On Singing – my journey

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Do you remember?

When I was a kid I remember I believed anything is possible. When I was asked what will I become as a grown up, I always said I’ll be a flight attendant. Yes, I know how that sounds, not that glamorous from a grown up point of view. But for a kid coming from a small town in Transylvania, it was the top, the best thing I could imagine. It was the description of ultimate freedom, flying all the time.

When I grew up I realised I don’t really want to be a flight attendant. But that’s beside the point. My point is that somehow in the course of growing up, I got into my head all these ideas of what I could be and could not be and who I was and was not. And the worse thing is I actually started to believe in all that.

I tell you a “secret” now. None of that was true. I guess I got caught up so much in other people’s expectations of who I should be that I forgot that I can be whomever I want to be. It took a very unpleasant wake up call to see that that’s not the way. Why am I telling you this? Because I see the same patterns all over, all the time. I see people blaming others for whatever they are or have or not have. Their parents, their bosses, their teachers. I guess it’s an easy way out. Yes, been there ,done that. But…At some point I realised that it will lead nowhere, blaming others and holding on to the past. Probably it helped that I saw this video and realised what she is saying is true, there is an expiration date on how long can you blame your parents…

Funny thing is, I always believed that it is your mind that creates this world. I forgot all that some at point along the way.

Finally, when my body started to shut down along with my mind, I stopped and asked the question is this who I want to be? The answer was no. SInce then I have made my way back, figuratively speaking to my original self, to the one that thought that anything is possible and I can be anything and nothing. It hasn’t been easy. I think it might have been more easier or at least more familiar with continuing things as they were. Somebody told me a long time ago, that maybe a hell known is better than a heaven unknown. I never seemed to truly understand that, but I try not to judge them.

One big part of my healing process or whatever you want to call it, was of course due to singing. First I started small, I just sang whatever came to my mind while doing the dishes. Then I found my way back to singing lessons. I sang more and more, just for the fun of it. I joined a cover band, I joined a gospel choir. No, not all of those suited me. Sometimes I felt too restricted, so I left, but maybe that was all in my mind too.

I guess what I am trying to say is that we carry along a picture of ourselves that might not be real. We cultivate limitations for ourselves out of no particular reasons. For example I noticed that the minute I started to really believe I can sing high, I could sing high. And no, I still don’t believe I can sing in the whistle register, so I don’t. I’m working on it.

I remember most vividly from a Q&A session in a singing course last year a question that was something like how can you become a better singer or more like how can I achieve greatness? What should we do, what to study and so on?! The answer: “It depends on your mind. ” All our experiences, all our feeling and all our symptoms we create ourselves.

I wonder and keep wondering why people are not seeing this? By this I mean, the easiest solution… I came to the conclusion that it’s because of fear, most particularly fear of change. I’ve wrote about fear before, I’m not going to go into that in more details. The other thing is self deception. Many people that I met, myself no different, have said that they’d give anything, do anything to get out of this situation. Really? Be honest with yourself, what have you done? Unfortunately usually the answer is nothing. Somehow it seems really difficult to be honest even to ourselves. Why? Are we trying to protect ourselves from change? Are we too comfortable in where we are after all? It makes no sense, we are miserable, yet we still stay.

Is there any solution? Maybe, but the problem is you have to commit to trying to find one. Try get out of your comfort zone, of your built up image of yourself preferable daily. Be patient with yourself, you will have relapses for sure. It’s okay! Unfortunately I have to admit, that not all people want change, they want the same. Which is funny, because nothing ever stays the same, but more on that later.

Back to what I did or do…among other things I read, a lot. Yes, self help books too. Lately a bit less of those. If you only have limited time or resources, I do recommend to read just this one book:

And if you are not too keen on reading, just close your eyes, think back on how you were as a kid. Remember one happy moment when you thought you can conquer the universe. Hold on to that image daily, especially when you want to go back to your old habits and do something differently.

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I came back from Japan a few months ago with a notion. Is it even called a notion? It is not something that hasn’t been around, I didn’t reinvent the wheel. Maybe just for myself. I had this profound realisation that my life would be about a zillion times easier if I’d finally face the facts that whatever or whomever it is, it just is what it is, not what it isn’t. Simple example, if I have +12 degrees in the room, no matter how positive I’d be thinking it will not turn to +20. Clear enough?

