Define your music career goals and trust your intuition – Mind Scan: Tamara Gal-On

J: Hello Tamara, welcome to the Unzyme music business infiltration blog interview. Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you end up in the music business, and what is your background story?

T: Hi! I started coaching in 2002; I coached people who were in the business networking group that I belonged to. Then I worked out that I was mostly, if not exclusively, working with creative people, and found it immensely satisfying. Then in 2007, I was asked by the Music Publishers Association in London if I would run and co-create a leadership development program for twelve women in the music industry. That’s when I really fell in love with the music industry, and the people in it, and supporting those people with the industry’s challenges. The last ten years have been a period of massive change, some think for the better, some think for the worse. All I know is that the change offers enormous opportunities, but you have to capitalize on them and be able to not be overwhelmed by the people telling you it’s not as good as it was – just hold on to your own dreams and plans and move forward. That’s what I work around with my clients. I work with artists and people who support artists – organizations, agents, managers or what have you – to enable good music to get out there.

J: Tell us about your clients.

T: I work with artists, managers, agents, chief executives of music organizations… Essentially, it’s people who have a dream or a plan or even just an idea of something they want to create within the music industry – or the creative industries in general, but music industry really is a passion for me – and they’re meeting a challenge that they for some reason or another cannot overcome. I help them overcome it and work out what the real problem is. Often, it’s not the problem they think it is.

Do artists always know what they want?

T: Not all artists know – they want to be successful, but haven’t defined what success means to them. It means different things to different people. For some artists, success is doing stadium gigs – which is ambitious, but not unreasonable – and for other people, it’s being able to collaborate with other artists, or they want to be able to travel and make their own music, or what ever. You can really see which people have defined success, because their strategies have become very specific. There is an amazing book by the artist Shannon Curtis called “No Booker, No Bouncer, No Bartender” where she discovered by accident, and then exploited, the fact that she was making more money doing house concerts than she was during official gigs that she did in venues. She was doing house concerts to fill empty time, so she made twenty-five thousand dollars almost by accident. I mean, it wasn’t by accident – she had a plan and she worked it, but nevertheless. Once she saw what the possibilities were she understood it to be satisfying, because she wasn’t building a fanbase – she was building a community. Since then, she has become an artist hell-bent on building a community, and she’s become exponentially more successful because her strategies are taking her where she wants to go. So every March, she says: “Hey guys, it’s about that time to say if you want me to come to your house concert!” Last year she did a hundred of house concerts. On average, her house concerts get her four hundred dollars; she’s got specific rules about how many people have to come and the minimum they have to pay. She’s really inspiring, because once she worked out what she wanted, the strategy became really clear. She couldn’t have built a community as one of a number of acts in a dodgy venue at midnight, where people had been lured in with cheap beer; house concerts are absolutely what she needs. She loves that connection – you should see the interaction she has with her fans. The community is immensely supportive. She engages in issues she’s interested in with them.

Because of that community and wanting to serve it, she ended up getting amazing coverage for one of her videos. She knows that that’s what she wants. I didn’t ever work with Shannon, but I interviewed her because I was fascinated by her. Other artists might know that they want to travel, that they want to go further than becoming successful in their own countries. That, again, is a totally different strategy that requires other things. Knowing what you want has to come first. There are so many things you can do as an artist, you know. So, essentially, some people have no strategy because often they haven’t really defined what “successful” looks like. Sometimes it’s because they think that others will tell them that they’re being ridiculous, that they’re too ambitious and need to tone it down. And for other people, it’s because they know that they want to produce music, but everyone keeps telling them that the music industry doesn’t work that way anymore and that you can’t make a living doing this or that. Actually, that’s seldom really true. If you can define what you want first, you’ll find the means.

J: What are the most common problems your clients face?

T: It often turns out that people think that they know what they want, but it’s not quite defined enough for them to create a strategy. So people know that they want to be successful as musicians, but if I try asking them how they think their lives will look like once they’re successful, they often haven’t nailed that stuff down. Once people can nail down that they want to travel a lot and go international, or that performing or recording is the most important thing to them, or that they want to collaborate and write – when they know what they want their successful music life to look like, they can start making meaningful strategies to make that happen. Simply deciding that you want to be a successful musician isn’t enough information to create a really tangible strategy. What then becomes a danger is that every article you read relates to you, because they’re about successful musicians but not about what they did to create success. It becomes a nightmare because there’s so much information; there are so many people giving their opinions and advice about how to have more social media presence or how to get people to sign up to your e-mail distribution or what ever. If you don’t know what you want in the end, all of those strategies might be wrong for you.

J: So what questions do you ask an artist in order to get down to the core of their dream?

T: I ask them what their ideal day as a musician would be like. They might even have a couple, because for some people it’s impossible to fit everything in one day, but let’s say that it’s possible. You could start out practicing, then go into the studio and just spend the day doing what you really love and time just flows by. If you define success as a joyful thing that you did all day and got paid for, what does that look like?

J: It must differ quite a lot.

