December News

I-heart-u guyA few nice things happened this month. First, we ran out of songbooks for the first time at our 12/7 Sundaysong Singalong. Time to make more!

Then I got to play UT Night at the Trail of Lights and walk it for the first time (with my wife and 5 yr old girl). What a wonderful evening.

But the big news for me was all the help y’all gave me by taking my survey and helping me get unstuck on some strategy questions that were hanging me up.

Read the Survey Says! post to see how everyone responded. Here are the conclusions I gathered:

  1. Play outdoor shows and house concerts. Post them to YouTube.
  2. Focus on original material with a mix of covers thrown in, folk/rock, singalong, reggae, kids, and ambient.
  3. Keep shows simple most of the time – solo acoustic or with guitar player – but make sure and put on bigger band shows occasionally.
  4. I’m Jason Molin and I go by J. I should emphasize J and be findable both ways.
  5. I should use jmolin.com as a musician.
  6. I should use a mix of old and new funding models.
  7. Keep the music coming.

Thanks for keeping me focussed!
;- j

Survey Says!

J's Music Strategy SurveyEarlier this month I put together a survey of seven music strategy questions that I keep getting hung up on (seen, linked on the right).

Here are the questions and results. I’ve bolded and ordered the top answers adding my basic conclusions below, saving further thoughts till the end.

1. What kind of material should I focus on playing?

  • 94% – My original songs
  • 36% – Folk/rock covers
  • 33% – Sunday morning singalong songs
  • 17% – Reggae and dub numbers
  • 19% – Kid’s songs
  • 14% – Meditative, ambient music
  • 6% – Love songs, wedding band covers

Conclusions: People like the other covers sprinkled in but the clear majority want me to sing my stuff.

2. Which venues suit me best?

  • 68% – Outdoor shows, parks
  • 62% – House concerts, backyard parties
  • 46% – Coffee shops
  • 32% – YouTube videos
  • 14% – Churches
  • 8% – Bars, clubs
  • 5% – Live streaming online

Conclusions: Keep doing outdoor shows! Do house concerts and parties more regularly. More YouTube videos.  (I don’t want to do coffee shops. I’ve done them and will depart from the crowd on this one.)  Consider a church collaboration.

3. What configurations suit me best?

  • 51% – Solo acoustic (no microphones, no amps)
  • 46% With one other player (like guitar, keys, or drums)
  • 37% – Solo electric (with mic, amp, loops and effects)
  • 37% – With a big band (add horn section)
  • 34% – With a band (guitar, bass, drums, etc.)

Conclusions: No standout configuration winners or losers. Solo acoustic and with another player seem to win, but people would like to see all of these. Reminds me that I can play with a stripped down setup most of the time but to make sure and put on a bigger show a few times a year.

4. As a musician, what should I go as?

  • 49% – Jason Molin
  • 31% – J Molin
  • 20% – Everyday J

Conclusions: Jason Molin is the winner but 1/3 of my audience thinks of me as J. Keep using Jason Molin as the official listing, but J as the usual nickname.

5. I’m redesigning and planning a relaunch of my site. What web address should I use? I own these.

  • 35% – jasonmolin.com
  • 35% – jmolin.com
  • 24% – jasonmolin.net (current)
  • 5% –  channelj.me
  • 0% – channelj.org

Conclusions: Hmmm… jasonmolin.com and jmolin.com are virtually tied. jmolin is shorter, so that could break the tie. But jasonmolin.net and .com got 60% to jmolin 34% (more in keeping with the question above). I’m really on the fence here.

I think there is a way to choose all the above here, since I can advertise jmolin.com and redirect it and jasonmolin.net to the jasonmolin.com.

6. Which model for recouping costs would you be most likely to support?

  • 69% – All the above, a blended balance of all
  • 11% – Kickstarter-like Crowd Funding: get pledges for albums or projects annually in exchange for stuff and access
  • 9% -Traditional Commercial: sell CDs, merch, charge for shows
  • 6% – Fan Club Patrons: fans/patrons get stuff (letters, CDs, posters, invites, swag) and special access for ongoing support
  • 6% – Public Radio: occasionally ask for member support in exchange for swag; find partners/sponsors

Conclusion: Use all the above. Work to give people all these options so that people can support in their various ways.

