One of my very favorite under-the-radar blogs, Why Advertising Sucks, posted a fantastic essay on Pride and Ego this morning.

It’s a bit of wonderful writing (which is nothing new for them), and their point is absolutely spot on. It’s a fine line to walk, pride versus ego, and one that requires vigilance and discipline… two things also needed for any kind of longevity in the music business (or any creative endeavor).

Be good people.

Be proud.

Don’t be a dick, though… confidence, not arrogance.

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Earlier this year, I was on tour on the east coast.  Stopping through Philadelphia, I remembered that on my previous trip, I missed out on getting a Philly Cheese Steak.  When I told people I had gone there, they immediately asked, “Did you get a Philly Cheese Steak?” which, to their disappointment, I replied, “No.”  I couldn’t let that happen again.  Besides, I never had one, and they’re probably pretty good, right?  Seizing the opportunity, on this trip, I asked our host where to go for the best.  He thought about it for awhile, trying to sort between the ‘tourist’ places, and the ‘legit’ places.  Finally, he decided on the one – the best Philly Cheese Steak we could get.  I was excited!  We said goodbye to our host and hit the road, heading downtown to stuff our faces.

Upon arriving, I noticed a line down the block and around the corner.  “Wow,” I thought, wondering what the ‘tourist’ places were like seeing that this one was so crowded.  We got at the end of the line and my friend Jason commented, “You’re getting on the Philly Cheese Steak ride.”  We both laughed and tried to keep a good attitude for the long wait ahead of us.

After an hour and a half, we were finally inside, but then noticed that a turnstile began, with even more people waiting to order their sandwich.  Jason gave up, and left for a walk, wishing me luck.  I couldn’t bail out now.  This sandwich was going to be fucking amazing!  I mean, look at all the people waiting.  The walls were lined with signed photos of celebrities saying that this place was “the best.”  This is THE REAL DEAL.  I’m going to have a legitimate, certified, glorious Philly Cheese Steak. 

When I got up to the counter to order, the cook didn’t even say anything to me.  He just looked at me.  He had been making sandwiches for hours straight, and wasn’t in the mood for conversation.  I told him what I wanted and he responded, not with words, but by dropping some sliced meet on the grill and shuffling around the piles of peppers and onions.  I moved my way down to the register, where the woman ringing people up also said nothing to me, just looked at me.  I told her what I had ordered and she rang it in; the numbers appearing clearly on the back of the register.  I handed her a bill, she gave me my change, and I thanked her. But, she still said nothing.  It’s ok, I thought.  After all, they were super busy.  The sandwich will be worth it all. 

I went outside and found Jason.  He congratulated me on finally getting the sandwich.  We were both in anticipation as I opened the wrapper.  As I opened it, the smell of the ingredients came forth – bread, steak, peppers and cheese.  I bit into it.  After a few bites, Jason asked me how it was.  I thought for a moment about an answer, realizing that I just waited almost two hours for this piece of cultural phenomena.  “Well,” I hesitated, “It’s bread, steak, peppers and cheese.  That’s really it.”  Anyone could make it.  In fact, Cousins Subs has their own version of this, as likely do many others.  But if you order it from them, you wouldn’t consider it “the real deal.”  You’d consider it to be just bread, steak, peppers and cheese.   Unfortunately, that’s all any of them are.  I recalled my friend’s disappointment when I had previously told them I didn’t get the sandwich on my last trip to Philly.  Now I wondered why they felt this way.  Don’t get me wrong, the sandwich was good.  It just wasn’t anything beyond the simple ingredients it consisted of. But the hype, the history, and the legacy of this sandwich’s name implies a magical, perhaps mythical, edible that is the “be all, end all” of sandwiches.

The point of this story?  I’d never want people to experience this with my product.

A great post on the craft of songwriting : Starting Badly, by my friend Max (his band Superchick was Steve Lilywhite’s first signing as head of Columbia Records).

My favorite section is his closing :

I believe it was Gene Simmons who said, that he writes 100 songs, out of those, he likes 10 which he plays for other people. Out of those, they only like 1. So his ratio is 100 to 1. I understand that. Music does not flow from my fingers like lightning from a God, rather music for me is born in the fields of labor where I turn over rocks and rocks and rocks looking for coal that can be forged into diamonds. When you hear one of my songs on TV, it is the product of many creative people and much time and sweat and tears. I write bad music, I really do, but if you write enough bad songs, magic is bound to happen.

