby Darin, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett.  At University, I studied vocal performance and was part of several musicals.  I played the part of "Frederick" in the Pirates of Penzance and "Curly" in Oklahoma……those were great roles.  Later in life I discovered (or rediscovered) big voice powerful singers like Tina Turner and Shirley Bassey and seeing them both live here in Toronto rekindled my interest and love of the power of singing.

When did you know you had a talent for singing and entertaining?
I think this was instilled in me at a very young age.  When I was about 9 years old, I sang "My Tribute" (To God Be The Glory), a song written by Andrae Crouch to a large gospel church congregation.  It was an overwhelming and exciting experience.  
That was the first time I remember performing but I soon became very interested in performing for others. In  high school a friend and I started performing at weddings and other venues. Shortly after high school and in my early years at University, I formed two gospel singing groups of my own and we performed in many churches across the South. 

You have a lot of experience performing. What situations gave you the opportunity to grow the most in your younger years.
Being in theater throughout my university days was a huge learning experience for me.   You had to not only sing but also act in a role of person you had to get to know.  I found it challenging at the time to do both but quickly learned over time that I needed to just let my voice carry me through the part.  I also toured with a national gospel singing group just after graduating from high school - a three month tour through Western Canada, Alaska, and California.  We did a show everyday and that really taught me how to endure grueling schedules and keep going even when you are completely exhausted.  It was also living out of a suitcase and traveling on a bus for three months…..it was about 50 performers so you really got to know them very well - it was a super experience.  

You've said that you came to Canada on the rainbow railroad. 
What influenced your decision to emigrate to Canada?
Finding the love of my life was the real driver in deciding to come to Canada. We spent several years in a long-distance relationship and the strength of that experience and the times I spent in Toronto and other parts of the country led me to believe that Canada was part of the greater plan for me.  Every step and experience along the way has played a significant role in assuring me that I'm in the right place now and everything I value is here now.   My family and my life have been here for the past 15 years and I have never been happier.

What has being in Canada meant for your blossoming as a person, and as an artist? Are you more able to be comfortable being "out" here?
I have never felt more free or more at home than I do now living here as a proud citizen in Canada.  I always felt a bit out of place growing up and living in the various places I did before coming to Canada. The Gulf Coast, New Orleans, Dallas, and Memphis - all places I’ve lived before, have their charms but Canada has allowed me to become the person I was meant to be and to live the life I was intended to live.  I have found warmth and acceptance and happiness here.  

Can you talk a bit about working with Micah and Singers Playground and what  (if any) help that has been to your understanding of yourself as an artist?
For me, the experience has been around keeping it ‘real’ when it comes to understanding the this industry, music and performing.  If you want things to happen in this business, you have to do the work, be authentic, and transfer your real passion into your work.  No one is there to do it for you and you have to pour yourself into the role.  It takes commitment, you have to believe in yourself, and you need others around you that believe in you too.    

You have some very powerful ladies as your musical influences and you're not afraid to "cover" their songs. What makes you so courageous?
Shirley Bassey, Barbara Streisand and Reberta Flack have been the most influential female voices in my life.  They all deliver intense emotion in their songs and you can’t help but experience the message behind each song they perform.  I’m drawn in by the power in their voices and the presence they hold on the stage and enjoy feeling that I can, to a degree, deliver some of that powerful influence to my own audiences.   
Courageous? Maybe but for me, it’s more about just wanting to deliver the same level of intense emotion and power that they project in their voices.  

You give powerful performances that feel built for the concert stage.
Where would your ultimate concert be and who would be sharing the bill?
I've dreamed of sharing the stage with Shirley Bassey ever since I saw her perform at Carnegie Hall in New York. She has been the biggest inspiration to my current singing career and if I could only meet her for a moment I would express my sincere appreciation for her talent and influence she has had on myself and many many others.  

Performing with John Barrowman  would be very close to performing with Shirley Bassey since I believe he has been strongly influenced by many of the same inspirations I have had. His style is compatible with my own and he also has a wonderful performing ability to engage the audience. I think the British entertainment scene has some amazing talents that we can really learn from here in North America. 

How did you choose the songs on your CD? 
Tough question to answer!  There were so many songs I wanted to share with others but ultimately it came down to which songs were important to me for my own personal experiences, songs that tell the story I want to tell. 

For example the title track “This Time,” while written for Shirley Bassey in 2009 speaks volumes to me about introspection, renewed love, and regained self confidence. These are not just personal themes that I have identified with, but universal themes that we can all personally identify with. 

