The Emotional Cost Of Being a Touring Musician

Last week one of my greatest musical influences took his own life.

Chester Bennington had been fighting his demons openly, for years. Hybrid Theory wasn’t an album made for shock value, it was a product of pure and painful honesty. The same goes for Linkin Park’s latest album, One More Light. These songs are a very literal cry for help.

We have lost so many to suicide – from the touring veterans of the world to the young talent still finding it’s footing in our local music scene.

Mental illness is a growing issue – and it’s important that we have open conversations about it. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to openly talk about the emotional toll that being a touring musician can take.

Musicians put their emotions on display. When an artist writes a song – they have the opportunity to be as honest as they would like to be. For many, they go digging up the past. Painful memories can create powerful music. This can include stories of abuse, loss of a loved one, divorce, depression, and so many other things. Playing emotionally charged music every night can take a toll on the mind.

Touring can be an emotional roller coaster. For many young artists, touring sounds like nothing but fun and it truly is enjoyable. When you get to a point though, it can be taxing. The artist interviews I’ve heard describe hardships involving inconsistency financially, stress on relationships/families, and even missing weddings or funerals.

Mix that with a shift from being introverted to extroverted, and back without warning. Musicians spend hours in a van, to arrive at a venue where they must begin socializing and usually continue to socialize for the next 4-6 hours. Then, it’s back in the van. For an uneasy mind, it’s like flipping a light switch on and off without warning. And if we’ve learned anything lately – emotional health is just as important as physical health.

Physical health impacts emotional health. Imagine having A different sleep schedule every day. Sometimes a tight schedule requires a band to drive straight through the night. This leaves the option of staying up all night, or sleeping around a 2am-6am driving shift, after you’ve spent more of your energy performing and meeting fans. The effect on emotional health? It’s hard to be happy when you are sick or exhausted regularly.

Musicians know what they are signing up for – right? Sort of.

I think many expect the physical challenges, but underestimate the emotional ones and the additional impact that your physical health can have on your emotional health. Justin Bieber caught a lot of negative comments for canceling the remainder of his tour. John Mayer came to Justin’s defense tweeeting, “When someone pulls remaining dates of a tour, it means they would have done real damage to themselves if they kept going”.

Chances are, you aren’t a world renowned pop star, but you are just as important. Don’t let any of this be discouraging if you have yet to tour as a musician – just let it be a simple reminder to keep both your physical and mental health in mind on the road. Many of you give it all to the music, just make sure you take care of yourself out there.

 

Written by David Kleinebreil

Photo by Maelle Ramsay

 

 

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Bands: Learn How Or Pay Someone To Do It?

There are two types of thinking when it comes to being unsigned, independent or DIY:

Learn how to do it OR pay someone to do it.

Which one should you do? That depends. When you are just starting out you need to consider keeping your costs down. Make sure you can afford the avenue you take. For example, when you first record songs. Some bands are self produced; they record themselves instead of paying a producer or engineer.

A great compromise would be to reach out to students at a local recording school. Often times, students of a recording or engineering school have to do projects that include doing either a live or tracked recording of a musician or band. This means you get someone who has some experience under their belt (more, if you are me) and you can keep costs low or free.

Pay Someone To Do It

Get referrals. Ask similar bands or friends of yours for recommendations on who they have worked with. The worst thing you can do is look for a producer blindly. Some work to collect the hourly rate and others have a spot in their heart for new artists.

Make sure you can afford it. Don’t hire a producer who is out of your budget. Don’t hire a graphic designer that will charge more than your potential profit on a run of shirts. Don’t hire a manager if they charge more than they are helping you bring in. It isn’t always about what you want to spend, or how much you can afford. If something is unrealistic or depletes your profits, don’t do it. (There’s a reason younger bands tour in vans and not busses!)

Hire someone to do something if you can’t do it well. If you know how to do graphic design or you know how to record music, make sure you are producing a quality product. Even if you can professionally record music, an experienced producer and engineer may be able to do better because they do it for a living.

**For taxes, I highly recommend hiring a CPA. Things can get complicated if your band is filed as an LLC and you begin paying taxes without prior experience.

DO IT YOURSELF

As previously mentioned, make sure you are producing a quality product. If you can book your own tours, but get an offer from a well connected agent, you should at least consider what you could gain from it.

