Friday, February 28, 2014


For most small town American parents, the balancing of a job and parenting children is enough. Add any sort of activities they may have requiring carpooling and tightly gripping a camera phone, recording the memories that will be broadcast on your Facebook page, it's exhausting. Oh, and I almost forgot, at least half of these active parents have a spouse to pencil in on their Google calendar as well as the proverbial honey-do list around the house. Tiring.

But for me, owning my own business since 1999 and raising a two-sport-travel-athlete-son pushed the envelope. Averaging 250 days a year running from games to practices to tournaments in the Midwest and countless hours of personal training at the YMCA and other gyms is what it takes nowadays to prepare your child for college level athletics. We couldn't simply bypass that treadmill routine.

So why not add one more time-consuming ball to juggle?


In 2011, my son, Spencer Kane, tried his hand at balancing travel and school basketball, baseball, being a 3.8 GPA student, and the world of Youtube as a 14 year old singer. Why not?

Ever since, our family has been on an adventure that is not for the weak. In fact, after traveling nearly 40,000 miles touring this past 18 months, I tip my hat to the stereotyped roadies who slug gear and drive hundreds of miles between shows. At 45 years old, I have a newfound respect for the artist who is trying to establish themselves in the rapidly changing music industry.

Social media and Youtube have created a whole new platform to discover talent. The cornucopia of talent shows on TV make this 21st Century Gold Rush for fame quite a challenge. It's like being a needle in a stack of needles trying to be discovered by fans and industry executives.

Yes, it's only been a short three years since we've taken the plunge into helping Spencer pursue a life in the music and acting industry (Spencer is also a lead actor on the TBN Sitcom, "iShine Knect"), but I think it's more dog years in wisdom and wear and tear on this middle-aged dad.

Just a short list of some highlights these few years make my life as a parent and manager quite interesting. Let's see, there's been

  • online and offline bullying
  • studio recording sessions and music video sets
  • having to give up team sports and his dream of playing in college
  • puberty laden-Peter Brady singing voice at times
  • my wife going back to work full-time to help the finances
  • starry-eyed teen girls swooning over his social media posts, photos and videos
  • getting the FBI involved with a pedophile stalker
  • his first acting job on a TV sitcom
  • life on the road
  • butting heads over wardrobe choices
  • dodging the money taking sharks along the way
  • serious financial commitment
  • and forging strong relationships with industry veterans and newbies

As a parent, my primary goal is to equip Spencer to be a responsible citizen and man that knows how to work hard and, most of all, rely on God to guide his steps. But more practically, how to manage relationships and himself when life becomes highly challenging no matter what his career or course.

My wife, Melissa, and I have demonstrated how a truck load of levity each day can make the journey endurable. Our home life is filled with antics and practical joking that eases the stresses of our small town American parenting (on steroids) of a teen who is traveling more than being a traditional student preparing his way for post high school life.

Spencer is finding his purpose at this season of his life and having as much fun as possible while doing it. He's learning how to hear my voice as the parent versus the manager and visa-versa. It's been a very difficult balance for both of us. The difficulty lies mostly with me having spent the majority of my adult life surfing the waters of corporate America. Frankly, I vacillate between the laid back, cool, goofy dad, and boardroom CEO pounding his fists and demanding results. He's learning how to respond as a professional singer when it's needed and yet still take down his mom in a wrestling match when she pile-drives him at unexpected moments.

For Melissa, it's all about preserving his childhood as long as possible.

I have taken to the world of blogging (The Why of Music)  to document my experiences and the wisdom I'm learning along the way while helping Spencer develop his talents and pursue acceptance by industry executives who have a surplus of talent and a shortage of resources to promote them.

Although it's my first article on Huffington Post, I'm looking forward to chronicling the adventures of a middle aged father as he goes alongside his son's music adventure.

When Spencer was dedicated as a baby during a church ceremony, the pastor spoke some words that still impact me today. He said that as parents, we have children like an archer has a quiver of arrows. As a father, my job is to point that arrow in the direction God asks us to. I have been entrusted to guide him according to the talents he demonstrates and it's certainly been a blessing and challenge at the same time. The pointing has occurred over the years, releasing the arrow is the part where being his dad, not just his manager, seems to require courage I don't currently possess. After all, he's still just my baby boy.

Thursday, February 6, 2014


Allow me to take a trip down memory lane for a moment. Pardon the religious perspective this metaphor uses, but it's very relevant to this blog entry.

I remember a home Bible study I attended waaaay back in 1991. I was really starting to do some deep study of the scriptures and was being taught so much by the leaders in the home study at the time. I remember the topic of "knowing God" came up and how reading the Bible was our primary way of getting to "know" God. One challenge was issued to the group about how well we knew God. The illustration they gave has never left me. At the time, the group leader said this, "How many of you know President Bush?" Everyone raised their hand because, of course, he was our president. Then came the zinger.

"How many of you talk to him over the phone? Have lunch with him? Been to his house on the holidays? Visit him when he's ill?"

The room went silent.