And since I had this revelation of course I tried to convince everyone that I met that this is “the way”. I guess I’ll never learn to shut up. No, I haven’t had any religious experience, I just realised that in fact this kind of thinking helps me end my own suffering. Yet, found that this thought, it is what it is, not what it isn’t, is a tough sell. I tried to talk about it to my friends. Most of them asked why are you so negative and haven’t called me ever since. Truth is I’m not negative. I just am what I am. I do get that from a positive point of view, having neutral feelings or no feelings at all, can be negative.

I have a tough time writing this, I have the feeling that I will piss off a lot of people and I’ll have to look for new friends. Or well, even worse scenario, no one cares. 😀 But maybe it’s worth writing for my own peace of mind. I know I’m not alone with my thoughts. Here is a short video capturing the main idea behind Barbara Ehrenreich’s Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World.


Right now I  think that the biggest lie ever told to human kind is think positively, it will work out. You can change the world just by thinking about it. Yes, I know, it might sound harsh and it might sound that I’m pissed off. I am! I do believe that you can change the world with your thoughts, but firstly you gotta face the facts. I don’t think focusing on thinking positively will help you go anywhere. If you choose not to see your problems, they will persist. They do not go anywhere. I’m pissed that what has been sold to us is a self help method that doesn’t help. Kinda like “Oh, I try not to see that I have and elephant in the room, instead I choose to think positively, I’m sure it will disappear” Guess what? It wont.

What I’m saying is, you don’t have to be gloomy all the time, you don’t have to complain all the time. Just face the facts, see the situations, the people for who they are, yes, it will always we coloured with your own subjective view of the world, but do try. Try to do this without any emotion, without the need to judge for better or worse, without the need to want more of this or that. I do fail miserably most of the time, but I do have a vague idea that this is what nirvana is all about, stillness of the mind. You stop trying to control the world, to control yourself, you let go of all your thoughts, all of you and finally you see things for what they are and just because of that they might actually be beautiful.

What has all this to do with singing? A question, will it make you a better singer if you focus only on the positive things that you do well and never touch the stuff that you do poorly?

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Peace & harmony

You wanna become a better singer? Learn to play an instrument. And by that I mean an instrument with what you can accompany yourself. I noticed in the past few months that playing the guitar while singing helped me. By now I hear the harmonies better. I got more than I bargained for when I finally started playing that guitar. I can’t really say any scientific reason behind it, maybe it is just the fact that you do have to listen to the chords, different notes than what you are singing, while playing them.

I refer here mostly to harmony in singing ( and occasionally to the harmony that you get from playing chords on an instrument.

For me, my singing is on autopilot and I have to focus on what I  play. It could be the other way around, depending with what you started. Or once you are proficient enough, you can do both without thinking too much and just focus on the emotion. I can tell you, I suck in singing harmony. I am not one of those singers who can just wing it, nope. And all this beside the fact that I did spend my fair time in choirs singing harmony…But after I started playing the guitar something changed. By now, it’s easier for me to pick out any harmony in any tune. I mean if I listen to a song on Spotify, I can sing one of the harmony instead of the melody.

If you want to become a better singer, I’d urge you to pick up an instrument, one that you can play harmony on, that is more than one note at a time and learn to play it while you sing. I can hear you now going, but buying an instrument is so expensive. Yes and no. You can get a guitar with 80 euros, no it’s not gonna be very good, but good enough for you to start on. I would also recommend to get one with steel strings but that’s a matter of preference, I guess…And then you go, but I’d need lessons. Yes, that’s right. And yes, they cost you something. But there are other options than private lessons. Zillions of online courses are out there, some for free, some for 10 to 20 euros a month. Or you can join a beginners guitar course in Finland in these Kansalaisopisto things, they cost pretty much next to nothing and you do get the basics. Or just ask your friend who can play to teach you a bit so you can get started.

In the meantime, if you just want to sing harmony, start with this. The easiest way. 😉



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Never going back again

It seems that Japan is the place for me where I keep tearing myself apart. Might sound strange, but somehow this land makes me rethink and reinvent myself, good and bad. Maybe it’s in the water…I still have another 3 weeks here, but most of what I came here to do is done, I’m close to the finish line.

