Thursday, January 15, 2009

"Stay In College" (guide to proactive, mid level, success in the music business for most bands)

Voted by Blues Wax Magazine: "article of the year"

" STAY IN COLLEGE"

(A brief guide to proactive, mid level, success in the music business for most bands)
By Jason Ricci


I informed harmonica legend Mark Hummel 15 years ago that I was intending on quitting college and trying to be a professional harmonica player. After I told him the news I asked him rather pretentiously as only a pot smoking, long haired, eighteen year old can: "How do I get where your at?" I wasn't asking about his harp playing, I was asking about the business. He looked down at me and in a sort of concerned, sympathetic maybe even sad way said: "Stay in College." It wasn't the answer I wanted at all but it was the right one. Because in short, if you're going to do this, you're going to do it... If not you won't. It's very simple really, people like to complicate it (especially me) and that's what this whole article is about sort of. So When Mark said to me: "Stay in College" he really just gave me the best, safest and shortest answer for me to later ignore if I should choose to do so and I did. This is my answer to that same question. Please keep in mind that through out this written lengthy, complex formula for musical success, all I'm really saying is: "STAY IN COLLEGE!"

I know a lot of players more musically talented than myself who have failed or are failing at making a living playing music while I enjoy the fruits of some form of success. Likewise everyone knows all the pop stars "they love to hate" that don't deserve their sudden commercial success and wonder how they could do so well while so much raw talent goes unnoticed! Everywhere you go you hear stories about the guy in town who plays JUST like Eric Clapton, or the woman who is a combination of Janis and Bonnie Raitt. Usually they're between 30 to 50 years old. Often and more lately it's the "prodigy/virtuoso nine year old who's better than S.R.V.. All of these characters haunt every city our band travels too and all of these enigmas for whatever reason never got that "Big Break" that they so deserve! Some of our audience members talk about these people or bands as if they have already died with this sad reverence and tragic mystique. The musician/band in question is almost never there were told because their so fed up with the business that they stay home most the time and never come out to see other bands but when they do...WATCH OUT! Because they'll blow you off the stage! "There ARE actually those who never get their due" for no good reason, some times it has to do with their art/music being too ahead of their time or their audience too small but more often it has to do with drugs, booze, a problematic personality, a romantically involved woman or a man, or most often a general and genuine problem with laziness/complacency. Contrary to popular belief this business is NOT "Money for nothing and chicks for free" It's a lot of hard work. Most of those musicians who don't totally suck and some who do will actually succeed on some level in the music business for some time if they really want it and are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve that success. The truth is most are not willing to give up the comforts of home, the comforts of being able to pay for a home, many will not give up their drugs and booze for their music they simply love the drugs more whether they admit this to themselves or not. Many will not end a marriage that challenges or threatens their dream, many will enter into relationships that do just that while they are just starting to achieve success. Those who really want to make it will not need to read this but will read it any way but they will succeed with or without this or any other tutorial! Those who will fail in this business will read this and still fail at a career in music, then they and their friends will place blame all over the musical map for this. Jealousy, anger, doubt and fear will infect their lives and the lives of those around them. Unless they truly are that one rare "Misunderstood genius" or are truly mentally or physically ill or taking care of some one who is or all of the above no one should have any one to blame other than themselves.