What can audiences expect at Hugh's Room?
I think the audience can expect to be overwhelmingly surprised by powerful voices!  Where else on June 5th in the city of Toronto, can someone go and hear such a unique group of performing artists with such rich backgrounds and cultures? There's going to be a little bit of everything in this show.  Everyone who comes out is going to get a taste of what they enjoy as well as be exposed to something new.  I am so excited to be sharing the stage with such unique amazing talent all in one night.  

Sunday, May 26, 2013


Singer Songwriter Christine Tier crafts unusual songs from such a unique perspective, sometimes sad, sometimes sardonic, but always deeply intelligent, that she reminds one of a songwriting version of Margaret Atwood. In this interview supporting her second appearance at Hugh's Room as part of the June 2nd Singers Playground concert she talks about her roots, her approach to songwriting and how her other life as a criminal lawyer influences her work as a musician.

 Micah: How did growing up in a smaller place influence your persecutive or point of view? Christine: I grew up in a small Northern town so I'm not a natural "city person". I like plants and animals and very early mornings. And warm, open people. 
When did you discover that you had the gift of making such unusual songs? When I started getting strong emotional reactions from people - tears or goosebumps (or shock).  But nothing thrills me more than noticing that someone in the audience seems to know the words. I really dig that. 
How do you know when a song is being born?  It always starts with a chord progression from noodling around on the guitar, then a melody line and a phrase or two. Usually they dissipate like foggy dreams before they are fully formed. I sense they are probably crap so I dont try to retrieve them. When one gets stuck in my head for days, looping over and over and I can't focus and I bump into walls, and I don't want to go to bed I just want to work on the song - then I know I'm onto a good one. 
What are the elements that are important to you when you are crafting a song  Two things come to mind. First, there has to be some substance to it. Don't rhyme 'your eyes' with 'blue skies' unless you have a point about eyes and skies.  I guess that's why I'm more often rhyming 'blood' and 'mud' than eyes' and 'skies'. Second, there has to be emotional impact of some kind. Maybe that's the same point I'm not sure.. 
Tell us about the way in which your work as a lawyer informs your songwriting and vis versa.    You might think that because I'm a criminal lawyer, and I write a lot of songs about violence and death, that my job influences my musical content. I don't actually think that's true. I think my fascination with the darker sides of human nature inspires my interest in both arenas. And in my spare time (when I have any) I read murder mysteries and watch crime dramas.  I think practicing criminal law has deepened my insight into human nature though (at least the dark side of it) and has given me a focus and discipline about writing. 
You are at the beginning stages of a new recording. What kinds of things will be different than your last recording?  My first CD was all studio musicians.  My musicianship has improved since then so I will play a lot more of the music myself on this one.  I am much more comfortable with my voice now too.  I  want to do a more organic and acoustic recording. More sparse. Less production. Cheaper :)). 
How has the work with Singers Playground impacted your development?   Enormously - it has helped me not only with the skill set but also with the confidence. Micah's vocal coaching, master classes and therapy!!  Singing is a head trip and you need someone who understands that. 
You've been playing a residency at Latinada. How has that helped you as an artist?  Latinada has been great. I love Latin music and I play a bit of Latin music but mostly I play my own. It's perplexing how they welcoming they are of me. It is a magical and rare place.  There is no pretence there - just cool people who love music. 
What are you planning for the  audience at Hugh's Room June 5th?I have a swingy sambaesque song "Lock the Doors" about sex in a car (can I say that in a blog?) and a tear jerker and a crush song - oh and Willie's Farm - written from the perspective of a murdered prostitute!
Christine Tier's Web Site

Reservations and Info for June 5th Singers Playground Concert

Singers Playground Official Website

Saturday, May 25, 2013


I was lucky enough to meet Ashley at Queer Idol where she was learning to get comfortable on stage and fell in love with both her beautiful voice and her magical spirit. To think that in a few short years she has become both a writer and found herself a band to record and perform with. I am truly delighted to be able to present Ashley in performance at our June 5th Singers Playground concert.  This is a young artist to keep your eyes on people!

Micah: How did your family connection to music help you believe you could do this for a career? 
 Ashley: When I was little I used to go to the studio with my dad and his band. Sitting there, playing with the keyboard sounds was more fun to me than any toy.  My little sisters and I would copy the singers and make "plays" about our experiences. My dad always told me I would be a singer and I believed him the first time he said it. Eventually, I was big enough to sing with him in his country band. Since my dad was a singer, you could say it's in my blood, but my family also really encouraged me to persue music as a career.

