In fact, in my experience, resolutions induce arbitrary waiting periods before getting stuff done.
EVERY time I have “resolved” to change something or do something new starting on January 1st, I was really just giving myself an excuse to take December off.
I decided many moons ago to stop delaying progress and start assessing and adjusting my actions as part of my DAILY routine. That way, any changes that need to be made will be applied immediately after being identified.
And now, instead of being a slave to the calendar, I am the master of my own destiny.
So how about, if instead of making a “New Years Resolution”, you set a specific and MEASURABLE goal for 2018? You know… something with a NUMBER.
Mine? Well, THANKS for asking!
I believe that EVERY musician deserves to feel inspired and appreciated.
The way I help them accomplish that is by teaching my entire fanmunity-building system through my online classroom. It works like a charm. And I can say proudly that 100% of the musicians who have participated fully in the process that I designed have connected with fans who inspire and appreciate them.
That’s why MY goal for 2018 is to enroll 52 new students into my “Musicpreneur Apprentice Program” and help them work towards THEIR goals.
There. I said it out lout. Now I’m committed 😉
And I’m SURE it will go better than that year I resolved to “live life to the fullest”.
If you’ve been around since last year you might notice that it’s the same goal that I had for 2017.
Even so, it is a more challenging goal this time around for 2 reasons:
1-Enrollment is currently closed. And I’m not going to reopen it until I finish revamping and updating it. So I’m not going to have a full 52 weeks to get there.
2-When we do reopen, the price will be $2,000, which is double what I charged in 2017 (don’t worry, it will STILL be worth EVERY penny). Which means it might be tougher to find the right musicians to fill those spots. OR it might actually be easier, according to some business teachings. Either way, it looks like I’m going to find out.
Regardless of whether you’re ready to come along with me and make your 2018 as awesome as I intend to make mine, I’m genuinely curious about the goals you’ve set for yourself.
Go ahead and respond to tell me all about your SPECIFIC & MEASURABLE goals for 2018.
I’ll look forward to reading them when I get back to the office in a few days. But in the meantime, I’ve got some piñatas to bust 😉
Our last “episode” was all about transferring electric signals to a mixing console or recording device. Now, it’s time to talk about the input section of a console.
Jack Be Nimble
When connecting to a console input, it’s important to choose the correct connection point. Some consoles make this very easy by offering only one physical input, usually a simple female XLR – or, a female XLR/ female TRS “combo” jack. In other cases, you might have separate connectors for microphone-level signals and line-level signals.
When the choice is necessary, the major deciding factor is primarily based on the amount of gain (that is, voltage increase) necessary for the signal to work well with the console. We’ll talk more about this later.
Another kind of jack you might encounter in a console’s input section is the insert. Inserts are actually a combination input/ output point that, electronically, comes after the preamp or trim. An insert is meant for pulling a line level signal out of a console entirely, processing the signal, and then putting the signal back into the console so it can be mixed as normal. This is often accomplished by using a cable with a TRS male on one end, and two TS males on the other. One TS male connects to the tip and ground of the TRS, whereas the other connects to sleeve and ground. One TS, then, is the “send” to the external processing, and the other is the “return.”
Some consoles, as well as some DI boxes, come equipped with a PAD switch. “Padding” an input means running the signal through electronics designed to reduce voltage before other devices are encountered. PADs are used to avoid overloads from a following gain stage. For instance, in the case of a console with only one input point for each channel, the input stage itself might not be able to handle certain voltage levels. With a PAD engaged, that incoming voltage can be reduced to something more manageable.
Preamps…Or Just A Trim?
Many audio processing devices work best when the audio level presented to them is between roughly 1 volt and 10 volts, also known as “line-level.” Signals from microphones and DI boxes can often be well below this general area, perhaps down in the tenths or hundredths of a volt. These lower-voltage signals are commonly categorized as “mic-level.” Signals at mic-level may require large, positive gain changes to correctly drive downstream electronics, and so a jack that can be connected to a microphone preamp is needed in that case. Mic pres are important and specially designed, as they have a difficult job: They make very large changes to input signal voltages while being as noiseless as possible. They are the “highest” gain stage in a console; Nothing else can change the ratio of input to output voltage like they can.