T: It differs enormously, because for some people it’s all about sharing their music with the community. For others it’s all about having collaborative experiences with other musicians, not about looking for fans in a sense – they’re looking to make amazing relationships and collaborations. Neither of those things is wrong or better or worse than the other, it’s just what’s in the person’s heart and their ideal way of spending their professional life as a musician.

J: When do you start to see the change when people realize what their dream day is like?

T: It usually starts when people have had an opportunity to work out that if their ideal day looks like this, then what is their strategy? Then we start looking for a strategy that might get them there and refine whether it’s something they will execute or not. For example, you might think that if you want to achieve a certain goal, you need to start going into conferences because they’re a good place to meet people, but you’re not good at networking and standing in a crowded room of people who all seem to know each other. That might not be the right strategy for you if you’re more of an introvert and don’t really have much access to extroverted behavior. There might be something else you need to do – it’s about making sure that you know where you’re actually headed, and that your strategy can get you there while also being one that you’re willing to execute. These days there are so many different marketing strategies – you will find your ways and means. You need to be honest about what you are and what you aren’t willing to do. I’m a big talker, so I can walk up to anyone and start a conversation, but I still find it quite intimidating to go to conferences and start talking to people who have been in the industry for twenty years longer than I, so I make it managable for myself by going to conferences where I know other people. Then I can at least ask them to introduce me to someone, or go stand next to a person I know and not feel isolated. So it’s about working out what your strategy is, and then working out how to make that strategy work for you.

J: I suppose that most musicians are introverts, so what would you suggest as a strategy for an introvert musician?

T: That’s a good question. I would challenge that assumption, actually. There’s an amazing Hungarian researcher and academic named Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who has looked into creativity. He’s written a well known book called “Flow”, but before that book, he did some really interesting research into what characterizes creative people. One of the things is that they’re often combinations of conflicting things, for example a balance between masculine and feminine that we can see really strongly in artists like Prince and David Bowie. He says that there’s that tension within most creative people, and that most are both introverts and extroverts. So even if you’re one of the people who call going to conferences a nightmare, if you want to perform, you do have a little bit of an extrovert in you. It might not be 90% of your personality – it might be 10%, in which case you have to make it comfortable for your extrovert to come out to help you in that kind of situation. If you go to a conference and meet just two people who are to be utterly transformational for your career, then that’s enough people to meet in that conference; you don’t have to walk away with 25 cards or having handed out a hundred leaflets. If you made two good connections and your introvert went “oh, I like this person, I think I’ve got a connection with them”, then what you have to do is balance the introvert and extrovert: go home with the business cards and decide to follow the people up meaningfully, don’t wait for two weeks wondering whether they actually liked you or whether you should send an e-mail. Think about the strategy that you have and what you want to get out of that connection, and start building a relationship. Introverts can do that, too – it can make sure you don’t rush off and promise things that you’re not going to deliver, or make bold statements that you can’t follow. Your introvert is a great balance to that little bit of extrovert. After making a connection, it’s about taking time, and introverts make good use of time. Introversion is an immensely useful aspect to a musician’s personality and shouldn’t be underestimated at all.

J: That’s interesting to hear, because I used to classify myself as an introvert, but then I realized that I’m always going out to conferences and meeting a lot of people, so I started to think that I’m mostly an extrovert. But then, I also enjoy a lot of “me time” and like to be alone and write music, for example.

T: So you’re a classic creative. It’s amazing how we’ve spent so long imagining that it’s black or white, one or the other. So many people think that they’re strange because they have these two aspects – no, if you’re a creative person, it’s gorgeously normal to be both. You need to make sure that both sides are helping you.

J: Suppose that you’re an introvert, and want to go to conferences. What kind of allies would you like to have with you on that journey?

T: Someone who’s got a really strong connection to their extrovert side, but also someone who knows you and what you’re passionate about, or your strategy, so when they chat to loads of different people, they see what would make a great connection to their friend. I have done that in the past and had some amazing connections made for me by people who clearly knew what I was looking for because of my strategy: “I want to have this outcome, so I’m looking for this kind of person.” We must never be afraid of being really specific of who we want to meet – the better you know, the more likely you are to meet people who are going to be the most useful to you. So if you’re going to buddy up with someone for a conference – which is a good idea, anyway, to share room expenses and that kind of things – make sure that they really understand what you’re after. But another thing that I need to say is, whilst artists can suffer from reluctance to pitch themselves, they often have big hearts and are very willing to promote somebody else. So, actually, you can just cross over and tell your friend to tell you who they are looking for, and off you go. Even introverts can do this to each other, and it really works. I certainly sometimes have more difficulty explaining what I do and how I do it to someone whom I feel might be a good connection for me than I do explaining what I love about somebody else’s work. Acting as a manager can work afterwards to get you a follow-up, because I know how hard following up is. I’ve definitely had clients who have made their strategy, they know that they want to go to a conference or do a particular thing, they have met people – and then I ask about the follow-up, and I get a bunny in the headlights saying “no, I haven’t done my follow-up, I don’t know what to say!” And once again, you can sit down with another person and work out what to say and how to make it work. You only need to spend half an hour doing it if you’ve got two or three e-mails to send out to people you want to build a relationship with. It can feel so much easier to have two heads together working out what to say and how than sitting alone in your room going “what do I say, I don’t want to come across like a complete idiot!” So cross over and allow someone else to help you.

