Another Lesson From BuckMoon Part II – Opportunities Are Generally Made Not Found

Another Lesson Learned From The BuckMoon Arts Festival

For those of you who tuned in last time, this is the next in a series of lessons I learned from my involvement as a moderator of a series of Artists Panels at the BuckMoon Arts Festival.  (For those of you who missed the previous post, you may want to read part 1 of this series if you haven’t already.)  You can read about the panel discussions and the festival here.

Opportunities Are Generally Made Not Found

The BuckMoon Arts Festival had a series of panel discussions that were intended to bring up issues related to monetizing one’s art.  The second panel in the series was this one:

Promoting Your Art: Building An Audience and Building A Buzz”

Panelists: Bill Coffey, Mike Dimin, Yvonne Lieblein, Patrick Longo, Brian McElhiney and Mark Swain


Description: Online access to consumers has given artists more possibilities than ever, but how do you get your voice heard above the din?


In the panels, I’d ask a series of questions which would then be answered and discussed by the panel members and then I’d try to keep the ball rolling with follow up questions, related anecdotes and other miscellany and then open it up for audience discussion.


As part of this particular panel, we got into an extended discussion on the necessity of networking and making connections with other people working in your field and related fields.

I’m going to stress that again.  A key focus of this discussion was NETWORKING.


At the end of our time, the panel had an audience question.  The audience member was a costume designer who couldn’t figure out why she couldn’t get any work as a designer locally.  In response, every member of the panel spent about 2-5 minutes talking about strategies and options and trying to help this person.


While this was happening, everyone on the panel was excited because one of the panelists, Patrick Longo, was there to talk about how he had successfully kickstarted a project for a stage production of his original material at Proctor’s Theatre that was premiering this September.   Before the panel started, Patrick had introduced himself to EVERYONE in the room and gave them a card promoting his event.  So, even after the panelists introduced themselves at the start of the panel everyone there was familliar with what he was doing.


As panelists, we were all thinking some variation of, “This is great!  We’re actually going to be able to help somebody directly today!”  At the end of the panel I asked everyone to stick around for the last presentation and as we took a break between sessions the person who asked the question stood up, walked out the door and never came back.


We were stunned.  Patrick came up to me and said, “I’m so confused.  What happened there?  I NEED a costume designer.  Why didn’t she come talk to me?”


Unfortunately that response to that opportunity was the answer to that question .

In a profoundly over simplified math equation, opportunities are approximately 60% positioning yourself to be in the right place at the right time and about 40% having the skill set (and the wherewithal) to be able to capitalize on that.

You can practice in your bedroom forever, but you’re never going to meet other players / artists / likeminded people and/or people in a position to be able to help you advance until you go out into the world and meet them.

Related Story #2:

I was looking for a drummer.

Unless you already know talented players in your area or are in a position where you’re well known and making real touring money and can attract upper level professionals – this is always a nightmare proposition.

I reached out to a drummer’s group on Facebook, posted some video and audio and asked if anyone in the area was interested.  One person contacted me to say that he was interested but really busy and probably didn’t have time to play before he went back to the school for the summer. (I’m still baffled at the point of that correspondence).

Another second person messaged me with a contact information and I contacted him.  We played phone tag and finally talked about what I wanted to do and about getting together to play.  He wanted to hear more of my material (he didn’t have any recording of himself – which is always a bad sign) so I sent him some and then I never heard back from him.  So I sent a few followup emails that weren’t returned and about a week later, I called to see if he got the material.

Drummer (Sheepishly): “Oh yeah – I got the material….Uh you’re really good.  I didn’t know if I could play with those odd time signatures.”


Me: “Oh…that’s too bad.  If we had gotten together we could have tried it out and if it didn’t work I would have just played easier material to see if there was a decent chemistry and see if there was something else we could do.”


Drummer: “Oh!  Well I guess we could get together next week.”


Me:  “Sorry.  If you can’t follow up now at this stage, it just tells me that you’re probably going to flake later, and I can’t spend my time hunting people down to find out where they are.  Good luck though.”


That wasn’t said with any snark whatsoever.  I truly did wish him well, but I wasn’t willing to let him take up any more of my time.

A few takeaways

One thing that EVERY artist is guilty of at one (or many) points in his or her career is getting in their own way.  They’re often prone to second guessing themselves and being afraid to open the doors in front of them.

Here are two observations that I try to be mindful of myself

  • Opportunities are made not found. They are made by putting work into developing skill sets and positioning yourself (i.e. being conspicuous) so people can experience what you do.
  • Networking is based on sincere and legitimate connections to people.  I think of it as developing friendships instead trying to capitalize on something from the get go.  If you do have a internal question question when you meet people, make sure it’s  “What can I do for this person?” instead of “What can this person do for me?” and that’s because….
  • It’s more about who knows you than who you know.  My knowing other players won’t get me a gig.  Other players knowing me and knowing what I do (and more importantly what problems I can solve for them) is what will prompt any discussion between people that includes “oh hey let’s get that Scott Collins guy for this”

As always, I hope this helps!

