003 – The Value of Having Your Own Website as a Musician – with Ross Barber of Electric Kiwi

Do you have a website? Do you know why you need one? Is your online presence everything it could be to help you attract fans, gigs and more opportunities?

In this episode of The New Music Industry Podcast, I connect with Glasgow web and graphic designer Ross Barber. We chat about web design, building a website, communication etiquette in the music industry, writing a book, building an email list, social media and much more.

Podcast Highlights:

  • 02:10 – Why did you get into web design for musicians?
  • 05:36 – Your website is the online hub for everything about you
  • 06:48 – Are you committed to building a professional online presence?
  • 08:53 – Communication etiquette for musicians
  • 15:00 – Why do musicians need a website?
  • 18:18 – Why you need to build an email list
  • 22:38 – Tips for building an email list
  • 25:03 – The importance of design and branding
  • 29:36 – Should you tailor your website design to your audience?
  • 31:32 – How difficult is it to manage expectations and timelines around design projects?
  • 32:36 – How do you keep new clients coming in?
  • 36:44 – What have you learned from co-hosting Bridge The Atlantic?
  • 43:22 – What have you learned from the guests you’ve had on your podcast?
  • 46:46 – Writing a book
  • 48:33 – What books have impacted you personally?

Transcription:

David: Today, I’m chatting with Ross Barber from Electric Kiwi and Bridge the Atlantic podcast. He’s a web and graphic designer based in Glasgow, U.K. How are you today, Ross?

Ross: I’m doing good. How are you?

David: Good. How are things over in U.K.?

Ross: Very busy. Yeah, it’s just I’m working on a ton of things right now, which is all very exciting. But yeah, there’s not really a moment to breathe, so it’s nice that we’re doing a podcast interview where I’m forced to close down my email and stop working and just talk. So I appreciate you inviting me on the show. Thank you.

David: Absolutely. Yeah, and I can appreciate that as well, because this has been a pretty crazy week for me. And it’s not every week that I’m forced to get up at the same time every day and then work till the same time every night.

Ross: Yeah, I mean, I guess that’s one of the exciting things about being an entrepreneur and maybe, specifically, a music entrepreneur, is you can set your own times to do things.

David: Exactly.

Ross: But it can be nice to have a set time that you start and a set time that you finish, because I know that if I don’t have those guidelines, I could probably just end up working like all day and into the night.

And the next thing I realize is, “Oh, it’s 10:00, and I’ve not eaten yet,” which happens quite a lot, actually.

David: Well, yeah, I think routine is actually hugely important. I wouldn’t necessarily want to do quite the crazy routine that I’ve been doing in the last couple of days, every single day, but having various income sources and different work and being in demand is a good thing.

And there’s a lot of people struggling out there right now. So I consider it a pretty major blessing, you know?

Ross: Yeah, definitely, definitely. I’d much rather be busy than not busy.

David: Exactly. Well, I know that we’re just getting this chat underway, but I’m going to be the devil’s advocate just for a moment. You provide custom web design services for musicians, but musicians don’t have any money. So what were you thinking, man?

Ross: Well, really, what I was thinking was I studied popular music at university, because I thought I wanted to be a musician. But I ended up kind of veering away from pursuing the performance as a career. And I’d been doing web design since I was like 12.

I taught myself web design way back in the day. So I knew that I wanted to do something that involved music, and because I’d been doing websites, it kind of made sense to combine the two.

And you’re right, a lot of musicians don’t have money, but I’m finding that a lot of them do see the value in having a website, and more specifically, a custom website that really reflects what they’re doing musically in the online space. And I always say it’s more of an investment than anything else.

Ross Barber on music promotion

Artists spend a lot of money recording their music, but they don’t necessarily spend the money on the promotion and the marketing side of things. And I feel that that is where a lot of artists go wrong, so I think investing in a really good website and something that looks great and works well is going to last you years.

Artists spend a lot of money recording their music, but they don't necessarily spend the money on the promotion and the marketing side of things. Share on X

It’s not something that you pay for. and then six months later, you need something else. You pay for it, and it should last you two, three, four, five years or so before you need to make any major changes, depending on what’s going on with technology and so on.

David: Right. Kind of like a decent laptop or a desktop computer, right, should last you a good three to four years, if you have the top of the line.

Ross: Yeah, definitely. I always say it’s an investment more than anything. If you’re serious about what you’re doing and you want to book more shows, you want to sell more music, and you want to make the right first impression, then invest in yourself and get a website that really does all those things.

David: Yeah, and of course, I’m just being cheeky in asking you, obviously, there’s some musicians that might not have quite the budget and probably need to view it in exactly the way you just described it, which is an investment rather than this massive expense that they somehow have to foot.

But I’m guessing there’s also maybe other artists that are serious about their career, want to see their online presence polished so that they can really take their career to the next level.

Ross: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I come across all kinds. It’s kind of funny sometimes when you see really established artists, but their online presence doesn’t reflect that at all. Like if you hadn’t heard of them, you would think that they had done this themselves 10 years ago and that they were struggling, because it just doesn’t give that right impression.

But then you do see some artists who are just starting out, and they’ve got amazing websites. And I think that that can project that image of success that the more established ones should be having.

So yeah, I see all kinds. I speak to all kinds of artists, a lot who do see the value and some who need a bit convincing as to why it’s important to make that right first impression.

David: Yeah. I had the opportunity to meet a known drummer. And he had a domain name, but it pointed directly to a ReverbNation page.

He’s a professional session player, I guess, and his name is maybe not on any album. So maybe the necessity isn’t there quite as much. I would certainly argue that maybe having a good website would be better for his fans though.

Ross: Definitely. I mean, I think you’ve got to think of your website as the online hub where everything about you lives. You know, there’s no problem linking out to your social platforms or ReverbNation or whatever it is you use more on like a day-to-day kind of basis. But I think you definitely need some sort of hub.

And yeah, it always makes me sad when I see someone’s page with their domain name, and all it does is point to ReverbNation or Facebook. You know, come on. Have a bit more pride in what you do. Show that you are serious about what you do, and you want people to see that.

Even just like a simple one-page site would be better than just forwarding on to another platform that you don’t actually own.

David: Exactly. I couldn’t agree more. And there was actually another time where I was walking down the street, downtown Calgary, and I don’t know what was going on. There was some kind of event happening, and there was an artist that just kind of came up and was talking to everybody.

So we were his targets, and we immediately got handed business cards. You know, I was listening to an interview that you did last night, but it was kind of what you said, like first of all, a “hello” would be nice, you know? I would love to meet you first before we talk business. But yeah.

Second of all, I looked at his card, and it was social media sites. I don’t think there was any mention of a website on his card. So I don’t know how pro you are or think you are. I kind of wonder a little bit whether or not you’re a serious artist.

Ross: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think having the website and having your own domain, it kind of shows that level of commitment that you have, because anyone can set up their social media and pass that around.

But I think actually buying the domain and having a website kind of shows you’re in it for the long haul, rather than you’re just someone that started, and you’re going to give up in two weeks.

Obviously, I’m not saying that people that don’t have a website are doing that. I’m just saying that’s the impression that I get, and from the sounds of it, a lot of people get that kind of impression. It’s not as professional as maybe it should be.

David: Exactly.

Ross: Yeah, that annoys me when people don’t at least try and say “hello”. That’s the thing, I get a lot of messages on Twitter, and it’s people not even saying “hi”. They just tweet me a link to their music and say, “Listen to this. Share it.”

And a lot of the time, I want to reply like, “Well, one, hello would be nice. Two, you don’t know if I actually like the genre of music that you’re trying to get me to listen to.” And I just feel a little bit of conversation draws me, and it makes me want to check it out. Yeah, that’s a bad first impression, for sure.

David: I do get like random press releases as well that are not really addressed to anyone in particular. Do you get that too?

Ross: I get that. I get a “Dear sir or madam.” I get “To whomever this may concern,” I’m not actually sure if that’s even the right one, but either way, I get that.

And for the podcast, we get emails. It’s like, “Oh, we’d love to be featured in your magazine,” well, it’s not a magazine. And we sometimes get them addressed the wrong name as well.

I did actually call someone out about that last week. It was a great pitch email, it’s just she got the name wrong at the start. And she said, “Dear Jeff.” So I replied just like I would reply to any email, but at the bottom I just put “P.S., who’s Jeff?” with a winky face, because I wanted her to know I’m just kind of joking with her, but to also highlight, “You made this mistake. Maybe fix that for future.”

She replied. She didn’t address the P.S. part, but that’s fine. I just felt like I needed to do something about this.

David: Yeah, “Who’s Jeff?”

Ross: Exactly, yeah. It’s obvious to me that she copied and pasted the email and sent it to a few people. But it’s those little details. Pay attention to the details.

I actually have a one-minute sending delay on my email, because I am terrified of making that exact mistake of putting someone’s name wrong or spelling their name wrong or something like that. So I have it set to delay so that when I hit send, I go back into my drafts folder and check that I’ve put the right name and that I’ve spelled that right. Because it’s a fear I’ve got.

