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 🙂



Recent Happenings

columnsI had the pleasure of playing the annual Southern Festival of Books in downtown Nashville a few weeks ago. It was a great festival put on by Humanities Tennessee that hosts writers, readers, publishers, literacy organizations, booksellers and more. Despite rain that came, I was given moments of reprieve to load and uload my gear, play a nice set, meet vance the great sound guy (who also does sound at the Acme Feed and Seed downtown Nashville) and play some music for some open ears. The banners hanging from the great architecture downtown made the event seem stately, astute and almost as if I had transported back to the Greco-Roman empire.

Closely tied to this, I realized how amazing it is that I live in a place with the opportunity to read, grow and dream. Not many have that opportunity. Not many have parents who taught them to read, explore a library and get lost within the adventure of a book. I’m so thankful to have had an upbringing like that. May the literacy numbers be higher every year as people are taught to read and think for themselves thanks to the hard work of various organizations. Thanks to Humanities Nashville for having me!


Feel free to say hello and let me know what other festivals around town you love to frequent and hear great live music!

Exciting music news!


Hi there!  Just wanted to let everyone know who has been so supportive of me that Pandora let me know that you can now hear my music on the channel Leah and the Blackland Ballad! SO COOL!!! There are various other artists including The Vespers, Jessica Campbell and more.  So give it a listen wherever you are!

Also here are some show dates for anyone who would like to come out and hear some live music…

~Southern Festival of Books in downtown Nashville at the corner of Charlotte and 6th at the Music Stage from 3-4 on October 10th.

~Fiber in the Boro in Murfreesboro, TN November 1st in Rutherford County- check it out here

If you or someone you know would be interested in hosting a house show, feel free to shoot me an email at leahemusic@gmail.com.  Or just say hey and let me know where you’d like to hear me play in the form below…

Thanks for a great show at PorchFest!

Wanted to say thanks to PorchFest in the Westhaven area in Franklin for letting me play this past Saturday.  Here are some photos from the event.  It was such a great event to play and meander the neighborhoods to see live music on the porches of homeowners.  I had the opportunity to enjoy musical acts like Boy named Banjo and Alyssa Bonagura.  Everyone should come out to next year’s PorchFest in crowdprofileWesthaven!porch performance


Tuesday thoughts from Isaiah


Photo Courtesy:  National Media Museum flickr photostream

It’s interesting how much Isaiah talks about God humbling people and how all those who are proud will be brought low to the dust in various places throughout the text.  The world of music and pride seem to work rather hand in hand so here are some things I’m pondering about pride…

  1. Pride chooses not to give proper credit.  Whether it’s taking pride for something you didn’t actually accomplish or whether it is not giving glory to God who helped you get to where you are, there are various ways it can take shape.  In Isaiah 23:9, it says “The Lord of hosts has purposed it, to bring to dishonor the pride of all glory, to bring into contempt all the honorable of the earth.”  Being in the world of music can open one’s eyes to various forms of pride of life through image, inflated ego and overall sense of place in the world.  It doesn’t take but a few compliments, some positive career moves and some recognition to make one lowly artist start to think they have something good.  Forgetting where this came from displaces the glory and begins to feed sense of self as it morphs into a monster.
  2. Pride elevates our sense of our placement in the world and amongst others.  We know that we are all human and that we make mistakes and that others are created in His image.  Oftentimes, we forget this when we have ugly thoughts and attitudes in our mind or make rash judgments at a situation before really taking the time to get to know what is going on or to see another point of view.  At times, it seems as if musicians are seen as those who had the gift of prophecy- as the best of all the gifts.  We put them on a stage and we idolize their every move, because they have something that some of us can only dream of having.  This strangely isn’t true- and various artists have different skills.  If you only knew how much each artist really wishes they could be like their influences and how they doubt themselves on a daily basis, you might not place them so high on rungs of the ladder of idolization.  One is a hand and one is a foot, but gifts like drawing, sculpting, horticulture, math savvy, memorization, communication, people skills, conflict resolution skills, management, scientific smarts, and inventing are all types of skills that are important and creative in their own rights.  Music is just one piece of a larger creative pie that we all take part in.
  3. Self is at the root of pride.  Pride whispers to us that we deserve so much more. Pride tells that we are so much better than the person less nicely dressed. Pride makes us believe that we are more attractive than someone else and therefore should be treated better or have more opportunities in life.  Pride makes us burn with anger when corrected by someone.  Pride causes us to disengage ourselves from those who need us and have loved us since we were young.  Pride is envious of others success and being angry that we don’t have it for our own.
  4. Pride will one day be irrelevant.  Either the ones who have lived and reveled in their own pride and self-worth will be brought low by the Maker of the world or those who have humbled themselves will be exalted not of anything of their own doing but by their attitude toward the One ruling all.

