Complexity — whether by negligence or design — creates power but never power for the user. This is why a relatively new discipline called UX (User Experience) design is crucial to business. We must appreciate the users’ experience when we make a product.

The story of two cassettes

Over the last two weeks, I’ve released a couple of short, electronic records on my Bandcamp that I made in 1998 or 1999 and basically never told anyone about. I’ve known I had copies of the recordings somewhere like hundreds of other sketches and demos. Recently, I listened to many of these old cassettes and decided to convert some to digital. The process of converting these two forced me to re-examine this music I’d made the year before I started a fairly intense punk band and became a (slightly) more social musician.

In their book Rework, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson write a chapter advising us to “Say No by Default.” This is a great way to force simplicity in a project. When it comes to presenting a product, we should still think that we’re saying “no.” We should make it simple by default.

I often hear individuals voice a concern like, “I’m the only one who knows how to do this” or “I spend 5 days a month dealing with this system” to be answered with the phrase, “hey, it’s job security.” This is a dangerous attitude in an employee.

I recently wrote about how “There is only so much promotion you can do.” It is part of a theme in my writing about making music: focus on the important stuff. Or as that paragon of creative thought, C. Montgomery Burns, once taught: “Push out the jive, bring in the love.”

In my last article, I suggested using “there is only so much promotion you can do” as your mantra (but “push out the jive, bring in the love” is pretty good too). …

I write a lot about strategies for a musician — digital strategy, social media strategy, email strategy, release strategy — and the world wide web is full of more advice for musicians than you’d ever have time to implement. It’s overwhelming. This is a theme to which I hope I’ve devoted enough time even as I talked about strategies. There is one huge piece of wisdom to understand:

Emulate the drug dealers but with an email list

If you’re serious about doing any work that breaks the rules to succeed, you should read REWORK from the makers of the project management software, Basecamp. REWORK has a chapter called “Drug Dealers Get It Right” — that is: they give a sample of the product away for free to get you hooked. You should be doing the same with your music.

I’m an artist, and if you give me a tuba, I’ll bring you something out of it.

John Lennon

I read that quote from John Lennon when I was just starting out on guitar. It made sense to me intrinsically. I figured that was what I was doing and would do: I would bring something out of the instrument with me even if I’d feel silly playing with B.B. King (the example Lennon gives). Often this is the attitude that separates the artist from the hobbyist. …

Recently, given some stories of really half-assed performances that I’d heard, I wrote about your job as a live musician. We gigging musicians often get the short end of the stick in live situations. That post was meant to address the basic requirements you gotta do as a live musician. Now, let’s talk about what the venue ought to be doing.

Communicate with the musicians playing your venue

Communicating clearly with the bands and musicians playing your venue whether it’s a club, coffee shop, restaurant, art gallery, or anything else, buys you buckets of goodwill. And here’s the thing, you don’t have to overburden yourself with communications…

It often sucks to be a live musician. We’re rarely paid; venues don’t have great sound; no one promotes the show; people don’t show up. We can’t correct all those injustices ourselves. But we do have to face the cold truth that it’s sometimes our responsibility when we’re treated like crap. If we want to be treated as professionals, at the minimum, we have to act like professionals.


I write about work, belief, music, and the politics of superheroes. Support my books and music at

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