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the creative process

The Five Stages of the Creative Process

By | Creativity | 2 Comments

In this video I’m going to talk to you about the five classic steps, or stages, of creativity. In subsequent videos I’m going to go in depth into each of these and show you how you can improve your creativity in each of these different steps or stages.

So the first thing I would say with this, is that these steps or stages, are iterative (they are not necessarily in a linear fashion). So sometimes you’ll go back and forth between each of these different stages. So having said that let’s go into the first part.


The first stage is the idea of PREPARATION, the idea that you are immersing yourself in the domain. If you area musician you are absorbing a lot of the music that is inspiring you to create this new piece. If you’re a writer you are reading other writers in this area. If you are an artist you are looking at other artist’s work in the area that you are looking at creating something in. If you are a scientist you are looking at all the background research. And if you are an entrepreneur or marketer you are looking at all the previous market research and what other companies have done before.

So this stage is normally best carried out in a quiet environment. It’s really this stage that you are trying to absorb as much information as possible because this information will go into your sub-consciousness where it is very important for the second stage, or second level.


The second stage is what we call the INCUBATION stage. In incubation this is when all the information that you have gathered in the PREPARATION stage really goes back. It starts to churn in the back of your mind, in the sub-consciousness. This is an extremely important stage because sometimes it can takes days, or weeks, or months or sometimes even years. That idea that you’ll think about writing about a book or piece of music, and you’re writing about it and you just leave it to the side for a while and then you come back to it. Now the interesting thing about the incubation stages it that to a certain extent it is not really under your control how long that stage will take. It is something you cannot really rush because what it leads to is the third stage.


The third stage is what most of the public think is a classic signal or sign of a creative person, what is called the INSIGHT stage or the insight step. With insight it is really the idea of the ‘Aha’ moment, the ‘Eureka’ moment. Although it is probably the smallest part of the five steps, it is possible one of the most important parts. On one of my subsequent videos I’ll take you more into how to increase your chances of having those ‘Aha’ moments, those insights. A quick thing I would say here is that they most often happen when you are doing some kind of low-level physical activity; going for a shower, driving a car, having a walk. This is because your subconsciousness in the previous stages is bubbling away and this insight stage really allows the mind to work on something else. And then bring these ideas to the forefront of your mind. So that’s the third stage, the insight’s stage. And now we go on to the fourth stage.


The fourth stage is this idea of EVALUATION. This is something I have a problem with. I think it is an area that a lot of creative people struggle with because often you have so many ideas and you have a limited amount of time. So the evaluation stage is important because this is where it requires self-criticism and reflection. It is asking yourself questions like:

“Is this a novel or new idea or is it one that is just re-hashed and has been done before?”

It’s the idea of going out to a small group of trusted friends and saying:

“I’ve had this idea, what do you think about this?”

It is very important part because we only have a limited amount of time to do certain things. Often you find that people who are called the most ‘creative people’ are often very good at this stage, the evaluation stage. They have all these ideas but they can use self-criticism and reflection to say “these are the ones that have the most merit and that I’m going to work on”.


And then we have the final stage. This is called ELABORATION. This is where Edison said that it’s “1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”. Now the elaboration stage is the 99% perspiration stage. This is where you are actually doing the work. So many people out there think that the creative process is that insight, that ‘Aha’ moment, or the the preparation part. But really a creative individual isn’t complete, and I don’t think they can do anything that really lasts, unless they can go through that and actually put in the hard work. The elaboration; testing the idea, working on the idea, those late nights in the studio, working at your desk, those hours in the labratory if you are scientist, those days testing and micro-testing products. This is the elaboration stage.


So to recap we have The Five Stages of Creativity:

1. Preparation

2. Incubation

3. Insight

4. Evaluation

5. Elaboration

In the subsequent videos I’ll take you through each of these and show you how you can be better at each of these different stages.

Refining your music marketing

Refining your music marketing

By | Music Business | No Comments

In part three of the Artist Development Stages model for musicians we cover refining your music, marketing, sound and songs. 

Video Highlights:

0:07 – Refining your sound, songs and marketing
0:44 – Finding an agent
1:04 – Difference between agents and managers
1:27 – Making music your full time job
1:44 – Refining your marketing as a musician
1:54 – Viral growth
2:10 – Playing in new touring markets
2:27 – Your first album

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If you missed the first video in the series you can find them here:

Stage 1 – Explore

Stage 2 – Validation for Musicians


How music affects your life

By | Digital Gypsy Lifestyle, Music Business | No Comments

Classics Unwrapped

How does music affect your life?