J: What about when you’re assembling a team for yourself, how do you start the process?

T: When I’m working with clients, I deliberately do a psychological profile of them. It took me around seven years to come around to the truth of this, because I had been psychologically profiled for work before I became a coach, and I didn’t really enjoy it because I thought that it was a system to make me look bad. But if we find a system that works – the one I use and highly recommend is called DISC, which stands for the four coordinates that make up the different personality types and combinations – when you know what you are like, how you work and what your strengths are, you can make a team that supports you.

Trust me when I say that most of us are delusional about our strengths and weaknesses; we might have an inkling, or even know what some of them are because other people tell us, but once you’ve done a real assessment, you can see who you really are, how you work and what works for you, and you can say what your strengths and weaknesses are without apology. Then you can ask for what you need from others, and tell whether a person talking to you can actually help you with your failings. Equally, they are going to be able to help you because they have what you need them to have. A classic example is people who think that they have an eye for detail – that was on my CV for a decade, in the beginning of my life as an employee. I have no eye for detail! I thought I did, because I was forced into that role by the various positions that I had. It was what I was supposed to do, and I was working as a personal assistant, so I thought, you know, that I had to have an eye for detail. In my natural state, I’m a visual person: I see the truth of the client that I’m coaching and whether their strategy is going to work. I can see that, but not the details of it – I see the big overall picture. So when I discovered that, I understood that I had to have an assistant who had an eye for detail, because I had embraced that I do not. There’s nothing wrong about you not having a certain set of skills, because when creating a team, you fill in the gaps.

Getting psychologically profiled sounds really quite dry, but even if you’re not willing to take that route, start building a picture of what your strengths and weaknesses are. Ask people who know you well and have no agenda – don’t ask people who are going to make fun of what you’re saying, or not take it seriously, or take an opportunity to dig you out. Ask people who have an open-hearted desire for you to succeed and say: “What are my strengths? Do you think I have these skills or those skills?” Seriously – there are so many free online tests, so take one. Get a test to tell you what you’re good at and what you’re not so good at, and build your team based on that.

J: Do you think that your self-assessment is reliable?

T: No. I think it’s good to have a look at what you think about yourself, because some stuff would be absolutely spot on, but there’s nothing more valuable than a separate set of eyes. We all have blind spots. These days there are some amazing online tests; like I said, DISC is great, but there are a number of others, and you might have friends who have done things that work really well for them, so – find one that works. There are so many free or very low cost tests and it’s genuinely worth knowing yourself before building a team. Really.

J: So when you know your strategy, you should review your dream team and some candidates before making any contracts?

T: Yes, I think so. The thing is, we are only as good as the people we’ve got supporting us. There was a great trend for a number of years, at the beginning of the whole digital revolution where people were starting to be able to put music out themselves, to do everything yourself. “DYI” was the phrase at the time. It was quite a destructive period for a lot of people. None of us can do everything that’s required. There are so many different, very specific tasks required for a musician wanting any kind of success, be it as a song writer or a performer or a recording artist. You cannot have an insightful, complete knowledge of something and also be excellent with social media, and also be excellent at performing, and also be excellent at, you know, other things; no one is that person. So it’s about understanding the skills and the roles that you don’t have an aptitude for or don’t like, but it’s also knowing that the people doing those tasks can get the best out of you. It’s no good having someone doing social media who scares you or makes you feel bad because you’re not doing it like they’re telling you to do it – how is that motivational or sustainable over time? But equally, you don’t want someone too nice who says that, well, you should post something every day, and when you don’t they’re like, “oh well”. It’s about finding the people who can bring the best out of you and enable you to follow the strategy like you wanted it to be followed.

J: What about labels? When people are looking for labels, should they assess the label in a similar manner?

T: Yes. We have to be quite cold-blooded – I mean, there are these emotional fireworks that trigger us, like getting recognition and being acknowledged, and if there is a label that’s interested in us, we may throw all caution in the wind and think that they must be right if they’re interested in us. That just simply isn’t true. Let’s face it: these days it’s hard to make money as a label. They see an opportunity in you, and some labels are run by amazing people who only have the artists’ best interests at heart, but at the same time, they might still not be right for you. If they’re not going to help you develop as an artist in the direction that you want to develop in, if you’re not quite the right genre for them and they try to put you in a box you don’t fit in, they’re just not the right label for you. We have to be hard-hearted, and that’s difficult. A lot of artists think that getting signed with a label is the moment when they don’t have to worry about stuff anymore, and actually that’s the biggest red herring that there is; the moment of being taken on by something bigger than you is the moment when you have to really take a firm stand on what kind of artist you are and what you want  for your career. The moment of signing with a label is an enormous opportunity, but also an enormous danger. Many artists are worse off at the end of an experience with a label than they were when they started: they may have produced some good stuff that they now don’t own the rights of, or their artist development has not gone as they wanted because they’ve been persuaded by other people who “knew better” to try something else. It can be quite difficult to recover after a label has gone “sorry but this actually hasn’t worked out, good bye”. Signing with a label can be a great thing, of course, but you need to arrive at a label confident that the person they’re signing is the person that you want to be.

