jack_of_all_trades_by_tightslacks-d3gfyw6Becoming successful as an artist is tough enough, but if you lack direction and focus, it can be damn near impossible. One of the most important steps in building your career is to decide exactly what your end goal will be. No idea? Then it’s time to do some serious soul searching so you can carve out a path that makes sense as you maneuver through the rocky waters of the Music Industry. Musicians who get distracted by every side project and supposed shortcut to success typically end up going nowhere for decades. Starting project after project that never gets finished is a dead end, and can leave you feeling very demoralized. If you jump from band to band looking for the perfect situation, that can also be a circle dance that perpetuates your frustration. Musicians can end up with a reputation as being flaky or unreliable. Word travels fast in the Industry about artists who band hop or run out on contracts and obligations. Your reputation is everything so be responsible, think things through and stick to the plan.

You may be thinking, “Well, I’m not a one trick pony, what about all the collaborating I want to do?”Collaboration is essential to growth and success as a musician, but first you have to establish yourself. Get clear about your musical direction and desires as an artist. If you can’t even set beginning goals for yourself and stick to them, you won’t be able to focus enough to work on any other projects. Discipline, organization and planning are key.

 So where do you start?

  • Keep a Journal

Write down everything you do for 7 days straight, from the time you rise until bedtime. Log everything you do and be honest. If you sleep till noon, then spend two hours texting with friends, write it down. Looking at exactly how you are spending your time helps you hold yourself accountable and can be very revealing.

  • Organize your work space

Look around, does your room look like a tornado went through it?Is your desk piled high with paperwork from a year ago? Your surroundings reflect what’s happening in your mind. Clutter can also mean lack of clarity or attention to detail. Try to do one thing each day to clear out your space. Throw away things you’ve been hanging onto for years that are actually trash. Clear your space; clear your mind. You may be surprised at how much more calm you feel and the work might start getting easier.

  • Exercise

When you really feel stuck and can’t focus on anything, get out and take a walk. Go to the gym, take a run or do something physical that you love. It will instantly lift your mood and give you a sense of accomplishment. Break your routine and walkaway from whatever project is frustrating you. Once you get back to it, you will have a fresh mind and possibly some great ideas.

  •  Keep One Calendar

Choose the one that works best for you: one on your computer, a hand-held one like a PDA, or a paper one on your desk. Then get rid of all your other calendars and use just the one to record and keep track of everything. If you’re maintaining more than one person’s schedule, like your band members, use different colored inks to record information for each member.

  • Make Lists

It sounds simple but few artists actually do it. Make a list every week of all the things that you need to get accomplished. Once something is finished, check it off the list. It feels great. Haphazardly jumping from one thing to another with no sense of purpose is formula for disaster.

  •  Be Realistic

Setting goals or tasks for yourself that are ridiculous or will take much longer to accomplish than you plan for, will leave you felling defeated and depressed. You don’t have to conquer Rome in a day, you just need to do one thing each day to push your career forward. Being consistent and making slow steady progress is much more effective than trying to tackle something far beyond your reach. As you get more disciplined and organized, things will happen faster and your work will be far more effective.

It’s easy to get in the habit of procrastinating and before you know it, a year has flown by and you are still in the same place professionally. Before you blame your band mates, manager, booking agent and your mom, take a look at your business plan and see if you stayed on track. Spinning your wheels, placing blame and giving up are the easy way out. Take a look at yourself and then re-access the situation. Is this really what you want? Why are you resisting doing the work?Do you have the devotion stamina and burning desire to make music your career? Think about it, hard.

Once you are established and things are churning on all cylinders, collaborating can be a blast. Networking in the Industry is key if you want to play with the big boys and instead of looking at the other 10 million Indy artists as competition, look at them as partners in crime. The more you collaborate and join forces with other musicians, the more fans, gigs, creative outlets and enjoyment you’ll find in your profession. Once you are really great at what you do, others will seek you out. You may even end up opening for a national act years before you might have, if you are open to networking with other artists. Be open and step outside your comfort zone. It’s a big world out there and you should try to be open to the possibilities. There is more going on than what’s happening in your home town and yes, there will always be someone better than you. It’s a fact. Get over it and embrace every great player you find. Reach across genres and open your mind. Some of the hardest working artists around are constantly collaborating with their peers.

Jay-Z_07-24-2013Jay-Z is one of the most well known collaborators in the business. He also is definitely a master of his trade.

Danielle Harling writes:

Jay-Z speaks on his ability to tour with artists from other genres, refers to himself as a “serial collaborator.”

From his humble beginnings in Hip Hop to his present rap magnate status, Brooklyn rapper Jay-Z has never shied away from sharing the stage with his fellow artists. He partnered with R. Kelly for the ill-fated“Best Of Both Worlds” tour nearly a decade ago, he linked up with Eminem for a set of historic shows at Yankee Stadium in 2010, and most recently Hov teamed up with crooner Justin Timberlake for their “Legends Of The Summer” tour.

While speaking with The Truth’s Elliott Wilson, Jay-Z cited his lack of ego as one of the reasons why he’s able to share the stage with such an array of artists. He also dubbed himself a “serial collaborator” as he spoke on his work with tour partner Justin Timberlake.

