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Info nom nom nom? Write a song instead?

How do you balance the need or desire to learn with the need or desire to create?

I’ve been long interested in learning about the machinations of the American music industry, but being in Tokyo, getting my hands on trade publications like Billboard is a bit tricky – and a bit expensive.

So it was with great joy that I belatedly discovered Google Reader. Yes, my 67-year-old mother who vividly remembers WWII has a Kindle and a SmartPhone and I didn’t even know about Google Reader? Shut it.

Unfortunately when I discover something new I’m like a kid on a sugar high and I ended up adding something like 40 music industry blogs to my Reader. Meaning 130+ posts to read a DAY. FML. Fortunately my undergrad literary theory days taught me how to skim, but trying so hard to keep on top of new industry developments makes me wonder if I should just shut the door on the noise (or rather close my browser), unsubscribe, shut off my computer and get back to songwriting.

For those of you creative types who are also info junkies, if you work too much on your craft do you worry you’re missing the passing technology ship? And if you’re too addicted to reading about industry developments, do you feel like you’re not creating enough?

How do you balance the need or desire to learn with the need or desire to create?

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2010 in Music Business, Songwriting

 

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The Sumo Playing Folky

Last Thursday was a Japanese national holiday whose name and purpose escapes me. But I took advantage of the day off to catch my first sumo tournament. Over five hours of lumbering giant sumo swagger. Highly recommended. Especially when drunk. And the fans are f*cking insane.

During the matches I couldn’t help but think about how different the life of your average professional sumo player (or most likely the life of any professional athlete) must be from the rest of us. For one thing, once you decide to pursue sumo, there’s no turning back – as I understand it, you join your sumo stable (team/family) at around age 16-17 and then your entire life until retirement is about eating, breathing and sleeping sumo.

So what exactly does sumo have to do with the ramblings of a scatterbrained singer/songwriter?

At the risk of making some rather sweeping cultural generalizations, sumo reinforces my view of Japanese culture’s emphasis on repetition, perfection, linear thinking and upholding of rules and tradition. And while I was technically raised in a Japanese/Jewish household, as someone who can barely stick with a task for 10 minutes, I wonder if I’m a perverse representation of stereotypical American culture – bucking authority and rules, thinking non-linearly, being creative and intense but sometimes sloppy in execution.

I can’t even begin to fathom the mindset required to dedicate 1000% of my life to something. Sure, I’ve been doing music in one capacity or another for almost 30 years, but my goals and practices have deviated wildly from year to year. I honestly feel that the only thing that has stayed consistent is my desire to write and perform songs.

As someone with diagnosed a.d.d., I can’t help but wonder how much of my way of doing things is because I was raised in the U.S. What if I was raised in Japan instead. Would I be a more linear, methodical and even-tempered person? Would I have set my sights on trying to be a professional pop-rock star from the get-go without my deviations to angry folk rock and 80s covers? Or might I be stuck in an office job with a wife and kids – and if that was the case, would I even mind it that much?

Nature vs. nurture when it comes to how you approach your creativity and your career.

Given your current career and/or what you see as your life-path, how has the culture/country in which you were raised shaped it? Do you think you’d be that different if you were born and raised somewhere else?

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2010 in Music

 

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Bikini clad folksy Google docs?

Admittedly the life of a folk-pop singer/songwriter is filled with plenty of Cristal and bikini clad chicks… right. Can you seriously imagine me in that kind of situation? Chances are I’d be in the corner sucking my thumb and crying into my blanket…

It’s more like at least 75% of my music business life is spent as “crouching sciatica hidden carpal tunnel syndrome” perched fighting stance with caffeine IV-drip in an uncomfortable office chair firing off emails and crunching numbers in Excel. Glam, I know. Bitches best recognize. Clerical assistant extraordinaire hooooooooo.

Bearing in mind I have the memory of a flea and the attention span of a gerbil on meth, handling the not-so-exciting business aspects can be quite the challenge. I mean – I can have an extremely productive Tuesday and then come Thursday I’m insanely depressed, feeling like an a.d.d. failure because I will have no recollection what I got accomplished on Tuesday.

Yes, my memory is THAT bad. (The only reason I ever get anything accomplished is that if 10 years of paralegaling taught me anything, it’s learn to fake whatever organizational skills you lack…)

A few posts back I asked how you organize your creativity (and – in some cases – your businesses as well). I got plenty of great replies and having sampled a few of them, wanted to share the ones that appear to be working great for me now. Of course, with my attention span I might forget I wrote this post in 5 minutes but be nice…

The basic survival tools:
1. Google Calendar with added task list feature for keeping track of pretty much anything that’s deadline specific – I cue reminders to be sent to my email and phone as well so there’s far less chance I’ll forget to do something. That is, if I remember to put it in the calendar in the first place…
2. Google docs – for budgeting I use the Spreadsheet feature and for blog drafts, brainstorms, lyrics, etc. I use the Document feature. All fine and dandy until the Cloud explodes (i.e. Google is cranky and doesn’t want to work)

Additional tools:
1. Etacts.com – like having a personal assistant reminding you to email folks. I love it.
2. Toggl.com – set up like a standard billing system, it’s an easy way to keep track of whatever you’re working on, and since I’m a sucker for analytics, I can see what percent of my day is being devoted to what tasks (e.g. songwriting vs. pr vs. administrative stuff, etc.) Definitely helpful when I want to determine what projects are worth outsourcing.

Do any of you use the above programs too? Are you happy with them? More importantly perhaps – do you think it’s the program or the user/uses that determine its effectiveness? (Musicians I’m definitely directing these questions to you, but everyone chime in!)

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2010 in Music Business, New media

 

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