Observations and Music Merchandise


DeathtoStock_NotStock10Photo Credit: Death to Stock Photos

I had the privilege of working the merchandise booth recently for a friend, and I observed some aspects that made me a think a little deeper about the realm of sales and the point of purchase. I wanted to share what I was able to procure from this experience:

  1. Presentation is important. People are drawn to things that look good. That’s just a pretty obvious point to most things in life in general. Attractive people, attractive homes, attractive clothing- you name it. So make it pleasing to the eye. Even small touches like how it’s arranged or the orderliness could go a long way.  So give some thought to placement and the “how” behind it all.
  2. Sales can be low, so make it easy for people to purchase. People seem to be purchasing more online these days, so music merchandise tables are no different. With comments like “oh yeah, I can just buy this online,” there’s a definite sign that the times of purchasing have changed. With the ability to purchase later online, there’s no sense of urgency. I mean, I can worry about this later so no need to whip out cash or card now, right? Another thing to consider is making your price points visible. People who might be willing to give 5 or 25 should all be made to feel welcome. Create a legible sign. Let your sign show that this is the 5 dollar price point, this is the 10, this is the 20 and on to the package deal at 25-30. Oftentimes, people already have their spending limit in their mind. If you had something at their particular price level, they could purchase on the spot. Whether it’s an online store or a brick and mortar, make pricing easy to read and available. There’s nothing more unsettling than not knowing price and having to ask. No one likes to think- If I have to ask, then I must not be able to afford it. That’s isolating and arrogant on the part of the seller. Be proud of your product and be confident enough to know that it’s worth every penny.  
  3. Interaction is imperative. Be friendly and engage with all people who may come your way. Ask people how they are doing and engage them. People may want to chat for a bit. If so, they may linger and purchase something. It is important that you have someone work your merchandise table while you play. If people decide to purchase any merchandise during your set and your table is vacant, they may move on and not come back later in the evening. If your music is strictly online, then make yourself accessible somehow. People sometimes need help, so be around when they need it.  

So, consider the details, because they are important. Don’t minimize the preparation and attention you give to your merchandise and your merchandise table. If you actually take care about the tiny things, the larger things in your career and life may just take of themselves.

Be faithful in the small things 🙂

~lme

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30A Songwriters Fest Spotlight on Caroline Cotter


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I wanted to feature my next 30A Songwriters Fest songwriter, Caroline Cotter. With a voice as sweet as a budding flower and the fabulous content of a travel diary, she’ll pull you close like a warm embrace. Her music transports me to some farm in Connecticut as if were going to pick apples and get maple syrup or across the ocean to another country in Europe.  She’s a lovely storyteller, so you have to listen carefully to her lyrics or you’ll miss a page of the story.  Journey in C is one of my favorites. She sings, has harmony, snaps the whole song and it’s a travel dialogue. You know it’s a good song when you can just listen and there’s not even any instrumentation but the vocals. Love it! You can hear it here.

Her strong love of travel is something that connects me to her story. From her Biography online:  “Music has always been at the heart of Caroline’s life, alongside an insatiable passion for travel and global exploration.  In the past ten years, Caroline has lived in and traveled to 27 countries on five continents. While writing and recording Dreaming as I Do, she spent the last few years working for the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) in Portland, Maine. CIEE provided amazing opportunities for international community and travel, and further inspired Caroline’s songwriting.”

So, please check out her music and drift off into a world of peoples, places and ideas. I think you’ll find it absolutely perfect for daydreaming on a Tuesday afternoon.

~lme

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Having a little faith… and Commitment


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Photo Courtesy: Death to Stock Photos

There is a connection between commitment to your faith and pursuing a career passion, in both your daily walk and your artistic journey. You can’t be a tried and true artist without having a little grit in your soul. There’s this sheer persistence beneath it all to prevail no matter what the chaos around you looks like at the time. Being an active and forward moving musician is teaching me commitment and sifting out the go getters from the half-tryers. Commitment is a skill that is earned and learned over time. Just as relationships aren’t cultivated in a short time, so a craft is not completed quickly.  In a generation that has everything right now or needed it yesterday, it’s worthwhile to realize that I’m learning the beauty in the struggle throughout the process.  Artists grapple with doubt, worry, fear and the “I’m not good enough” thoughts that constantly float in our heads. But we don’t let that stop us. We take the charge seriously to “neglect not the gift that is within us.”  Here are some thoughts on how working as an artist is similar to having faith and commitment spiritually:

  1.  You don’t always have a clear cut view of the story that will unfold. Unlike lawyers, doctors or teachers who know the model for success and follow it, artists do not have that same luxury. We are forced to brave a dark forest of unknown trials and winding paths that are each specific to our own careers. We don’t have a model for success because everyone’s model is different, even ones with similar backgrounds, managers, hometowns and more. In the same way your faith begins in a small way (a measure of it), it is grown and cultivated, tested through storm and has to be proven at times. How much do you care about it and how much are you willing to sacrifice for it? Those questions can never be answered until faced with more difficult choices.
  2.  You keep at it in the midst of the unknown. If your faith or your art are such an integral part of you, you practice them even when no one gives you any recognition. Artists understand the feeling of discouragement readily as we continue to hear more no’s than yes’s at times. Despite all of the rejection we face, there’s something eternally optimistic about us. Deep down, we don’t really believe the option of giving up but rather we choose to just keep on moving. Just because we’re at the bottom, doesn’t mean we give up.   
  3. The naysayers are often waiting in the wings and ready to whisper negativity and threats in your ears. There are those who will test your faith spiritually and as an artist. They will say things can’t be done, you should just quit and really what’s the purpose of even trying. They will try to drag you down to their level. They will also tell you all of the reasons it would NEVER work. Don’t listen to them. If you believe in what you are doing, keep at it. And remember, if you don’t want to live their life, then why should they get to determine yours?

So remember that it takes faith and commitment. Your spiritual walk and your artistic walk are not easy roads. And as Tom Petty said,

“Some say life, may beat you down, break your heart, steal your crown.  Learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings, coming down, is the hardest thing…”

Look to the light-

~lme

Creatively clear


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Drum roll please….. Wanted to share my new logo. SO EXCITING!  Thank you to the talented, Jason Hill who worked for a good, long time helping me figure out this whole identity thing.  To check out his stuff, click here. I hope you guys like it, and look for new merchandise soon! On a different note, I wanted to share a few thoughts should you feel stumped in your creative process.  We want to create something meaningful, beautiful and that will resonate with others. We want to change the world around us and not just be here as a meaningless vapor. Whether we use art or music or film as our medium, we have a need to make something with weight,value and significance. I know the feeling of being stuck in a rut, writing the same song, painting the same piece or making the same film. Here are some things I’m brainstorming for ways to get out of the rut, so I thought I would share…

  1. To get out of the rut, get out of the routine. Go to a movie on a Monday night or meet up with someone you hardly ever see. Drive a new way home from work or listen to a totally different genre of music. Giving your system a little shake can cause some things to get dislodged and tumble out.
  2. To get out of the rut, let yourself play.  Instead of writing a song, just play with some chords on the piano or write a funny poem to loosen up those muscles.  Sometimes creative play can help you relax and not make you feel so bent on writing the next big hit, the next great American novel or being the next Picasso.
  3. To get out of the rut, think of a different process you have not yet tried. For example, maybe as a songwriter, I could take all the best lines fro my last 10 songs written and see what kind of song I might create from that. Or instead of sitting down at the piano, maybe I could just take a walk and start singing a melody to create something.  By doing things another way, you might get a different or even better result.
  4. To get out of the rut, get out of yourself. A great way to have some ideas come to you might be actually “not” thinking about it. Go try some new with a different group, get involved with others, socialize, volunteer or host a gathering. By thinking about something other than yourself and your creative “problem,” you might actually solve that pesky thing.

So, go on creative ones or even those who often claim they just “aren’t really creative,” and try one of these four options to get the creative juices flowing.  You might be pleasantly surprised and impressed at what spills out. If you have other things that have worked for your creation process in the past, feel free to share them below!