J: I’m thinking about the team thing, because it’s really important to me. It made a huge difference in my career when I realized that I can get further with other people, when we started working with a producer – before that, we did everything by ourselves within the band. I mostly did the work, and our drummer did production and mixing stuff. Then I started thinking about this – what if we worked with a producer? And I had many friends who were producers at the time, so we started talking about trying this. I found out very quickly that this was the way to go, because it was so much quicker; we got stuff done much quicker than before, so I found out that if I could get more songs out more quickly, it’s worth it. The songs were of higher quality, too, and more to the point. It kind of opened the gates for me, so I realized that if this is better with a special guy doing this, then I should have even more people around me doing things that I don’t have the time to do.

T: Yes – or even if you had the time, you didn’t have the skills or the desire to do it. I do have time to do certain tasks, but I’ve discovered that I don’t enjoy doing them. So the day when I have to get up and do those tasks is the day when I’m cleaning my house or what ever. If you find yourself in that situation with certain tasks, the moment has arrived to delegate. Lots of people say, “but I can’t afford to have someone else to help me”, but as an artist, you can’t afford to not afford to get someone to help you to move forward. Obviously, your ultimate idea is to just work full-time on your music. If you haven’t got to that point yet, then it’s about finding work that pays you sufficiently well, not just for making your music but to have other people support you to move your music forward. So raise your goal a bit: if you’re not earning enough to get people to help you, what can you do to change that? What natural next step would allow you to monetize and get a bit more money, and therefore be able to put that money on side for a producer, or a social media person, or what ever it is that you need. It’s really, really worth doing. If your level of success is higher than just getting by so that you can make your music, raise the intentions of your income earnings, even if it’s not a music-related job. It’s only temporary, something that’s going to pay you to get more stuff out, or to be seen by a wider audience, or to get you to that conference, or what ever it is that you invest in. It’s so worth it.

J: What I have done is barter for people. I design websites and do Internet marketing, and that’s been a good way of exchanging services.

T: Absolutely. There’s always something you can do for someone. Even if you didn’t have skills as specific and high level as yours, there’s always something. Bartering is an excellent strategy. So go and meet people. Some might help just because they want to – I’m not a great believer of working for free, in fact I hate it and encourage everyone to not work for free as much as possible, but bartering is a totally legitimate way of getting service that you need but can’t afford to pay for yet.

Do you have any examples of clients who have done something like bartering?

T: Let me think… Well, some people look at jobs which aren’t music as being a failure. “If I’m not making money performing or doing what I consider acceptable music work, then I’m not succeeding.” So sometimes I have to encourage people to change their point of view. For some others, if they want to earn money separately, they don’t want it to have anything to do with music; they want it to be a completely separate thing. That’s completely fine. Other people start to see where their skills can be applicable to others, they just have to literally get to the point of stopping doing things for free. There’s a conversation that goes on constantly, and this happens in every creative industry I’ve ever worked in, where some people – let’s call them the bottom – believe that getting paid is diffcult and that it’s going to take some minor miracle before anyone will pay them. But the only miracle that has to occur is you to stand firm in your belief that you’re worth being paid and everything else is a no. This feels dangerous to people because they think that they will never get an opportunity to perform again – not true. You actually get better opportunities, because now you’re standing firm as someone worth paying.

I saw an amazing interview by Nicki Minaj once where she said that, basically, every time she sees that there’s an artist out there who’s being paid more than she is, that’s what she raises her fee to. And it’s worth it to her, because she knows that she’s good and she’s done all the work she needed to do to get the fanbase that she has. So she just keeps raising her price because she can. But this stragegy isn’t just because she’s Nicki Minaj, it’s because she’s always been someone who says she’s worth being paid. And money is an asset so, you know, I can raise my brand, work with that producer instead of this producer, what ever. From my perspective, there’s no failure in making money to support your art. Whatever you need to do that doesn’t harm people, do it; it’s temporary, so do those things. Once I get people to stop saying that they’ll do things for nothing, then funnily enough, money stops being such an issue. It’s literally a mental shift. You can politely and openly, yet firmly, start telling people: “Thank you so much for the opportunity but actually, right now, I can’t afford to work for free. One day when I’m successful, that might be something I want to go back to doing, but now I’m a professional artist and I can only work for payment.” You can be incredibly polite about it, but the more you say it, the more you will persuade yourself and those around you about being a person worth to be paid. I had to go through this process when I was learning to coach; coaches have a lot in common with artists, as far as being people who are willing to do work that they would gladly do for free, and it can be hard to ask for money. And you can see this with people who are therapists, yoga teachers – all of those kinds of people, just like musicians or visual artists, would do the work for nothing if they had a trust fund. But most of us don’t have a trust fund. So we have to get to saying that my work is worth paying for. And at that moment, I promise you that money suddenly looks a bit different.

