You can't move forward without falling down ;)

If you read my blog now & then you know I’ve been reading Ariel Hyatt’s “Music Success in Nine Weeks.” I began to do this because she was running a blogging contest, and who wouldn’t want to win some help with publicity. Although I’d still like to come in first, I’ve found working through the book is valuable in and of itself. I did go through it in a dilatory sort of way a dozen months ago, made some notes, made a few changes. But anything that required a more thorough application of elbow grease was pushed aside.

Now I'm working through it again, I find I am more focused in my goals. I have made some changes. I am writing my newsletter again, I am exploring ways to made my blog more visible on-line, I’ve found more communities to participate in. I’ve been more proactive in thinking about who I am, what I do, and what I want to say about it.

I am often asked for advice on how to be more successful in the music industry. I guess people look at me as someone who has a secret, or who knows the right people, or who was born under the right star. Ha. Nothing could be further from the truth. I spent the better part of my life going in circles, digging deep ruts, walking backwards, falling flat on my face. But somehow I found a way.

The first truth that I’ve come to know is that any change that you desire is, in most cases, possible. Achievable. Dreams can come true, goals can be reached, visions can be actualized. The second truth I’ve come to know is that getting from where you are to where you want to be ain’t easy. That’s why many of us talk about writing songs, or books, or getting out the art supplies, etc. Talk.

Cause in order to get where you want to go… you have to know where you are. You have pinpoint your location on a map so you can see which route to take. I tell my students, that means… accepting. Accepting where you are. 'I am here. I have no skills, I have no idea, I have no money. I do have, this burning desire, I do have, these good friends, I do have, a mind. I can read books (from the library). I can look things up on line (in the library). I can borrow resources, I can ask people who are doing it how they got where they are. I can find mentors, people who will support me with feedback and advice.'

Most of all, you can find the time to put in the time. If you want to write, that means you have to write. It costs next to nothing to write. You can write on cheap paper you bought at the dollar store, you can write on you computer. If you want to draw then you buy a sketch book and pencils and you fill up both sides of the paper on every page til the book is full. If you want to sing then you get up every day and sing scales and songs.

I'd start, and then stop. I stumbled, I fell, I got lost, I screwed up, but somehow I found a way forward.

Slowly, over time, I have evolved. I thought this ‘transcendance’ was impossible for me. I felt, I didn’t have ‘it’. I felt useless, unworthy, hopeless, lazy. Why bother. Who was I kidding. Just wash dishes for a living, collect your pay, read a few books, dream a few dreams, til it’s over. Don’t rock the boat, don’t give yourself airs, do the ‘right’ and ‘prescribed’ thing. Don’t colour outside the lines.

Screw that.

So today I’m a fully fledged creative. I get up every day and do music, not dishes (lol). I don’t clean motel rooms for a living (don’t clean my bedroom either). I’m a self-educated person. I write, I sing, I paint, I compose, I blog. I went from being so terrified that I literally stammered when saying ‘how are you’ to being able to speak to a ballroom full of people, sing opera on stage, and chat with people at music conferences, tweet-ups, open mic nights, and more. Ask me how I did that, I will try to answer. Ask me how you can do that, I will try to answer. But I suspect you already know: figure out where you are, figure out where you want to be, and set out to do what you need to do, learn what you need to learn, practice what you need to practice, to take baby steps towards your dream.

So, how does a shy singer learn to sing without shyness? How does one foster confidence when your knees are so weak from fear you can't stand up?

By starting where you are, not denying, not judging, but accepting. 'I am so shy, I’m terrified to even walk into a voice studio, never mind open my mouth. But with the right teacher, maybe I’ll figure out how to do that. I have to. Even if I crawl in cause I can't stand up. I have to. Cause I don’t want to spend another day not singing.'

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Creative Connections

I hope this is interesting reading. I’m blogging about ‘Social Networking’ as I blog my way through Ariel Hyatt’s book. I’m really glad I signed up to do this as I feel just the act of reading the book and thinking of ways to use the information has been helpful, and it’s prompted me to take action. And IMO, anything that makes us 'do' instead of 'talking about doing' is worth it.

In Chapter 4 of “Music Success in Nine Weeks” Ariel suggests researching 50 blogs that might be interested in reviewing your music. Since I’m not really, at the moment, pitching myself as an artist with music to be reviewed, I put that aside. But it did make think about how I could broaden my internet presence. So I tried to be creative in my approach.

