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The art of a likeable personality


Here at Musicians’ Corner there are several decades' worth of music business insight and journalistic experience of music articles present, behind the scenes. And one thing is clear as day after meeting performers, at every possible juncture in their careers, for that long: It is hazardous for the development of an artist’s career if it is a challenge to check the box for ‘He is a likeable person” (expressed in the British English that we speak here).

The truth is that so many put in the hours. So many have the talent. So many are just the right artist for the spot.

And so many people that a performer comes across in his career, and is dependent upon for his progress, also put in the hours. The question of who reaches his full potential career-wise may be more of a question of who is able to inspire people to put in the extra time. Who among the talented performers can make a multitude of people go the extra mile? That extra time, that extra mile, put in by many, is so often the difference. The artist who inspires this in people is an artist ahead of the game. The artist who doesn’t may one day see that nobody’s around in all of the town when someone’s down… Right here let’s give a mention to all the family members of artists, who do put in the time and the extra hours too, so much of the time, and keep such a lot of music up and running through their tireless efforts for their artist family member. This is a large and largely unsung group of people who deserve accolade. These days the art of inspiring folks also is very much a question of who can make enough many people out there reach past the music available for free online, usually with horrible sound quality, for their credit card and the full listening experience. 

We are not talking about a ‘social media kind of nice’. The truth is that we all see through it…

We are talking about a deep-going likeable disposition being present one way or the other.

On a psychological level people tend to like individuals who seem to be like themselves, and characters they would like to be. The image machine was always well aware of both of course. This is why we have seen the multi-gazillionaire artist, who rents a squadron of luxury villas everywhere he goes on tour to put up all his staff and private chefs, still sport a pair of ill-fitting jeans too, when he has been off to meet his audience. It has been looking like he is basically only on tour when he is off the shift at the factory, still. He is just like them! The goodness knows that the ‘wanna be like a rockstar” thematics choked on their own repetitiousness long ago. Divas may need to have the dirty little secret that they are really easy-going to work with, or the funding and knowthyself to hire people who can make things run smoothly, for them. 

The people who meet the artist in a work context are a very large group over time in a career, and they are important all the way. Getting through the door in music can be hard, and being chucked out from this game is something that can happen easily, if noted or not by the artist, or denied for years and years. And then it is the reaching of the full potential that doesn’t scrape by where success was possible, and the working smart instead of too hard all the time running the risk of burn-out. Of course many of the people who the artist meets will evaluate the artist strictly from a business point of view. Business has few feelings and doesn’t run on emotion. But there too a likeable personality is in the material, in the known and subconscious. It may be part of the picture evaluating you from a work- and business perspective. Will people like you? – May be the question, there as it is here. And it doesn’t really matter who and where anybody is – they would rather be working with someone they enjoy meeting than with someone they would rather avoid! And – burning the midnight oil at work is going to seem so different while done for one than for the other. After some time it will start to show. After a few thousand people that the artist ran into on a professional basis the result is going to be in. There for example will be another newspaper article or there won’t be. And music fans might ask questions like “Why is so and so not more of a household name? He is one of the best!” and “Where did so and so go?” in many, many – many cases.

If you don’t happen to have chosen a line of work where your personality matters you can behave more however you like, be much more of a ‘rockstar’ in that cliché sense, than someone whose entire success or failure depends on what people think of him. What people actually think of him, beyond some pleasantries spoken and outside of checking a clip on YouTube for a few seconds.

It is said that what we say verbally makes up about ten percent of people’s impression of us. How much singing grabs our attention, in regards to the rest that we pick up of a person, is more unclear, but the truth is that music also is part of a multitude of things that we pick up. 