It seems that it took a lot of personal growth for you to become ready to function as an artist. What has that journey felt like?:
It certainly took me a long while to get to this point. In order to become a high functioning shy girl, I had to overcome some physical and emotional issues years in the making. I lost 60lbs, learned how to manage my severe anxiety disorder and discovered who I really am as a person. All this happened in three years.

You overcame a huge issue of anxiety in order to become a performer what methods did you/do you use?
Since I was three I've had a pretty bad problem with panic attacks and anxiety. As all performers know, nervousness is a part of the deal which I accept to a degree. I made the decision to seek psychotherapy and learn ways to control the insane levels of fear that I got to. Deep breathing,yoga, meditation and regular exercise help me stay calm. I avoid caffeine and fatty foods because I know they upset me. Writing songs about this issue is also very helpful, not only for myself but hopefully for other sufferers too.

You were involved with Queer Idol (Now Spectra) in what ways did that experience support your growth?
Queer Idol (now called Spectra)  was an amazing opportunity for me to overcome stage fright. We performed very often and were always singing together. It's really true that the more you perform, the easier it gets. Idol introduced me to the Singers playground as well as a whole family of musicians of whom I will love forever! Queer Idol planted a tiny seed that has now become a flower.

In what way has Singers Playground played a part in supporting your becoming the artist you have become?
Singers Playground....what can I say without sounding cheesy?? It's actually changed my life! When I started with Singers Playground, I was singing classical music and just about every genre there is. I couldn't really settle on a style that expressed all the colours that I am. We explored different elements of most styles and were able to blend them all into neo soul. Micah worked with me on learning to breathe properly. Breath support was my biggest issue. Unlocking the power of my diaphragm has made me a completely different singer that I was two years ago.
You became a singer who can write. Why was this important to you and how did you accomplish that goal? 

I believe we were all born to help one another through love and wisdom. This is why I feel its so important for me to share my music and light with everyone. Last year I wanted to begin to share my inner world with an audience. On Micah's advice, I started to listen to songs that I really related to, paying attention to structure and lyrics. Then, I played instrumentals on Youtube and recorded myself freestyling on them. Next thing I knew I was starting to get ideas in the shower, at work...anywhere and recorded them. Lastly, I hibernated all winter and continued to write piece by piece, song by song. Now, I have twenty-seven songs.....and counting.
 You now perform regularly with your own band! How did you find your musicians?

Oh! My band! I love these people! I was doing a lot of back up work last year and ended up singing with this awesome band called Jackson Live,a Michael Jackson tribute band. That's where I met Julian Clarke, our drummer. We sort of simultaneously realized we would work well together. I brought the idea to him to start a neo soul band. He pulled together some members of his band Theflow. One of our back up singers went to school with my little sister, and I knew she'd be a good fit .These guys somehow understand the craziness inside my head. I love them to death!
 What are your goals in this industry and who career inspires you?

My goals  in the industry....so many! I would love to have a career exactly like Erykah Badu, the queen of neo soul. I wish to release multiple albums all of which do really well and reach a world wide audience. I also want to receive Out Music, grammy and NAACP awards. This would make me feel like I have represented and contributed to  the queer, black and music community the best I possibly can. I'd love to perform in countries that don't speak my language, but still feel the music. One of my ultimate goals in life is to affect change by starting or being part of a foundation for girls that elevates their self esteem. MUSIC+LOVE+CHANGE=LIFE

Friday, May 24, 2013

Meet Jazz Cabaret Artist Rose Stella!

Meet Jazz Cabaret Artist Rose Stella. After having performed only one public show as a singer Rose was asked to perform at this year's Toronto Jazz Festival and we are blessed to have her performing June 5th at the Singers Playground Concert!

Micah: You have a mixed background which seems to give you a broad perspective how would you say your parent's worlds influenced your growth musically?
Rose: I grew up in Arizona so there was a lot of country and Mexican music around me.  But both my parents love music – so my world was filled with all kinds – It was the late 50’s and early 60’s so the wonderful pop music of that era...Hank Williams, Edie Gorme (especially with Trio Los Panchos.  My Father loved to dance and loved swing music.  Big Band music and the great singers like Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Johnny Mercer and Frank Sinatra and were popular in our home.

You seem to have a very profound ear for music and a great love of storytelling. Who are your biggest influences musically?
Singers who were my biggest influence were Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. I also loved Peggy Lee and Betty Carter – and Liza Minnelli.  And on a whole different level – Julie Andrews – because when I was a child, I saw her in Mary Poppins and Sound of Music.  Ever since then, I wanted to sing!

