I had been building my music career for over 10 years.
The moment I picked up the guitar, and received praise and encouragement from my guitar teacher (he told me I had surpassed him after one lesson), I finally felt like I had found “the thing”.
I could not have told you what “the thing” was back then. I now identify it as the cure-all.
When I was 17, I was shy and awkward. I didn’t know how to express myself. In the ensuing years, my best friend and roommate would become my spokesperson (at least until I figured out that he didn’t always know what I was thinking or wanted, and I needed to speak up).
I knew I was a shadow of my former self. The fun-loving kid who was never afraid to go at his own pace, do things his own way, and let his quirky self out… That kid died when my dad died.
But maybe if I clung to the guitar, practiced hard, and became great at it, I would get all the attention and adoration I was so desperately craving. Maybe I could recover everything I had lost and gain everything else I desired in the process.
Starting Every Day on Square One
The craziest thing is that, even after 10 years of writing, gigging, and performing, I didn’t feel like I was much further along than the day I started.
I wasn’t on the road, performing and promoting my new releases everywhere I went.
The phone wasn’t ringing off the hook with journalists who wanted to cover my story.
I was selling some music, but nowhere near enough to make a living.
Adoring fans weren’t waiting for me outside my door (ouch).
And there certainly weren’t any record labels courting me.
All along I had felt on the inside that if I just had the opportunity to play on a big stage to a big audience, I could win them over and everything would be great.
I knew I had the skills to do it. So, why was nobody giving me the chance? Why did every day feel like groundhog day?
Grinding it Out
In 2011, I was going broke. Fast. And I was terrified at the prospect of losing my home, my studio, my car… everything.
I was working five jobs in hopes that I might be able to make up for the difference and somehow crawl out of the financial chasm I had dug.
When I wasn’t selling laptops, I was teaching guitar. When I wasn’t teaching guitar, I was playing gigs. When I wasn’t playing gigs, I was cleaning large, movie theater complexes (sometimes by myself). And when I wasn’t doing any of those things, I was driving between.
I was exhausted and dead on the inside.
I avoided home like the plague because my roommate was a selfish jerk. On Tuesday nights, after work, I would go to the local singer-songwriter open mic just to get away from him and the mess at home.
I would sleep for a few hours, only to wake up to face the same day all over again.
Parting of the Clouds
But it was around that time that I was introduced to a couple of business opportunities as well as some powerful personal development resources.
I started learning the ropes of what it meant to run a business.
My discoveries may seem elementary to some, but at the time these items were a total revelation:
Taking a long-term mindset. Being consistent with your efforts. Doing something every day to work towards your goals and dreams. Legitimizing your business by getting your first sale.
It all blew my mind and I was excited beyond belief.
It wasn’t long before I started connecting the dots between music and business. I knew that marrying the two would allow me to get the results I had always wanted.
So, my plan was to start fresh, take what I was learning, and apply it to my music career.
There was just one problem. I started immersing myself in the business world.
So, I went from having no time for music outside of teaching and performing to having no time for music in pursuit of personal success in business.
You see, at the time, I figured I was going to get super rich, and that was only going to take me a few years. Once I was rich, I’d be able to reengage in music in any capacity I wanted.
That’s not what happened.
What happened was that I got so heavily leveraged into my business that I forgot to take care of my own needs. In my efforts to be selfless and add value to others, I basically went broke again!
From Me to You
But my discoveries around business and music never left me. I dug my heels in and kept on.
So, in the years that followed I:
- Invested in a music industry startup I knew would add value to everyone it touched (it didn’t — it went belly up about five years ago)
- Started sharing my story, and wrote five books on the music and creative businesses (three became best-sellers)
- Also started sharing my story through my podcast, which I’ve now been doing for 11 years
- Helped a jazz musician crowdfund $15,000 for her album
- Developed social media strategies for some high-level music business people
- Ran successful social media and independent radio campaigns for musicians
- Emcee’d, organized, hosted, and tech hosted hundreds of musical and creative events
- Co-founded The Indie YYC community, which hosts several events per month for creatives (up until recent events, when we started taking it online)
- And more
But this isn’t about what I accomplished.
The key is that when I first got started in music, it was all about me.
At some point, as I continued my journey, it became all about helping others win. Making a difference in their world. Impacting those who’d struggled, just as I had.
That’s why I do what I do.