7. Any other comments?

  • No more shitty gigs! Hey!
  • Love the survey! (Several people said this.)
  • Your park get-togethers are awesome but should also function as a platform to publicize your other gigs. A dot com domain is always preferable.
  • Your music makes me happy!
  • Use your drawings as album covers and use it in merch as well.
  • Keep the music coming!
  • I think any band configuration would be great. I personally would like to see a big band! Maybe also a different guest vocalist to duet with you from time to time.
  • I really feel you should play whatever you like wherever you like.
  • Don’t let your music die, continue and follow your dreams dude.
  • So I think if you’re gonna be famous (and you should definitely be famous) it would be clearest to go with J. Plus it’s kinda bold to be one letter.
  • I really appreciated your music in outdoor intimate settings.
  • It is so wonderful to see you continuing to grow through your musical love.

Conclusions: I love all of you for taking the time to encourage me and help me out. Some great advice and inspiration here. Message received: I’m not stoppin!!!


 

HurdlerSo there are the results, and here are my thoughts, beyond the simple conclusions I listed above.

First of all, I learned a lot about myself before the first response because defining my struggles and coming to terms with viable options did much of the mental and emotional work to answer these questions for myself. It took a while to figure out what decisions were hanging me up, and also which options I wanted people to help me choose between. Once I did I’d reckoned with much of what was getting me stuck.

Second, as I got the first responses I realized I had to take the survey myself, answer the questions for myself, and reckon with how much power I was going to share with my fans on these decisions, especially if they chose differently than me. The act of asking and perhaps delegating my decisions to the group got me to realize which ways I didn’t want to go (even if people told me to).

Thirdly, the responses were both helpful and inspiring. A high percentage of people I emailed responded, many with thoughtful and encouraging comments. As with my Kickstarter campaign a few years ago, it was a thrill to see how many people will help me when asked, and a pleasant surprise to see who I heard from. Note to self: people want to help, BUT YOU HAVE TO ASK!

In the end the result is to move on, jump the hurdles, make more music, and don’t get hung up on these things anymore. This means:

  1. Play outdoor shows and house concerts. Post them to YouTube.
  2. Focus on original material with a mix of covers thrown in, folk/rock, singalong, reggae, kids, and ambient.
  3. Keep shows simple most of the time – solo acoustic or with guitar player – but put on a band show biannually and big band show annually.
  4. I’m Jason Molin and I go by J. I should emphasize J and be findable both ways.
  5. I should migrate everything to jmolin.com and redirect everything else there.
  6. I should use a mix of old and new funding models.
  7. Keep the music coming!

This was a tremendously helpful and encouraging exercise. Now I need to move past these questions. There’s a lot of work do to putting on shows in more spaces and varied setups, and migrating and relaunching my site. Thank you all for the help and support!!!

42 Is The Answer

Anais and I on our bday bike/walk. Taken by Maile.

What’s the question? Well, it could be:

  • How old are you now? or
  • When will your life come together? or
  • When will you be happy?

I could answer all of these with, “42.”

(I haven’t read it, but I’m aware of 42’s significance from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in which the supercomputer Deep Thought spends 7.5 million years to compute the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. The answer is… 42. See for yourself on Google, or YouTube.)

This is a great bday because it is a wonderful time in my life. Maile, Anais and I have such fun. I love my job. And my music vision is stronger and clearer than ever.

The thrashing around that started at 40 seems to have subsided. The result of the tally is that I have everything I need,  so much love and joy, I’m surrounded by so many wonderful people and meaningful projects. What else could I ask for?

Well, ambition is as wide-eyed as ever as I turn my attention to a refined approach to music that relies less on the distinctiveness of  my talent and more on my art as a healing service for the fracturing world.