When I was back in the UK last month the BBC asked me to come into the studio to talk about my favorite piece of classical music and its affect on my life. In this interview for Jamie MacDougall’s ‘Classics Unwrapped’ program I talk about the power of music, family, work and moving to California.

The interview is being broadcast this evening HERE at approximately 8.15pm UK time and if you miss it you can listen again HERE for 7 days after that.

On another note I’ll be contacting all my Gigs Academy students next week to schedule a live online Q&A. A couple of places have become available for new students so if you are interested you can sign up here.



Validating Your Music

By | Music Business | No Comments

In this post we talk about the importance of validating what you are doing with your music.

If you missed the first video in the series you can find it here.

Video Highlights:

0:06 – Validating your music
0:26 – Connecting with your audience
0:36 – Two types of Validation
1:04 – Live shows and EP’s

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Stage 2 – Validation

Stage two is all about Validation. The idea of validating what you are doing. I’m not necessarily saying validation in a commercial sense. It doesn’t always mean that. What you are trying to do is get validation that there is interest in the music that you are creating. There is no point in trying to push to these other stages until you have a sense that your music is connecting in some way with your target audience.

How to measure if your music is connecting?

There are two ways to measure Validation. The first is money; people are paying the tickets to go to your shows or they are buying those downloads. The second one is attention; you are getting a lot of likes on your Facebook page, you are getting followers, you are maybe getting initial coverage for you and your music. Those are the two ways you can track interest.

Live Shows and EP’s

At this point in your career you are probably starting to do more shows. In the Explore Stage you were doing your first shows and demos but at the Validation Stage you are starting to take it up a level. You are adding more shows now, you may be releasing your first EP. You are not looking for it to sell a million copies but you are wanting to find out if the music you are putting out there is being validated in the market. Do people like what you are doing? At this point you also want to find out if your music is connecting with your target audience. There is no point starting to ramp up and move if what you are doing isn’t connecting. If people aren’t coming to you and feeling really strong about what you are doing then you are not getting a sense of validation. That’s Stage 2.

The third video in the series will be coming soon….make sure you join my mailing list to get it first.

If you missed the first video in the series you can find it here.


James Taylor in office

Why I Decided To Quit My Job And Become A Digital Gypsy

By | Creativity, Digital Gypsy Lifestyle, Motivation, Music Business | One Comment
James Taylor in office

Dialing for Dollars

So I just quit my job!


Two years ago I moved from the cold shores of Scotland to sunny California to join pioneering San Francisco Bay online education startup ArtistWorks. Since then the company has seen explosive growth, launching 18 online music schools and putting out amazing content that’s been experienced by millions worldwide.  But there was a problem……

As a kid all I ever wanted to do was be an entrepreneur and play drums. My heroes were Richard Branson, Tony Robbins & Steve Gadd (although not necessarily in that order). When the opportunity arose to move to San Francisco, arguably the mecca for young entrepreneurs today, I grabbed it with both hands. OK, I would be leaving my friends and family and working on building someone else’s business but it would be an adventure. And it was…

Idol Worship

I’m grateful for the opportunity I was given to work with some of my musical idols including Nathan East, Billy Cobham, Luis Conte, Thomas Lang and John Pattituci (pictures below). It also sharpened my business skills as I spent time working with teams from ArtistWorks, Google and YouTube on the strategies and secrets of online marketing, raising money and building a successful online learning business. But here comes the rub….

I missed the freedom, excitement, fun and creativity of being an entrepreneur. I missed calling the shots, trying new things, taking calculated risks, learning from mistakes and traveling the world in the process. I wanted to be my own boss again. I wanted to get back to designing a life, not a living.

Although I’ll still be based on the west coast I’m becoming a digital gypsy; spending summers at our other home in Italy and winters in Asia. I’m currently working on my own super secret stealth startup at the moment in addition to consulting for a technology company, an investment bank and a well-known publisher. I also intend on picking up the drumsticks again and getting back to actually playing some music!

So I highly recommend asking yourself the following questions once in a while:


What am I excited about?

What would I be doing if I didn’t get paid for it?

