Monday, June 05, 2006

Plan B or : let the race begin

A few weeks back I had the pleasure of spending a week with a young actor named Antony. He was placed under my wings for his work experience and I endeavoured to make his time at the office as much of an experience as I could.
I was very inspired to teach him all about organization and efficiency that I have learned and it was such a pleasure to see his amazement in his eyes. “you did all that?” he kept asking when I showed him the filing cabinets and organized structures I have implemented at my company. When someone looks at you like this, you understand that just because it’s your job, doesn’t mean you are creative with it, grew with it, taught yourself how to do it, figured out clever ways to work around problems others don’t even know existed.When somebody looks at you like this, you realize how wonderful it is that you have.

I have learned so much about how to get lots done with a minimum amount of effort. I can organize and coordinate and make things happen. I have become reliable and consistent. A few years ago, these qualities were rather far from me. I can be on time, I can finish a task on time, I can do the most “boring” things and still have a really good day.

What’s the secret? Antony understood it very quickly: The Secret to this success is to make what you do fun. It’s easy to say that if you love what you do, you will have a good life. We all know that some things are more fun than others. I am a singer-songwriter and I work in an administrative position. I know about this! However, the trick is to make what you do fun.
I don’t rely on too many external glamour points anymore. I have been disappointed often enough to see through glamour. The Glamour-success such as standing ovations at a performance, Champagne and kids screaming for my autograph are fabulous, no doubt but they don’t make you a happy person. They get you excited and happy in the moment, which also has a seductive tendency to make you dependent on them. To need the next success, big gig, more people wanting you, bigger record deal etc.

My mother taught me to see this success as a bubble bath: Enjoy it while you’re in it and then get out. You don’t want shrivelled hands. Bubbles are great to play with and look at and then they pop because that’s what Bubbles do. That’s the fun of it!

And what happens if your life just won’t give you these bubble experiences too often anyway? What if you just don’t happen to become one of those 2% who make it really big even though you believed in it all your life?
Ask my friends and family weather I believed if I was going to make it. Anybody will tell you that I did. Yet I haven’t made it. YET. There is a little more to it. Or maybe less…( success also takes a certain amount of meritocracy)
Or if you have the great success and you get tired of it. Most people change over their lifetime. Very few actually want to stay in the same place for too long.

This is when PLAN B comes in. Now, if Plan B is a really good one with plenty of opportunity for you to grow, have fun, play, enjoy, succeed, explore, you will have a great life no matter what happens.

When I look back at my life later, and I spent most of it trying to make it…I may think: dang: I spent so much time trying to make it, I wish I had taken more time to live and enjoy it.
If I made it I may think: I made it but boy it was hard work. Was it worth it? Well in a way yes but then again I wish I could have enjoyed the journey more. Had it been less about the making it and more about enjoying…I think if I started again, that’s what I’d want.

If I make this a good life, I will look back and think: I had a great life. I made it and I enjoyed every step of the way.
Or: I had a great life, I might not have reached the big goal but it was such a fun journey to go. Going for the big goal took me places I wouldn’t have gone without it.

So Plan B stands for Brilliance, balls and beauty, bubbles, business and Bliss
Plan B allows us to go into the heart of the matter.
Antony understands what playing office means. Many of my colleagues don’t. I think it can be fun to do the expenses for my boss because he gets really happy when he gets money back and he loves delegating the task to me. It makes him feel like a boss and I get to play moneypenny. I put on a tired face, then I trot to my desk and criticize the shape of my nails and have a cup of tea and sort the bills out.

I think it’s fun to play let’s send out a marketing pack. I log it in my mailing log and I write neatly on the address label and I take a compliment slip, we are so professional, we weigh and frank and put it on the table. Do you remember playing post office of shop as a child? Playing adult? Playing “proper”?
This is what having a dayjob is about…Play proper and get it done with a smile.
Antony got a real hang of it and used the “private and confidential” stamp to mark when he got through things. Stamp it. Done. Official. Stamp it again.

Antony wants to “make it”. I want to “make it”.
I have no doubt in my mind that he will make it. I can only wish for him that he enjoys every step of the way.
Let the race begin. It’s fun.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

learning the business
They say that you can be a great artist but you might be bad at business. Well i have been quite confused about this for a long time..On one hand, I have always been told I had a good sense of business but why on earth did I struggle financially for so long? There is also a very infamous mental block not only artists experience when it comes down to business..the numbers. Once it comes down to doing your books, many many including me start thinking; I don' t want that, I don't need that, I can't do that. And then we just forget about it.
And one day when you realize you don't have the money other people seem to have, you start wondering and then the assumption that obviously you are bad with money sneaks itself into the belief system.
Enough of that.
Being creative does not mean that you can't do business. Being creative means you like fostering new ideas. This can be very useful when dealing with accounts It's about time to bring some ideas to dealing with the "boring side of business". Why on earth our teachers told us that it was going to be one or the other? Left brain preferences, right brain talent. Fact is we have both sides of a brain. We might as well use them. And get them to dance together.
Make numbers fun and colourful-what they give you is the amazing overview and clarity I was seeking. I felt personally insulted, when my dad asked me for business plans. I felt I wasn't trusted as an artist. Surely when you have the talent, good opportunities will come to you. Surely ,there are people who are good with the business side of things who will help. I can't be good at everything, leave this to the pros. I need to concentrate on what matters. Surely.