I looked for blogs on shyness, read several, and I added a couple to my blogroll. I sent notes to the authors to let them know I’d visited, and was impressed enough with their information and philosophy to include them on my resource list.

I also rewrote some older blog posts, then set-up an account, and submitted two articles to, @ So far one has been accepted and published.

I had added my blog to when I first read Ariel’s book, but I wasn’t keeping up to date. I revisited my account and updated my information. I added the widget to my blog as well.

I’ve been on twitter for some time now, and I’m active in the local twitter community. I attend “tweet-ups” once or twice a month, local tweeps have attended some of my gigs, and I was pleased to participate as a performer in a ‘twestival’ fund-raising event last fall. I also noticed that I’m now on 116 lists on twitter, mostly as a blogger.

I have a flickr account and had uploaded some pix to it earlier last year, but hadn’t posted anything new recently. I took a picture of a drawing I did and uploaded it to my account @ and then posted the link to twitter and facebook.

I applied to to be on the site.

I added my blog to and posted a widget on my blog to keep track of visits.

On to Chapter 5, then. Ariel says we need to think of ourselves as a commodity. I think that’s hard for many of us. We don’t want to be ‘marketing’ or ‘selling’. Yet we have these things we spend time, money and energy to create that we would like people to be interested in. Our music, our gigs, our books, our creative mentoring sessions, our voice lessons, etc. Ariel talks about creating relationships with fans, which is what I try to do. I’ve been blogging and sending out (occasional) newsletters for quite a while, and I have yet to ask anyone to buy anything. I might share where I’m playing or what I’m working on, or what I’ve learned. I haven’t been very good at keeping up with the newsletter distribution, I’ve focused almost exclusively on blogging. I have resolved to send out a newsletter once a month, just chatting about my journey, about what I’ve recently published in my blog.

Now, if you sign up for my fan list on reverbnation, you receive a free download of my song, “Wilted Heart”. And that means you’ll get the occasional newsletter from me. I had some nice emails back from several people after I sent out the January newsletter. I like that.

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What I've gained from Social Networking

One of the best things I did over the past four or five years was find mentors in marketing. I’d come across someone in my travels, and I’d check out the resources they offered. Like Bob Baker and his ‘Guerrilla Marketing for Song Writers, Musicians and Bands’. Like Debra Russell and her ‘Artist’s Edge’. Like Ariel Hyatt and ‘CyberPR’. When I find someone like this, I sign up for their newsletter.

I find good mentors provide a lot of free information in their newsletters, podcasts, seminars, etc. I make it a point to gather as much intel as I can from what they are telling me. I’d do things as simple as… look at the bottom of Bob’s newsletter, where he provides links to where he can be found on-line. One day I saw ‘twitter’ listed there. I clicked on it, saw his twitter page… and signed up for twitter myself. I had no idea what twitter would do for me, but I figured, if Bob’s on twitter, I need to be on twitter. When I look at Ariel’s information and she says she’s on ‘Flickr’, then I go to flickr and sign up. What’s interesting as well, is that I am likely just the sort of person they write those newsletters for, because not only do I follow their advice… but I also, when I want to have more resources, purchase products and/or services from each of them. They are demonstrating good marketing to me… and I’m buying it, lol.

This week I continued to work through Ariel Hyatt’s “Music Success in Nine Weeks". I read chapter 3 (optimizing your website) and chapter 4 (musicians web 2.0 guide). I have two different websites, one for myself as an artist, and one for myself as a composer, and the market for each site is naturally quite different. Ariel has some really good suggestions on what to do and what not to do with your website, and how to manage contact with your fans.

I transferred my artist fan list to Reverbnation in 2009, after hearing Ariel speak at a songwriting event. I’d known I needed to do it for a while but I’d avoided doing it cause I knew it would be a pain. I had a list of some email addresses in Excel on my computer, I had others listed on-line in an old newsletter server that I’d used, and I had others coming in on my hostbaby email sign up. I had to amalgamate all 3 lists and make sure that no-one was being duplicated. Then I had to send out a note to everyone and ask them to sign up with my new list manager, Reverbnation. Some did, some didn’t. So I lost a few. But it’s done now and working better. (By the way, IMO Reverbnation is one of the best sites around for indie musicians. I use it to host my fanlist, to send out my newsletter, to facilitate free downloads, to create ‘tunepaks’, to post my shows, etc. It’s great at tracking your stats, and it provides widgets you can put on your blog, etc. I’m really glad I heard about it.)

