In my article, Completing Your Release in Your Lifetime, I outlined several reasons for taking action now for releasing your own record. These were motivational reasons, designed to pump you up and give yourself leverage to get you thinking, "Hey, this is possible, and I'm going for it!". I thought about the possibility that even if you bought into the reasons and you agreed with them, you may still be hesitating. You may have decided to release your own record, but you've put off starting it for six months, one year, or until you win the lottery.
My focus this time is to get you to understand the importance of starting -- now! Not in six months or a year from now -- but today! I want you to understand the dangers of procrastination, where you put off doing something until you've completely forgotten the original idea, and lost all motivation. No, you're not going to finish your record one day after reading this article, but I hope you will understand the importance of taking daily actions that will keep your project constantly moving forward.
OK. You've decided to finally record and release a record. What possible difference could it make if you wait six months or a year to begin? Why, think of all the things you can do! You can save some money, improve your chops, hunt for a killer signal processor, upgrade your studio, fire the drummer, restring your guitar, and on and on...in short, anything but recording and releasing your record! You've even put off the planning process, which involves outlining exactly how you intend to make your dream a reality.
I'm here to tell you -- it makes a difference. Making a big decision like releasing a record takes courage and faith; to fail to act immediately on that decision will cause your decision to wither and die. Inaction on a new decision is like planting seeds in a garden, then failing to water, weed, fertilize, and protect the new plants. You must follow up a decision with action. I don't mean twelve hours of non-stop recording, or a twenty hour drive to the nearest CD duplicator to check out the facilities, but small, simple, daily actions that will help to keep yourself mentally focused on your goal.
Even going a few days without action can cause you to lose the initial momentum you've provided yourself by making a decision to do something. If you wait long enough to take action, you will have to go through the entire decision-making process again, and you may not be as clear on just why the initial decision you made was the right one.
Imagine each day that goes by (without action on your part to support your decision) as a day when your brain can accept possibly unwanted, negative information, capable of derailing your plans, and overturning your decision. Your friends, family and co-workers, when faced with the decision you have so excitedly shared with them, may begin by playing devil's advocate and tell you all the problems you may be facing. They may object to the time the project will require; they could argue about the cost; they may simply dismiss the whole idea as a pipe dream. Since you haven't really started doing anything yet, you could give their arguments and 'friendly' advice more weight than they deserve. Before you know it, you have re-thought the decision and you have changed your mind. But, if you have begun taking actions that tell others around you (and your own brain) that you are serious, you are moving forward, and you can't be swayed, then you will most likely stick with your decision.
Proof of this is the following: if you were thinking about changing your mind about completing something, but you were already 90% done, how likely do you think you would be to drop everything? Not very likely, I would imagine. How about if you were only 50% through with something? Well now, you might say, now is a good time to cut my losses and quit. But you'd be less likely to give up than if you were only 25% completed. At 25% completion you'd be less likely to quit than if you were only 10% through.
My point: the very first, initial actions you take towards the goals you have decided to achieve (however small) makes you that much less likely to change your mind. Additionally, you've maintained or increased the momentum you gained from making your initial decision by your performance. You have demonstrated to yourself that you aren't just all talk and no action; you have the capacity to follow through. The likelihood you will continue to proceed with further action remains high.
Too often, people tend to view their decisions and the work required to implement their decisions in the largest sense. They might view the steps to releasing a record like this:
Nothing wrong with this list as an overall plan, is there? Try asking the owner of the plan, "What can you do today to help this plan along towards completion?", and you may get a response along the lines of, "Nothing," or, "I don't know," or my favorite, "You can't expect me to write 12 songs by tomorrow!" For best effect, imagine a whining 11-year-old delivering that last line.
No, I really do not expect anyone to be able to write 12 songs in one day. The key here is to look for something, anything, you can do today to help your cause and support your decision. If you can't write 12 songs in a day, can you write one song today? If you can't write one song today, can you record 15 riffs that are potential song material? If you can't record 15 riffs, couldn't you come up with 5 riffs? If you can't think of 5 riffs, couldn't you do some research at the library or on the Internet looking for material describing how songwriters get their ideas? If you don't feel creative at all, couldn't you finally read the manual that came with your reverb unit to get familiar with what it can do? The manual could give you ideas on ways to use your equipment that you hadn't thought of before.
