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February 23, 2007
5 Things I Learned in Halifax During the ECMAs
You should always come back from a music conference with a head full of ideas. And that doesn't just apply to attendees. The same is true for speakers and panelists like me. Here are five highlights and thought nuggets I came home with after attending the ECMAs:
1) From performance coach Tom Jackson:
When playing your original songs live, don't get stuck playing them "like the record." Arranging a song to be radio-friendly is one thing. Making the most of it for a live audience is quite another. Don't be in such a hurry to get to the opening vocal line or to return to the chorus after a solo, etc. If there's an interesting rhythmic element in the background, bring it to the foreground and let the audience "feel" it.
It's too bad that more musicians didn't attend Tom's performance workshops. Hearing him talk about "creating moments" for your fans and watching him work with real musicians on their stage show will change the way you think about live performance forever.
2) From CD Baby founder Derek Sivers:
The bestselling CD Baby artist tracks on iTunes are cover songs. Derek's advice: Search the iTunes store for songs you do well that haven't been covered by a lot of other artists. Then secure the rights, record your own unique version, and get it up on iTunes.
Another great idea from Derek: Before you run off to start a record label, create a management company, seek funding, or get a business license ... test out your idea first to see if there's even an interest in it. I agree. Don't start a business entity until you've got business coming in.
I've known Derek for about 10 years, since right before he started CD Baby. We've always shared a kindred philosophy about the do-it-yourself music career path. It was a real thrill for me to share the stage with him on two panels in Halifax.
3) From the guy who tried to diss me in public:
Don't get me wrong. Debate is good. Being exposed to varying perspectives can be healthy and enriching -- especially if you're in the audience watching one panelist disagree with another. Which was the case when one of my colleagues (who shall remain nameless) had issues with some of the empowering messages I was sending to indie musicians.
A couple of his points were valid, but one in particular was truly perplexing and spoke volumes about his mindset. Soon after I remarked that the Internet has "leveled the playing field" for indie artists, he turned to me and said "The Internet has NOT leveled the playing field."
He seemed to be saying that the Web was a nice new tool but that you still have to be plugged into the industry structure to have any chance of succeeding. Hmmm. I'll let you decide if the Internet has had any great effect on the music biz in recent years.
Lesson: No matter how blatant the evidence is that times have changed, many people (even young, supposedly tech-savvy ones) will cling to the old ways of thinking and conducting business. I hope you aren't one of them.
4) From famed producer Bob Ezrin:
During his keynote, Ezrin (who produced Pink Floyd's The Wall and helped launch the careers of Alice Cooper and KISS) proclaimed that "the record business is dead." He said that a massive change (including widespread industry layoffs) was right around the corner and that the music business will have to adapt new ways of doing business. (Geez, I wonder if the Internet and that whole level playing field thing had anything to do with this?)
Ezrin's best advice: Get good at playing your instrument, singing and writing songs. Become an amazing musician. Then play your ass off and pour a lot of energy into connecting with fans. Stick around after shows and talk to everyone who wants to meet you. Build your mailing list and your own career.
Sounds like this industry veteran gets it and understands the value of the DIY career approach.
5) From the musicians and people of Nova Scotia and eastern Canada:
This was the second time in three months that I paid a visit to Nova Scotia. I said it before and I'll say it again: The amount of talent in that area of Canada is nothing short of amazing. And there's a sense of support and collaboration rarely seen in other music communities.
And the people ... they have got to be some of the warmest, friendliest human beings you'll ever meet. I feel like I've truly made some lifelong friends there and hope to return again later this year.
Check my podcast and future blog posts for more on the musicians of Nova Scotia and the surrounding provinces.
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What About Bob?
Bob Baker is an author, speaker, teacher, indie musician and former music magazine editor dedicated to showing musicians of all kinds how to get exposure, connect with fans, sell more music, and increase their incomes.
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