If you are die hard DIY, there are so many ways you can learn to do things without even taking a class.

Read a Book. There are so many books out there. Spending $10 on a book and learning a very valuable lesson, even if it is only a single lesson, is worth it. This book taught me many of my networking skills. Never Eat Alone, Expanded and Updated: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time

Watch Tutorials on Youtube. You can learn so much on Youtube these days. If you are a vocalist wondering how you can get improve your vocal abilities, you can look up videos about vocal warm ups or exercises. (ex: Professional Vocal Warmup 1 – “Opening Up The Voice”) Eric has a number of videos that can help any vocalist. Trying to figure out a new trick on Photoshop to help cut down merchandising/advertising costs? (Ex. Spotify Duotone Photo Effect Photoshop Tutorial)

Ask someone for help. Reach out to someone who knows how to do something rather well and wouldn’t mind giving you advice. Ask other bands for help! Seriously, you’d be surprised how many bands might be willing to share their advice. Especially touring bands, although they made be a little preoccupied at a show to sit down and walk you through their pedal setup. Going back to step 1 always helps, a solid referral should be much more open to chat.

Best of luck!

-David

ps. I may do a blog on booking tours if anyone would like to see a simplified explanation of my process.

3 Things Bands & Fans Should Know about Streaming

#1 – Streaming is the Future

Bands

The future of music lies in streaming. Don’t try to fight it, and don’t be afraid. I highly encourage artists to be on Spotify and Apple Music. These services will help your music be accessible to millions of people across the world. Next? Encourage your fans to follow you on these platforms and to add you to their playlists. You want streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music to do well because then you will do well. (Increased streaming = increased exposure, increase in subscribers = higher pay)

Don’t know how to get your music on these services? Try Tunecore (this link will get you 20% off your first purchase) or CD Baby.

Fans

The future of music lies in streaming. Don’t try to fight it, and don’t be afraid. I highly encourage fans to sign up for paid subscriptions. If you care about music, paying for these subscriptions is an affordable way to support your favorite artists and the future of the music industry. (How? When you pay for an app like Spotify, you are giving that company money to grow. As streaming services grow, the music industry gets stronger and smaller bands will start to get paid more.)

Enjoy an ad free, all-you-can-eat music buffet for the price of 1 album a month. After you subscribe, stream your favorite bands and add them to your playlists.

(Tip: Downloading/saving the songs to your phone won’t give smaller artists credit for streaming, stream unsigned/DIY bands whenever possible from wifi/data)

#2 – The Music Industry is Growing Again (Thanks to Streaming)

“U.S. Music Industry Sees First Double Digit Growth in Almost 20 Years as Streaming Takes Over” – Billboard

Bands

This is HUGE news. If you want a career in music, this is a breath of fresh air. Revenues have been falling for years and we have all been wondering how we can make a living in that type of industry. The industry appears to be growing again, and keep in mind…streaming revenues are higher than actual sales revenue. Translation: streaming is making more money than the sale of CDs, mp3s and vinyl COMBINED. Please, make sure your music is on Spotify!

Fans

When the music industry prospers, the fans get MORE! When bands are doing well, they often tour more, come out with more merchandise and put out more music. Get paid subscriptions to streaming services, buy concert tickets and keep supporting artists. Everything you do for your favorite artists is being seen by the music industry as a whole. You are giving hard working artists the opportunity to keep doing what they love.

#3 – Streaming is the new radio

Bands

The radio DJ’s used to be the gatekeepers – now you need to focus on playlist curators. The new radio hit is landing a solid spot on an official playlist with a lot of followers.  It’s a tricky game and sometimes you just get lucky.  Example: Check out the AP Discover made by curators from Alternative Press or Pop Punk’s Not Dead made by the awesome curators at Spotify.

Seek out playlists and try to attract attention from the people that make them. Create new playlists and use it to network with other bands by sharing their music with your fans.

(Tip: Record labels pay attention to streaming numbers. Keep your fans listening, post links, or even run a contest based around streaming.)

