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Thread: How am I different from all the other mandolinists? (rumination)

  1. #26
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: How am I different from all the other mandolinists? (ruminati

    I think you're asking the wrong question. Express yourself through your playing, and take your satisfaction from that self-expression. Be as pleased by the music you make alone in your room, as you are by the music you make in front of an audience. Hear yourself, whether others hear you or not; critique yourself, encourage yourself, develop yourself. Be the musician you want to be and know you can be, whether you meet with acceptance or not. That's the way you can feel fulfillment, regardless of what others may or may not think of you.

    Having said that, I've found that the road to wider acceptance is to "give the audience what it wants." Which is, of course, the opposite of developing a unique and personal sound and style. Only a few musicians -- or artists of any type -- can create such a compelling, original individual style, that they win wide acceptance from audiences despite "not sounding (or whatever) like anyone else."

    So, wider acceptance can come down to marketing, in a sense: analyze the potential market (audience) for your music, and conform your music to that audience's tastes and expectation. I play maybe 150+ jobs for senior audiences annually; do you have any idea how many times i've sung You Are My Sunshine over the past 15 or so years? I don't. Not that I'm complaining; I love to play, and love to bring music into the sometimes comparatively barren environment of a seniors' residence or nursing home. But, really, it's a case of "giving them what they want," not "offering the world something that's different."

    Lots of good advice above about how to make a slightly larger splash in the pond of the current music scene -- though I'm not so sure that finding a didgeridoo player is a sure path to anything; who's gonna notice your mandolin playing alongside that? But I'd recognize the potential tension between wanting to be original and expressive, and wanting to be popular. Talent and originality are only part of the formula for building a wider audience. As Rick Nelson sang in Garden Party, after failing to win over an audience:

    "It's all right now; I learned my lesson well;
    You can't please everybody, so you have to please yourself"
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  3. #27
    poor excuse for anything Charlieshafer's Avatar
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    Default Re: How am I different from all the other mandolinists? (ruminati

    So there's some confusion here. Are you asking how you differentiate yourself commercially? Or artistically? They are not the same thing. Commercial effectiveness, as is obvious from any period of popular music, does not necessitate artistry. Some successful pop musicians are artistically inclined, and a number of artistically inclined players have no pretense of the tiny niche they'll exist in.

    If it's commercial, it's all about having a grasp of maximizing Instagram. If it's artistically, it's what I said before.

  4. #28
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: How am I different from all the other mandolinists? (ruminati

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlieshafer View Post
    I will also disagree with just about everyone here by saying that playing with all sorts of people will help you find your own voice. You'll find some sort of compromise voice this way, but the vast majority of musicians I've worked with through the years who have "made it big" do so by woodshedding, or playing solo in private. A Lot.
    Hmmmm... I don't really feel like reading through this whole thread but I doubt that anyone here said that the only way to find your voice is to play with others and NOT work on your own. I believe that it is a combination of both aspects. And I highly doubt that solely sitting alone in your room and woodshedding will get you to that expertise. Look at all the players out there who we admire. They would never have gotten anywhere if they never played with others. And that goes for players in all genres. Music is communication of sorts and playing with others is a large part of what being a musician is about. Keeping time, dynamics and intonation while playing with others is super important.
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  6. #29
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    Default Re: How am I different from all the other mandolinists? (ruminati

    Maybe I'm cynical, but hardly anyone really wants to hear you play the mandolin. If you asked 10,000 people to name their top three favorite mandolin players, I bet less than 50 could name more than one. Most couldn't name any, and that includes Mr. Thile.

    Think about it, who is your favorite saxophone player? Most of us can think of some pretty cool solos over the years, but it's hard to name a player. Personally, I like Rindy Ross, but very few folks even on this board would know who she is without looking her up. Then they'd go, oh yeah.

    I guess my point is that most people want to hear music that makes them want to dance. If you have the ability to create new music that fills that void, you will be successful. Most everybody else, no matter how talented, will always be on the sidelines.

