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Redefining Success - 25 Strategies for Better Living Through Music (Strategies 1-7)
By Bev Stanton,

MusicDish Network Sponsor

For my first 10 years of playing music, I was in a succession of bands that went nowhere. Armed with the foolhardy belief that we were destined to succeed just by playing out and releasing product, we played gig after gig to dismal audiences and sent out hundreds of CDs to radio and media, yet received little notice. After years of frustration, I channeled my energies into a solo techno project. I hit pay dirt and was signed to a record company after sending out only 20 cassettes.

The success was short lived because the label went bankrupt. I subsequently dusted myself off and started using the Internet to pursue more strategic, proactive promotional and artistic strategies. Although I have not attained the fame and adulation I fantasized about in my early years, my efforts have yielded more satisfying results. I have managed to gain a small but loyal following, generate a sizable turnout at events, and derive more personal fulfillment through music.

1) Listen To Music From Different Genres And Eras

I have been guilty of writing in bios that my band has "a unique sound." In retrospect, after listening to old CDs and cassettes from several years ago, I have to face the fact that everything is derivative. There is nothing wrong with having influences; it is all a part of how musical movements such as jazz and techno percolate and evolve. We can still be influenced by someone else1s music, yet craft a distinct approach.

Listen to music from other worlds. Listen to music from the past. Don't just mimic, but absorb other sounds and make them your own. If you only listen to what's in the present, by the time your record is released your audience will have heard it all before. On the other hand, if music from a neglected genre or era resonates with you, explore that niche and create something new that will sound fresh to your listener.

Don't let your personal background hold you back. For example, don't think that if you're white you can't play jazz or that you have to be from Ireland to explore Celtic music. When cultures blend, it can create an exciting synergy, as when Latin music and Jazz intersected in the 1940's, and American R&B begat Garage in the UK.

2) Practice Makes Perfect

I used to consider band practice as instrument practice and not spend enough time alone with my bass. To a certain extent this may have been due to time constraints, but it also may have been to fear of facing my own inadequacies alone. As a result I would be nervous onstage because, although our band was tight, I lacked the instrumental command to handle the unexpected. Sometimes my lack of confidence would manifest itself in overplaying and interfered with laying down an effortless yet effective groove.

The more comfortable you are with your instrument, the more you can demonstrate to people that you belong on stage. If you are nervous, it will make the audience uncomfortable. Act confident and you will BE confident. Don't be self conscious, focus on the music. If the crowd doesn't react the way you want them to, focus on the one person who seems responsive. If you question yourself, others will doubt you too.

3) Learn Theory - Increase Your Vocabulary

Although there are lots of brilliant musicians who don't know theory, in my experience it broadened my palette. I initially bought a theory book so that I could better communicate with musicians at the recording studio where I worked. Ultimately, an understanding of scales, rhythm, and harmony has given me an appreciation for how beautiful math can render a potpourri of moods. It is also more exciting to break rules when you know what the "right" way is.

4) Don't Be Deliberately Trendy

By the time you hear a hot new band, their music has been out at least a year. Then it can take you at least a year to record an album and release it, which places you two years behind the curve. Back in the eighties, I was in several bands that were influenced by the Smiths and The Cure. Many other bands back then were too, and by the time our music reached the ears of record industry reps, they had already heard enough clones.

Paradoxically, you can often reach back into the past to rediscover new sounds. Acid Jazz is an example of making something old new again. If you do like something new, try to pinpoint what makes it great and harness that quality in your own sound.

5) Visit Mecca

I am a firm believer in traveling to musically vibrant and historically significant places for inspiration. My personal Mecca is Britain because, although the fashion gap has closed, they are still two years ahead musically. When a commercial client says they want a futurist piece, they are happy if I give them something similar to what was big in the UK six months ago. If I can't afford the plane fare, I buy a bus ticket to New York and soak up the artistic energy.

6) Be Inspired. Listen To Music. Listen To Silence

My songwriting changed dramatically when I started carrying around a recorder to capture random inspirations. Stay connected and try to view life from other peoples' perspectives. For example, when you watch the news, think about what it must be like to live in Afghanistan getting bombed by the richest country on earth. Or just go with what you know...there's nothing like universal human experience to help you connect with your listener!

7) Let Music Be A Metaphor For How You Live Life

Sometime the issues I have in life are mirrored in how I approach music. For example, I am often afraid to try new things out of fear of making mistakes. In life too, I am afraid to take chances. Once I realized to what degree my musical approach was an extension of my personality, I began using music as an arena to confront my shortcomings. For example, instead of playing the same repetitive bass line on a song, I would throw in a new riff. Once I developed the confidence to branch out artistically and deal with the consequences of possible mistakes, (i.e. just rolling with it when I hit a bad note), I was able to transfer these skills to real life in ways, such as trying new hobbies and changing jobs.

Provided by the MusicDish Network. Copyright © Tag It 2004 - Republished with Permission

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