Unfortunately the great opportunities that came, vanished into the ether somehow. I might have gotten in contact with big producers, I even chased them up but the meetings wouldn't happen or get cancelled time after time after time. Offers weren't followed through by action, there were so many good reasons as to why things never really "worked out". I have too many examples of never happening opportunities. So now what?

The real question is this: what do you need to know to move yourself forward?

I could have decided to find the pros to take over the business side of things. Why didn't I get a manager and agent?
It's not that I haven't tried. I contacted managers, I sent out CDs, I had meetings, you can imagine the amount of rejection and ignorance on the way until I would find someone who wanted to work for me. One guy never called me back when he was supposed to organize something, the other one spent more time telling me what I had done wrong in the last years than ever coming up with something constructive.
As useful as it is to learn that I am disappearing up my own arse, I thought it would have been great to actually get out. My show wasn't good enough in his view, my music wouldn't sell because nobody knows me, all he wanted was to get me gigs as a Madonna tribute but even that he never achieved. My contacts advised me to stick with it. He is experienced. After 2 months of nothing happening on the positive side, I decided to stop the mysery.
Needless to say this is more than disappointing, as it took such an effort to find someone interested in the first place. boooohoo.

If only I knew how to move myself foreword, if only I knew how to sell Cds and get a record deal and be famous, wouldn't life be wonderful?


Every step of every way will bring forth new questions, challenges, possibilities and ask for decisions. The real question is again: what do you want? What do you need? What are the resources you need to move towards that? And very important: How can it be made fun?

I learned over time that as much as I didn't want to look at the business side of things too much-after all it takes the fun away, doesn't it- I also didn't want somebody else to be in total control and have to trust "they" will do it right for me. After all my experience taught me: they often don't! And how can you expect someone else to care about your matters more than you.

There are 2 sides of the coin. One side might be the creativity and musical inspirations. But without getting it out there using strategy to create the resources, contacts, inspire people to pass it on, where is it going?

In time I grew the motivation to look at the other side of the coin to find it's golden, too!

Resources became a keyword: I realized that I simply didn't have the financial, mental, energetical resources to really build myself as an independent artist. In other words: I got too tired, too frustrated, too failed, too poor, too sad to continue.
And that was the turning point. The best thing to do when you are tired is to sleep.
The good news is that after we sleep we often wake up more rested. The funny thing is we often think that when we sleep we will miss out.

The operation music career was switched to standby and I began to deal more with the "real business world". PA work, coordinating, training. It is amazing what a day job can do for you in the field of getting clear, stable, exercising consistency, practising persistance and feeling the wonderful reward of a regular paycheque. I find this more relaxing than a holiday! (life is so relative, isn't it)

The result: More understanding and motivation to bring the business to my music. Without having to push myself. I started wanting to learn more. And this is the crucial POD. ( point of difference) If you WANT to do something, chances are you will enjoy it. Passion, free will and personal decision are the most wonderful guides for your own inner and outer success. 10 years ago, you could have sent me to sleep purely talking about computers or technical set up. Some people did. I had no idea about office, excel, music programs. The mere thought of having to deal with it, got me highly agitated.
Today I am being called the tech Wiz and I reep admiration for my so called technical brains. I find Garageband boring and criticise the Technical support team for our database programs with loops they didn't even see.
How did it "happen"?
I wanted to start to use a computer because I understood it would make sense and make me look more professional. I got so easliy frustrated and stressed. One day a young man came to me for singing lessons and after his first session said he loved it but couldn't afford to keep it up. I asked him what he did and he answered he taught computing. Having enjoyed teaching him singing and sensing opportunity, I asked him if he wanted to exchange skills. This was the beginning of a wonderful friendship.
When I got stressed, he put his hand on my shoulders, gave me a quick massage and guided me through deep breathing. As much as I know about relaxation and deep breathing, doing it when you need it- That is the key.
He taught me how to train my brain to figure out ways to achieve what I wanted to do. He didn't always know how things worked. And sure enough, sometimes things don't! But he knew how to find a way around it and figure it out.
This is the most valuable lesson ever. I thought I didn't have the time to play around and try this and that and it's too confusing anyway. I learned, that the time spent playing is the best way to learn with fun and after a while, I could see through what I was doing. After the 3rd time of doing the same thing, even I can remember. It's actually possible. Then I got used to things being possible... it's only a question of how. And how is not a closed question but an invitation for your creativity...

Now I am absolving a small business course, I have done online business training, I take accounting classes. I find it so interesting and it makes me feel good:
when someone starts commenting: "there is no money in music" I don't feel desperate anymore. I have done my figures. I know what I need to sell to make money. I know it's possible! I know how much I need to sell to afford the producers for the new album. Now I am figuring out how to do it.

Whatever it is that you want to create in your life, however impossible it may seem at first sight- Everything that exists now, has at one point not existed. "Possible" is an attitude. Make it yours. It will give you wings!

PS: you can listen to my music on
my CD "who's your diva?!" is available via the website, too
-I had to say that, didn't I? Business! ;-)