Sadly sometime in the early eighties or sooner the big record label's formula of the built in booking agency, manager, publicist, and artist development team became less than profitable and started adapting to the times. Bastards. Gone are the days of the record company dispatched talent scout who traverses the small coffee shops and bars of America in search of the eccentric, but poignant heroin addicted, unknown, lyricist/whatever, who with some grooming, ear training, management, methadone, the right band and most importantly money, maybe, might possibly, perhaps, could turn a profit for the label after a few albums aimed at the right demographic, while in the mean time and for the sake of art of course they perform "real music" at a profit loss for the record label. Can we blame them? The Music business is a business, just like a roofing company or a golf course. Would you hire a person like the guy described above to work for you? There are some very fucked up things about the music business that I can't change but I can change how I approach them because that is all I can do. This piece of writing is an attempt of mine to share with you all, especially the musicians amongst you, what I have learned along the way...I'm as you probably know NOT a big star, or a millionaire...but I do own my own home, van, tour all over the world, have a record deal, a booking agency, some P.R. people and pay my three band members a weekly salary that hopefully soon will increase. In short I make my living playing music (harmonica no less) while simultaneously advancing my "name/career" hopefully ensuring a somewhat stable future. Am I lucky? Yes! Did I ever meet a talent scout? No? No one ever handed me anything, not even a single gig, I had to work to get every harmonica lick, lyric, band member, gig, booking agent, manager, publicist, record label, the band and I ever had or didn't! I've been at/after this business full time for fifteen years now mostly very seriously. I have been playing for twenty years. My buddy Dan Gage says: "It' not years it's hours," that's true for everything! I have made a lot of mistakes and have coveted some piss poor u7attitudes and belief systems based in fear and jealousy along the way. I'm here to tell you how I did it, I don't have all the answers and much of this business REALLY is "Who you know" and being in the "Right place at the right time!" I hate to burst the bong bubbles of all you local guitar/harmonica champs sitting at home on Saturday watching Stevie Ray or Kim Wilson on Austin City Limits but unfortunately and fortunately (depending on your outlook) most of this music biz is just plain hard WORK!

Before we go much further I should make a list of things you SHOULD NOT DO if you want to be taken seriously by the industry for the length of a John Popper harp riff this in some cases will include a very important and intimidating word SACRIFICE.

1.) Don't become addicted to or do any hard drugs or maybe if your the band leader ANY drugs! Nobody, not a booking agent, not a club, not a record company wants the liability of you not showing up, not being able to perform, being difficult, or much more dying on their hands! The 60's and 70's are gone, very rarely does any one in our industry knowingly invest in addicts or alcoholics any more! It's not wise for them no matter how good you play/sing/write. Those days are gone. If Janis Joplin, or Jimi Hendrix were just breaking the scene here in 2007 they probably wouldn't get signed just based on their substance abuse. This goes obviously much further than just your potential investors. You will not be capable (I know first hand!) of expending the necessary time, energy and sober thought into your career if you are inebriated, trying to score all the time, going to jail, dope sick, hung over, etc. Most rock stars these days and some of ole', that die of addiction related causes developed their addictions after they had won/earned their place already. If you think this might be your problem get help. I did.... I ended up doing a year in jail over all that stuff. Music is the least of your problems if you're hooked on anything serious. I'm now Nine years clean and sober and my life is great.
2.) Don't be an asshole! Don't tell clubs, festivals, labels, managers or anyone your better than their favorite or best selling acts or even that you don't like them. This is all about you not them! Don't threaten people or give ultimatums, don't lie about how many people you can put in the club if you can't. Don't tell booking agents your better than anyone or everyone on their roster...They don't care and your probably not. It's not ALL about music a lot of it has to do with how effectively you can sell/bring your music to people! Don't be competitive with other bands. Don't pester people; however, do be persistent. Don't name drop too much especially if you don't really know that person all that well or at all! Just be honest and be nice. You catch more bees with honey.
3.) Do not marry young or marry someone who does not want you to play music for a living! If you do and you want a music career more than a husband or wife get a divorce so you don't hate them forever and blame them for your failures/lost dreams. Leaving home a lot is a big part of this job especially the first 5 years maybe rest of your life! Not making much money is to be expected in most cases, operating at a loss is par for the course as well. Do you have some one in your life that will support your dreams of becoming a star on some level while you are away 319 days a year and making very little sometimes losing money? I do... his name is Brady.... I'm lucky, but if Brady weren't here I would have done it alone because I want this no matter what. I Thank God and him here for his support along the way! Music as a career hasn't been easy for Brady and I or almost any couple we know! Many fulltime musicians rack up past marriages like booking agencies and ex-drummers. It's a constant game of give and take.... Sacrifice music for love, sacrifice love for music...It helps if the one you love/marry has their own dream to keep them occupied while your gone which naturally comes with experiences of their own so they can empathize with your plight and motives. Also don't have kids if you can't afford them on a musician's salary. If you already have them, love them, stay home more and consider waiting till their grown for your career in music.
4.) Don't expect your friends that have "Made it" to help you to the top! It's impossible for them on more levels than they probably have time to tell you about! Once you take your own steps out the door you'll start to understand why. If I write this clearly enough by the time your done reading this you'll realize a little more as well. It is good to know people and have famous friends but it is hardly a ticket to the top of any genre of music. I can put in all the good words in the world to my record company for my friends but if their not touring, selling records, and generally being proactive in their own careers it will mean NOTHING and could even HURT ME!