“First of all, I don’t have an ego in those situations,” Jay-Z revealed. “Everybody should just come to the table and have fun and bring what they bring to the table…If I’m not a Jay-Z fan per se, I get to experience [him] in a setting that I like. I get Justin and ‘Oh okay.’ It’s expansive. It really helps the genre out a lot. When you put it in that place and put it in that light. I’m a serial collaborator…Putting those sort of elements in one room and just—I’m just curious as well. I’ve always been under the belief that it’s just music. We just use different instruments. It’s music…It’s natural for me to play music with Justin. First of all, we both use the same producers. So, pretty much our songs are Timbaland and Pharrell. The majority of them, so they kinda mesh really well because it’s the same sound.”

Looking back through music history, the biggest names in the business joined together for legendary collabs. Genre didn’t matter, it was all about the art. Everybody from Michael Jackson to Santana has worked on some amazing collaborations. If you dig through you tube videos you can find some rare footage and seldom seen performances. It’s a time tested tradition in the Industry for artist to come together for all kinds of reasons and create magic. But one thing is for sure, these talented artists were solid in their own musical career and were already fantastic musicians in their own right. No one wants to work with an artist who doesn’t have it together professionally or musically. To make yourself an artist others seek out for songwriting and gigging opportunities, you have to hone your craft and become undeniable at what you do. It’s takes time diligence and patience, something artists are not known for historically. Clear a path for yourself, dig in and hold on for the ride. Once you start to see your dream coming to fruition, it will all be worth it. Be realistic and honest with yourself and strive to be a master of your art. Then, you can enjoy the rewards that come with all those years of hard work.

Take a look at Rolling Stones list of Best Collaborations of All Time.

7 Responses to Jack Of All Trades, Master Of None

  1. Dennis says:

    It’s SO easy to let time go by doing stuff I find to be more fun, and “Oops, got no time for the other stuff. Manana.” But “Music Business” is 1/2 Music and 1/2 Business, so I have to stop re-mixing and make those connections, Organization and planning might be the keys here. If I schedule my time specifically to get something done on a certain night at a certain time, I know it is more likely to get done. (Unfortunately, my white board is the most under-used piece of equipment in my studio)

    It’s been a long time since I did any collaborating, even though I know Nashville is all about co-writing, I just haven’t had any luck with that. I play all of the instruments on my recordings and sing all of the voices. I played in bands all through the 80’s and got so burned out with being “married” to 3 or 4 people who all had different dreams and visions. Now, at my age most other musicians are either very religious, addicts or both. I would love to find someone who gets what I trying to do, and vice versa.

    So, I guess I am guilty of Jack-of-all-trades-ism in the first degree. What’s the cure, Ghezzy? I’m tired of spinning my wheels.



    • Ghezzi says:

      Hey Dennis,

      Well you answered part of your question already. It IS about organization and discipline. If you make lists and look at them every day, you are much more likely to stay on track. It’s a matter of holding yourself accountable. Spinning is easy to do when there is no clear cut plan. Flying by the seat of your pants in any business is formula for disaster. Organize daily, weekly and monthly tasks. Put it on your calendar with reminders that pop up so you HAVE to look at it. You’ll get more accomplished when you aren’t starting every day by just haphazardly jumping into some project on a whim or using a new project for avoidance.

      Artists everywhere across every genre are collaborating. There are millions of serious musicians out there. The more you network and build your music community, the more serious artists you will find. Go to jams, open mics, go to hear live music, talk to other artists. Use the power of the internet to find new musicians ready for a challenge. They are out there, you have to reach out to find them. There is a world outside of Nashville:-)

      • Dennis says:

        Thanks, Ghezzi. I’ve got work to do. When I lived in Massachusetts I always had a musician or 2 to work on something with. I just need to network on the internet to find some pros that want to work with me.

  2. Nikki says:

    Great motivational post here. I usually tell my artists this on a regular basis. We are slowly growing a love/hate relationship lol and I am OK with that. A lot of musicians think managers are supposed to do all of this for them. a few notes on that. NO, NO and NO. How can a manager work with an artist that cant get their organization together? I surely can help them get on track, but in no way am I their personal assistant and manage their day to day calendars.Its bad enough I am on their butts making sure they go to open mics, remind them about social network, engaging them to network outside of the internet, go to shows, pass out flyers, be open, etc… It gets exhausting. I’m passing this along to my artists. Thank you!!

  3. Gaby Gold says:

    Ahhhhh! So true! I have been blaming everyone but myself for not getting it together! Hard to look at but crucial to admit, should one want true success. The tools you have laid out, specifically clearing space in one’s “space” and keeping a log have been hugely eye-opening since we recently began our journey together, Ghezzi. I urge anyone reading this to try Ghezzi’s straightforward approach to gaining focus. I used to think being a “Jill” of All Trades” was hip and cool. Now, I’m sending her into the hills and whipping her into single-focused shape!

  4. David Ryan says:

    Great blog Ghezzi!

  5. Dan says:

    I’m all about collaboration. It’s tough to find people that want to try and co-write. Even my good friends that play really well but don’t have any songs they’ve written are unusually standoffish. My strong point is the lyric and I am always willing to give a collaboration a try. Just in case your looking…anyone.
    Thanks for the great tips Ghezzi!

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