Fans

Streaming is a great way to find new music. Check out playlists, Beats 1 Radio on Apple Music, Discover Weekly on Spotify, and “similar artists” sections on either platform. If you remember MTV music video countdowns, you’ll get the same kind of excitement from Spotify’s official playlists. (My favorite? Pop Punk’s Not Dead). Instead of hearing the same 10 songs on the radio all day, you can plan out hours of awesome music to access whenever you want it.

For those of you who are still not sold on streaming..  Yes, you can still buy CD’s. Just stream the songs when you don’t have the CD.We are losing the CD drives in our laptops and now, even in our cars… Join the dark side, before it’s too late.

-David

http://www.billboard.com/articles/business/7744268/riaa-us-music-industry-2016-revenue-double-digit-growth


Photo by Taylor Bryant

Songwriting – Break Up With Your Girlfriend

“Songwriting – Break Up With Your Girlfriend” 

Friendly Disclaimer: The title isn’t meant to be gender specific, the statement I’m quoting just happened to be direct at me – a straight male.

Yes – there’s an explanation for the weird title, but we’ll get to that…

At risk of appearing to take advantage of well known name, I admittedly hesitated from writing this months ago. The advice I received was just too relevant and beneficial to ignore. This wasn’t a formal interview, or an interview at all, so I will simply call him “John”. 

Back in March I had the pleasure of sitting with a man many know most recently for producing multi-platinum records for the band 5 Seconds of Summer. I was familiar with him from his earlier years, helping some of my favorites from Good Charlotte to the Used put out great records.

There is not one secret to great songwriting, I’d consider it more of a recipe. John gave me a few vital ingredients…

Write Everyday

Simply put, practice makes perfect. John asked me what kind of writer I thought I was. Despite anything my answer was, he said “You should be writing a song everyday…if not more”. He has written countless songs, and says he still does at least a song a day.

Write the Chorus First

This specific piece of advice, stems from what he described as the lifeblood of the song. Every great song, has a great chorus – one that should hold a universal message. He made it clear, always start with the chorus. If you don’t have a strong chorus, you don’t have a strong song.

Run – Clear Your Mind

Going for a run, he said, was a great way to clear your mind. He spoke of his earlier years, spending time on his Vespa commuting around town, which turned into a great opportunity for him to clear his mind and come up with some of his best ideas.

Listen to the Beatles…a lot!

This one is pretty straightforward. Everyone in the room could agree that the Beatles are some of the greatest songwriters of all time.

Want to be great? Do as they do.

I learned a few daily habits of the band 5 Seconds of Summer, ones that are well reflected in the previous points. Everyday, the guys wake up and spend multiple hours at the gym. This helps them to stay physically fit, and for a vocalist, this is very beneficial. Then, they spend time in the studio every single day writing music. (Refer to the first piece of advice in this blog!)

“Break Up With Your Girlfriend.”

Right? If this caught you off guard, don’t worry, you aren’t alone. I’ll never know how literal is was meant to be, but I found my own meaning for it. My first question to you is…when is the last time you heard an amazing break-up album? Anything by John Mayer will do, but there are countless others. What I took from this statement was, great songs are written during times of heart break. Often times, I find myself writing when I can’t express that feeling any other way. Write when the emotion is so overwhelming that you just want to escape it. It’s the best escape I could ask for.

by David Kleinebreil

Photo by Roberta Sorge

Super or Scam? Green Kite “Records”

My bias should appear obvious. I will first and foremost say, I have never formally worked with Green Kite “Records”. I know bands and have talked to bands that have. They offered my band a slot on Warped Tour once…but first we had to PAY an agent to watch us. Yeah….no.


I do not lay claim to all the knowledge about this company, but I will tell you what I do know:

They are not a record label. Only 2 bands have been “signed” by Green Kite – one of the bands is the owner Kerry’s son – weird right? And BOTH are conveniently “on hiatus” – where is this label?

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This company will specifically message young, emerging artists, posing as a record label. “I think this song _____ is great, I’d love to send it to _____ of our A&R team”

They will schedule a call with you, without you requesting it. Some bands, take the call, because hey, it’s a record label. (it’s not a record label!)

You will conveniently be deferred to their mentorship program. This mimics something called bait and switch-  an illegal marketing technique. They make you think you have potential to be signed, then switch out what their services are really intended to be.

