Defense to Offense

In one of my old raps I say that D.O. stands for “Defense to Offense.”

This was before I came up with Defy the Odds standing for D.O.

It started from video games.  It’s what I would say when I’d steal the ball and go in for a dunk while playing NBA Live back in the day on Playstation.  A good defense can lead to scoring opportunities – not only in a basketball video game but life as well.

The problem is a lot of people only play defense.

They are cautious, on the fence, and even worse, they guard what they have because they are scared that someone will take it.

Gary Vee talks about this a lot on his daily podcasts.  They are all defense, I’m all offense he often says.

The point is – you need to be on the attack, you need to be trying, doing, and implementing.

When you are on offense you aren’t always going to score.  You will get blocked.  You will miss the shot.  You will fail.

But you have to keep shooting.

It reminds me of how Mike D’Antoni has changed the NBA.  In the late 90’s basketball scores were 80-68 – lowest they’d ever been.  Then he was hired as a coach and instructed his players to shoot every chance they had.  Don’t let the shot clock get to the last few seconds, put the shot up.  Players like Steve Nash thrived as he became a two time MVP.  Their team, the Phoenix Suns started putting up high scores every night.

But it won’t work in the playoffs naysayers said.

While the Suns never won a championship, the Warriors have won two of the last three and have continued to revolutionize basketball with their approach.

Basketball scoring has gone up across the league as teams look to duplicate the success the Warriors have had.

Fan interest has gone up as well.  People want to see offense.

Music wise its the same thing.  Some artists play defense and want to protect their music.

Don’t let it leak, I want it to roll it out when everything is in place.

Don’t let it leak, its not polished.

I want to release my album and that’s it I don’t want to do more releases.

That was the old way.  Work on an album for years, spend big bucks to get it mixed and mastered and push it for a few years.

Look at the new way.

I recently read about how an unexpected event led to Lil Uzi Vert’s popularity.

He was stage diving at a show.  He lost his phone.  It contained his new album.

If you played defense you’d think – how do I erase the phone or how do I pay the person off so that the music doesn’t leak.  You’d be in a panic.  The label would be especially worried.

But if you are on offense? You are proactive.  Lets get ahead of it.  Lets just put it out.  Lil Uzi Vert released the music on his Soundcloud.  It was rough.  It was unfinished.  But it connected.

XO Tour Life became one of the biggest songs of the year.

Offense.

Don’t worry about the L’s.  Keep attacking.

 

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I Will Not Lose

I think one of the reasons that Jay-Z is one of my favorite rappers is because alot of his music is motivational.  It is based in business and competition.

It’s perfect workout music.  And the gym or jogging is where I listen to music the most.

Some people workout to heavy metal or hard rock because of the aggressive sound.

I love hip-hop because of the aggressive rhymes… the aggressive words.

Jay-Z’s mantra is “I Will Not Lose”.

It’s not “I will win”.

The thought of losing is more urgent and important than the satisfaction of winning.

To me it speaks of perseverance.  Of hanging in there.  Even when the going gets tough not giving up.

Jay-Z didn’t give up when labels didn’t sign him.  He created an independent label with his partners.

When the conventional rules of the music business didn’t fit, he wrote his own rules.

Case in point – when CD sales continued to dwindle because of new media forms, he forged a partnership with Samsung for his album which resulted in him going “platinum” overnight.

He hit the top of the charts, made money and his fans were able to access his music.

In the end he won.

By choosing not to lose.

 

Hands in the air like you just don’t care

I consider myself pretty fortunate.  I do hundreds of performances and speeches and most of them go well.  But there is always ones that don’t go as smooth.  And its hard to tell when they are going to come.  I can wake up on the right side of the bed, arrive and feel great… I can even do a great performance – at least one that is similar to ones that go really well.  But sometimes the crowd just doesn’t respond.  They don’t laugh at the jokes, they don’t applaud at the punchlines, and they don’t put their hands in the air like you just don’t care.  It’s more like – they just don’t care.

I remember that it used to bother me.  If the crowd wasn’t responding, I would react.  My energy level would come down.  I might not try things that I would usually do.  But nowadays I consider myself a veteran.  I’ve been in the position before.  So I think of a few things…

When the audience doesn’t respond as they usually do, it makes me want to go harder.  Be better.  Not in a way that I have to force it, but I feel like – time to really step my game up.  I look at it as an opportunity.

I say to myself – It’s not me, its them.  I’m not criticizing the audience, but I know that I have enough experience to know that my material is good, sometimes people just don’t connect.  Just like a talented comedian might do a show that he has done hundreds of times and people don’t laugh.  That’s not to say you don’t have to self-evaluate.  I do, but I just don’t take it like its the end of the World.

And finally, I realize its not as bad as I think.  People respond in different ways.  Just because they aren’t outwardly showing their appreciation, it doesn’t mean that its not connecting.  After the show, I had students come up and tell me that they enjoyed it.

But it also made me realize, sometimes its selfish to expect an outward showing of appreciation.