Working on the personality seems important for an artist. Certainly not as important as working on the music or practicing. Music shouldn’t be a congeniality contest, but about the music. Let us in the wings here at Musicians’ Corner clearly state that we wouldn’t want to be without the music of some of the ‘less merry’ artists that we have come across – way back in time – of course – before this platform was even started! But you need/ed to bring something truly special musically to be in that category, or have the ability to really sell, for people to put up with you looking for their paycheck. And in today’s climate it’s just not so much of a viable concept for accomplishment as the market has gotten so much smaller, and it’s just not possible to sell as many products as it used to be. Working on personal growth deserves a spot on the list of priorities for the performers who want to have a smooth work-life on that market. 

Few internal arguments benefitted music acts, and especially not when brought to the general public’s attention. People immediately associate anything negative, uttered by an individual, with the individual who mentions it. He can actually be talking about something that doesn’t even have anything to do with him, simply reference something going on with other people perhaps, and a tad of this will rub off on him in the minds of the people who catch it. It is how the human mind works. We can say ‘Don’t shoot the messenger” however much we like. If the message is somehow bad it reflects on the current situation. Consequently talking bad about people is a bad idea.

If someone doesn’t have much of a pleasant disposition, being part of an act where someone else does may be the difference between a career succeeding and a career tanking. They can tag along with this other person’s likeability. And people who come across them after twenty years in the business may be utterly surprised at how stuck up they may still be, as if their success was not only entirely their achievement, but even something to for some reason be rude to people because of…which may be their take on their success, missing that personality that they don’t have… when in fact it has come together for them because of someone else’s abilities in this department. These may really be humans who never grew or learnt. Many others learn – something – the hard way, possibly not able to see what it was that caused their careers to not get to where they was supposed to go, or tank altogether. They did have the music. They did have the voice. They brought the show. They came prepared. They were on time. They met their obligations. They cut the deals. They made the effort. But somehow, somehow things just didn’t quite happen the way they were supposed to.

When you did music interviews for decades a lot is explained and has been clarified over the years, and who made it through and who did not isn’t so much of a mystery at times. You met a lot of artists, and who was who and who made it where is pretty self-evident some of the time.

We might like to think it’s LUCK. That is so easy to blame. If we can blame luck or the lack thereof there is nothing further we could DO. There was nothing more we could have done. Speaking of luck is related to the mentioning of the people referred to as ‘they’. That is often an unspecified group of persons who reportedly prevented something or other from happening. ‘They’ wouldn’t let me! ‘They’ did this and that, and luck didn’t come my way! But success is so frequently preparedness meeting opportunity. The ones who keep working on both are those most likely to have longstanding careers flowing where they should.

So – the best advice that we can give budding artists here is: Work on the personal growth TOO. Do what it takes. Learn how to show people who do things for you appreciation. Respect people's time. Understand that everybody has their story and stuff to deal with. On a larger scale pick a lane to go, and just be hella nice if you can muster that. If you feel that you can’t right now be savvy enough to work on that and iron out those things within that makes that difficult. It’s straight-up professionalism if you do it for no other reason, and it is particularly relevant for how it is all going to pan out for you. This may be exceptionally difficult at times, because people may not be nice to you always exactly. This is a rough business and there are for certain some very bad eggs about. We also live in times when music fans have extreme expectations on artists, and put it to social media anytime they for example didn’t get to take a photo of an artist they ran into. Being a likeable person never equated being a doormat, but it often signifies an individual who doesn’t allow for the influence of others to lower their own behavioral standards. Being tough but stylish and fair is one thing, being in a foul mood because you allowed for mean, dishonest or demanding people to push you there is another. You keep your wits about you, ink what needs to be put down on paper well, and kill as many as you can with kindness, however they behave at that, because that is in your best interests, and on a deeper level it will incidentally make you feel better too, and what goes around – within you – will come around – within – to genuinely benefit you.

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The festival season is upon us!

The European festival season is upon us, so let’s first of all start by giving props to the music fans, who put themselves through the trouble of getting their hands on the tickets and finding their way ‘there.
The number of music festivals is massive and we wouldn’t hazard a guess as to how many there are.
Some new initiatives see the light of day every season while other festivals stop running too, so it’s hardly a set number either.