Below are some additional excuses the band and I hear frequently from musicians and their friends and family. If you continue reading I will later dismiss these excuses or solve most of these. Some of these may be valid but again fall under the heading of "sacrifice" and/or how bad you want this.

1.) My band members all have regular jobs and won't leave town. (Solution later)
2.) My Wife/Husband/Boy/Girlfriend won't let me. (Solved earlier)
2.) The clubs won't pay me enough to leave town. I can make more at home. (Solution Later)
3.) I just need a decent recording first. (You might not unless you really suck. Musicians are often perfectionists who will split hairs over a recording or a tune for years or more until it's entirely outdated and antiquated.)
4.) Gas prices are too high. (They can be. Tough it out till it does not matter.)
5.) I need to move to the RIGHT city, where do I move? (I hear this one a lot. This is mostly a myth. It just helps if you don't live in some state where you have to drive through the same towns every time you leave in order to get anywhere such as any peninsula like Florida or Maine. The Northwest can be tough as well. The more directions you can go when leaving town the more easy and profitable your future touring will be because you wont have to skip over markets that just booked you last week or last month and can't have you back just so soon. It can be a plus to live some where like L.A., New York or any big city as there are often more players to choose from but it's not necessary. There are amazing players everywhere. You may be one! In Big cities local gigs are harder to get and pay less. If you plan your tours right you can have four or more players in your band from all over the country! There is no city with a self-supporting GREAT blues scene, or a GREAT punk scene, what have you. Make it happen on the road. That's what the labels want and what you'll probably have to do at some time to make a name for yourself or the possibility of any steadily growing amount of money.)
6.) There's not enough clubs. (So far there is for most of us driven enough to drive. Get creative look at those touring guides! Steal gigs and tour ideas off of other people's websites. Call and ask around. Stop complaining, just get on the road after a few trips you'll get some new gigs and some private parties as well! If your going to be off a night any way open for another band, play somewhere that's never had a band before for less money than usual or for the "Door". Sad but true in my experience this is what it takes the first year or more out. It's hard and it may break you, your band and your bank account a few or more times before success. Eventually you will have to stop selling yourself short you will know when this time is upon you because you will be able to get the prices and clubs you want in many cases without asking.)
7.) I'm too old. (This may apply in the pop world but most other genres, rock included, don't weigh as heavily on an artists age or image as you may think, I could name a few but lets not. It helps in any genre of music to look good. Make the most of what you have to separate yourself from your audience. You don't have to be fancy, punk, slick, or sexy but it helps to be memorable and have a presence. Do it your own way. Get jiggy wit it.)
8.) I don't have a van. (This is a legit but temporary problem, you will have to find a way to get one or at least a Good S.U.V. with a trailer.)
9.) I don't have a booking agency/agent. (You don't need one and probably won't get one till you've proven your profitability, reliability and rockability first on your own! Read on, much more coming on this.)
10.) I need a record deal first. (Record deals these days even on a major label can mean nothing. They don't generally do whatever you're thinking they do for you.... from fame and fortune to just simply gigs a lot/most all this shit is up to you. Of course a deal can help tons it has and will for us, but have you done all you can while your waiting for your contract to be faxed?) See below!
11.) The side man complaint: No one will hire me to go on tour. (Here's your game plan: Go to jams, make business cards, keep practicing, try to sit in with well known bands without being too pushy, check the papers, the net, email bands, get a demo CD together, stay in touch with the industry: who's quitting? who got fired? etc. Call, mail, and email: labels, booking agencies and management companies and let them know your available if a band needs some one...Learn to sing and front a band and start your own band if your tired of waiting to get a job.)
12.) I have a mental illness or a physical disability. (This is a legitimate reason I know of for blaming your musical failure on! This IS truly tragic and often very, very sad and painful to watch. For the actual person it must be unbearable. Ironically many of these folks have great attitudes and find something else fulfilling to do with their lives for pleasure and money while still playing out on weekends and actually really do BLOW AWAY MANY OF THE NATIONAL ACTS. I have met a few beautiful musicians incapacitated and unable to tour because of mental or physical illness and my heart goes out to them!
13.) I have kids. Another valid and legit reason to put your music career on the back burner for a while or at least get advice outside this forum. If you don't have a double income household with one parent that can spend time with the kid/ kids just wait! Perfect your craft in the mean time and pursue something more stable than a music career. One of the most intelligent and talented performers and people I know is doing just this now. Her name is Gina Fox and she's not only smart and talented but wise and loving enough to care for her child and accept with dignity, responsibility and grace her former decision to have him. She would probably be a star now had it turned out different but I have no doubt she'll be rocking in two years when he turns eighteen. The kid's cool too cause his Mom knows what's up. Go Mike!