I’m trying to connect with high school students.  I’m trying to connect with the ones that have some issues and things going on in their lives.

It’s easy to get response from the youth that are feeling good.

I remind myself that someone like a teacher doesn’t always get that response.  Oftentimes they don’t.  They might be appreciated years later, and they may never hear those words of appreciation.

Bottom line, don’t search outside for validation – look inwards.

 

Realistic

Realistic.  It’s a word used by parents, by teachers, by some friends.

It’s a word despised by kids, by dreamers, by entrepreneurs.

We see it as limiting.

They will say “Why dream big?  You are not being realistic.”

Dreams aren’t supposed to be realistic.

I like to think of the saying – aim for the moon because even if you land on the clouds you will be okay.

If you only set your sights on the trees, you may not get hurt from falling from a branch to the ground, but you also won’t get the benefit of the chance that your dream can come true.

Of course there is also balance.

You can’t always have your head in the clouds.

I see rappers aspire to be the next Jay-Z, or the next Drake.

It’s great to have these aspirations.  But it can also set yourself up for failure when you don’t achieve their level of success.  Both of these artists are one in a million success stories.

What should you do?

I think the best thing to do is aspire to be the best you.

In the words of Oscar Wilde – “Be yourself, everyone else is taken”

 

 

Glocal

I was rewatching one of my favorite movies “Up In The Air” starring George Clooney when I heard Anna Kendrick’s character talk about the term Glocal.

I’m sure the term has existed before but this was the first time it really resonated with me.

The concept is simple : think global, act local.  But as an entrepreneur – and especially a music entrepreneur – it takes on further meaning.

As an entrepreneur your focus may be local.  If you run a neighbourhood bakery, you aren’t marketing to countries around the World.  But as a musician, you may sipping coffee at that bakery thinking about how to get your music out to people around the globe.

With the Internet and social media this is easier than ever.  You can post a song and people from every continent across the globe can hear your music instantly.  It’s tempting to focus on these markets.

One thing I hear often from artists is “Well, China has a billion people, if I can get even 0.1 % of this market then I’m good!”

The problem with this way of thinking is that they have likely failed to do any ground work to determine how they can even get that 0.1%

Other artists will tell me “I want to take my music to Japan – it will do really well over there.”

But how do they know it will do well?  What are they basing this information on?

When an artist tells me this I don’t judge them.  I don’t correct them.  I’ve been there.

I’ve wanted to have my music heard around the Globe.  But the thing is, I took trips.  I went to conferences, I made contacts, I went to those places and with that knowledge I learned what it took to break into different markets.

I used to think going to the States was going to make me as a rapper.  That if I went to the states they would embrace me with open arms.  They appreciated real Hip-Hop.  But then I went to New York, Miami and Chicago and found that we were facing the same challenges – indifferent crowds and more love for out of towners.

It led me to realize that I needed to focus on my core.  My city.  My neighbourhood.  Once I had done that, then I could start looking abroad.

Once you grow local you can go global.

Step by step.

 

Getting the grant is only the first step

It’s exciting to tell an artist that they have received a grant.

Especially their first one.

There is nothing like that feeling.

The Government is giving you money to record your music!  The way YOU want to do it.

However, one thing I’ve seen many artists fail to realize is that getting the grant is only the first step.

The music? That’s the easy part.  At least it should be because that’s the fun part.

The challenge often comes with completing the grant.

I’ve seen artists struggle with this step time and time again.

I’ve even seen artists have to send a cheque back to the grant organization because they failed to complete the grant properly.

Oftentimes this will be an artist that has just received one of their first grants.
Its usually not a big grant – not the 10,000 album grant or the 15,000 marketing grant.

It’s often a demo or showcasing grant – roughly 1500.

These artists want to move on to the bigger grants.

But one thing that I think is –  How do you think you can handle 15,000 when you can’t handle 1500?

The cold reality is – they can’t.  At least not yet.  They aren’t ready.

I’ve received over 200 grants and one of the key reasons is my track record.

How do you get more grants?

Take it step by step.  Complete it on time or ask for an extension – and then complete it.

Become a success story by maximizing your grant.

Then you’ll be on your way to receiving more..

 

 

Please Remove Me…

I had sent out a booking email to line up shows for a tour.

My goal was to get a steady stream of bookings, but instead the early returns were “unsubscribe” or “please remove me.”

I remember how much this used to get to me.

The natural inclination after rejection is to question yourself, your skills, and your services.

Am I not good enough?  Do they not like me?  What did I do?  Will I have to go back to a day job?

I don’t think that way anymore.

I recognize that it is part of the process.

Instead of looking at it as a negative, I reframe the response and take it as its getting me closer to my core customers and clientele.

The bookings eventually come in.

I had to suffer the temporary pain of the rejection, but the long term gain is when I start to book a few shows, then a few more, and then all of a sudden my schedule is packed.

And that more than offsets the rejection.

Key lesson learned – focus on the wins and not the losses.