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I Could Have Sold Guitars

Pile of guitarsYears ago I had to make a decision.

I’d been playing in a band for quite a while. I’d helped build a studio and done some producing, engineering, and mixing.

But I was on the verge of getting married, was a little tired of life on the road… I had to make a career decision.

I wanted to stay in music — it’s my passion. But I had options. I was tempted to get a job at Guitar Center. Because I’m a good salesman, I was sure I could make great commissions selling guitars. With over 2 million sold yearly in the USA alone, I figured, “hey, that’s something a lot of musicians will buy!”

But, no. I had another idea. Instead of the sure sale, I “smartly” (said sarcastically) chose a passion for something most musicians don’t think they need… I decided to help artists and bands with their live show.

A recent experience reminded me of this choice.

I was teaching at Camp Electric, a week long event held in 3 cities every summer for teens, and one of the kids came up and showed me a picture of his band. “We’re better than Creed,” he proudly proclaimed. “But we’re quitting.”

“Why?” I asked.

“We spent a lot of money on gear, and we just aren’t making enough money from our live show.”

He went on to say that they “do everything” I teach (of course, it was the first time they’d heard me speak, so I’m not sure how that was possible).

I’m just venting here — but it gets a little frustrating. You see, this is a process. My Live Music Method is an investment of time, energy, and money (like most important things are).

What’s funny is that even some people who recommend us don’t understand the process… we continue to be used as band-aids before an important show. And a band-aid for something that brings in 90% of your revenue, nets you the most fans, and creates a buzz for you and your music, is pretty lame when you think about it.

It’s like hiring a golf coach just 3 days before you go on to the PGA qualifying round, and then expecting to qualify!

Or for a more musical analogy, let’s say you’ve been invited to play at the Grammy’s. So you hire a guitar teacher 3 days before the show to come and teach you how to play the song you’ll be doing. Make any sense?

Of course, as I said, I’m just venting.

I had another women come up to me in tears recently at an event where I taught. “God’s called me to music ministry,” she cried, “but I don’t understand why it’s not working.” She handed me a CD of her 6th recording and I could tell she was hoping for some guidance about how to make her career work.

“Have you studied my materials?” I asked.

“No,” she responded. “But I have a new CD that’s really good!”

Did I mention I was just venting?

Tom Jackson

Tom is uniquely talented and skilled at transforming an artist's live show into a magical experience for the audience; helping artists at every level create a live show that is engaging and memorable, teaching them to exceed their audiences' expectations and to create fans for life. Tom has taught indie and major artists of every genre. He has worked with Taylor Swift, Le Crae, Home Free, The Tenors, Shawn Mendes, The Band Perry, Francesca Battistelli, Jars of Clay, & many more. Tom also teaches at colleges, conferences and events worldwide.

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Greenroom Comments

  1. I could have used someone like Tom earlier in my career, but he’s right…no one…not even Kiss had it right the first time…it took awhile for them to get the show people see now. Same for me, but i didn’t have alot of support from the people I worked with at the time to do certain things. sometimes it just takes a little time and confidence and then eventually you get their. Good thing is Tom will get you there quicker. Thanks again, Tom!

  2. Linda Jacobsen says:

    Indeed! The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. You and your team add so much value to the ones who really are committed and passionate. Practicing the fundamentals I’m learning in the online course and from the blogs, I get so much energy and gain in confidence almost every day!
    I want to release my first album next April and start a tour also, and I’m so excited to implement all I’m learning and slowly creating a vision for the show. Even the way I write my songs now is different; I used to mostly write slow/mid tempo songs, now I write from the perspective of a vision for a show i.e. I write a skip or run song instead.
    Thank you so much for making the choice you’ve made and helping so many blessed artists!

    • Linda Jacobsen, you are using a steady, persistent developmental process, which is great. That’s really the best way to succeed in any business! I’m glad you are using our online classes… I’ll look forward to seeing your performance video at the end of the course!

  3. I am so thankful for the information gleaned from attending your bootcamp a couple of years ago. I’m sure not doing everything correctly now and creating all the moments I should, but I am connecting so much better with my audiences.

