It’s a known fact that having a sense of community in our lives is a very important aspect of being human but it’s even more important for songwriters, artists, musicians and bands.
Swimming upstream and forging your own path in this new music business can be a very tiring exercise and quite frankly we need all the support and encouragement we can get.
At this very moment, it seems that the individual is cherished way above the endeavours of the collective group and personally, I think this is a very sad symptom of the modern society we live in today.
You see, underneath all of our technological advances and progress, we are social creatures and to put it quite simply, human beings tend to not function at our fullest potential in anything just by ourselves.
We need other people around us and it’s this strength in numbers that defines the power of building a community, a tribe around you and your music/art.
In this music industry it’s so important to understand the power of networking and developing a working knowledge of the music business from the inside out.
The ongoing aim of anyone building a music career is to build your own tribe of fans, like minded individuals, businesses and organisations that can help you, support you, encourage you and inspire you to become whatever you want your music career to be.
In fact, as songwriters, artists, musicians and bands, the very thing in which we all have in common is… Each other.
That’s COMMUNITY, that’s your TRIBE.
Whether we know it or not, we have all manufactured our own tribe around us and in turn, we are all part of someone else’s tribe.
The secret is embracing this fact and to use this to your (and everyone else’s) advantage.
As your tribe grows, your music career will grow plus the people around you will grow with you. This is the power of growing your tribe. It’s a place where everyone wins.
With a strong, loyal and passionate tribe behind you and your music…
You can get more people to your shows
You can get more people to buy/stream your music
You can get more people to buy your merch
You take the pressure off you to write “hit” songs
You negate the need to score a record deal
You have more opportunity to reach out to others
You feel more supported, encouraged and inspired
You receive good quality feedback in a timely manner
You are reminded exactly why you do what you do in the first place
You have the opportunity to have the best time of your life
I personally have a wonderful community of people, bands and networks that I can tap into and this was apparent to me when I was running Open Mics, organising songwriting showcases and putting on my own shows either as a solo artist or with different bands.
I’m always on the lookout to expand my own tribe hence the reason for Corey Stewart Online. I truly believe that if you build your tribe, they will come.
Nowadays, building a tribe, an audience, a community and a team around you and your music is equally as important as the music you create, the songs you write and the art you produce.
This is because your tribe is YOUR CURRENCY.
It’s your measure of (potential) success. It’s what you bring to the table when you approach anyone about anything to do with your music career.
Tribes are created on the foundation of inclusion rather than competition, collaboration and cooperation rather than exclusion and elitism and in conclusion.
Now, imagine if the music industry as a whole worked on these principles there would be a multitude of networks all helping each and every one of us to reach the same goal…
To be seen, to be heard, to be noticed and to be validated.
I just want to be part of that positive forward momentum. Come and join me.
One of my guilty pleasures is my love of the music of ABBA.
I always felt that if you wanted to study perfect pop music then study the song catalogue of Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson. To say that I have the utmost respect for these two songwriters is an understatement.
Now while Benny has been the musical director of his own Orchestra of late, Bjorn has been recently elected to the role of president of CISAC which is the umbrella organisation of copyright collection societies around the world.
It is in his role as president of CISAC that Bjorn has been an outspoken advocate for the rights of songwriters.
…the streaming economy that now dominates the music industry has put songwriters at a severe financial disadvantage. Low payouts, split among teams of writers, mean that even the composers of major hits make a relative pittance from streams despite the clear importance of songwriters and producers in crafting the material that propels the careers of star performers.
He extrapolates the above quote further in a very recent TEDx talk he gave called Rebalancing The Song Economy where he offers three ways in which the song economy can be made fairer for the creators of the currency that the music industry today is built on…
Here’s the video of Bjorn’s TEDx talk. Enjoy!
Well, what did you think of that? Even though Bjorn Ulvaeus made his fortune through writing songs for ABBA in the “good old days” he still has the humility and humanity to advocate fairness and equality for songwriters doing it tough in this new music industry TODAY.
Awesome! Makes me want to love ABBA all over again.
When I was five years old I asked Mum and Dad if I could have piano lessons.
Now, Mum and Dad didn’t have any room in the house for a piano nor, was there enough money to buy one in the first place but that was okay with me… I still had my imagination to play with.
All through my primary school years I was constantly writing stories and poems then, I was making up songs to go with the poems and drawing pictures to go with the stories. Back then I was an unstoppable ball of creative energy.
It wasn’t until I reached high school though that my interest in music really came to the forefront. The school that I went to had a very good music program which I was most keen to get into. It was there that I could really begin to immerse myself in all things music.
The instrument that I wanted to learn was the saxophone, mainly because back in 1983 it was a pretty cool instrument to play. However, they were all snapped up by other students so the next best thing I thought to learn was the clarinet, which I continued to play until I left high school in 1987.
Most of my recess and lunch times were spent in the music room practising my clarinet and teaching myself piano. It was an environment in which I really felt I belonged to and through music theory lessons, I was introduced to sheet music, manuscript paper, treble/bass clefs and a vast array of notes for my imagination to play with.
It was around the same time that I wrote my first song. This was after my best friend Andrew showed me an “A” chord on an old nylon stringed classical guitar which was given to me on my 13th birthday by my Dad (perhaps to compensate not providing me with a piano all those years ago).
This inspired me to teach myself the guitar at home which allowed me to become immersed with music 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Add to that the thrill of writing a new song with each discovery of a new chord and my life was pretty much complete.
All of my school friends were budding musicians, my whole life at that time seemed to be revolved around music, it couldn’t get any better than that.
When I left high school music became something that allowed me to escape the day to day pressures of living. Music made my growing up into a young adult a more tolerable experience.
