Randy Granger

Randy Granger
In the Chihuahuan Desert near the Organ Mountains, New Mexico

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Honor Jar.

Performing musicians need to be creative when it comes to the art of selling your CD’s and merchandise at live shows. Recently I’ve come up with an idea I call “The Honor Jar.” Basically it is a plastic coffee container that I’ve peeled of the label and put the words “Thank You!” with some designs on the outside. I’ve printed a little sheet detailing the price of the CD’s and how the Honor Jar works. You put the money or check into the can and take out the change you need. I always seed it with a few $5’s and even has hard candy and coins to keep it weighed down. My minor was marketing so I know that consumers need a price to evaluate the value of something. That is why I don’t leave it open pricing like Radiohead and Jane Siberry (or whatever her name is now) have done. It has worked pretty well and allows me to keep performing.

The alternative is to have a crew who sells my merch for me but until I do this serves two functions. It says I have faith that I will sell some stuff and that I have faith in people to be trustworthy. And I do. It is funny; people will often hold up the money and make eye contact with me when they put it in the Honor Jar. Some even put in tips…. Hey I’ll take it. This weekend I was performing at a festival and when I played on my Hang drum the crowds just converge like magnets. I’ve written about it before how at first it is so exotic and mesmerizing but in order to keep them engaged you need to construct actual songs. I’ve noticed that when I just start to improvise some will walk away. If I make a mistake—even if they have never heard the song—some will walk away. It is amazing to witness that. I think it comes down to how much I am concentrating my energy and emotions into my music. People feel when a performer is not engaged.

That all being said I have to say it can be some seriously hard work, especially at open air festivals where the temptation to wander is natural. A gig like Labor Day weekend where I’m playing for two hours a day each day, solo, can be draining because you aren’t getting the immediate exchange of energy and you are giving so much ….. well you get the idea. I have a solo concert coming up Sept. 28th that I am looking forward to quite a bit. It is a chance to develop and pace a two hour show for a sit down audience. What a treat that will be! I’m energy, the music is vibrational energy, the flute, guitar, hang and singing….energy, laughter, applause, tears, smiles, money….all energy. My little Honor Jar is my way of honoring that gift and exchange. So far I’ve only come up short once, and that was probably my own mistake. Oh yeah, and the only phone numbers I’ve found in the jar wanted to know where to buy a Hang drum. Sigh….


Monday, September 1, 2008

A New Day for Peace or Bored with Barack?

Maybe it is a new day for us in the U.S. I know many of MySpace friends are in other countries. Barack Obama was nominated as the presidential candidate for the Democratic Party at their convention tonight. It was the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” speech at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial in our capital. What is remarkable to me is that we had a woman and an African American vying for the nomination something that is historic and unprecedented. Maybe healing and the repairing of so much devisiveness can begin to take place in our country and with our friends with whom we share the planet. Keep us in your highest and best thoughts. We have some serious work to do.

This week while volunteering at Hospice, where I play my music regularly, a client had her two adult children listened as I played a familiar song for them. She began to cry and I kept playing. I’ve learned that the music helps in releasing the emotions. We talked a bit about where each of us was from and our stories. I realized what bound us was that we all had a story, family, sadness etc. I said I hoped I would seem them next week and the woman kind of chuckled and said that she hoped so too but that you never know here in Hospice. People go there when they are given six months or less to live and they come regardless of ability to pay. You can imagine I meet a wide range of people and here a lot of stories. Some days it is hard but I try to stay detached enough to get through my hour of music.

I am one of the 47 million Americans who do not have health insurance. Being a self-employed, entrepreneur musician I’ve been concentrating more on gas prices, CD sales, the cost of postage and booking more gigs than health. Call it optimistic denial if you will. I’m so grateful that in the over 8,000 miles I’ve driven touring since June of this year, that I’ve been safe. I’m hopeful that a dialog can continue on insuring all Americans affordably. After all, congress gets health coverage not to mention getting to vote on their own raises. Nice work if you can get it. (that’s my only rant, forgive me) I’ve never been inspired by politicians though I know what it must take to motivate millions of people. Seriously though, this new day could mean a return to empathy, compassion, equanimity and a fairer playing field than we’ve endured for eight difficult years. And possibly, when people are feeling more included and empowered—maybe a return to Peace—for everyone.

J. Krishnamurti wrote and spoke about getting to the root of things. And like Aristotle and many others, Krishnamurti called for deep questioning of everything. I’ve reflected on the Bush/Cheney years with constant angst. I remember when Bush was first appointed by the Supreme Court and the anger and violation so many people felt. A gay, retired postal worker friend of mine was despondent how this was the end of fairness and peace and the beginning of judgment, fear and an active aggressive silencing of disenfranchised voices. I paused and said it will be ok that their way was not the way of the universal laws and that we needed this to learn compassion and that a balance would return. He was right on many levels. Many people I know had their cars vandalized, death threats sent to their homes, conflict after conflict—I lost several friends and don’t speak politics around my family—all because of their openly opposing the military invasion of Iraq.

So I am wondering what is about the greed of the people who put Bush/Cheney in office that is driving our lives into an unaffordable way of living? What is it that some need to make so much more money than they ever need? What is it that allows our government to spin and lie openly about issues and rephrase them to scare and promote a fearful population? Studies have shown that if you phrase something in a negative way, i.e. that someone could happen to you if you don’t do this is so much more effective at motivating people. What is it about the top 5 percent of our world who have resources beyond the rest of so many people that they want even more and will do anything to get it? Our televangelists scare people into giving them money in exchange for redemption and so many end up indicted for tax evasion have adulterous affairs etc. My mom’s pastor did the same thing and ran off with the money. The church was soon after struck by lightening.

Greed must come for fear. It certainly doesn’t come from faith. Why are we so distracted by the slightest scandal? Are we that bored? I’m so busy earning enough money to keep my music business going I don’t even subscribe to newspapers. It is exhausting. Only a passion for moving people with my music keeps me going. Politicians have become an industry. Anyone who watched the made for TV DNC convention knows they’ve learned from the RNC. The method of pre chewing and digesting then telling what issues we should be thinking about is absurd. It didn’t help we had the major news channels giving hour after hour of what they thought the speakers might say, milking the Clinton thing like a calf, telling us what we should feel and think after the speech and all the while not showing non prime time speakers. If you are a politician you’ve had to make deals to get there. Nuff said.

The only government you need is the one between your scalp and your stomach.