Mella Barnes - Co-Founder of Brain Stamp Music

Too many people wait until their work is perfect before releasing it, and it never gets released. Done is better than perfect. Release it and figure it out as you go!

Mella is a session singer, songwriter, and voiceover actor. Born in Detroit and currently living in Nashville, she plans to continue moving south until she finds herself on a tropical island. She has extensive experience in helping people create and finish songs and loves every minute of her job. Her work has been featured in national commercials, radio and music educational facilities. Zebra Stone, her first full studio album, was received to critical acclaim by top industry insiders and praised as an example of “cool quirky pop songs” (Ken Lewis, mixing engineer for Kanye West, Lady Gaga, et al). She is also a writer and has written for several magazines including Songwriting Magazine in the UK. She is an author as well. Her book, Way Less Cowbell: How to Communicate Your Musical Ideas, was featured in The Huffington Post. Brain Stamp Music is her startup company with co-creator Aman Sahi, owner of Little Blondie Microphones. Brain Stamp is a full-service song creation company. Outside of the studio, Mella has a passion for animal rescue and is often fostering dogs or rabbits. She has an active website, blog and social media accounts, which can be found at www.mellamusic.com.

Where did the idea for Brain Stamp Music come from?

The idea for my company formed slowly over many years. I started singing in studios when I was 14, and over time learned what people were looking for in terms of music assistance. Songwriters who don’t sing are looking for singers to take their words and tell a story. Music lovers who aren’t musicians want to honor their thoughts and stories through song. So, I created Mella Music, my session singing company, and Brain Stamp Music, my music creation and production company.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My typical day involved waking up to take care of my animals (I have many and also foster), then checking my email to see what clients need. Songs are always in various stages of completion, so keeping a detailed log of “who needs what” is essential. I am also editing, mixing and comping vocal tracks from the night before. There is a great deal of communicating between myself and all other musicians involved in the projects. At night, I start my own session singing. Whatever songs are ready to sing are recorded at that point. I end the day singing and come back to the tracks the next day with a fresh mind to start the edits. It’s a cycle and there may be a better way to do it, but this way works for me!

How do you bring ideas to life?

I bring ideas to life by figuring out what story my clients want to tell. I have to remove myself from the equation completely. My job is to tell their story selflessly. When I immerse myself fully into their idea, I can determine the best way to bring it to life. I also communicate with the client to make sure I’m going in the right direction.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I know a lot of musicians disagree, but I’m excited about where the music industry is headed. When you look at artists who were able to create successful careers entirely online, it can be scary for some people, but I love the idea of that. Success is available to anyone now. It’s less about who you know and more about how good you can market yourself on social media, and that’s something anyone can do. I’m excited for where we are now and I’m excited for what’s coming up next.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

One habit that makes me more productive is my To-Do list. I know a lot of people say they aren’t helpful, but on days when I don’t have mine, I get way less work done. Having a timeline of my day and knowing what needs to be done has proven itself to be essential. I highly recommend that entrepreneurs keep a To-Do list and also a “Got Done” list, which helps to review when you feel like you haven’t done anything that day. Maybe you didn’t get 30 things done, but you got 3 major things done and that’s worth celebrating. It’s easy to overlook that so I recommend keeping a list for it.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Stop Worrying!! Everything will be fine. Of course, I could tell myself this today as well haha. I’ve just always been a worrier, and in some way I think it helps me as an entrepreneur. Anticipating and preparing for mishaps is important when running a business. Still, I was always a terribly worried kid, and it would have done me some good to chill out.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?

People rarely agree with me when I say that music today is as good as it’s ever been, it’s just different. People rarely like change, so they view anything new as terrible. I don’t agree. Music is made to change and grow and reflect the time it’s created in. The talent has always been there and continues to evolve.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

One thing I do over and over that I recommend to everyone else is the To Do list I mentioned, but I add a twist to mine: Midway through the day, I evaluate my list. Sometimes I over or underestimate how long a project will take, and it screws up the rest of my day. I reevaluate what I have left to do and either add more tasks, or bump some into the next day. My mid-day To Do list review really helps me feel like I’m making the most of my day.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

A strategy that has helped me grow my business is to feel like there are no competitors, only co-workers. By that I mean, instead of looking at others in your line of work as your “competition,” see them as potential friends and allies. These are people who do the exact same thing as you and can understand what your life is like. I’ve reached out to people I felt threatened by, and we ended up being great friends if not actually working with each other. Plus, it helps you relax into your own business when you aren’t constantly worried about what everyone else is doing!

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

One of my biggest failures was trying to move to another state right after I just started my business. For starters, I didn’t have enough proof of income to be able to live anywhere, and I also refused to move anywhere without my dogs. I ended up staying in different AirBnB places for a while and eventually returned to my home state. I’m just now to the point where I feel like I’m ready to move, but my advice would be: Bloom where you’re planted. Don’t focus on where you think you should be until you’re ready to actually be there.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I would love it if someone would invent a fast food restaurant for Thai, Middle Eastern, or Indian food! Like a big chain. I hate cooking and thrive on fast food, but those are my three favorite foods so if someone would invent that, that would be great. Also a drive through that fed dogs as well as people. 🙂

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Best $100 I recently spent was upgrading to a nicer hotel that had better wifi (and felt a lot safer). The wifi was super important to my business, and if I’m running a serious business I need to act like it. I can’t have my internet cut out during an upload of an important file. Of course, I could have gotten a hotel for less than an extra $100, but I had my dogs with me at the time so, you know.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

For my accounting, I use Wave (an online accounting platform). It’s easy and helps me look at a chart of my income and expenses. If it’s easy, I’m more likely to use it. I also use Tomato Timer if I’m having a hard time concentrating and need to stay on track. It keeps a timer and you work in 20 minute bursts.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I’m a big fan of memoirs, because I love personal stories of how other people made it. So I would say look at your field, find a memoir by someone in that field and read it thoroughly. Aside from that, as a writer I recommend all my writer friends read “Dry” by Augusten Burroughs. My favorite book hands-down, and it shows you how your life does not need to be perfect in any way in order to do what you love successfully.

What is your favorite quote?

My favorite quote is “Done is better than perfect.” I don’t even know who said it, but it’s a mantra I live by! If your blog post is finished but not perfect, if your idea is there but not solid, if your plan is mostly in place, go for it. Get it done. Too many people wait until their work is perfect before releasing it, and it never gets released. Done is better than perfect. Release it and figure it out as you go!

Key Learnings

  • Bloom where you’re planted. Don’t focus on where you think you should be until you’re ready to actually be there.
  • A strategy that has helped me grow my business is to feel like there are no competitors, only co-workers. By that I mean, instead of looking at others in your line of work as your “competition,” see them as potential friends and allies.
  • Too many people wait until their work is perfect before releasing it, and it never gets released. Done is better than perfect. Release it and figure it out as you go!

Connect:

Mella Music on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MellaMusic/
Mella Music on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MellaNation
Mella Music on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mellamusic/
Mella Music on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/MellasPage
BrainStampMusic on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brainstampmusic/
Mella Music on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/MellasPins/

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