Tag Archives: Bruce Springsteen

Book List: The Top 13 Books I Read This Year

D Grant Smith-2015 Booklist
After an inspiration from one of the authors you’ll read about soon, I’ve made my first ever book list. I read a lot of books in 2015. These are the best ones of the pack, most of which are Business and Self-Help books with a few biographies and memoirs.

There are affiliate links presented here if you want to buy any of these titles from Amazon. Yes, you’ll be helping me if you buy through my affiliate links and I do appreciate that. If you choose to shop for them at a book store or Goodwill (where I have found a few of these titles) that works too.

The big thing for me is to have a book list given to you to help you grow. Feel free to comment or message me on suggestions you have. If you’re not a member of my subscription list, sign up now to get a bonus mentioned at the end of this list. Connect with me on Goodreads and let’s talk books. You can see my recents and favorites in the widget at the bottom.

The Top 13 Books Read in 2015 (in no particular order)

1. All Marketers Are Liars: The Underground Classic That Explains How Marketing Really Works–and Why Authen ticity Is the Best Marketing of All
by Seth Godin

A manifesto on the power of story-telling with anyone who has something to sell be it a product, service or (namely) themselves. Our inability to get people on board with what we do has more to do with our inability to convert powerful stories that incite action than it does our ability to deliver great work. It’s up to us to be better storytellers to grow the exposure and (ultimately) marketing strength that we seek to build and expand.

2. The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help By Amanda Palmer

It is a year of reading manifestos, because Mrs. Palmer’s book was a revolutionary piece of writing that spoke to the inner depths of my heart and soul, addressing fears that have stayed with me for most of my life. I credit this book with being a prime source for overcoming these fears and challenging many debilitating thoughts that have hindered my personal and professional growth. It’s also why (and how) I was able to launch my first ever crowd funding campaign and exceed the goal, because learning the art of asking and admitting that you don’t have all the answers (or all the power or all the skills) to do what you dream of doing is a gift in and of itself. Aside from that, Amanda embodies the strengths of seeing individuals wholly, which garners people into her spheres and increases the audience connection she’s fostered for years. It’s very inspirational.

3. Mandela’s Way: Lessons on Life, Love, and Courage By Richard Stengel

I read this book because I believe that we can learn the art of forgiveness and wholeness without fostering bitterness and resentment to others. I knew that from the history of what Mandela experienced post prison. I didn’t know how. Come to find out that Mandela’s peace with his captors was an internal decision to not sink to their level. Though he was technically in prison physically, he refused to think like a prisoner, nor be treated as one. His mental strength was superior to anyone he experienced in prison and he brought that strength (and matured experience) with him when he became South Africa’s President/Prime Minister. Forgiveness isn’t just a decision we make about the people who wrong us, it’s a decision we make about ourselves and how we see our individual worth. That’s the way of Mandela.

4. The Greatest Miracle in the World by Og Mandino

I’ve long felt that sales is the biggest weakness I have as a business person, and picking up this book at Goodwill was the direction of seeking a path to become a better salesman. This book is a work of fiction, ultimately, told as a parable about a servant to a great merchant in the Middle East who is tasked with trying to sell a garment that would end up doing so much more. There’s a biblical allegory in the tale but what I did learn from it is that giving to others and sacrificing (at times) what is in your own self-interest for the interest of someone else can result in greater reward that fulfilling that personal interest could ever give you.

5. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

I had heard that this was a ground-breaking book but I didn’t know exactly how. Amazon recommended it too. Fortunately, Goodwill had it for 50 cents and I got to own it on the cheap. Pausch was a lecturer at Carnegie Mellon who specialized in virtual reality and got terminal cancer. He was asked to give a last lecture on what was most important in life. The entire book I thought was leading up to his actual copy for the lecture, but it wasn’t. He pulled a head fake (you’ll have to read the book to get what that means). The end results of reading this book is looking at life and the pursuit of happiness differently, not because a man’s dying words were to do so but because of the powerful stories expressed here left an inspiration to do more, be more, and matter more to the people in my life than merely just being a big name could every achieve.

6. Act Like a Success, Think Like a Success: Discovering Your Gift and the Way to Life’s Riches by Steve Harvey

I’ve always liked Steve Harvey, from his days on the Kings Of Comedy Tour to his work hosting the Family Feud. Despite the recent “event/scandal” with Miss Universe and the teleprompter, Mr. Harvey is a class act and someone worth modeling after. I didn’t know how much of an inspiration he is as a person until reading this book, nor did I know the challenges and obstacles he faced to get to where he is. I didn’t realize that Steve had been homeless for a while, had worked in a few jobs that were not in the entertainment world until he knuckled down and focused his complete attention on what he wanted. Most of this book is about the act of thinking like successful people think, which ended up being a concurrent theme in the majority of the books I read this year. One of the most powerful elements of the book deal with understanding who you are and what vehicles you take on your path to reaching the goals you set. Often times we look at our vehicles as the identifier to who we are, instead of just seeing it as a part of the journey. This truth alone is worth diving into the book and discovering the rest of Mr. Harvey’s wisdom.

7. Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin

I’ll admit to being a Bruce Springsteen super fan. More than that, I’m a student of the art of building a super fan base. The Boss is certainly one of the rare artists who has garnered a strong, loyal, and passionate following that has stayed with him for 40 years. People sell their belongings and travel the country to see him perform. Only a handful of artists in history have garnered the loyal base of followers that Springsteen has. This book is more than a history of Bruce and how he became a star. It’s the only authorized biography written in the last few decades, recording even exclusive interviews with friends, family, and band members that other writers don’t have access to. How do you build an army of super fans? Read this book and learn the Springsteen method. It will change the way you go about trying to build your brand name.

8. The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday

This was an Amazon purchase and worth every penny. Reading this book would lead to more self-discovery than just about anything else, and make me a big fan of Ryan Holiday. This book list is also inspired by Mr. Holiday’s influence.

I’m inspired by the underdog story, hence my fascination and obsession with the Rocky movies (among other stories). The concept implied in the title of this book was reason enough to pick it up. It also turned me on to Ryan Holiday as a voice of direction in a confusing world of mass-marketing. Drawing on the wisdom of the Stoics (namely Marcus Arilious), Holiday illustrates through stories past and present the power of using our greatest challenges as the means of overcoming them, showing that we have the power to turn our giants into vehicles that propel us forward instead of being the things that hold us back.

9. The Martian by Andy Weir

I didn’t read a ton of fiction this year, but this book was certainly worth the experience. A remarkably quick read and a compelling story that keeps you tuned in the entire time (I stayed up late night after night to get further along in this), The Martian has recently been turned into a film and rightfully so. It tells the tale of Mark Watney, an astronaut who becomes stranded alone on the planet Mars and has to use his wit, engineering, and dogged determination to figure out how to survive long enough to make contact with earth and pray for a means to intercept a returning voyage of astronauts or die alone on the planet. It’s riveting and full of adventure, and will also make you thankful that you live on earth. And it will make you appreciate the brilliance of your average scientist a little more, as well as those who work for NASA. Seriously, rocket science isn’t for the faint of heart (or mind).

10. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

This is a Must-Read for anyone in management, leadership, or building an organization. Diving into what makes great companies just that, great, Simon illustrates that no one gets behind the What of our business, but will support the Why when it is conveyed with clarity. Leadership who follows the precepts outlined in this book are destined to increase not only their bottom line, but also the people who talk about the greatness of what you are leading. This book was recommended by my mentor Steve P and I highly recommend it to you.

11. Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth by T. Harv Eker

I picked this up in Audiobook from Half-Price books and listened to it at least 3 times beginning to end. In 3 short discs, Eker illustrates the powerful differences between three different mindsets that are prevalent in America: Poor, Middle-Class, and Wealthy (or Rich). I gained a lot of insights into how wealthy people as a whole think about opportunities, wealth building, relationships, growth, giving, and working starkly different than even middle-class people. One of the biggest lessons gained is that when given (what seems like) a choice between two things, poor and middle-class mindedness will choose one or the other. Wealthy mindedness will choose both. This is just one of several valuable nuggets of wisdom that changed the way I think to increase how I operate my business and family, all with great results.

12. Me to We: Finding Meaning in a Material World by Craig and Marc Kielburger

This year I really dove into the power of community-building, adopting the core principles of community-enrichment as the foundational mission for all I do. This was certainly one of the best books on the subject, highlighting how people around the world who have embraced a We mindset of helping others have transformed societies and helped communities of people thrive. There are great real-world examples that Craig and his brother Marc use including spending time with Mother Teresa to illustrate the power of giving, service, and individual sacrifice in the name of helping others to cut away from the selfish nature of Me-First that dominates the American way of life, and move into a We-First attitude that has made strong, vibrant communities around the world. It’s great examples of real people doing these acts that inspire the kind of change our politicians and leaders aspire to do.

13. Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising by Ryan Holiday

I’ll admit, I became a fan of Mr. Holiday this year. Following The Obstacle Is The Way, I bookmarked on my Amazon account this book and bought it for myself for my birthday. The new revised version has even more great content in just 120 short pages. It’s a thorough guide to how to adopt a mindset change to dramatically increase your audience base and marketability with little to no budget, paired with some additional materials including a FAQ and other bonuses. I’m already putting this book into practice and it’s super-charging what both of my businesses are doing. Look for Ryan to be a guest on my podcast in the coming months where he’ll talk more with us on the power of growth hacking, and how you can implement it into your work, especially for DIY musicians and entrepreneurs.

