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Review: MFM Workshop "Make Music Your Profession" #4 with Ken Umezaki (Digital Daruma)

Music is a Digital Commodity!

Date: July 14, 2016
Venue: WeWork Wall Street

Review by James J. Rehm

On Thursday, July 14th, 2016, I traveled to Manhattan from a farm on long island where I volunteer to attend the MFM workshop “Make Music Your Profession – Exploring Music as a Digital Commodity”. Upon arriving at my destination, I settled in the conference room at WeWork Wall Street. Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi, the president of MFM, opened the program by expressing that living life as a musician is indeed a profession.

Marco Lienhard presented a music performance on the shakuhachi. He introduced it as a piece that Japanese samurai used to aid in meditation. The music was beautiful and strong. As I closed my eyes and listened, I wondered if the music was an improvisation or a compilation of pieces that have been played for hundreds of years.

 

Ken Umezaki speaking
Photo by Alex Abagiu

 

Ken Umezaki of Digital Daruma gave a presentation providing information about what is going on in the music business today. Compared to the past, musicians now have more possibilities to distribute content as a commodity without the middle man. Quoting Ken: “The digital economy has commoditized music, with profound ramifications for musicians or creators, consumers and the music industry across everything they do.”

Umezaki spoke about how much music is being created today, upwards of 20,000 songs a day, and how the digital music ecosystem attempts to bring content creator and fan together in a direct way. This is important when you see how much money is being made by the middle men.

Umezaki’s presentation reinforced how important it is for musicians to have a website that is user friendly and appealing to the targeted audience.

The presentation was incredibly informative for those of us navigating the “digital jungle” without a machete. On a personal level, Umezaki’s words allowed me to reflect on my professional life and the value of my work as a musician, an artist, and a performer.

Umezaki was positive about the future of music as a commodity business. He advised musicians to use the power of digital technology and social media to get their content out to the world and build a connection with fans and consumers.

At the conclusion of his presentation, the floor was open for questions.

Ken Umezaki with workshop attendees
Photo by Alex Abagiu

The workshop was closed by Michael Braudy on violin. He offered his original improvised music which was influenced by Japanese and (what sounded to my ears as) Scottish music. I liked what he offered very much. It was meditative as well; sweet, succinct, and mindful.

After the workshop people broke bread, passed out business cards, made connections, and left with a higher understanding of what it means to be a musician in New York City, in the world as a whole, and more specifically, what it means to be a musician working through the digital jungle. It doesn’t look so bad for musicians in the future. MFM is advocating that there is work and a future if musicians make music a business.

There is nothing to fear.

Marco Lienhard and Michael Braudy
The Musicians
(Photo by Alex Abagiu)
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Review: MFM Workshop “Make Music Your Business” #3 with Matthew Flaherty

Health Issues A Neglected Concern for Musicians is Addressed

Date: June 27, 2016
Venue: WeWork Wall Street
Review by Dawoud Kringle

 

The third MFM Workshop kicked off with MFM founder Sohrab Saadat Ladjavardi introducing the organization’s history, and statement of purpose. Saadat made an interesting point; music is not dying out. Musicians can make their situation work, despite the inherent difficulties, and the changing times. We can make a success of ourselves if we have the smarts and the courage.

With that, James Rehm offered the traditional MFM Workshop and Meeting musical interlude. He played and sang an original song, “Ensalada, Empanada, Hello, Adios.”

The speaker was Matthew Flaherty, MS, CSCS (National Strength &.Conditioning Association, National Acadamy of Sports Medicine, StringFirst, Titleist Performance Institute, Functional Movement Screen) was introduced. After introducing himself and his credentials, he went into some details of how he applies his knowledge of health and strength conditioning to the specific needs of musicians.

His company, Stafford Strength, bases their program on the individual’s goals, needs, results, and wants. He explained the FMS: a seven point screen looking at mobility, stability, and coordination.

His program stresses training for longevity. Some discussion was offered on how the body ages, the factors of illness, pain, etc.

Sometimes these problems can be fixed with changes in one’s breathing pattern. Flaherty spoke about the advantages of diaphragmatic breathing, or “crocodile breathing.” Many attendees were in agreement with this, knowing that proper breathing is important to a musician (and some self-depreciating jokes all around about how easily we forget it).

Posture is an important thing for musicians to consider. Musicians often have specific movements that make changes in their bodies. These asymmetrical anomalies have to be rebalanced. He stressed that things cannot be trained in isolation, only in coordination with the whole body.

Preventative measures include rest, recovery, massage, acupuncture, stretch, and GTG (greasing the groove). Also keeping hydrated, drinking plenty of water. Nutrition was also touched upon (another problem area for some musicians).

