Bookings – and the (ongoing) art of mastering information

Trying to keep track of bookings, and all the information linked to them, is a skill or art in itself.

If you’re a musician, with a regular set, and looking to perform in pubs and clubs – fine!

It’s probably a lot easier for you, than for someone like myself, who can be asked to do a variety of different things, and is booked on his versatility, rather than the quality of one particular genre, or a fairly fixed set, or fairly fixed instrument, even. (Multi-instruments is a tricky juggling act in itself).

Either way, if you choose to spread yourself so widely, and prevent yourself from becoming too thin – metaphorically, and physically(?) – then one of the ways to do that more effectively, is managing your information well, and not relying on the brain.

I’ve done a succession of consultations over the weekend, and I’m generally happy with my system.

I have an awful lot of information to manage, and I must keep on top of who I’m supposed to contact, and when. So much so, that I’m seriously thinking about finding some kind of secretary/representative, to help me run things.

But until that day comes, I have to bear the burden of booking forms, a project notebook, (for which I use Staples new entry to the UK, called Arc, which enable you to bind (and more importantly REBIND) your notebook, so enter external notes/printouts into your notebook, without the need of a clunky folder, (torn punch holes, heavy card, stuffed plastic pollypockets,)) plenty of emails (for which I either drag and drop into Apples Reminders app, and store under a list of single tasks, called ‘w/f response’, or, into digital notebooks, by month, in Evernote, if I need to chase them up in a future month), and then there’s plenty of repertoire to keep my eye on (which I’ll talk about later), and the key to all this?

Regular reviews!

I need to maintain a weekly review, and monthly review.

Critical to the weekly review, is projects.

Critical to the monthly review, are goals, and more ‘far-out’ idea’s.

Do I really want to commit, to that hair brained idea I had 2 weeks ago, 3 weeks ago, and AM I STILL HOLDING OFF DOING THAT PROJECT?!

I’ve mentioned GTD in the past (google it).

There’s some key principles in there, for productivity, but the real practice of ‘keeping tabs on everything’, takes time, and practice.

“Don’t ask for a light load, but rather ask for a strong back.” – Anonymous

At the crossroads; battles of business and mindset

I’m at the crossroads with my ‘business’.

I’ve possibly been here some time. Almost since I dropped out of the entrepreneur course two years ago perhaps.

I’m drawn, in some ways, to acoustic music.

But mainly, I’m drawn towards specialising in music for weddings, (and the potential of being a multi-instrumentalist, for such events.)

I saw a career coach recently, and I was talking about changing jobs. I was obviously explaining everything pretty well, because he ended up saying ‘if it were me, I’d take it up a gear’.

And I also attended a marketing event, in which one of the exercises was describing to the person next to us, what it is we did. The person had to come up with 3 words that described who I am/my business.

They were “Multi-talented, musical, and interesting/wanted to know more”.

That’s pretty much what I’d want anyone to believe about me; so I’m clearly now communicating things more effectively.

A quote from Alex Ferguson recently chimed with me: “The thing about starting something, is that you’ve got to see it through. There’s no point in starting something and then half way down the road, say; ‘oh no it’s not working change it’. If you start off with a belief, see it through.”

There’s been a lot change inside me over the last few years. Music is one of the few professions that is near 100% psychological. It’s all about a kind of intuitive science. It seems possible to analyse, and reformulate, or reproduce it, but ironically, it’s not. At its best, things just seem to click into place – but not without persistent practice/reminding yourself of the critical moments of when/where your fingers need to go down, or breath to become stronger.

I may have said before, that unlike a dentist, or a wedding product, or a gym, or anything else; what you put out, resonates with something in your ear drum, then your brain, and then some kind of chemical into your blood.
So; a lot of musicians seem to suffer, sometimes, because they don’t always know how good they are, or, there’s just so much going on in their mind!

In music, that battle really is in your mind. And you have to overcome this.

Which road do you choose?

Too old for Radio 1?

How time flies.

