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Be the 5-Star Artist!

One of the “7 Deadly Sins of an Artist” I talk about is “being good.” Doesn’t sound like a bad thing, does it? But trust me, being good…is bad!

There are a lot of artists out there that are good. Often, they don’t know they need help – they know they’re good. And when I work with a group that’s really bad, taking them to good is easy! There are so many things that can be fixed.

However, going from good to great is messy. It’s reshaping things, taking bunny trails and trying ideas, listening for strong parts of the song and developing them. Mistakes will be made, but that’s OK. Some of the best ideas by far come when someone makes a mistake – they try something and it didn’t work, but it stimulated an idea.

If we’re always just trying to get it right then we’ll never get to the place that’s great. We’ll always be just good. So get it right for the recording, but then mess it up for the live show. Try different ideas, reshape it. Follow your instinct.

Remember, going from bad to good is easy. Going from good to great is hard. Well, maybe not so much hard as it is tedious. It’s the little things.

Some of you have heard me talk about a hotel room as an example. A “good” hotel room has a nice bed, it’s clean, it has a bathroom, a TV, a place to put your clothes, maybe a little desk. Nothing creepy about it – it’s a nice hotel room.

But what makes a good hotel room a great hotel room? It’s the little things. The mint on the pillow, fat towels, a soft robe, and my personal favorite: a phone by the toilet! It’s not flying beds or a TV with 5000 channels. It’s all the little things that make the difference.

Conceptually, it’s the same thing with what you do with your music. Every one of you reading this can say you have some songs, you can sing or play, you can talk, you move around the stage. You’re all “good hotel rooms.” You’re all good music career people.

But what will take you to the next level? I’m telling you right now, it’s the little things. It’s form, it’s spontaneity, it’s creating those moments. It’s having the faith and courage to take those chances.

Is your show too canned? Too structured, too planned? Is it under-prepared or is it over-prepared? Is there no room for spontaneity inside it? Are you creating moments or are you just singing songs? Is your uniqueness coming out?

Most of you would probably like to do music full time. So let’s look back at the hotel analogy and money: who makes more money in the hotel business and what costs more? Why are the Hyatts hundreds of dollars while you’re spending $79 for the Hampton Inn? Is there anything wrong with the Hampton Inn? No, I stay in them!

But when I get to stay at the Hyatt or another high-end hotel, it’s pretty amazing. I don’t even want to leave the hotel room. (“Sorry guys, I can’t make it to rehearsal – I need to stay in the hotel bed ’cause it’s a pillowtop!”) It’s a bunch of little things that make an amazing difference in how it feels.

Don’t be OK with being good…be the 5-star artist!

(By the way, you can learn about all 7 of the “deadly sins of an artist” at the Tom Jackson Live Performance Bootcamp that starts Friday, September 25th, 2015.)

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. Great comparison Tom! Just what I needed to hear too! 🙂 Really curious about your new DVD – just in time for me to put it down as the ONLY thing on my holiday wish list. I’ll be working on all the little things I can think of for my show til then.

  2. Very interesting observation – I never thought about it that way, but once again, you are exactly right. I imagine that many entertainers quit achieving, or at least slow down their progress, once they are confident that they are “good.” Instead of thinking of being good as a badge of success, we need to think of it as a step on the way to greatness. Until I can see what tips you have included in your upcoming video, I think I will begin to keep a list as I think of things I can do or change to become great. I will keep the concept of greatness on my mind and always be open to new ideas and concepts that can take me to the next level. Then I can frequently review the list to see what is working, and to remain committed to the project.

  3. Tom Jackson I hate you! Every little thing you say makes so much sense to me. I’m totally blown away by all the little things you have told me that makes a difference. Example- move sideways instead of back from the mic. It makes so much sense why couldn’t I figure it out in thirty some years? This talk about the difference between good and great- exactly what I needed! We consider ourselves a “good” band, but there is no short step up to great. It is all little things adding up! Anyway I hate you ’cause no matter how “good” I get you are always pointing to a “great” path to follow. I thank god you were there when I needed you and hurry up! I want that new package. I’m ready for another TJ shot in the arm.
    Thanks, Asher Wood


  1. […] love this recent blog by Tom Jackson (see below).  Just last weekend I stayed in a hotel where the little detailed touches were so […]

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