After a variety of subjects were covered and brought to the table for analysis, the workshop drew to its conclusion. In keeping with the MFM tradition, Jim Rehm played one more song, Taj Mahal’s “She Caught The Katy,” and the meeting was closed.

Flaherty shared a lot of practical information. It’s clear he knows his craft well, and knows how to apply it to a wide variety of situations and individual health needs. He has some experience as an amateur musician, and knows how some health issues are specific to musicians; even to different instrumentalists (e.g. Movement and body problems of guitarists as opposed to percussionists). Flaherty’s company, Stafford Strength will be working with MFM, and offering the option of much needed health and strength improvement for musicians.

Stafford Strength is offering a 10% discount for Musicians for Musicians members. Details can be found in the Members Portal.

Overall, the workshop was a lively and informative presentation.  And it was a lot of fun too!

Previous Workshops

MFM Workshop “Make Music Your Business” #1 with GigSalad

MFM Workshop “Make Music Your Business” #2 with LegalShield

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Review: MFM Workshop “Make Music Your Business” #2 with LegalShield

MFM’s 2nd Monthly Workshop Tackles Tough Legal Issues with the Help of LegalShield

 

Date: May 23, 2016
Venue: WeWork Wall Street
Review by Dawoud Kringle

On Monday, May 23rd, Musicians For Musicians (MFM) presented its second workshop: A legal workshop for musicians with LegalShield Associates, Mike Juliano and Brad Bolnick.

LegalShield is a subscriber service that provides professionals and families with unlimited access to a network of law firms in an economical legal service in all 50 states. They are endorsed by the National Association of Attorneys General, and rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau. LegalShield’s structure protects their clients, offers legal advice, and helps create a legal structure that protects one’s business. In the case of musicians, this is essential. LegalShield’s website offers a variety of templates for different legal documents or contracts (e.g. photography releases, a non-disclosure agreement or NDA, loans, etc.). LegalShield allows musicians the same legal resources that a musician with a larger budget has. If, for example, a struggling musician’s song is stolen by someone. He has no legal recourse, because he hasn’t the resources to hire lawyers and file a lawsuit. LegalShield provides this. Their business model allows all people to have equal access to the same legal advice and protection that was once the exclusive privilege of the rich. They also offer membership perks, such as discounts with other businesses.

Michael Juliano is a writer, award winning filmmaker, former professional musician/music publisher and an associate through LegalShield. His music has been on commercial radio around the world. He was sought by major and independent record labels before moving into the film business. Brad Bolnick is a commercial actor, LegalShield broker, and financial consultant with his firm www.gcbprivatewealth.com. Brad specifically works with musicians, actors and arts professionals on financial empowerment.

MFM founder and president Sohrab Saadat Ladjavardi opened the workshop with an introduction to what MFM does and believes. He introduced Mike and Brad. Mike spoke a bit about LegalShield, and touched briefly on his affiliation with the Freelancers Union, and their pursuits. Early in the meeting, one of the participants shared that he’d previously engaged LegalShield’s services, with satisfactory results.

The workshop covered a wide variety of topics; ones often overlooked by most musicians. These included band, manager, and gig agreements, money owed from performances, non disclosure agreements for creative projects not ready for the public, copyright Infringement, licensing, contracts, registrations of works, and other relevant topics. All this stemmed from the importance of one’s music career and project having a sound business structure.

Aspects of both the legal structure of a musical / band, and other aspects of business / personal affairs were discussed in considerable detail. One interesting, and for me, new, idea that was presented was the process of incorporation. In this, bands would not generally incorporate as a collective entity. Instead, the individual members will incorporate, and then work together under a contractual agreement. The idea here is of band members having a contractual agreement about distribution of revenues. One of the advantages of working through LegalShield is that it is a cooperative of clients and legal workers; not a law firm. A conflict of interest does not happen if two LegalShield members are engaged in a lawsuit.

Brad illustrated an interesting example of how a band can maneuver a legal problem. A band with four members, each of whom has legal protection through LegalShield, is cheated by their record company. This can be approached as each individual member of the band, plus the band as a corporate entity, can file a lawsuit against the record company. An individually strong, and at the same time, united front, will offer more efficient legal protection to musicians.

One of the things discussed was the importance of non-disclosure agreements. An example being a bandleader showing his / her work to band members, or whomever. An NDA will protect the bandleader, songwriter / composer from having his music and intellectual property taken from him. Non-disclosure agreements can also include non-imitation clauses. In other words, an artistic concept or public persona specific to an artist / band can be protected from theft or blatant imitation by an NDA.