Robbie Williams, Muse and Green Day are allegedly ‘too old for BBC Radio 1‘? (Frankly, I feel I’ve always been too old to listen to Radio 1; but Atlantic 252 fulfilled a popular music black hole throughout my teens.)
Even so, Radio 1 typically represents generation after generation of music, that never really chimes with me.
Something across the sound waves makes me tune out – be it an excessive reliance on technology, or simply a limited melody range, or an overreliance on lyrics, and not more musical instruments, solo’s a variety of accompaniments?
A zen philosophy, is the simplicity in complexity. An autumatic gearbox being easier to use than a manual – but yet more complicated to build. A human body, being massively complicated, but taken for granted! Music’s different perhaps, but a piece of technology, that oversimplifies music, perhaps makes it hard and complicated for me to listen to? I often think that people buy into an image with modern popular music, and a need to feel a part of something, regardless of whether it does them any good, rather than because it resonates with them, (if they ever get the chance to engage with anything on a spiritually based level of need?)
I’ll admit, I might sound old before my time, but ‘music these days, doesn’t seem to have much of a melody to it’. More specifically, it doesn’t seem to have ‘soul’.
One of my favourite artists today, is Chris Botti. An American trumpeter, Chris refines his performances with technology, but never suppresses live musicians with them, and – especially his more recent albums – I find a lot of happy solitude in.
I’d love to have a huge orchestra myself, and emulate his music on the clarinet, (because I think it’d do it even more justice, than a raspy trumpet), but that aside, the pop industry today – like in so many other industries, seems to be reliant on artificial materials, or sticking plasters.
Michael Bublé, is pretty much the only popular music act today, that I admire.
He can be overdone – especially more recently, with electronic sounding autotuned vocals, that occasionally go beyond a fine balance of being subtle and delicious, into rigid, and robotic sounding. (Not that the audience seem to notice.)
But he does use a live band, and autotuned or not, his voice seems remarkably flexible, and lubricated. (A duet between him and Gary Barlow last Christmas, show Barlow’s limitations for sure.. but I’m wandering into my parents home tv viewing habits now, which can be shallow at the best of times.)
So – where does the popular music industry need to go?
I’d suggest, spending money on real musicians, and investing some of their money, back into community music, so that people can play together. But even if they did that, people can be so desperate to leave their communities, who’s to say you wouldn’t end up at square one?
Much of the community music in the 60’s, was almost certainly funded by a hugely successful nationalised industrial wealth.
I have wedding clients coming to me, who frequently ask me for various songs. Often, I have to decline them, because I have an utterly different road map to New Direction, and Bruno Mars might as well come from there – to me, he’s an immature little squirt, with a pubescent voice, that couldn’t match Michael Jackson, or any of his other ‘inspirational artists’ if it tried. Michael Jackson (and his incredible producer, Quincy Jones), pushed the limits of their studio technology, but Bruno Mars? People seem to buy into images these days more too (not to say Michael Jackson didn’t, but Quincy Jones legacy was huge, and at least they both employed some fine musicians for their accompaniment, and gave them some fab solo’s).
Today, songs seem to rely heavily on lyrics. The melodies are hard to adapt into instrumental solo’s, partly because of their heavy lyrical focus, and partly because they don’t have much melodic range either. Technology, seems to limit the interdependent nature of man and instrument too.
Much emphasis is put on Line 6 amps, and other sound modules that replicate classic amps – but there’s something in the nature of digital recording, and sound sampling, that can have a place, but never replace a ban.
To me, much of the modern music is hard to listen to, perhaps because the way that digital music captures sound – in bits. I can’t immerse myself in something that’s captured in bits. A vinyl record captures all the wave forms. (I believe?)
I’m not speaking out against MP3’s, though I may in a separate blog. I just believe that the instruments that accompany singers, and even the singers themselves, need not have their talents, (or potential) limited by technology. Technology, is nearly always linear. Facebook, doesn’t show a humans multitudes, it shows a narrative. Filing, is stored in a linear fashion, apart from (perhaps), personal brain, which I discussed in a previous post (but still haven’t got to grips with).
Society is dynamic.
Orchestra’s are dynamic. They respond to a conductor, like fish respond to a threat. They move together, in ways that only an orchestra can. A computer, often requires hours of programming. It’s taking computers decades to even get close to some sounds. Then to get them to blend in, seems a waste of time?
Technology has the capacity to enhance the musical recording, and introduce us to all kinds of other digital instruments, but unless we can get those extra squeeks and pops out of them, that a saxophonist can put into his playing, the breadth of frequencies, perhaps I can never immerse myself in it?
I’d argue, we live in an already, terribly artificial economy, in which we’re surrounded by a paradox, of sterile materials, but no social interaction. A majority, don’t have savings, they have debts, they don’t have meaningful jobs, they jobs that only a few are fully engaged with, we don’t own property, we rent it, we buy cheap products, that won’t be worth anything, or last long, so we don’t really own these either. We’re given a license for software and even music on some retailers sights, but aren’t allowed to own it. Products are built to fail after a few years, so we have to replace them.
Increasingly, people have nothing with financial value, which brings us a concern for the future. And, we have recordings, instead of live music. We have recorded music, instead community music (which once was the lifeline of nearly all the music that record companies relied upon. And endless raw material, up and down countries. And one, that, unbelievably, is more or less empty! Musicians that have sold out their talent as soon as they realise it, and lost the opportunity to simply enjoy it, with fellow neighbours, just because it can sell. And the pop industry buy, immature musicians, so they can profit from it fast! It’s all part of a drive to maximise profits, or make money, and reduce costs. And to own anything real, we have to be pretty rich.
It’s a great entrepreneurial model, if you can work it. But it’s why a lot of musicians either don’t get entrepreneurialism, or get it, but don’t want to touch it, or get it, and are willing to flaunt around and make their mark, regardless of quality.
And that, to me, seems to be where Radio 1 steps in.
Radio 1, and all the corporate music industries.
And all corporate industries.
To be an entrepreneur, you need to mine raw materials, and turn them into something you can mass produce quickly. If you don’t, you’re increasingly likely to be snapped up by competition.
Then again, many rock n roll songs were similarly narrow in melody, and words, and relatively speaking, perhaps the instruments they used? Perhaps this simple approach has lasted longer than I’m willing to admit… (so I won’t; for now)
Maybe I’m just too old for my time?
Or maybe I just expect something deeper from our industry leaders?