You have a long and varied career in the theatre. How does your experience as an actor and writer help you as a musical performer? Actors need to know what they are saying and who they are saying it to.  I believe the same is true for singers.  Frank Sinatra was a musician/singer and an actor...and I believe his acting abilities influenced his “phrasing” – which he is so admired for by singers. I choose my material based on what moves me emotionally – songs with something emotional that I want to share with the listeners.

You waited a very long time to make your musical performance debut. What are the challenges you've faced on that journey?
Singing has always made me feel vulnerable...My Challenges have been that I am basically shy about expressing myself as ME.  Being an actor allows me to express myself through other characters – but singing has always been something that reveals me – and I was frightened about how vulnerable I felt when singing in front of people.  Singers’ Playground helped me immensely to address the reasons for my fear so I could break through it – and sing with confidence. 

What are the important elements that you focus on while in performance?
In performance, I concentrate on the story telling – not the singing. I do all the warm-up and prep work before the show...But it is the same when I am acting.  I am interested only in communicating...
With only one show under your belt you've been asked to perform at The Toronto Jazz festival and Hugh's Room. That must feel very exciting? Yes! I feel like the Universe is blessing me with the kindest acknowledgement of its love for me! 
In what ways has Singers’ Playground been a part of your journey along the way?
Singers’ Playground helped me pin-point the things that were holding me back.  I never understood why I was able to be an Actor, but terrified to SING.  Micah and Singers Playground addressed my technical singing problems...made me get my songs in the right key and find someone to write good charts for me.   It also taught me what I needed to do to be comfortable to sing with an accompanist – because karaoke does not prepare you for that (lol!).

Friday, May 17, 2013



Successful artists aren't the ones with no problems.

Successful artists are the ones that get creative about how to work through their challenges.

Most of us artist have an essentially childish approach to problem solving. We throw our hands up in the air and say "I can't face this" or " could someone else take care of this". (Neither approach being very useful in terms of forward motion wouldn't you agree?)

Basically we are always dealing with our expectations (why isn't everything working out?) and our impatience (when will everything work out?)

Of course any roadblock feels like a mountain in front of us when we are struggling to reach our goals.

Your job is NOT to try and solve the whole problem all at once.

I generally suggest clients separate the challenge into bite size pieces that they can chew one by one until the problem is taken care of.

Self support is crucial to us as artists, it's a good thing to acknowledge that we feel stumped or anxious and to observe our thinking and our behavior around that.
How are we avoiding the issue at hand?

Usually by creating other tasks that are less daunting or by checking out completely with all the various ways humans have developed to distract ourselves.
 How about instead we create a simple little step by step approach to problem solving that will allow us not to feel too overwhelmed?

What is it that has you feeling stuck?

Big show coming up and you have to get bums in seats?

Need to put together a band and don't know where to start?

Got a manager that doesn't seem to be active on your behalf?

Weekly tasks that slowly move us towards the solution can be a workable approach.
Say you want your band to be booked for summer shows.  This is a process that takes time so of course you will be anxious throughout if you expect it to be over and done with in the click of a mouse.
The first week I would assign yourself the goal of researching all the potential venues in your market and collecting the contact info of the booker of each venue. Don't worry about contacting them yet, that can be your second weeks assignment. Then by week three you will follow up your initial e mails with a phone call, knowing as much as possible about how your act fits into their booking policy based on your research.
By week four it's a sure bet your calendar will have at least a few anchor dates in place and your desperation levels will have decreased significantly, allowing you to focus a more relaxed energy on the task of filling in the rest of the dates.

The key to artist progress is slowly building your confidence in your ability to meet your challenges in a step by step approach. It builds self esteem in even the most chaotic and insecure creative artist.

Artists may be like children but, like children we can be fast learners  and if we have our own goals firmly in sight, we can be highly motivated to learn new skill sets!

E Mail Coach Micah Barnes about Career Work Groups at Singers Playground

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Notes From The Playground: DIGITAL MARKETING: CREATING AN ARTIST IDENTITY:                                                                           A lot of thoughts recently about how digital marketing allow...



