Life has been a crazy ride so far and posting these blogs has been a good way for me to stop and take note. Sometimes we need to do that to see what we have accomplished. The last 11 years has been such a whirlwind for me that it sometimes seems like it flew by and I haven’t taken account on what accomplishments have been made.
If you asked me 12 years ago if I knew I would own a couple music festivals (one in Ireland), a film festival, A music – film – tech conference, have my freelance graphics business lead to re-branding the world’s largest music promoter (Live Nation), while booking bands for a top music venue in Toronto – I would have said your crazy. And now sometimes I think I’m crazy for what’s on my plate – I just added A&R yesterday….
The funny thing is I haven’t had a resume in over 10 years, I don’t keep a portfolio, and I don’t go out promoting what I do or my skills – minus having a linkedin profile.
Anything I’ve come up with as an idea – take a music festival for example (Indie Week) – I thought of the end result. “I’m going to start a music festival that will have unknown emerging indie bands playing in multiple venues with industry in each one, so that the bands are actually showcasing for someone”. Then I worked backwards to make it happen. I got in touch with venues to secure dates. easy. I then posted for bands to apply. Also easy.I asked people in the industry if they would be willing to help out by judging. And so on and so on….
I have had so many people question my crazy ideas with “how are you going to do that?”. Those are they type of people to run away from. They stop everything before they get started. They put obstacles in front of you before they even exist. Run!
Here’s a secret – you can pretty much do anything you damn well want. I learned that from a very stubborn father, he literally didn’t care what anyone thought and did what he pretty much wanted without a worry in the world. But I gotta admit, when he was set on something, he got the job done. I also learned from him that when things didn’t go your way, there’s no use complaining because in his words, “you can’t do a damn thing about it”. Thanks Dad, you kept me going at times by making it simple and not letting me complain.
So in my experience, I set a goal as an end result and I will do what it takes to achieve it. You can’t always plan the path you are going to take, there are so many unexpected obstacles that you will encounter that you have to be flexible to get around them.
To explain things, I often parallel examples with hockey. I grew up with hockey and watched it intently and I find it can be used to explain pretty much anything. So let’s use the Stanley Cup as an example. All the teams want to achieve the goal of winning the cup. Often the team that wins is an unexpected choice but think of what they went through in a year. Injuries, player trades, draft picks, sickness, staff changes, suspensions, etc. There is no set path on winning the cup but you gotta bet that the team that wins went through a large number of obstacles throughout the year to get there, and in doing so they deserve to and be called champions. Each yeah the team goes through the same process, but there’s only one winner. The teams that lose don’t quit, they go at it again year after year.
To me that pretty much sums up life. You always are trying to be better but life is always throwing challenges your way and you have to deal with them. Lord knows I have had a ton of things thrown my way. I look back and am surprised I’m still here.
So when I started a music festival I just knew what I wanted as an end result but figured out the steps to get there as I went. To make things easier break things down into smaller tasks that are easier to manage. Are things always going to be perfect – no! Are you always going to get the results you want – NO! SO plan on not getting what you want, or not having things always go your way so when they do, you are on the right path. So many people say things like “It has to be right”, “I’m a perfectionist”, or “go big or go home”. All of these often describe people who work so hard on one task that they don’t get to the next because it all has to be right and they achieve less, the perfectionist is stressed and works long…long days and is easily upset or not pleased and never happy. The go big or go home people bite off more they can chew and end up going home because they lost their shirt along the way.
I can not tell you the number of times I am in an interview or meet someone and get asked the same question, “How did you start Indie Week”. To me the answer is simple, “I just started”. I don’t know what else to say. It’s basically booking bands in a number of venues at the same time – that task doesn’t seem big to me so it doesn’t seem like a big deal or anything. What now seems like a big task is that it’s grown to 22 venues, 250 bands, over 3 days really – yes there’s 5 days but on the first and last it’s only 1 venue. So the hard part is just getting the work done i limited time.