Between gorgeous gigs and Sundaysong singalongs I offer connection and reconnection to nature, beauty, people, and peace. (Gorgeous gigs are in beautiful spaces, outside when the whether is right. Sundaysong singalongs are like a folksong church, without the church.)

Thanks, peace, and love to my family, friends and fans for giving me so much. I hope for 42 years more for the chance to repay you.

The Secret To A Happy Family: Try

As a geek dad this caught my eye: Agile programming for your family?! Make your family a self-managing team.

Feiler’s 3-plank Agile family manifesto

  • Adapt all the time
    • stay flexible
    • don’t listen only to ‘experts’
    • hook up with new ideas
    • be open minded
    • let the best ideas win
    • weekly family meeting, 20 mins. ask
      • What worked well?
      • What didn’t work well?
      • What can we all agree on to work on this week?
  • Empower children
    • stop ordering your children around
    • enlist them in their own upbringing
    • they come up with punishments and rewards
    • plan their own goals
    • set weekly schedules
    • evaluate themselves
    • succeed and fail on their own terms
    • less what they do wrong, more on what they do right
    • give them the tools to make themselves happy
  • Tell your story
    • as bedrock context for adaptability
    • preserve the core
    • define mission, core values, family mission statement
    • tell story of family, where we came from
    • difficult situations overcome
    • family strengths and successes
    • retell the positive and overcoming negative stories
    • make a family manifesto

Happiness is not something we find, it’s something we make. Greatness is not a circumstance, it’s a choice. What’s the secret to a happy family? Try.

SuperBetter

Reading Reality Is Broken by Jane McGonigal I learned about SuperBetter, a game she created to help recover from a concussion. But it can be applied to any condition.

The book has me very interested in playing the right games to both make progress and have fun with life’s struggles. SuperBetter is a perfect example so I’m going to try to make a game I can win out of some of my chronic conditions.

I’m either going to kill myself, or I’m going to turn this into a game.

Mission #1: Create your SuperBetter secret identity. You’re the hero of this adventure. And you can be anyone you want, from any story you love. So pick your favorite story – anything from James Bond to Gossip Girl, Twilight to Harry Potter, Batman to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Mission #2: Recruit your allies. Every superhero has an inner circle of friends who help save the day. Pick the people you want to count on most, and invite them to play this game with you. Ask each one to play a specific part: Batman needs a Robin and an Alfred. Give each ally a specific mission, related to their character. Use your imagination – and feel free to ask for anything you need! When you’re saving the world, you can’t be shy about asking for help. Be sure to ask at least one ally to give you daily or weekly achievements – these are surprise accomplishments they bestow upon you based on your latest superheroic activities.

Mission #3: Find the bad guys. To win this battle, you need to know what you’re up against. Pay attention all day to anything that makes you feel worse, and put it on your bad guys list. Some days, you’ll be able to battle the bad guys longer – some days not so long. But most importantly: every time you do battle, you’ll want to make a great escape. That means getting away from the bad guy before he knocks you flat.

You can always add more bad guys to your list as you discover them – and if you vanquish one forever, you can take it off and claim the permanent victory.

The better you can identify triggers of your symptoms, the more pain and suffering you’ll avoid. And making a great escape turns a potential moment of failure – something is harder than it should be, or I can’t do something I want to do – into a moment of triumph: I succeeded in recognizing a trigger and vanquished it before it did too much damage.

Mission #4: Identify your power-ups. Good thing you’ve got superpowers. Maybe they’re not your typical superpowers – but you definitely have fun or important things you can do for yourself at a moment’s notice to feel better. Make a list, and be ready to call on them whenever the bad guys are getting the better of you. In fact, try to collect as many power-ups as you can every day!

As you play, be sure to do follow these three rules:

1. Near the end of the every day, hold a secret meeting with one of your allies. Add up your great escapes, your power-ups, and your superhero points.

2. Talk to your other allies as often as possible, and tell them what you’ve been doing to get superbetter. Ask them for ideas about new things to add to your to-do list.