~lme

A word in context


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Photo Credit:  Maria Ellen Photography

Awhile ago, I had the pleasure of going to the Italian Fashion Exhibit at the Frist Center for the visual arts, and it was fabulous. So much detail, so many beads, so many layers of fabulous fabric beautifully hand-crafted as an art form. There was also a Jaume Plensa exhibit and one of his pieces, composed of letters, foreign words and all sorts of text really struck me.  In the plaque about the piece (and I’m probably not quoting verbatim), he mentioned something like this:

“One letter seems nothing but in association with others they could compose a word.  One word with another word could compose a text.  A text with another text.”  I thought about this in regards to being an artist.  As an artist, you are one.  But when you start connecting the dots from artist to artist and building community, you begin to be enriched.  Your medium of art becomes richer, more developed, more intense with emotion and relation to something outside your tiny world of self art.  The art then becomes a piece in a larger painting, and you can find your place of belonging in the realm of creativity.  The idea of individuality is great, but in relation to a larger picture, it has more context.  If you are an artist, think about yourself more as a word in context.  Here are some ways to think of art in terms of context:

1.  Don’t restrict your music to just being influenced by what you can give to it.  Let other artists influence it, help paint a stroke on the canvas and move it forward in a direction you might not have considered before.  Sometimes the growth comes from the interaction with others.

2.  Don’t try too grip tightly onto it like a helicopter parent.  Realize that music is an entity all it’s own that moves and breathes and has to become.  A song sometimes is something you can’t control.  You need to let it happen naturally.  I’ve heard people in the recording industry talk about it in terms of what is needed to “best serve the song.”  It’s like having a love for your music as if it were a child, and you would do well to let it have room to become.

3.   As an artist, consider that you are not merely an isolated creative force.  Rather, you are a force being acted on and acting on others every day as an inspiration and a muse.  And take it a step further, and don’t only let your career be focused on pushing your music into the atmosphere.  Don’t merely shout, but listen.  Connect with others, offer them help when they need it, volunteer with your other musical friends and build relationships instead of just trying to take something all the time.

When I see others who seem to be just waltzing through with roses everywhere, I tend to get discouraged.  Some days I’m not sure what to do with these gifts I’ve been given.  Perhaps other artists’ paths are not as winding as mine have been.  But those uncertain times are those that build our faith and teach us to trust.  Maybe we must first be lost to then find ourselves.

~lme

 

Liberation through Limitation


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Photo Courtesy: Maria Ellen Photography

Limitation. What an unpleasant concept to us, creatives and more. We hate being limited by time, talents, energy and finances. We want everything now and to be able to do everything we want when we want to with unlimited funds (I mean, that’s realistic right?). But what if our limitations are really something that liberates us? And what if those limitations actually help us instead of hurting us like we think. Allow me to expound.

Limitation provides:

  1. Context– Limitation gives us a field or a boundary to work within.  It’s a good thing we aren’t able to do everything with our own two hands.  By learning where our skillset lies, we are able to focus, hone our craft and really find where we can excel and best serve. Limitation actually helps us narrow that search. Surely we can learn and grow, but some people have stronger aptitudes for certain areas.  I don’t personally consider myself a super strong instrumentalist, but I have other gifts in a different facet of music.  Once you begin to see where your skillset lies, you can begin to center on where you would experience a truer fit and ideal opportunities for yourself. The ability to say no to things that aren’t well-suited for us actually leaves openness in our schedules to say yes to things that are a better fit.
  2. Creativity– Limitation actually make us stretch our creativity. If I’m not proficient on an instrument, I may try to make that same sound using an instrument I do know how to play. Throughout that process, something innovative can be born. We learn by our limitations in time, talent and finances how to be effective where we are right now. So you can’t afford to fund a massive marketing campaign, so you roll up your sleeves and get to work making your own things, building connections and going out and networking in your area. Despite seeing limitations as hindrances, you might do better to see them as actual gifts.
  3. Cultivation of acceptance and community– Early on, we believe that we can do it all. Every super mom and wonder woman leading her team at work makes you think you can do it all (or you are lacking when you can’t). But let me tell you, it’s a big fat lie we’ve been fed. I’ve been told early on that there are trade-offs for everything, and I can see it very clearly now. You may think you are doing “it all,” but you cannot do everything to an effective level by cramming as much as possible into your day. You will choke out the moments of realization, creativity and joy. Some facet of your life will not be excelling. Now almost a year into my 30s, I’m learning how valuable it is to have a grasp on reality. I cannot expect myself to be at a level where I am not. accepting that you aren’t a rockstar at everything, you begin to employ the use of other talent, fostering community and building relationships. You develop a mutual respect for people and their skillset that is stronger where yours is weak. You are humbled by the fact that you do not “rock” at everything and are stronger as a team of people striving for one goal. You also learn to appreciate the level of talent you see in others and working with them is a pleasure.

