By T. Perry Bowers
I was talking to a friend the other day about what I want to do with the remainder of my professional life. As some of you may know I have shut down the recording side of my studio business. It was hard to do, but the Corona Virus Phenomenon has inspired me to look deeply into how I spend my time.
The recording business was one of the territories of my life that had become more of a burden than a benefit. I’ve written about it in a previous blog so I won’t go into it again here. Suffice it to say that it has become abundantly clear that it was the right decision to make. I have already rented all of the rooms that used to be the recording studio to musicians who are now using them as practice spaces.
This has opened up a channel of time for me. The time that I spent dealing with bringing in and managing recording clientele is now open. It’s not a void that I want to fill without thinking about it very carefully. I’d rather have more time to shoot my bow, practice aikido, drum, and play guitar than to just fill that void with something that hasn’t been meticulously considered.
But deep in my heart I know I want to help people. I want to help people with their professional lives. I know so many talented people. I know graphic designers, painters, yoga instructors, musicians, experts in building biology, teachers, tree care experts… All of whom seem to not know how to promote themselves.
It was about five years ago that I started writing blogs and posting videos online for my business. It started slowly. I had about ten ideas for my “Video Tip of the Day” series. And, I had very few ideas about blogs. I knew I had some wisdom and experience locked up inside me, but I didn’t know if it was enough to sustain a blogging and vlogging regimen.
Well, five years later, I still have the discipline to sit down almost every morning and write something, Hell, today is my birthday. My routine of writing is so engrained and so rewarding that I didn’t even want to take a break. Being with my morning tea and my laptop is an absolute pleasure.
I still manage to come up with ideas for little videos to make here and there. Although, now that I don’t have a recording business, I may have to find some new material. This is why I’m writing this blog today. What is that new material? What are the fabric and the texture of the rest of my professional life going to feel like?
I think part of that texture will center around helping people do what I did five years ago. Break out of my shell. I hope I can help people realize that they have something to offer and to put that thing out there into the world.
I don’t know if you’d call me a coach or an agent or a consultant. I just know that I want to be involved in people stepping out of their bubble. Some so many people are good at self-promotion. I’m not saying I’m great at it. I’m just saying I’ve taken the step into the realm and it has worked for me.
When I first started to promote myself online, I had a little help. I hired a guy to look at my marketing strategy. He helped me put some protocols in place to direct my “advertisements” to the right people. It was a bit of a sales pitch on his part. He sold me some website software that I didn’t really need, but he got me going in the right direction and for that, I will always be grateful.
I was already writing blogs. He encouraged me to have them professionally edited. That was great. (Since then, I have discovered some software that does almost as good of a job, so I’m using that now). The point is I stepped it up a notch.
The day after we met for the first time, I recorded my first “Taylor Sound Tip of the Day” video. I was unsure of how folks would respond. I felt a little like a fraud. “Who am I to be advising about being a musician? I’m just a rehearsal space guy.”
But after I put the first tip online, a few people commented and a few reacted, I knew I was on to something. (Honestly, I was just happy I didn’t get mocked). I also started to get comfortable with my audience. I wasn’t giving pro mixing advice to advanced sound engineers. I was trying to help people that just wanted to start playing with people again – guys and gals in their forties, fifties, sixties and beyond that wanted to be in a rock band and play some great covers.
My audience is also novice players who may be proficient at their instrument but may not know the intricacies of playing in a band in a rehearsal space or getting their first gig. I’m good with that. I love to inspire regular people to start playing music together. I think playing music in a room with other people can be a very healing and empowering activity. It doesn’t matter if you’re a virtuoso or a true beginner.
When I was younger, I wanted to be a professional musician. I sent out demos (cassettes) to record companies. My bands played all kinds of shows. We practiced daily. We had dreams. Not too long after I entered my thirties, I let that dream go. I turned my head to more realistic goals. I started to focus on my rehearsal space and recording business. When I did that, I stayed in the music game. I kept rehearsing. My band kept recording albums. We still played a ton of gigs.
Every day I was in a musical environment. When I started to market myself online, I didn’t realize how much I knew that I simply took for granted. I knew how to tune drums. I knew all the different kinds of pickups you can put in your guitar. I knew how to wrap cords. I knew how to eliminate feedback on a mixing board. I knew these things from doing them and being around musicians every day.
