010 – Practicing Rigor in Giving Credit Where It’s Due

010 – Practicing Rigor in Giving Credit Where It’s Due

We are all building on the work others have done in some capacity. The question is – do we notice when this is happening? Do we thank or acknowledge others when we’ve modeled or iterated on their work?

In this episode of Creativity Excitement Emotion, David prompts us to think about giving credit where it’s due.


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00:17 – There’s no growth in unicorns farting rainbows
00:44 – Giving without expecting anything in return
01:22 – Acknowledgement as a practice
02:53 – Co-opting the work of the trailblazers who’ve gone before you


Today I wanted to talk about something that may not be entirely comfortable. And if we want to grow, we can’t always be talking about unicorns farting rainbows. It’s great to envision a future that you want to create and then to be as enthusiastic as you possibly can about it. But that’s not necessarily where the growth is.

The growth is usually in the breakdowns and the resulting breakthroughs. And you can find those breakthroughs rapidly if you get good at it.

The thing that I’ve noticed is this – there’s a lot of things I do without ever expecting anything in return. I give to charitable organizations. I support certain creators that I like, as I’m sure you do. I give people in my life a lot of time and space to talk and work out their problems and share with me what’s going on in their lives.

And I practice conversational generosity, something Dale Carnegie talks about in How to Win Friends and Influence People.

There are many things I do from a generous spirit, and I’m not looking for anything in return.

But then there are also situations where I am expecting something. Maybe not a lot, but I’m still expecting some kind of courtesy or favor to be returned. And the interesting part is… if you go into any of my books, in the back, you will inevitably see a long list of people that I thank.

I may not be personally connected to them. I may not have ever met them in real life and shaken their hand. And yet, I’ve learned a lot from these people.

Even in The New Music Industry, you can see me thanking people like Bob Baker, Tom Hess, Ariel Hyatt, and Derek Sivers. These are people that I looked up to, and still do, in many ways.

I learned so much from them, and I find they’ve added a lot of value to my life. And they’ve added a lot of value to me in my career pursuits, and my business pursuits. Everything that I’ve done to this point.

And yet, What I’m seeing out there is… I’m in touch with pretty much every podcast that I’ve ever been mentioned on, which is not many.

And I could even recall a circumstance where, it’s not the guy’s fault, but he was sitting there going like, “Yeah, dang, I can’t remember his name.”

Look, we’re all human. That happens to me, too. I’ve given as much credit as I possibly can to all the people that I could possibly remember or think of that contributed to me. And yet I probably have still forgotten. And, and I think that’s where we got to let bygones be bygones, right?

But there are people who’ve literally built on the things that I’ve done, whether it’s my books, my blog posts, or my podcast, and some have built on it without knowing it, right? If they don’t know it there’s nothing, we can do about it.

But others have very knowingly built on something that I created. And it’s good. I want to see iterations on what else people come up with. Better music books for musicians, better coaching programs, better podcasts, or better business models. I’d love to see all that, right?

And yet this is where I give thanks to every single author, speaker, coach, mentor, blogger, podcaster, YouTuber that I can think of that’s contributed to me.

And those people don’t so much as thank anyone, let alone me, for building upon something that I worked my butt off to do.

It’s not like I got started yesterday. Some people get that confused, like, “Oh, you started your podcast in 2016, that must feel like a while.” No, no, no. I started podcasting in 2009. And I started doing interviews in 2004. Even before that, I was already starting to serve musicians in a local community capacity. Okay? So, it’s not like this just emerged out of nowhere.

This has been a passion and an interest, something that I’ve pursued over the long haul. I’ve really invested myself into this. So, I didn’t just spring up yesterday.

And yet I think some people have built on what I’ve done without ever sending so much as a thank you note. That would be unimaginable to me. Just saying. For me, that would be unimaginable.

I would even suspect people are owing me royalties. I’m not asking for any money. Right? That’s not why we’re in this conversation. If you feel led in that direction, if then I would ask for a generous contribution. Absolutely.

But if that’s something you’re not moved to do, then forget it. Bye.

Do you owe me at least a “Thank you,” though, for the hard work I’ve put into laying the groundwork for you to exist? That’s the question. Because I do it. I demonstrate it every single day in my work. I give thanks to the people who taught me what they taught me – the concepts, everything they gave me. The life I now have is because of what they did.

And for some people, the life they now have is because of what I did. And they don’t see it. Do you see?

Who’s helped you on your journey, and do you thank them? And if not, why not?