    Good luck to you. I'm not really trying to burst your bubble, but rather to lend a more realistic viewpoint to your query.
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    Default Re: How am I different from all the other mandolinists? (ruminati

    Take two aspirin and call me in the morning. I think we all feel this way at times; just keep pickin'.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Take two aspirin and call me in the morning. I think we all feel this way at times; just keep pickin'.

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  10. #31

    Default Re: How am I different from all the other mandolinists? (ruminati

    Post a lot of videos on YouTube (and Facebook, and Instagram, etc.)! Do a tune a day or tune a week or something! Just keep pumping them out regularly and putting them out there for the entire internet to see. The worst that can happen is that you will broaden your repertoire and improve your skills on the instrument. Best thing (if you are into that) is you might get famous.

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  11. #32

    Default Re: How am I different from all the other mandolinists? (ruminati

    Post a lot of videos on YouTube (and Facebook, and Instagram, etc.)! Do a tune a day or tune a week or something!
    As YouTube becomes a progressively larger portion of my income, I can say that this advise is spot on. YouTube is beyond saturated, yet few people are capable (or committed) of consistently posting and that is one of the main things that brings you to the top. You can literally become dominant in a niche within a month or two. You just have to make it priority number one.

    How do I know? I analyzed YouTube for months, narrowed in on a niche and then produced one video per day.

    First week, Nothing, not a single view.
    Second week, 10 views per day, then 50 by the end of the week - I started second guessing myself, but kept at it.
    Third week, 500-1000 per day. Promising, but still a LONG way to go.
    Forth Week - starts to skyrocket. From 2000, to 20k per day by the end of the week (now we are getting somewhere)
    Fifth Week, shot to 50k per day.

    Now I ran out of pre-made videos and was right in the midst of Christmas orders and couldn't make more... It sort of leveled off..
    Had some other things come up and took a while to get it rolling again. Once I did, my best day hit 180k views.
    All signs show that it is capable of much more, if I free the time to do it.

    I'll tell you that it is near impossible to sustain something like this with a day job (in my case, running Folkmusician), but it showed me what was possible in a very short time period, if the effort is put in.

    From my experience (and I have been involved with doing this same thing for others), you can explode in just a few months if it is done right.

    But I am "too old", "not cool enough", "don't look the part", etc... The audience is incredibly diverse. The younger generation sees the most interest, but it is also the most competitive, so it all balances out. You can do perfectly fine regardless of your age. Again, it takes some thought and you will need to pivot and tweak along the way.

    As Alan points out, cater to the audience. How many wildly successful musicians completely blow it once they are big enough to start calling the shots and producing their own albums? They finally reach a point where they can record the music they want vs. what the fans want. This almost always flops and they don't always recover.
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  13. #33
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: How am I different from all the other mandolinists? (ruminati

    Neon purple fright wig?
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  14. #34
    poor excuse for anything Charlieshafer's Avatar
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    Default Re: How am I different from all the other mandolinists? (ruminati

    Quote Originally Posted by Folkmusician.com View Post
    As Alan points out, cater to the audience. How many wildly successful musicians completely blow it once they are big enough to start calling the shots and producing their own albums? They finally reach a point where they can record the music they want vs. what the fans want. This almost always flops and they don't always recover.
    While I think this is a great example of how social media can help with exposure, I'm not sure how this part is relevant to "finding your own voice and being different from other mandolinists." All you're talking about here is making product, which is exactly opposite from finding a personal vision. If all you're worried about is catering to an audience, is that any different from being a line cook in a fast food restaurant? Maybe being in New England biases me, where we're constantly on the lookout for new and unique artists out of Berklee, NEC or Ithaca to try to present and promote. But a musician catering to an audience is never going to find what makes him/her different. Again, I'd sort of like the OP to chime in and give us an idea of what he's looking for here. Different as in commercially successful, or different as in artistically true to him/herself.