Website design with

The Entrepreneurial Musician

An ebullient return..

OK – welcome back – after some years away….

I’ve re-enrolled on the music entrepreneurship course; and am glad to see myself blogging – here; back on The  Entrepreneurial Musician site. (And I look forward to meeting other like minded people in the coming weeks).

I’ve a bit of catching up to do – so; I’m going to take a little more of a professionally reflective approach to my work than last time (which centred somewhat more around theories); and today discuss my ‘issues’ with regards to designing a site with, who have been an excellent resource so far, and one I hope to exploit a great deal more in the near future.

The Instrumental Musician.. (& Singer)

My name is Chris Hastings, and my public site is The Instrumental Musician and Singer (please Google it – it might help my search engine results.)

(OK, ok… it’s

It’s a good place to start for anyone who doesn’t know me; and over the next few weeks, I hope to be developing a lot of service and demo pages!

I’ve found demo’s to be an invaluable resource on the internet, especially with the likes of the online music agency

The professional layout of their webpages and mp3 players, boosted my confidence greatly, that there was a keen market out there, interested in what I do, and that my intuition on having a decent site was absolutely accurate! (But sometimes the best hunches are best tested).

(I don’t know what that last bit means – but it’s kind of a journal, so..) – big, soft, simple buttons.. for the more creatively gifted??

I thoroughly enjoy designing with, because whilst a professional could probably do better, I don’t believe I could do any worse.

My services and demo page (which I tweeted about on the 23rd September), is coming together blissfully. Whilst my website currently only has 3 or 4 pages, the potential features and opportunities to develop are morish!

Anyone with an observant and creative mind, (an entrepreneurial mind?), should perhaps relish both the features and the fairly insignificant cost!

There is always a case for integrity; and the only downside, is that you may end up developing a website and not the music – but that said; any start-up, or any relaunch, (perhaps more appropriately for me), increasingly requires a stunning online appearance.

Thanks to a one day, Welsh government sponsored course – run by the School for Creative Start-ups a few years ago – I discovered a number of exciting, bold, online features websites need. All are a feature of

(One marketing trick they taught, which is particularly relevant to any desperate performer, is to ask your audience to stand up, place their hands in front of them –  either apart or together – then tweet a photograph of it. It looks wonderfully like a standing ovation…..

Basically – the closer you can get it to looking like something that Apple designed; the better. (You may quickly learn, I’m a bit of an Apple fan boy (for practical and creative reasons I like to think)).


Some of the pretty vital features I’ve been using – partly as a consequence of this course – include simple:

  • Free initial design/templates etc.
  • Twitter feed integration (highly useful for posting headlines (particularly of any news updates; and a photo timeline); and engaging with audiences)
  • Facebook integration (highly useful for displaying the number of fans, ‘likes’, performance/gig history, building TRUST/confidence that you’ll deliver, you exist, you’re real, to do what you say, (which is something I may discuss in a future post)
  • so so easy SEO (search engine optimisation) – (highly useful, for people actually finding you….
  • Drag and drop capabilities; a simple interface (like an Apple Mac, you spend your time DOING rather than playing around with settings, and eliminating virus’s/resolving bugs – which I found to be massively confusing with dreamweaver (and Microsoft – damn you!))
  • Common internet techniques – like drag and drop.. upload, download, grab, scroll, simple right click menu’s…. simple frames, simple alignments..
  • Very few bugs, and a helpful and fast responding community.
  • Ability to create a header and footer that remains accross all pages
  • ‘Do it once technology’ – which is my terminology, for only needing to put in information once, and see it across pages. So for example, any links to do with your Facebook page, can be edited all at once from one simple form in the menu
  • You even get something like £xxx’s worth of Google and Facebook ad placements..
  • Ease of use
  • Ease of use..
  • And there so many more beautiful features available too! Little features you think ‘I wish’, and fortuitously discover..
  • (So much else I don’t recall the terminology for..)