I started writing this blog ages ago… not sure if anyone would care to read it. I just wanted to share my process. In my mind, this is an extension of my teaching role. When I work with my students, I talk to them about my past, what I’ve learned, what I’m working on, how I’m working on it, what I’ve experienced, what I think about. There’s a million voice teachers out there, the one thing that I have that’s different from anyone else, is me and my story. So I marry good healthy vocal technique with the idea that we can grow beyond our programming if we are willing to take a conscious journey and explore our own potential. I am the shy singer, who grew beyond her shyness, by striving to free her voice. Singing was the catalyst for my emancipation.

In addition to blogging, I participate in several songwriting forums. I’ve learned so much from being part of a greater community of musicians, artists, composers and writers. I’ve reviewed other people’s work, I’ve had feedback on my own, I’ve soaked up information on the music industry, been warned about scams and sharks, and heard about upcoming events. I still participate now with the goal of networking with others and also to pass along what I have learned. What’s really neat is that over time I have developed relationships with quite a few talented, interesting and creative musician-types. I love it when I get to see some of them live and in person when I attend songwriting events or conferences -- or local "tweet-ups". Yes, it takes time to maintain this level of networking, but it has brought to much to my life. I have a huge ‘tribe’ of friends who love what I love, and we support each other in the journey. That’s what ‘web 2.0’ means to me. Interacting with these friends, meeting new ones, sharing what I know, feeling grateful for those who give so generously of their time & expertise to help me in what I’m doing.

I posted this on Facebook today: “I have a list of promises to myself on my fridge, and at the bottom in big letters I have: "I PROMISE MYSELF I WILL NEVER GIVE UP". On my bulletin board over my computer I have my 2010 goals posted... and I've written to the side, in felt pen, "Live the Dream"... it's easy to get bogged down in the day to day 'who am I kidding' struggle. Sometimes I have to step back and look at the big picture. See how far I've come, how much I've learned, and how my slow, sometimes faltering steps have brought me here, to this place of musical living. Then I am grateful, and resolve to perservere.”

Who am I when I am?

Oh boy, what a struggle. Yep, I’m talking about Chapter Two of Ariel Hyatt’s “Music Success in Nine Weeks” It’s a tough one. It’s called ‘Your Perfect Pitch’, and it’s about figuring out who you are as an artist or writer or whatever, and putting it into a few succinct words. I’ve done this very successfully as a voice teacher (long to sing, but too shy to try?). I can get my head around what I might say about my vocal music (Enya meets Loreena McKennitt crossed with Bjork). But when it comes to my instrumental tracks, I felt stymied.

I wear more than one hat in this creative world of mine. I dabble in a lot of things. I teach singing, I write songs, I write music for film and television. I’m also a visual artist, and I like to write as well. I plan to record an album this year, so I’ll need to work on marketing for that. I pitch music to music libraries and music publishers. I attend music conferences, I have websites, business cards, I meet other artists, composers, songwriters, etc. Refining a phrase that describes who I am as a composer makes sense to me. But I just couldn’t figure out what that might be.

Finally I got the idea that I’d go and see what some TAXI screeners said about my work. I looked up my submission history and made a note of words that they’d used to describe the impressions they had of my tracks. I did some searching through an on-line thesaurus, and made a list of words I thought might be a fit. I also looked up the details of listings I’d been forwarded to, searching for composer names that might have been included in the specifics. Then I went and listened to some of the composers.

I came up with these phrases:

Vikki Flawith: Innovative compositions for film & television. Modern orchestral, ambient world, quirky electronica. Avant garde inventor meets domesticated cat. Thomas Newman crossed with Tiny Tim. Colourful, inventive, unique.

I choose Thomas Newman because I write orchestral mixed with contemporary percussion and synths/sounds. I choose Tiny Tim because he’s funny (strange?), and that describes the avant-garde and often quirky part of what I do. It’s like “serious” meets “oddly engaging” = Vikki Flawith. Lol

I had to go to and fill in the forms within the allotted time.

I ended up with: “My name is Vikki Flawith and I am a composer specializing in film and television. I write modern orchestral, ambient world, & quirky electronica. I'm like Thomas Newman crossed with Tiny Tim. Contact me if you're seeking innovative music for video, film, commercials, or tv shows.”

I also had to email that to Ariel – let you know what she said!