Before the Sun Sets on this Memorial Day

By on 3-08-2009 in Music Business Insight

by Gary Powell
caribbean sunset

Memorial Day is the day to reclaim one of our greatest American values,

“perception becomes reality.”

No, that’s not it! Professional communicators across all cultures and generations have known and utilized this manipulation – every politician, every manager, every promoter. Decades ago, I had several people in the field of public relations suggest that it was time for me to “build my myth.” I could never understand how they could miss the fact that my musical skills and professional life didn’t need a myth. I did, however, have the need to create my own authority. Although this is the truest of American values, no one suggested it to me. The lesson of claiming my own personal authority was finally taught to me at age forty-two! Although there were immediate benefits, it took another decade before it sank in and became integrated into my being. Utilizing our self-determined authority, if we have earned it, is how we; the talented, the educated, the bold and the caring, win.

I did have the need to create my own authority. This is the truest of American values for which we have fought and died.

Only a few will understand that we, ourselves, are responsible for creating and maintaining our own authority. If learned and applied, each of us can now create a professional life which is less encumbered by the weight of the institutional gatekeepers, and there are plenty of gatekeepers who are usurping, borrowing or hijacking our earned authority. You, the individual, with the freedom to hang out your own shingle, creating your own opportunities while prospering through the relationships of your choice, is the kind of pursuit to happiness which can be traced back to the “Magna Carta” in year 1215, to Thomas Jefferson’s “Declaration of Independence” in 1776, to the “United States Constitution” in 1787, and to James Madison’s “Bill of Rights” in 1791.

Through this eight-hundred-year-old paper trail, self-reliance and self-determination has become embedded into the American consciousness. By awakening this reasoned argument, which we have inherited through the words of these authors, these liberators, we can define the direction of our own destinies even in failure. I have struggled with and yet still continue the great challenge of creating my own life and identity. Nobody owes this to me. The responsibility rests solely on me. If I fail, let it be a grand and picturesque failure for others to either follow or avoid. Today, I will do it yet again before the sun sets on this Memorial Day, in honor of those who even today and for centuries before, fought the good fight for my freedom. Either way it goes, at my final sunset, whatever I have built or have failed in, will be gloriously mine largely due to the sacrifice of others in the cause.

I wish you all a peaceful and healing Memorial Day!

(I took the sunset photo above in Alaska on a September afternoon in 2007. This article was originally posted May 26, 2008)

Your Big Break

By on 3-08-2009 in Music Business Insight

by Gary Powell

When we take action, initiate; we put into motion all kinds of good things that can happen. Maybe it’s kind of like the “break” on a pool table. You don’t have to be an expert for balls to fall in the pocket. Just don’t quit shooting, even if temporarily blocked from entering the pool hall. Choose to not take the shot at all and the less talented than you will get the break. So, simple. Take the shot.

Under the Influence of Music Business Mentors

By on 3-08-2009 in Music Business Insight

by Gary Powell

cap and gownUpon leaving academia, every career path in the music and media businesses immediately becomes unique. Successful individuals have each created their story, unless they came into their professional life as a legacy which is a whole ‘nother topic. Our unique stories is why global advice is so easy to get and so hard to follow; and is advice seldom effective in its practical application. Worse than that is the fact that the eduction we did get can be misleading or even harmful under the stress-test of a real-world artistic career. If you find that your cap and gown has left you disrobed or simply had nothing to do with who you are as an artist or how you earn money as an artist, then read on for the good news.

Whether the graduation robe was relevant or not, you will still have to create the success you desire….. yourself.

After working in the music business full-time since 1976, I still struggle to find time and money to produce what I consider to be the truest and best expression of my life and capabilities. Certainly, aspirations can fuel the search for perfect artistic and financially rewarding expressions. Also, maybe we have identified a mission for our music of some particular choosing. When aspirations are not enough or the poetic mission-statement fails, it might be time to take our dreams to the gym in the form of education; either formal or not. Figuring out what kind of education is right is the next challenge on the path to our unique selves. Oh, I forgot. You may already consider yourself educated. If so, continue reading.