A lot of thoughts recently about how digital marketing allows artist to  carve their own identities.
In the old days labels would have to have figured out how the marketing would work before they signed an act and then have to spend a truck load of money honing and perfecting selling the "product" (much of which was billed back to the artist in the long run!)
Lots of acts we know and love came down that pipeline, however most successful artists, the ones that have staying power in this business, already came with their own strong sense of identity.  (Aretha, Elvis, Streisand, Sinatra, U2, Green Day, Pink, Buble, etc)
                                     ARTISTS ARE DOING IT FOR THEMSELVES

These days the artists ourselves are responsible for figuring out and creating their marketing. That takes an understanding of who we are, what we represent to people and who our market is going to be.  Not an easy task for most artists who are immersed in the bubble of music creation.

Finding your artist identity is an organic process that takes trial and error. Thats why the American Idol singers (with VERY few exceptions considering how many season in we are now) don't take hold and last with the public. There's been no development period for them to dig in and create an identity that is more than a singing voice.

Who is the person with the voice? Who is that guy with the guitar? What makes them different from every other young artist trying to capture the publics attention?  If you yourself don't know the answer to that question no one else if going to be interested in your music. Period.

                                     YOU CANT THINK YOUR WAY THERE  

Marketing has become every man's game these days. More of us have our hands on the wheels than ever before in the  history of recorded music. BUT this can be a mixed blessing. So many young and developing artists come to me and say I'm a cross between Britney and Pink or No Doubt meets Nirvana or some such combination WITHOUT EVER HAVING WRITTEN OR RECORDED A SONG!
These days kids are encouraged by the myth that through uploading you tube video's of themselves performing covers or getting on a TV talent contest they'll be discovered. One in a million.
Often we have a great deal of work to do in the vocal studio or performance workshops before they can actually communicate who they are musically...but they already have a sense of entitlement, after all they know who they want to be already. Is that half the battle? Well thats only half wrong.
Knowing how you should be marketed is an asset. But artists who try to think their way into their artist identities are lost before they start. Trial and Error and fumbling on the ground is how every great product finds it's way to the public.
Here's a suggestion for the floundering artist trying to figure out their marketing. Ask your closest friends and fans who else your music reminds them of. You may not like the answers BUT it will tell you a lot about how people perceive you. And once you know that, my friends, you have the beginning of the market research you'll need to create your ongoing campaign to take over the hearts of the world!





Friday, April 19, 2013



Because we are not ready yet.


What do you truly desire? A better band? A better venue? A larger audience? A recording contract?  Finding yourself frustrated and unable to feel any forward motion in attaining your goals?

Everything we experience as an obstacle is there for a reason.

You are being asked to deepen your approach, your understanding, your skill set, your focus, your determination, your understanding.

Artists want proof that we are "good enough" every step of the way. Like children learning to walk, we need reassurance that we are being supported in this scary new experience.

We will not always get support from outside ourselves. The most powerful artists always have an internal motor that keeps us revving high and moving along the highway full of faith and passion and commitment.

Of course even the most driven among us sometimes falter, especially when things don't seem to be going our way.

                                          YOU CANT GET THERE FROM HERE

There are many levels of success in this business. If you are seeking a higher level then your skill set has to be ready to handle that new level of commitment and pressure.

If you are not there yet thats usually because you are not ready.

The music industry is unlike any other. For the most part (with a few glaring exceptions) talent reaches it's natural level and place in the world.

Many millions of talented people do not have the drive and ambition to break through the pack but that doesn't mean they wont have an honest and deep experience making music in this world.

The very top of this industry is for the very very few. Obstacles don't scare those artists, they thrive on challenge and rise to the occasion.

                                              ARE YOU DOING THE WORK?

Feeling stuck and like you can't move forward? Assume that the universe is lining something up for you and start digging into yourself!   Easier said than done but the people who get ahead are ALWAYS working on themselves.

Do the ground work so that you are actually ready for new opportunities when they presents themselves!




Thursday, April 11, 2013


Feeling overwhelmed? "Theres too much to do, too much on my plate, I cant figure out to do next"!
All great ways to stop our forward motion aren't they?

Resistance. It happens to me the most when I am really moving forward on a lot of fronts all at once or have a suddenly expanded task list. It also happens when I am scared to do something but can't admit that to myself.

Rather than stop and admit the fear (so I can better handle my expectations) or prioritize (and get just one item crossed off that list)  I will seek distraction with a season of a favorite TV show or something equally "useful"to my forward motion, and end up feeling angry at myself.
Great another way to beat ourselves up in this process of reaching our goals!    