David: Yeah, I get that. As an avid writer and editor of content, I still need to pause or look it over twice to make sure that what I’ve said is accurate and correct. So I think anybody else out there would want to as well.

Ross: Yeah, definitely.

David: Yeah. I mean, I guess what that has me wondering is just if the majority of musicians just don’t know how to market themselves or if that’s just the vocal minority that’s reaching out with these random, non-customized press releases and messages.

Ross: Yeah, it’s difficult to know whether it’s a lack of education or if they just don’t really care or think about it. I’d like to think it’s a lack of education, but at the same time, it’s kind of hard to give them that reason, because there’s so many resources out there and so many of them free as well. So I’ve given you guidelines on how to do things right and how not to do them.

For example, this podcast is a resource which is teaching people what to do and what not to do in order to have a successful career in the music industry.

But I feel like a lot of the time, the information is not…I don’t know. I just feel like they’re not getting the information somehow. And that’s something I think needs to change, because I think most musicians would like to be doing things “the right way,” and I don’t think it’s that they don’t care, because I think they do. I just think it’s not quite getting to them in the right way.

David: Yeah, and I guess it’s maybe the same thing that some entrepreneurs experience, right? Either we’re looking to create some value for our audience, or we’re just looking for a way to make our next mortgage payment.

And the difference is pretty apparent when that product or that service is released or that sales pitch is released. So yeah, I’m guessing it’s very much the same for some musicians. Maybe they just want the money now, and there just isn’t any instant gratification that way.

Ross: Yeah, very possible. It’s hard to know for sure. But certainly, I work with musicians every day, and the musicians that I tend to work with are all very interested in learning and bettering the way that they do things, which is great. They are the kind of people that I want to be working with. So more of you, please.

But yeah, I definitely still see a lot of stuff being done badly. And I do try, where I feel it’s appropriate, to say, “Hey, have you thought about doing it this way?” And sometimes, people are very appreciative, and they say, “Oh, I didn’t actually think of that. This is really helpful.”

Ross Barber on DIY

And sometimes, they get very defensive, and I get like, “Well, how am I supposed to know? I’m a musician. I’m not a publicist,” or “I’m not…” you know, whatever. And I say, “Well, the sad fact is, until you’re at the point where you’re able to hire a publicist or a manager or someone who is going to take care of this stuff for you, you do have to know how to do it.”

Until you're at the point where you're able to hire a publicist or a manager or someone who is going to take care of this stuff for you, you do have to know how to do it. Share on X

And I think a lot of musicians still have that old mindset. They’re going to get discovered by a label, and everything is going to be done for them. And okay, that happens sometimes, rarer as the days go on, so you do need to at least have a basic understanding of how to communicate with people.

Because you’re going to need to do a lot of it yourself, initially, and until you’re at the point where you’re able to build your team and have people that are going to do that on your behalf.

David: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more with that. People skills, right? And you don’t necessarily need to work on it really hard and become the best communicator in the world. You should just need to know the basic psychology behind interactions and what people respond to.

Ross: Definitely. And at the end of the day, you just have to remember that the people that you’re speaking with are people, and just treat the way that you would want to be treated.

That’s half the battle, really, is making sure that you’re communicating with people as people.

David: Yeah, exactly. Let’s get back to this idea of having a website. What really is the significance of a website for a musician? How important is it to have one?

Ross: I think it’s very important. I mean, obviously, as a designer who works with musicians, I’m going to say that. But yeah, I think it really acts as the main hub for everything that you do online, because one, you own it. You have control over that, whereas a social platform, you’re essentially renting the space there. They can change their terms and conditions. They can change it so you have to pay monthly. They can restrict how much content your fans see. Hello, Facebook.

So it’s important that you have a space that you own that’s yours and you are in full control of, unless you forget to pay your hosting or your domain fees. Hopefully, you’re organized enough to keep on top of all that. That would be number one, is it’s yours. You own it.

I think with a website as well, you can customize it so much more than you can a social platform. So it can really be a really good reflection of what you do musically in a visual way online. Those are kind of the main reasons I would say it’s important to have a site.

And I think it just looks professional and gives off a good first impression, especially to venues or management or booking agents or anyone that you’re wanting to work with. It just shows that level of commitment and professionalism that I don’t think you can really get across on a Facebook page or a Twitter profile or anything like that.

David: Exactly. I really like those points, and to some extent…I know not everyone is a content marketer out there. I’m a big proponent of that, creating content that serves your audience.

But that can also be a big deal if you publish something that people really, really want to read or see or hear. That can drive traffic to your website, really, for eternity, in a sense, as long as your domain doesn’t expire, or your hosting doesn’t expire.

So that’s another thing that, for some artists, could be a major advantage.

Ross: Definitely, and I think one thing to remember, when you’re posting with social media, is always be trying to take people back to your website, because your website is where they can send out for your mailing list, and you can get their email address, which is one of the most important things.

Ross Barber on email marketing

One of the most important pieces of data that you can get from anyone is their email address. You always want to be trying to send people back to your site.

One of the most important pieces of data that you can get from anyone is their email address. Share on X

So if you have a new video out, for example, post that as blog post with a little story or paragraph just talking about the video or the song, and be sending people to that link on the site, rather than just a link to YouTube, because when they get to your site, chances are, if they like the video, they’re going to have a look around.

They’re maybe going to find out more about you and learn more about who you are as an artist or a band. Then they might decide, “Oh, I’m going to see where you’re playing next,” and they’ll go to your shows page and see what you’re upcoming dates are. They might go to your merchant store page and then buy your album, or they might buy a shirt.

Ross Barber on sending people to your website

You just don’t know, so I think you always need to be trying to send people back to where they can find everything, which is your website.

You always need to be trying to send people back to where they can find everything, which is your website. Share on X

David: I totally agree, but let’s step back for a second, just in case there’s anybody listening and wondering why they would want to collect emails. I’m an artist, why would I need an email list?

Ross: Well, I was going to generalize it. I think we all remember the days of Myspace, but there will be people listening that are younger. They’re younger than us, which I feel sad to say, who won’t know what Myspace was.

So basically, Myspace was where everyone was. Everyone was using Myspace. Think of it as Facebook like 15 years ago. And so many bands, musicians, built their audience on Myspace, and they didn’t build an audience anywhere else.

And then people kind of left Myspace, and it became sort of an abandoned ghost town. Musicians found that they had no way of communicating with their fans, so they had no way of letting people know when they were playing, when they had new music out. And it was kind of a disaster for a lot of musicians, because they, essentially, had to start from scratch.

So I think if people were using Myspace in conjunction with their website and were collecting email addresses on their website, sure, you wouldn’t have had everyone that was on Myspace, because not everyone would have given you their email address.

But anyone that had given you their email address, you would at least still be able to keep in contact with them. And I think, with the way that social media is now, I know we all rely on Facebook and other platforms every day.

But if you’re using Facebook regularly as a musician, you’ll notice that your reach is on the decline.

But if you’ve got someone’s email address, you can email them an update. You know it will get into their inbox. Whether they read it or they do anything about it is a different story. But email still has the highest conversion rate and open rate.

And competitively, it’s still number one, even if it feels a little bit like an outdated kind of technology because we’re using social. But it’s so important to be getting those email addresses, because it’s the only guaranteed way.

Unless someone changes their email, you’re going to be able to get the information you want to get out to your fans reliably.

David: Yeah, exactly. And it’s really just about the only form of direct communication that you have with your fans online. You can certainly communicate with them through social media, but your posts may not be seen. So your reach is definitely going to be less.

Ross: Absolutely. And I think getting people on your email list is so important and one of the best ways to persuade people to sign up is to offer them something in exchange, whether that’s a free track…I’ve seen a lot of people lately giving away a whole free EP, which I think maybe is a little much.

It obviously depends on how much you want to give. But I say a free track, even if it’s like a live or an acoustic version of a song or a couple of songs, that’s a pretty fair deal. And especially if it’s something that you weren’t going to sell anyway, that is something that just acts as a nice incentive for people to get onto your list, and can definitely make a big difference.

I noticed that the artists I work with who give something in exchange for signing up definitely get a higher percentage of their visitors signing up to their list.

David: Yeah, I think a lot of artists are maybe just scared, right? Like, “Okay. Our competition is all giving away one track. What could we do that’s bigger and better? Oh, an entire EP.” And pretty soon it will be an entire album.

Ross: Yeah.

David: Yeah, I don’t think that’s…it doesn’t work that way, right?

Ross: No.

David: You don’t want to overwhelm your audience either.

Ross Barber on competition

Ross: Yeah, you don’t want to give away too much. I think one thing is stop seeing other artists as direct competition. I think if someone wants to sign up to your mailing list because you’re giving away one track, they’re doing it because they want to hear that track.

Stop seeing other artists as direct competition. Share on X

They’re not doing it because you’re giving away more or less than someone else. It’s more about how valuable that actual music itself is to them. So I wouldn’t worry about feeling that you have to give away five tracks.

If you’re only comfortable giving away one track, only give away one track. Don’t give away tons just because other people are.

David: Absolutely. Do you have any other list-building tips? I know that you do work on building your own list as well.

Ross: I do. I have to admit, I’m not as good at it as I wish I was. Let me think, actually.

