It’s New Year’s Day, 2017. Time for a little reflection.
Prince’s death was the first time I can recall truly mourning the death of a celebrity. For a week or so after his death, I found myself feeling very nostalgic, remembering my high school years when Purple Rain was everywhere.
This led to an examination of my own music career. Prince was 57 when he died, only 11 years older than me. Yet he spent his entire life CREATING (writing) music. He wrote literally thousands of songs, some of them were major hits that made him millions, but most were never even released to the public.
It made me realize that I’ve spent my life PERFORMING music, but only a small amount of time actually creating (writing) music.
That has to change.
BIG TAKEAWAY: Don’t go to the grave with your songs left inside you. Write. Create. Record. Develop. Invent. Not a musician or artist? Create stuff that other people enjoy, or use, or make their lives easier.
Which leads to my next big lesson of 2016…
Back around June of 2016 I got a phone call from Peter Anderson, the chairman of Giving Hunger the Blues. One conversation led to another, and it was decided to add a Saturday Halloween Party (featuring our band) to the Saturday night before the big Sunday festival event.
The Halloween event seemed like a great time to promote a CD release party. The only problem was, at the time we only had a few loose IDEAS for more original songs. We had 2 we had recorded a couple years ago, that was it.
But the fact that we ADVERTISED that our CD release party was going to be on Halloween forced us to get it done. There was no turning back. Our guitarist/multi-instrumentalist/sound engineer/producer extraordinaire Chet Gass worked day and night to make it happen. And I can say of all the recording projects I’ve ever been a part of, I am the proudest of this album. It makes me very excited to see what this band will create in the future.
BIG TAKEAWAY: The pressure of not letting others down will motivate you more than not letting yourself down. If you’ve been procrastinating something important, set a public deadline that will have real consequences if you don’t get it done.
At the beginning of 2016, we brought in Yaya Diamond as our lead female vocalist. Yaya is an excellent performer with tons of experience, as well as a prolific songwriter. But what’s more important is what goes on behind the scenes that our fans don’t necessarily see. Yaya is an absolute pleasure to be around. She’s a total team player – great attitude, works hard, and she sees the value in being well-rehearsed. There’s not even a smidgen of “diva” in her. Having Yaya in the band has been a total breath of fresh air for the band in 2016.
A little later into the year, we got the news that our bari sax player Nic Williams needed to leave the band after securing the head pastor position at South Shore Community Church. So I decided that rather than hire another bari sax player, what the band really needed was a keyboardist instead (we love bari sax, but we felt it was more important to have keys to fill up the sound).
And that’s when I got the phone call from Jayar Mack. At first Jayar seemed a little too good to be true. Here’s a guy who has won a Grammy with the Latin jazz band CINTRON, toured around the world, sang backup vocals for Chaka Khan, was the music director for Billy Paul…I could go on and on. And yet, he wanted to be part of OUR band.
Bringing Jayar into the band has made huge difference in our sound. Not only is he an excellent keyboardist, but he’s also great at singing harmonies and lead vocals. Plus he’s a great songwriter. He’s the consummate professional musician.
BIG TAKEAWAY: Negative relationships will drain the life out of you. This goes for band members, employers, employees, personal relationships, etc. Part ways, even if you don’t know how you’re going to get by without them. You’ll be OK. Remember, every day you waste with the wrong person is a day you could be developing something GREAT with the right person.
1) There weren’t really any “big” New Year’s parties in Sarasota. No competition.
2) Sarasota’s population is growing, but there aren’t any new, large venues to accommodate the growth. All the usual small, crowded venues are even MORE crowded on New Year’s.
3) As a result, there’s a ton of people who will pay more money to have a better New Year’s experience, and we could provide it for them.
So we rented a ballroom in Lakewood Ranch that could hold 500-600 people. Not only would we need to come up with the money for a deposit, but we would also have to buy all the New Year’s decorations, provide a large sound system & lighting, and place all of our own marketing & advertising. We had no idea if it would actually work.
The good thing is, we sold 550 tickets for $20-$40 each, selling out 10 days in advance, with only spending $1000 on Facebook, Google and Youtube advertising.
Here’s some footage of our New Year’s 2017 Party:
We used the same method with our Halloween event, partnering with Giving Hunger the Blues & the non-profit Mayor’s Feed the Hungry Program . For New Year’s 2017, we partnered with Mattison’s Catering to do an event at The Van Wezel. Each show has sold out over a week in advance, with higher ticket prices.
You can expect to see a lot more of this type of thing from us in 2017.
BIG TAKEAWAY: See an opportunity in the marketplace? Don’t just talk about it – DO something about it. And don’t feel the need to do everything yourself. Even if you’re limited on resources, if you can sell your idea to others, you may be able to partner with someone to help see your idea come to life.