We artists did not choose to study finance, accounting or business, so more than likely we will have to forge this new career path ourselves. Where were the courses in Entrepreneurship in the Arts when we were being educated the first time? Even in the height of my career, I continue to seek out mentors to discern some sage advice which might be applicable to my own psychology, circumstances and talent; all things which are in constant flux.

Other careers may have offered stability with dutiful profits and financial security. We didn’t choose that, did we? So, seek out music mentors, accounting and investment mentors and business mentors; seek out those who have walked a mile in the shoes you want to wear but haven’t even picked-out yet. Regardless the size of a mentor’s career, most successful people are surprisingly willing to help other aspiring individuals. Understand that their advice is not necessarily to be followed, but it is there to be integrated within your own circumstances. I’m still learning. I hope you will too. Whether the graduation robe was relevant or not, you will still have to create the success you desire… yourself.

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Career Path for the Performer

(and how to outwit the present)

By on 3-08-2009 in Music Business Insight

by Gary Powell

Gary Powell-Jesus Christ Superstar 1980There is a point in the development of your performing career at which your own vision of self must become disordered. This is a time and place where your prevailing reality is challenged. For me it came at age twenty-seven in Los Angeles.

Let’s say you are a pre-teen who loves to perform. Maybe you are even talented in doing your literal and proverbial tap dance. Even the most jaded audience enjoy watching your youthful energy. You will soon be asked to perform for many talent shows, Rotary Clubs, weddings and funerals. You have sung the National Anthem dozens of times at sporting events. Yes, it feels great to be in such demand. Continuing on to high school and college, your fan club increases. By now, you have already successfully adjusted to having competition for the lead role in the school musical or ballet. You have usually won these auditions and the infrequent loss of a role doesn’t freak you out….BUT the “shift” still hasn’t happened yet.

During college your talent may be discovered by a summer camp director for boys or girls where you become the song leader, art director or dance coach. No doubt, several churches are offering you high praise to bring your talent into the fold. All this feels inspiring and motivating as now you are beginning to win scholarships and stipends. The next year you perform in a summer-stock theater. Yes, you are on a roll and are now chanting the “I’m being paid to do what I love!” mantra.

In the past, the seemingly harmless career seductions probably did not feel like seductions at all. Now they do! – Gary Powell

At this point you’ve come to terms in juggling auditions, competition from other performers, money issues, and holding a job along side your obscenely long rehearsal hours. But now comes the “shift”. At every step of your development you, the performer, thought that each of the opportunities you’ve experienced was about you. Each circumstance was earned by you and you proved your talent again and again, but now as you have matured you have noticed opportunities thinning out. Some opportunities expire expectantly like graduating from college. Other opportunities expire not from just loosing out to the competition, but loosing in a thousand other ways you had never even considered and in other ways that had nothing to do with you whatsoever. Other professional opportunities expire because you yourself have outgrown them. In the past, the seemingly harmless career seductions probably did not feel like seductions at all. Now they do! They were, at most, a major part of your continuing education and each of your performances was a mini-equivalent to your own record deal.

This is the shift. It is a simple yet broader understanding of yourself and your talent within a larger context; a context which can and must be continually negotiated for the rest of your life. Now you finally know that each of your shows and appearances were about what the show needed rather than about what you needed. As a young performer, the negotiations with yourself were processed internally and silently. Later these negotiations will be voiced and leveraged from all sides. Welcome to the magnificent world of the adult artist who learns to live and prosper through and beyond our losses, our betrayals, our self-doubt, our limitations and our competitors. When you arrive at this point, hopefully before age 27, you will stand in the spotlight you mindfully created and the mastery of your earlier professional life will light your way toward a prosperous future.

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Infrastructure for Connecting

(Beyond Our Lizard-Brains)

By on 3-08-2009 in Music Business Insight

by Gary Powell

Okay, nearly everyone has chimed in with a positive response to my suggestion of learning how we can help each other online in a more direct and meaningful way. There is nothing new about this strategy for any of us. Making it spring forth into computer code, that doesn’t just flirt with its self-serving image in the mirror, is the real question. We can become so focused on our own outreach that these efforts for our friends can eventually be overlooked or forgotten. I would like to see us all support and point our audiences to the people of our choosing. No record company needed. No art galleries needed; no telephone, satellite TV or newspapers needed to tell us who’s who while taking not only their clients’ money but our money too. Do we really need this kind of help in deciding who we really are. Thanks, but no! We’ll take it from here.

