Brand You MusicMakers

MusicMakers :: Jay Rodriguez :: STORY

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  • WATCH!


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For today’s MusicMaker, we got a hold of Brooklyn’s Jay Rodriguez.  This is Jay’s Story and how he approaches music and channels his emotions through music.  


“At the very end of your life, it won’t matter how many breaths you take but how many moments in your life took your breath away.” – Shing Xiong


Jay lives Shing Xiong’s challenge every day through his music and as an inspiration the world.   Once again, I’m glad to share that I’m honored to Jay Rodriguez in my life.  He’s a dear friend, a cohort, an inspiration, and a leader.  SO — Thanks million for checking this out!!


Jay’s Bio: Jay’s resume reads like a who’s who of the music world. His music has influenced bands such as US 3, The Roots, & A Tribe called Quest. He has worked with hundreds of artists including Miles Davis, Prince, The Roots, Tupac, Elvis Costello, Patti Labelle, Celia Cruz, Natalie Cole, Musiq Soulchild, Medeski, Martin and Wood, Guru, Little Louie Vega, Arturo O Farrill, Bernie Worrell, Roy Hargrove, Fred Wesley, Melissa Manchester, The Mingus Big Band, Widespread Panic, Mike Clark, Kenny Barron, Irakere, Mongo Santamaria, Eddie Palmieri, Selah Sue, The Gil Evans Band, and many others. He has taught/lectured all over the world including the Royal Academy of Music, University of Cairo, Uninorte (Colombia) & Unam in Mexico.


More about Jay


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Brand You MusicMakers

MusicMaker :: Shea Rose :: STORY

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    check out the interview

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Shea’s Bio: Since graduating from Berklee College of Music in 2011, Shea Rose has been celebrated for her contributions to music, fashion, and philanthropy. She has won multiple awards, was hand-picked by Queen Latifah for a CoverGirl music campaign, and gave a TEDx Talk in 2014 on her journey to re-discover her voice after turning down a major label deal. Shea is currently in the process of releasing her D.T.M.A. (Dance This Mess Around) EP as a six-part music, fashion, and video series that explores her journey and the universal topics of identity, judgment, and self-acceptance. 

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Brand You MusicMakers

Brand YOU: Find Your Story


Jose Feliciano is an amazing story teller.  He uses both his words and music during concerts in a way that keeps thousands of people engaged.  What’s most amazing is that his story is felt even when listening to his recorded music.  Here’s Feliciano’s inspiration, story, and come from when playing the national anthem for the 1968 World Series:


“I had set out to sing an anthem of gratitude to a country that had given me a chance; that had allowed me, a blind kid from Puerto Rico — a kid with a dream — to reach far above my own limitations. I wanted to sing an anthem of praise to a country that had given my family and me a better life than we had had before.”


Feliciano’s performance of the National Anthem was so altered from the traditional that it created controversy.  But despite the controversy, his story resounded.  And that story has led to decades of reinterpretations of the national anthem — and has allowed audiences to be open to the music in a new way.


On that controversy, Feliciano writes:


“The controversy shadowed me for many years, but I’m thankful I had the opportunity to perform our Anthem in a way that was intensely personal to me, yet still maintained the impact and meaning of our nation’s song. I am also thankful to see that today it is common to hear our National Anthem performed in a stylized fashion and that it is now acceptable, indeed admirable, for a musician to deliver a personal interpretation of our National Anthem.”


Feliciano’s story is about transcendence. It affirms the idea that we can all be more…  to the world, to our families, and to ourselves. And people LOVE that story!   If Feliciano had not tapped into his own feelings of appreciation and then shared them, his performance in 1968 would be long forgotten. And we would all be poorer for it.


“But that’s Jose Feliciano,” you might be saying. “I’m not that interesting! I don’t have a story!”


All musicians have a story.  All humans have a story. But for most of us it takes some digging to find it.  


And honestly, you’re not going to love this process.


Because your most powerful stories show your challenges, they expose how you came to this place.  Finding those stories involves peeling back the layers of the onion and sharing what you have overcome; how you have transcended to get to this place.  That can be hard to do. It can also be really worth it.


It’s worth it because in order to overcome those barriers, you had to have a purpose, a vision, a reason to overcome.  Of course, music is your mission, but you have to go deeper: what core passion fires your drive to make music?  