"NOBODY WANTS YOU UNTIL YOU DON"T NEED THEM"

This was the single most important/miserable/frustrating/empowering thing I have ever learned about most of this business. Here is a list of people who for the most part don't want you until you don't really need them:

1.) Record labels
2.) Booking Agents
3.) Managers
4.) Festivals/clubs


- RECORD LABELS
Let me explain: Again this is a business... What business wants to invest their time and money into a product that has little or no proven monetary return? What label wants to spend thousands or millions of dollars on an artist that no one has heard of that hasn't sold any records on their own, that has no track record of real touring yet? Well you may be thinking of a few that have, do, or will...They do exist but only for one in a million artists. You may offer me now the classic Brittany Spears equation or whatever and you would be RIGHT to do so however this is not trying to solve your problem. If you want to be the next Brittany forget everything I have said and stop reading cause you'll probably just have to meet the right person at the right time, but if you want to be the next Jason Ricci or even better the next Stevie Ray or Dave Mathews listen up I have some ideas you should consider!
We all know much of today's music has little sincerity, little substance, little originality and in some cases very few actually played not programmed musical instruments...True. Get over it... People say, "We're going to SEE a band tonight not HEAR one". Most people think/thought Brittney looked good...Most pop stars look good. It's just a fact. Giant Record companies today can literally place almost any good looking person/people in the spotlight and with the right amount of money and timing market this person overnight as a hit until within weeks they often are. It is not the record company's fault. True they usually dispose of the said star in a year or two in favor of some newer model who's voice and/or look resembles that of whatever rival artist's single is trend setting the 1 slot on the Billboard charts, but it is done in a simple supply and demand fashion every day. The pop charts are usually just a conveyer belt of virtual prefabricated market proven cliché's disguised as melody's, lyrics and beats that the average person can listen to while talking on their cell phone and following their G.P.S. navigation system to work. What music is cool... is whatever they tell us is cool and if we buy it we tell them back: "You were right!" So lets stop blaming them and get proactive in our own lives for a minute. Speaking of "proactive" in the truly eloquent words of P. Diddy from the Proactive Acne Cream commercial let us: " Moisturize our situation." Get out there and sell some records, be sure you keep track and can prove how many you sold too! Even small numbers (Thousands) will impress small and some larger Record companies out there, they want to make money, if you can prove to them that good music will make money all the better but most of the time that burden lies on you. Dave Mathews, Phish, and Blues Traveler had thousands of fans, gigs and sold records under their belts before they ever had a solid deal in a lawyer's office. Don't expect God or Sony to answer your Major Label prayers overnight based on the fact that you've been doing this fifty years, or that your only 19 years old and play better than Stevie Ray, or that everyone at the local open mic in Kalamazoo, Michigan tells you your so much better than whatever person they heard on the radio! "Faith without works is dead" and you'll need both where your going. Excuses are usually just excuses, you will need gigs though...here's how to get them.