So, go create, accept your limitations, but be willing to work to press them where you can. Also work toward a better version of yourself despite those limitations. Happy weekend 🙂

~lme

Sofar Sounds is Sofabulous!


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Last night I had the pleasure of attending a fabulous new thing happening in cities all around the world.  It’s called Sofar Sounds, and it’s a really cool new concept.  It has a similar vibe to a house show, but the venues are rooms or spaces in different areas of a city.  They pick pop-up locations all over the city where you are, and they host a music concert in a room.  For example, last night, the show put on by Sofar Sounds Nashville was hosted at ClimbNashville East location.  It was great to be somewhere laid back, meet some new people and hear some new artists I had never heard before.  They have someone introduce each performer and talk to them a bit, the performers play 4 songs for a healthy taste of their music, and then they break and set up the next act.  It reminded me of one of the SXSW parties I had been to while living in Austin where they rotated several artists in and out for a day of music.  Last night, the artists were Sasha Daniel, HR_Lexy, and Little Raven.

It has this great vibe of being a fun, hip and exclusive evening without being snotty and “too cool for you.”  The people at the show seemed friendly and welcoming, and we were even chatting with the people who were running/volunteering at the show.  If you want a cool show vibe where you can actually hear the music and it not be about anything but the music, I think you should definitely check out Sofar Sounds.  You will enjoy yourself, get a taste of some new music and not feel drained from people trying to talk above the noise of downtown crazy establishments.  Thank you Sofar for creating something great, and check out a Sofar show in a city near you!

~lme

Spoiler alert: No such thing as a “big break.”


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Just like a breaking of a tree branch, artists have come to believe in this so-called concept of the big break.  Spoiler alert:  There is no such thing as a big break.  Need a tissue?  Tis true.  We musicians have been warped into thinking this mentality about the “big break” from shows like American Idol or America’s Got Talent.  We expect it to happen fast without all the uphill battles, sores upon our feet and weariness for the dream.  I think it’s time we stopped looking for our “big break,” and started looking for ways to work at our craft or spend our time more effectively as music business owners.  Why on earth have we spent so much time thinking that one door would solve our problems?  For the same reason people think that marriage will be the holy grail of perfection in their lives.  We need to start viewing things as new challenges and new opportunities to work and use our talents.

Another aspect of the “big break” is this.  It amazes me that “new bands” are seen by people and no one really knows the behind the scenes.  They think- wow this band just catapulted into stardom.  No, no, actually they didn’t.  Every huge band you know and love did not begin that way, and there is SO MUCH more that has gone into what people thought was their “big break.” Musicians sometimes are in multiple failed projects before settling into a really great one.  Years of sleeping on couches or working terrible jobs to fund their touring endeavors are never seen by the public.  Then there are the countless hours of doubt, worrying whether people like the music and even asking why they’re doing it in the first place.  The public never knows what goes behind the seemingly easy “big break” that actually isn’t big, but it is a break.