Looking back it is as clear as day, it’s was just like 3 act drama. It had everything; inciting incident or call to quest, then the pondering should I or shouldn’t I go, end of act 1, decision and going. For the first part of the second act, everything seemed okay, all was new. Then in the middle something happened. I guess I got tired of the cold, the crappy food, the people, of not seeming to have a purpose, of basically everything. And I got sick. It was all downhill from there, hahhah! I started questioning everything and I really grew a dislike to many things and for the first time I hated Japan. But I don’t think Japan was the problem here.

Half way the following happened. I started questioning what the hell am I doing here? And no, I don’t mind doing the dishes or cleaning or whatever. But I have to be honest here to myself. I do mind that most businesses don’t see people for who they really are, because that’s their business model. They are there to make money. And that’s okay.

Let’s put it out here in the open, money doesn’t motivate me. The problem with me is that I see the potential of people and I have a pretty idealistic view of what could be and how they could be utilised the best. But I know, it’s pretty silly to think that we should do things that change the world, when all they want from you is to make coffee. I guess you see a conflict of interest here? I just can’t seem to be able to wrap my head around this, I feel sorry for losing so much talent. But it’s not an actual problem for the business,  it’s all on me. I refuse to believe that what I think of as “the ideal” can’t exist. This is not the first and definitely not the last time that I’ll find myself in similar situations. For my sanity, I decided to accept the fact that I need to change how I look at things.

First of all, I had to get rid of the idea that the universe owes me anything. All that law of attraction stuff, you know, the secret and whatnot, yeah, all cool, but it misleads you. I don’t mind believing that you can achieve anything you want but, the minute you think you are entitled to something just because you are, you go wrong. So I had this revelation that nobody owes me anything. Not the universe, not the next person. What I have and what they owe me is nothing. Might be hard to grasp and you might think it’s a negative way to look at things, but it’s actually quite liberating. You rid yourself of expectations. You stop expecting miracles from others and yourself and just because of that you might end up having a miracle. Because in the end it is what it is, not what it isn’t.

But back to the midpoint. I realised that even though I thought, (again) that finally I do things I want to do, I don’t. I still do things according to what I think others want from me or what’s the norm or to please somebody else’s desires and all that yadda yadda. And that leads to a few things. First, I do not take responsibility of my own life. After all it’s all decided for me, right? I could be okay with that, but because of how I am, I am not. So stop and take responsibility. Unfortunately it’s not that simple. I can’t just turn a switch and stop doing it. It is so deeply rooted that most of the times I dont’ even realise why and for whom I’m doing the things I’m doing.

So I started asking myself what is it that I really want to do? I have no idea. But whatever it is, I need to do it, even if you hurts other people’s feelings. I guess that’s what growing up means, taking responsibility.

With all this and other crap going on in my head I still had to sing, almost every day. A funny thing occurred one day. I’ve been singing Landslide from Fleetwood mac for ages. I thought I really understood the lyrics. Turns out I was wrong. For the first time I really could relate to them and felt them when I sang them.


I also learned that I don’t see the nitty-gritty stuff that needs to be done in order to achieve those huge world changing things. If I only see the big picture it is too big to know where to start doing it. So I do nothing. Yes, nothing. I need to break down things to small stuff. Like if you think about writing, Hemingway said all you need to do is write one true sentence. Well, for me that is a huge thing. It is a burden to try to write meaningful sentences all the time. So the thing to do is just write a sentence, then another. Play one chord and another.

And no, it still didn’t stop there…I knew my weakness is that I have all these great ideas and I’m not able to “sell” them. I can’t seem to make people understand that I don’t want them to buy in to them because they are my ideas, but because they are good ideas. It seems to stop with me. So yeah, maybe time to work on communication skills.

What I learned is that for whatever thing you have the medicine is to do the job. Just sing. Yes, it is tough to do it day in and out by yourself and regardless of how you feel, you’d need to take that off the table, because the audience is unaware and they need not to be aware of how you feel. You are there for them, not necessarily the other way around.