Next time – I’ll talk about lessons I learned from mistakes that I made in setting up the panels!

Thanks for reading!



Lessons From BuckMoon Part I – You Can’t Cross A Burned Bridge

The Dread Return Of The Podcast

First a bit of housekeeping.  I’ve been cleaning up the audio from the panel discussions that I organized from the Buckmoon Arts Festival and I expect to kick off the podcast with a few of those over the rest of the summer.

First a huge thanks to all of the people who participated in the panels:

Bill Coffey
Mike Dimin
Jean Karutis
Yvonne Lieblein
Patrick Longo
Brian McElhiney
Mark Swain

As well as Mahmood Karimi-Hakak for the screening, Elahe Golpare and Afshin Katanchi for stills video and all the staff that pulled the event together.

You can read about the panel discussions and the festival here.

The following illustrative stories comes from those workshops.  Story #2 will be in a followup post.

Story #1:

There was a lot of back and forth with multiple people to try to get them on the panel discussions.  It was a big ask for everyone involved and I hope it set the groundwork for future collaborations, projects etc.

Trying to organize and run something like this with – what seems like an infinite number of variables (an unfamiliar room, an unfamiliar PA, no idea how many people are actually attending, coordinating with all the different people that need to be in place to make sure that panelists are relatively happy)  – is particularly stressful the day of the event.

The only way to manage that stress in any way, shape or form is to try to eliminate as many loose ends before the day of the show as possible and put extra work in well in advance of the event and communicate clearly to everyone involved.

In this case, managing one loose end involved contacting everyone on the panel and making sure that they would still be there and giving them a “one page” of day of event information – directions, food, etc.  Everyone confirmed they would be there but there were two panelists that indicated that they had prior commitments and would have to leave by 3 pm.  That was no problem.

The day of the event, after the opening presentation, I was helping set up the tables for the panel discussion and checked my phone and saw that an unfamiliar number had left me a voice mail a minute or two earlier.  It was one of the panelists who had confirmed attending earlier in the week but had a prior commitment later that day.  He was now calling to cancel his appearance 15 minutes before the start of the panel.  He said he’d gotten sick the night before and that he wanted to try to ride it out to see if he could make it in and now decided he couldn’t and that he didn’t want to get the other panelists sick.   He was sorry but ended the call with, “I hope you’ll keep me in mind for other events in the future and if you know anyone who needs PR services that you’ll send them my way.”

I remember looking at my phone and thinking, “What is this – high school?  I can’t go to class?  My dog ate my homework?”

Particularly for a person who works in Public Relations – I can’t imagine a way to handle that more poorly.

You can’t invite someone over a bridge you just burned.

For those of you starting your music business endeavors, here are some takeaway points:

1.  Communicate early and frequently.  People get sick.  Things happen.  People generally will work with you for whatever problem you have, but you have to communicate early and not leave people in a lurch.  As an organizer, calling me 15 minutes before you’re supposed to be there is only marginally better than not showing.  Also when you’ve already told me that you have a family function later that day that you have to go to, the sick excuse seems spurious at best and doesn’t really cut it.

2.  If you do ever find yourself in that situation, follow up with people.  Had he contacted me the following week and said, “Hey I feel really bad that I couldn’t make it.  I’m sorry I wasn’t there.  How did the panel discussion go?” it would have been a completely different discussion and at the least it would have added more legitimacy to his story.

The fact that he couldn’t be bothered to make a simple followup call or email just told me that he didn’t want to be there.  But as the person runs a PR company, they should be acutely aware of how badly they just burned that bridge.  I don’t always want to do my own PR.  I need help sometimes with things.  But as a potential client, how can I contact you for my project if my experience with you is that you bailed out on a commitment at the last minute and then didn’t follow up?

When you’re a professional, your professionalism will be measured by your actions.  If you don’t conduct yourself in a professional way, you won’t be viewed as professional by others.    It doesn’t always mean that it’s fair.  But it’s how it is.

(The odd exception to this is that if you’re independently wealthy, you don’t necessarily have to be professional as you can pay people to take on those services for you.  But in those cases, people only work with you because they have money and when the money’s gone, typically so are they.)

If you operate in the public eye you need to act like someone is always watching you.  That doesn’t mean being paranoid but, for example, you need to assume that if you’re inebriated in a public place and making a loud fool out of yourself, that video footage will show up online somewhere.

Conduct your matters with honesty and integrity. If you act unprofessional, you can’t expect a professional reference.

In the next post, I’ll tell another story from the Festival that highlights almost everything that’s wrong about how musicians navigate the music business (and it has nothing to do with file sharing or spotify).

As always thanks for reading!