I mean, this may be not so much in terms of building a list, but I would say when you’re sending newsletters out, you don’t want to be just selling all the time. I think it’s the same as when you’re posting on social media. If all you’re posting about is your upcoming shows and wanting people to buy your music, that’s boring. People are just going to tune out, and they’re just going to ignore your updates.

Same goes with email. If all you’re doing is selling and asking for stuff, you’re probably going to end up with people unsubscribing.

So I’d say I guess it does relate to building anyway, or the opposite of building. You want to be encouraging conversation, sharing stories and things that are going to be of interest to your audience, rather than just trying to sell them stuff and get more stuff from them.

If they feel appreciated and valued and let into your circle, that is going to help you in the long term. So it’s always about thinking about the long term goal, rather than that one quick sale that you’re going to make.

David: Yeah, this is something I do, and maybe it will help some of the listeners out there too. And I’m not saying that I have a perfect system by a long shot, but when I’m doing email campaigns, I basically have five different emails that I send out in rotation.

Not the same emails, but my first email is a question. So I’ll pose a question to the audience asking them what they think about something.

My second email will be a tip of some kind, something that I’ve found valuable.

Third will be content, so something from the website, a blog post, a podcast episode, something that was really good recently that I want to share with them.

Then the fourth email will be like a download or a guide, maybe a new eBook that I just released. I’ll let them know about that.

And then the fifth email will be some kind of announcement.

So really, out of five emails, there’s only one or two that are on the selling side. Everything else is just value interaction.

Ross: Definitely. I think that’s the way that it should be, because I feel that people need to feel that they’re getting something out of it rather than just you’re getting something out of it. It’s all about that two-way street, I think.

David: Awesome. Let’s talk design for a moment. Bottom line, depending on who you’re trying to appeal to, design, and we could even say branding, is hugely important and often needs to be tailored to the artist, individual, and really, our fans. So talk about that.

Ross: Yeah. No, I definitely think it needs to all be done per artist, which is why I don’t like any sort of pre-existing themes, templates, all that stuff.

Ross Barber on branding

I think everything should be custom to that particular artist. Because every artist is different, so why should their branding or their visuals look exactly like someone else’s?

Every artist is different, so why should their branding or their visuals look exactly like someone else's? Share on X

So for me, it always comes from the music and what they want to convey. So often, the way that I work, is I’ll listen to the music and think about what imagery it conjures up, what colors come up, if there’s anything…what tone of photography they might need, for example.

All these kind of things I get from the music. And also, from just speaking to them, themselves, because I think more and more now, branding, it’s a lot of personal branding, even if we’re talking about music.

The musician themselves, obviously, they’re a person, and they’ve got their own interests and things that they’re passionate about. And I think that has to come across, even if it’s just very subtly, in the branding.

And I think a lot of that can be done through the photography and the visual side of things. So, for me, it’s all about getting to know who they are and hearing their music and just seeing what comes out and what works alongside the audio.

David: Yeah. And that’s really abstract, but I like that. I dig the way that you’re going about crafting an image for them, listening to the music and then imagining what sort of imagery and colors come to mind. Very abstract, but artistic.

Ross: Yeah, it’s kind of weird. I did some album artwork for a client, and he had a few ideas of what kind of thing he wanted to go for. And we were trying it, but I just wasn’t really feeling any of it was really working.

And then I had a dream, and in my dream, it was the album artwork, which sounds really strange. I can remember it really vividly as to what was in my dream.

So I emailed him, and I said, “This is going to sound really weird, but I had a dream of what your album art was going to look like. Do you mind if I play around with some ideas and send it to you?”

So I sent him what I did come up with that was from my dream, and he emailed back, and he was like, “Yeah, it was really cool. All we need to do is change some of the colors, and this will be perfect.”

But it’s just really weird, because it was almost the complete opposite of what he was describing initially. And I don’t know where it came from, but it did. And it’s not overly complicated or anything. It was just what came out.

So I’ve been trying to pay attention to that more, like if I have a dream or some sort of weird, instinctual idea, even if it’s really far from what we’ve discussed, I’ll often just say, “Can I try this? You might hate it, and it might be wrong. And that’s fine.”

But I think going with your instincts is a really big thing. And I definitely find that more in the last odd year or so, I’m going with my instincts, design-wise, a lot more, even if it’s a little off, away from what we’ve discussed previously. And for the most part, it’s been working.

So that would be some general advice, go with your instincts.

David: Yeah. Well, in today’s very rational world, what you just mentioned might seem weird, but if you look back in history…and I’ve been learning a lot about Carl Jung and Wolfgang Pauli as of late, a lot of things to them also came in visions and dreams.

And to somehow add some validation to their philosophies or ideas of how the world worked came from those dreams or visions that they had. So I can definitely appreciate that.

Ross: Yeah, to me, it sounds kind of weird. But I feel if you’ve got an instinct, then just go with it. At least just try it, because you probably had that feeling for a reason.

David: And one other weird thing about design that I wanted to touch on…I don’t know if you have any thoughts on this.

We’ll say, for example, you’re an artist, and you appeal largely to maybe the 40 and up crowd. Sometimes, having a website with older design is almost more advantageous, because people are in that age range or may be more familiar with the way the web was in the late ’90s versus how websites look and function today.

Ross: Yeah, I can see that point. I would say definitely pay attention to what kind of websites that they would be familiar with. So in terms of when you’re putting the navigation and stuff together, you want to make sure that that’s somewhere that they would expect to find it.

A lot of people have the three-bar hamburger menu that you click, and it opens the full menu. I think that that is a very modern thing, and I think older people who are not as tech-savvy online in the same way that people that grew up within that have been will probably find that confusing.

So I would say that’s probably something that you would avoid if you’re designing a site that’s geared towards an older audience.

But I would say you probably still want it to be modern enough that it’s not going to turn off younger people that may still like the music, but yeah, definitely bear in mind who the target audience is, and go with something that they are going to be able to use and feel comfortable with.

David: Yeah, I like that. I was actually in the business of web and graphic design for about nine years. It’s not something I talk about that much, I guess, on the podcast.

So you and I have some things in common. But I probably wasn’t operating anywhere near your level. We just had a few clients per year, and we were somewhat profitable.

But I have to say, there was a steep learning curve, for me, anyway, especially when it came to setting expectations and timelines around the completion of projects. Have you found the same thing?

Ross: Yeah, definitely. I would say I’m still getting to grips, even though I’ve been doing it full time for around four years. Yeah, I feel like I’m still getting to grips with the pricing and timelines and all the business-y side of things, because I had no business experience prior to doing this full time.

So yeah, there’s definitely a bit of a challenge. I really enjoy all the client-facing stuff. I love talking with clients and finding out what they like and what they don’t like and how we’re going to work together and make stuff really awesome.

But yeah, when it comes to the more business aspects, the contracts and the financial side, still learning. I think I’m always going to be learning about that.

David: Yeah. Another thing I’m curious about is how you generate business on an ongoing basis. How do you keep creating leads to find your next client?

Ross: I would say in the early days, a lot of it was done through Twitter. I was getting most of my new clients through Twitter and also word of mouth. Now, it’s more so word of mouth referrals from other businesses.

There are a couple PR agencies and artist management companies that I’ve done some work with, and they quite often will refer their clients to me, and I will recommend them where it’s relevant. I get quite a lot of people just finding me through other artist websites that I’ve done.

So yeah, the main ways would be Twitter, word of mouth and other sites that I’ve done, generally.

David: Well, the social media aspect definitely fascinates me. So how does one generate business through something like Twitter?

Ross: It’s really just through having conversations with people. I never go on Twitter with the idea that I’m going to get a new client today. So I’m a big fan of Twitter lists, so a lot of times, what I’ll do when there’s someone that I find interesting musically, and I feel like I would like to work with them, I’ll add them to a Twitter list.

And I’ll keep an eye on that list. So there will be maybe like a few hundred people on that list who I’m really interesting in keeping up-to-date with their career. And if we got to work together, that would be amazing. But it’s not the only goal.

So I’ll go through that list, and I’ll like their tweets if I do genuinely like them, and I’ll have conversations with them. And sometimes, it gets to the point where we become really friendly, and then we’ll maybe become friends on Facebook. Or they’ll say, “Oh, I’ve got a couple of questions about design. Can I send you an email?” And they do.

And then sometimes, that progresses to us having a business relationship whereas they’re the client, and I’m the designer. Sometimes, it doesn’t happen that way, but they will be familiar with me that they then say, “Hey, my friend is looking for a website. Can I introduce you?”

So it’s just really about staying on people’s radar and having conversations. That’s how I find that Twitter and Facebook, to an extent, have worked for me in building my client base.

David: I can definitely attest to the power of Twitter lists.

What I’m about to say is going to sound like Neil Patel ego-stroking style, but creating a Twitter list called “Amazing Artists” or “Amazing-sounding Artists,” adding them to that list, then they see that you’ve added them to that list, then they go, “Hey, thank you. Thank you for that compliment.”

Ross: Yeah, definitely. I just think…sorry.

David: I was just going to say, obviously, you want to do that from like a genuine place, not just do it because you can.

