Looking Backwards. Springing Forward!

This month. It’s March! And it’s almost over. So quickly it slid in, and so fast it’s marching out towards April.

This is the time of year when I like to take a little time to reflect back over the years since I shifted gears and went into a different direction. It was nine years ago when I launched my new company (www.gloriagreenentertainment.com). The date I chose to go live with my website and the announcement about my new venture was not random. I chose March 20 — the first day of Spring — for a reason. Actually, for many reasons.

Spring has always been the season many people associate with new beginnings. Life! Fresh starts. It’s the time of year when early flowers force their way up through the ground, and trees start greening up; others budding in preparation for the blooming show they’ll give us later!

I had every reason for wanting to make a fresh start in my career when I did. So the seasonal timing of it seemed only fitting. And while I have no regrets for forging ahead with Gloria Green Entertainment, there’s a lot I would do differently. If there was a time machine that I could jump into, and take the knowledge I have gathered, I would definitely apply that information, and make some major changes to my launch, my focus, and my time; doing things a little differently than I did starting out in 2009.

Looking back over the past nine years, here’s what I learned.

  • People will use you. This was not a new concept to me. I’d met users throughout my life, and even worked with some, no matter what job I was in. But striking out on my own, where my income was dependent upon closing deals, it was definitely frustrating after spending hours in meetings and/or conference calls; even traveling to the location of potential clients, only to figure out what they wanted more than hiring my company was gathering my expertise.
  • People will take advantage of your knowledge and network. I’d been somewhat forewarned about this one. After reading a blog by an Industry Insider, I attended a seminar he held that was designed for the many music industry people who, at the time, were all finding themselves in this new “entrepreneurship” world all around the same time period. His caution…don’t let someone pick your brain for a cup of coffee. It was interesting that he used that term, because I’d stop counting the number of people who wanted to “grab a cup of coffee,” and “pick my brain,” which was just code for “I want to know what you know and who you know, but I don’t want to actually pay you any money for it or invest in you by hiring your company.” I was surprised and then somewhat sad that so many other of my industry associates were having the same experience. Some of us even dealt with some of the same “brain pickers.” It was one thing to receive email from complete strangers. Those I could blow off, questioning the gall of someone to think what I spent over 20 years building, they could just take advantage of over a $3.00 cup of Starbucks! But then there were the people who worked in the industry; other areas, or perhaps just not as established as where I was. Those are the ones where I had to take a step back, shake my head and wonder why (sometimes after the fact), they could think it’s okay to take advantage of their former industry peers.
  • People will want something for nothing. Probably the biggest lesson learned is just how much some people want something for nothing. It’s one of the biggest issues I caution my students about even today — to beware of the “friends” and other people they might know who ask for something (input on a project, help with artist development, assistance connecting with people in the industry, access to network and favors, hours of phone calls “bouncing ideas around!” etc.), but don’t want to give anything in return! I would even have been happy if they were willing to barter our expertise or services. Once, I had someone who wanted my help in public relations for one of their clients. I was willing. But weeks later, when I asked the same person if I could see a sample copy of a management contract they had for one of their clients, there was silence. No return email or text…for weeks. Until I happened to run into that person at an industry event, and asked them in person. The excuse was to blame their partner who didn’t want to share information that they had paid for. I went home from that event with the “REALLY?” expression still on my face. What the heck did they think I had just done for them?!

There are many lessons I learned over the pat several years. Actually, anyone working on anything over the course of time, will learn lessons that they wish they’d known sooner, and with the additional experience that years bring you, discover which of those things they would make a point of not to repeating.

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Springing forward into the coming years, I’m more ready now to deal with all of those same things today than I was all those years ago. I am moving ahead with many things that’s to come, which not only includes relaunching Gloria Green Entertainment later this Spring, but also continuing my full-time job as a college professor teaching Music Business to the next generation of music industry executives.

Lessons learned. Time passed. After looking backwards at my mistakes and successes; I’m ready to look forward to my next season. And so much more…

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What’s College for Anyway

One of the more frequently asked questions my students hit me with on the first day of school: Professor Green, How many absences can we have?

classroomWhat do you mean “how many can you have?”

Absences aren’t a given for the number of days you can plan to miss each semester. Having an excused absence is reserved for those family and health emergencies. And if it’s not excused, you probably shouldn’t be missing. But that’s not what many college students think. Their desire to know the attendance policy on the first day of class is so they can plan the number of days they can miss over the next 12 weeks of school.

I haven’t had a semester yet since when there hasn’t been at least one camping trip, cruise, or family vacation that some student didn’t knowingly plan at the start of school year; or on the backend of the fall or spring breaks; and even sometimes during finals week; trips that take the student out of class during the regular school schedule. Outings they either try to get excused or want you to change your schedule to accommodate theirs, and try to take the exams early, or turn in assignments late.

