How this one thing I learnt from working in radio can help you write content for your audience…

I used to host a radio show several years ago.

Alongside a couple of friends/co-hosts I’d present a 2-3 hour program every week.

It was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done, and I still miss it today.

In real life I talk a little fast sometimes, and when I first started talking on air I was a little hard to understand.

But soon there was no stopping me – same with my co-hosts.

Presenting became easy for us, we didn’t even need to think about it – we just automatically began to adapt our speech so the listeners could follow.

We often used to have guests – musicians, local people of interest and even students who wanted some work experience.

After a while I began to notice that some of them struggled to talk to the mic. They’d stare at it intently and change the pitch of their voice as they tried to imagine this invisible audience that they were talking to.

Sometimes talking too slow, other times talking too fast.

It didn’t make for good radio.

So, after a few shows, I began to think to myself – how did I first overcome this problem?

Part of it was through practice, but the other part of it was due to me looking across at my co-host as I spoke.

So, rather than talking blindly into a mic, I was focusing and talking in a conversational tone to someone opposite me.

For me that was the key. Simply visualising someone and talking to them.

So I began to tell the guests to look at me as they spoke, rather than talking into the microphone.

It worked.

Nerves ebbed away and confidence skyrocketed.

It’s the same with writing.

If you’re writing for purpose don’t just blindly write – visualise the person you’re writing for.

Wrap and direct your words at them.

Seems obvious, but time after time I read posts and articles that just don’t connect or flow.

Maybe even print off a picture of someone who looks like your audience demographic and blu-tac it to the wall in front of you.

I promise you tone and flow becomes easier when you’re looking at who you want to talk to.

(that’s me in the middle of the featured image in case you were wondering)

by Ashley Brown age 27 and 3/4 2018

Minidisc players and the idea in you

 

A few months ago my cousin was clearing a few of his old things out from his parents’ house.

He came away with a small box of items that had meant a lot to him as a youngster.

Among these trinkets was his old minidisc player.

For a short while in the early noughties, minidiscs were supposed to be the next big thing.
Their popularity soon stifled though, as digital recording and playback became the norm – lost to a generation of people who didn’t want to have physical copies of their music. (Ironically though, with the resurrection of vinyl, this is tilting the other way).

For a short while the minidisc had been his very favourite thing. With an air of nostalgia he turned it on and listened to the disc that was inside – a tune that hadn’t been played for over a decade.

He remarked simply, yet philosophically, on how it was weird that one day he’d just turned it off and never used it again – only for it to turn up some fifteen years later.

How often do you have that with a thought or an idea? All that thinking about something, only to switch off and forget about it.

Ideas aren’t physical things, such as minidisc players. If you lose them it’s much harder to get them back.

As a creative I always used to, annoyingly, have my best ideas when I wasn’t able to write.

The novels, the stories and the concepts that I’d come up with…usually when I was driving or in the gym…right at the time when my laptop was out of reach!

I used to think to myself – ‘I’ll come back to that idea when I get a sec’.

I never did though. Because the enthusiasm for the idea would disappear before I could touch methaphorical pen to metaphorical paper.

So now I carry a notepad with me at all times. So I’m never caught out. I can jot down my ideas whenever and wherever.

I think this is a better option that writing it on my phone. My phone is a bustling hub of distractions…and a big reason of ‘why I didn’t write today’.

I also invested in an expensive notepad. Not because I’m materialistic. But, because I figure that…the more I pay for something, the more naturally valuable it seems and the more likely I’ll be to use it.

Unlike that minidisc player, it’s unlikely that your ideas will come back to you. So have something with you at all times to note them down.

Before you know it, your notebook will become a goldmine of creativity.

I know it seems simple, obvious even, but yet so many people let their ideas slip away.

The writer Robert Louis Stevenson reckoned that ‘Treasure Island’ was born from a couple of dreams that he had.

He also remarked that, had he not have had a pen (or quill back then) by his bed, he’d have forgotten the idea before he could have converted it into a story.

Don’t let your ideas walk the plank…take note of them!

(image credit: wikipedia)

Why are Iron Maiden more popular on Spotify than Madonna?

It surprised me when I read that, and I imagine it’ll surprise you too.

Not because Iron Maiden are bad…I’m a fan.

But because Madonna is…well…a pop singer. And, popular music should be the most popular…right?

She’s certainly more commercial, in a traditional sense. Plus, as much as I personally enjoy it, I’m aware that metal is an acquired taste – whereas Madonna’s music is aimed at appealing to everyone.

She also had the bonus of appearing on MTV and stations such as BBC Radio One, Iron Maiden never really had that exposure.

As a singer Madonna has always looked to adopt the latest trends – performing the hits that the crowds of the day would enjoy.

Whereas Iron Maiden found their target audience early on and found out how to please them. They never wrote a love song or anything like that. They just kept on doing the things that their fans like…building an army of life-long supporters, who would no doubt look to spread the love onto their children.