May we as musicians really strive to lay pride aside, do what we love and have been given as gifts to share with the world.  May we not think of ourselves higher than we ought.  May we play with fervor but not with pride.  May we let ourselves be vessels of song and lay our gifts at the Feet of Him from whom all blessing flow.


That’s what I’m here for…


Photo Courtesy:  The Library of Congress photostream

I used this phrase today while talking to someone at work.  And it hit me later.  When doing good and serving, do we truly think (and even in the small and insignificant, dirty tasks), this is what I’m here for.  Not that I’m here to be glorified or worshipped or thought well of or to become popular or well-liked or rich, but that I am put here to serve and help others come to God.  If we aren’t doing that, then do we really have an eternal purpose for being here?  If I said yes, I’d be justifying my own actions too.  Everything else is merely side roads that veer off the main road. 

How often in previous jobs have I thought- I’m better than this?  I deserve so much better, why is this happening to me?  Is that really the attitude we should ever have?  Should we better ourselves?  Of course, but contentment throughout our work situations and our frustrating relationships is something for which to strive.  But think about this, if you think you’re way too good to be somewhere or to be friends with someone, then perhaps God still wants you there to learn something through that place or through that person.  I can see this with my musical background.  If I had gotten the success I wanted when I was younger, I would not have been in the right place mentally for any of that.  It was only through seeing others leave their faith on the side of the road or watch the sickness in the industry around me that I was able to see the truth.  I’m thankful that I don’t feel as strong of the pulls that I used to feel, but they are apt to creep up at any time.  Therefore, I should work at contentment and continue doing good.

How often we spend our lives in pursuit of things that will eventually come to nothing.  May we strive to seek good, peace, God, not be apathetic, save the lost and to serve even when we feel inadequate or hopeless or frustrated or like it will bring us down from popularity.  I heard a quote by Josh Rosenthal on a podcast today on DIY Musician.  He said “The music is the means of the message- it isn’t the end result.”  So as music is the means and the gift that God gives me to glorify Him and do good works, so might a job or a relationship or an awkward situation or a trial.

Because ultimately, serving, giving more of myself and pointing others to God…. “that’s what I’m here for.”


Producing over consuming


Photo Courtesy:  Smithsonian Institution

To be a great artist, you must be a producer, not a consumer.  You have to make time to produce… stuff people will listen to, things people will latch onto and ideas that people will connect with.  Don’t sit and watch tv, don’t zone out in laziness, don’t follow blindly.  The all-in musician will get farther down the road of success if they are willing to be active and even when it requires sacrifice, they are willing to make hard decisions.  To be a producer, a leader and a visionary… these are some things you’ll need in your back pocket:

  1. The grit.  People gonna gripe, people gonna doubt.  Don’t listen.  Just ignore what they say.  If you believe you have something worthy for the world, don’t give up on the craft and what you want to say.  Know that you have purpose for being here- to spread goodness, music and beauty that is desperately needed in a dark world.
  2. The Drive.  You can’t watch movies five nights a week, sit down when you get home from your day job or say “I don’t feel like it today.”  True love is seen when you have to do something even when you don’t feel like it.  If it was an easy path to musical success, more people would be taking it or at least excelling.
  3. The level-headedness.  You can’t believe the hype- you can’t believe what people say about you.  Listen to Rudyard kipling- you can’t listen to their praise or their negativity.  Keep pressing on in pursuit of your goals.  Don’t let others deter you as you strive to do better things than yesterday.  The ugliness of the naysayers will always surround you like a cloud of smog.  But put on that mask of confidence and walk through the ugliness surrounding you, knowing that the only people who tear others down are most unhappy inside themselves.  Look up- stand up- and you’ll move up.