“My family planned this cruise six months ago,” I’ve heard. My response is, “the school calendar’s been posted online for over 18 months. Did no one think to look at when classes started?” Of course, not because they just assume all of their professors will be okay with it.

Then there are the tardies. Not the barley slip in before the door is closed or right after the roll is called type of tardies. But the walk in 10-15 minutes late regular routine of some students. That is mind boggling; especially when it’s not an early morning class. Since I teach mostly upperclassmen, I’ve often reminded them that they needed to start treating school just as they would a “real” job — people get fired from jobs for being habitually late, I tell them. I’m as sure that they all hear me as I am certain that I’m not the first person to tell them that.

I have several students who happen to have me for both a morning and an afternoon class on the same day. One day one showed up for the afternoon class, having missed the morning one. When I asked why they weren’t in the morning class, laughter was what I got; then a little honesty. That honesty was in the form of “I don’t even have an excuse.” That was the answer.

booksI was a commuting college student all four years of school, and lived about 18 miles from the campus. I had to get up early, even for a mid-morning class, because finding a parking space that wasn’t a half of mile from the building where my classes were, was challenging for anyone showing up after 9 a.m., and the school shuttle services weren’t always reliable, especially if you happen to show up seconds after the bus pulled off, and didn’t have the 15 minutes to wait for the next one.  I showed up early, hung out at the library, the student union, and sometimes in my car — with no electronic devices to entertain me, and then walked across campus to get to my class on time.

I don’t see the same “do what you can to get to class on time” commitment or attitude coming from many of my current students.  It’s usually the same two of three people who come in late, always with the “I couldn’t find a parking space,” excuse. Truthfully, there are plenty of parking spaces on the campus; they’re just not all located close to the building. Arriving early on campus would help to guarantee a better spot.

When I was in college, tuition wasn’t anywhere near the amount it has grown to now. Students are graduating with enormous amounts of student loan debt. And I guess that’s why it’s baffling to me to watch as some of them do what they can to not show up, not engage when they do show up, or talk or play on their devices in class, instead of listening to what’s being taught. The thought of me paying thousands of dollars per semester without trying to get my full money’s worth, is a foreign idea to me.

Last month, a friend of mine teaching at another university commented online that he was irritated that when he showed a video in clas,s that tied into what the students were learning, one student asked if material from the video was going to be on the midterm. When he said no, and explained why he was showing it, several students packed up and slipped out of class once the lights went down. Others, he said were on their smartphones and their laptops, and still others decided it was nap time. It was obvious that he was frustrated at the thought that there are students who only want to hear what they have to remember for an exam, and not actually learn about the business they plan to graduate in and try to find a job.

I knew exactly how he felt. Not only had I heard of that happening to other faculty members at my own school, but it used to happen to me. That was until I changed the syllabus to reflect that anything discussed, shown, or read in the class, and as assignments, including any guest speakers, videos, or articles, are all subject to being a part of the midterm or final exam. Because, as I explain to the students, I don’t give busy work. I have assignments that are designed to help them process and apply what they’ve been learning, and to give them a fuller understanding of the business. I no longer tell students what will and won’t be on exams, until we do a review for that exam.

But no one should have to trick students into learning; or even wanting to learn!

What’s college for anyway?

I paid for my own tuition. Maybe that’s why I took getting up and being there seriously. I paid for my own gas to drive the car I was blessed to have been able to use, passed down from my oldest sister. I worked a part-time job from high school through my first few years post-college (yes, working both a full-time and a part-time jobs during a period).

College for me meant learning something in a field I had an interest, and then graduating and getting a job in that field. I was an average student, taking over two years of undergraduate time before I started understanding just how to study. But I learned, and I did, and I graduated. And I got a job. Returning for Graduate School was so that I could go into another direction that I’d become even more passionate about. And again, having to pay for my own education, while working, meant taking it seriously enough to at least show up.

Now, I will be the first to say that college isn’t for everyone; and especially not a 4-year degree program! But if you’re going to bother to apply, accept, pay, and attend school, why wouldn’t you want to do all that you could to succeed?

Show up. Be on time. Read the material. Ask questions. Complete the assignments. Do your part to learn!

One time my mother told me, to paraphrase, “You’re not doing me any favors by going to college.” Her point was that whether I was successful in college or in life, that was on me.  And she was right. She’d already done her part of getting me past the finish line of high school, and encouraging and preparing me for college. What road I took from that point was my responsibility.

But there are times I seriously think that many students feel that they’re doing us, their professors and administrators, a favor being at the school; coming to class! And sadly, for many of them, they will have a difficult time finding a job. Or being able to keep one if they get hired.

There’s No Such Thing as an Overnight Success

I spent my Friday afternoon at a workshop designed for faculty and staff development.  The speaker started off by sharing some of his background and his personal and professional journey, which was very impressive. At one point we had open dialogue about some topics, before he returned to his powerpoint to share some final thoughts and quotes.