After the call or audition, they will say “hey you’re great, but we think you need work before we’re ready to sign you, how about our “mentorship program?”. (Read more: http://www.greenkiterecords.com/mentorship.html#&panel1-3)  The website says “The goal of this program is to ready the bands to the level of acceptance from either a major or indie label”. But wait, I thought YOU were a label?

They will proceed to take percentages from your shows and give you advice for the low, low price of $200-$300/month. Some band may pay more or less. Sure, managers have to take a percentage right? Yes. But they are not a management company, they are a mentorship program. If you are ready for a manager, spend the time seeking out a legitimate one.

****I know for a fact they message hundreds of bands. Think even if 20 bands paid $200-$300 a month. $250 x 20 = $5000 a month. $60,000 a year. Maybe they fool 40 bands and she is making six figures. Sounds like these bands are AT LEAST paying her rent.****

You should hire her son. If you want to record, you are told to hire Kerry’s son, the producer. If you need a sound guy, you are told to hire Kerry’s son, the sound guy. You get the idea.

Keep the money in the family. If you want to play their shows in Arizona you either: buy on to a show guaranteeing ticket sales OR take a mall gig where she takes 20% and you pay her son half your earnings to do sound.

***IF you are seeing a pattern here, so am I. I suspect the whole thing was started as a revenue driver for her son’s band (I know, there he is again.) ColdFusion. (www.facebook.com/coldfusionband)***

IF you think I’m attacking a friendly, family business, I’m sorry. My goal is not to defame – I’ll admit, I used the word “scam” in the title to get people to pay attention. I am addressing this publicly out of concern for young, talented artists. (11 one star reviews should also back up my point.) Sadly in this industry, you need to be careful. People will lie to you to appear to be something they are not.

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IF you are a band just starting out and you need help. Please reach out to me anytime. I’ll give you all the knowledge I have, and if I can’t answer your question, I’ll gladly direct you to someone who can. And I’d love to refer you to a band in your region so you can learn and grow together.

David Kleinebreil

dkleineb@asu.edu

http://www.facebook.com/davidkleinebreil

Disclaimer: My advice does not cost hundreds of dollars a month. 

Also, if you have screenshots or an experience you’d like to share, you can email me.Anything shared will be done so anonymously and only with your permission.

 
www.reliablecounter.com
music mixing studio
 

Your Band is a Brand

Your band is a business.

I will say it until the end of time. Here is a new thing to keep in mind…

Your band is a brand. 

Everything you do as an artist should reflect your brand. Here are 3 ways you can keep your focus on maintaining your band as a brand:

1 – Start with WHY

Why did you start your band? There is no right or wrong answer, but there should absolutely be an answer. “Because I enjoy music” is okay if this is still a hobby. If it is a career, that is not enough. You need to know WHY you enjoy music.

Is it because you like to form ideas and express yourself? Is it because the thrill of performing feels like no other? Is it because you want to travel and meet new people? The answers can lead you to be a writer with a publishing deal, a performing artist who plays other peoples’ songs or a hired gun playing guitar for various bands.

Think hard about WHY. Once you have the answer, you can figure out WHAT you do.

2 – Make the WHAT match the WHY

When a company like Apple or Nike makes a decision, know that it is well thought out. Everything has to reflect the brand that people know and love. If you have a group of diehard fans who know and love your band for something specific, you most likely want to cater to that.

If you write killer ballads, are you going to have at least one ballad on your new record? Probably. Catering to your fans shouldn’t ever feel like “selling out”, it should be honoring your brand and honoring WHY you do WHAT you do.

If you’re a pop punk band, you most likely won’t be doing your new photoshoot in a dark abandoned warehouse. Stay true to WHY you do it and WHAT you do will always make sense.

3 – Dare to be different.

Companies and brands that do the same old thing, get the same old results. Dare to be different. The Maine is a great example of a band that stays true to their WHY and isn’t afraid to be different. How many bands have you seen do a FREE tour as a thank you to their fans? Exactly.

They were not afraid to be different, and it has only benefitted them over the years. Their fans have noticed that they are genuine about what they do and why they do it.

Next example – who remembers THIS VIDEO? Painfully familiar and unique as it gets. Everyone and their mom watched OK GO strut their stuff for three minutes on those treadmills.

Attention span of a squirrel?

Start with WHY.

Make the WHAT match the WHY.