                                  MAKE FRIENDS WITH YOUR RESISTANCE

There is nothing wrong with feeling overwhelmed or scared, thats a natural part of growing.  If your focus is on feeling comfortable then it will always be "too hard" to stretch and grow. If our focus is growth, we have to accept that growth tends to bring a certain level of discomfort.
            Our goal when feeling resistance is to make a new choice and find ways to move forward in spite of our fear.

Pay attention your resistance. Bring it into the light of day and identify it. Thats the first step towards moving past it..and the way we become familiar with our patterns of avoidance and denial.

Resistance can useful in helping us identify our fears. Usually our expectations are unreasonable in the situation and we are scared things aren't going to work out the way we want. So rather than move forward we stay stuck where we are comfortable. We'd rather be stuck and fearful than moving forward and terrified…thats just human nature.

                                                  LETS MAKE A DEAL!

The folks who really actualize their dreams practice a million acts of courage in order to reach their goals. Im all about making deals with ourselves..if it means getting just one important thing done today before we go to sleep then we can wake up one step further to our goals and a deeper sense of empowerment.

So lets make friends with the feeling of resistance  so we can recognize it when it happens.  If we approach the feeling of being overwhelmed with a firm hand and a short list of what could be done today we're growing a new skill set that will support our growth.

Resistance is normal yes.. But being a healthy artist is about being extraordinary isn't it?




Friday, April 5, 2013



Careers are made up of a million courageous acts. We all have resistance to our forward motion though, to one degree or another, and thats what I want to discuss today. Resistance… to success, to fulfilling your dreams, to living an extraordinary life.
  You know how it feels before you go over the top of a roller coaster, it's thrilling and scary and wonderful all at the same time. We feel out of control and exhilarated. But of course we're strapped in to a moving vehicle. If we had our bodies free many of us would wriggle out and try some means of escape from the scary drop. Thats the feeling of resistance.

In an artists life the resistance can be invisible. A weird feeling of being stuck or inactive around even our most important goals. There is a natural resistance to moving forward into the scary unknown.
Most often it shows up as a batch of hard rules that keep us stuck, things we won't do, approaches we wont try no matter how much our managers, producers, co-writers, coaches etc try and encourage us. We dig our heels in and argue for the place that feels safer to us, often limiting our opportunities in the process.
Why do we resist what we want? Because not having what we want is familiar. We've lived with it much of our lives. Dreaming of a better situation and "making do" marks the human condition. To make a life that is extraordinary we have to experience the unexpected. The uncontrollable.The uncomfortable.
                                                           SHOCK THE SYSTEM

We are scared of entering situations where there are unknown variables that may challenge us. Our hearts are already on our sleeve as singers and performers and songwriters. Why would we have to extend ourselves even further into the unknown in order to achieve the careers we want?
Because if we don't stretch and grow we are stagnating and allowing ourselves to play it safe. Thats the death of an artists career.

When coaching artists who are working on their career challenges I always suggest a doable action which will "shock the system" and change the focus from "what I want but don't have" to "what I am working towards".
Call the producer you actually want for your project, make the open mike night that scares you, record a bad demo of your new material just for your own ears, create the blog that explains clarifies your identity etc. Activity that is unfamiliar will feel like a splash of cold water and wake us up to new possibilities in ourselves.  Even if the resistance is huge…resistance is worth identifying through this kind of practical approach.

Resistance can be useful if it shows us we're scared. It allows us to identify what feels out of our comfort zone and how small we've been willing to be. Choosing to move forward into the unknown regardless of our fear is how we achieve our goals.  The first step in the million courageous acts that go into a healthy career.



Tuesday, April 2, 2013



                                         ARE YOU REALLY DIGGING IN FOR YOURSELF?

It's often been said that courage doesn't mean lack of fear it means courage in the face of fear! An artists life is challenging. Have a think through the amount of stress you experienced when having to do things for the first time.
 Writing your first song, calling your first club, putting your first band together, cold calling industry folks, doing your first mailing list etc. How much procrastination and how many excuses did you use before simply facing your fear and getting off your ass?
Most of us experience overwhelming self doubt and fear every step of the way. That seems to be a natural component of the creative personality.
It's only the deeply ambitious among us that learn to overcome their fears and push themselves towards their goals.

          Been doing a lot of thinking about these things as I coach the Career Work groups at Singers Playground. Watching and supporting artists as they dig in for themselves. Pushing past our fears to achieve our goals builds a kind of resilience and strength. Thats why successful people in this industry often seem more confident than us mere mortals. Bet they didn't start out that way though! Confidence is something that is built over time. Tested in situation after situation as we seek to build a career for ourselves based on integrity and our authentic selves.
We may never get past feeling insecure or scared but it's the brave among us who feel the fear and chose to act regardless.
Thats the only way we move forward our of our behaviors and habits that hold us back. If we are stuck we have no one to blame but ourselves.
Constant growth is the way a healthy artist creates a sense of core self empowerment.