In conclusion there’s more to come in 2016 including a book by me

This year also marked the completion of my first book, which will be published officially in a few months. It’s called The Radio Promotion Handbook: The DIY Musician’s Guide To Growth Hacking Your Audience Building And Networking Through Strategic Radio Airplay. I’m going to be talking about this a lot in the coming months, and some of the biggest lessons learned from this book list found its way into this upcoming book.

Members of my subscription list (up top in the left column) will get a special discount on this book, and those who buy my upcoming book will get an even bigger discount on The Indie Radio Promotion Course. Sign up now if you haven’t already.

Keys To Building A Focused Audience

Image by  Dimitris Kalogeropoylos

Image by Dimitris Kalogeropoylos

Get Insights On Focused Fan Growth: Sign Up For The Free Webinar Here

I wrote previously about the difference between trying to gain 100,000 Twitter followers (or simply a giant group of music fans online) and focusing your time, energy and money on a specific group of people. Numbers are a big sales point that most people are looking to increase, but when your focus is on the wrong number for the wrong reason, you don’t win as much as you want to. Here’s why:

You need to grow your audience to be able to keep making more music. That’s a bottom-line reality every musician and small business faces. And yes, you are a small business once money enters the equation. A focused group of fans is much more powerful than a giant number.

The confusion between real, prosperous success and fame (or what is considered “success” in young markets) is an obsession with the wrong kind of number.

Let’s say you have 10,000 Likes on Facebook. For some artists, that’s a small number, for others it’s a goal they’re still trying to reach. In either case, how would you view a band who has 500 Likes on Facebook or 600 Twitter followers? You might consider them to be rookies, newbies, or not very good musicians because the number of followers is small. But what potency does the 10,000 have that the 500 doesn’t other than sheer volume alone? You don’t know, because all you see is a number of followers.

Image by Dave Catchpole

Image by Dave Catchpole

This obsession with the high number without knowing much about WHO is in either group is what’s wrong with musicians and bands trying only to grow the number-base of their audience without trying to grow a specific group of people who are prime fans for their work.

You can buy Likes and followers on any social platform. You can purchase enough “followers” to make it seem you have a substantial fan base when reality tells a different tale. So how powerful is that giant number now, or better stated how real is it?

What the number metric misses is Potency, or strength. This factor is key to success in the short and long term of your music career. Potency is driven by real connection with a focused group of people who are passionate about the unique aspects of your music. Artists and bands with incredible potency include KISS, Bruce Springsteen, Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and The Shins. Their fans go out of their way to showcase how much they love these bands including costumes, fan made documentaries, and traveling large distances to see shows.

Think about it in terms of two very popular and potent brands: Apple and Microsoft. Chances are you are using one of these brands right now in some capacity. Mac users are hardcore, passionate and extremely brand loyal. Most PC (Microsoft) users will go with whatever maker or brand they feel like who runs the software they’re used to, be it HP, Sony, Dell, etc. Yes both are powerful brands. But where Apple’s user base may be smaller in size compared to Microsoft, it’s more than compensated with user (customer) potency.

Can you say the same thing for your fan base?

If 10% of your fan base shares your content with their friends (be it online social posts or old fashioned word of mouth promotion), you have a really strong connection with your fans. That’s a high conversion rate for most bands and small businesses. What if only 1% of your fan base is an evangelist for your music? That’s still a good portion. But when a fraction of a fraction of 1% is talking about you, that big number of your fan base that you brag about isn’t as powerful. Actually, that’s more indicative of what your true fan impact is.

Focus on connecting with a specific group of people, a targeted section of folks who make up your Ideal or Super-Fan group. This is the potent, focused group of fans who will increase your music success a lot more powerfully than an arbitrary number of followers online.

How can you grow your connection with a targeted group of people? The strategies and tactics for doing that are outlined in an upcoming webinar. Sign up here.

Success For Songwriters Post Napster Era

There’s a great article released recently  from Shelly Peiken, songwriter of Top 40 hits like Bitch and What A Girl Wants. She’s also recently written a book on her perspectives in songwriting called Confessions of a Serial Songwriter. The article (found at Huffington Post) tells of her perspective on the dramatic change in how music works since the File-Sharing era of the early 2000s, when Napster reshaped our cultural attitude towards acquiring music.