You see, the point he was making when sharing this perspective is that we can know "about" someone, but not really "know" them. I know a lot about famous people, but I don't really KNOW, know them.

Now thanks to social media and the impact of reality TV shows, "knowing" someone popular or famous makes it seemingly easier than ever before. With Facebook, I see what delectable delights a person is about to consume, wants to consume, or just consumed. I can learn how a stupid driver pulled out in front of them and nearly caused a wreck. I can see photos of them standing in their bathroom smiling for their phone camera. My ability to "know" a person is literally easier than it used to be. But even so, I still don't really "know" know them.

The farther down the road an artist gets in their career, the more likely their fan base will grow. The more fans they connect with in person and online, the more likely those fans will want to truly get to "know" the artist. This is where this blog post wants to focus...


First, let me say there are various thoughts that could probably be summed up in these three areas:

  • Talk to and connect with as many fans as possible because it will help your career, and, honestly, it's exciting to get feedback and adoration from them to help keep you motivated to get better.
  • Find a way to keep your personal and public life separate.
  • Make sure you stay aware of stalkers, weirdos, and dangerous fans who may want things other than to buy your music (to be discrete).
All of these are important to keep as a reference, but at times some are more important.

I can say that in the past three years of Spencer's career, we've experienced annoying, bizarre, frightening, and typical fan behavior. We've contacted the FBI in one extreme situation where a pedophile stalked Spencer online. We've dealt with fans who presume because Spencer speaks to them, they are somehow best friends for life. We've experienced fans showing up outside our house. We've seen innocent fans follow Spencer at the Mall. Spencer has experienced a fan mob attack him at a concert and needed to get a police officer in the midst to remove them. Then there are the fans who are desperate in their personal life with crisis occurring in the home or with themselves that reach out to Spencer for help. In fact, of all the type of fans Spencer interacts with, those struggling with something and asking his input are the most common.

Of course, there are the typical fans who want a follow or to friend him on Facebook. These are mostly young people just wanting to show off how many people like them or follow them on social media.

At this point, I'm sure some or all of these things have happened to every emerging artist. If not, they probably will.

A strange thing happened about 6 months ago when trying to figure out why music sales of Spencer's EP and iTune songs wasn't generating much income for him. He has averaged over 50,000 followers on his various social media sites yet we haven't seen that turn into actual revenue.

The question became, "Are these social media followers actually FANS or just kids wanting to have connections with other kids?" That question then led to "What really is a fan anyway?"

Well, according to industry exec types that we've had this chat with a few dozen times, a fan really isn't the same as a social media follower or subscriber. In the simplest definition, yes, but in reality, my friend list on Facebook is hardly the same as my "fans". No. They are simply people who I'm connected with in some way. Of course I'm not a public figure either, so it's hard to separate that.

However, one of Spencer's manager's in Nashville put it to me this way.  He works with another artist who has had top 10 radio hits each of the past 4 years. Their social media followers combined total less than 8,000, but their royalties and overall income as an artist exceeds several hundred thousand dollars. Plus, they sell more than 100,000 units (songs) a year of their new songs. So, knowing this, they may have an online social media picture that is far less than you'd think, but yet they are considered a successful artist (they are young too).

So, is a fan someone who follows you or is a fan someone who buys your music or comes to your concerts? Fan is really the shortened word for FANATIC... and if we called our social media followers FANATICS, it would probably make us think twice.

So, now that we've muddied the waters of what a fan is or isn't, back to the question. How should an artist interact with their "fans"?

These are just suggestions based on our experience so far.

  • Because social media is FREE, it's always easiest and most efficient to simply tweet, post, video, or photo upload stuff that fans can use to connect with you each day. This is the simplest.
    • Without going into too much detail, keep the social media content you post to a public focus only. Don't get into personal stuff (venting, complaining, etc.) as it will open pandora's box to fan follow up and digging to get into your personal space.
    • ALWAYS remember that once it is posted in public, technology has a way of finding you years from now and all it takes is a screen shot (photo of the screen) for any fan to have a permanent record of what was said or posted. (works both ways if you also have inappropriate things occurring and the poster removes them after a while. You can always take a screen-shot for building a record of what has been said by them.)
  • Don't ever give out your personal cell number to someone you don't have a personal relationship with or haven't met in person. No compromise on this.
  • Avoid using any communication methods with fans that are hidden from the general public. Private messaging apps, instant messaging, or any form of communication that the public can't read should be off the table as an option. Always leave a paper (digital albeit) trail of fan communication.
  • If you have occasion to meet fans in person, avoid giving in to the pressure of suddenly becoming their 'bestie' or close friend. Trust me, it's very difficult for them to separate the public persona they have come to know versus the real person outside the public eye.
    • We've unfortunately had to block a lot of fans who pushed the personal envelope too far and began demanding Spencer's time and immediate attention. Some even began stalking.
  • Allocate at least 2 days a week to devote to online interaction in a personal way. Upload a Vlog or go on a site like YOUNOW.COM to give fans a chance to connect. This means to purposely put it on your calendar and be faithful to it.
  • Never give out your home address for anything. If fans want to mail you something, use a post office box. We pay about $75 year for a PO Box in our local town. It's a healthy way to keep whackos away. Not guaranteed, but at least an initial buffer.
  • Try to find creative ways to be in the public in a safe setting so fans can interact. Meet and greets are always a safe way to have supervised fan interaction if necessary.
  • PARENTS, "ALWAYS" (and I mean always) read every single email, message, and any form of communication that comes into your child's social media. Have regular conversations with your child about who people are, and do some of your own investigating of the profiles of any fans you see regularly trying to connect with your child.
  • Make sure you keep fan interaction as professional as possible at all times. Fans need to understand that they can like an artist and be infatuated with them, but a healthy boundary of reminding them that the artist isn't just a regular Joe or Mary (even though in their personal life they may be) will go a long way in keeping them and the artist in a mutually respectful place.
  • This last one is somewhat tricky. PROFESSIONAL (business persona) VS. PERSONAL (relatable human persona).
    • Never forget that "EVERY" communication with the public is a representation of the business (brand of the artist) to the public. So using fan attention to help maintaining the brand of the artist is as important as letting them see the casual side of an artist. Both are equally important when launching and maintaining a career.
It's safe to say that most fans know "about" the artist because of what that artist publicly reveals and shares, but you don't want to get to the place where fans "know" the artist like I shared at the beginning of this post. It's not healthy for either the artist or fan to become entangled in the personal lives of each other. Keep it professional and friendly.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