                                    DIGGING IN TO BE THE BEST YOU CAN BE!

              A good example is what I look for when I consider artists for the Singers Playground concerts. There are a few simple criteria for me in choosing who is asked to perform: Is the artist digging in to the best of their abilities to improve their skill set? This means working on their voice technique, their songwriting and/or arranging skills, learning how to record demo's and working with producers to hone their sound?
Is the artist out there performing regular shows already and gathering an audience for their music? Do they have the commitment to publicizing their shows and build their fan base?
Are they using social media to tell their story and create a buzz? Do they understand their "brand" and are they willing to examine their potential place in the marketplace?
Are they increasing their understanding of music business strategies and learning how to build a team of believers around them?
Simply put, the singers who are working hardest on the music, on themselves and on their careers are going to be considered for this opportunity and for other opportunities in this business.
Digging in for yourself becomes a habit when you practice it.
Micah Barnes



Friday, March 22, 2013


Taking responsibility for our career is scary for artists. Most of us don't have the skill set we only have the desire.  This business asks us to be the best singer we can be, the best writers the best live performers etc. And thats a LOT of stuff we have to get GREAT at before we are ready for the world stage. Most of us don't want to include business skills in that package. It just seems to hard, too daunting and too difficult.
So we get stuck looking for BIG DADDY (OR MOMMY) to save us..  a manager who will be the answer to all our dreams and make it all magically happen.

                                  YOU ARE ALWAYS THE ACTUAL MANAGER

Successful artists always retain control of their forward motion. If you remain in a position of responsibility you will always be protected from the worst outcomes of someone else's bad decisions. YOU are the one watching the company store.  Your career and your future are no one else's responsibility but your own. A manager acts as a guide and as an advisor. Regardless of how powerful or well connected your manager may be your hand never leaves the steering wheel! Why?  You are the person who must ultimately live with the decisions you make as a partnership.

                                                 MANAGERS ARE JUST PEOPLE

Beware believing that any one manager can be responsible for everything "clicking" in your career. Almost all managers have strengths and weaknesses. It's good to know what they are before building up big expectations which will lead to terrible disappointment.
   Some managers are really good at getting you gigs..some never touch that part of your career and will leave that to you or an agent. Some managers have a special knack at putting together recording deals for artists. Some are excellent at designing a marketing approach. The truth is that most will not be good at everything and it's YOUR job as the defacto manager to see the holes and get proactive to fill them yourself or with other members of your team.

                                                   IT STARTS WITH A QUESTION

I almost always suggest artists play the field for a while before signing anything with a manager.  Better to start with dating before any real "commitment" happens on either side. A lot of times the relationship starts when an artist is stuck and looking for a specific solution and reaches out to a manager that they may know and trust and have access to ask that all important question. "Can you give me some input about this decision I have to make"?  If things go well the artist may be invited to "call anytime with anything you need help with". If things progress and a certain amount of trust is built up then a relationship may start to get deeper.
  The artist-manager fit is one of the most mysterious things in this business. I write this after having introduced a young super talented artist and manager at a crucial moment in his career, a good fit that will help the artist navigate the rough waters of international deals. The two parties "dated" for about a year before signing paper on their relationship.

                                            DON'T CALL US WE'LL CALL YOU

Seeking management is one of the main things artists feel they should be "doing". But thats not a useful goal to the working artist. How come? Interestingly enough most successful artists I know have had their managers seek them out. Why? Because as artists they were already doing the music and making the audience and creating the energy and buzz around their work and their career, enough so that a manager seeking a new act to work with would end up hearing about them through their network.

    People in the music industry talk to each other. There are listening and watching for the truly "special" and "unique" artists that stand out.
Sometimes it's the combination of talent and looks and drive that clicks, sometimes it's because the artist has something really "fresh" in their approach. Sometimes it's simply dollar signs that get the manager interested... but it's always the manager who takes an interest first almost NEVER the other way around in my experience.
SO..if you are seeking a manager there's nothing wrong with starting a relationship with a couple of well placed folks where could bounce your challenges and ask questions.   Usually the manager is watching carefully to see what kind of a person the artist is. Will they make life difficult? Do they follow through on suggestions? Are you taking responsibility for your own forward motion?