Signals already at (or very near) line-level may need only a small gain adjustment, if any, and so they can be connected to a “trim.” A trim is a gain control with a more limited range…and, often, the ability to reduce a signal’s level.
If only one input point is available, it’s very likely connected to a gain control that can trim down line-level signals, while also having enough positive gain available to work with mic-level inputs. (Or, a mic pre with an available PAD).
As a quick aside, let’s discuss the difference between analog and digital systems. In an analog console, signal voltage is passed directly from the input stage to everything else. In a digital system, the signal is passed to a converter, which then sends data along. In either case, an appropriate drive level from the input stage is necessary – and although the “technology bases” are different, the general behavior of the console regarding signal levels is unchanged. A good, healthy, line-level signal is necessary, whether that signal will be passed as analog voltage or data that represents a voltage.
So, when setting up your level from the preamp or trim, what should you look for?
A basic rule of thumb is to shoot for 10 – 20 dB below overload. This gives you room for the input to get louder without clipping, while avoiding being too low. This also gives you some room to make changes with processing and other level controls later. It is NOT necessary to “get as loud as possible without clipping,” especially because trying for that tends to lead to levels that are too hot. On the contrary, in most cases you’ll be just fine if the signal is reaching the middle of whatever metering you have available. If all you have is a “Signal Present” light, you’re probably in decent shape if the light is continuously illuminated during louder passages.
Please do read up on the manufacturer’s specifics for metering on your console. Knowing what all the lights and numbers mean is very helpful for proper operation of your equipment. Also, be aware that digital consoles often use a different dB scale than analog mixers.
After playing at The Cactus Cafe in Austin one night, a lady walked up to me and said, “That was awesome! I totally loved your music tonite! Where can I sign up for your email list?” Of course, I didn’t have one at the time. I was embarrassed, so I stumbled through the typical, “Oh, I’m sorry…I don’t have one yet… I’m not really sure it would help me… It’s so much work… but I’m on Facebook!”
She walked away and we never connected again.
In the last couple of years, however, I’ve built an email list we call The Tribe. For us, it’s more than a promotion vehicle to sell music and book shows. It’s a way I’ve been able to connect with my fans in a significant way… and help connect them with each other.
My fans are more than a bunch of email addresses to me. They are creative and resourceful. They have adventures and stories and heartaches. Just like us. And they’ve become great friends through our Tribe.
Here are six quick reasons why I love (and need!) my Tribe:
We give each other emotional support. They listen to me through my struggles and help me process how to move forward. It doesn’t matter if it’s a relationship issue, a time management problem, or if I’m working on a new song idea and get stuck in Second Verse Hell. Coming from another creative, their support is incredibly potent. They don’t downplay my struggles. They ‘get me’. And I ‘get them’. So we rely on each other.
They are a source of motivation and inspiration. Someone tells you they admire and appreciate you and your work. You get encouragement to create more and do better. Again, this is particularly powerful when it comes from someone whose taste you respect, who knows what they’re talking about. Some of my most trusted sources of motivation are other artists (songwriters, artists, authors) who’ve taken the time to thoughtfully critique my own work. They’re gentle and kind and generous… and honest. There’s a sense of mutual respect for our creations—and a mutual expectation that we are all striving to create our best work…whether they’re an artist or a real estate agent!
We give each other great feedback. Those of us who’ve created something from our heart—from our innermost being— and have hung it out for the world to see, know one thing deeply: We know how to give and receive feedback. Gently. Thoughtfully. Honestly. Encouragingly. Without fail, someone in my tribe says just the right thing to give me a thoughtful and useful response to my work… and how to make it better. Sometimes it’s my wife, who knows me better than anyone, and sometimes it’s another creative who just says, “Hmmmm….yeah, but…what if you did ___________ instead?”