Ross: Yeah, no, I definitely agree. I don’t like it when it feels like there’s some robotic element to being added to a list.

There’s some lists I’ve been added to, and it’s like “Web designers number five.” I’m like, “Okay, so you’ve already got five lists of web designers.”

And I’m pretty sure you can have something like 1,000 people per list, or maybe even more than that. So I’ll say, “Oh, great. Thanks. I feel really flattered that I’m added to list number five.”

But no, it definitely has to come from a genuine place. And I think, for me, Twitter lists just help me to keep everything organized, and they allow me to get the information that I want when I want it, rather than having to scroll through lots of tweets that might not really be that relevant. Yeah, it’s definitely helped me.

David: Gotcha. Yeah, exactly. If you’re active on Twitter at all, you do just kind of arbitrarily get added to various lists. And sometimes, they’re cool, and sometimes, you just go, “Hmm. Why would they bother?” Just for the heck of it, I guess.

Ross: Yeah, yeah.

David: Let’s talk a bit about Bridge the Atlantic. What are some things you’ve learned from running the podcast? It’s quite a bit of work to run it, isn’t it?

Ross: Oh, yeah. It’s a lot more work than we anticipated. I co-host this with my friend Marcio, who is in Canada, so closer to you than he is to me, I believe.

We met, actually, because he was looking for a website, so we had the whole client/business relationship going on. But we ended up getting along so well that we’d always just talk on Skype just because. And yeah, we just decided to start this show.

And I think one of the big things I’ve learned from doing it is how powerful a networking tool it can be, because there’s been so many people that I’ve come into contact with, and mostly, again, through Twitter, that I’ve always wanted to have a conversation with.

But it’s difficult to just say, “Hey, I’d love to chat. Can we Skype?” I think they would question, “Well, why do you want to Skype? You want to just talk for half an hour? I don’t get it.”

But I find that having a podcast, it gives you a reason to get in touch with these people and actually have a face-to-face conversation.

There is a producer called Jesse Cannon. He has also written a really great music industry book called Get More Fans (get it on Amazon US or Amazon Canada). I always just wanted to have a conversation with him, because I felt we were on the same kind of wavelength.

And having the podcast gave me a reason to reach out and say, “Hey, Jesse. Look, I’d love to have you on the show. We’d love to talk to you. Can we do it?” And I was quite surprised that almost instantly, within literally like two minutes, he replies, “Yeah, let’s set it up. Here’s my email.”

And the next week, I was talking with him. We were sharing stories, and he was sharing some really great business advice. And to this day, we still email back and forth a little bit.

And then if we have any questions about stuff, like if I’ve got questions that are more related to production or management, I can ask him. He’s got questions about web design, he’ll ask me.

So it’s great. So it’s been a really good way of building relationships with people that you probably wouldn’t have had a chance to jump on Skype with.

And there’s been musicians that I’ve been fans of for years, and they’ve come on the show. And it’s been nice as well just to say, “You know, I’ve listened to you for 10 years or so, and I’d like to say thanks for the music that you’ve made and the impact that you’ve had on my life. It’s been a really big deal for me.”

So that’s been great. And yeah, I’d say from a networking standpoint, it’s been amazing. But you’re right, it’s a lot of work.

David: Yeah, but I enjoy that aspect of it too, definitely connecting with people. I’ve had the chance to chat with both Marcio and Jesse on my previous podcast. This is my new podcast.

But maybe I’ll have to have them back on the new show as well, once I have the opportunity, because I still respect all my guests and like the content that I created with my previous show.

But it was just time to move on and try my hand at something a little bit different.

Yeah, it was a really good tool for that, and a learning tool as well, because you can learn from the people who share their experiences. And I like that aspect of podcasting too.

Ross: Yeah, absolutely. I just love that people can share their stories and share their experiences in a way that is entertaining, and we get to learn from them. Our listeners get to learn from them. Our audience get to meet new people, and their fans get to hear them talk in a way that a lot of people don’t really get to talk.

I think, especially when it comes to artists, everything tends to be, “Tell us about your new music. Tell us about your tour, and all this kind of stuff,” whereas we want to get to know them a little bit more on a more personal level and then also find out more about what their approach is to the music industry, especially if they’ve had particular success in a specific area.

Maybe it’s like syncing licensing or maybe they’ve done a really great crowd-funding campaign. We want to find out about that.

So their fans get to know them a little bit more on the personal level, but then other artists can learn from them on the more industry, business kind of level.

David: And that’s similar to what I was saying to Marcio as well, because when I was researching before our interview, just looked at some of the videos that were out there. The TV show format of interview is just, “When is your next show? What’s your latest release?” Like a couple of quick questions, and then they just want you to play.

So that doesn’t provide…I mean, it might be good press and everything. It just doesn’t provide an opportunity to share one’s story. So I think it’s awesome that you’re providing a forum for that.

Ross: Thank you. Yeah, well, I’m definitely having a lot of fun with it. I mean, I know I say it’s a lot of work. But the fun, I think, definitely outweighs the work part of it. And people seem to be liking it. So yeah, I’m very grateful for that.

David: Yeah, I think that the biggest thing that I noticed was I was doing monthly for a long time. I had fun with it, didn’t care that it was a lot of work.

Then I moved to like bi-weekly and weekly. By the time I had done weekly for several years, I went, “Oh, my goodness. This is way more work than I even ever realized.”

Ross: Yeah, definitely. That’s why we try and stay ahead of ourselves. We try and have at least four episodes lined up, recorded and edited and scheduled out, so that we don’t have that frantic kind of, “Ah, we don’t have an episode for this week. What are we going to do?”

Because I feel like that would be a lot of stress, and we wouldn’t get the kind of quality that we’re looking for. So I think planning ahead has definitely helped us out.

That’s something we learned quite early on, that we needed to have that kind of buffer in place. Otherwise, it would just be unmanageable, because we were both doing our own things.

I’m running my design business, and Marcio is a full-time musician and dad. So he’s got a lot going on. So in order for us to do everything we needed to do, we had to be organized. And I think that organization helps in every aspect.

David: Yeah, good tip. Every podcaster should definitely try to stay ahead.

What are some valuable things that you learned from the guests you’ve had on Bridge the Atlantic? Is there anything that really strikes you as being particularly interesting?

Ross: There’s one of our guests, and I can’t remember if she actually was talking about this on the show or if this was in our post-show chat. So I’m not going to mention who it was.

But she was talking about how a lot of fans don’t realize how little money musicians sometimes make, and they may have a false idea of how financially successful they are based on some of the stuff they’ve done, whether they’ve been like a finalist on one of the reality shows like The Voice or American Idol. Or they may have this perceived image of success that isn’t actually real.

And what she was saying to me was a lot of her fans were asking, “Well, why don’t you tour? Why aren’t you touring? Why can’t I come and see you?”

And her response was, “Well, by the time I’ve paid my band,” because it’s a pretty big kind of band that she would need for her performances, “there’s no money left. I don’t have the backing of a label behind me. I’m funding everything myself. And that’s why I don’t tour.”

And that struck me. We actually spoke probably for over an hour after the interview about all this stuff, and it just made me think, there needs to be a way for artists and fans to have a bit more of an open conversation and ways for artists to encourage their audience to support them in a way… they’re not begging for money, they’re not sounding desperate.

But it’s putting all the facts out there and letting the fans see the reality of the situation.

So because of that conversation and a blog post that I wrote, I decided that I was going to write a book geared towards how to build relationships with others in the industry and with your fans in a way that we can have a bit more of a transparent conversation and hopefully, generate more support all around.

So I’m in the super, super early stages of the book. But that came about, really, by having that conversation with her. So that would be one of the big things that I’ve learned.

To be honest, there’s been so much. In fact, at the time of recording this, we’ve done probably around 85 interviews. They’re not all released yet, but we’ve done so many.

So it’s hard to think of specific bits of advice that come up, but there’s been a lot. I probably need to go back and have a look through some of the notes to really be reminded.

But that was definitely a big one, personally, for me, because it made me think a lot about… I probably am guilty a little bit too, thinking that certain artists are really successful because they appear to be successful, whereas that may not be the reality.

And I think if more of us knew more about the costs of everything that the artists have to pay out, it may make us more likely to actually go to their show instead of not going to their show, if that makes sense.

David: No, I think that’s a really great story. I think I listened to your interview on the Nice Guys on Business podcast. At that point, you were still balking at the idea of a book, it seems like.

Ross: Yeah, I know. Actually, that was before I decided to write a book. And it was actually after I had a conversation with Jesse Cannon on his podcast that it came out that I was going to write it, because I think that interview happened somewhere in between the Nice Guys interview and this interview I did on Jesse’s show. So yeah.

David: Well, that’s a neat experience. I just came out with physical copies of my book earlier this year, and the digital copies came out last year in June. So yeah, it’s a really neat process. And if you have any questions…

Ross: Oh, I’m sure. You’re going to regret asking that, because I’m probably going to have a ton of questions.

David: I’m happy to help.

Ross: Cool. Yeah, I need to actually just write the thing first. So that’s task number one, is write it and then I’ll deal with all the stuff that needs to happen for it to actually become a real thing.