There was some discussion about the pros and cons of contracts between friends or long standing associates, and the best way to approach this. A legal structure protects musicians / bands from predators—and anyone in the music business knows there are predators (in fact, many music business professionals who prey on musicians are former—and frustrated / failed—musicians who understand how to exploit musicians’ weaknesses). In the course of the discussion, it was stated that the presence of contracts will immediately weed out people who will attempt to cheat you. An honest person will not be intimidated by the presence of a contract; nor by one’s insistence upon having a contractual agreement.

Ultimately, it’s not what we know that hurts us, it’s what we don’t know. What’s important is clarity.

Toward the end of the workshop, there was discussion about the purpose and function of MFM. Saadat offered clarity about how MFM functions and what it offers its members.

The workshop ended with MFM member David Belmont performing a solo guitar piece. The brief piece he played had shades of the kind of colorful chordal structure found in the vintage works of Oregon / Ralph Towner. It was quite beautiful (although, it was unfortunate that the participants in the workshop were so stoked by the stimulating and inspirational ideas that were discussed that many people did not give Benoit’s music the attention it deserved).

This workshop is indicative of the direction MFM is moving. The foundation’s humble beginnings are clearing up its former ambiguity with astonishing speed, and presenting actual practical benefits that empower musicians. Expecting more great things along these lines is not an unreasonable assumption.

Previous Workshops

MFM Workshop “Make Music Your Business” #1 with GigSalad

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Review: MFM Workshop "Make Music Your Business" #1 With Mark Steiner (GigSalad)

Make Music Your Business #1: GigSalad A Good Business Model For Gigging Musicians

Text by Dawoud Kringle

Make Music Your Business #1 is Musicians For Musicians (MFM) first workshop featuring GigSalad.com founder Mark Steiner.

GigSalad.com is an online service that connects entertainment buyers, event planners, venues, festivals, and other standard live music outlets (weddings, corporate events, memorial services, etc.) with musicians, singers, non-musical performers, models, comedians, actors, and other performers. Buyers and event planners are also members, which facilitates performers and buyers finding each other. GigSalad is also partnering with other services, such as CD Baby.

GigSalad is proving to be a good business model. Some of the attendees shared their experience with GigSalad, and the reports have been favorable. It’s also managed to secure good search engine optimization. Searches for various types of musicians often have GigSalad artists come up first on Google.

“Make Music Your Business” #1 with GigSalad w. David Belmont
David Belmont (Photo by Dawoud Kringle)

The workshop opened with MFM founder Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi addressing the gathering with a description of MFM’s agenda. This was followed by an MFM tradition: opening an event with a musical offering. This time, the music was presented by David Belmont. His offering was a beautifully lyrical solo acoustic guitar composition called “Dunsany.”

After introductions, Steiner shared how GigSalad began. In a nutshell, after working in a number of music business related ventures, he decided he wanted to make something that would serve the needs of the musicians who are looking for work. This led to the idea for GigSalad in 2003. It originally started as a directory, and evolved into a cyber booking agency.

The discussions that ensued covered a wide variety of topics that were not only relevant to what GigSalad is doing, but also in how to define and meet the specific needs of musicians. The questions and topics included the following:

– Covers vs. original music (the financial advantages to doing covers is obvious).

– Pricing for musicians’ work (a good tip that was offered was that during the initial negotiations, give your price, including all you expenses; but do not explain immediately how it breaks down [i.e. travel, lodging, etc.]. The buyer will immediately see this as the price. In other words, include everything in the upfront quote).

Make Music Your Business #1
Photo by Dawoud Kringle

 

– Marketing of different and specialized genres

and niche markets was discussed (one suggestion that was offered was to do a search for your own genre / service, and see what kind of market for your work exists. This would help determine your marketability; and help you to decide if GigSalad is right for you).

– How often to gig, and how to properly represent oneself.

– One’s self worth as an artist was brought up. In other words, raising your standards and valuing your work, and pricing yourself accordingly.

– The merits and details of GigSalad’s three levels of membership: Free, Pro, and Featured; weighing merits as opposed to costs.

Other useful advice was offered to optential GigSalad clients, such as getting your clients to review you (good reviews are gold), having good video (this is how people most directly are introduced to your work), and other tips and trick to make this work to your advantage.
While this was going on, a mockup profile was made as a demonstration of GigSalad’s services.

The day of the workshop was actually Matt Steiner’s birthday. In celebration of this, (and as a lucrative business arrangement for all parties concerned) he offered MFM members one year of membership with GigSalad free.

Belmont offered a closing musical piece called “Germania;” a blues that made imaginative use of guitar harmonics.

soundfile: https://soundcloud.com/sohrab-saadat-ladjevardi/david-belmont-plays-germania

The first MFM Workshop was quite successful. If this is any indication of the direction MFM’s services to its members is heading, this fledgling effort is more than promising.

Make Music Your Business #1