A tribe makes for great collaboration. I can’t tell you how many times someone in the tribe gets involved with me on a project. We may talk about ideas, word choices, stories, lyrics, colors….anything. In my tribe, I have computer whizzes, artists, painters, t-shirt designers, mechanics, programmers, stylists, ranchers, secretaries, parents, coaches, pastors, atheists, writers, monks, bartenders, and construction workers. The stories and experiences we share are unending. And any of them— all of them— are amazing collaborators. Whatever we make together is exponentially more than what I could ever make alone.
We keep each other accountable. When I get in a funk of depression or discouragement, or when I’m tired and worn out, someone in my tribe cares that I get off my butt and get things done. Someone cares that I keep writing, playing, singing, emailing, or whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing. And I care enough not to let them down. Now and then I’ll get a text or a message on social media that says, “Hey, man. I haven’t seen you at our songwriter circle in a while. You should come Tuesday.” It’s a gentle reminder saying “Hey, dude. Don’t you dare quit on us. We love you. You need to get up and get going.”
And I do.
Most importantly, a tribe give us a place to belong. It gives all of us a place and platform do to something that matters to each of us. It gives me a place that matters. A place to belong. It gives each of us the space and the glue to be connected to passionate, creative, and supportive people. It reminds us that we are not alone. It reminds us that we matter and that our work matters.
Years ago, I had an intern named Douggie who spent the summer in Sengal, Africa. As a college football player, Douggie was a huge, beast of a young man with long hair and a HUGE heart. He was an imposing tackle on the football field, but a compassionate, kind-eyed giant off the field. After weeks in Africa, he returned home with one mantra: ubuntu. Ubuntu is an African word for community or tribe. Literally, ‘ubuntu’ means ‘I am because we are’. In other words, I am who I am because we are who we are together. We’ve adopted the mantra and printed bracelets and t-shirts, made posters and videos, and decided to embrace ‘ubuntu’. (Today, Douggie is still one of my most cherished people in the tribe. I am who I am because we are who we are.)
That, my friends, is what belonging to a tribe is all about.
My ‘tribe’ is my lifeblood. It’s helped build a community of fans who support my art, my vision, and my projects. It’s helped build real life friendships with people across all walks of life.
How do YOU build your tribe? What are YOU doing that’s working? What are ways you’re building community among your fans? I’d love to know. Share it with all of us in the comments below!
The previous installment of this series dealt with how sound must be represented as electricity for us to work with it in the modern, pro-audio context. Mostly, we talked about the transducers you’re likely to encounter – microphones, that is.
The next step is to get that electricity passed along to the input stage of a console or other device.
“Wire” You Looking At Me Like That?
The simplest and most robust connection possible is a single cable carrying analog electrical signals. Analog cabling is subject to many problems, of course, including noise induced by electromagnetic interference. However, its simplicity reduces the number of ways that an outright failure can occur, and the connection tends to degrade “gracefully.” In other words, the cable will continue to pass some kind of signal unless it’s completely unable to function.
A cable is a bundle of conductors that have different roles in a successful connection. Audio connections require a minimum of two conductors: Signal (Hot, +) and Ground. It is, of course, entirely possible to bundle more conductors into a single cable, with the extra conductors having different roles. A three-conductor system might be used for a balanced connection, with Signal (Hot, +), Return (Neutral, -) and Ground…but this isn’t the only possible configuration! A three-conductor cable might also be unbalanced stereo, with two “hots” and a shared ground.
Cables do not have brains, and don’t “know” which application they are meant for – although certain cable constructions are better for different situations. The application, or interpretation of the carried signals is up to the manufacturers of input and output devices.
In pro-audio, there is a definite preference for “balanced” connections. As stated above, a balanced connection requires Signal and Return conductors for each audio signal being carried (along with a proper Ground conductor scheme as needed).
Balanced connections are helpful because of their ability to suppress induced noise. Interference gets “into” a balanced cable just like any other cable. All cables function as antennae, and the longer the cable the more functional it is. With a balanced connection, though, the induced noise is the same on both conductors, whereas the actual signal is inverted on one conductor. Balanced input stages are meant to accept only what is DIFFERENT between the two conductors, while – to some degree – canceling anything that is common. If the signal on one conductor is inverted, but the noise is the same on both, the signal should be preserved while the noise largely disappears.