ShellyPeikin

Prior to this free-download craze, music fans shopped for new albums at stores like Blockbuster Music (anyone remember this place?) for albums that they had heard on the radio. Radio was still the primary place where we went to hear music that we didn’t own on CDs. We’d discover new music and underground artists by attending gigs at small venues, bars, and coffee shops. We might make or receive a mixtape (if you had a tape player for your car or home like I did) or mix-CD with music that wasn’t heard on the radio. This was music discovery, but radio airplay and literal record sales were two of the driving forces behind the potential income a songwriter could achieve.

Peiken has traveled the gambit from unknown to world-renowned in music and seen many sides of the coin that most of us don’t, even industry folks. She is one of many successful acts who is speaking up about the current state of decline for mainstream songwriters in finding the financial freedom they once  dreamed of. This change from how mainstream artists once were uber-successful is something to take note of, especially for aspiring musicians and songwriters who share that same dream. Add to it that media makes it difficult to really accept that fame and fortune in music cannot be had when pop stars flaunt their vast wealth (or the impression of it). Perception is reality, but often perception is skewed.

The truth is hope is not completely lost for anyone in the music industry, but the requirements for success have changed. Perhaps that’s a good thing. Gone, perhaps, are the days when writing the one-hit-wonder will set you up to never have to work again. Where one successful hit song can put you on a train of financial freedom that everyone covets and you get to enjoy the benefits of the 1%. But maybe real success in music has always been about crafting excellence. Isn’t this what we are truly connected to anyways?

Johnny Cash is still incredibly popular decades after his death. Fans (both die-hard and nominal) share a love of many of his songs from the different eras of his songwriting. The same is true for other incredible songwriters like Leonard Cohen, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, BB King, Willie Nelson and others. These are songwriters who continue to write and perform. That itself should be an indication of what it takes for prolonged success. Despite the wealth achieved, there’s an undying passion for music and artistic connection that makes them keep going. Therein lies the key for established and emerging songwriters to have what they dream. The passion has to live on, and you have to continue working.

In indie radio there are countless new acts that emerge each moment, and surprisingly most of them have a great sound. The successful indie acts do a lot of touring and play a lot of venues. They’re not trying to write the hit song to make them millionaires, but they do enjoy writing music that connects with people in a live setting. Though writing the song that makes you set for life (financially) might not be the same as in the past, there is still a financial future for songwriters. The path is just a little more organic than it used to be.

When Fans Are Like Family Musicians Win

PODSandovalBuzz32Buzzfest 32, an annual outdoor alt-rock festival in Houston, brought P.O.D. this past year as part of its lineup. It was the main reason I went to the show, since they are a remarkable act live and the last time I tried to see them the festival cancelled (due to weather). Before they took the stage, the radio station hosting the event did a little Q&A session with band members. Frontman Sonny Sandoval, while answering a question seemingly unrelated, made a statement that profoundly stuck with me.

“Their fans are like family, so naturally we wanted to connect with them and their scene,” Sandoval said. He was referring to the band The Deftones, and his response was to a question regarding why the band (P.O.D.) has been doing more with the Deftones in recent months.

Prior to that statement, other band members made some remarks about the nature of music and music fans that is true and very telling. As a whole, music fans are fickle. Today they like you because they heard a song (or part of one) and it was catchy. But tomorrow, or 2 hours or 20 minutes later they’re on to something else.

This is the nature of all consumers in every market. It’s why businesses are constantly marketing their brand on every platform all the time. However, constant promotion can turn some of the right people off to your band.

When your fans aren’t just people who “like” your music, you have something that’s very powerful. But if even a platinum-recording and major alt-rock act like P.O.D. experiences the negative side of a fickle music fan community, imagine how true that is for smaller indie acts. The need to make strong, dedicated impressions with your fan base is essential to you having the success you want with your music.

If the thought of your fans being so close bothers you, that’s ok. I’m not saying that you need to invite them all over to your house, or that they need to know your personal information. But consider that early in your music career, your family was probably the most supportive group of people backing everything you did. They told their friends and colleagues about your work, went to your shows and bought your music. They supported you in real, tangible methods. This is what you want with your fan base.

What does this look like, to have fans who act like family in their support of your music? Look at artists who have that cult following, who have built die-hard and dedicated followers over time. P.O.D. (aka Payable On Death) is certainly one band who has done that well, as are the Deftones. Bruce Springsteen, though he’s been playing music for several decades and has a zillion hits over the years, still have one of the most dedicated audiences in music history. On a smaller scale, Aimee Mann has a cult following in folk circles.

Further investigation into how this phenomena works will shine a lot of light into pathways for success in your music career. It’s the experience of your artistry that connects true fans to your music. What experience are you giving people to connect with?