Last year we had John Densmore the drummer for legendary rock n roll hall fame act, THE DOORS! To me that’s crazy. And it all happened organically and was not planned. The goal – we need a keynote speaker. We had brainstormed and we planning on talking to certain people when an opportunity came our way. I was at a TIFF party (FILM + MUSIC Social presented by Diane Foy, Skylar Entertainment), when I met someone from LA who my business partner in RIFF. We exchanged cards and a couple of weeks later he emailed saying how would you like a film produced by the drummer for the Doors? Of course my answer is yes. At that point, I was determined to make it happen because I knew if we got the film, there’s a chance I could him to speak for us and he was bette than any of the choices we discussed.
I talked to people on our team and they were right off the bat, “it will be too much money”, “this would never happen”, “it’s a long shot” etc. I ignored all of it and said I’m going for it and will make it happen. The subsequent meetings was me giving updates on email and phone conversations saying I’m not any closer but I am going for it. I also have to mention that my team did encourage me to go for it.
I was introduced by email to the director Samuel W Joseph, of the film “Window of Opportunity” produced by John Densmore and we talked over email. He mentioned having the film at the festival and the possibility of John speaking. There were a few things going against us, mainly.. it was our first year, we had nothing to sell him on it…. nothing.
I did a bit of research online and found out that John had a new book out and he was doing a book signing in a week at Sunrise Records. So there is a way for me to meet him I thought. A week goes by with some emails to Sam and still no answer from John other than his schedule is super busy.
The day of the signing I was in my office with a pile of work, work that needed to get done and I nearly decided on not going to the signing and continue my pursuit through email. Looking at my computer screen, the thought of John being so close burned in my head and I left, hopped in a cab – the signing had already started awhile ago. When I got there the lineup circled inside the store and went out onto the street, for him to sign something you had to purchase a book, so I went in and did so. When I got back outside the line had grown and they were cutting it off and not letting anyone else in – I had to convince them to let me join.
I waited 1.5 hours to get my chance. When it was my turn I said “hi John, I’m that guy that is talking to Sam about the possibility of having you come to our film festival”. He was shocked and laughed asking how long did I wait? Just look at the photos below. He then asked for my card and that he will call so we can go for coffee. The music fan in me had my heart pounding as John is a legend – but of course I had to show calm and collect.
He did call a few days later and I missed it….doh! I tried calling back…message. He called again and I missed it and he left a message to a call his hotel. I did – no answer and left a message. I knew he was flying out the next day so this had to happen. Finally we connected and we met at the hotel for coffee – i had to drop everything and go to make it happen.
He asked about the festival which at that point was hard to talk about as it was our first film festival, so I talked about Indie Week which was in it’s tenth year. John is from the Woodstock days and he is lively with a rebel attitude – he told some stories of Morrison which was pretty amazing to hear. He then said if it was to happen it was putting him out because he is on the road so much and this would take away from the only break he had – he mentioned how he missed playing his drums and this would also take away from that. And we left it at that. I loved the passion he still showed for playing – people like that are inspiring.
Over the next two weeks we talked on the phone many times with John always having new questions. It took some convincing but you can’t imagine how it felt when he called me to tell me to book the flight.
We were having rock n roll hall of famed, John Densmore of the legendary rock group The Doors speak for us.
When John was here he was the most gracious man, he showed grace and professionalism. I had the fortune of having dinner with John and Sam where John talked about The Doors and bit about Morrison, the music fan in me will always remember that experience.
So it all happened only because I went to a party, met someone that knew someone that knew someone, took a chance by going and waiting 1.5 hours to have 2 minutes to speak with John while he signed my books, met with him and talked about something that doesn’t really exist yet, and ask for something that would be a huge inconvenience to him….. it all worked. I also have to say the Sam played a huge role in making it happen by also talking to John. I truly believe it worked because of determination. Once I thought is was a possibility, it became a possibility. What do I have to lose? He could have just said no and we would have just had someone else as a speaker. So I went for it. We not only got John as a speaker, he did a book signing, we got to show the film, and have both John and Sam do a Q&A after the showing. Funny how the title of the film is “Window of Opportunity”.
So to sum it all up – by looking at the end result and focusing on what you want, it is then up to you to make it happen. You can’t always plan the steps to take but you plan to have challenges and hard work, just do it, don’t complain about it, there’s a lot of worse things you could be going through.
Fingers crossed we get the speaker we are looking at getting this year!