Because of what I said above (that cables are unaware of how they’re supposed to be used), you can theoretically put connectors on any cable with the appropriate number of conductors, and use that cable in a balanced situation. However, cable made specifically for balanced connections will use “twisted pairs,” so that the noise exposure for any given conductor is the same along the length of the cable. Cables built for unbalanced use may not have any twist, which can cause one conductor to be more susceptible to noise. If the noise on one conductor is greater than on the other, the differential input stage will happily amplify the difference and pass the noise along.
I’m A Terminator
In a pro-audio context, we have a strong tendency to name cables by referring to the connectors attached to the ends. (We could connect everything via bare wire, but that wouldn’t be quick or convenient.) It’s important to note that cable termination does not necessarily guarantee that the cable will function a certain way.
For example, I can terminate an unbalanced cable with a connector generally meant for balanced operation. The cable will never actually be capable of carrying a properly balanced signal, even though the connector is capable of doing so.
Some common termination types – and thus, cable names – are:
— 3-Pin XLR, commonly referred to as XLR, or “mic-cable.” XLR connectors offer robust construction, with relatively large electrical contact points arranged in a triangle, and the ability to latch built in at both ends. Please note that XLR is actually a reference to an overall connector form-factor. An “XLR cable” might have connectors with 5 pins instead of three. 3-Pin XLR is most often used for mono, balanced audio, but there’s nothing to prevent the connector from being utilized in other applications. (Some older equipment even used 3-Pin XLR for loudspeaker connections.) XLR cables are most often wired with a male end and female end.
— TS (Tip-sleeve), often called a phone cable or guitar cable. TS connectors and their variants are available in various sizes, with 1/4″ and 1/8″ diameters being the most common. TS and other similar connectors are not quite as heavy-duty as XLR, because their “all in a line” construction can be more easily damaged by sideways force, and also because TS connectors are not often built with latching capabilities. The tip being larger than the sleeve offers some protection against accidental disconnect, though, and some manufacturers have also created latching jacks. TS cables are often seen with two male ends. TS cable finds applications in mono, unbalanced audio applications, along with certain switching operations.
— TRS (Tip-ring-sleeve), also called a phone cable (confusingly with TS), or stereo phone cable. TRS can be used for stereo audio, balanced, mono audio, and switching applications where two switches are to be addressed with one connection.
— TRRS (Tip-ring-ring-sleeve), which ALSO may be called a phone cable (causing even more confusion), or headset cable. TRRS, due to having four connection points, commonly finds use where stereo, unbalanced audio travels to a receiving end, and a mono, unbalanced signal travels from a sending end located on the same device – such as a headset with a built-in microphone.
Multiple TS variants can be physically inserted into a mismatching jack, with varying results. Cables with “too few” connection points will often seem to work normally when plugged into a jack with more connections. The opposite, however, is much less certain. TRRS-equipped headphones, for instance, can’t be counted on to pass audio as expected if mated to a TRS headphone output.
— RCA, also called a pin-jack. Any single RCA connector only has the electrical capabilities of a TS connector, limiting it to unbalanced, mono audio or single-point switching. Two or more cables with RCA termination are often combined by the manufacturer for convenience. RCA connectivity is even less robust than other types, especially as simple friction is the only barrier to a cable being inserted or removed. Many RCA cables are wired with male connectors at both ends.
A cabling “super-type” is that of the snake, or multicore. These are effectively a cable of cables, meant to help collect and run a number of connections in a single, physical bundle. Snakes come in many varieties, with many combining cables with different termination types. Some include a stagebox for one end, which may be removable if the snake is a high-end model.
At some point, you will very likely encounter a situation where a device producing an audio signal is incompatible with the receiving device, such as a mixing console. In certain cases, this is a purely physical problem, such as a balanced output on TRS faced with a balanced input on XLR.
In such a situation, the only conversion necessary is a simple adapter. There’s no problem to be solved with the signal itself. Rather, the connection for the signal needs to be reconfigured. A simple adapter has no electronics, but only the necessary wiring required to pass the audio straight through to a different connector. You must be careful that the wiring is as you expect, however. Some TRS to XLR adapters don’t actually include all three conductors!
