Why You Must be Your Biggest Fan

Why You Must be Your Biggest Fan

This post is part of The Renegade Musician Series.

If you owned a Ford dealership, would you drive a Chevy?

Of course, you wouldn’t. If you owned a Ford dealership, you’d make money when people bought Fords. So, you’d be a proud owner of a Ford and you would drive it everywhere you went. You’d get acquainted with the product range. You’d familiarize yourself with the benefits of driving a Ford. You’d study the psychology behind buying and selling. You’d become a student of why people buy cars, and what needs or pains they’re solving when they buy cars. You’d share your knowledge with staff and employees. You’d be a product of the product, and you’d naturally be more passionate about Fords. You’d share your passion with everyone you met, because you’d know how great Fords are, and because you’d have a vested interest in succeeding.

This is not how most musicians think about their music.

I’ve seen it firsthand…

They get sick of working on their music. They actively criticize it. The moment they’re out of the studio, they never want to hear it again. There’s no conviction, no passion, no sense of value or urgency. Yet, in many cases, this is the only product they have. Even though they should have a vested interest in their art, and they’re more qualified than anyone else to share it, spread it, and sell it, they crush their own chances of success by succumbing to cynicism, jadedness, low self-image, and even contempt. I get that familiarity breeds contempt, but this is a bit much.

I don’t know how you’re ever going to create the life you want through music if this is your attitude.

Especially since most successful musicians end up playing their early hits for the rest of their careers!

Look at Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera. Have they even done anything since their heyday? I mean, technically, yes, they have released new material since the 2000s, but the songs they’re most known for stem from their early efforts. It’s the same with most acts. We didn’t come to hear your new songs, Neil. We want to hear “Rockin’ In The Free World” again!

If you hate your music after you’re finished tracking, how in the world are you going to fulfill on hundreds of tour dates? How are you going to endure hundreds of press requests and interviews? How are you going to give the release the legs it needs to stand on? The answer is you can’t, and you won’t!

If you’re not going to be the greatest evangelist for your music, you can’t expect anyone else to do it for you.

Here’s the mentality you should have…

You should be willing to playlist all your music, put it on repeat, and play it in your house and car all day long. You should be the first to buy all your releases, all your merch, and all your concert tickets. You should go to all your shows, show up early, stay late, and shake hands until you’ve got callouses. You should be so excited to share your music and message with the world, that it’s the first thing you think about in the morning, and the last thing you think about before your head hits your pillow. You should be posting all the time, sharing all the time, connecting all the time, adding value to others, and expressing unfaltering optimism and enthusiasm for your music, because it’s your blood, sweat, tears, heart, and soul on display. Genuine optimism is contagious because there isn’t a lot of it out there. Passion is how we transform the world around us.

Passion is how we transform the world around us. Share on X

Why wouldn’t you? You’re the one that benefits most when you invest in your music.

I still remember the time I gave my first solo album to the owner of a guitar store I taught at. I wanted him to review it, tell me honestly what he thought about it.

So, after he listened, I asked.

He said, “Oh, don’t make a mockery out of me man. The guitar playing on this thing is insane! What are you trying to prove? Get out of here.”

I couldn’t believe it. That’s not how I felt about my release. I didn’t get that kind of reaction from anyone else.

But that experience planted a seed. I recognized that I needed to be my biggest fan. No one else was going to do it for me. No one could follow suit if I didn’t show them the way. If I didn’t become the leader, and teach people how to engage, they would never learn. I’d be leaving everything up to chance. Even if my dancing sucked, if it was contagious enough, others would follow.

Business owners feel the same way about their businesses. They see the greatness in it, even when no one else does. It doesn’t matter whether they fix sinks, sell clothing, or help people cope with anxiety. They’re passionate about what they do. They understand the difference they make in their world. They can’t imagine doing anything else. They’re deeply connected to the purpose behind their work.

If you’ve lost passion, don’t believe in your ability to succeed, or you’ve forgotten why you do what you do, clear your schedule, and become present to one thing – your purpose.

What difference do you want to make in the world? What impact do you want to have? Why do you exist, and why do you do what you do?

Your answer need not be complicated. But it should connect with you at a heart level.

Take ownership of your music. Your music is your product. Your product solves problems. It eases pain. It helps people escape from their difficult, painful, boring lives. It saves lives. Connect with your WHY and put some urgency on it.

Take ownership of your music. Share on X

Take advantage of The Most Incredible Back to School Sale while you still can.

Writing

Writing

Part 1: Surprise, Uplift
Part 2: Art
Part 3: Sports

Nobody would have ever looked at me and said, “now there’s someone who’s going to become a great writer someday.”

I grew up in Japan. What do you expect? I knew how to communicate in both English and Japanese, but I wasn’t at a point where I could read and write competently in both languages.