You don’t have to change just because you’re 30, or 40, or 50.

Many people do reflect on their lives as they reach milestones. Some like to coast. Some go through a midlife crisis. For others, their family or their kids start taking precedence over all else.

There’s nothing wrong with any of it.

But I felt the need to change.

I wasn’t necessarily looking to transform myself wholesale. But I knew there were aspects of my personality and skillset that had yet to find expression.

I’ve had the privilege of diving deep, not just into music, but also into personal development, leadership, entrepreneurship, productivity, publicity, digital marketing, and social media. I can sing, play most instruments with strings and frets, write songs and lyrics, produce, and mix music. I can draw, paint, design graphics, and make websites. I am also fluent in Japanese, and I love food, comedy, fishing, escape rooms, and skateboarding (although I cannot skate at all).

It doesn’t usually come up in conversation because I like to practice, as Dale Carnegie termed it, “conversational generosity.” I listen to people. If I started talking about myself, there would always be more layers to peel back. It could be hours, days, weeks before I ran out.

But exploring the outer reaches of who I am, led me to the point of reassessing. And I realized how much “square peg in a round hole” thinking I’d done to that point. Not that a change in direction would ensure success. But a change in direction could be enjoyable, needed even.

There are things I value. One of my greatest values is freedom.

I’d thought of business as my ticket to freedom. But there are many roads leading to that destination. And I began to think, “Maybe there’s a road better suited to me.” Again, a seismic change may not be required. But change is required nonetheless.

Your Fans, Your Currency

Your Fans, Your Currency

This post is part of The Renegade Musician Series.

You understand that your monthly Spotify listenership is made up of real people, right? Those aren’t just numbers. Each number represents a real person with real feelings, real problems, a real life. We must remember this.

The same goes for email subscribers, digital sales, Twitter followers, any other figure neatly and conveniently stowed away in a graphically enhanced online dashboard secured behind login credentials.

The wealth is in the customers, so you can’t afford to treat them as faceless, unfeeling robots. Understand – if you one day become wealthy, it will be as result of the relationships you cultivate.

Understand – if you one day become wealthy, it will be as result of the relationships you cultivate. Share on X

Dale Carnegie says the most magical word in everyone’s vocabulary is their own name. Don’t be like the big conglomerates that refer to people by their alphanumerical customer IDs. You should know your biggest fans’ names by heart.

You should know your biggest fans’ names by heart. Share on X

Renegade Musicians have a responsibility.

Your first responsibility is to get visitors to your website. Second, to convert visitors into email subscribers. Third, to turn email subscribers into customers. Fourth, to continually nurture your email subscribers (even those who never buy), and especially your customers.

All things being equal, those who’ve spent money with you, even $1, are more valuable to you than those who’ve never bought anything. When you have something new to sell, your hottest prospects aren’t people you haven’t met yet – your hottest prospects are people who’ve already bought from you. Marketing to your existing customer database will not only save you money (attracting new fans can be expensive), but it will also help you earn a better income.

Your hottest prospects are people who’ve already bought from you. Share on X

You can do more for your fans. You can surprise and delight them and cultivate loyalty. Customer service is the key that will unlock the door to your wealth, and the only thing it requires is time.

For example, you can:

  • Record and send 30-second smartphone videos to new customers
  • Send handwritten “thank-you” notes (yes, by mail)
  • Send surprise packages to long-time fans (e.g., T-shirt, ballcap, buttons)
  • Sign merch and shake hands before and after shows
  • Hold surprise AMAs, Q&As, listening parties, etc. exclusively for customers
  • Recognize your top fans on social media (fan spotlight)
  • And more

Artists who’ve endlessly toured dive bars should understand well the value of lead and customer nurturing. They’ve had to scrape and claw for every fan they’ve ever converted. It can take days of touring just to find one new fan.

Today, we take it for granted that our following will increase, our email subscribership will grow, and fans will come to our website to purchase our merch without us even lifting a finger (the good thing about selling online is that you can be selling even as you’re asleep – heard that one before?).

But remember – we’re all on equal footing. If it’s easy for you to do, it’s easy for other artist and bands to do, too. To surpass common results, you must be willing to do uncommon things.

To surpass common results, you must be willing to do uncommon things. Share on X

Other artists are your collaborators and cooperators, not your competition. Even so, you can’t do what they’re doing and hope to achieve outstanding results.

The thing that’s going to take you over the top, the thing that’s going to make you remarkable, the thing that’s going to ensure you’re succeeding while others are struggling is relationship – in other words, customer service.