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  16. #35
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: How am I different from all the other mandolinists? (ruminati

    There seems to be a classical pro vs amateur dichotomy underway here, trying to resolve the riddle what exactly it is the OP wants. Until that is decided, both interpretations may be valid.
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

  17. #36

    Default Re: How am I different from all the other mandolinists? (ruminati

    I don't want to get too off topic here, but I think it's tangentially related

    Quote Originally Posted by Folkmusician.com View Post

    1. YouTube is beyond saturated
    2. I analyzed YouTube for months, narrowed in on a niche and then produced one video per day.
    3. I'll tell you that it is near impossible to sustain something like this with a day job
    1. half the world's population is in the process of getting an internet connection for the first time. There's an estimated 4 Billion people that have or will get access to the internet between 2016 and 2020. Check out articles about "the rising billion". I don't say this as a know it all or negatively in the slightest, this was news to me a few short months ago. Now's the time to get out there and do it!

    2. Cool! I'd love to hear/see more about this. It can be a PM if you want, but I'd love to see what you are making!

    3. True, but also has the potential to become a day job, and that potential is becoming more mainstream every day.

    ~~~

    Back to the OP.

    Numbers and digital strategies aside, I think harnessing the power of the internet is an enormous boon to the creative artist. You've got almost every record in history at your fingertips through Spotify or Apple Music (questionable as they may be when it comes to actually getting artists paid) and an audience of billions Googling and YouTubing their brains out (for better or for worse) trying to find whatever you just made.

    40 hours of content are uploaded to YouTube every minute, and the way to stand out in that crowd is to pump out quality content as regularly as you can. The more art you make, the better the artist you become. The more you listen, the more refined and educated your tastes become. You can have an entirely successful artistic career with a cell phone and a data plan, or a computer and an internet connection. You also might learn in the process that human interaction is an integral piece in the puzzle, but it sounds like you are doing that by being in a couple bands already. Keep up the good work and keep putting music out into the world!

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  18. #37
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    Default Re: How am I different from all the other mandolinists? (ruminati

    Make a youtube of yourself playing and post here ! You will receive feedback !
    My two favorite pastimes are drinking wine and playing the mandolin but most of my friends would rather hear me drink wine! Adapted from quote by Mark Twain------supposedly !

  19. #38

    Default Re: How am I different from all the other mandolinists? (ruminati

    How ARE you different?
    Please let us hear for ourselves.

    Got a vid?

    I try to play in the spirit of Duf.

    I sound like me.....but im working on improving, on those days im not just trying to keep up. I find it tough to always be mindful when playing with others. Sort of like driving at high speed, reading a map, looking out the window, and telling my passengers whats going on.....

    Mostly, i dont try to sound like me, i cant help it, but i try really hard to improve the singer/song by adding mood.

    Working covers is a good way to sound like YOU, while broadening your chops and POV, what you like. Your style will eventually creep into these.

  20. #39

    Default Re: How am I different from all the other mandolinists? (ruminati

    Don't be an individual, just play like everyone else. Surely everyone can't be wrong.

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  22. #40
    Registered User SincereCorgi's Avatar
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    Default Re: How am I different from all the other mandolinists? (ruminati

    "I want people to hear me play. More people, I mean.

    I'm playing in a couple groups, and that's good. So what else can I do? What have I to offer to the world that is different, that makes people want to hear me play the mandolin, compared to _______?"

    This is kind of vague. Do you mean you want to be famous for your unique mandolin playing, and get more shows and sell more music and t-shirts? Nobody is interested enough in the mandolin for a unique style to make that much difference.

    If you mean you want more exposure, then work really hard (probably more time on the phone and computer than in the practice room) and make friends and hope for some lucky breaks.

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  24. #41

    Default Re: How am I different from all the other mandolinists? (ruminati

    On the YouTube thing, don't be afraid to cater to those in other countries as well. I get quite a few views for some videos of my international instruments from other countries and try to include keywords in other languages to help attract those viewers. For videos themselves, take the extra few minutes to trim out your video starts and finishes, stitch multiple clips together, etc for a slightly more professional look, even the free Windows Live Movie Maker is adequate for that. Try recording yourself in an interesting setting like a park or the woods to add some additional variety.