What did I want to be when I was 11 years old?

What would I do if I had $100million in the bank?


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Nathan East and John Patitucci join ArtistWorks.

By | Music Business | One Comment
JR Robinson, James Taylor and Nathan East at ArtistWorks

JR Robinson, James Taylor and Nathan East at ArtistWorks

The best part of my role at ArtistWorks is that I get to work with some of the world’s greatest musicians and today we announced something big. ArtistWorks.com is already the best place to learn music online and in recent weeks we’ve launch online schools from rock guitar legend Paul Gilbert and Curtis Professor of Classical Guitar, Jason Vieaux.  The ArtistWorks roster of instructors is now one of the best in the world and includes Billy Cobham, Thomas Lang, Luis Conte, Martin Taylor, Bryan Sutton, Andy Hall, Andreas Oberg, Missy Raines, Tony Trischka, Mike Marshall, Darol Anger, Howard Levy, Christie Peery and DJ Qbert.    Today we announced the launch of the ArtistWorks Bass Campus and it is very cool indeed.  Let me tell you about it.

The ArtistWorks Bass Campus makes it possible to learn directly from legendary bassists in three distinctive online bass schools. Become a subscriber from $20 a month and view video libraries of comprehensive bass lessons from Nathan East, Missy Raines, or John Patitucci. But that’s just the beginning… Just submit your practice videos to the site and soon you’ll have a personalized video from Nathan, John, or Missy giving you feedback to help you take your playing to the next level.

Nathan East is one of the most recorded bassists in history and has played with Eric Clapton, Joe Satriani, Phil Collins, Stevie Wonder, Toto, Michael Jackson, BB King and Herbie Hancock.  When I first started looking at signing an electric bass player a year ago Nathan was at the top of my list.  I remember seeing him play on Eric Clapton’s Unplugged show as a kid and I loved the work he did on Anita Baker’s ‘Compositions’ album and Michael Jackson’s ‘Off The Wall’.  Luckily Nathan is also one of the sweetest and most humble guys you could hope to meet.  He filmed the extensive curriculum for his online bass school in May and brought with him John ‘JR’ Robinson, the most recorded drummer in history, who played on such classic tracks as Michael Jackson’s ‘Smooth Criminal’ and ‘Bad’, George Benson’s ‘Give Me The Night’, David Lee Roth’s ‘California Girls’ and Madonna’s ‘Express Yourself’ amongst many.

Nathan East with some of the ArtistWorks team at wrap party

Nathan East with some of the ArtistWorks team at wrap party

When it came to choosing a jazz double bass player I contacted the best, John Pattituci.  I first met John many years ago when he was playing with Dave Weckl as part of Chick Corea’s Electric Band.  John plays on some of my favorite jazz recordings including those by Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis and Dave Grusin.  A nicer and more thoughtful human being you couldn’t hope to meet.  My grandfather was a jazz double bass player so I have a real fondness for John and his playing.  His online curriculum is the most extensive ever created for jazz bass and really has everything anyone would ever want to know about playing the instrument.

ArtistWorks Bass Campus

So what are you waiting for?  You can get access to these extensive bass video curriculums plus get personalized feedback from these world class players.  Click here to Learn Bass Online with ArtistWorks with these incredible bassists and put your name on the VIP list in advance of the site opening.

Benjamin Franklin – America’s First Marketer?

By | Book Reviews | No Comments

Having already read Walter Isaccson’s biography of Steve Jobs and enjoying Isaccson’s ability to combine detail with a strong over arching narrative I was keen to read his take on the life of Benjamin Franklin.

As an immigrant to America I am still getting to grips with its history, culture and major political figures and decided to start with one of the founding fathers, Ben Franklin.

In many ways Benjamin Franklin reflected the country he went on to create as well as its founding principles.  Franklin invented, and continually reinvented himself.  He was America’s first public relations master and in his life and his writings, he consciously tried to create a new American archetype.  The values he projected of himself as a simple yet striving tradesman, diligent, frugal, honest, benevolent and entrepreneurial were those that he wanted to instill in his new country.

Isaccson picked up on the same feelings I get of Franklin, that of a man that would be perfectly at home with the uber-networked Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, inventors and technologists of today who value enlightened curiosity, progress, democracy and free-speech highly.

Whether you are a history buff, politics nerd or marketer this book provides a fascinating biography of a fascinating man.