A screenshot of some of one of the nice bold menu’s available..


These are quite obvious..

Wix app market

In the Wix app market however; you get so much more (free).. instead of me writing about them – here’s just a few screenshots of apps you might recognise (including the late great SoundCloud –  which is undoubtedly useful for original artists..)

Some of these app titles may not resonate with some of you – but they are wonderfully exciting, exhilarating features, and ones worth learning about. Any designer (me basically) will tell you what a pain in the arse trying to get a stylish flow of images on your site can be.

But not with apps like flickr, for example… or YouTube… apps specifically designed for



I’d love to talk about many of these – especially, perhaps, the merchant opportunities, Shopify, and the ones that – sods law – didn’t appear as readily as I’d have liked them too when I expanded these menu’s to take a screenshot..

But perhaps you can explore these yourself.

Alter ego & the commercial musician

Being a commercial musician, usually requires selling an alter ego.

It’s a product, or a service, just like anything else. In my opinion, even the most ‘genuine’ musician, is pretty much a fraud.


Because every single song he performs, will not be a reflection of him in his present state – unless he writes songs about being depressed, and is always depressed on stage; in which case, I’d argue, he’s too monotonous to be a musician. (But then there’s thousands of depressed people out there – which probably explains why there’s a market for depressive music).

Either way – one thing most of us can agree on – is that a good website, highlights a service that someone else wants.

In music terms, it enables them to SEE AND HEAR, what someone else offers. It enables them to buy into a vision, that resonates with them.

Being seen and heard – CONTEXT

For example, one thing I possibly haven’t done enough of – I realise – is to have photographs of me, in situ, performing at the bottom of a wedding aisle; or a seated level photograph, from the other side of a wedding decorated dining table (The Abbey String Quartet are case in point for excellent website design, with images of them in a wedding venue, long before their potential clients have got married – it sets an exciting paradigm for the eager couple.)

Whether it’s the most depressing monotonous album on earth that slits your wrists – or the most sickly Michael Bublé track that floats your boat – one thing that’s universal (in our monetarily driven economy), is that mooley tends to only transfer, between people who trust each other……


I trust, to enable my customer to see and hear me.

Being seen and heard has always been the most reliable means of guaranteeing transactions in the past – and really bring me the confidence, that this process can be automated, and more readily available at Googles hands, rather than my own.

Any good website, finds you work, in your area, on your terms, that suit the clients too!

As one marketeer told me recently –

“it’s not so much about what you sell, but whether they have confidence that you will deliver. You know inside whether you’re good enough.
What a customer needs to believe, is that you’ll deliver it!”

That’s about presentation – and that’s what I find offers.

How intelligent, sensitive, creatives procrastinate the most – and a solution..

For any of you musicians, who spend a fraction of their days pontificating with tasks other than tax form deadlines, household chores, your 3 wheeled motor car repairs (originally 4), your guitar students lesson plans, or that gig coming up that requires you to arrange and learn a one man band version of a Stravinsky symphony by 3pm (or at least that is the sensation/image) – and the same musician who tries to forget it all afterwards by drowning his stress at the end of the day with alcohol (note: I’m pretty much tea total!) – or if only a tiny fraction of this is true – here’s a refreshing piece of news/analysis by one of my favourite authors of a book named “Getting Things Done; The art of stress free productivity”.

“Bright people procrastinate the most”.

To make this more relevant to the humble musician – procrastinators are “the most creative, sensitive, and intelligent people! Because their sensitivity gives them the capability of producing in their minds lurid nightmare scenarios about what might be involved in doing the project, and all the negative consequences that might occur if it weren’t done perfectly!”

He goes on to explain how the unconcious mind cannot tell the difference between fiction and reality, and how the creative mind can easily create endless problems, solutions, good idea’s, desires, perfections, but ultimately end up in inaction, because these people generally soon become overwhelmed and unable to take control of their idea’s, and put them to good use! They imagine the worst case scenario – and live it.

Why do I mention this? Mainly because the solution it proposes in its following pages has brought some positive relief, perhaps an end, to some weeks of entrenched thoughts, in depth cyclic/repeating problems/solutions I’ve had floating around in my mind – and perhaps it can help yours too..