J: Tell me about your client process. Does there ever come a time when your client is ready, when you’ve done wtih your job?

T: I always work in fixed periods because I want people to be ready; I want them not to need me, so I tend to work in periods of say, three months or six months, depending on what the client wants to do. My job is to coach them to arm them with personal tools, so that they can go to a conference and get those two connections that they need, or know whether some opportunity is the right for them, or say that they want to meet the producer that’s the right one for them and be confident about it. For me, it’s about enabling my client to absolutely not need me. If my clients get to where they want to get to, whether that’s during our period together or afterwards, they might suddenly have a new goal and come back to me five years later – that definitely happens – going “okay, I did all of that and it was amazing, but now there’s this thing I want to do”, and that’s really great. But no, I don’t want to keep people with me; I want people to be out there and send me e-mails from time to time saying: “You’ll never believe this thing that I did and thought, ‘what would Tamara say?!’” And that makes me really happy, because I know they’re doing the stuff they want to do.

J: Do you publish those stories on your blog?

T: I’m a terrible social media person, but yes, I have a collection of them. I just need to get into it. One of the tools I get all of my clients to learn is to listen to your intuition. As introvers, we like spending time on our own but don’t always make the best use of that time. But intuitively, we just know so much. We know whether that producer is the right person for us; we know if that new bass player is gonna fuck us over at some point; we just know, on a body level of knowing. The better we get at becoming intuitive, the easier everything becomes, because we don’t just say “yes” to every opportunity; we don’t just start a collaboration with someone who’s going to let us down on exactly the wrong moment, we don’t end up working with a producer whose ideas are widely divergent from what we want our sound to be… So intuition as a skill, I think, is at the core of everything that I work around with my clients. There often comes a moment at the end of my coaching when we are reviewing that six month period, and people are like, now I just know that I will be succeeding. Whether they got all the way through to their goal and now have a new one or are only half way there, they have that sense of knowing that they’re gonna do it. And that’s so valuable, and a lot of that comes from having an intuitive connection.

J: What have you learned from your clients? I mean, you must learn a lot.

T: I do. The thing I’ve learned from my clients is to not think about it – just do it. If it doesn’t work out, then you do the next thing. But what I’ve also learned from watching clients over time is that that thing doesn’t have to be some grandiose gesture with fireworks and balloons and doves on the sky; it can literally be deciding that you’ll send an e-mail a day. Just one e-mail, the first thing you do in the morning whilst having your coffee, before you go on social media or get sucked into conversations about what ever with other people. “I’ll send one e-mail a day” or “I’ll do one bit of research”, you know, one little action – they all add up. But I think, if I combine what I know with what I’ve learned from my clients, it’s that nothing can beat intuition plus action. Wake up one morning and just do whatever your meditative thing is, like taking a long shower or going for a run or a swim, whatever works for you and lets you hear that little voice that quietly says: “Who do I need to call?” One of my most successful clients came about to me because I did that. I went swimming, and I was sitting in a jacuzzi afterwards wondering who I needed to contact, and I got the name of a medium-successful artist whom I’d met two years before and hadn’t had any contact with since. And I thought to myself, “well this is ridiculous, how am I going to contact that person?” What would I even say to them? I spent a month denying that, but my intuition was firm that I needed to contact her. Eventually, I just got so irritated that I asked “well, if you’re so clever, intuition, then what am I supposed to do?!” And it told me to send her an e-mail – but what am I supposed to say? So, literally, I sat down and wrote what was along the lines of: “I don’t know why I’m sending you this e-mail, but I intuitively feel like I need to reach out to you and say hello and ask if you need anything. If you know why I’m e-mailing you, e-mail me back. If you just think that this woman is completely crazy, that’s a legitimate thought and I don’t disagree with you.” And I just left it out there. I got a reply going: “Oh my God, how did you know?!” She was one of my most successful clients. So, you know, intuition plus a little bit of action – I just had to send one e-mail, and it came back to me. If you’re looking at places you want to go on a tour in, or if you’re looking for producers or people you could collaborate with – let intuition guide you, and take a little action.

J: I have what you could call a motivational poster that I wrote myself that says “act before you get scared” on my wall.

T: Yes, absolutely. But if you got scared, just remember that you only have to be not scared for about a second. So you can write an e-mail while scared, and only have to have bravery to send the e-mail. Your manager could hit the send button for you – I’ve even done that before, where I had something big to ask someone and, my sister is my fake manager, so I told her to click the button while I was going “oh no…!”

J: “What’s the worst that could happen?”

T: Exactly! But I really understand that for some of my clients, it feels like life and death to send or not send an e-mail. Writing the e-mail is one task, sending it is another. You just need to be not scared for one second to click “send”. You don’t need to be courageous all the time; one second of bravery at a time. It sounds crazy, but these are coping strategies for people who work for themselves.

J: What I usually do when I have this fear of calling someone is that I just take the phone and start calling. The longer I wait, the harder it gets.