I want you to understand there is always something you can do, even with only 15-30 minutes a day, that will give you the satisfaction and feedback that you are making progress. Your small, daily activity proves you haven't just stated your preference for releasing a record. You haven't just clarified your dream of recording an album. You have decided to make your dream a reality and your actions back you up.
Worst case scenario: you've just decided today that you're going to record and release your first record. Surely there's nothing you can do tomorrow except bask in the glory of having made such a phenomenal and courageous decision. Just spend all day looking proudly at yourself in the mirror, patting yourself on the back, saying "Well done, well done!" Wrong!
Action is what's required here, not congratulations. I'll give you a few ideas as to how you can busy yourself and, at the same time, rescue you from your ego.
A great thing to do immediately after making a decision is to write it down. Committing a decision to paper makes the decision real; you can read it for yourself. It's all there in black and white! For whatever reason, people tend to believe what they read more than they believe what they hear. Take advantage of this aspect of humanity by writing down your decision or, better yet, typing it in huge letters on the fanciest paper you can find. The credibility of your decision will be enhanced by such a lavish presentation.
To further support yourself in the future, write down as much as you can remember about how you made the decision. All of the good points and bad points (remember, you decided to go for it, so there shouldn't be an overwhelming number of bad points) should be listed in as much detail as possible. Jot down any initial plans you had thought through, sketch out your album cover, write the album liner notes, outline any ideas you had about collaborators or business partners. All of this information will help you on your darkest days to remember why you are doing what you are doing. Believe me, the initial rush of excitement and energy can be used up rather quickly and you need to be able to go back and review your thoughts at the time you made the decision.
Another good idea is to immediately begin working on a plan, outlining how you hope to make the release date you have set for yourself. In my article, Completing Your Release in Your Lifetime, I give an example of how to put a plan together for achieving a CD release. You can then modify the plan to allow for your unique circumstances. A plan will help you to level the work required to get your CD completed. This way you don't set a target date for one year from now, and expect to do all the work in the three months immediately prior to the release date. If you are going to delay writing songs until you find a partner to write with, you can plan to use the time before then to investigate your options for marketing and promoting your release. You might also set some time aside in your plan for doing the mundane work of setting up your new record label as a legal business entity. Prior to that, you may have to plan to read a book on how to set up a business, or plan to meet with someone who can help you through it.
One benefit of the planning process is that you will get a feeling for the number of things needing to be done that are not music-related. These tasks are perfect for filling those days when the creative muse has decided to desert you, and you can't seem to play your way out of a paper bag.
A plan isn't intended to be a build-once-and-forget-it item; it requires regular review to determine if you have been overly ambitious or if have underestimated your capabilities. Feel free at any time to make necessary modifications. It's almost impossible to think of everything in advance, so you will be adding items to your plan throughout the life of your recording project.
A third thing you can do is to try to find other musicians who have done, or are currently doing, what you hope to accomplish. This is called networking, and it will save you plenty in terms of headaches and in making too many preventable mistakes. Simply talking casually with other independent artists can reveal some great ideas about what you can and can't do. You can find out what works and what doesn't work and why. Some places you can start your networking are: your local music stores, your school music departments, local and national music conferences, or on the Internet. The Internet is great because it doesn't matter how small a town you happen to live in; you can begin to make contacts with independent artists like yourself who can really help. They will also probably be very encouraging and supportive since they are going through the same things you are.
If all else fails and you can't think of anything to do one day, get a tape recorder or a pen and paper and write a review of your unfinished CD. Make it a great review too; five stars, essential for everyone's record collection. Talk about what makes it so great, and be sure to mention what a thrill it will be when the second record is released. This exercise in self-promotion and self-motivation will help keep the dream of releasing your record alive and growing. Remember -- never give up; never, ever give up.
Dan McAvinchey is a guitarist and composer living in Raleigh, NC.
He believes every musician or composer has the power to write, record and release their own music.
His 1997 CD release on Guitar Nine was entitled "Guitar Haus".
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