Resolution?  I will never go back again to whom I was.



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Today is a gift

The other day I got asked by a 5 year old if I have Frozen in there. In there meaning amongst my handwritten chord sheets that were lying around while I was playing. Unfortunately I had to say no. But it’s okay, she seemed happy enough, she sat around for another few songs, we chatted a bit. I asked her if she sings or would want to sing with me and where is she from. All this happened while the rest of the audience was 10 feet away or more too busy looking at their smart phones and drinking their lattes. That’s okay. I know some of them actually listen. But his little girl sat right in front of me and watched me.

Now I could’ve been bothered by that but wasn’t. I just find kids enchanting. Or maybe not kids, but their reaction to music. They actually listen. So far I’ve been recorded on a kids phone, got some tips too and what else? Can’t remember. So I wondered what is the lesson here? What can I learn from this 5 year old? Simple enough. To be present and watch. There is really no tomorrow and no yesterday. Easier said than done, right?

There are millions of books about how to learn to be present. What I think they are really trying to teach you is how to clear your mind. By all means try to meditate for 15 seconds. Yes, just 15 seconds. How much chatter you hear? I’m guessing a lot. Don’t feel bad, I can’t make it stop for 15 seconds either, still working on it.

I guess that’s why I like music, no, not just music, but singing in particularly. I can stop the chatter and just sing. Call it flow or what ever you want, it is simply being present in the moment. But even with singing it’s not always happening. Sometimes I catch myself singing the lyrics and thinking about something completely different like will it snow tomorrow or what the heck will I do when I grow up. 😀 But that’s okay.

Once I realised that I am not my thoughts nor my feelings, my life changed. For the better? I have no idea. I stopped judging it. It really is what it is and the only difference is how clear or lost are you in yourself or what you think is yourself. Yeah, there are a lot of gurus out there who can explain this better.

Why not just try and let go of some ideas that you created or the world created for you about yourself. I know it’s hard. I mean how can you let go of something that you held on to for so many years, what will become of you? I dare you to take a look.

Be curious, act funny. You know there is nothing to really be embarrassed about. Stop being so serious about yourself, it’s pointless. It’s all in your head. So have fun for Pete’s sake(as the English would say) and do something out of your “ordinary” self.



P.S. Okay, if you want meditation, here it is:

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Don’t try this at home

You would think there is nothing in common in singing and snowboarding, right?

This month I’ve been terribly lazy. I haven’t done barely any warm ups, just sang for a few hours a day. And usually before that I was cruising down the slopes of Hakuba. Not a good idea. Why? I mean my body would be warm enough by the afternoon and prepared for singing, right? No, not really.

I kind of did this as a test. The CVT(complete vocal technique) method says that warming up is not needed before singing.” Your vocal folds are already 36 celsius. ” (Hahaha, that was a good one.) I deliberately put that to test. How far can I go without any warm up or daily vocal exercises?

The answer is pretty far. 3 weeks went by without any “problems”. A few days ago I noticed the first really big issue. My voice cracked in a register that shouldn’t crack anymore. Nothing should crack anymore… Already before that I noticed that the lack of warming up takes out a whole layer from my voice. It’s tricky to explain, but it seems that I lack the richness of chest voice and at the same time I can’t really mix going higher up, so I switch to falsetto or head voice.

What does this have to do with snowboarding? I noticed that without warming up my voice and my body for singing I can’t tap into the correct feelings. Not talking about emotions here. I mean I seem to be somewhat puzzled and all over the place by how the singing should feel like. I know that I should think down, not up, but I just can’t seem to be able to do it.

Same with snowboarding. Can’t really say which came first, the lack of depth in my voice or the snowboarding without using properly the middle part of my body. Maybe one is a consequence, don’t know. But I know what it feels like to really use your core for singing and snowboarding. I guess that is what some teachers refer to as support. You use the same thing for singing and snowboarding. What I’m trying to describe here is the fact that lately I felt that I snowboard “on my toes”, that I reach up instead of thinking down and the same feeling continued to my singing. Can’t really speak about downforce or can I here, but that’s the closest thing that comes to my mind.