Have a lovely Tuesday, dear friends 🙂


Tuesday Nuggets


Photo Credit:  Queensland flickr stream

Why are you spending time trying to get people to notice you? Is it because you feel empty inside or you need recognition to give your art validation?  Get over it.  It’s not less of art if they don’t listen, watch or read.

Why do you think they care?  They don’t, so give them a reason.

Why do you want to cast pearls (creative music) before swine (the record execs)?  You should really just be honing and creating and crafting and trying to find those who love what you do.

Why do you not believe in yourself?  Other people do- look around.

Why do you listen to those 3 people in your life who don’t believe you can do it?  Ignore them, the majority is stronger for you.

Why do you do what you do?  If it’s for money, quit.  If it’s for fame, you’ll probably get it.  Though you might not want it afterward.  If it’s for the pure, unadulterated love of music and giving it back to the community to enjoy, you’re nearing a better place. 

Tip your hat to Tuesday. 


Boundaries, Creativity and Music Therapy

Music is woven in me and I have yet to be able to separate from my love for it.  This morning I recently read these two amazing blog posts that remind me that music doesn’t’ merely have  a self-involved process.  There is so much more to it being on this earth than that.  Music Think Tank is a great blog for those in the music industry, and this article on Creativity in Constraint really hit home.

We are such musical beings…. Just like the birds and the chimps and even trees and flowers.  There is so much music continually around us in earth and the sky.  Sadly, we are often too plugged into our indie rock to really listen to the music of nature.  But music is a healing thing from God.  It’s awesome the way that a song can transport us or lift our spirits.  God created that in us to do just that very thing.  Music is part of worship and He knew that it would bring us closer to Him.  Why is it that so many of us as musicians tend to think that we must shirk our God to pursue the thing He wanted us to be a part of?  Why do so many of us cut Him off in pursuit of that?

This article discusses our limitations as creative people.  If our limitations are what encourage our creativity such as creative fashion coming from poverty and resourcefulness arising from want….. perhaps there is a connection between spiritual limitations and creative limitations.  Perhaps the boundaries God has given me are not something to be angered about.  They are rather constraints that guide me and teach me how to excel in them.  Is creativity going beyond the lines?  Perhaps, but what if the most creative approaches to certain things were staying within some sort of parameters and finding ways to do that in more innovative ways?  I hope to find ways to do this through my career.

As I listen to some of Neil Young’s greatest tunes, I know he had limitations in both his technical abilities as well as his voice.  I can relate to that.  I’m no picture of perfection.  I get upset when I lack more abilities than I wish I had and to be disciplined to become better.  I am someone trying to change the world for good with my art.  I leave you with an image that tugs at the heart of every songwriter…. Thank you to this blog for sharing:


And as my wheels are turning, how could I ignore the healing power and therapy of music that have existed since long ago…. Through God.  King saul utilized David’s musical gifts to ease his depression and whatever mental demon he was continually fighting.  Music heals our pain in different ways.  This girl’s blog is an amazing testament to the healing properties of music and is a great resource into the world of music therapy.  I think this new field gives validity to the scientists of the world who don’t believe art and music are really something that can be effective in large ways.  It is intriguing that science and art are closely tied and the health of our bodies and minds can be changed due to it.  This is all just more evidence that points us to our Maker.  God knows us and knows how to heal us, and He equipped us with the tools for this.  Thanks mom for the realization.

Pensive on a Thursday am I,


My musical journey thus far: Why I play music but try to separate myself from the music industry


Photo Credit: New York Public Library photostream

They tell you good things take time.  I can see the beauty in waiting for the right time in my life.

I began writing songs at the close of my college career in my one-bedroom apartment in east Texas.  I still remember my first open mic, shaking hands and the honest statement before I sat down saying “I am not a professional.”  But I began to write and play and create in a way I never had before.  Shortly after college, I moved to Austin, the live music capitol of the world.  At 23, I wanted a music career.  And at 24 and 25 and 26 and so on.  I wanted to find the person who would help me launch my career.  I wanted to go, move, meet everyone I could.  Someone once told me “I had the fever.”  It was funny, but it was true.  I observed an industry guy at South by Southwest one year with my business card, wanting to drop it into his briefcase at his side, hoping it would be discovered and appreciated later.  But I now wonder whether my fever rested in the actual love of music or the pursuit of fame and fortune.  I confess at times, I really became stary-eyed for the hopes and dreams and pursuit of being something wonderful to the world.  In those early twenties, I had an innate desire to prove myself to a world that I believed did not understand me, family included.