Focusing in on three of the most well-known festivals, Glastonbury has decided to take a break in 2018 and will be back next year. Montreux Jazz Festival is about to present its 52nd version (Or 51st. According to Wikipedia the festival first took place in 1967, but according to the festival’s official site this year will be the 52nd time it’s running.). And the North Sea Jazz Festival is also about to happen, which it has been doing since 1976.

e first Glastonbury festival was up and running in 1970, and for the rendition last year the arrangers announced that 135 000 festival tickets sold out in 50 minutes as they were released in October 2016. These went for £ 238 a piece (approximately $ 320). A hundred plus acts performed during the three day event, which is circa $ 3,20 per act on the ticket price. Of course a punter is only able to see a few of the acts – as music fans – although amazing people – can’t be in more than one place at once. Nevertheless breaking the ticket down like that is a fun enough experiment. Glastonbury offers car park passes to its visitors and a free shuttle bus to and from the nearest train station. And being there is all about camping for the festival crowd. No sponsors are visible on the festival’s website, and a brief presentation of what the festival has been, is and aspires to be is also hard to find on said webpage.

Montreux Jazz Festival runs from June 29th to July 14th. A standing pass for the entire festival sets the visitor back CHF 1490 (approximately the same amount in US dollars). The number of tickets and ticket sales is hard to find, but according to Wikipedia, in a piece of information without a note, the number of visitors rose to 120 000 in 1994. Approximately six to eight acts perform a day, so that is circa 14 dollars per act on the ticket price. The festival recommends trains for travel to and from the event and has a good setup for this option – and refers the punters to the Montreux Riviera website for accommodation. A few test searches for a place to stay during the dates in question still render results. Sponsors are visible on the festival’s site, and for presentation you find the following quote if you click on the ‘Héritage’-option in the menu, where you are directed to the website for the Claude Nobs Foundation:

«  It’s the most important testimonial to the history of music, covering jazz, blues and rock  » These are the words that Quincy Jones pronounced to present the preservation and valorisation project of one of the musical monuments from the 20th century, the Montreux Jazz Festival Archives.

So, a heavy focus on the archival value of this historical festival there.

The North Sea Jazz Festival runs from July 13th to 15th. It’s estimated to get between 65 000 and 75 000 visitors. An ‘All In’-ticket cost € 255 (approximately the same in US dollars) and the tickets are sold out. NSJ is presenting about 130 acts, which is circa $ 1,90 per act on the ticket price (It says 150 acts on the website, and of course they may get there when all is announced – but as of today we counted!). The festival advices people to use public transport and plan ahead, and instead of ‘Accommodation’ in the menu it says ‘Hotels’. A hotel site is a sponsor, but on the hotel page on the festival’s website it also lists two camping sites. There are sponsors present on the website, and a full presentation, so to end this brief but threefold look at a few of the giants, let’s quote some what this lovely festival says about now, then and later:

The first edition of the North Sea Jazz Festival took place in 1976 in the Nederlands Congresgebouw in The Hague. Some numbers in those early days: six venues, three hundred artists and about nine thousand visitors. In this very first festival year internationally renowned jazz legends performed, such as Sarah Vaughan, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Getz, as well as most Dutch avant-garde artists. /---/
North Sea Jazz is the largest indoor music festival in the world, known globally as the event where the past, present and future of jazz are featured within three days. Next to a firm base of jazz many genres will pass by, such as blues, soul, funk, hip hop, world, pop and much more. Next to enjoying top names from around the world, visitors get the chance to discover new favorite artists.

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What artists can learn from McDonalds!

What in the world do we mean with our headline? Certainly there is nothing artists – great personalities and individualists in many cases – can learn from a fast food chain?

