At a music conference in Las Vegas, summer 1999. Hundreds of artists there but one made the biggest impression on me. I noticed her first because she's gorgeous, but the other stuff quickly made that unimportant - and there's an inspiring lesson in here.
Her name is Rayko. Japanese musician from L.A.
She was going up to every single person at the conference introducing herself, getting into great conversations, finding out what everyone does, taking notes. Every time someone handed her a business card, she grabbed her pen and wrote down notes about that person on the back, to help her remember.
She probably befriended hundreds of people in 3 days, including me.
Whenever she has a show on the road, she goes in the day before to do countless meet-and-greet interviews, in-store appearances, flyer-promotion, and every other promotion tool you've ever heard of. She gets right into the crowd after every show to sell CDs and sign up hundreds of people to the mailing list.
She answers every fan letter with a hand-written letter. She immediately sends a thank-you card to every biz contact she meets.
And all the while, she's constantly practicing and writing and recording new music.
I was on the receiving end of this when, the very first day back from the conference, she called me in New York to sign up to CD Baby. Maybe she called 200 people that day, but she knows how to make you feel like you're the most important one. (2 days later her whole package with CDs, shirts, videos, and purple handwritten letter were at my door.)
I've heard this same skill is behind the success stories of Garth Brooks, Madonna, and Bill Clinton, too. Meeting everyone. Remembering everyone's name. Developing relationships. Following up and constantly keeping in touch. Treating everyone special.
Who knows if this is just part of her personality, or if it's a trait she developed because her career is THAT important to her.
If you care about your music, and you really REALLY want - in your heart and bones - to become incredibly successful at it, you're going to have to go meet tons of people and “plug away” with tireless drive, and joyful determination every waking moment.
Meet every person you can and treat them the way you'd love to be treated.
And still somehow balance this with making the best music you can and constantly improving your musical skills.