This is about music.
It’s not about a product, it’s not about competition and it’s not about ones and zeros. I'm here to talk about that strong energy that keeps us moving, about the essence of music, and the essence of music is magic and simple. As simple as clapping hands, as simple as playing air instruments, as simple as gathering up with friends playing acoustic guitar and singing old school songs.
Music is the one thing that takes us from the troubled reality to a greater place, even when we’re not paying attention. It gives us that feeling so powerful that we can even allow ourselves to be ourselves.
Music is inspiration, music is color, music is vibration, music is pure energy. Music is passion, and that’s what has brought me here, and probably you, too. So that’s what I’m here to talk about – the passion for music.
Business? Well, that’s the one thing that makes it possible (and easier) for you and me to enjoy music and to create music. And I’m here to concentrate my efforts on contributing for that.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Creativity: the art of transcending the ability to create

Have you ever wondered why creativity gets more and more valued everyday? Or still, required? Have you assessed lately your use of your ability to create or your commitment to it? Well, if you’re one of those who think creativity is overrated, think again. It may be the one thing that will assure you a place in the sun tomorrow.

You may be wondering why that is so, what the big deal about creativity is, as I asked myself before writing this post: why is it so increasingly important to create and innovate in any area and any endeavor? My best guess is that, in time, more and more people perceive the value that creative ideas add to their lives, and as some people come up with some ‘never-thought-of-that’, deservedly highly-rated ideas, competition increases. Or maybe it’s simply because people have got enough of traditional ideas and are therefore demanding something new everyday. Needless to say, this demand leaves no space for the obvious and traditional thinking – even this needs creative initiatives to be promoted and achieve large acceptance. And since in our music world innovating is a primary requirement and a constant challenge, please take this as an advice for you, musician and music collaborators, to maximize the use of your creativity in order to make and effectively promote great music.

But what is creativity in first place? From
"Creativity: The ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; Originality, progressiveness, or imagination."
"Creative: Having the ability or power to create; Characterized by originality and expressiveness; Imaginative."

Such clear, comprehensive definitions make it feel somewhat easier for us to be creative, don’t they? Well, at least they simplify the process with actions that anyone can take. And though it sometimes feels challenging to come up with something that doesn’t exist, it may be encouraging to have in mind that every single creation comes from ideas of different things that are simply put together, mixed up, modified or reinvented using existing elements. Quoting my sister’s line: “one is capable of creating new things by seeing existing things with new eyes”.
Creativity is, for me, much more about the result than about the process, because the process can be quite simple and traditional, but it’s the ability to generate an unpredictable, surprising result that makes all difference between the creative and the obvious (obviously).
“To transcend traditional ideas” in order to “create meaningful new ideas” are statements that imply that the traditional is not meaningful, and I would say that’s because there is no added value within traditional ideas. So transcending traditional ideas means to take them beyond, farther, from traditional to meaningful, adding your personality to them in order to build new ideas upon your essence using different elements. For example, by using different rhythms and different instruments, one can make very creative tunes for a simple song idea. All that added up with talent results in amazing, brilliant creations – who of you knows that so creative band called DeVotchKa? (If you don’t, I strongly recommend listening to their music, you might get really inspired! Check out the video at the end of this post).

And how can you make sure you’re not neglecting your creative power? Well, the first thing you can do is identify your personality within your latest creations. If you honestly feel that they don’t express much of yourself, your thoughts and feelings, then they probably lack real creativity. What you should bear in mind is that the creative is “characterized by originality AND expressiveness”, which means both must stick together. Originality results in nothing if it’s not well expressed, and expressiveness alone is not creativity. And in addition to these, inspiration is a major impulse, so it’s important that you pay attention to the unexpected moments when inspiration gets you – it may be gone very quickly if you don’t stimulate your imagination in these moments.
One important observation on the creative process is that you should be careful with eagerness: it can be really tricky. When we’re too anxious about something, or pushing ourselves too hard to generate results, we tend to block our creative thinking, for our minds are too focused on the accomplishment and so full that there is no room for new ideas. So hold on to your essence and free up your mind to conceive new ideas, to see things with new eyes and to observe the countless resources at your disposal, and with a little help from inspiration the results may turn out to be surprising even to you.

Whether or not the statements and definitions above are correct, imagination disregards any concepts and knows no limitations nor boundaries, it only needs to be stimulated in order for the thoughts to flow. One may argue that nothing is created, just copied, or even that creation is nothing but a mixture of existing elements. But the fact that purple is a blend of blue and red doesn’t make it a less beautiful color.
So the bottom line is: nowadays creativity is no longer a plus, but a requirement for the success of any endeavor. And whatever your role in the music industry is, the current scenario provides real opportunities for creative, innovative, forward-thinking individuals. By giving creativity its right value, embracing it and being surrounded by people who also value it, many doors will open up for you and your team.