I’m assuming social-media guru, Tom Parish is the one of us with the most experience in managing any online presence. He’s the one who actually makes his living teaching people about leveraging social media toward specific goals. That said, I’m proposing that social media is just one of many strategies we should be using. Somewhere between the smokey back-room deals, the two-martini lunches, the Wednesday-night church suppers, the untoward affairs of the politically afflicted, or even just good friends who hold each other in high regard, that this is where real connections and deals are made. FACT: I have NEVER secured a job that I applied for. However, when I was referred by someone or I was found simply by chance and given the opportunity to present myself, I have never NOT been offered the job. (Sorry for the double negative, Emma. I just liked the way it sounded.)

“The other dancers will only look at themselves in the mirror. They’ll never even see us.” – Mitch Pileggi, actor

In year 1980 Mitch Pileggi, X-Files’ Agent Skinner, dragged me to a modern dance class as part of his training to be an actor. I said, “Shit, Mitch, I can’t dance. I’ve never taken a dance class in my life and all those real dancers are going to be starring at us. “You’ve got to be f’n kidding me” he barked, “Gary, shut up. The other dancers only look at themselves in the mirror. They’ll never even see us.” We went. Mitch was right.

“Blog, post video and photos, but quit looking in the mirror long enough to give a little support the people you would like to see win. We can no longer choose to sit idle while we wait for our big break. That paradigm is over. We are our big break.” – Gary Powell

Maybe we should hold a small seminar for ourselves and stir this around and see what happens. I’m not much for clubs, or joining things, or meetings for that matter. But, I don’t want to miss an opportunity for us all to get really smart and effective at helping the people of our own choosing. We have already hired Tom Parish as a moderator for us once before. He’s been so helpful to me in the past and is great at wakening our individual spirit. But we too easily slip back into old patterns.

After blogging now for five years straight, I’ve noticed that there is an obstacle to our successfully joining forces in supporting one another in our artistic or business interests. We’ve all been groomed throughout our lives to believe that talent and product is presented to us only through proper channels like universities, television, newspapers, magazines or movies. Our lizard brains have been too institutionalized to even conceive of promoting and helping the people of our choice. So, most of us go the promotional route alone with the same results as before; wasted time and money. Well, it’s time to wake up and understand that Louis Prima (Big Night) is not coming to dinner and we should have never waited for Godot. Not one minute. Let’s help one another open our lemonade stands. It’s so easy to do now that we have the technology and we all win.

Join me on my Facebook Fan Page.

For further reading: Christine Herron has spent her career finding new applications for infrastructure technologies.

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“Seduction” Business Model of the Arts

By on 3-08-2009 in Music Business Insight

by Gary Powell

Gary Powell, artistIf you finally get the call for the job or the opportunity you’ve worked for, it might be a good time to realize that healthy business relationships are born of mutual understanding, mutually earned respect, mutual reliability and mutually earned loyalty. Notice the omission of the word trust. These new business relationships are never born from a bilateral adoration of you, the artist. If you really believe it is all about you, then prepare to stand in a very long cue while enjoying a very short career on the latest thrill ride called SEDUCTION. Next, order any one of these books written on the topic of “One Hit Wonders” before your story ends as a chapter in the latest edition of one of them.

Most of our early opportunities in the performing and creative arts come to us by way of the often used seduction business model. Perceiving how you are being seduced now in business should help you identify the dangerous patterns within your future business offers. Recognize the pattern and be conscious of how new business proposals couch illimitable opportunities. Keep in mind that seduction is nothing more than the act of using influence to excite hopes and desires without regard to fair and equitable returns for your participation. Any business relationship that honors your contribution should offer you a financial participation bearing some resemblance to how your work has effected their bottom line. Of course, this is also after you acknowledge and place a value on the risk and expense that your employer is taking. But then, and maybe after briefly enjoying the flattery, take the deal or don’t take it, but always try to understand who is doing what to you, why they are doing it, and for how long they intend to keep doing it. It is your job to understand these strategies and it is your job to take care of yourself. Be armed with the knowledge of these common practices in order to make prudent decisions that will yield you uncommon wealth and happiness.

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