Simple adaption is also all that’s necessary in many situations where you are reducing electrical complexity, such as mating a balanced output to an unbalanced input.
The problem gets a little more complex when you need to convert an unbalanced signal to a balanced one, and/ or where the signal producing device can’t effectively drive the console input. (The latter case is an impedance problem. A real discussion of impedance is beyond the scope of this series, but a tell-tale sign of an impedance issue is a connection where the signal seems surprisingly weak and sounds VERY poor.)
When you need to improve/ upgrade the ELECTRICAL part of the equation, a simple adapter is insufficient. You will need intervening electronics in the form of a DI box or similar device.
Some of these converters are very bare-bones, stuffing an electrical transformer into the body of an adapter and doing nothing else. Others may be a bit more full-featured, operating as an actual DI box with, perhaps, a pad for high-level signals, a pass-through, and a ground-lift on the output. In both cases, though, the internal transformer does all the real work. The signal is converted to a balanced output, and a reasonably broad range of impedances can be successfully handled.
These simple devices are especially easy to use because they are passive, requiring only the input signal to be present in order to function. They can’t handle every possible input situation, though, because their transformers have inherent limitations regarding input impedance.
Active direct boxes are more flexible at the cost of complexity. The core of an active DI is a circuit involving an op-amp which requires some sort of steady power supply to operate. The op-amp can be effectively driven by almost any input, though, making active DIs compatible with pretty much anything you’re likely to encounter. A reasonable rule of thumb, then, is to use an active DI box whenever you’re in doubt about what kind of DI is appropriate.
Too many musicians just want to have the business stuff done for them.
But that’s a privilege you’re only entitled to AFTER you’ve achieved significant success.
The music biz is a relationship game. So no one is going to build your career for you as well as you can for yourself.
Besides, the only way to make sure that the people you hire are doing their job properly is to learn to do it yourself first.
Once you have systems in place you can make responsible decisions about whether you want to outsource certain tasks (which you’ll still have to supervise), and how much of your income you really want to give up to middlemen.
There are a LOT of shady people in the music in-DUH-stry.
So if you insist on ONLY paying attention to making music you’ll get screwed over… a lot… with no vaseline.
I laugh out loud when musicians accuse me of being shady because I focus on education instead of managing and building careers for people who don’t want to learn.
They say stuff like, “if your stuff really worked you’d do it FOR me in exchange for a percentage of future profits”.
The truth is if you’re not willing to work you’ve got no chance, no matter how much anyone else does for you. So I would never waste my time on someone that comes at me with that attitude.
There are plenty of people out there who will sell you broken promises. And that’s what you’re gonna get if you don’t take ownership of your career.
Speaking of taking ownership, one way to get the education you need in order to do that is to go to university and get an MBA specializing Entrepreneurial Small Business. Then spend a few years applying the theories and processes you learned to a wide variety of musicians so that you can distill your knowledge down to the most potent and universal principles.
That’s what I did. It cost me about $40,000.
Another option that’s available for a fraction of that price the Musicpreneur Apprentice Program.
That’s where I teach you everything you need (and nothing you don’t need) to know about building your own community of raving, paying superfans and turning your dream into a real-life business.
To-Do lists can be a lot like the “Bog of Eternal Stench”!
The longer you spend on them, the deeper you get…
As I was building my business, I was constantly taking in new information and applying it.
Although taking in as much information as possible is important at a certain stage, it will eventually sink you.
I found out he hard way that there is FAR more information on the inter webs than you could ever possibly apply.
I reached a point where I was rolling out of bed at 7am and heading straight to my computer. Then I would sit there, zombified, ticking off things from my to-do list until 11 at night.
Not only that…
Since I was subscribed to ALL the music biz blogs, podcasts, and websites I could find, my to-do list was longer by the time I went to bed than it was when I got up!
I didn’t eat well. I didn’t exercise. I didn’t spend time with my wife. And eventually I sunk into a deep depression that nearly ended my career.
Even though I was making a living, I wasn’t living life.
