HBO Needs Some Authentic Mexican Music? Learn to Think on the Fly

Hey, everyone! Once again, I'm Jingle Jared. Thanks for stopping by. Quick piece of advice: If you ever need to find some mariachis on absolutely no notice, hit the streets.

Wait, what? Maybe we should build a bit of context first.

In my introductory post, I discussed — in brutally honest detail! — my strengths as well as my limitations as both a musician and a startup founder. If you'll recall, I outlined some key factors that have contributed to the success my company Jingle Punks has achieved — success that has allowed me the privilege of making music for a living.

In fact, my biggest reveal was that I can't read music. It wasn't meant to be overly self-deprecating, or a cry for pity, or even a taunt! I was simply noting that with motivation and drive, anything can be achieved. That sentiment dovetails nicely into today's Big Topic, which is ...


Duh, some of you are shouting! But to others, it might not be so obvious. Think about it: songwriters, arrangers, producers ... we're all trained to prepare, to know in advance what to play, and what to expect. To practice, practice, practice, often by rote repetition. All of which is necessary, of course. And heck, even improvisational players, musicians who by definition think on the fly, put in hours of rehearsal to be able to so fluidly improvise.

But your brain, and your attitude, needs to be as nimble as those fingers that can run up and down scales. Here's an example.

A while back, I was approached by HBO to deliver some "authentic Mexican music" -- their description. So what, in my infinitely humble way, did I do? I tried to write and perform that authentic Mexican music myself. It probably won't surprise you to learn that, as a white Canadian Jew who had never before attempted to play traditional Mexican music, I wasn't quite able to pull it off. The HBO people rejected my submission.

So what happens two days later? I find a mariachi band — a KICKASS mariachi band, I might add — playing on the street in Manhattan. Of course, that HBO project, and rejection, was still fresh in my mind. Two things happened next. First, I called HBO. Did they still need the music? Could they give me a day to put together another track? After I learned that the music was still up for grabs, I spoke to the street musicians in front of me. Would they be willing, right there and then, to accompany me to a friend's studio in Brooklyn and record right away? They said yes.

The session was a gas. I went over with them what I had in mind. I played them my initial takes. We worked up a quick arrangement. Soon, we had the perfect take. I arranged to mix right away, and by the end of the day, I had a track. A track that HBO accepted. Quite a turnaround from earlier in the day when I had nothing. Not only no track, but no hope.

So what happened here? This is what happened. I had a problem. And then an opportunity to tackle this problem came my way, and I took advantage of that opportunity. I THOUGHT ON THE FLY. As for the mariachi band, they did the same. An opportunity to record, immediately, for pay (obviously!), came their way. And they took advantage of that opportunity. They THOUGHT ON THE FLY, too.

Sure, there was luck and fortune involved, but luck is what you make of it. You have to be ready to take advantage of those opportunities when they arise. And more often than you think, the opportunities are there. You just have to know how to recognize them. That day, my opportunity took the form of a talented group of street musicians I encountered on a previously uneventful stroll. Which reminds me.

Note to self: Go for more walks.

See you next time.

Jared Gutstadt (b. 1977), is an American music entrepreneur and CEO of Jingle Punks Music. Jingle Punks Music has been featured in Billboard, Wired and Variety and was named "one of America's most promising start ups" by Business Week. His band, the Hipster Orchestra, performs fresh and modern orchestral versions of alternative and indie classics. You can find out more about the Hipster Orchestra online and at iTunes or Amazon: Hipster Dinner Party Vol. 1 ... Nirvana Sessions.

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