In about 2008 I realised that if I was ever going to be truly happy, I needed to follow my heart and do what I was really passionate about. This is a bit weird considering I had been working for myself in the music industry full-time since 1995!
The truth is that by then I was running a music speciality PR company. It was doing pretty well. My clients included Goldfish, The Dirty Skirts and Fuzigish as well as the Edgars Music Series and others. But the truth was that I was waking up every morning going, “What am I doing with my life!??!?!?”
After some serious soul searching and hard-question asking (that’s another entire post!) I emerged with the understanding that I had to follow my dream. This had been my dream since I was about ten: when I first started writing creatively: to be a writer. The question I was asked: if you wanted to be a writer, what are you doing today to make that happen?
The answer was of course nothing. Not writing one creative word at all. So first that had to change. But I also realised that just writing was not the answer. I needed to be aiming at obtaining a career, a sustainable position in the world as a writer, which would also involve speaking… training, key notes and so on.
Hence a to-do list was born. I asked myself, what do I have that I can start work on today that would become a book?
Number one was easy: a collection of short stories. I started writing those in 1st year university (more coming on that soon)
Number two seemed easy: I would resurrect the Urban series and do Urban 4
Number 3 was interesting. I would write a guide book for the business side of the music industry.
Number 3 scared the crap out of me. The notion was born out a discussion I had with Deon Maas a few years previous. I had written a novel about a band that try and make it big in South Africa. I asked Deon to read it for some early comments. His reaction was like, ‘Well, you’ve got two books here. A novel and a guide book for bands. My advice to do the guide book! This was in like 2004!’
Why hadn’t I four years later? One word answer: FEAR
Who was I to write an advice book for artists in South Africa? Most of our industry is black and into urban music. I am white and grew up on rock. I have never managed nor helped create a huge star. I was well known in my niche, but no further, and it was a small niche. Essentially I had a long list of perfectly rational, carefully worked out list of reasons why I should NOT do the book. Also I knew a few other people who had muttered about doing it, but never did.
But, once it got to 2009 and the short story book was out no-one else had released such a book. And no-one else seemed likely to. Jonathan Shaw had his weighty, university level book out, but already my idea was way different. So I grabbed my nuts in my hands, took a deep breath and said I would do it.
I sat down and wrote a list of what I thought were the most important things any beginner artist needed to know. From playing live, to their song-writing rights and dealing with management. I fiddled those around until I thought I had a logical order. I asked for input from my bother Simon and my friend Bill Botes as well as Deon Maas. It was my brother Simon who also suggested the interview side bars, the heavy use of graphics and photos. He said if it is going to be educational and WORK, it cannot be dull and boring. It must leap off the page. How right he was! Then I broke each section down into parts so I could get down to micro detail level. And then I started to write it.
And writing, I realised that I knew way, way more than I was giving myself credit for. Also that working in the underground with no budget, no scene and very little indeed to work with had taught me a lot about how to scrap and scrape a career together. And that in actual fact, I must understand business because, since 1988 I had been dealing and working with bands that had never made any money really and yet, I was making a living. I had a career… surely this could be shared?
I also realised that I did not know a lot: I had to research and interview and double check a lot of stuff when it came to rights, publishing, SAMRO etc. This is when I realised that I, in actual fact, had never really been a very good artist manager. I had been more like a glorified road manager and booking agent. (But that is yet another story)
It was my father who suggested the workshops. David Chislett senior spent a lot of his career in training: writing manuals, designing programmes and training management candidates in the insurance industry. He saw in the book the potential for it to become a training manual, a source-book for an educational programme. My friend Aasifah Omar kindly provided me with the advice and document templates to help me to start to turn the book into those workshops.
I was doing workshops before the book even eventually came out in 2010. My oldest brother Andrew is the reason the book came at out at all after he offered to fund me to publish independently. The book truly turned out to be a family effort, a first for too!
You can still buy 1,2,1,2: A Step By Step To The SA Music Industry by clicking on the title here.
My experience of doing these 1,2,1,2 and Start Smart workshops will be the subject of my next blog.