It’s worth noting David Allen’s book for greater control and perspective in your life, as its consequences dig much deeper than its title suggest’s – in short; GTD as it’s known – has more to do with getting things off your mind, into a trusted system that’s reviewed regularly, so you’re free to discover your deepest intentions, or free to remain focused on your deepest intentions.

Whilst I have never tried drugs or alcohol to free the mind, I can only attest with bias, that for me, there is no healthier feeling than when his systematic approach to life works. I tend to feel so good, I go a bit nuts and lose the plot with it, feeling pretty invincible, but as long as I don’t over think everything, come back at least once per week to do the “weekly review”, and practice keeping a Zen like focus sticking with his principles/my principles, not only consistent work, but satisfying work gets done organically.

It made me feel better anyway..

“Who doesn’t procrastinate? Often it’s the insensitive oafs, who just take something and start plodding forward, unaware of all the things that could go wrong.”


Here’s a little more.. (read the book to really apply it/understand more about some of the points raised)

Business skills – a list

Following on from last blog post, and for my own reference as much anyone else’s – here’s a few business skills I’d like to master/improve/develop/just make sure someone is tying them down so I can get on with the music!

Maybe there’s a whole bunch of other musicians out there who feel similarly..

Synergy/unity/shared perspective are always positive, so please add any of your own skills/thoughts that you either know/would like to master/improve in the comments box !

Client relationship management (CRM) (anything from telephone numbers, valuable info, to tracking (honest) ‘fly on the wall’ quotes you hear)
Cash flow forecasting
Bookkeeping & Accounting
GTD (Getting Things Done; The Art of Stress Free Productivity)
Omnifocus (a software programme I use related to GTD..)
PersonalBrain software (perhaps for CRM, repertoire, goals, etc..)
Business planning
Marketing planning

This all might sound somewhat business laden, and actually – in other blog posts I’ve drafted, I talk more about what I see as a need to define roles/people to outsrouce too, especially within the realm of helping to sustain musical integrity.

But that’s for another day..

‘Business is key!’ – an affirmation for the poor musician (you are not alone!)

If you’ve mastered music, but feel a failure because you’re struggling to make ends meet, this blog should be more than enlightening for you.

Being young, and not having experienced the consequences of a recession, I naiively ignored the collapse of the world economies around 2008 onward.

I confidently expected things to continue as normal.. and as a result, took a confidence drop when it didn’t.

“What am I doing, for things to change so suddenly?”

Apart from anything else, business skills were something I’d never really considered learning, let alone mastering.

After all, “I am a musician – my audience adore me – play some music, and the world aligns itself..” and so the ego continues.

Until – as I mentioned in my last blog post – you hit what Les McKeown describes as “white water”. Pieces of music fly in and out, requests and good idea’s become tedious, being a creative musician/sensitive person that I am (cotton socks), everything seems valuable, innovative idea’s exacerbate problems, and the hay breaks the donkey’s back.

(Musicians rank 5th in the depression league of professional workers by the way).

Why on earth do things fall apart?

I have taken the trouble to highlight some quotes from a recent discussion titled “The Entrepreneurial Musician; An emerging generation of musicians”, by “The League of American Orchestra’s”.

The panel represent – depending on your musical preference – some of the most highly skilled musicians, and some of the finest orchestra’s of the United States. People who you might expect, in other professions – such as doctors, surgeons, scientists, etc.. – to be paid a fortune. People who’ve almost by default, studied a very specific genre of music technically/emotionally since the day they were conceived.

What are they saying?


Whether we like it or not, we need two professions…

“Technical mastery of an instrument/voice can be pretty unrewarding..
“[Playing excellently] is not enough! It’s not enough, because if you want to be successful – if you want to become a musical leader – you have got to have many other skills, in order to give that level of contribution.
“What’s an audience? […] You’re playing to 200 people with different life experiences – how do you speak to them, how do you present to them, how do you market to them, how do you think about them, how on earth do you apply the excellence of being a young musician […] to going into a school and trying to speak and communicate with young people [..] how do you make your dreams come true, how do you raise money, how do you become a charity [edit: yes please!/I am one], how do you go about producing a budget, what on earth is a budget, what do you put in a budget, how do you deal with conflict management, how do you go about group leadership, how do you go about consensus building?
“The end game is not a job, not necessarily working in an orchestra – it’s how are they going contribute to their community, and their society, that’s the end game – the outward focus rather than the inward focus of ‘playing to my friends’.”

There’s a whole load of other stuff in there, including frustrations from Graduates caused by the sudden world outside of uni, to the cellist who LIVES IN HIS CAR!

Still – living in a car beats living with your parents….. (keep calm and carry on)