All relationships matter. A Renegade Musician prioritizes their inner circle first, but they also keep up with anyone and everyone, because they understand that people change, and years down the line they will still need fans, friends, and investors. They will still want a rich social life.

Don’t end up 65, broke and lonely. That’s when people start to give up on the very idea of living. It’s preventable. All it takes is you sending a few text messages on your lunch breaks starting today. Keep up with people.

Be generous and genuine. If you can be of service and value to others, don’t hesitate. Don’t expect anything in return. If you help enough people, somewhere down the line when you need a helping hand, you may look up to find many extended in your direction.

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

Simple & Obvious Communication Tricks Most Musicians Don’t Use

Simple & Obvious Communication Tricks Most Musicians Don’t Use

When I say “tricks,” though, I really mean “basics” or “essentials.” The only reason I say “tricks” is because this is what a lot of artists miss.

Look, communication happens every day. If you want to let the world know that you exist, you’ve either got to a) speak up, or b) type something up and share it. No one knows what’s going on inside your head.

A human being is like an egg. We have a rich, inner world that no one sees unless we choose to share it, and we have an outer shell, the only part that people ever see. There’s no communication in thinking (inner world). There’s only communication in speaking or writing (outer shell). That’s foundational.

Call to Actions That Don’t Work

And so, the language we use is critical. Let’s start with call to actions.

The most overused call to actions (by musicians) include:

  • Check this out / check us out
  • Come to our show
  • Please support independent music

I’m sure you can think of a few others. And these sometimes have a way of turning into desperate pleas (“if you don’t support us, we can’t make more music!”).

Musicians work so hard at being different from everything and everyone else with their music, but all this creativity goes clear out the window when they’re in marketing mode.

There’s no pattern interrupt in the call to actions listed above. No one is going to take notice of these. These are dead horses and they’ve been beaten.

These might work for big artists or established brands, because they already have a strong relationship with their audience. But they tend not to work for independent artists because they often come across as desperate attempts to get people to do something they might not even want to do. No context means no engagement.

And it’s funny – when you look closely at most of our communication, it’s coming from a space of convincing / commanding. Now that you know that it would be wise to be in discovery of communication that occurs as an opportunity to others.

Sending Emails

The most teachable moment, I think, is when it comes to sending emails (because these principles can apply to our communication in general). I’m telling you right now, most people do it wrong. I get at least a dozen emails per day, and most of them are not oriented around the right frame of mind.

Now, squeaky wheel gets the grease, so please understand that it’s still better to send emails than not. But we can also level up our communication and get a better response rate, and all it takes is a few simple tweaks.

Let’s start at the top.

First, address the email to a real person. In other words, use their name!

As Dale Carnegie says in How to Win Friends and Influence People, the most magical word in any language is someone’s name.

If you can’t find a name, fine, don’t take wild guesses. But if a little bit of extra research can help you dig up their name, then do it. Do it every time!

Second, share a genuine, honest, authentic compliment with the person you’re sending the email to. It’s obvious when it’s not authentic, so fair warning. The point here is to let the receiver know that you are engaged with them, and not just pay lip service to that fact.

Third, be clear on the value proposition. Want to have your music reviewed, or be on a podcast, or get booked for a gig?

These things all benefit you, right? But they don’t necessarily benefit the person you’re asking.

The point is that you can create that. You can create a scenario where both you and the recipient benefit from the opportunity. That’s what opportunity means. There’s something in it for both people. If there’s no opportunity occurring on the other end of your communication, you can expect to hear radio silence, or at best, a lukewarm response.

Fourth tip, and a word to the wise – keep your emails short!

You can bet that industry professionals are busy. I’m busy, music reviewers are busy, podcasters are busy, radio stations are busy.

When I see a wall of text in emails, I either skim them fast or delete them completely. It’s too much.

The temptation is to over-explain, and when you do that, there’s a better chance your communication won’t land with the receiver. Keep it short and sweet, and when you receive a response, or are presented with additional questions to answer, then you can launch into more detail.

You don’t drop your life story on someone you just met, and if that’s something you do, it might explain why your dating life sucks.

Finally, be generous in saying “thank you.” Thank the receiver for doing a service for musicians. Thank them for their time and effort. Thank them for their content. Whatever you see to thank them for, acknowledge them for adding value to you.

For a proven, step-by-step framework in cracking the code to independent music career success, and additional in-depth insights into making your passion sustainable and profitable, be sure to pick up my best-selling guide, The Music Entrepreneur Code.