overcoming trauma

Q: How do you proceed in a traumatized situation when you have both a mental and emotional attachment to music? Thanks much!!!

A: I can only do my best to share what has worked for me as I walk this wandering & wondering path of mine.

Your comments remind me of my recent visit to LA. I was there for a music conference, but also played the tourist in Hollywood. It seemed like everywhere we went, someone wanted to sell us something. A tour, a map, a t-shirt, a photo with someone dressed up as Elvis, etc. I felt like I was fighting a swarm of locusts greedy for the few dollars I had in my wallet, saved painstakingly over several months in preparation for the trip. It exhausted me and I found myself getting more curt with each outstretched hand.

There was one guy in particular who came up and tried to sell us a map to movie star homes. "No thanks," I said politely, as I stood by a star engraved on the sidewalk, waiting for my mom to take a picture of it. He continued, stepping into my Mom's shot... "No, thanks," I said again, moving so that Mom could focus on the star & the star's name... and he followed, and he continued to tell me how wonderful his map was. I finally said, "We do not wish to buy a map! Get out of the way!"

It must be very hard to feel that people you trusted to show you the way actually got in the way and that time was wasted.

First, you have to let go of the past. There is nothing you can do about the time that was lost... all you have is this present moment. Regret, recriminations or guilt will not change what has gone by. At the same time, you can regard your experience as a lesson, and ask yourself what you have learned as a business person in the arts.

Because I wasn't there with you and I don't know all the details it's hard to be specific, but in my own journey, I know I bowed to the experience of someone who I thought knew what they were doing... and found out later they really did not (nor did they know it)... and I wasted 3 grand recording songs that should never have been produced as more than worktapes. I learned that even if someone is more knowledgeable than you are, they still may not have the 'right stuff'.

Secondly, don't let the past stop you from going forward. If you love music, then do music - get up and play it, sing it, write it. Don't let anything stop you. It's the experience, in the moment, of creating & doing music that feeds the soul. Remember it's why you do what you do. Let the music heal you.

Thirdly, research & explore & learn about the business. Decide what success means to you over the next 3 to 5 years. Get an objective & non-involved-in-your-career business/artist coach that you can use as a resource in supporting your journey. Get legal advice whenever you are offered a deal, research the background & credentials & testimonials of your potential 'helpers', and tread warily. A great resource for this is Just Plain Folks - there are some great mentors there who will answer questions & give you advice.

I don't know if this answers your question... but it's what came to my mind as I mused over it the last few days.


Here I am in limbo, caught between Christmas and New Year's with more time than normal on my hands... but not feeling much inspired to create anything. Last night I played through several work tapes of songs I created over the past year, but nothing leaped out and grabbed me. Today I toyed with two or three lyrics and added a line here or there. I've been staying up too late and not getting out for enough walks, I think.

Still, I've been musing over the New Year, like most people, and thinking about my goals for the next few months. I definitely want to get a new computer - a faster, bigger model with lots of RAM - to run the little orchestra programme I bought myself for Christmas. The design project I just finished (and worked countless hours into the night on) will pay for that.

I really want to take some of the songs I've written and develop them for a new age/ classical folk a la Enya kind of feel for a mystical-magical-fantasy CD. I also have some instrumentals I've written I'd like to develop further.

I'd like to write a little more... I have a couple of ideas of novels I've been mulling over in my mind, and I also would like to write something on the subject of creativity & healing through the creative process - something very close to my heart.

I also would like to improve my skills on various instruments - guitar, harmonica, mandolin, pennywhistle... so I think some lessons are in order, but I don't want to commit to anything until I try out my new, rather busy teaching schedule.

I want to spend more time with my Dad, and my Mom, which isn't as easy as it sounds as they are long divorced and live in different places.

I hope to continue the trend of doing more performing locally & perhaps also spreading that a little, to Seattle and Vancouver.

And I want to travel a little more... maybe Nashville, certainly California again... continue to learn all I can about this music industry, the business of songwriting, and indie artistry.