Dare to be different.

Your band is a business.

Your band is a brand. 

 

Written By David Kleinebreil

Photo by Edu Grande

 

 

 

Music Community: It Starts With “We”

When you think about yourself as an artist, start replacing the word “I” with the word “we”. 

I will write songs, I will play a show and I will have a crowd come to see me.”

We will write songs, we will play a show and we will have a crowd to come to see us.”

This way of thinking changes everything.

It keeps you mindful of the musicians in your band, but also the other musicians around you. You have all worked hard to be where you are at. Learn from each other and respect each other. Collective thinking is not a new idea, it is just a forgotten one. In tough times, people begin to watch out for themselves. It’s human nature; human nature of simpler times.

Society began to advance when groups of people started trading and sharing resources. The transfer of information brought a number of societies great wealth because they could be more efficient. Now, think of your band as a society.  Bring your band into the modern times, begin to share resources and develop information together.

We have a lot to offer each other because we do not all have the same talent or skill. One band may be really great at writing music and the other, great at marketing that music. Help each other grow.

3 Ways Collective Thinking Benefits You

  1. The best for you, is the best for your music scene. If you have a small, or struggling music scene, I hope you are going out to shows and supporting other bands. Your mentality and behavior effects those around you. Surely everyone would love to have a thriving music scene.
  2. You strengthen relationships and develop trust. You may not know the bands playing with you, or you may not know them well. Time to change that. You can learn from each other and build a friendship that leads you to play 10 more shows together. Ask them who their musical influences are. My favorite question to ask is, “How did you get involved in music?”.
  3. Community brings people together. If the bands and the fans feel like they are in a welcoming and friendly place, shows are BIGGER and BETTER. Don’t focus on the numbers, the numbers will come. When fans experience a show that makes them feel great, they will tell their friends. When bands play a show that makes them feel great, they will tell their friends. Get excited and remember exactly why you do what you do. Fall in love with the music community you are a part of. If it’s already great, go out and make it even better.

 

CHALLENGE: Think of your plans for the next six months as an artist, replace the word “I” with the word “we” and think of how you can involve other musicians or bands in your plans. (Ex. Writing new music? Ask another musician for feedback. Planning a show? Ask new bands to play that show with you and get to know them better.)

 

 

A Band is a Business

A band is a business. I can’t say it enough.

This phrase is especially true if you want to make music your full time career. If music is a hobby for you and you enjoy playing shows locally from time to time, business knowledge might be less necessary, but still helpful.

Here is a list of things that help a business to succeed:

  • Quality product/service
  • Marketing for that product
  • A leader
  • A manager
  • Passionate employees
  • Passionate customers
  • Distribution
  • Investors

Now the list again in music terms:

  • Quality product/service Great music
  • Marketing for that product music
  • A Leader
  • A Manager
  • Passionate employees  bandmates!
  • Passionate customers fans!
  • Distribution (Tunecore, CD Baby, Physical Distribution)
  • Investors  Record Labels

The lists aren’t that different. Many people don’t realize that a band is a small business selling a product. When you answer the age old question, “How do we make new fans”, you are thinking about marketing! That dream of a record label? You are seeking an investor; someone to help you financially to grow your business. That record label then provides you with distribution to get your CD online and in stores.

Question: “The music is the focus and you shouldn’t let the business side distract you, that’s why managers and record labels exist…right?”

Correct…sort of.

The music will always be your priority and your passion. Starting off though, you have a lot of work to do. There is a reason why you hear the term “DIY” so much, because you have to DO IT YOURSELF. When you start a band, you are instantly an entrepreneur. Best of luck running your new business.

 

Any questions? Comment below!

 

by David Kleinebreil

 

Getting Truly Inspired

A lot of artists experience writer’s block.

Many books and articles instruct us to “be creative” and “get inspired”. The question is HOW? Instead of screaming expletives into a pillow, here are some helpful hints to get you back on track.

EXPLORE

I once got on a plane from Phoenix to Denver with one hour’s notice. It gave me a rush of adrenaline and I spent the next week more inspired than I had been in months.

Travel somewhere new – experience something new.

“Life experiences” is a common answer when musicians are asked what inspired their songs. There is a reason for that! Others find inspiration when they finally escape their surroundings. Whether you need a mental vacation or you’ve run out of things to write about, this WILL help.