I started up bands which seemed to endlessly rehearse but never played any gigs and at the same time picked up the bass because I could never find a bass player for these endlessly rehearsing bands.
Wherever I was working at the time I’d carry around a small notebook and pen and scrawl down song lyrics and songwriting ideas at every opportunity. I spent the rest of the time daydreaming what it would be like to play music professionally… That was my idea of Heaven on Earth and it was my goal to find it.
My first taste of being a professional musician came in 1994 when I joined a band that was going to relocate to Sydney called the “Chocolate Dogs.”
After playing some awesome warm up/farewell shows in Adelaide, we went to the promised land in convoy with swirling romantic notions in our heads of making it big, bolstered by the fact that the biggest band agency in Sydney at the time had decided to put us on their books.
We decided that nothing would stop us. “We’ll play as a cover band first to get some money coming in then we’ll start an originals band afterwards” we said to ourselves, “yeah sure, we’ll be able to do both.”
The reality was that after being shunted around every corner of Sydney playing in every shitty dive you could ever imagine, the agency dropped us after 18 months on their books. We didn’t know this but at the time but we were “that band from Adelaide” that played the venues that no-one else wanted to play at.
We then tried to make a go at playing our own stuff, the real reason why we all went to Sydney in the first place but with no real Plan B in place, poverty knocking at our door and band members arguing over royalty splits on income not yet realised the band split after one gig.
That experience was very painful, so much so that I gave up playing music and tried to have a go at living in Sydney as a “normal person.” I got a job at Aussie Home Loans and moved up the ranks pretty quickly, found love and moved in to my girlfriend’s place in Leichhardt.
All was going well but I started to feel the music calling at me. It was then that I started missing being a musician, writing songs, performing live and connecting with the muse.
On a whim I went to a weekend songwriting workshop in North Sydney and from there my love affair with music started again. I met up with people who would become the founding members of “Hot Fridge” and “Giffeaux” two bands that saved my life from the beige coloured glasses of mediocrity.Nine Lives (J Gifford) – Giffeaux 1998
I did however, become pretty obsessed with everything and playing in two bands and trying to hold down a full on relationship and a full time job took a real toll on my mental health.
I had a nervous breakdown in late 1999 and as a consequence of that I came back to Adelaide with my Dad (he flew up the day before to rescue me) and all of my belongings packed into my Mazda 323 station wagon.
The prodigal son had returned with his tail between my legs and the dark cloud of shame and failure hanging over his head.
Even in those really dark times, music never left my side. It would knock on my door but I just wouldn’t let it in. After a few months of not leaving the house (I was living with Mum and Dad at the time) I decided that I’d had enough. Not having music in my life was like living with an amputated limb.
The next time music knocked on my door, I opened it and embraced it with open arms and from that moment on my life became a process of rebuilding.
I was still working casual day jobs but I was also in bands that now had some drive and determination and were wanting to go somewhere. Bands like the Heather Frahn Band, FunkStar and OrangutangEverybody Party Tonight (C. Stewart) – FunkStar Mk 2 (Groovefunkdiscorock) 2002Shake It (C. Stewart) – Orangutang (The Funky Monkey) 2005
I started to find myself in situations that turned into great opportunities for advancing my music career.
In 2006 I had another opportunity to really make a go at playing music professionally. “Yes it’s a cover band” I said to myself, “but still, I’ll be doing nothing else.”
So, I ran with it and FIGJAM was born. We got our demos together, got out and about and networked like crazy, we played everywhere and for the first time in my life I felt that I was in control of my musical direction plus, I was making a living out of what I loved.
As well as playing in two other original bands at the same time “Liars Bench” and “Soul Trader” I was a self employed, professional musician and I was loving it.Hand It To You (M. Parker) – The Liars Bench (Curl) 2006
And even though I was doing what I loved at the time, I still came across the same type of ungrateful, difficult, tight-fisted and clueless client/customer that you hear about but think “Nah, I’m a musician, that won’t happen to me.”
But as the years went by and the novelty of being a professional (cover) musician wore thin, I started to realise that in my drive to make a living out of music by playing covers interspersed with the occasional originals gig now and then, I was forgetting the real reason why I wanted to play music in the first place.
I was starting to burn out.
There were however, some bright lights during this time. I finished and released my debut CD “Seeing Stars” in 2012, I made the decision to start building a home recording studio so I can do all my future recordings in-house and I got married to my long time partner Mara who I met at a Liars Bench gig.
But all in all, it was decided that my main musical project FIGJAM would wind up at the end of 2015 and in the vacuum left by that decision had given me some time to think. I realised that I had made pretty much the same mistakes that I made in Sydney all those years ago.
I realised that I didn’t have any balance in my life anymore and that trying to play covers to fund your own music is not as easy as you might think.
So where am I now? Well, I’m doing a lot more songwriting and recording plus collaborating with other songwriters and getting myself reacquainted with my blogging through Corey Stewart Online with more projects to be launched down the track.
For a while I had taken a long break from playing live but now I’m performing with a band called “The Ides Of March” plus, I’ve returned to the board of SCALA (Songwriters, Composers and Lyricists Association) because what better way to ingratiate yourself to the original music scene than to join an original music association.
Have I come full circle? Well, I reckon I have but I’m certainly looking at where I am and what I’m doing musically with a fresh pair of eyes and ears and that’s got to be a good thing.
What I will say though is that despite everything that has happened in my life so far, it’s comforting to know that music has never let me down, its always been there to pick me up, dust me off and be the means for me to get on with my life.
And with what has happened to me in recent months with Mara’s passing, I’m in need of some music therapy more than ever.
I would hate to think of who and where I would be if I didn’t have music in my life. It’s been there for me for as long as I remember and now, I just want to work on being true to myself and my chosen craft so I can create a way in which I can honour and repay the muse.