Regardless of how you feel about fast food, or if you are vegan, there are things to actually pick up from McDonalds if you are an artist…

There are so many aspects to an artist’s career, and not in the least these days. And guess who is trying to do most of the work involved most of the time? The artist. In the current climate especially. An artist is like an entrepreneur who just got started in this sense – and remains in that start-out position through most of his career – in a lot of cases.  The fresh entrepreneur has to do everything himself. And he probably started his entrepreneurship because he is truly accomplished in something, which is at the core of his longing to be ‘his own’. This is his skill, a skill that made him start a business. So now he is selling this skillfulness of his, which means that he has to do a lot of other chores, and it is likely that performing his skill becomes one of the many chores, and there is a major threat that the fun of devoting himself to his core capacity is at risk. There is a major risk also, that he gets very tired as time passes or even burnt out. A reason why many new businesses fail isn’t that the entrepreneur wasn’t able to sell his expertise or his goods, but that it all becomes too much for that one individual in a way that eventually will make him less brilliant at performing the skill he started the business for in the first place.

So perhaps the fresh entrepreneur, or the artist, is wise enough to hire some help to do some of the chores that take up most of his days and nights. This too is a risky situation. Because perhaps the hired help doesn’t really do the job they were intended to do in a way that the artist is pleased with. Perhaps he doesn’t recognize himself in the marketing campaigns, perhaps the gear isn’t set up the right way, perhaps he is always running between flights. So what happens if there is an area that the artist has trouble with after hiring someone to do it for him? It will be a worry for him. It will remain on his mind. He will double-check it, and if it’s not done right, he will wind up doing it himself even after having hired help, or he will at least keep trying to make adjustments that better fit his needs – spending a lot of time working around the hired help. So even if he has people now, who do things to help out, what they are assisting with still is time consuming to the artist, and still remains in his thoughts in an unpleasant and energy-consuming way. He may choose to end the relationship with the hired help and go back to doing it all himself again, to regain control.

Once McDonalds was a new company. What did they do differently? Like Michael E. Gerber points out in his book, “The E Myth”, McDonalds doesn’t actually sell hamburgers. They are selling a concept and a franchise model. 

At the core of a business concept the question of what a company wants to be is the first question. This question is also present in the answers to all aspects concerning a business. And if an artist isn’t actually selling music, but a concept – that persona that he would like for people to think about when they think about him, who does he want to be? That would partly answer how everything concerning his career should be set up, in the same way.

Like at McDonalds there could eventually be a manual for how the chores in the artist’s career should be done. And instead of spending a lot of time explaining to one person after another how he wants things done, in a myriad of situations and with a plethora of details, the artist could simply give the manual to the people he works with.

Thinking in terms of a franchise model, one that has a manual and can be easily copied, a manual that can be picked up by just about anyone who comes into contact with the artist for professional reasons, is a time-saving way of working for an artist, and one that gives him control regardless of who he encounters. Working on The Manual alongside his music is something an artist could contemplate. Perhaps a little know thyself could – just as an example – be added to the manual, with instructions as to how to deal with things when the artist himself knows that he sometimes is a little tardy for appointments. Perhaps the manual will instruct people who work with him when they can tell him to step it up, if his idea of concept is that he is a professional who is on time. And perchance – just as another example – the manual has sections where the instruction is to stay away under all circumstances from aspects that the artist never wants any meddling with. Et cetera.

The manual is a far bigger document than a rider, and could over time include all the aspects of the artist’s career, as if it was a franchise model, though it is not. Michael E. Gerber truly points out the merits in thinking of any enterprise as one even if it isn’t. And suddenly it wouldn’t quite matter as much who the hired help is at times, and further the manual will bring them clarity too, because who wants to see their work be unappreciated? Isn’t that the situation where many professionals start to dream of running their own…band? As an example? Being without the boss who doesn’t value their work? And off they go to take the trip described above, the one of doing everything themselves or hiring people who may not do things the way these new band-leaders want things done…

McDonalds will be the same everywhere thanks to the manual, thanks to the franchise model, which in fact is what they sell, and we are all in the clear about what they are regardless if we are customers or not. And that is how a business – or a career – sails the smoothest.