Meaning that they’d have another generation of fans, starting off a cycle that will eventually mean that the East London outfit’s music will last far longer than they will.

Not only that, but Iron Maiden’s songs tell stories about things that their target audience like. Fantasy, history, horror and even sci-fi.

trooper
(it’s really good, too!)

Plus look at their branding – they brew their own beer just the way their fans like it, they tour as much as they can and they have their own Boeing 747 jet that lead singer, Bruce Dickinson, personally flies.

How cool is that?

Plus they have their own logo. Same as bands such as Nirvana and Metallica. Does Madonna have a logo? If she does, I can’t recall it easily. Neither can I recall a logo for bands such as Take That.

It’s why, when you go into high street fashion stores, you see Metallica or Iron Maiden t-shirts for sale, you don’t see Madonna T-shirts.

Here’s a quote from Lady Gaga:

“Some people really don’t know the importance of metal and the scope of it. Those guys were filling stadiums, and they still are. And it’s because of the culture of the music, the poetry that’s so powerful, that whenever the fans come together, they unite in the essence of what Iron Maiden is all about. I always used to say to people, when they would say, ‘Oh, she’s the next Madonna.’ No, I’m the next Iron Maiden.”

gaga
(the next Iron Maiden)


by Ashley Brown.

Oh, by the way the initial inspo for this article came from Ryan Holliday’s fantastic ‘Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts’

 

 

Calvin Harris

The trouble with making music as a job is that I have no outside interests. All I can do to wind down is go to sleep.” – Calvin Harris

He makes a good point.

For many people who aren’t creatives in their day job, their creative discipline is usually just a hobby or a side-job.

Often they do it because it’s very therapeutic.

And it begs the question…how would you manage your down time if your hobby becomes your day job?

I guess for some of us that’s the dream…

A map for your feelings…

“I think that is what film and art and music do; they can work as a map of sorts for your feelings.”

– Bruce Springsteen

Apologies for the lack of a post yesterday – life, as it does, got in the way.

P.S. The album photo I included was one of my favourite ever albums as a kid. When I first got a CD walkman I fished it out of my dad’s CD collection and almost played it to death!

Hamburg, the Beatles and the sweet music of success…

As regular readers will know, I’m a big believer in the theory that it takes 10, 000 hours of practice to be good at something.

But, while practice makes perfect, there are other factors that can control success and give some of us an exceptional advantage over others in our field. While I don’t claim to be successful just yet, any talent I have when it comes to writing stems back to the hours of practice I put in as a youth.

My parents’ house was so far out of town I had little else to do on some evenings but write and be creative.

But, let’s use a more interesting case study…’The Beatles’. If you haven’t heard of them…then…where have you been? They defined popular music and elevated it to the dizziest contemporary heights imaginable.

Many people still wonder, even now, what it was that made them so good. I believe that part of it was due to some gigs they played in a German city…

An unlikely twist of fate took them to the city of Hamburg when they were very young…and it was that same twist of fate that helped give them something of an edge over the other bands and solo artists of the day.

beatles

Back in the day, as a small band of high school kids, The Beatles were lucky enough to get an invite to play in Germany. And, they took it – one of the reasons being that they had access to a lot of alcohol and sex over there. The other reason (more relevant to this post) is the access that it gave them to clubs who wanted them to play live music to big crowds.

When it came to gigging, the Hamburg clubs differed to the English ones in a key way. Back in Blighty the guys were asked to play a set for an hour, or maybe two if they were lucky.

But, in Hamburg, the club promoters wanted them to play all night – meaning that they’d often be going for 6-8 hours!

Imagine that…gigging for eight hours! I can only imagine the sweat.

Not only that, but as the guys’ popularity skyrocketed in Germany, the Hamburg clubs wanted them to play every night of the week. Some fifty-six hours of performing. In total, after several trips, they played for 270 nights in just over a year and a half.

This meant that the guys had to improve their stamina, their stage presence and, above all, they had to learn more songs.

They couldn’t get by with just playing their go-to ‘hits’ they had to learn loads of new songs and even different genres – such as a few jazz numbers. This gave them a discipline on stage that other bands at the time just didn’t learn – plus, it gave them plenty of time to practice until they made it perfect.

As John Lennon said; “in Liverpool we’d only ever done one-hour sessions, and we just used to do our best numbers, the same ones, at every one. In Hamburg, we had to play for eight hours, so we really had to find a new way of playing”.

So, as someone who wants to make it as a creative – you need to look out for your Hamburg. Something special that gives you an edge or an experience over the others. Whether it be using weird dreams you had as a kid to influence your art, or maybe booking a month off work and going to your grandparents’ quiet holiday house on the coast to write uninterrupted.

The research for this post mostly came from Malcolm Gladwell’s fantastic book ‘Outliers‘, I thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in success and talent.

by Ashley Brown 2017