I hope you all have a happily creative and magical New Year!

be the architect of your own success

Q: Hello, I think you have a great blog. I'm a newbie in the music industry and agree with your points on defining success for yourself and ways to improve as an artist.My situation has been that I'm a solo artist and the people that I've met along the way who offered help (people that have been around for years, a few famous) have done greater harm than good for me. Now it's the end of the year and I feel semi-jaded on how to approach the future with the wounds of my past. How do recommend treating the wounds for a newbie in the industry, so that past wounds don't become future phobias?

A: Well, first I think we have to acknowledge that we all have bad times. We've all had projects fail, or folks take advantage of our lack of experience, songs rejected, unsuccessful gigs.

But I think it crucial not to put the strings of your career or your artistic life in someone else's hands. It's very easy to listen to the propaganda of those who promise (I'll pitch your music, just pay me for a demo) to help you make the 'big time'.

Since it's New Year's in a couple of weeks, why not sit down and map out your own plan. Be the architect of your own life. Figure out objectively where you are now and where you'd like to be. What are your strengths? What do you need to work on?

Can't figure that out? Resource: "The Artist's Way" - it's a work book, do the work, you will find answers you didn't expect.

Define: what does success mean to you? Money, gigs, album, playing out there, what? Get really specific. Give yourself achieveable, measurable goals. Look at your artistic and creative wishes and think about how they could come true. Then set yourself daily, weekly and/or monthly routines that are going to move you towards your goal.

For example.... if one goal is to play out more in 2007... then set some steps up:

- write a killer press kit (resource: Bob Baker, www.thebuzzfactor.com)

- get a pro photo done (...check with hairdresser, who mentioned her friend the award winning photographer)

- organize your killer press kit into a EPK (electronic press kit) - this could be updating your web site with the new info & photo & a couple of strong demos

- record a couple of songs for a demo to give to those you're trying to book with

- check out local live music venues that play your kind of music, make a list, and call each of them up

- don't forget to check out open mics & house concerts.... Resource: http://www.openmikes.org ; http://www.shenandoahmusic.com/usa-musician-house-concerts.htm

- if you'd rather not/don't have the skills to play solo, head out to some open mics / songwriting events and network, see if you can hook up with like-minded musicians

- check the (resource) Musician's Atlas & do on-line research to find out about venues & events in and around your area.

- don't forget to work on playing & singing, adding new repertoire, expanding your musical horizons!

Put a to-do list together and do it.

Remember that as a solo artist you are acting as your own booking manager, promoter, bookkeeper, etc. Include research into these areas as part of your plan. Know how to keep your own books (sign your own cheques), book your own gigs, send out your own press kits. Be proactive. Resource: Dan Kimpel's "Networking Strategies for the New Music Business"

In terms of your recovery from the wounds of the past... have a ceremony. Think about what you would like to let go off.... perhaps write it all down on paper, and then shred it.... let it go... it's yesterday. Start from today.

If you have a history of relationships that haven't worked for you, perhaps it's time to look at how you are, what you think, and how you react... that brings these people into your life. I'm not saying blame yourself for their wounding of you.... but I'm saying it's time to grow beyond your programming.

I recommend taking time every single day to spend with yourself, alone. Turn off the cell, the radio, the tv, and be quiet with yourself. Write (as per Julia Cameron), morning pages everyday. And/or, go for a walk every morning. It's crucial you start to hear your own voice, and you can't do that when you are living according to someone else's rules.

You have the strength, skills & resolve to step forward. You don't have to do it all right now. But take a baby step everyday. That's what I do.

Let me know how it goes :)

Getting that 'break' - is it possible?

Q: Do you believe that one day you will get the break that you've been looking for all this time? Explain why or why not. Sometimes it feels like we get told that we don't have a decent shot in this buisness/industry. How do we skip all that negative thinking and find a more intelligent way to get our material noticed?

A: There's no one way to make it in the music industry. We all have different skills, and some may perform and some may not. We all have different goals and aspirations, and a 'break' to one of us may mean nothing to someone else.