So, like any word in the our language, the meaning can be various and imply different things to different people in different situations. For example, I laughed when I heard that the word "SNOW" in Alaska can have 8 different meanings or types. We say snow and think white cold stuff that falls down from the sky and sometimes sticks to the ground in big piles. But in Alaska, they can say snow and the way it falls, the slushiness, etc. all are a factor of what KIND of snow it is.

Talent. A word used loosely by most proud family members of a focused artist in their DNA chain.

So what is talent? Is it like beauty... beheld in each one's eye differently? Sure. Why not?

When it comes to musical artists, talent comes in all shapes and sizes. And when it comes to the voice of a musical artist, it is as diverse as the types of snow in Alaska.

Let me just rattle off a few well-known artists and allow your mind to see why they deserve a sub-category of the generic word TALENT.

  • Elvis
  • Bob Dylan
  • Patsy Kline
  • Whitney Houston
  • Jim Morrison
  • Hank Williams (Jr. and Sr.)
  • Janis Joplin
  • Frank Sinatra
  • Kurt Cobain
  • Michael Jackson
  • Nat King Cole
  • Bee Gees (Andy Gibb)
I could continue making the list. There is no question every one of these artists has "TALENT" but I don't believe you can simply call their talent the same thing. You could spend time describing what makes their talent different from the next, but you can't put them in the same vanilla envelope and just label it talent. That would be a gross generalization.

When we were preparing Spencer for a collegiate career in basketball while he was in Middle School, we spent quite a lot of time working with trainers and mentors who not only knew the game, but understood what recruiters looked for beyond game stats. They explained that players are graded on more than just their ability to score points. They actually have entire rating systems that are based on physiological aspects of players that we had no idea were part of the equation. Things like intellect, character, discipline, athleticism, skill, get-alongability (team minded), habits, and the most ridiculous statistical analyses of specific drills that seemingly had nothing to do with the game of basketball. However, after seeing players who focused on these "unknown" areas of TALENT, it became obvious that it wasn't always the kid who was the tallest or fastest or scored the most that impressed recruiters. It sometimes boiled down to intangibles that weren't obvious to the popcorn eating parents in the stands.

In that same respect, the music industry is full of TALENT that can't be denied. But what is it that causes certain TALENT to be successful over others?

Some artists have song writing talent. They have the ability to play an instrument or more than one instrument. Others have the ability to sing 4 octaves. Some have the ability to sing scales at a lightning pace and evoke a jaw dropping awe from the listener. Others embrace emotion and interpretation of lyrics and notes that help the listener forget about caring how skilled their vocals are at the moment. Some can dance and sing. Some can play an instrument and sing at the same time. Some can put on a stage show that amazes the audience because they entertained more than wowed with vocal prowess.

The band "KISS" comes to mind. Vocally and instrumentally, nothing extraordinary. Visually... cha-ching. So it's not always about the most amazing voice or instrumental skill. Sometimes there are other sub-categories of talent that create a career for an artist.

So why write about this philosophical question of the definition of talent?

Depending on which person you're targeting with your music (Fans, media, industry execs, etc.) talent has many faces. So instead of pigeon-holing yourself into believing only A, B, and C on your checklist really matter, take a look around you at artists making money and see the ones who have sustained a career and what they've done to maximize their talent.  Most have built on a few strong areas and figured out how to let go of trying to be perfect in areas they won't necessarily need to be.

For Spencer, he isn't a prodigy of vocal ability, but he has charisma and a personality that helps his overall artistry. He compels fans to care about him beyond his music. That is, by itself, talent.

Take an inventory of the sub-categories of talent you or your artist has and see how you can focus on the strengths and not be so obsessed with removing the weaknesses.