But I WAS able to climb out of The Bog and solve The Labyrinth.
And now I get more (important) stuff done in 6 hours than I used to in 16 hours.
1: I Unsubscribed From Almost Everything.
I figured out which source of information was giving me the MOST powerful information and unsubscribed from everything else.
There were some good sources that I came back to later. But I made it a point to focus on learning from one teacher at a time.
That way, I wasn’t spending time on redundant or conflicting strategies. And I stopped adding more things to my to-do list than I was able to check off each day.
2: I Set Time Limits.
I STILL have an egg timer that I have on whenever I’m Facebooking. It starts at 30 minutes when I get up. And when it reaches zero I’m DONE Facebooking for the day.
I also set up an 8-hour timer. When that ran out, I was DONE working for the day, whether things were finished or not.
It freed up time to actually take care of myself and enjoy life. It forced me to look critically at my to-do list and delete a LOT of stuff I realized didn’t need to be there. And it helped me stay focused and stop procrastinating.
It helped so much that now I’m down to 6 hours per workday 😉
3: I Started Planning Ahead.
Instead of looking at my list each morning and cherry-picking what I was in the mood for, I started taking time at the end of the week to look at my list and slot tasks into my schedule for the entire upcoming week.
That way, I couldn’t get distracted by the easy (and usually unimportant) stuff. I knew WHAT I had to get done each day when I got to my desk and HOW MUCH time I had to do it in.
Within a couple of weeks I was able to accurately predict what I could get done in a week. It also helped me knock a BUNCH of other pointless stuff off my list.
4: I Prioritized.
I decided on 4 things that were crucial for me to get done on a regular basis and created a system to reward myself for doing those things using a wall calendar and fun stickers.
Those are the most important tools I used to get my to-do list under control and take back my life.
Of course I go deeper into the all of that and a LOT more in vivid detail in the Musicpreneur Apprentice Program
Time Management is an overlooked subject in most music biz (or ANY biz for that matter)courses. Which is why I’ve dedicated an entire module to it in the MAP 2.0, which is set to release next month.
The price of the MAP will also be going up when 2.0 get’s released. So if you’d like to get in for the 1.0 pricing (and the free upgrade when I launch 2.0) you can join us here:
Here’s a question I’m starting to hear quite a bit:
“What’s the difference between the Musicpreneur Apprentice Program 1.0 and the MAP 2.0?”
There are actually a few differences. So here they are:
1: The lessons in the MAP 1.0 were presented as live webinars and currently live as replays in the classroom. For 2.0 I’m breaking down those lessons into smaller, bite-sized bits and recording more polished (scripted) videos.
2: There is a LOT more homework. Each lesson will include an assignment. They won’t be graded. Rather, most of them will be submitted for peer review in our Student Lounge (FB Group) so that we can ALL learn from and be inspired by each other’s efforts.
The community aspect of the MAP is one of the key benefits that makes it stand out from any other program. So this is a great way to leverage that advantage.
3: I have updated the lessons based on over a year’s worth of learning from dozens of MAPers testing out and improving upon our ideas.
4: I have added new modules based on things that we have learned and discovered are important over the last year. The new modules include:
-The Musicpreneur Mindset
-A Greatly Expanded Monetization Module
-A Pilot Program For Patreon
5: More Bonuses! In addition to the bonuses offered in the MAP 1.0 I will be adding:
-MORE One-On-One Coaching
-1 Year of Free Access to TweepMaster (our “SFMers Only” Twitter App which handles targeted growth, auto-dm, AND advanced messaging like nothing you’ve ever seen).
-Discount on Web Design Services
Yeah, the MAP 2.0 is going to be a pretty big deal. I’d say about twice as big of a deal as the MAP 1.0. And the price will reflect that.
Anyone who’s part of the MAP 1.0 will get upgraded for free.
If you want the extra bonuses, wait until I launch the MAP 2.0 in December to join.
But if you’re happy with the current bonuses and want to get in at a lower price, time is running out to join the MAP 1.0.
The door is closing on October 31st so that I can spend November putting together the final touches for the grand reopening!