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Welcome to a new year on Musicians' Corner!

We are a few days into a brand new year, and a few years into the story of Musicians’ Corner, Musicians On Music. We would like to wish all of our contributors, visitors and friends a pleasing and exciting 2018.

We live in times when a lot is possible. However, much that was once likely no longer is as easily probable. In music we can truly see how the world has been changing, and also how these changes call on us all to change our ways of doing things. We can think what we will about the transformations. Many of them are here to stay regardless of what we think, and we can either interpret what they mean to us individually and apply them to our own journeys, or be left behind to a degree, by the people who did. We can see how being lost with these novelties can cost an artist who isn’t able to move with the times. Looking back twenty-four hours a day, looking for an infrastructure perhaps, that is no longer there, is not going to keep a career going. For those who started their careers in music during these changing times, the flow of inventions is often a natural part of what life looks like.

Music is the ancient expression of the soul. That it perhaps should consider what a new app on the market can do, every two weeks, is in many ways an absurd impracticality. Yet, artists are always creative, and these days vision can endlessly find new features to be innovative through, and new formats through which to express that primal phenomena, coming from the individual experience.

What we all know as ‘music’ is much the result of the recording industry taking shape. In the history of mankind that is a fairly new phenomenon. Today the gate-keepings of taste in music have lost much of their influence and anyone can go direct to market. This may have many artists worrying about likes and followers, but if you create what does come from you that is in fact your brand, and people who do in fact like it have the chance of finding it, if you put it out there – and you may ask yourself why you should worry about people who don’t like it. They are not your people, not your audience, and to please them you would have to change what you do, that is change your brand and lose yourself in your expression. You can do that of course, but will it make you happy?

In this sense these times call on artists to be honest with themselves about who they are and what would give them a sense of fulfillment. It is a question that has always been there, but is put to artists more directly and abruptly now, if they consider it or not. A few decades back it might have been about working with an act that didn’t play their music but paid well. This is of course still is a problem for many artists. Now the question may also be present any time they pick up their instrument – if they consider the question. Boiling it down artists can make exactly the sounds that come from their inner beings, get these to market, and find precisely the people who vibe with them. And they don’t have to worry about anything else. Artists can also easily get lost in the competition for likes and shares from a general public that will never connect with what they truly are as creators.

To a large degree the mass media still moves with the old times, giving space and light to the acts that come through the diminishing system, while the customers are getting increasingly savvy about finding their music without the help of the journalists’ edited content. And the journey that artists take through these times, and the struggles they may have taking that ongoing voyage, is also often left out by the mass media, regardless of it frequently being the story of music now.

Music saw an amazing golden age through the recording industry, an industry that in of itself in many ways failed to move with the times when the times moved – which is the reason for its reduction. We currently live through the many years, when we are losing artists and creators daily, from that golden age of musically heightened expression. These are painful years for the music-loving population of this planet. The sense of loss is difficult for many, and hardly described on a general level by the mass media. When historians look back on the 20th century there is little doubt that the part that music played in shaping that century will shine through, and that some of them will be interested in finding all the information they can get their hands on about the luminaries of this art-form. This is a time to scurry for music journalists, so that as much of that information as possible is gathered before it is lost. The information can be retrieved through the artists from this golden age who are still with us, who will remember things differently, perhaps influencing each other on remembering some things wrong at times, which is why many have to be interviewed many times about the same things, so that the important details that may change the entire stories aren’t lost. The information may also be found in technology that may be lost to the future, as the technologies of the future will be others than those of the past.

All in all it is an intense time for anyone who wishes to take part in describing music. On Musicians’ Corner artists speak. You find no journalist getting in the middle of what artists say here. Here fragments of all of the above come through in the articles. You find articles from artists reaching out to their audience here, artists commenting on the changing times here, artists sharing memories of important moments in their careers here. And all of it matters greatly.

We hope that you continue to enjoy the material on this platform!

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