Part of me was embarrassed that I never made it as a professional musician. That voice inside my head was saying, “What do you know? You’re a failed musician. Why would anyone ever consider you an expert?” I had to get over that. To be honest, I started just faking it. I told myself, “just act like you know what you’re talking about.”
After I shot, edited, and published about four or five of those videos, the ideas about what I could talk about just started to flow. I had a list of fifty “Tips” on my phone. Now that I knew who my audience was, I knew what to tell them. I started to feel confident that I was providing quality information to people that needed it. I have friends (who aren’t musicians) who tell me that they watch all of my videos just to learn about what it takes to be a musician, even though they don’t aspire to be a musician.
The world of the musician is a fascinating and deep one. There is more and more to learn every day. But, this blog isn’t about that. I started to write this blog because I wanted to share my experience of coming out of my shell, bursting out of my bubble. Maybe some of you are ready to do the same thing. Maybe you feel you have something to offer the world. I assure you that you do. Every soul has a gift. Everyone has an inner voice. What is that inner voice saying to you now?
For me, the hardest thing I ever did, in terms of self-promotion, was to make a short video and put it up on social media. I felt so exposed when I published that first video. When no one laughed at me, I felt relieved.
We all have to decide for ourselves what social media is for us. I have spent a lot of time considering that question. I do not take it lightly. One of my dear friends said that Social Media is a double-edged sword. You can use it for good and you can use it for evil. And, I agree with him. On my personal accounts, I put things up that may only gratify me and a few of my family members, but when it comes to my professional sites, nine posts out of every ten are things that help. (1 out of every 10 is a post actually promoting my business, which also has to help if it is going to work. More on that later…).
When I first started to break out of my bubble, I was afraid I would come off as narcissistic. The voices in my head were telling me I was a fraud and it was all just an exercise in self- aggrandizement. But what I told myself to get over that self-destructive self-talk was that I was selflessly trying to help people. When I say selflessly, I mean that. I had to separate what I wanted for myself financially from the pure notion of giving people information so that their journey as a musician would be easier.
Once, I did that, those voices were no longer relevant. When I write a blog like this or I put out a “Tip of the Day” I set the financial well-being of my business down for a minute and just focus on the knowledge that I want to pass on. There is an energy and mindset that goes along with selflessly helping people. I think people can read a phony. They can smell a sales pitch a mile away. I think the idea that if you promote your business, you’re going to become some stale used car salesman type stops a lot of people from being successful in business.
To succeed we have to get over this. The way I did it was to figure out what I could do to help. I was having a conversation the other day with my daughter. I was telling her that I thought that business people don’t get the credit they deserve for being creative. Some people think that being in business requires “selling out” and I agree with them. But selling out can be one of the most difficult things because you have to provide something that someone wants and needs to be able to sell it to them.
In music, people say bands sell out for putting out a poppy sounding record or sticking to a songwriting formula, but if people buy that music and like it, how is that bad? I know many bands that would practically give their right arm at a chance to have a hit record. My point is, don’t be ashamed of providing a product or service that people want.
Also, realize that YOU are much more than your product or service.
Which brings me to my last point. What does all this online “inbound” marketing accomplish? It accomplishes two things. One, it establishes trust. You have to have trust for people to want your product or service. In my business, people have to trust me with thousands of dollars with of musical equipment in their rehearsal space for which I have a master key. That requires a lot of trust.
Secondly, and maybe the hardest to swallow, is establishing yourself as an Expert. People have to think you’re an expert in your field if they are going to buy what you’re selling. I can hear the voices inside your heads right now saying all kinds of negative things to you. I’ve been there. But no matter what field you’re in I can almost guarantee, if you’re thinking about going into business in that field, you’re an expert in it.
Let’s take yoga for example. You want to provide yoga classes online. That’s your business model. You’re a trained instructor and you’ve been practicing yoga for ten years. You’re an expert. Compared to the common person, like me. I would trust you with almost any question I had about yoga. That’s the other thing about trust. You have to be honest. If you don’t know the answer it’s ok to not know it. Being an expert doesn’t mean you have to be perfect. You can always refer someone to someone else who knows more about a particular aspect of your business.
Again, the point is, get out there. Don’t worry too much about getting your business cards, your website, your business license, etc. Start giving people information about what it is you do. Stand proud and tall. I guarantee you will find that you have a lot of knowledge that you didn’t even realize you had. Create some content and stick your neck out. It might be the scariest thing you ever do, but I bet it will also be the most rewarding.