Conclusion: Interview with Mary Kastle

When you think consulting, you might be tempted to think of business consulting or IT consulting — or, if you’re a bit more fanciful, you might let your mind wander to freelance work, such as writing and graphic design. But the world offers a host of business ideas that share kinship with consulting. That’s why, in my Discover Your Inner Consultant workbook, I encourage consideration of all life experiences, not just those that seem like consulting.

To show just how "non-consulting" businesses can be similar to consulting, I’ve been interviewing musician Mary Kastle. In part 1, Mary explained how she got into the music business and what her work includes. In part 2, she mused over the similarities between musicians and consultants — and how she manages the "business" and "creative" sides of herself. This time, Mary talks about her skills.

Interview with musician Mary Kastle, part 3

What skills do you need to do what you do?

The most important thing is probably confidence. There is a lot (and I mean a LOT) of rejection in this business. It’s not always personal, many times your "package" is just not exactly what they’re looking for, and you need to be able to take that with a grain of salt and keep going. I think too that as you grow in your own career, if you can develop an inner confidence about what you do and not worry about conforming to everyone’s image of what you should be, people are actually more attracted to you and your art. It’s tough but it’s worth it.

Second, you need to be good with people. Music is by-and-large a networking business and there is so much ass-kissing that goes on, people really respect when you can actually be genuine with them. The other side to this is that you need to be able to listen to people and understand what they need. People get tired of you quickly if you are only thinking of your own goals all the time. Many times you meet people but the timing is not right for you to work together. It’s important to respect the relationship regardless and nurture a real connection as you might meet again someday under other circumstances. It’s also quite a small community so you do run into people again and again.

Third, talent helps. There are more and more musicians in the world everyday trying to make a go of it. If you really want to stand out you have to be more interesting than the others in some kind of way. Honing your skills and stage presence are a very important part of developing your talent and never wasted. The cool thing though is that it doesn’t need to be any particular thing, it just needs to be the most dynamic or interesting side of you in an exaggerated form.

Fourth, persistence and tenacity. Especially since the music has kind of imploded and the internet took over, unless you are a blonde bombshell with an overnight hit (Britney Spears type) the only way to be successful in the long run is to stick around for the long run. There is just no such thing as an overnight success in this business and you’ll have to face a ton of rejection before you eventually build a strong fan base that will regularly come to your shows and seek out your music at all costs. 

How did you develop those skills?In Discover Your Inner Consultant, I encourage people to look at their whole life, not just their work life, when they reflect on their skills. What shaped you?

So many things have helped me develop along the way. I think experience is the greatest teacher and I’m fortunate that I kicked myself in the ass when I was 13 and decided this was it, so by the time I was 20 I had already been in a couple of bands, recorded some crappy albums and figured out what not to do. Going to university was definitely another great teacher. Being judged and graded and generally put under the microscope for your musical talent for years is an incredible strength builder in that you have to learn how to take the opinions of "the powers that be" with a grain of salt and learn how to be true to your inner musical voice.

I’ve also had some great friends (and family) along the way that kept me going and supported me at my shows and would support me when things weren’t going so rosy. I also had friends that would ask me “why are you doing this? Why don’t you just get a real job?” etc.. That was very valuable, in retrospect, because it continually tested my own inner desire to pursue my music and develop my own voice.

I’m lucky because I’m naturally a people-person so I’ve always liked connecting with people and that is transferring itself to the stage. My time working in piano bars was invaluable to getting comfortable being alone in the spotlight and just going with the flow of the crowd and feeling out the vibe of the room.

Did you start in this field on a full-time basis? Do you work at it full-time now? Do you have (or have you ever had) any second jobs or side jobs to keep money flowing?

I’ve always worked at music part-time. There have been times when I’ve done it full-time but those gigs were not really my bag (like when I worked on a cruise ship and so on.) Doing my original music full-time is my current goal, but even then, most musicians can do it full-time when their album sales start supplementing touring revenue etc. I used to teach music to supplement my gig income but I’m not that into teaching. Lately I’ve gotten into the arts admin side of things and now I’m working at a small label learning the ropes and having fun working in the business in a different way. It also gives me flexibility to tour and keep working on my own career.

Mary, thanks for doing this interview. I hope that readers are able to use your story to inspire their own businesses, whether they become consultants, overhaul their existing consulting gigs or go in a completely different direction. What’s your latest album and where can people see and hear you?

My latest album is my first EP which was released in January. It’s called Fresh Air and it’s available through CD Baby and on iTunes (search Mary Kastle). People can check out the music on my website www.marykastle.com and at www.myspace.com/marykastle

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