T: Absolutely. But nevertheless, there are people who never get to that level of “you know what, I’m just going to call”. Like I said, find a person whom you can ask to make your calls for you. There’s always someone whom an independent artist wants to call, or something they want to ask for, but they’re not doing it because it feels too big to them. It’s not, but it feels like it. But somebody else, who loves you very much but doesn’t care because it’s not their career, will make the call for you, and you can make a call for them. This is the real world – we don’t have to be constantly courageous. It would be nice if we all were Madonna, but we are not. Many of us just don’t have it in us to get a number of calls done at once, and that’s completely legitimate, but we have to find strategies to get around it.

J: And you need to have your big goals set so you know what you’re doing.

T: Yes. You need to know that these five calls really are the five calls and not a random assortment of things. If that’s your goal, then it really needs to happen, and that can motivate you to find some solution if it’s really beyond you to make a call. I get it, because some people really have a social phobia. They hate phones. If that’s your reality, find a strategy around it.

J: It’s also good to take action as soon as possible, because you might wait for longer and still get a no.

T: But you just waited for six weeks for a no, rather than five minutes – absolutely true. Even if it’s just one small action a day, taking that action eventually shows us how the whole thing works; a little action gets you to another little action that gets you to another little action. Start practicing taking those.

J: You talk about finding the right kind of partners in your business. But even if you find the right match, you still need to contact a lot of people because that person might not be available at the moment when you need them.

T: This is why I use intuition. I don’t disagree with you, but in my experience, honing my intuitive powers, I don’t need lots of people. Let me tell you – I was moderating a panel here at Tallinn Music Week. All of my international speaking and moderating has come about from one e-mail that I sent six years ago. I knew that I wanted to do international speaking and speak at music conferences, and I thought, what am I gonna do about it? Of course, there were lots of things I could have done about it, like e-mail everyone who runs a conference I wanted to go to, or what ever. But my intuition told me to send one e-mail to this particular individual, Anna, so I did that.

J: Had you met her at a conference?

T: I had coached her, so I knew her well. I got thinking: “Okay, I want to do international speaking but have never done it before – I have spoken in the UK but never internationally – so what do I need to do about that?” My intuition said: “Send an e-mail to Anna.” So I sent an e-mail to Anna, and she essentially sent me one back saying “thank you, that’s nice”. I was like, no, that’s not what’s supposed to happen! Stupid intuition! But three months later, I got a call asking me to be a speaker for women in a music conference in Finland. And from there, so many amazing things have flowed. That was completely intuitive.

J: How did the e-mail to Anna lead to that call?

T: So, Anna at that time was part of Iceland Music Export and she told a friend of hers, who worked at Finland Music Export as it was then, about me. This is quite a well known story, but Pauliina, the head of Music Export Finland at the time, had had a conversation with Tarja Halonen while they were on a music trade mission in China, and Pauliina had been really excited about all the artists they had taken to China. She turned to Tarja Halonen’s assistant to ask how she was feeling about this, and the assistant said that Tarja wanted to know why the only women on stage were Chinese. That’s when Pauliina realized that although there was tons of talent amongst women in the music industry in Finland, they weren’t exporting and trying to get outside the industry. Because I’ve done a leadership program for the Music Publishers Association for women in music, Anna said: “You should speak to Tamara.” And that became this connection. As soon as I met Pauliina, I intuitively knew that she was one of my people. We have remained friends and in contact and we’ve done various things together over the last six years. But absolutely – when I asked myself what I should do, I just listened to my intuition. It told me to contact Anna, so that’s what I did. And that was enough; my entire speaking career since then has come from that one e-mail, so I don’t deny that music industry is full of people you could work with, but your intuition will shortlist for you in the most amazing way. A story about a client of mine: A Finnish jazz musician wanted to do a recording, and knew that she wanted to work with a particular bass player. She felt, within herself – this is her interpretation – that the bass player was on a higher level in her career than she was, so she was a little reluctant to reach out. But nevertheless, she knew that this was whom she wanted to collaborate with on a project that she was doing. So we had a conversation and I said to her: “Tell me, what does your intuition say? Will you contact a mutual friend and ask for her contact details?” They had worked together on someone else’s project, but had never done anything together. And her intuition said “no, I shouldn’t do anything”. That’s a legitimate thing – sometimes your intuition is like, don’t do anything right now. So she didn’t. Twenty-four hours later she sent me one of those e-mails saying “you’ll never guess what happened!”; the woman had contacter her and said “hey, I’ve got this project I want to collaborate on, bring some stuff of your own and we’ll collaborate together”. That’s why she didn’t need to do anything right then, she intuitively knew that she wanted to work with this woman – maybe she even knew that she would work with her – but what she needed to do about it at that moment was nothing, because it was already coming to her. She didn’t have to go ask her friends and maybe have the friends tell her things like “oh, I don’t know if you should contact her, she’s really busy right now”. This is why intuition is such a powerful tool. It can make you understand that you’re just waiting, that there’s nothing wrong and you’re not procrastinating, or that some person is the right person – there might be twenty producers who could help you, but that’s the one. And if they’re busy, then you wait. That’s how intuition enables us to avoid sticky mistakes that afterwards make us go “why didn’t I…” or “I knew this!”