DeVotchKa - The Clockwise Witness

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Your effort can lead to a successful musical career... as long as it begins on your music!

You’re eager to succeed. You wake up everyday trying to figure out ways to make it happen, to get your music heard by people all over the world, to make people passionate about your music and to perform live in front of these people. You long to make a living out of music, because music is your life and your true passion. Great, all that sounds wonderful and is perfectly possible, but only if you can follow and keep in mind a vital rule for an enduring musical career: it all must start with your music.

I’m assuming you’re confident about your creativity and talent for music, otherwise you wouldn’t be pursuing a career in music, right? (Oh, I hope not.) So if this is your case and you were born to make music, here is a hint for you on where to start building your career from – your music. Kind of obvious, isn’t it? Well, actually not obvious enough, and I’ll explain why using a scenario you’re probably familiar with.
You connect to the internet one day and decide you want to try out new bands and see if you discover some good music somewhere. You log in to Myspace and a few seconds later you get bombarded with invitations from bands asking you to check out their music, so you go check it out. You go through these dozens of pages one by one and listen to hundreds of songs until you realize that the biggest part (if not all) of the music you’ve just heard falls under either of these categories: a) extremely poor (is there any emotion, energy or feeling in it at all?); b) ridiculously obvious (it sounds so much like that band that just recently broke through, doesn’t it?); or c) “square” and predictable (you can tell exactly how a song goes on from any part of it).

Ok, please don’t get me wrong, by no means am I saying that the majority of the musicians have no talent to make good music – I truly believe in the exact opposite, I’m sure MOST musicians are capable of making great music if they concentrate their efforts on it. Also, please note that I’m specifically making reference to the music of these bands/musicians who are trying so hard to get it heard and gain some traction that they’re simply skipping the first basic step to get anything out of their music: to make the most of it.

So what should you do to get noticed as an artist? How can you make the most of your music? Well, before you engage in any initiative to promote your music, whether you’re already playing gigs out there or not, it is vital for you to reflect on the following questions, being totally honest on your answers:

  • Is your music truthful, original, creative enough that it would draw your own attention in this overpopulated music world?
  • Can you identify in your songs at least one particular attribute you can’t find in any other artists’ songs?
  • Have you worked hard enough on your songs to make them perfect so that nothing else you could possibly add to them could make them better? Are your songs really the best they can be?
  • Would you become a fan of yourself as an artist just by watching your own live performance?
  • Is your live performance powerful enough to “hypnotize” the audience and provide them with a memorable experience they would feel like sharing with everyone around on the next day?

Now, if by reflecting with honesty you hesitated in answering “Yes” to any of these questions, then you’ve got work to do. Because if your music is not great (that is, far beyond “good”), creative, and most importantly, original, then you cannot build any long-lasting career upon it – it simply won’t be strong nor solid enough to sustain your career for years. And if you’re not passionate about your own music, neither can you expect anyone else to be, nor to support your music in the long run, no matter how much effort or money you invest in your marketing campaign.
You may be aware of the fact that musical careers consist of cycles (e.g. the release of an album), but the fact you should pay closer attention to is that the successful and enduring musical careers are sustained by making of each cycle a process of reinvention.
So here’s another tip for you: since you do have creativity and talent for music, all you need now is focus. In the moment you create your music, forget about everything that’s going on around you and focus on making music that expresses who you are and what you want to say, ‘cause this is your communication channel. For that moment forget about the next steps, forget your expectations and apprehensions, forget about pleasing people with your music and instead put your personality, your essence, your feelings and experiences in it. Forget about that thing people labelled “commercial music” and create your music with sincerity. Believe me, people out there are eager to listen to original music that expresses sincerity, and if they find it in your music they will value it.
Equally important, always make sure to keep focused when performing your music. No matter how many people are watching you play nor who these people are, just concentrate on the music, feel its energy and communicate it to the audience. Up on the stage, don’t ever be apprehensive about what people might think about you; simply focus on making your music and your performance so powerful that they will fuel the audience with energy and emotion. Provide the audience with an amazing experience that they will hardly forget about, and the audience will follow you. They will respect you. They will spread the word about your performance and fully support your music and your career.
So let me emphasize it: you will only be able to create great, meaningful music and communicate a contagious energy on stage when you’re extremely focused. And if you practice focus everyday, you’ll see that it’ll become easier for you in the long run.

You and I have something in common: just like me, you have chosen to build your life upon your passion, so I understand your desire to succeed, and not only that – I chose to concentrate my efforts on contributing to the success of gifted musicians like you. Undoubtedly you’re in a challenging world, but it’s a real world and things can work out for you. You will need to struggle and persist, you will need to find people who are willing to fight alongside with you, and if you start building a solid basis – your truthful music and your powerful performance – which you can build your career upon, and keep persisting with a positive attitude, these people will come to you. Well, when you get to this point and are confident to answer “Yes” to each of the questions above, please show me your music!