-Clubs/festivals

Remember: "NOBODY WANTS YOU UNTIL YOU DON"T NEED THEM"

You're going to have to make some sacrifices. You will not get the money the big bands at those clubs get your 1st, 5th or sometimes 20th time in the door if you don't get people out. In the biz we call it "Asses in Seats." You will have to make the best CD you can with whatever budget you have, put it in a folder with an 8/10" photo and any press/awards you have managed to get so far and mail them to all the clubs in your target tour area. Then you will have to call the club on the right day.... KNOW THE CLUB OWNERS NAME! Their are various magazines/books/websites out their that have radio/TV/club/festival/press info in them for every state in the U.S., some even tell you the capacity of the club, type of music usually booked, and time to call. Get those! Once you get the Club owner on the phone...don't be insulted if he has never heard of you or has not listened to your music! You may have to call at the right time every Tuesday for 6 months or more and send multiple press kits before they ever even listen to your CD! Their not arrogant (most aren't), just busy and there are thousands of you compared to hundreds, if that, of them. Be patient, persistent, polite etc. You may have to find another venue in the same town who will book you, then approach the better club later after you have built an audience. Again, name-dropping will get you know where. What good is it to the club if you are best buds with Walter Trout if no one has ever heard of you? If you really ARE best buds with a band that does well at the club call them up and ask them to put in a good word for you. I have a few friends I help out this way all the time because they help themselves. You're not asking for the world or even the gig just for your friend to say: "That dude can play!" Still your money will be low at first. You will have to take this money and like it for a while until your better known. As you do better be sure you up your money appropriately so you don't get stuck at that price or deter actual booking agencies from becoming interested in you! Remember this excuse from earlier: "My band members all have regular jobs and won't leave town". Book the gigs first then find the players. This way you have money to offer them instead of far-fetched plans and dreams. Why should any one hop in a van with you and leave their Husband, Wife, job, cat, dog or ferret behind without some kind of pay agreement? If the club asks you "Is the same band you have on the CD you sent?" You lie and say yes and explain after the gig or you can say "mostly" if you can match even one guy. I don't usually condone dishonesty ever but we don't ask club owners what waitresses they've hired or if they have the same bartender as last time do we? Find the best players you can. Reliable nice guys are often better than talented difficult ones. Some day if you're blessed you may find talented, nice, reliable guys! If you got the gigs the players will come...Generally the better the money your making the better your band. You may have to find some kids with not a whole lot going on to back you up as your buddy Joe who plays bass like George Porter isn't likely to give up his dentist gig to go make 350.00 a week with you the first year till you guys hit it big (500.00 a week). You hire whom you can until the right players fall in place and if someone leaves you keep going. There's an amazing amount of bands looking for great players out there that are actually working and vice versa. Be one! It helps to book the bigger money gigs, whatever those may be, FIRST then the smaller ones. We call the big dates (festivals, private parties, high paying clubs on weekends etc.) "Anchor dates" get those first then do your best to fill in the weekdays or empty slots. You may have to stay with friends/fans, drive overnight or sleep in shitty hotels along the way some of your band members will quit because of this eventually, don't give up, there's more guys out there, but do your best to "Keep Your Boys Happy". On some tours or in the beginning of your bands formation, it is not uncommon and should be expected that after gas, hotels, and van repairs that your sidemen will actually make MORE money than you the band leader! Your pay off is your name on the marquee, in the papers on the record cover, in the ads etc. Eventually you will earn more if not much more than them. You are building a reputation and making your name nationally this is more important than money in the long run as it actually translates to money. Additionally this is really just job security as you can quit playing for five years then come back and many folks will remember you. This is not as easy a task for a sidemen. THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE BOSS WHEN IT COMES TO MONEY! Tell your boys what you will pay them ahead of time, so you won't argue later, if there is extra and you can afford it give them more or buy them dinner etc do it. Do not let your biz be a democracy! Everything else can be, but not the money! So pick up the phone.... Keep track of who you called, how many times and when. Don't get discouraged, be patient and persistent let the clubs know how much you love them and how cool they are. You need them more than they need you. Expect to put in eight hours or more a day on the phone and computer. It's smart when you start planning to put your band on the road to sock a way a bunch of money. Booking, managing, and promoting your band in the beginning and later is a full time job. If you already have a day gig, save money then quit it. Treat your new job (Booking, managing, and promoting your band) like your old one (get up early etc.) and go to work. It may take you three to six months to book a year worth of tours and you'll still be filling in the gaps along the way while driving from gig to gig! Starting to understand that word "sacrifice" yet? Most of your favorite working bands went through some form if not this exact formula long before they ever had a booking agent handling them full time. Some people have trust funds, or money coming from somewhere, or their Dad or Mom was or is a famous musician or record label employee/A&R person and they bypass this road. Good for them, I want to know I earned my place.