But I’m excited about it. I’m excited. I still got work to do myself in figuring out the exact direction and all the points that I want to make. But I definitely am feeling excited by it.

David: Awesome. Yeah, it’s a lot of work, but I think the 1,000-word a day model works pretty well.

Ross: Cool. I think once I start writing, I’m pretty good at keeping going. It’s actually just starting that seems to be the big thing for me.

But once I get started, I often write too much, and then have to take stuff out. But I think that’s probably how it’s going to go for me.

David: Yeah, that’s how we all start. We create really bad first drafts. So I wouldn’t fear that too much.

And speaking of which, are there any books you’ve read recently or in the past that have really impacted your thinking or approach to your career?

Ross: I don’t really do as much reading as I should do, to be honest. Most of the reading that I’ve done has just been on blogs and stuff and listening to a lot of podcasts. What have I read lately? I read a book by…I’m trying to think how to pronounce his name, Jeff Leisawitz called No F*ing Around (get it on Amazon US or Amazon Canada).

And it was like a really small pocket-size book. And it’s more just motivation and inspirational short…not quite stories, but really short little sections about creativity and making a living as a creative person.

So I’d definitely say that his book’s worth checking out. It’s really short. I read it on a 45-minute flight to London. So you can read it in one go.

And Jesse Cannon’s book is probably the last kind of big music industry book that I’ve read. Get More Fans: The DIY Guide To The Music Business, I think is the full name.

But it was excellent. It’s the one that I recommend to everyone if anyone ever asks me for a music industry book because it’s pretty comprehensive.

It’s a long one, it’s over 700 pages, but it answers pretty much all the questions that you would have for getting started as a musician and making things actually work for you.

David: Very cool. And I am planning on reading that as well. We’re just about coming to that time where we need to wrap up, but is there anything else I should have asked?

Ross: No, I think you’ve done a pretty awesome job. I think we covered some of the big points.

No, I don’t think there’s anything else you should have asked, unless you feel like there’s anything else you should have asked.

David: No, I think that was a great conversation. So where can people find you online? And is there anything else you want to plug?

Ross: Best place to find me is my website, which is electrickiwi.co.uk, that’s C-O-dot-U-K.

I’m on Twitter, most of the time. My name on there is electrickiwi, same for Instagram, also electrickiwi. And Facebook is Electric Kiwi Design.

And if you want to check out my podcast, I’d love you to hop on over and see what we’re doing. It’s called Bridge the Atlantic, you’ll find us on YouTube and iTunes. The website address is bridge-the-atlantic.com

David: Awesome. Thanks so much for joining me today, Ross, and thank you for your generosity.

Ross: Thanks so much.

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002 – Writing and Promoting a Music Marketing Book – with James Moore of Independent Music Promotions

David Andrew Wiebe and James Moore hop on Skype to chat about self-publishing and book promotion, guest blogging, music marketing, delegating responsibilities within a company, books they’re reading, and much more.

Podcast Highlights:

  • 01:14 – How well has your book done?
  • 04:49 – Book promotion strategies
  • 08:04 – Are musicians taking advantage of online resources?
  • 10:06 – How to communicate as a musician online
  • 14:42 – Will you be publishing more books?
  • 16:10 – Balancing your entrepreneurial lifestyle
  • 17:24 – What is Independent Music Promotions?
  • 20:48 – The importance of music marketing
  • 22:58 – Hiring and delegating
  • 24:56 – What advice do you have for anyone writing a book about the music industry?
  • 27:39 – What is the most profitable aspect of your business?
  • 28:19 – How do you get Amazon reviews for your book?
  • 30:39 – What kinds of content do musicians engage with most?
  • 34:18 – What are some good sites for music marketers to guest post on?
  • 35:48 – What are some of the biggest things you’ve learned about music promotion?
  • 38:52 – What books have impacted you?
  • 42:26 – What role do you play in your business?

Tweet These Quotes:

  • My main idea about promotion, no matter the genre, is just to get in front of your audience somehow. – Tweet This
  • Someone could see your guest post three years from now and contact you. – Tweet This
  • I think actionable things are critical for musicians. – Tweet This

Transcription:

David: I’m with James Moore, CEO of Independent Music Promotions and author of Your Band Is A Virus (get it on Amazon). You also wrote the foreword for my new book and frankly my book wouldn’t be what it is if you hadn’t stepped in and asked, “is that it?” So is there anything else you would like to add to that introduction James?

James: No, that is perfect. Thanks so much for having me.

David: It’s a real pleasure to be able to talk to you and we have gone back and forth on email over the years, I guess ever since I was blogging with TuneCity. So it’s good to be able to finally have a real chat.

Before going any further, I want to let both you and the listeners that I’m going to be asking a lot of selfish questions today. So it’s going to be a little different from the interviews I used to do. It might be kind of like listening in on a conversation at Starbucks or maybe even a mastermind call.

James: That’s the best way to do it.

David: Yeah, I think so. So you certainly don’t have to give me any number,s but how well would you say your book has done over the last few years? You kind of mentioned earlier that it’s almost served more of a purpose of being a calling card than anything else, right?

James: Yeah, as far as the sales themselves, you know, both digitally through Amazon and also through Amazon’s CreateSpace, physically, I don’t have the exact number. It’s likely close to 5,000 sales but, you know, I mean, over time, it’s really become apparent to me that the main benefit of writing a book like that is really the calling card purpose, you know.

So many good people and good musicians have found me through reading an excerpt that I offered to, you know, a blog or a guest post that I wrote. You know, some of them bought it off of Amazon and then read it, say, a year ago and then they just had it in their mind that they wanted to work with me.

So that helped their intention, you know, to sort of get everything done and as the years progressed, they have the studio time and do their mastering, get their graphic designer ready and then they approach me and it’s really a good feeling and my favorite part of it, those kind of one-and-done endeavors is, you know, there can be a lot of procrastination involved and it can be difficult for people to finish whether it’s an album or whether it’s a book or something like that. But once it’s done, it’s permanent, and it can benefit you permanently. So it’s been great, yeah.

David: It’s true, yeah, it can be very much the same way with recording on CD or a book, you end up procrastinating or you just don’t get around to putting the finishing touches on it and then it can sort of be a drawn-out process.

But you mentioned CreateSpace, you know, I was kind of dumb and I found out about CreateSpace later, so then I have a separate distributor for my e-book and for my paperback version or physical version of the book. Did you go about it the same way as well, or are both offered through CreateSpace?

James: It wasn’t until later that I discovered CreateSpace. So by the time I released the expanded version, the 2012 one, I believe I released both at the same time and CreateSpace is just linked to Amazon when you publish digitally.

David: Yeah.

James: So, yeah, very simple. I mean, I think if people knew how simple it was, more of us would do it for sure.

David: Exactly. I think if you’re going to be self-publishing some kind of book then CreateSpace seems to be the way to go and it’s probably where all future releases I put out will probably go through.

James: Yeah.

David: What are some book promotion strategies that have worked well for you?

James: My main idea about promotion, no matter the genre, is just to get in front of your audience somehow.

My main idea about promotion, no matter the genre, is just to get in front of your audience somehow. Share on X

So, you know, luckily, I mean I was kind of surprised when I got into the music marketing and music promotion niche that it’s actually quite small and it’s, I mean, it’s actually shocking how few searches there are for general terms like music promotion, music marketing, which really makes me wonder how many musicians are actually digging in and, you know, interested in this stuff. But that also made it easier for me to know who to reach out to.

So pretty much any music industry publication, music marketing publication, podcast like this one, anywhere that musicians are looking for information or resources for advice, I wanted to, you know, personally reach out to all those place that I could, usually offering exclusive content that tends to be what they want.

So whether that be an original guest post on aspects of marketing, an interview, maybe an exclusive excerpt from the book and, you know, it was a really great community.

I ended up just getting a lot of support, you know, book reviews as well on industry sites. It was kind of a grueling process. I did that intensely for about three months and I still to do it to this day but, you know, lesser.

But the thing that I enjoyed about the process is once again, it helps you permanently. Every article, every guest post, you should never think that it’s work because someone could see that three years from now and contact you. So it’s great.

Every article, every guest post, you should never think that it's work because someone could see that three years from now and contact you. So it's great. Share on X

David: Yeah, I have found that to be true and with guest blogging, it’s something I always enjoy doing. I just kind of go like, “Oh, right, I have my own blog, too. So how do I manage and fit it all in?”

James: Exactly, yeah.

David: And these days I am trying to leverage my connections and kind of ask them if they would be willing to share about their latest album release or something like that for my blog.

Sometimes I feel like the content they produce is, I don’t want to say better, it’s just a different perspective than what I might have to say on the subject and people enjoy almost that candid review into what an artist’s process is.

James: Yeah, I agree.

David: And also interesting what you said about searches and keywords. I was looking at Google Trends recently, so there are a couple of things that I found depressing.

One being that “music” as a search term is kind of just slowly dying off. And to be replaced by sort of some longer-tail keywords. I actually found out that “online music promotion” is apparently a trending term right now, so it’s interesting to see but I think you’re right, there may not necessarily be a ton of artists online reading and looking for things actively.