Don’t wait to be good, start now. Give yourself permission to make bad art.

Don’t wait to be “good” (whatever that is, anyway)… start now.

Thanks, Max.

Why was I inspired by this post at c|net, of all places?

Because it absolutely gets it right… whether you’re more comfortable living on the razor’s edge and taking chances, or by sitting back and playing it safe, the only path through life and a career is one that is true for you.

Some people were meant to lead, some were meant to follow. It doesn’t make one superior or inferior to the other. At one point in my life I referred to that dynamic as the difference between queen bees and worker bees, and the person with whom I was talking got quite offended. I think I now have a better understanding of why my metaphor wasn’t taken in the spirit it was meant, but that story from my past has been on my mind ever since – over 20 years!

A little snippet from Tobek’s fine article :

This reminds me of a chapter of the Tao Teh Ching by Lao Tzu:

He who knows men is clever
He who knows himself has insight
He who conquers men has force
He who conquers himself is truly strong

mervgriffin_100px.jpgMerv Griffin passed away this week at the age of 82 (nice video obit at CNN). When I review everything he’s accomplished in those eight decades, I wonder how the man ever slept.

In addition to being an actor, singer, and television host, he found a myriad creative ways to be successful in the entertainment world as well as the business world at large.

He not only dreamed up two of the most ridiculously profitable game shows of all time – Jeopardy and Wheel Of Fortune – his vast empire included everything from horse breeding and gambling to real estate and television production.

Music was also in his heart – he composed the theme song for Jeopardy, a little ditty that had earned him “close to 60 or 70 million.”

His story inspires me to stay creative, to keep pushing my boundaries, to keep trying new things.

A man who is still quite alive and relevant, Quincy Jones is someone who hasn’t let his age put a damper on his creative demons.

quincyjones_100px.jpgOne of the masters of music production of all time, Q is still pushing, still engaged in the present, still expanding his influence and reach.

The Man Himself is offering video podcasts… giving us mere mortals a glimpse behind the scenes of some of the most successful albums of all time (check out his myspace page for more, or read more about it at CNet).

He’s even gotten involved in my little niche of the music world, with a production music library of his own.

We’re given such precious few days in this life. All of us watch history passing by – very few of us make history. Take a cue from these extraordinary people and aim a little higher than maybe you have been this week.

I hate to divert attention AWAY from this here blog, but I must send props to Josh and Axel, who give me something daily, which I first laugh at, then think, “yeah, right on!

For instance.

Moby press photoSo everyone and their mother has, in the past few years (decade?), wanted to license a piece of Moby’s music for a commercial at some point. Or, if you’re not in the Ad World or the Music Biz, you’ve heard Moby behind a tv commercial or in a mall, guaranteed.

And he’s done something quite cool, on the face of it, by offering his library of music for free use in productions such as student projects, non-profits, indie films, etc. (read about it at the Burst Labs blog).

Only one problem… most of the music he’s giving away ain’t all that. I’d go so far as to say it’s boring and banal and blasé and bland and, well, it kinda sucks.

Now I’m not trying to get into a “my-music-is-legit-and-your-crap-isn’t” debate, because there’s no point – and good music is good music – but even die hard fans of Moby have got to be wondering why the majority of these tracks were ever given the opportunity to see the light of day.

I’m all for giving something away, or trying something new, or attempting to make some noise through punk marketing and alternative means… but when you do, these days, you’d better offer something of quality, something people actually want.

And maybe people do want this stuff. Moby certainly gets the benefit of the doubt by being arguably the most successful licensed musical artist of all time, so many will assume these tracks are gold – or not even critically evaluate them. But can you imagine the impact this idea might have had if he’d offered actual killer new material for licensing? Instead, I’m left with the impression that he had a bunch of demos he wasn’t sure what to do with, so why not offer them on a gratis basis?

I’d rather take the time to build something extraordinary, something worth talking about, something your fans and clients will share with friends for the right reasons and with no provocation.

To have a chance of making it in this business, you have to rise above and be more than unique. You have to be outstanding, even if you’re not going to charge for it.