-Booking Agents

Don't forget: "NOBODY WANTS YOU UNTIL YOU DON"T NEED THEM"


After you get your band on the road and making money all by yourself, all the (well, a few) booking agents you sent your package to and bugged to help book you will suddenly and magically start calling, and emailing out of the wood work! Why? Because you don't need them now! Because now you are competing with them for money! The agents are trying to book their bands in the clubs and finding out you already have the date! After an agency/agent has called a few clubs a few times and found out you are playing there over and over you will gain their attention a little. You will really get their attention a lot when they find out you are making as much or more money than some, most or all their artists! So why would you even hire these guys? Two words: Mental Health! The guys will lighten your load hopefully! If they are talented they will book you in more places than you have been able to do yourself for more money. Ultimately if this is the case you will work less for more money, enjoy better travel routing, no longer have to send posters and contracts yourself, and be able to focus more on your music and life outside; which is how all this shit started any way right?


-Managers


"NOBODY WANTS YOU UNTIL YOU DON"T NEED THEM"

So now you got the band on the road, maybe you got an agent or two working for you...You find yourself playing the same old clubs over and over to the same crowds maybe a little bigger here or there, maybe a little more money here or there but basically, your tired and feel your spinning your wheels. Your friends at home are saying "Hey I make more than you playing weekends and doing acoustic shit during the week, subbing out for so and so and giving lessons" and they're right! What happened to that "Making a name" part of this equation? Well first it takes time, second you WILL plateau here and they're and third here's the "who you know part": The manager. The Manager knows the labels, the P.R. people and the booking agents. They will help you now to work smarter instead of harder since you have proven you can do the latter. The manager wants you because you are a tested worthwhile artistic and more importantly financial investment, so why don't you need them? You don't need them because you already have everything in place that matters to attract the investor's (record label, agency etc.) interest, you want not NEED them because it saves you time (NOT MONEY) in getting your foot in the door! Believe it or not many record labels are actually pretty out of touch/clueless to who is doing well, making money, selling records, touring etc. You have already written them a million times politely explaining this but the manager's name and word comes with some clout and experience. Managers can be great and they can be terrible! Obviously some kind of pro bono agreement is the best road here; the second best would be a small percentage, say 5% to 10% of the bands total earnings (Yours ultimately, not the sidemen). After you get the manager they can be a wonderful and effective liaison between you the label, the agency, between your band and you or the world at large. They can also help guide the record company, agent and you to make much smarter decisions concerning your music, money, time and travel. If you do not have a label or a booking agency, lots of gigs or a band yet, you really have no need at all for a manager at all as they have nothing to manage for you. We currently have no management. Many successful bands do not! It all comes down to how well you know your business, how much time you have and how good are your people skills.
So to wrap things up I hope you have learned: "NOBODY WANTS YOU UNTIL YOU DON"T NEED THEM!" I hope you have seen how this can be a wonderful and empowering thing as well! When you take control no one can ever say no to your career which most people will until you do. The "next time someone says: "I don't like your CD." You can ask them:" Do you like money?" They may still not want you but someone else will. ART IS SUBJECTIVE TO PEOPLE, MONEY ISN'T! Don't let them tell you what to play! What is cool! What sells! Play your own music, whatever that is! If your band rocks than learn to rock at selling it so you don't have to wait for that "Golden Opportunity", "The Brass Ring", or that "Right Place at the Right Time crap!" Make it happen at least in the mean time until you meet that one dude willing to put enough money into you to guarantee your undeserved, overnight, commercial success. Keep your integrity, learn the business, it's mostly logic and common sense with a vague sense of reality. There are a lot of thieves and sharks out there too! Don't get excited by big sounding offers, this is so hard! Do read carefully or have a lawyer friend explain things to you so you know just exactly how you are getting fucked.
In closing I would like to say SUCCESS IS AS SUBJECTIVE AS ART IS! What do you want from this business? If you want to play heavy metal style amplified nose flute with a polka band and crossover to the pop charts so you can do a duet with 50 cent on the tonight show, you might have to wait until the pop charts cater to heavy metal style amplified nose flute with polka bands. If you just want to play heavy metal style amplified nose flute with a polka band and make a buck here and there you can probably do so using the formula I gave you in this article. It is sad that sincere, soulful and intelligent music rarely makes lots of money and that is a fact. But most sincere, soulful and intelligent musicians realize this somewhere a long the yellow brick road and come to terms with the fact that they would rather play great music than make great money. I believe there will always be an audience for sincere, soulful intelligent music and thus there will always be some money...just often not enough of it. This is why we end up holding benefits for great players with long careers and influences that stretch decades or centuries beyond their lives, just to raise money for their medical bills or funerals. I have known a few players like that and I can tell you they wouldn't have done it any other way. The reward that comes with doing what you want with your life, the way you want to do it, far surpass the rewards that money and commercial success can offer however nice. I believe you can take those rewards to the NEXT life with you unlike the money however nice. For me my first real success was when my hero's told me they liked my music and playing, and I knew they meant it. I really succeeded the day I woke up and didn't care if they liked it or not!