3. Be sure you have at least one ally who is giving you daily achievements. Share these achievements with your friends online, using Twitter or Facebook status updates, to keep them posted on your progress.

Woody Guthrie Resolutions and Wedding Blessing

Resolutions

Today is New Year’s eve 2011 and I found these resolutions of Woody’s last week. I love New Year’s resolutions and Woody, and as always he puts it perfectly, plain and simple.

woodyguthrie-resolutions

  1. Work more and better
  2. Work by a schedule
  3. Wash teeth if any
  4. Shave
  5. Take bath
  6. Eat good — fruit — vegetables — milk
  7. Drink very scant if any
  8. Write a song a day
  9. Wear clean clothes — look good
  10. Shine shoes
  11. Change socks
  12. Change bed cloths often
  13. Read lots good books
  14. Listen to radio a lot
  15. Learn people better
  16. Keep rancho clean
  17. Don’t get lonesome
  18. Stay glad
  19. Keep hoping machine running
  20. Dream good
  21. Bank all extra money
  22. Save dough
  23. Have company but don’t waste time
  24. Send Mary and kids money
  25. Play and sing good
  26. Dance better
  27. Help win war — beat fascism
  28. Love mama
  29. Love papa
  30. Love Pete
  31. Love everybody
  32. Make up your mind
  33. Wake up and fight

Wedding Blessing

Speaking of Woody (and #30 on the list), my brother Pete called today to see if I had a copy of the Woody Guthrie quote that he read at our wedding. With his help I found it on the web in Joe Klein’s biography of Woody.

For me to bless your married life is like a cowboy trying to bless the sky. It is perfectly hung, perfectly balanced and perfectly blessed. Marriage is something bigger and greater than you or me and it is as durable as the sky which always remains clear and endless in spite of the clouds or planets that whirl and spin there. And since love is as endless and empty as the clear blue eternal sky, all of my blessings whether written or spoken or prayed would Fall short and not be Complete. But l ask you to look many days and many nights into that empty blue above your head, and I wish that same peace and that same power and that same balance and that same freedom, that same wealth, that same health, that same harmony and that same quietness and that same love in life that is birthless and deathless; I wish you nothing else. On the day of your marriage, in the season of your awakening, in the year of your new birth, in the land of your people . . . Woody Guthrie, Mary, all the children and all your friends.

Goodbye Frida

Frida has been gone for a few months now. She has wandered off before, but always been back w/in a few weeks. I’ve been trying not to admit that I’ll probably never see her again.

Cats in the Front Yard

I’ve been thinking I ought to pay some sort of tribute to this little big cat we called Frida, as in free da good home. Maile came home from teaching at Paredes many years ago with a one of several kittens discovered in a hollowed tree behind the school, as I remember. From the beginning, Frida was always a bit ferrel and untamable. She bullied everyone about her turf including Townes, Punk, and anyone or animal that walked along Sunset Ln in front of the house.

She was a watchcat that would nip your ankles to terrorize you and remind you who’s walk you were on. She would talk to you, stare you down, and lay herself down near you as an equal. She was not capable of learning that she should not be on the counter, so she stayed outside. She would hop up and push glasses off while looking at you to show you she obeyed no rules.

She was at the top of the pecking order and routinely did a dangerous love dance with Townes to play and scratch him into submission. They had a special love affair, she was his dominatrix, and after a while of Townes grooming her and her winding in and out of his legs, Frida continually lashing at Townes’s nose or catching his fur in her claws, they would occasionally lay down and cuddle.

These are the things I love about Frida and honor in such a feisty little thing. Along with her sense of self and entitlement, she had the biggest personality I’ve ever seen in a cat and she made a worthy companion, one who would not submit to your rule, but would watch over you and keep you company with her own loyalty and pleasure.

Goodbye Frida, I miss you.

Cats in the FrontYard

Townes and Frida

Thanks to Thomas for sharing this old video of Frida and Goopy, her first and best cat friend.