You need to define success for yourself - and I don't think it's a 'negative' to be honest when you are making this choice. You need to decide what 'success' means to you today and then make a plan & set goals to lead you towards that goal - and part of that is assessing where you currently are.

Perhaps some of what you read as 'negative' is information being imparted to you so you can assess your current skill level against that of the pros. I don't think that's a negative either. If I clearly know where I want to go, and where I am on that path, then I've got a much better chance of actually reaching my destination.

Once you have clearly defined what success means to you, then the steps that will lead you there will become clearer. You don't have have only one musical goal, either.

I think it is crucial to recognize that once you have that "thoroughly tweaked music" your job is only 50% done. You now have to become the marketer for your music. You have to understand the industry, how to network, speak the language… be determined but don't turn people off.… make friends, not use people.

Some of the goals I've set for myself are....

perform live more often
- improve guitar playing/take lessons
- take more harmonica lessons
- get some help on the mandolin
- think about maybe learning to play bass

make better demos, cut out the middle man
- place more music in film/tv in 2007
- buy a faster stand alone system, more ram
- buy an orchestra program
- work hard to understand how to produce at a higher level

market my music effectively
- learn more about networking & do it
- visit the music centers at least once a year
- stay up to date with blogs and newsletter

develop a Christmas & a new age album in 2007
- write the music, get it vetted
- slowly work on producing the music

write more commerically viable music
- work with experienced co-writers
- complete courses at SongU & Berkeley

IMO 'getting a decent shot' at the music industry doesn't happen overnight. It takes determination, songwriting chops, and people skills to get that first break. And those same skills are required to get your second break, and your third break.… etc.

Being a successful songwriter is just like becoming a successful artist… there's a big process of learning/developing/growing & networking that often isn't 'seen' once you become established. Establish your goals and work towards them systematically with passion & 'stick-to-it-ness'.
I'm a firm believer in the impossible. :)

cheers Vikki

Recommended reading:
"The Artist's Way" - Julia Cameron (it's a work book - do the work)
"6 Steps to Songwriting Success" - Jason Blume (ditto)

we are human....

I know it seems obvious, but I remembered today just how vunerable we are to nature.

It's a bit of a story.... we don't get much snow here in the southwestern most part of BC. We tend to get rain, and maybe a sprinkle of snow one or two afternoons in the winter months. It just doesn't get that cold. Well, last Sunday snow started to fall -- not the light dry snow you get up north, but huge flakes of wet snow... which, over the next few days, brought down trees & branches & power lines all over the city. The damp snow compacted into ice and the roads were really really slippery for days - even pro drivers had problems. Some folks were (and still are) without power for days. Some folks had fender benders and some worse. And a lot of people had falls - so many, that I was scared to step outside the house.

This morning, though, I heard my Mom had fallen - and thankfully not hurt herself too badly, but enough that she needed some day surgery to put her thumb back in place (ouch). I took the day off and spent it with her, at emergency, back to place, back to the hospital for the surgery. She's over at my sister's now, getting lots of TLC.

She's amazingly resilient, my Mom, the nurses couldn't keep up with her. They kept giving me instructions, and I kept saying. "you've told Mom this, right?" Cause my Mom, at 83, is fiercely independent and looks after herself. Even when we shared an apartment for a few years, she was the one that looked after me -- not the other way around.

Anyway, as I was waiting for her to come out of surgery, I could feel how worried I was. You forget sometimes just how vunerable the folks you love are. I've spent some time in hospitals over the past year, after my Dad's stroke, and this brought it all back. I'm not ready to face my life without them!!

It reminded me, too, that I need to look after myself better if I don't want folks sitting in a waiting room worrying about me... because I've been foolish enough to let my health go. Then we get busy and it's easier to pick up fast food or eat a bag of chips than it is to make a decent healthy meal - and take a walk.

Anyway, not to preach or anything... but that's what was going through my head sitting in the hospital waiting room....