  25. #42
    Registered User colorado_al's Avatar
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    Default Re: How am I different from all the other mandolinists? (ruminati

    Maybe check your motivation. Are you playing just so that other people hear you and applaud? I play in a few bands and some solo. I admit that it is ego stroking to get the claps and cheers when the audience enjoys themselves. However, I would do it all without that as long as I get to play music with others. Play music that I find enjoyable and satisfying. I play music for me. I'm glad an audience comes to listen, because that's how I get to play more music, but I play for my own enjoyment. The enjoyment of the crowd is nice, and necessary to book more gigs, but secondary to why I play.

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  27. #43

    Default Re: How am I different from all the other mandolinists? (ruminati

    While I think this is a great example of how social media can help with exposure, I'm not sure how this part is relevant to "finding your own voice and being different from other mandolinists." All you're talking about here is making product, which is exactly opposite from finding a personal vision.
    Totally agree here, however, I thought that was the main part of the op's questions. I may have misinterpreted, or didn't address the second part..

    I want people to hear me play. More people, I mean.
    Exposure is the only way to get more people to hear him play.

    If all you're worried about is catering to an audience, is that any different from being a line cook in a fast food restaurant?
    I typically agree with almost everything you post, but here I disagree. I think this is more like being the Restaurant Owner. Creativity is great and the Line cook may well long for the leeway to try new things. The Restaurant Owner (or musician that wants a career or large audience), needs to cater to what the customer wants, or find themselves with a restaurant that is not solvent and risk that "they" become a line cook.

    I think there is plenty of room for bringing a unique voice and innovation. I just like to emphasize the importance of playing what people want to hear (if you want a large audience). If you are doing it for art, that is entirely different.

    Again, I'd sort of like the OP to chime in and give us an idea of what he's looking for here. Different as in commercially successful, or different as in artistically true to him/herself.
    Yeah, there seems to be an aspect of both here.
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  29. #44
    poor excuse for anything Charlieshafer's Avatar
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    Default Re: How am I different from all the other mandolinists? (ruminati

    It's quite a contradictory original post. He wants more exposure, but then at the same time, seems to want to have his own voice, to be different. So it seems like all the responses have been accurate, simply depending on how you come at it. Exposure is one thing, and to increase gigs on a local level, you want to fit ion sonically. But to increase gigs on a national level, you need top be unique, and sound completely different. I can get Mike Marshall, or Joe K. Walsh, so why do I want someone who sounds like them, or tries to sound like anyone else?

    Youtube is a conundrum. People who do virtually nothing but wander around aimlessly commenting on clothing or celebrities get millions of followers, and some brilliant musicians will be lucky to get a couple of hundred views. Yes, there are a number who have figured out how to make a very good income off of it, but like Lindsey Stirling, developing that audience was a full-time job for several years. And she is both unique and really, really good. But to develop that voice, she did do it in a relative vacuum, and she talks about her early failures and recommitment to practice and woodshedding.

    I think it's interesting to note, if we stick to the mandolin, that some of the brightest stars started with bluegrass and quickly moved away from it, including Chris Thile, Mike Marshall, Dawg to a degree, and now Sierra Hull, moved away from the mainstream very early in their careers so they wouldn't get pigeonholed.

    Anyway, art and a large audience can absolutely merge, and at least as far as acoustic music and the mandolin in particular, it seems that sticking to the tried and true might cause you to be mired in a smaller audience. Again, it seems like it all comes down to professional aspirations; staying local and getting lots of little gigs, or touring big and doing something that warrants a large hall booking you.

    Who knows, it seems like we'll never know what the point of the post is, anyway...

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  31. #45

    Default Re: How am I different from all the other mandolinists? (ruminati

    Most of us have probably seen Steve Seagulls

    This is the number one most viewed video when searching for "Bluegrass". They also have the 6th most viewed.