Well, my parents did expect. Significantly more, in fact.

In elementary school, I had an active social life. So, if I knew I was going to a friend’s after school, I would leave a note on the counter for my parents. Because I wrote everything out phonetically, I often misspelled words. I’m sure the intended meaning wasn’t lost in translation, but you can’t cover up those types of weaknesses where your parents are watching.

I may have been able to reduce the presence of Mr. M in my life (he was also my social studies teacher), but the moment I didn’t have any after-school commitments, my dad gave me a set of tasks to complete (mostly to do with improving my English skills) in exchange for allowance.

I’m sure his heart in the right place. But in that moment, I couldn’t tell apart one tyrant from the other.

***

I didn’t learn to read in English until I was 13.

Once I set my mind to it, it didn’t take much time or effort at all.

I still didn’t have any interest in English class. Yes, the merciless “putting things on paper” continued, even after I returned to the Canadian school system.

But after my dad passed, I was determined to do several things – learn how to use computers, email, and build websites. To an extent, learning an instrument was on that list too, but we’ll get there.

Putting things on paper was great. But I soon found out putting things in digital ink was also a blast.

Around that time, Hanson had emerged as a popular pop rock band, and some way, somehow, I found a website called We Hate Hanson Girls. What struck me about the website was just how smart the creators (Jason and Ryan) sounded.

They would respond to the hate mail they got from Hanson fans, and their responses were always intelligent, creative, witty, and funny. This might be a weird thing to say but I was impressed with their vocabulary.

So, what did I do? I started my own anti-Hanson website called Teenagers Against Hanson. I’m admitting this knowing I might get hate mail for outing myself.

Now, it’s entirely possible I started Teenagers Against Hanson first, and then found We Hate Hanson Girls, but either way, it doesn’t matter.

From then on, I would focus obsessively on writing and vocabulary too, because I wanted to

This didn’t help me much in grade nine or grade 10 English.

But in grade 11 and 12, I would go onto take three English classes, and for once, I started applying myself to something other than my creative impulses and interests.

My efforts weren’t always met with the highest grades. But as result of my hard work, I got honors in grade 12 social studies, and I finished grade 12 English with 100% on the essay portion of the test.

***

My short stories sucked. They were clearly derivative of other works (especially manga and JRPGs). They violated all good form and structure, and if that wasn’t bad enough, my English still wasn’t that good.

But in those days, I didn’t care a whole lot. I just wrote for the fun of it. I never thought of becoming a writer, author, lyricist, or otherwise.

Again, nobody would have looked at me as a 13-year-old and said, “he’s going to write best-sellers in the future.”

But writing did add a new dimension to my creativity. It allowed me to create English comics or novels, satirical newsletters, and song lyrics.

So, it didn’t much matter that I sucked. And I didn’t think that one day I would get better. All I knew was this writing thing gave me another way to express myself on paper.

***

The award-winning Teenagers Against Hanson did incredibly well, peaking at over 20,000 visitors. You can still find the site online if you search really hard. Some clever hackers got hold of my password and I never managed to log back into the site. I guess they wanted to shut me out but had no intention of changing the website (or maybe that just didn’t occur to them).

At the time, getting traffic was all about getting listed in the Yahoo directory, and if you kept adding content to your site and kept harassing Yahoo by submitting your site to their directory, eventually you would get a listing and people would flood to your site. Yahoo would even list your site as “new” for a while, and that mean even more traffic.

Having discovered that formula, I eventually got to work on my next project, We Hate Britney Spears Boys (clearly inspired by We Hate Hanson Girls). And again, I’m admitting this knowing full well I might get hate mail.

Lo and behold, that site exploded. At its peak, it got the neighborhood of 1,600 to 2,000 visitors per day.

I’ve had some success with websites since, but I don’t think I’ve ever duplicated those kinds of stats.

And if I’d had a hot clue how to monetize that site back then, I probably would have. But I didn’t have any agendas or plans for it. Maybe I just wanted to prove to myself I wasn’t a one hit wonder. Eventually, I stopped working on We Hate Britney Spears Boys, because things were turning ugly, and spreading hate isn’t what I was ever about.

Getting traffic also became a vastly different game after that.

***

I’ve been building websites and writing about music since I was 13.

So, even back then, my interests and passions were beginning to intertwine in unexpected ways.

Looking back, I can see that even if I wasn’t hitting my passion and skill bull’s eye, I was at least hitting the dartboard.

Because it wasn’t long before I started writing lyrics. Writing lyrics would soon turn to learning the guitar, developing my voice, writing songs, recording, and gigging.

My teens weren’t exactly easy. But they were building to something.

The Music Entrepreneur Code paperback

Shh… Don’t tell anyone. Only the cool kids are talking about it.

The Music Entrepreneur Code is my latest best-selling book, and it’s available here as well as on Amazon.