I heard a young singer tell the story of singing at a children’s hospital. Many of the children came in weary or in obvious pain, but by the time she was two songs in, the light was back in their eyes.  For a moment, for that moment that she was singing, those kids were able to forget their pain. That was the moment she knew she wanted to be a musician.


That was the moment she found her mission.


So, dig for your version of that story. And as you’re digging, remember: story applies to everything. Your T-shirts will sell better if people know the meaning behind the logo.  Your albums will sell better if people know the stories behind the songs. You will sell better if people know the story behind you.


Your story is the engine that drives you: It is basically your mission and vision statement.


So this week, think through your story: Why did you got into music? How did you get to the place you are now? What is at the root of getting up on that stage?


Answer these questions:

  • What about music brings you the most joy?
  • What is the most meaningful reaction you’ve ever gotten from a listener?
  • If you could use your music to bring about change what would that change be?
  • What central wisdom do you try to live your life by?
  • Where has making music required you to be vulnerable?
  • Conquest, pain, defiance, joy, freedom – what words are core to your story?


Take time with this. Dig as deeply as you can. And once again, ask other people for their insight.  
Next week: So, I’ve Got a Story. Now What?

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Brand You MusicMakers

Brand YOU: What’s Your Story? — It’s Your Brand!


When you are performing, people are attracted to you. When you play, you resonate in a way that people respond to. But why is that?  Your story is part of what causes that resonance. It’s what got you here; what brought you to this place. It’s what inspires your music and helps you connect with your audience.


If people love your music, they will love your music no matter what, but sharing your story creates an additional point of contact; a deeper place of connection to draw people in. If you are willing to do the work, it can be a powerful tool to inspire people to move from “listener” to “purchaser”, then to “fan”.


“…Conventional ways of marketing and advertising can not be used. Because they are designed to provoke desire for more, that is opposite from inner fulfillment…  Instead, we musicians can create music…  make ourselves feel fulfillment and acceptance, put[it] out there and wait for people… with the same purpose… [who] can resonate with our music…”

– Motoshi Kosako, Harpist for Stockton Symphony Orchestra


The goal of this article series is to walk you to your story so that you can clearly define it and communicate it to agents, publishers, venue owners, and the world.  Most importantly, though, the goal of this article is to help you define your story so you can communicate it to the tribe of listeners who are looking for exactly what you offer and will fall in love with what you do.



Define your purpose


There are universal questions everyone asks: Why am I here?  What is the point?  How can I live a meaningful life?


For many people music answers these questions.  And we are part of that! Our audience sees themselves through a lens that we create: through our music, through our performance, through how we interact with the world – and even through our own evolution.That is amazing!

Focused on perfecting our art, it’s easy to forget the role that music plays in the world.  But we need to acknowledge that position and take it seriously. Historically, musicians have functioned as:


  • Artist/Creators. In this role, we provide an environment for listeners to be in the ‘here and now’, to be stirred emotionally and experience a sense of fulfillment.  We can also instigate change, empower people and move them to action.


  • Historians. Like the Drum Master, Bard, or Griot we become the documentarian of life, history, and culture through art.
  • Hired Gun. In this role we can do any of the above, but instead of creating or performing for ourselves, we play, compose, and perform whatever the boss wants to hear. Still making art, but within someone else’s parameters.


Every musician is a little bit of all of the above, but within that Artist/Creator space, it’s important to have a clear vision; a story that makes your music & vision different from any other.


So, it’s time to talk about YOUR purpose:


“I think having a higher purpose is important. For instance, you realize that music affects people emotionally and physically and spiritually. And… I think that needs to be part of your purpose: Consciously part of your purpose.  So you know, it’s not just elevating the art, it’s also about elevating the energy on this planet…”

– Stanton Kessler


Here are some good questions to start with:


  • What are you passionate about?  
  • What called you?
  • What is calling you now? (This may not be a musical answer!)
  • Who are you educating and empowering?
  • Who would you like to be educating and empowering?
  • What is the message that you want to leave behind?
  • What would you like to leave as your legacy?
  • What is it that attracts people to you?

Every day for the next several days, take a moment to sit down with those questions. Write the answers, verbalize the answers, maybe even play or sing the answers.  If you really want some good insight, ask your friends and fans what they think the answers are – for You.

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