Honorable mention goes to the bands I know off the top of my head that currently could have written this article and more:
*Mark Hummel
*Nick Moss and the Flip Tops
*Motor City Josh and the Big Three
*Shawn Kellerman Band
*Jimmy Lloyd Rea and the Switch Masters
*Deguello

6 comments:

Danielle Lapiano said...

I really enjoyed reading that! Thank you! My boyfriend who you know and love is a very talented musician..I want to help in anyway I can.. And I would love to see him be very successful..And of course be happy and stay humble.. Thank you again.. I didn't know their was that much hard work and crap you have to deal with trying to get that big break.. You rock!

Harmonica John said...

Jason, this is a great read. Now I know why I am not successful.

I am lazy, have a wife that wants to keep the house, and have personality issues!

You certainly put the time in and work hard. It was great getting to know you a tiny bit in Sacto!

Best wishes, and happy Thanksgiving, harmonica brother!

Harmonica John in San Diego

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james said...

Jason, thisis so spot on. I did the rockabilly thing in the 80's, gave up , came back 10 yeasr later as a harp fronted band. My take is I am proud to be a 'community player' within a region. It's the only way I can have the best of both worlds by being a day job half-stepper and opening up for Giants such as you.
GREAT tell it like it T-I-S blog!
James

Dave Arcari said...

Only just come across this post Jason – fantastic...every word rings true :-)
Hope our paths cross somewhere along the road.
Cheers!
Dave

Dustin Wolves said...

Dear Jason!

First of i`d like to say that I enjoyed your words. And hopefully some of your wisdom will stick with me.

Secondly I`d like to tell you that there are different worlds on this planet. Your words are pure but subjective on many levels. I can even say something simple as "if your true to your beliefs, they will do you good".

I love your dedication and obviously you`re the kind of person that goes head on in any situation. Unfortunately your words are not "learning" words. On the contrary they are discouraging to all and any forthcoming musicians. You preach about your own accomplishments which are subjective to the population at large. I live in Norway and we have a totally different musical approach to things. Our country isn`t 50-60 millions in population but still as a musician I`ve made a living as a musician for over 20 years. I`ve never had to kiss anyones ass, and I`ve told off people whom I`m not comfortable with whenever it was necessary or I felt like it. To be perfectly honest I really don`t give a shit!

I love music and people who don`t... Well I hope some day that they do.

I have a 5 man blues band. We don`t focus on being good or great. But we love the blues and try to show as much respect for the greats as we can while entertaining people. But in the whole... Be good!

Like I wrote in the start, I enjoyed your words. And I may even have learned something. But in the you can`t preach music by words.