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