Exercise: Get in your car and go on a silent drive for 15 minutes to an undetermined location. Pull into a parking lot somewhere and think about where you are at in life. Think about what has caused you happiness lately, or what has caused you pain. (Warning: things might get deep real quick.)

BE HONEST

Are you writing about or working on things that are genuine to who you are?

Don’t force yourself to write a love song if you don’t feel you’ve been in love before. If you’re sad, write sad songs. If you love pop music above all else and you always have, it may be time to re-consider that career in metal.

Are there things you want to say, but are afraid to say? In the words of everyone’s favorite motivational internet-coach, JUST DO IT. As an artist, you sacrifice the privilege of hiding how you feel. Realize this sooner rather than later…it’s your job to be emotional.

Exercise: Think of someone in your past who did you wrong, or vice versa. What was left unsaid? Write them a letter. (You don’t have to send it.)

ps. Watch this. Honesty in Songwriting – John Mayer

PURPOSE

Do everything with purpose.

If you don’t have your goals clearly defined, start there. Continue by reminding yourself of them, a lot. Remember: you are the most reliable person you know. You are also the one who cares the most about what you will accomplish. Be your own coach.

Need a new purpose? Start looking for one with the previous advice. Think about what gets you out of bed every single day. If that doesn’t motivate you, think about how disappointed you will be with yourself ten years from now if you gave up on your dreams. (Don’t be too harsh on yourself, but seriously, do it.)

Exercise: Get a sticky note, a pen, and a hula hoop. Write your daily, weekly, or monthly goal on the sticky note and attach it to the mirror you look in everyday. (That’s right, I know how conceited you are.) Why the hula hoop? To celebrate when you accomplish your task.

 

by David Kleinebreil

 

Photo by Joshua Earle

Music Streaming: The Pain of Change

Music streaming, like many new industries, has faced many challenges.

Let us not forget, the American public had doubts about switching from radio to television. According to a history of television written by The Guardian, “The images were extremely poor quality, the equipment was dauntingly expensive and reception vanishingly limited. In short, it didn’t look like the future.”  

As the revenue of digital downloads continues to decrease, the number of users continues to increase for streaming services like Spotify (a clear front runner in streaming services). At 75 million active users, with only 20 million paid, people are still clearly adopting the new technology.

spotify user graph

Graphic from: http://www.spotifyartists.com/spotify-explained/

Another positive trend we are seeing, is the amount of royalty payouts increase for Spotify. Some would say, “not fast enough”. The glass-half-full approach might be “it’s a good start”.

Cumulative-Royalties--1024x611

Graphic from: http://www.spotifyartists.com/spotify-explained/

Spotify claims to pay out about 70% of revenue to rights holders. This is a similar model to iTunes (ex. $0.99 song, artist gets $0.70). Though the numbers seem similar, we’re talking about two different business models. There needs to be a discussion about how different these industries are, and how “fair payment” should be defined.

It is evident that the music streaming industry is experiencing growing pains.

Apple Music has fallen short out of the gate, and we can only hope they redo their user interface and open up potential for on demand-streaming without access to Wifi.

Meanwhile, Pandora continues taking metaphorical punches for attempting to reduce their financial burden. Surely Pharrell wasn’t singing when he saw his check for less than $3,000 for over 43 million plays on Pandora.  If paying artists royalties becomes a burden for a company running itself as a radio station, they may need to re-evaluate their business model.

In 2013,  wrote on Pandora’s blog, “Each spin on Pandora reaches a single person, compared to a “play” on FM radio that reaches potentially millions of people. In other words, a million spins on Pandora might be equivalent to a single play on a large FM station.”

Perhaps this offers some insight into the source of the growing pains of the industry. Technology changes how we live, but also how we define things. Without going into details about “per play” payouts, mechanical royalties, and performance royalties, the bottom line is this:

The industry needs to communicate and work together to seek innovation alongside this new technology because streaming has potential.

A positive focus for now. Increased music streaming has led to lower piracy, can contribute to higher ticket sales for touring artists, and has helped artists to build an audience. Artists who embrace music streaming will be the first to thrive using it.

By David Kleinebreil

Featured photo by Antonis Spiridakis