You know what the real big break is?  It’s a breaking of these things: Your pride (playing for an audience of 2), Your bad attitude (giving excuses for why you couldn’t or didn’t do something), Your unwillingness to work (willing to drive for a gig and lug your gear in the heat or rain or ice to play) and Your desire to take the easy option of giving up (and believe me, you’re gonna wanna give up).  The big break is breaking off all of those pieces of yourself as you continually reach farther and higher and push yourself to new goals and new heights.  Sure- an incredible opportunity may come your way, but without utilizing that and keeping the momentum from that, it won’t do you a bit of good.  The big break is not just a moment, a person or a venue you’ll play.  It’s a culmination of many moments, meeting many people and playing countless shows all around that begin to shape you, shave the laziness off of you and the bad attitudes that won’t help you work for your goals.  It’s being broken and vulnerable and real that is the honest “big break” for an artist.  Once you have let go of that one pill fixes all mentality in this cut throat music industry, you’ll begin to view things in a healthier way, pick up the tools in your toolset and get to work carving your own niche in the business.  Until then, you’re just a hotshot that wants others to notice how amazing you are, living for the fame and glory.  Let’s get up, get moving and get over ourselves.  There’s enough ego out there without more.  What do you guys think about the “big break” mentality?  Let me know in the comment section below 🙂

~lme

Songstress Night at the Bluebird!


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Last week I had the pleasure of playing the Bluebird Cafe alongside several other talented female singer, songwriters at Chick Singer Night hosted by Jaclyn Brown.  I played alongside such talented ladies as Sam Hatmaker, Rhetta Jane and Peyton Parker.  It was so nice to be featured along with these ladies at one of the greatest intimate venues in Nashville.  It was great to have my mom in town for the show and then to pull my sister up onstage to sing my final song, Pilgrim, that my brother and I wrote together back in Texas years ago.

After my show, I had a moment to reflect on one aspect of the gig experience that I really enjoy.  It’s the post-show conversations.  Of course the music and the performing and selling merch go into it, but connecting with people is enjoyable to me.  Those conversations with new musician friends, visitors from other states, someone celebrating a birthday, sisters from New York, a couple from Gulf Shores and three gals from Scotland who were traveling around America for several weeks make it worthwhile.  It’s those moments with people that really bring me to a good place as an artist.  Take away the drama and the makeup and the stage and the lights and I really love the opportunities I have to connect with humanity.  I love to see the similarities in the human race as we are bonded through our shared love of music.  Despite the fact that there is a lot of bad out there, I continually meet people who redeem my view of humankind.  I realize there kind souls who want the same things for their families and just want to make a good life for themselves.  Human connection resonates with me just as much as the chords I play on my instruments.  As I begin booking my first tour for this fall, I hope I will make new friends, share stories with those on the road and come back richer from my experiences while sharing music in the great, big, wonderful, frightening, humbling and rad world we live in.

~lme

Pandoland 2015 was amazing!!


pandolandLast week, I attended my first entrepreneur conference in Nashville called Pandoland 2015 and got to hear fabulous speakers including Andy Sparks of Mattermark, Marc Ruxin of TastemakerX, Bijan Sabet, General Partner at Spark Capital, James Freeman, Founder of Blue Bottle Coffee, Katia Beauchamp of Birchbox and many others.  It was great to be in a room for several days with such movers and shakers, people who have ventured into the unknown, learned many lessons and have come out on the other side as stronger beings.  It made me realize there are people in the world who are working hard for something they believe in and not just following the status quo whatever that may be.  I think the human spirit loves to know there are still people willing to hurt for something and to work super hard to strive for it.  In true entrepreneur fashion, the audience got to witness 10 startups present over the course of 2 days time and the winner, an innovative clothing company called Umano, started by two brothers and based out of Georgia, received a grand prize to help fund more of their endeavors in the world of many clamoring entrepreneurs. Congrats guys!!

One of the greatest talks for me personally was by Ryan Leslie, Musician and Entrepreneur.  I love that he has created a way to interact with his fans directly and has not just dumped all of his marketing faith into various platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  I appreciate someone who is willing to interact directly with his fans and actually gives his email and his number out at conferences for people to contact him.  Might it get out of hand in the future, sure.  But I think there is something about him that makes you relate to his bootstrap effort to get out in the music industry and think of it in terms of business rather than in terms of fame.  He is really working hard to marry his skills with his business savvy to see some career longevity in a difficult industry.

Overall, the conference was wonderfully organized, and Sarah Lacy is absolutely the best host of Pandoland.  I absorbed so much useful information, and I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to attend and learn.  Check out their site here for helpful articles and more information!  Did any of you attend this great conference or are there other entrepreneur/music conferences you recommend for independent artists?? Feel free to share in the comment form below!

~lme