Normally, when I talk to my clients about making mistakes because you didn’t listen to your intuition, people know exactly what the mistake was, when they made it and what they did. So my invitation is to not do that; listen to your intuition in the first place. And if your intuition is like, “it’s this producer, but he’s telling me he can’t work with me until October” and it’s now June, then go find something else to do. Ask your intuition what to do between now and October, even if it’s not what you want, because it’s going to happen. And suddenly, another opportunity has presented itself – you’ve had an idea, or there’s a collaboration, or something. Please, if there’s something to get out of this interview: become really good at listening to that inner voice. It shortlists, it rejects bad opportunities, it will never tell you a lie. Intuition is always right, even if you don’t want it to be. Even when you’re like: “But I love this person! They’ve got all these connections, surely this must be the right person for me!” If your intuition says that this is a no… Try and see what happens.

J: But you still need to make a decision according to your intuition.

T: You do. I mean, of course you can reject your intuition and try something anyway, but my experience is that one hundred times out of a hundred, you’re going to regret it at some point, because your intuition is your on-board, all-seeing, all-knowing advisor. It’s there just for you. People may think that I rely too much on it and that logic will help sort these things out, but logic is never as strong as your intuition. If my intuition says “I wouldn’t”, then I won’t. I have had clients who decide otherwise, particularly producers, because they’ve got such a strong influence on stuff that happens, but it could just as well be a social media person or whatever – or a manager. God forbid that you would decide to go with a manager while your intuition is going “no”. It’s that moment when we think that they could do these things for us, because they’ve got all this experience and all these connections – your logic is going “look whom they’ve worked with, look what they’ve done”, but your intuition is going “please don’t, please don’t…”

J: Could it be that intuition is just a way of having access to more information than you can logically process?

T: Yes, absolutely. The two things go beautifully together, but if you’ve got a choice, I would always go with intuition first and then apply logic to my intuition. So if my intuition is like, “don’t work with this guy”, I would then have to say that okay, logically, if I’m not going to do that, then what’s my next step? I say “no” to them, so do I have to find another producer, or do I not need a producer at all at this moment? Is there something else I need? I allow it to enable me to ask better questions, and my intuition can answer those as well. “The reason why he’s not the right guy at the moment is because, actually, you have to go back to basics and find another song-writing collaborator. Make the songs better.” What ever – all of these dialogues can be had with your intuition because it knows. It knows better than anybody with all the experience in the world, because you know you. That’s not to say that you can’t get advice, of course you can and you should seek it for sure, but if someone is giving you advice or critique and it doesn’t feel real or true to you, if you’re not sure whether they actually understand what you’re trying to achieve, then once again your intuition will tell you. Seek the advice you want. Some people will give you amazing advice, and it will feel like amazing advice and you will follow it, logically.

J: I think you can actually achieve many kinds of results with the people you’re currently working with. So what do you tell your clients when they’re hesitant about the current output of their collaborators?

T: I get them to look at themselves first, because we can’t change anyone – we can only change ourselves. A lot of time, the results we get from people change our energy towards that relationship, or that collaborator or that situation. Not always, but it’s often true.

J: So what I would probably do is write about my feelings, and then communicate those feelings.

T: That’s a good strategy.

J: On your blog, you’ve talked about saying “no” to things.

T: Saying “no” is a really vital skill. It’s sometimes difficult to introverts because we feel like we should do things, but saying “no” to things that don’t feel right is important. There’s always benefits to any experience, but some things cost us more than we gain – for example, saying “yes” to collaborating or doing a project with someone and not getting paid. Yes, you get the experience and maybe you’ll get exposure, but what you won’t get is a sense of your worth being recognized in monetary form. And if that’s your problem – if money is a major issue – then that’s the thing that you need to say “no” to, so that you can say “yes” to being paid for something. It’s the way your energy needs to go; “no” is important, because it allows you to say “yes” to other things. A number of times, I have encouraged clients because they have intuitively gone “I shouldn’t do this, should I?”. I’ve told them that they’re quite right, they should not. And they have said “no”, and then thought that they will never work again because they said “no” to this particular promoter or who ever – and then within a week or less, some other thing has filled that timeframe, or will offer them the same opportunity but with money or what ever it is that they really need. Sometimes saying “no” feels like the universe is testing us – I don’t think the universe tests us, it’s not something that I subscribe to, but I certainly think that we test ourselves to see if we’re serious. “I’m drawing a line in the sand, I’m never going to do anything for free” – do you really mean that? Sometimes a great opportunity comes along, but you won’t be paid. “Do I say yes?”

J: Or do you say “no, but…”

T: Yes – “but” is a fantastic thing to say to people. “Oh yes, but…!” Yes, I want to say yes to your opportunity, but you’re gonna have to pay me – even a minimum amount of money. A number of times, I’ve had this conversation with people who freelance in anything, where they’ve tested to discover that there actually is money. Who knew?! It’s just that they’ve tried the old “we haven’t got any money” thing and you’ve said “yes”, so now you’re the one who’s not getting paid. So, “no but” is a yes – go for it.

