Expert Advice: Investment in Self

Expert is from Latin, meaning “try.” I wouldn’t call my Self an expert, but I’m definitely a trier. As for advice, one of the most valuable pieces of wisdom I can share was given to me when young in the form of a question.

“If you don’t invest in yourself, why would others invest in you?”

This leading question really got me thinking and got me to the stage I am now. At a young age I invested a lot of time and energy into practice and absorbing as much as I could about the music industry, its history, and all genres of music from as many ages as possible.

This investment quickly led me into being asked into a performing band. The guys were much older than me but they saw I had something to valuable offer. This was the first time I saw all those hours spent pay off. We were young, and just being able to perform required a lot of effort––with very little financial reward. But the experience, all the time and energy invested was invaluable, right down to the venues not paying up and the bands who tried and failed to steal our gigs on the night.

It didn’t take me long to realise there are all types of investment: financial, educational, time and energy, as examples. I learned you have only one chance to impress or get the attention of the people in the industry that you want attention from. And this one chance to impress at all levels in the industry directly relates to the amount of investment you have put into your Self.

As a teenager growing up in Melbourne I naturally tried to follow in the footsteps of Aussie legends like AC/DC, Rose Tattoo and Midnight Oil and gig at the venues that had helped establish these acts, quickly finding out we were competing with hundreds of other original acts all trying to do the same. So, then the investment was to improve our performance and stage show, market ourselves differently from the others, and only deliver the best quality demos we could.

Sometimes the investment in a demo was financial and sometimes it was time and energy. We found the amount of work produced didn’t make for better work and the more dollars spent didn’t always equal better quality. Yet it was easy to see a quality demo was a door opener. This proved to us the more time and thought spent on how to make the most out of the process and make every limited dollar count made our financial investment go further and pay off. A historical example: A $5 second-hand clothing store suit got us in the door we and hundreds of others had knocked on before; our professional demos kept it open; the investment in our Self, our show and our performance kept the crowds and gigs coming.

Doors are knocked on differently these days. Yet investing in your Self, taking the time to think differently and provide quality releases, plus investing financially in the right areas and promotion, have proven to be the door openers for our current singles, ‘Forever On’ and ‘There’s Reason’ which both made world Top 10 charts and are both currently charting highly together. The quality of these releases shows a willingness to invest in Self, that we’re serious and believe in and know what we’re doing. It also shows we’ve been honest with our Self and our work and know when we are doing our Self a disservice by not investing in the talents and expertise of others.

In this age of the home studio, where so much can be done individually, many cut costs by doing all them Self, such as not getting their work mastered, yet pay hundreds of dollars for the latest and greatest new tuner, etc. which doesn’t add any value to the work produced or bring it closer to a professional quality, a quality that may get their tracks listened to for more than a few bars by overloaded industry professionals. This is that “one chance to impress,” so ensure you’ve invested wisely.

We all invest in the best quality equipment we can, which can be a huge financial cost. Yet updating of equipment for updating’s sake or to get a new distorted sound doesn’t improve the quality of playing, the song’s production or get it promoted. The time and energy used to research, find and buy these items, etc. can be better spent elsewhere in ways that will improve the quality of work and save unnecessary expense.

I’ve discussed about investing in your Self through finances, time and energy on education and gaining experience, even from what some may see as a failure, e.g.: not being paid. Yet, Self investment also includes knowing when to take time for your Self, when to look after your Self even if that means just taking the time to have a good meal. At the heart of all this “Investment In Self” is your Self.

Self investment has provided me with a career in music that has given me the opportunity to perform with some Aussie legends, international artists and more––things that seemed like they were in a different world and out of my reach when I first began playing as a teenager. It doesn’t matter where you sit in the industry, an up-and-coming new artist or an experienced professional; the investment of time and improvement in all that does not cost money will only spread any financial investment that follows even further. And when you invest financially, do your research first and make sure you are getting the best possible result for every dollar spent and always remember to spend time to enjoy what you are doing.

Red is a musician and co-founder of the band skinsNbones. See skinsnbones.com.