    I’m not trying to become famous at what I do, just better. I sing mostly in small churches (mostly 30 to 50 people, rarely over 100) and in nursing homes,assisted living apartments, and senior luncheons, etc. By not just singing to but connecting with and loving my audience through techniques learned from your classes, I have definitely increased my cash flow into my ministry

    Instead of selling 1 or 2 CDs at an event I’m now usually selling 6, 7 or more. I’ve had two of the nursing facilities where I was volunteering began to pay me to come, because in their words, “I was doing so much more than the other singers who came”. The engaging the people I learned from you was a making a difference to the residents. Even more important to me is the difference I’m seeing at the churches in the number of people of responding to the message in the music,and coming to the altar.

    Thank you immensely for the positive influence you have made on my little ministry

  4. I recently purchased and watched the “All Roads…” videos and started using some of the things that Tom talks about: angles, how to walk, where to be on stage, bail outs, not giving away my authority, mixing up the tempos, trying to connect and make moments. Without a rehearsal, just being aware of this stuff, I have seen a consistent increase in CD and merch sales. And that increase is 3X just by being aware. There is always more to learn. I personally can relate to the guitar teacher analogy as I am a guitar teacher as well as a performer. It takes minutes to get some basics but years of study and practice to be great.

  5. Josiah Edge says:

    Tom, I was at Camp Electric this past month for my third (and last) year. Let me encourage you by telling you that YOUR class was the one I looked forward to most. This year being my last year, I bought your book and DVD’s so I could take your method home with me after 3 years of taking notes. My band has since broken as a result… because my other band members were like that one kid you talked to. They don’t get it! More accurately… they don’t WANT to get it. However, it makes sense to me… it inspires me… and it gives me a hope and confidence that there IS a way to make a living on your live show. I play in a diner occasional, doing background music for tips and dinner… my tips have TRIPLED since I started incorporating. just small moments and visual changes to my songs. I guess my point is… some of us get it man. There are ALWAYS jerk kids at CE that think they’re IT, and no one is better. But there are also many kids there, like myself, who are itching to get to your class the next day right after leaving. Don’t lose hope! And thank you for all you’ve done and are doing!

  6. Great article, I get your “vent” here. As a band leader (if I may vent?) the second hardest person to convince besides me Tom… is my band! And I don’t just mean current members, I often work through a roster of drummers and bass players and have such a tough time just finding people with the time and desire to rehearse… once I find those people, it is even harder to find a subset that want to improve their stage show.

    It has caused me to conclude the only person I can work on is me. I need to “be” the show, I don’t mean to really rag on the people I work with, I love them all actually. But they can be anywhere from busy to stubborn or just lacking in interest. Living where I do (Boise) we have a small pool of musicians to choose from here, my question is this… do you agree this is the wisest course of action? Working on myself only and trying to bring that to my musicians that I work with?

    • Bret Welty, I think so. And I think it would be good for you to pass my book around to your band mates and get their thoughts. (Make sure you get the book back!) Looking forward to seeing you at Bootcamp!

      • Great idea on the book, I’ll start passing it around tomorrow night at rehearsal… better yet, maybe I’ll read a piece from it every rehearsal and treat it like a Bible study (no pressure Tom!) and we can discuss it, since I only have the one copy and a limited time to pass it around.

        By the way, just watched your video series on Graphing The Perfect Set List, freaking awesome! (I’ve already watched more than once your 7 DVD series on All Roads Lead To The Stage) once again, great content!

  7. As I save the money for bootcamp, I read every article I get in my e-mail and Facebook feed, I watch every YouTube snippet I can and I know without a doubt that I need to get more info from you to make my shows better…I’ve tried some of the things I’ve gleaned…but you gotta know there are many artists out here like me who really want/NEED what you have to offer. As you said, it takes time, energy and commitment, and as soon as I have the money saved I/my band will be attending a bootcamp. In the meantime, I’m saving first to buy a video. Not all of us are too blind to see what you’re trying to share! Thanks for keeping on!

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