J: What are your personal goals right now?

T: To do more speaking, to get out and meet more people – I love to speak, I particularly speak about intuition and the benefits of it, helping people in chaotic and difficult times in the industry. Your intuition is just such a valuable tool for calming down and not worrying about what’s going to happen next. So doing more speaking and engagements, and increasingly, to work with clients on retreat, to take them in places where they can relax and let go of the stress of everyday life, and honestly say what they want their career to be like – and to help them tap into that intuition as well, so that we’re getting some good information. For me, that as a strategy has worked tremendously well with artists, because there’s like a constant, low-lying stress in being an artist. There’s always something you could be doing. Equally, if you’re any kind of freelancer, there’s always something: you could be on social media, you could be blogging, you could be what ever. So give yourself some quiet time to let your vision come through, make a strategy that supports that vision and start listening to your intuition about what little steps will get you there.

J: So you recommend spending a lot of time planning?

T: Personally, I don’t spend a lot of time planning, but I’m so into my intuition and listening to it that, you know.

J: So you don’t need as much planning?

T: I don’t – other people love to plan, and if you love to, then go for it. I’m one of those people who become very attached to their plans, and I’m not very flexible with it once I’ve got it. Even if I don’t have a plan nailed down, I tend to get what I want in the end anyway. A classic example of that would be wanting to come to Tallinn Music Week. Four years ago, I knew that I wanted to speak at a particular conference in the UK, and I sent them a couple of e-mails because I thought that well, that’s a reasonable thing to do. I got no replies to those e-mails, but I still knew that I wanted to speak there, so I always had my ear out for someone who might be able to connect me or what ever. Nothing happened. And then, again through that same connection with Anna and even that London event, I got an e-mail from someone saying that she was recommended to have some coaching with me and asked to have a conversation with me. I coached that person, and she turned out to be the program director of that event I wanted to go to. I never once asked if I could speak there, because I intuitively didn’t need to. I just needed to be professional and coach the person I had in front of me; if I was going to ask for anything, it would be at the end of our coaching relationship. At the very end I could say “hey, one day I would love to speak at your event”, but up until that point, it wouldn’t have been professional of me to start saying what I wanted when I was supposed to be coaching her. So I said nothing. Four months into our six months, she said hey, I really want you to come to speak at my event. Then it was done. So I didn’t have a big plan on how to speak about that event, I just knew I wanted to and kept my mind and my ear open for opportunities. And even when the opportunity was presented to me, intuition said “don’t go rushing into this”, and I don’t think I would have reached trust with this person if I had rushed. I got to prove my value and it was an amazing experience, everything I wanted it to be. I was quite willing to take a step back and let it come to me; some things are like that, and other things I go get.

J: Do you get a lot of requests to speak at conferences?

T: I’ve only really started speaking at conferences again. I’ve got small children, so I haven’t been able to do lots of traveling. But since resolving at the end of last year that I wanted to… There are four things coming up in the first three months, so I wanted to go back to speaking.

J: Are you actively seeking for opportunities and looking at delegate lists?

T: Yes – well, I don’t tend to look at delegate lists, I just know where I geographically want to go. Traveling is very important to me; I draw a lot of good energy and inspiration from it. Often it’s more about me wanting to go to a particular place than it is about wanting to do a particular event, although sometimes there are events that stand out for me. Once again, this is me getting quiet and listening to my intuition – that is my strategy, that is my plan; a lot of time it’s just to listen to that little voice, because it’s always got a better solution than me. Whenever I go hey, I could try or do this or that, I need it to sit with me for a little while and see if it fits in my body and soul. Sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes it does. There are loads of really cool ideas out there, but only a few of them are really the right ones for me.

J: Is there already a conference you want to go next?

T: No, I have to say, at the moment there isn’t. But, I don’t know – I think I’d like to do some stuff in the US, but the political situation at the moment is giving me a pause, so I guess I need to go for the right thing. It might be some quirky little festival or conference that I maybe haven’t even heard of yet. Or someone might just be giving birth to the idea that actually will end up being where I end up going because it feels right to me. But at the moment, I’ve got an intention pointing towards the US and I’m open for ideas. And I know something will come along, because it always does.

J: Maybe somebody will listen to this podcast or read my blog or something…

T: Equally, I’m always delighted to do stuff in Scandinavia, and the Baltic countries as well. I have a real strong, deep connection to Finland – I have no idea how Finland has become this spiritual connecting point for me, but it really has so I’ve been in and out of Finland for six years, and it’s always a delight when someone calls me and asks if I want to go to Finland. I’m just, yes! – oh, wait, hang on, what for?

J: Maybe Slush Music?

T: Maybe. I’ve met a couple of people, like Nikolas – I have to see if I can work on him and get to that. But I have a couple of clients who were at Slush Music last year, so I’m definitely open for that.

J: Let’s see what happens. Thank you for the interview, let’s hope you get your goals fulfilled.

T: Thank you. You too!


Interview transcribed by Annu Savtchenko.

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