Once you’ve experienced what I’m talking about, you end up chasing that same feeling. I found it a few times (yeah, I know, just a few?) It feels like your back is opening up to a whole universe and you could hold out any voice and sing anything with ease forever) It’s a huge feeling.

That means that I rob myself from the joy of riding and singing smoothly. It’s like painting in monochrome, yes, it could be nice, but why not use all the colours in the rainbow if you have them anyway?

Now I need to get back to rehabilitating my voice. How? Well, this is a pretty good exercise.

As for the CVT idea, well, for me that was utter bullshit. (Pardon my language) All you CVT fans, you are allowed to disagree.


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Hello, hello

As the saying goes, sometimes you need to go far to see what’s right in front of you. So far I haven’t seen anything out of the ordinary, haven’t learned anything new, haven’t had any huge revelations.

Yet, I wandered in a pitch dark corridor in a Buddhist temple searching for enlightenment with tens of others. I sang for anybody that walked through the small vegan cafe at the bottom of the Men’s olympic course. I took my 2nd snowboarding lesson ever on an icy green terrain. I cried of happiness when I sat in the chairlift listening to First aid kit with half meter of fresh powder below my feet. I filled the kerosene heater  what seems like a zillion times, cleaned tables, learned to make latte and cappuccino and what’s the difference with the two. I met a lot of new people. Some nice, some not so nice. Some famous, some “normal”. And I sang and I sang.

Here is a picture of me in my wool pants! I love them! I got the chance to meet with these two lovely ladies, Mira and Hanna, that run the Finnish label Uhana Design in Tampere, ( They were kind enough to sponsor me with the pants or actually leggings and earrings. The leggings are really handy, it’s not too warm in the cafe. 😀


My worst fear was to play alone. Yes, I’ve played alone before, but busking on noisy streets is a different ballgame. The inner monologue went on and on. What will people think? I’m such a crappy guitar player, yadda, yadda, yadda.

But all that went away the minute I got to play. I can’t say that I’m a great guitar player.  But I am learning by doing. That seems to work for me a lot better than “I should go to guitar lessons”and postpone them for another year or 3. I learn because I have to. And yes, I will go to guitar lessons once I am back, but for now I just do it!

I love that I get feedback instantly from people chilling out in the cafe. It’s great! “Beautiful!” Thank you for the entertainment” or just thumbs up. There is of course always room for improvement. So I try to learn and play every other day a new song and hopefully in the future do something all together different. A few a cappella songs maybe? Could be fun.

I think the best part in going new places is meeting new people. Exchanging life stories or insights, whatnot. Cassie, the barista in the cafe mentioned an Australian singer I never heard of before, Missy Higgins. Here is one of her video that I liked. There is something raw in it. Enjoy!



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Don’t worry, be happy

I bumped into this interview a few weeks ago while searching for can’t remember what on the vast internet. It is great to listen to Bobby McFerrin’s thoughts about life and music and other matters. But what really stuck with me were 2 things. One, the exercise that he talks about around 14:05.

The exercise is simple. Set your timer to 10 minutes and sing whatever comes into your mind. Do this for 30 days in a row and watch what happens.

Have to admit that I did it only for 2 days in a row. Nonetheless, what I found was interesting. My improvisation was more or less jazz and blues. No matter that I told my brain, I don’t want that, it just didn’t go away. Funny, I don’t think of myself as any kind of jazz singer, although I know probably most of the jazz standards out there. Here is one of my favourite:


I’ll need to get back to this exercise and see where will it go. Improvisation is somewhat intimidating, especially if you’ve been to any kind of music school. You’re suppose to know all the right scales to all kinds of harmonies, and while yes, that is a useful skill, I find that it is also overcomplicating a rather simple thing. Most of the times the true idea of improvisation is forgotten, like Bobby McFerrin says, it’s about (again) emotion.

Second thing, be yourself when you perform. Don’t be anyone else. Easier said than done. Sometimes it does help to come up with an alter ego, but in the end you have to start getting rid of the facade and be yourself. You might say, aren’t we always? Well, no. I for example have a chameleon like quality, meaning I will easily adapt to other people, I take their feelings, expression, saying, mannerisms. Which is all fine, but once performing, I have to be aware of what I am doing. Who am I and what do I really want to say. What is your facade, what are you hiding beneath it? And well, why? It’s alright, you don’t need to get rid of it, being aware is enough.