You can get your copy of ‘Benjamin Franklin’ by Walter Isaacson here (Amazon Affiliate link).

Steve Jobs and Marketing Apple

By | Book Reviews | 4 Comments

Recently finished reading the Walter Isaccson biography on Steve Jobs and it is probably one of the best biographies I have ever read.

By the end of this book I can guarantee that while you may have concluded that Steve Jobs was not a particularly nice human being you’ll be left in no doubt what a genius he was when it came to design, marketing, technology and business.  Walter Isaccson’s masterful biography does an incredible job of painting a picture of a towering figure in technology and someone who stood at the intersection of humanities and sciences.

One of the areas I found most interesting was Apples Marketing Philosophy which stressed three points.  The first was empathy, an intimate connection with the feelings of the customer. The second was focus and eliminating all of the unimportant opportunities.  The third was impute, or the signals that a company or product sends to affect the customers perception.  Like other areas of his life, Jobs had an obsessive attitude to marketing and image that extended to Zen-like simplicity in product design.

Don’t read this book if you are looking for an example of how to live a good life. Do read this book if you want to learn about the complex workings of a genius and the relationship between product design and marketing.  This is a book about how art and technology can be combined and one mans vision of that.  Here’s to the crazy ones.

I highly recommend reading ‘Steve Jobs’ the autobiography by Walter Isaccson and you can get your copy here (Amazon Affiliate Link).

The Third Man by Peter Mandelson

By | Book Reviews | No Comments

Two of my biggest passions are politics and marketing and the other night I sat down to read Peter ‘Mandy’ Mandelson’s biography ‘The Third Man’.  If you are not from the UK I should probably explain that Mandy was behind the rise of New Labour, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in British Politics and is one of the UK’s best known spin doctors.  Such was his cunning as a marketer of New Labour that Private Eye Magazine nicknamed him ‘The Prince of Darkness’.

Politics and Marketing

Now you may be upset when I talk about parallels between political parties and the business of marketing but as Mandelson says in the book ‘Both had products, in politics they are called policies.  Both competed in the marketplace and for political parties as much as businesses, if you forget your customers they would soon forget you.’

As a marketer I picked up a number of insights from The Third Man including the development of Tony Blair as a great communicator and big-issue leader and Gordon Brown’s focus on tactics at the expense of strategy.

If you are politics nut, regardless of your affiliation, then you will find this book interesting in terms of the high drama, history and personalities involved.  Marketers will also find the book very instructive in how to plan campaigns and combine broad marketing strategy with tactics, especially PR.

You can get your copy of the book here.

Favourite Quotes from the Book

“He said he felt that while Gordon had the intelligence and the ideas, the drive and determination, to make a success of government, ‘none of that is the most important thing for a politician. It is intuition – what to do, when to do it, how to say it, how to bring people along.”

“Gordon did see the big picture, but he tended to create tactical opportunities, rather than a strategy to advance it. Tony, by contrast would conceive his strategy at the outset, and then paint a big picture in order to carry people with him.”

“I learned three basic rules of spin-doctoring that remained with me. Don’t overclaim. Be factual. And never arrive at a briefing without a story.”

“I was especially impressed by a ministerial trip to the United States, on which I saw at close range an array of business success stories. During a visit to Silicon Valley the boss of Hewlett-Packard, Lew Platt, threw a question to me about the Labour government being anti-success, and opposed to rewarding entrepreneurs who took risks and grew rich. ‘We are intensely relaxed about people becoming filthy rich,’ I replied, ‘as long as they pay their taxes.”

Why American Marketing Rocks?

By | Marketing | No Comments

Many countries can make stuff cheaper and better but when it comes to marketing the USA still reigns supreme.  Exhibit A is this brilliant new promo video for startup DollarShaveClub.com.  The razor market (or male grooming to be precise) is a market that is crying out to be disrupted as most of us guys are left buying over priced Gillette razors.

Dollar Shave Club is the brainchild of Michael Dubin, and his concept has just got backing from heavyweight VCs including Andreesen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins.  The way they are marketing Dollar Shave Club could have been taken from the classic marketing textbook ‘The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing‘.

It also left me wondering if the ideal company would have its products designed by Scandinavians, built by Germans and marketed by Americans?  Anyway well done Michael for a great video to launch Dollar Shave Club.