James: Yeah, I think, you know, just like any area of life, there’s different kinds of people and, you know, there is a lot of people who don’t really want to take the time to learn how to do something, I don’t know if properly is the right word, but you know, they kind of, they’d rather sort of shout from the rooftops of their social media profiles and just think,

I mean, I can understand that because you know, you have a status saying, check out my band or if you say, spam, you know, a thousand Facebook groups, “Check out my band, check out my band,” then it’s easy to sort of write it off in your mind and say, “Well, I did my part and then now it’s up to the people, they just need to listen.”

But I don’t know, I think it’s really important to sort of call yourself on your own lies, you know?

David: No, that’s funny to me totally because sometimes the only promotion I do for a blog post is it automatically gets tweeted out and shared on Facebook and Tumblr and places like that. I think it’s, you know, it has to be some kind of gateway into the blog post or people would never even want to check it out.

But sometimes I agree, you know, you’re just as guilty of not, I guess framing your promotion within a story or a message that will actually attract people to it.

James: Yeah, or even doing things in the right place and the right context is really important. Like a lot of artists reach out to individuals and companies through their Facebook page and I had a close friend of mine tell me recently, it sounds a little off-topic but it’s not. He said, “I reached out to Bill Burrow on his Facebook page and he never responded.”

So I told him, I said, and this is what a lot of artists don’t know, never, ever, ever reach out to someone through their Facebook page. That may sound strange. I’m talking about not the personal page but the actual, the profile page. It may sound odd but over the last five years, I know this is true for just about everyone else, through the IMP Facebook page, I would say that 99.99999% of the messages have been spam. Like complete spam, not personal at all, and completely off-topic and not even clear as to what they want.

You know, they would be saying, “Share this,” “Come to my concert in Liverpool,” or wherever. “Write for us,” that kind of thing.

But the way to get hold of someone is always their official site. How much engagement are you going to have in messages if it’s that much spam?

So a lot of artists are going around doing that, just messaging, messaging, messaging these music Facebook pages and it’s all to no avail. So for anyone listening out there, it’s all spam.

David: Yeah, what is it about us, you know, music marketer or consultant types that seem to attract all these weirdos that want to work with us or they say they want to work with us but I mean there is absolutely no context provided for what the arrangements are going to be or what they’re after and then maybe they’re looking for a record label, you go, “That’s not what I do.”

James: Yeah, exactly, or you know, another example is sort of posting on the page either as a comment or the post to page feature on Facebook. That is almost 100% spam as well.

So it’s just, I think musicians would see a lot more results if they just, when they want to contact someone, use the official site contact form, you know?

David: Yeah. And my tip there is always to personalize. I’ve even seen messages from various marketers that maybe want me to share their content or have a look at it and I’m always open to that, I love to do that kind of stuff.

It’s just more of a thing of, well, you know, try to address what’s in it for me first or at least say, “Hey, I loved your latest guide that you published over here. Could you take a look at mine, too,” kind of thing.

James: Yeah, exactly. You know, I think also the mutual benefit is a good thing to frame. If you’re offering a guest post or some sort of mutual promotion stating that you’ll be sharing their work in return for something, maybe a social media follow. Just kind of saying, it’s critical to be clear in your communication.

I get a lot of emails where it’s clear that they’re musicians and they have a link and they would definitely like me to check it out, but there is no clear stating of what you want and you’ll get so much higher results if you are able to just communicate what you want. That’s a big thing like in business and in any aspect of life.

David: Exactly, just kind of stating what the value is upfront and then sharing what it is that you’re after, I agree.

James: Yeah.

David: Do you have plans of releasing more books in the future?

James: Not at the moment. Things are quite busy with IMP. So my day-to-day is really kind of uni-tasking on artist campaigns and looking at new ways to expand the results we get and, you know, be able to deliver more for the artist. So that’s where most of my research lies.

So less time for the writing. But it could definitely happen. I mean, I’m always reading new music business information. But I think it would have to revolve around new central ideas that are not fleshed out yet.

For the moment and I’m very happy in my day-to-day and lately a lot of, besides IMP, it’s just about balancing. I’ve had my head down this business for years now and you need to also have balance in your life: meditation, exercise, all that stuff, family.

David: Right. Absolutely. I think so often what we fail to do, I guess, is either as kind of freelancers, self-initiators, or entrepreneurs, is delegating. We don’t leverage the connections we have, we don’t hire people, we don’t assign tasks to other people that are totally capable of handling them and then we would lose that balance that is needed if you want to take care of yourself and have health and exercise and have a family life, then leveraging tools and systems and people is huge.

James: Yeah, and, you know, also there is this tendency to think that if you don’t work all the way through that you won’t get as much done. But you actually get a lot more done when your life is balanced and work has its place and it shouldn’t be the whole day. Work has it’s place and you can approach everything fresh.

You actually get a lot more done when your life is balanced and work has its place and it shouldn't be the whole day. Share on X

David: It’s a tricky one and I’m still figuring that one out for sure. So why don’t we talk a little bit about what Independent Music Promotions does and what it offers artists?

James: Sure. Well, I started Independent Music Promotions just first of all like as an extension of my own personal tastes. So I tend to be into anything that I can feel, that I experience as, “Ah, that’s the real stuff.”

So I mean, for me personally that takes me…I grew up on everything from Nirvana and The Beatles to Tom Waits, Public Enemy, PJ Harvey. It’s a wide variety and I’ve gotten into just about everything since then.

But I wanted to start a PR company that was choosy, so saying no to certain genres like idol pop and the music that I see as just straight to radio, you know, possibly just for the business side of it. So I thought it would be unique to have a company in this niche that isn’t the most respected, but do it with a kind of DIY spirit. So there is that aspect and that’s how I got the music with depth niche.

The other thing that I wanted to do was have a guaranteed model because, you know, I found that there is too many artists coming away from PR companies basically getting told, “Sorry, nothing stuck to the wall. We sent you to our contacts and you didn’t get covered.”

That to me, I don’t like that model. I think that, you know, it’s your responsibility if you’re in the promotion field to, you know, to have a sense when you say “yes”, when you choose an artist, that you have an idea out of your contacts who is going to really be into them and you have a strong idea that they’re going to get covered. So I don’t think there is any excuse for getting no coverage for artists.

So yeah, that’s what IMP does basically. We are a niche press based service. We deliver reviews, interviews, features in blogs, magazines, music, and other publications. And we also service internet radio and podcasts.

And yeah, like I said, we have that DIY mentality and I take on artists that…I do all the choosing of the artist myself and I run the campaigns and I choose artists that I really like and I like the people as well.

David: Yeah. I think referring back to something you said earlier, there isn’t enough people doing kind of the music marketing side of things out there. I actually chatted with Derek Sivers but that was many years ago now.

But he kind of hinted at the idea that music marketing or marketing as a service will always be something that’s valuable and I feel like in today’s crowded space that’s never been more true.

James: I think so, too, and it’s, you know, largely because time is extremely valuable. That’s the reason why any service, you know…that’s the reason why you may pay someone to clean your house or do your website, because there’s a lot of things that you technically could do yourself, or you could spend the time to learn how to do something yourself, but when you’re trying to achieve something, outsourcing is critical.

And I do it myself. With IMP over the years I worked with a professional SEO specialist and that helped greatly with that web presence. I worked with a Google AdWords professional. Yeah, I mean, because basically those were things that I’ve since learned quite a bit about.

But, I mean, it would have been way too taxing to wear every hat. So really that’s, I mean, that’s where we come in for artists. The way I see a musician, I think that they should be at the heart of it, that they should be pulling all the strings. So everything needs to be covered. If you can’t cover yourself, you have to outsource.

David: I think those are some great tips right there, and maybe to alleviate any fears that might exist around hiring or bringing someone on board to do other work, I don’t know if anybody listening would agree but I find that when I do hire somebody on, generally it’s an opportunity to grow the business and to focus on creating more revenue models, and when I do hire somebody, the business actually grows and it’s not a huge burden or an expense, most of the time.

James: Yeah, I think so, too. I mean, you know, it’s really a question of everything is all mine, now, it tends to be. So if someone does a good job, like if I’m going to go to a T-shirt manufacturer for my band, I’m going to do the Google research first. I would see what the feedback is about them. Make sure no one is complaining. “Your shirts look horrible,” or anything like that, right?

Because everything is so public and if someone’s unhappy these days, you can bet they’re going online because when you feel jipped, you want to ruin that person or that business. Everything is very public, so in deciding who to go with or whatever you’re looking for, Google has the answers usually.

David: Yeah, those are great tips for finding the right people as well because you won’t always be meeting people in person that do SEO or do PPC ads.

James: Yeah.

David: Yeah. I think you definitely want to see what people are saying about them if possible. So I’m bouncing around a little bit and it’s sort of a funny question because you actually gave me a lot of advice for my book, but what advice would you have for anyone that’s writing a book about the music industry today?

James: I would say, I mean, all perspectives are valuable because they’re unique. I think that the only reason why I found that a lot of musicians related to my book is because I felt free to just express myself according to my own experience, philosophically, spiritually, and granted, my own opinions and values are in that book so not everyone may agree with it, but I would just say let it resonate with you. Don’t try to be any other character. If people are going to relate to it, it’s going to be your inner feeling.