    Post Modern Jukebox is great. They hold the 5th and 9th most viewed under "Bluegrass".



    For me, PostmodernJukebox is one of the single best case studies on the power of YouTube done correctly. Over 3 million subscribers and nearly 1 billion views. All with Single angle videos with no cuts. Obviously great musicianship and entertainers. I see they are playing in Reno in April, I might get tickets!

    This is not bluegrass, so I am not 100% sure of my point here....

    I do believe that to take advantage of YouTube as a musician, Entertainment value has to come first, but you can definitely launch or build upon a major artist with nothing but YouTube. It is becoming a progressively more crucial component to success.
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  32. #46
    Mandolin Friendly Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: How am I different from all the other mandolinists? (ruminati

    Robert, it's a good case for study IMO. Looks like YouTube-searching sort of folk in general are intrigued with cool musicianship featuring bluegrass instrumentation and hillbilly trappings on songs or tunes outside the bluegrass genre when they search "bluegrass". I have a lot more thoughts about who these people would be, and why they are searching for these videos using that term, but won't get into that.

    It seems that a person or group who plays bluegrass, uses bluegrass instrumentation, and is also interested in genre-hopping could capitalize on that trend if they have the level of proficiency to play and record it very well.

    BTW, I love post modern jukebox as well
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  33. #47
    Mandolin Friendly Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: How am I different from all the other mandolinists? (ruminati

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlieshafer View Post
    I think it's interesting to note, if we stick to the mandolin, that some of the brightest stars started with bluegrass and quickly moved away from it, including Chris Thile, Mike Marshall, Dawg to a degree, and now Sierra Hull, moved away from the mainstream very early in their careers so they wouldn't get pigeonholed.
    "Away from the mainstream"? I think you may have misspoken - and probably meant "Away from bluegrass" because bluegrass music and folk music is not considered mainstream as far as I know.
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  34. #48
    poor excuse for anything Charlieshafer's Avatar
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    Default Re: How am I different from all the other mandolinists? (ruminati

    Two things to note here re YouTube and Postmodern Jukebox: A: They're really good. This isn't amateur hour. B: They spend a lot of time and money on production. Same thing, this isn't amateur hour. For musicians Youtube can be great, but to make it a source of income, it's a full time job, and you better be exceptional and different. Note that most successful Youtubers, in a weird turnabout, became famous through YouTube, and didn't tour until after they were famous.

    I work with a lot of social media consultants, some for large labels, and the interesting thing is that there's no consensus on how to go viral or make it big. The one thing they all do is hire a zillion college interns who are paid just to post on Instagram and Twitter quick mentions of bands that the labels and managers are trying to get traction for.

    There's still a huge element of luck...

    Oh, and this is the best Postmodern video, btw...


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  36. #49
    Registered User colorado_al's Avatar
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    Default Re: How am I different from all the other mandolinists? (ruminati

    Kate Davis is awesome!

  37. #50
    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: How am I different from all the other mandolinists? (ruminati

    From Jim Garber - " The best musicians to me aren’t necessarily the virtuosi — we all can’t be Marshall or Thile ..." Praise the Good Lord for that !!. I enjoy neither of them - or rather their ''current output''. I agree that very often,the most 'listenable' musicians are the less sophisticated ones who come over as pretty ordinary rather than as virtuosi. Over 50 years,i've seen a great many 'top' musicians, & sometimes they seem to be simply going through the motions & their playing comes over like ''musical wallpaper'',pretty flat !. I've also seen the opposite end of the spectrum,totally amateur musicians who put everything they have into a song / tune & it really comes over good .

    I remember one evening at Manchester UK's premier folk club,the Manchester Sports Guild (MSG). We had a young American guy booked there that nobody had ever heard of back then. He was living over here at the time,but he arrived too late to do his first spot, when he did get to play,he played for well over an hour & totally blew everybody away. We didn't know who he was & we'd seen or heard nothing like him before - but Paul Simon put a 1000% into what he did that night, & i doubt if anybody who was there will ever forget it,
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