We talked about the importance of taking care of our Mind, Body, and Spirt. But there was really just one line in a quote that stood out to me the most; almost the moment he read it. The sentence was “…the will must be stronger than the skill.”

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The entire quote stuck out at me as I immediately went from the gym and an athlete, and thought about music, and some of the students I’ve taught, artists I’ve worked with, and people who have asked me questions about how to break into the music industry. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen this quote in its entirety, but oh how true it is.

Every new semester I have students in my class who raise their hands when I make the rounds of asking what each student is interested in doing after graduation, and get to the “be an artist” part. By mid-semester, my questions are more direct.

“What are you doing today to help reach your goal of becoming an artist; to be someone who can see success in the industry?”

I’m always careful to tell them that success isn’t measured by how much money is in their bank account, how many cars they drive, or how large their house is. But for those interested in being a commercially successful artist, they need to be working towards ways to make a living at what they do just as much as someone who wants to be an attorney, a teacher, an accountant, or an NBA All-Star.

But what I often find are those students who say they are artists, but their actions don’t line up with their words. When pressed, I find that they are not (and in many cases have never been) out performing anywhere. Many don’t have websites, haven’t posted any of their music online, and are inactive on social media, other than their own personal social media pages where they share photos of their vacations, and videos of pets and babies.

By the end of the semester, my message is this: You can call yourself an artist all day long. You might even have an incredible voice, and back in high school, may have won every talent competition you entered. But if you are not putting in the work today — writing, recording, performing, promoting yourself — then it’s highly unlikely that you will see any real success; because your actions don’t show that you are as serious about doing this for a living as you claim.

It might seem harsh to tell college students that they aren’t real artists, but it’s also a reality check. For those who really have “something deep inside them…” they need to understand that it’s not just the skill (talent), but has to also be their will — a willingness to put in the work — and that it “must be stronger than the skill.”

I’ve worked with some talented artists before, both at a talent agency and my own company, and in both places it wasn’t hard to tell which artists had the drive, who worked hard, did everything they could to improve their skills, increase their exposure, worked it at every opportunity they had. Versus others who sat back, doing the least amount — not willing to practice (sing, play, dance) on a regular basis; or sacrifice with less TV watching and more band practicing; doing less Instagraming selfies, and more posting updates of what they are working on, where they’re playing, what they’ve been up to. Getting out there and performing in front of audiences, working on their website, learning about style, stage presence, and branding are just as important as being able to sing, because you have the voice for it. In other word, being willing to do more of the hard, less glamorous stuff.

An industry associate of mine recently posted online a list of comments attributed to Tyler Perry, regarding building your platform; something she said her mentor had shared with her. Her mentor told her that within the list, she was not doing well in two areas. One of the things that applies here is this:

“Stop wasting your time on TV, Games, Dumb stuff, & People…”

Does that mean never watch television, never play video games, or to become a hermit and never be around other people? Of course not. But for those who are serious about achieving their goals, following their passions, and not just sitting back dreaming about what they want to do “one day,” it means making sacrifices and actively working at doing what you need to in order to help accomplish those goals. It also means taking back some of that time when you’re doing something else (sitting in front of the TV, the computer, or on a smartphone), and instead using that time to work on your craft, improve upon your talent, and get to the place you want to be — to become a “champion” in your field.

What Did You Get for Christmas?

Did you get what you wanted for Christmas? Was it a brand new guitar? No? Perhaps you already have one that’s been collecting dust because you never learned how to play. Or maybe you play a little, but haven’t figured out how to go from amateur hobbyist to a professional guitarist. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to play guitar and work professionally at it, but haven’t found a teacher who can also share tips on making it in the music business, then meet singer/songwriter, and classically trained guitarist Robert Arthur! 

 
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In addition to his one-on-one personal lessons offered locally in Nashville, TN, Robert is now accepting guitar students via Skype and FaceTime. A graduate of the University of South Carolina with a Bachelors degree in classical guitar performance, Robert was a full-time guitar teacher in Union, SC before moving to Nashville in 1992. He has toured extensively with country music artists Brad Paisley, Jeff Bates, The Henningsens and many others, and has performed with legends like Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings, and shared the stage with a number of other country music stars. 

“My guitars have seen all the lower 48 states, Canada, the Caribbean!” Robert Arthur

As a studio musician, Robert has spent many hours in different types of studios, recording hundreds of sessions, from very low-budget demos to major label records. As I songwriter he has been blessed to have had three major publishing deals, and over 100 songs recorded by small independent country and Gospel music artists, and major-label acts such as Chris Young and Brad Paisley. One instrumental cut with Paisley was nominated for a Grammy.

Robert wants to put his vast experience to work for you helping to equip you in many styles, on acoustic or electric, and to share his special insights for the guitar playing songwriter! He is passionate about the guitar and would love to put that passion to work for you! Contact Robert Arthur at: SirRobArtMusic@bellsouth.net for more information about pricing, scheduling, etc.