I guess the other advice will be to finish it. Finish it because once you’re finished, it is so simple to do the rest of the publishing.

Like I have a friend, a close friend of mine who is going to be publishing a book in the next few months and he put it off for a couple of years because in his mind, he said he didn’t know what the next steps were. He thought that the editing was this huge process and, “Oh, how do I get it published and do I have to shop around?” And a lot of people might say, “Yeah, you know, here is the process for getting a publisher and all that.”

I told him, ,”No, just simplify, just self-publish, it’s very easy. You can get an editor through Craigslist. Check out their work, they’re professional. Can they convert to Kindle format, all of that? Easy breezy.” So I think it’s important not to make a mountain out of the very quick and simple process at the end.

David: Yeah, and to affirm what you’re saying, this book for me was, I mean, the first version of it was scrapped entirely and I started from scratch because I wanted to write something that was true to me.

So I totally agree, I think it’s important to write something that resonates with you. And I can sort of guess from the many things I’ve heard about books that your answer to this question isn’t going to be your book, but what would you say is the most profitable aspect of your business?

James: I would say it would be the campaign services themselves. That is really, I mean, at first it was the book, but you know, as the book gets older, it’s selling less and less. So yeah, it’s definitely the day-to-day of the business, the actual campaigns.

David: Makes sense.

James: Yeah.

David: How do you get positive customer reviews for your book on Amazon? Is it kind of a numbers game, or do you have to kind of directly ask your following to go and do it?

James: Yeah, I definitely try to direct as many people as I could. If I get an email from someone whose letting me know why they appreciate the book, I try not to waste that opportunity and, you know, let them know I’d appreciate it if they took a moment and left an Amazon review, because pretty early on I found that…I mean, Amazon’s network is pretty incredible. And the way that it’s setup, it’s a little different than Facebook and Google because Facebook and Google continually change their rules, whereas Amazon is one of the few websites in sales or online stores that the way that they have everything set up actually makes a lot of sense. It’s really consistent. People who bought this also bought this. Like their whole recommendation software is brilliant.

So the more sales you get, every review that you get really does a lot in establishing you in their network. So yeah, I definitely try to push it as much as possible.

David: Yeah, and I guess it’s similar with podcasting as well, where if you’re in iTunes and you get a bunch of reviews, it increases your exposure to more people. So I’ve heard it works pretty similar on Amazon with when you get more customer reviews.

James: Yeah, exactly. You’re right about iTunes, people want to be where the high lives, you know? So if you see a lot of feedback, a lot of five star reviews, the curiosity comes in right away. Whereas if there is nothing there, it’s kind of ironic but you need people to be there for more people to get there.

David: Yeah. In your experience, what types of content do musicians tend to engage with most?

James: I mean, I think that with whatever you’re doing you tend to be your own customer. So like I ended up writing Your Band Is A Virus because I wasn’t really pleased with some of the music marketing books out at the time and I didn’t find them to be actionable enough, there was a lot of stories that I didn’t feel were relevant.

So I think musicians tend to really like if there is two things. One is actionable things. Something they can do right now. One of the main faults of motivational and entrepreneurial books and that whole genre is that you could read books from the most successful businessmen and really have nothing to show for it as far as an action plan. Whereas, if you get actionable advice, like if you get for example the Facebook advertising technique of a CEO of a big business, now that’s something. Then you can login and set that up right away. Implement it and you are moving.

So I think actionable things are critical for musicians. The musician reads an article about, say, Patreon and it tells them how to set the profile and how to get going there, how to start promoting it. Now that’s really exciting because they can do it now.

The other thing I think musicians value is maybe completely revolutionizing a point of view. Like if they read an article on something that is totally counterintuitive to how they were thinking before, and it gives them a new inspiration, they figure they can act on that, too. At least those are the two things that excited me.

David: Well, I know what you mean. I read a book per week and there is a definitely, you know, a percentage of them that are inspiring and possibly even life changing and cause me to act, and then there is the other type of book which sort of, it might even be well intended but somehow doesn’t really inspire any action within my life.

And that difference can often be subtle but you want to continue to find those books, I guess, or write content if you’re a content creator, the kinds of things that people can immediately take action on even if it is maybe a huge project or task that they’re going to have to undertake.

James: Yeah, like I find when I’m reading. you’re scanning for a wake up moment, you know? And there’s moments where you’re reading through and you’re reading through and you come to the conclusion, no this is all kind of filler. But yeah, the goal is the opposite.

David: Yeah. In your experience, what are some good places for music consultants or music marketers to guest post on?

James: Music Think Tank is a bit of a nexus for the industry and a lot of musicians read their articles because just about everybody posts on there and as a result they choose the best material for the main feed on the front page, so it tends to be a really valuable mixture of ideas.

Sites like Sonicbids and Bandzoogle, they all have their own blogs. Performer Magazine, I have gotten to write for them a few times and they definitely have some good articles on there. Quite a few, there is quite a few really good independent music industry sites for musicians out there that normally come under the terms music marketing blog, music promotion blog. Lots of great podcasts, too.

David: Yeah, I figured Music Think Tank would probably come up. I’ve been thinking about posting there for them. Again, I have to stop thinking about it and actually do it.

You’re in the music promotion world so I would like to ask, what are some of the biggest things you’ve learned about music promotion?

James: I think I constantly learn about really the perseverance and resilience it takes to continue on your path as a musician and not be dissuaded. I see a lot of artists get bent out of shape if they’re not famous within two weeks or they’re not in the biggest magazine in the world.

And then I’ve seen artists who are much bigger, much further along, just consistently hard working and they are the humblest and yet the most passionate, but what I see basically is how the inner attitude, or the inner passion, really is what it’s about in this life. And it’s those kinds of people who celebrate every small success and just continue walking on their path. It’s those people who succeed and it’s the people who hold negative ideas and kind of throw tantrums when something doesn’t go right, those people never do well.

The other thing I’m really an advocate of is doing rather than demanding analytics. Artists who demand analytics from the starting line, I find they don’t do well either, because they always find reasons not to act, not to advertise, not to move forward with whatever the next step for their project is because they can’t see that it’s a 100% chance, definitely going to be profitable within 30 days. So that’s something I really take to heart. I just do, I like trying things. I like jumping in.

David: That makes a lot of sense to me, too, sort of having a long-term perspective and being positive, you know, things happen to everybody and all we have is a choice and how we respond and the attitude we have towards it.

James: Yeah, you just said the perfect term, long term perspective. It’s so important and it’s easy to lose, like if you have a short terms perspective, you’re going to be upset all the time.

David: Yeah. Absolutely. We’ve been talking a lot about books, so are there any books you’ve read recently on the past that have really impacted your thinking or approach to your career?

James: Well, as far as in the music, I tend to read a lot of books on meditation, spirituality, stuff like that. That tends to be a lot of my daily reading but as far as music business books, one that I was really impressed by and I do recommend to artists because it has a really nice overview of most aspects of the industry, it’s called Get More Fans: The DIY Guide To The New Music Business (get it on Amazon) and it’s by Jesse Cannon and Todd Thomas. But yeah, if you look up “Get More Fans” on Amazon, it’s really good and, you know, they’ve worked with, these guys have worked with bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan and I just thought it was well done.

David: Yeah, that’s funny because I actually chatted with Jesse Cannon a couple of months back and it makes sense based on everything that he mentioned, I could see how his philosophy would kind of match with yours as well and why you would take to that book. I definitely need to read it, too.

James: Yeah, because I mean, I’m always learning, too, and like I have no affiliation with Jesse other than sending him an email to thank him for the book, but yeah, I like to kind of pass it onto my musician audience if I find something that’s really good because, it’s kind of where you find something with the right intentions and high quality.

David: Yeah. You can also mention, maybe, one business book or one personal development book that’s really, that you’ve really taken to right now, if you’d like.

James: Yeah. Well this book is, it’s really old at this point but I think to change…like as a potential life changer Timothy Ferriss, The 4-Hour Workweek (get it on Amazon), that is probably the first book that inspired me to go it alone, to work for myself, to release a book and to work at it, you know, and you try a few things and you fail, and then you keep on going because the mindset is no nine to five. I’m going to provide a service, I’m going to create a niche, I’m going to do it myself. So The 4-Hour Workweek is really, it’s more important now as a complete attitude-shifter than anything else. But I highly recommend it.

David: Awesome. Heard so much about it, haven’t read it yet. I will definitely need to, I think it’s on my list.

James: Yeah.

David: I’ll look into that. And I guess to wrap up this interview, I want to ask a few business questions. Unfortunately we could probably talk about business for hours because everybody kind of has it setup differently, you know, there’s unique aspects to business that we couldn’t probably distill into 10, 20 minutes.

But one question I have for you now is, how do you see your role? Obviously you’re CEO but some CEOs or founders kind of see their role as marketing, but depending on how the business is structured they might see it as the product too, so what does yours look like?

James: As far as, sorry, could you repeat the last part there?