Keep within yourself. You do have all the answers there.

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How much is the fish?

Just for the record, musicians are not super humans with the ability to live on nothing but air. It is okay to play for free, if you can really afford it. I am pro charity, sure. But there are a few buts…

If you are a so- called professional musician and you play all the time for free, who is really paying your bills? Don’t be naive, someone has to. Is it society, your mom, you boy- or girlfriend? Don’t get delusional, you do need money. And I find that part of being professional means that you get paid for what you do.

I had this conversation a while ago with a friend of mine about why I don’t just give singing lessons for free. Because some has to pay my bills and I’d prefer it’s me. And on the other hand, I paid for all my lessons too, spent thousands of euros and dollars for the knowledge that I have now and keep spending more for more knowledge, so why should I give it away for free? There is no suck thing as free lunch…

But why is it so that artists are the ones to be exploited most of the time? Some argue that art is not what you need in your daily life, what you need is food and shelter and so on. You can check out Maslow’s hierarchy here and see that creativity is at the high end of this pyramid. You can reasonably say that you don’t really need that. (Maslow might be wrong though)



But what if you do, what happens when all your other needs are filled and you want some music in your life? You download it for free from the internet, right?

It seems that many people don’t get the part that being a musician or any other artist for that matter actually means you work. You work a lot and hard to try to catch a glimpse of the silver lining. Glamour is pretty far from being an artist. Maybe once you made yourself a  “name” you get a taste of glamour, but all in all, it’s work, just like anything else. (Yes, I am repeating myself. ) I can understand that the image we see in papers from successful artist is them posing on various occasions in this or that “add label here” dress…But I bet whoever is on those pages worked hard to get there and works even harder to stay where they are.

The thing is I’ve done my fair share of gigging for free. I don’t think there is anything particularly wrong with it say if you are still a student and you really need the experience. But even then, I’d say a small compensation would be nice. Think about it, any other service you want, you have to pay for. Why don’t you want to pay for a musician or whatever other artist you need?

I’ve heard many versions of why. The one that I like the most is that, well, you would do it anyway because it’s your passion or something. And if you don’t come then I know others who are willing to play for free. Great! Call them. Yes, it is my passion, but from where did you get the idea that I don’t need an income? You might say, that’s not your problem. True. What I am really saying is as an artist do consider the pros and cons of playing for free. Yes, I would perform free in Superbowl if they’d ever call me.

The other issue is, asking too little. I mean if you ask 20 euros for an hour of voice lesson, I doubt that you pay your taxes or any other social fees. You might think that it’s fine now, but there will be no pension for you. Finland is still considerably cheap what comes to voice lessons, compared to the USA for example. On the other side of the Atlantic, a voice lesson can be anything from a 100 dollars to 300 dollars.

But how can we make our possible customers understand?I do find it really strange that people are willing to pay 5€ for a latte, yet they think that 20 euros is enough for a 60 minute lesson. How do they add value to a service? How do we make them understand why a 20 euro lesson might not be as valuable as a 50 euro lesson? I have no idea. I’ll tell you once I figure it out. And no, it’s not the customers fault that they only want to pay 20 euros, it’s the musicians’ and voice teachers’ fault that ask for too little. You can say it’s about supply and demand. True, but I think it is also fair to say that you should know what you are worth and don’t sell yourself too cheap. You’ll regret it eventually. And if you think that asking for example 50 € is a lot for an hour, after the taxes and all the other fees you’ll end up with a salary of 12 to 15 € in your pocket, depending on how much taxes you have to pay.

You can count your salary here:

So how much should you ask for a gig in a restaurant for example?In the end, everything is negotiable. In case you have no idea what to ask for, here are some guidelines, in Finnish:

I am thankful for all the places that respect the musicians and actually pay them. Thank you! I hope you continue the good work and help us survive. And last but not least. Be sure to have things written down. Contracts or so, even an email is good. I had to learn  my lesson long time ago the hard way when I only had an oral contract and the festival had no intention of ever paying me.  Take care of yourself, no one else has your back.

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