Monday, June 4, 2012

Hammers and Butterflies

Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne
If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.  ~Abraham Maslow
I see strong parallels between the butterfly in Hawthorne's quote with success in the music industry and the hammer in Maslow's quote with people trying incorrectly to achieve said success. 
I will note here that "success in the music industry" is a phrase that can mean a wide variety of things. I'm sure that by some's standards I am a failure in the music industry. I do not have Grammies. I do not have platinum plaques on my wall. But I make music of which I am intensely proud . This music conveys my emotions and it gets heard by lots of people. It is from this "successful" vantage point that I write this blog. This is by no means meant to be a "I'm Better than you" or "I know what's good for you" blog. This is just some ideas I hope are helpful to someone. 
It shouldn't be shocking to anyone at this point that the music industry is one of the most difficult industries to survive in, much less thrive in. The facts and stats are well publicized. But that's even more reason for people who want to endeavor down a path to a career in music to take advantage of every opportunity afforded them. Since positive, potentially helpful interactions are so scarce, wouldbe successful musicians must take extra precaution to maximize the minimal opportunities that are allowed and minimize the maximal amount of pitfalls and obstacles. 
The path to becoming a successful musician is so unbelievably daunting. The hours spent learning about music, practicing, playing till your fingers bleed or singing till you can no longer speak, is only the tip of the iceberg. You must have a determination of legendary proportions. You must eat, sleep, and breathe music 24 hours a day for years upon years. You are like a tireless carpenter. Every waking hour is spent in the wood shed constructing. You "hammer" away until you make the best music you possibly can. you continue this until you create music that you are proud of and you feel is worthy of the ears of the world.  Now that you have toiled to manufacture this music you should promote it with the same aggressive fury. Right?
Beware: Huge Pitfall Ahead!!!!!! Managing interactions with people with a heavy hand is a bad move. People are your most valuable resource. And it is insignificant if these people are the door guys at the venue, the drummer of the opening act, or the CEO of Warner Brothers. They are all people and should be treated as such. And I have found that the quickest way to lose a connection with a person (well it's slightly behind punching them in the nose) is to forget that fact. If you start treating them like a rung of a ladder or a door mat, they will immediately start reacting as compassionately towards you and your music as……….well, a rung of a ladder or a door mat would. I've seen it happen over and over again and it inevitably spoils a relationship that could've and should've thrived and been productive for all parties involved. 
That leads to the Hammer part:
You want the music you've created to succeed and be heard so badly. The good news is that you have that relentless carpenter's mind set.  You are well tempered from the years of struggle it took to get proficient at your craft, to create the music and get the music ready to be heard. You are prepared to attack with all your might (Plus that Eric Erdman guy said a minute ago that I need to maximize these small opportunities. This means I've gotta attack with all my resources. And he also said these people are the most valuable resource I have. Then by god, I'm gonna use them. *Holds Hammer aloft). Here it is CRUCIAL to remember these people are your friends……….they just HAPPEN to also be valuable resources. NEVER EVER forget that they are living, breathing individual people and they are more importantly people who love you and your music.  Too frequently I have seen talented musicians with great intentions destroy personal connections with friends and fans because they wouldn't shift out of carpenter mode. Put your hammer down. These aren't nails.
This is the butterfly part:
You have built and continue to build your network from actual friendships genuinely. They will spread your music with the same passion and love that you do. That is indescribably valuable. That's exciting. You have a team. You have a strong, powerful team that wants to help promote your music to the world. And what makes it even cooler than just having a team is that they are a team that are your friends. You don't have to force them to do anything. You don't have to feel bad about them helping you. They want to help you.  And since they want to help you all you have to do is let your needs be known to them. (Obviously the bigger your network the more you can accomplish, but that's why I'm telling you it is crucial to build your network the proper way). Build your network as a real person. Connect to other real people. If you have 300, 000 indifferent "friends" on said social networking site that does not equal the power of 1000 real passionate friends. Tell your friends about your upcoming show or your release or your new logo, …., but forget "hard selling' or "forcing' people to action. Don't send 200 email blasts about the same event. Let your current goals be known then go back to hustling to make more great music.. Your people will respond and their numbers will grow. The butterflies will land. Be patient. 

Eric Erdman


  1. Well said! I hate we missed your release party, but I can't wait to hear the new CD. Maybe we'll randomly run into you in Biloxy again sometime soon! :)

    1. Thank you.
      Hey. You haven't missed the release party. It hasn't happened yet. It's a week from today. So you still have time.