The Power of Principles, Part Iby Mary Dawson
The Internet Writing Journal, April 2001
Principle 1: MASTERS' MAXIM
If you are a regular reader of my IWJ column, you will already know that we cover a variety of topics here -- from the creative aspects of songwriting (Build-A-Song Series) to the more business-oriented aspects (The Realities of Radioplay; Do-It-Yourself Music Publishing). Some articles are designed more for the beginning songwriter, while others are created for songwriters who have been in the business for some time.
Wherever you are in your musical journey (if you are anything like I am), you will probably have periods where you wonder if it's all worth it! From time to time, the inevitable Musical Depression hits and you begin to doubt yourself, your talent and your dreams. When I hit those walls, I have to return again and again to some basic principles and insights that have guided my life and my path throughout this odyssey I'm traveling. In the next several articles I am going to "wax philosophical" and share a few of these thoughts with you. If you happen to be in a creative doldrum right now, perhaps these principles will help you re-focus, flip your artistic circuit breakers and get your juices flowing again.
The first principle is one that I have named, Masters' Maxim. I met Catherine Masters online several years ago when I ordered a publication she was offering on creative ways to market music products. A top tennis player, Catherine had entered the Music Industry after many years of sports event promotion. Her views and opinions on promoting music were fresh and innovative -- certainly not your standard in-the-box music biz jargon.
I still remember the Eureka Moment when I received Catherine's manual in the mail and began reading. Suddenly out of the pages jumped the following statement:
Remember: The Music Industry is not looking for talent - it is looking for success!Hold on! What was that again?? Isn't the Music Industry looking for the next great talent to turn into an overnight sensation? Not according to Catherine Masters! With her pragmatic, business mind Catherine was bursting a long-held music balloon -- the Destiny Fantasy -- which tenaciously adheres to the belief that if you are just talented enough and lucky enough, Destiny will find you and you will be instantly transformed into a star.
It took me several weeks of thinking about Masters' Maxim before it really began to make sense to me. At first, I just flat didn't believe it! I had subscribed to the Destiny Fantasy for so long that I found it hard to believe otherwise. But the more I chewed on it, the more I began to see the truth of what Catherine was saying. I began to think about the many extremely talented people I know who have never "made it" to success in the Music Business. It certainly isn't because they are not musically gifted. In fact, many of these artists (you know them too) are much more accomplished than the household-name "stars" we all know and love. The difference, I began to realize, is that many people stay lost in creating their art and never take the time to display it. They refuse to believe that art and commerce are inseparable.
Although music is a form of deep self-disclosure for most serious artists and writers, it is also a product. Music must be sold to consumers to generate any kind of notoriety or financial success. Here's a parable that may help to shed some light on this principle:
Belinda and Betty are sisters. They both love to bake and they are both very good at it. Betty is probably a bit more creative at her baking. She not only bakes the traditional recipes for white, wheat and rye bread -- she also "invents" incredible new recipes that are always delicious. Belinda is not quite as gifted, but she works very hard at learning more about baking every day. Betty and Belinda's families love their fresh homemade bread, but so do other people in the community. Betty and Belinda have each been approached by friends and neighbors offering to buy their bread on a regular basis. Both sisters think that they could make a real career out of baking, but here is where the two ladies begin to differ...Are you starting to see the wisdom in Masters' Maxim? If you begin to look at your songs as intellectual property rather than simply expressions of your heart, you will also begin to see them as stepping stones to success. You can begin to build a fan base right where you are. Present your songs anywhere and everywhere there is an opportunity. Sell your CD's and budget your profits so that you can save up for the next recording project. Keep creating great songs, but also use your creativity to find new ways and places to expose those songs to others and sell product.
Belinda finds a small storefront shop that she can rent cheap. She fixes it up really cute and begins to sell her bread and muffins to the community. She doesn't have as many new varieties of bread as her sister, Betty, but the recipes Belinda bakes are great! As word spreads about her wonderful bread, more and more people begin to buy Belinda's baked goods. Soon she has to hire an assistant baker….and then two. After a year she is able to buy a delivery truck which takes her bread to the customers fresh and hot from the oven. Belinda now has enough money to expand her shop and add a couple more employees.
Betty, on the other hand, is so emotionally invested in her bread...she has poured so much of her heart and soul into creating each loaf...that she doesn't think of them as products. They are expressions of her gift as a baker. Betty doesn't feel it is necessary to open a bakery. She is sure that if she just keeps baking long enough, and inventing great new recipes -- somehow...some way...she will be discovered by someone who will have enough money to open a bakery for her and pay her to keep on baking.
Question: If you were an investor looking for an opportunity to make money in the baking business, would you invest in Betty as an extremely talented baker -- or would you be more inclined to invest in Belinda who may not be quite as gifted, but also has the business savvy and discipline to find creative ways to sell her product to the world? Would you invest in talent only...or in talent that is coupled with proven success?
If you write romantic love ballads, why not bring your CDs to the lingerie department of your local department stores and see if you can sell them at the checkout counter? Or perhaps approach a large company about the possibility of including your recordings as part of their employee Christmas gift packages. No matter how or where you sell them...each sale pushes the "Ka-ching Button" and moves you a little further ahead.
Now, please don't misunderstand. I'm not saying that talent is unnecessary. Talent is definitely an essential! You must exercise and stretch your talent every day so that it grows and improves with every song you write. But talent is only the first rung in the ladder to the top and there are millions of other talented people on that same rung. The mission -- should you choose to accept it -- is to find a way to take your talent to the next rung...and then the next. In the end -- like in any other business -- the Music Industry is about making money and conquering the competition. Believe me...record moguls with an eye on "the bottom line" always want to meet artists and writers who are already demonstrating success.
The application of Masters' Maxim is quite clear. You, the songwriter, are much more in control of your future than you may think. You are only the victim of Destiny if you choose to be. You can start today! Use your creativity not only to write more great songs, but also to find new and innovative ways to market them. Success will give rise to still more success and eventually...the Music Business will find out who you are and "discover you." And when you make it...say a little thank-you to Catherine Masters.
**From her earliest childhood years writing simple songs and poems with her father, through her twelve years as an overseas missionary, to her present, multi-faceted career as an author, lyricist/songwriter and conference speaker, Mary has always been adept at using words to communicate her heart to others. She is the President of CQK Records & Music of Dallas, Texas, a company which creates and produces songs in a panorama of musical styles for a variety of audiences, She is also the host of "I Write the Songs," a nationally syndicated radio talk show, especially created to inspire and instruct the more than 25 million aspiring songwriters in the U.S. "I Write the Songs" is broadcast over the Internet. Mary is a frequent public speaker and seminar lecturer on songwriting. She is a regular columnist for Independent Songwriter Web Magazine. Mary's commitment to discovering and mentoring talented new songwriters has given her extensive experience in song analysis through adjudicating songwriting competitions and conducting songwriting workshops across the country and around the world. Because of her role as president of an independent music company, she is also well qualified to instruct aspiring songwriters on the various business aspects of the music industry. She is married and a mother of four. She resides in the Dallas area.