from all angles

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.


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

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.

Great article (and extra links) at this Fast Company article.

It takes so much more than great music to get noticed these days.  Which is ironic since having great music would put you miles ahead of most of the dreck being foisted upon the listening public, but that’s another post.

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs

The video of the entire, historic interview with both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs (available for free at iTunes) had me enthralled last evening, keeping me awake well into this morning.

One of the things that struck me was the genuine admiration the two share for each other. At one point Gates is quite candid in revealing that he is awestruck by Jobs’ ability to see things that others simply don’t, to map a path through the future in a way that makes total sense after the passage of time, but in the moment is seen as a visionary and daring move.

I am curious what Steve Jobs has in common with sports greats like Wayne Gretzy. This article at Wired makes quite clear that there are those among us who visualize the future with such insight that even their most successful contemporaries sit in wonder… “how’d they do that?!” Anyone who captures this elusive trait in a bottle will surely make a fortune.

A discussion point : I’d be quite interested what you think Steve Jobs and Wayne Gretzky have in common, what they “get” that us mere mortals struggle to understand even when it is explained in explicit detail.

It was 30 years ago today that the world’s first “practical” personal computer went on sale.

On June 5, 1977, Apple Computer released the Apple II.

A watershed event in the history of computing, the history of creativity – hell, even in plain ol’ history – Wozniak and Jobs enabled millions of us computer geeks to have an available outlet for our creativity.

I remember being so jealous of my friends with Apple Computers.  We were stuck with a TI-99/4a.  We didn’t even have an Atari to play games on.  Of course, all of that changed with the advent of the Macintosh (which our family’s computing life centered around from the first 128k model), but that’s a different anniversary.

For today, congratulations Apple!  And keep rocking Wall Street!!

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