There are a million new acts trying to break into the publics consciousness each year. How do you get heard about the din? By doing what you do the best you can do it. Pretty simple really. Do what you do so well that you attract the team you need to bring it to the world.

In a jam career wise? Ask me about the Career Work groups at Singers Playground!Has this blog been useful? let me know at micah@singersplayground.com

Singers Playground Official Site

E Mail Micah Barnes

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Taking Responsibility


Artists who are stuck are usually asking the wrong questions, (…and just so we're clear folks, that includes me).

"Why wont they call me back, How come no one is coming out to the shows, Why am I not further than this by now in my career?

      No matter who we have working with us as a manager or agent, producer or industry professional ultimately the actual "manager" is ourselves. As artists we are the owner of the company, the producer of the product and the person responsible for the major decisions in our career.
The people we work with on our team only advise and support our movement.

     So, that means if w don't have our business skills or social media skills or our songwriting skills or our performance skills or our vocal chops together then it's up to us to figure out how to gain or improve on the existing skill set.

      Growth is challenging in a number of ways. 1 ) we are never guaranteed of the outcome so it's not a for sure thing when we embark on the journey. Being patient is not a trait that most artists possess 2) being bad at something is uncomfortable for most of us, so we avoid the experience with all kinds of road blocks and excuses. 3) taking responsibility for growth means we have to accept blame when stuff doesn't work out.

  The good news is that no one is growing unless they are failing sometimes, learning from their mistakes but making mistakes so they can learn! The bad news is that most artists don't focus on a step by step approach but get overwhelmed with the big picture and stand immobilized while their dreams pass them by. The Career Work groups are designed to get us unstuck by asking us to a) declare our challenges and get ideas and support in dealing with them b) forcing us to deal with the uncomfortable growth that gaining new skill sets can be and most importantly c) by asking  us to take responsibility for our career development.

Having spent the better part of 10 years seeking to empower artists in all kinds of ways I can safely say the most important step is for us to take responsibility. It's also the hardest because then we have to accept that if we're not happy in our career's its up to us to do something about it!

Official Singers Playground Website

  Facebook Group

Contact Coach Micah Barnes

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Career Work Group

            "Everytime you are willing to take a risk you increase your ability to trust and believe in yourself"- from "Creating Money: Keys To Abundance"

Friday, February 15, 2013

Welcome To The Playground

 Hello Folks!         Due to the overwhelming success of the show last fall featuring Ivy James, JP Saxe, Mike Butler and Rebecca Codas, the good people at Hughes Room have asked Singers Playground back for a spring concert!
  It was truly a wonderful experience as a coach to see young and talented artists rise to the challenge of the excellent concert venue, including their learning curve around publicizing the show, which was a large part of how we ended up with such a large and attentive crowd.
   Unlike a lot of commercial venues Hughes Room believes in fostering up and coming talent, and to that end, have asked JP Saxe back for his own show in March.  They believe in what we are doing at Singers Playground  and are helping us foster the growth of musical careers with this concert series.
We have set a date (June 5th) for a spring concert featuring some of the other artists that I have been working with at Singers Playground. Stay tuned for the announcement of who will be performing.
In the meantime let me share with you the criteria for who is asked to perform on this invitational evening.

                                               Choosing The Performers.

  Most of the artists featured in the last show were first introduced to be during the Singers Playground Workshops where a room full of talented singers face the challenges they experience in live performance. Although usually followed up with private sessions, the workshops are the first way I get to meet and  work with a singer and it always proves instructive to me as a coach to see how they respond to the experience.

There are a few simple criteria for me in choosing who is asked to perform:
  Is the artist digging in to the best of their abilities to improve their skill set? This means working on their voice technique, their songwriting and/or arranging skills, learning how to record demo's and working with producers to hone their sound?
Is the artist out performing already and gathering an audience for their music? Do they have the commitment to publicizing their shows and building their careers?
Are they using social media to tell their story and create a buzz? Do they understand their "brand" and are they willing to examine their potential place in the marketplace? Are they increasing their understanding of music business strategies and learning how to build a team of believers around them?
 Simply put, the singers who are working hardest on the music, on themselves and on their musical careers are going to be considered for this opportunity.

Believe it or not there is only a very small batch of singers that I work with who are actually focused on ALL of these elements.  Its a hard balancing act and no one gets it right all the time..however its my job as a coach to help support that possibility and remind the young artists of what their job actually entails.

Welcome To The Playground!