Since that time, I have grown to realize some things about myself and the industry as a whole that have shaped me.  I’m not totally jaded and walking away, but that’s probably because I haven’t gone deep into the recesses of the music industry abyss.  I always thought dancing on the sidelines would hold me back.  And in a way it did.  I was never willing to sacrifice my faith, my dignity, my conviction or my vision for what others were willing to sell it for.  I respected myself, my conviction and my art.  And I wanted my music to sell itself.  And I knew that those who sacrifice more and faster would get farther down that career road faster than myself.  But I still refused to follow the path of least resistance.

Throughout my stint in Austin, I began to meet various musicians, booking managers and mentors in the field.   Flaky musicians, waiting for producers who never showed at coffeeshops and disappointing recording experiences were all the continual existence of my world.  The music industry and its people began to manifest themselves as saturated with addiction and selfishness.  I saw people who had fallen into difficult times.  I also saw good families falling at the feet of the music god while neglecting the spiritual welfare of their children.  My heart hurt when I lost friends or felt rejected.  Most importantly, God began to open my eyes to an existence that began to look empty and fruitless.  But in my heart, I felt pulled by a passion that I could not deny.  I knew I had this gift of writing songs, connecting to people and inspiring others on a daily basis.  I will always remember my continued grappling with my talents while questioning who I was supposed to be in God’s kingdom.  I also remember struggling with why others were living my dreams and the near tears I held back once when leaving a show for wanting it so badly.  In my heart, I longed to be doing what I loved and what I knew I was good at.

Somewhere around 26 or 27, I arrived at a monumental conclusion.  If I was ever to make a career of this music thing, I would not be able to follow the same path the others had followed.  I didn’t feel comfortable playing in certain atmospheres, so I was picky about where my performances occurred.  I was highly selective about band members, because I knew that people you spend copious amounts of time with will undoubtedly affect and change you.  I never wanted a manager who didn’t understand my vision and direction.  I also began to realize that trying to get recognized by a record label might not be my best course of action unless it was an an ideal label that respected its artists.  Rather, I decided to become an independent artist.  I would self-produce an EP and create my own “cabinet” or network of trusted designers, printers, booking people, photographers, artists and videographers.  I would be able to control what I created and the image I would ultimately project into the world.  This would force me to become creative in both revenue generation as well as promotion.  I realized after a conversation with a band manager that I would be viewed as either a pioneer or a purist who was holding onto the way she believed about certain things.  Though challenges were undeniable, I still felt compelled to try.  I had grit, and I knew with some hard work, something could be achieved.

I have often felt that even if I did fail at this, I would still be happier than never having tried.  With a father who started his own business and a grandfather who was a gifted salesman, I felt like it was in my blood to pursue an entrepreneurial path.  Now thinking about business plans for my music, I am challenging myself to see things as truly beneficial or not.  I have both 3-5 year goals as well as short-term goals.  My current goal is to complete my first EP by the end of August and have it mixed, mastered, packaged and ready for all of you by mid-September.  I am blessed to have Michael Estok and Vibe Dial Studios for this.  After the release of the EP, my next goal is to play 4-6 shows in various cities in Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama and Georgia to begin this train down the track.  All aboard.

I want to create something meaningful and relatable.  I believe in my vision of a career of writing, playing and singing music while involving great people along the way.  But I guess the larger theme of what I’d like to do is to change the musician stereotype of self-centeredness.  Throughout my endeavors, I want to incorporate the aspect of service into my character and my business model.  By spreading revenue to positive organizations as well as helping with benefit shows and selecting service venues to play, I believe this will help keep me grounded and give back to communities small and large.  I believe in the need for more musicians to perpetuate a healthy perspective by viewing our gifts as something we’ve been given.   And they are gifts we are forever indebted to share with the world for good.  May we never forget that God bestowed us with gifts to enjoy for ourselves and for others.

So now, here I am at 28.  Five years after I began writing my first songs.  I hope at this point, I have a better head on my shoulders than once was there and a little more savvy in the way things work.  I know I have much to learn and will always be learning.  But here’s to future goals, projects and endeavors.  Let’s all work to have the best attitude and be both thankful and effective with the gifts we’ve been given J