David: Sure, I was just saying that some business owners kind of see their primary role as marketing, right? So if as an owner like they go, “Okay, my number one thing is to make sure that we get more clients and that’s my focus.” Whereas depending on how the business is setup, some business owners view the product as their primary responsibility because maybe that product is tied to how they market it or the ecosystem of the business itself.

James: Yeah. As far as my role, my main job is to make sure that every single campaign gets the attention it deserves and I put myself in the client’s shoes. So I have certain standards of what they need to receive in a campaign. So that’s really my job is working with good people and making sure that they get the resume boost, the press boost, you know, that I promise on the site and so that’s the main role.

And as far as information, our articles on the site, having chats like this, it’s basically just to be honest about what I know, what I don’t know, what I feel works. So providing value in both those roles. That’s the only thing that can make me sort of once I finish my work day, all right, I feel good about it and I can put that in its proper place rather than have lingering worries or anything like that.

David: Yeah, and I guess that’s probably partly where the distribution of responsibilities goes, right? It’s just the infrastructure of your business to use a kind of a big word. But it’s really just about how is it set up, right? What other people, what are their roles and how do they execute on a daily basis kind of thing.

James: Yeah. Well, and that’s why I’ve managed every campaign myself, because I wouldn’t really want to hand it over, at least at this point. I work with many people quite closely, bloggers and journalists and press release writers and so forth, but yeah, I prefer to run everything myself.

David: Yeah, I totally understand that. Have your finger on the pulse of the work that you’re trying to do for your clients, right, because you care about the outcome. So I can certainly appreciate that. Well, is there anything you would like to plug and where can we connect with you online?

James: You can get through to me through independentmusicpromotions.com. That’s the best place, I mean, artists will find hundreds of music marketing articles. We have some great writers on the site and it’s also the best place to find out about what we do and get a hold of me. Yeah, and that’s mainly what I’m doing these days.

David: Awesome. Well thank you so much for your transparency and generosity in sharing all this information with us. It’s definitely been quite juicy.

James: Well thanks so much for having me.

David: All right. Thanks, I hope to chat again soon.

James: Yeah, you, too.

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001 – How to Create Compelling Products and Landing Pages – with Bob Baker of The Buzz Factor

In one of David Andrew Wiebe’s most in-depth interviews, David invites creative extraordinaire Bob Baker to share about self-publishing, sales pages, landing pages, guest blogging, creative entrepreneurship, and much more.

Podcast Highlights:

  • 00:46 – Creating information products for musicians and creatives
  • 10:32 – Curtailing information overwhelm
  • 12:59 – How to create great landing pages
  • 17:47 – Creating products versus marketing
  • 19:04 – Do’s and don’ts of sales pages
  • 24:06 – Creating a worthwhile experience for the people consuming your products
  • 32:44 – The Creative Entrepreneur podcast
  • 40:47 – Choosing your focus
  • 42:45 – What did you learn from talking to so many notable entrepreneurs?
  • 45:24 – What common beliefs are holding artists back?
  • 49:47 – What it means to be a musician in the information age
  • 55:00 – How do you get press and media coverage?
  • 59:05 – Guest posting strategy
  • 1:02:51 – The importance of your mission above your goals
  • 1:07:15 – What books have impacted you?

Tweet These Quotes:

  • Take an active role and get on friendlier terms with marketing and the sharing of music and don’t curse it. – Tweet This
  • You owe it to yourself to pursue that creative thing and do it on whatever level is right for you. – Tweet This
  • Marketing should be an extension of the creative process, not something that’s separate from it. – Tweet This
  • An image is really powerful, so everybody should be using images in their communication. – Tweet This
  • Let’s go back to – instead of tricking people – really just having kickass content. – Tweet This

Transcription:

David: My guest today is Bob Baker from thebuzzfactor.com, diycareermanifesto.com, and other domains. And in case you’ve never heard of Bob, which is maybe possible, he’s a music marketing and creativity expert with many information products to his name. You’re welcome to add to that description, but how are you today, Bob?

Bob: David, I’m doing great. And thanks for the invite to come on the show. I’m looking forward to chatting about music and entrepreneurship and all that good stuff.

David: Yeah, me too. I think this has kind of been long overdue.

But there’s a lot of talk online right now, and even in the past, I guess, about creating products that people actually want. So how do you approach creating information products for musicians and creative people?

Bob: Yeah, well that’s something that I’ve been doing for a long time, and it is a learned skill. So there are two things that I’m very lucky that I think that I discovered early on, like the things that I was drawn to doing.

Like I know they say “find your passion” or whatever and that means different things to different people, and not everyone kind of knows. But since an early age I was drawn to music, one, back in grade school, and even predating that to the written word. It’s just something I was drawn to. I was writing stories and things on my own outside of school work. And music was something that was…and I didn’t have anybody like family members or friends that were musicians who inspired me. It was just something I was drawn to music and wanted to play it. And eventually, well yea. By middle school, learned the guitar.

And so anyway, yeah, so I combined these two passions and started publishing a local music newspaper here. I live in St. Louis, Missouri which is in the Midwest about a five-hour drive south of Chicago in the States. And so, yeah, but I had no previous experience publishing a newspaper. I never worked at a school paper. I never really took journalism classes. I just kind of jumped into it but I learned a lot during those years about serving an audience, and this really was about the readers because the money that came into this newspaper that I published was from the advertisers and they wanted more readers and more distribution and more eyeballs. And so I learned, well what do my readers want?

And then that evolved into columns and tips from musicians and then workshops and the work that I’d been doing for the past two-plus decades. And so yeah, there is a whole art to figuring out what…who your audience is and then in the non-fiction information product space, what do they want to learn? What are their biggest problems, their biggest challenges, how can you solve them? So that’s one aspect of it.

And then there’s this whole aspect of creating it in a way that people will actually learn from it and then take the stuff and act on it. And so that’s a whole skill in itself in taking it. What’s the topic? What’s the scope? Is it going to be the be-all complete guide to everything you want to know about whatever this topic is?

More and more in recent years what I’m doing is actually I like the idea of creating a greater number of products on really more specific aspects of a larger topic like music marketing. There’s publicity, there’s social media within that. There’s one thing just on how to create your website and all the elements that go into that. And so I’m probably doing more to that, being more…going deeper into a specific slice of it.

But knowing how to present that information in order that it makes sense and it’s something that…and one thing that I think has served me well is my writing is very conversational. And I come it from a musicians and an artist standpoint, not like from an academic, above all…so, yeah, there’s kind of a wide range answers to your question but that’s my initial thoughts on that topic.

David: No, there are some really good points there. Figuring out who your audience is and what their challenge is, creating your product in a way that people will actually learn from and resonate with, creating a greater number of products, I guess more specific, you said, and presenting in an order that makes sense to them, talking in a conversational tone. I think those are all really great tips on that.

Bob: Yeah, and there’s another thing over the years is I’ve given workshops to writers and also to marketers too is that I talk about the three Es, like the letter E, the three Es of Communication. And generally, you’re doing one of three things.

That’s another thing I like to do is take a complicated topic and break it down into really simple, easy to understand concepts. You can later build onto it and add detail but once you have like a basic framework of something, you have a better understanding of it.

But the three E’s are, one is…especially the type of writing that I do and that you do with your own information products, David, one is educate. So you’re giving people information, you’re educating them about a topic so they have a better understanding of it.

Another aspect is you can entertain them. So you can, whether you make them laugh or whatever the case is, it’s an enjoyable experience for them.

And then the other E is enlighten, which you could also use the word “inspire”. And so that’s where like the light bulb goes off, or they actually feel something. They feel inspired, they feel like, “I can do this.” It changes their mental state about it.

And so if you do one of those things really well, you’re doing really well. If you can combine two of them, and if you can do all three at the same time, then you’re really firing in all cylinders and that was something that I realized. Because I think whatever I’ve done…so you may know that I’m a musician, I’m obviously a writer. I also do art like a visual artist. What else do I do? Yeah, I’m an actor. I teach and perform improv comedy too.

And I realized at some point of my life that with all of these disciplines that I’m involved in, quite often you’re inspired first maybe by seeing someone else who does it. You see a band, and you go, “Oh, my God. I want to do that.” We all have our favorite bands that inspired us when we were young.

And with writing, there were certain authors that I really resonated with. The way that they write, or their voice, or their attitude, or whatever. And so at first when you start to do this on your own you’re sort of emulating people that you admire until you eventually find your own voice within that. And that applies to music or to art or to the written word.

But the things I really remembered were those…I think probably the inspirational side of it is when I was, I remember reading…there’d been times when I read a book and there was like an idea just hit me so hard that actually I had to put the book down and like pace around my house and go, “Oh, my God. I finally get it. Hallelujah.” Or whatever. “Eureka!” Maybe that’s the word I’m looking for.

And so as a writer I want to actually create that experience for my readers too. And so if I can deliver, I can educate them, make it fun, and every now and then have somebody go, “Oh, my God.” And I literally over the years have gotten just tons of great feedback that shows me I’m on the right course.

I mean, people have actually written, emailed or talked to me at a conference and say, “Your book changed my life,” which you wouldn’t think would be the case with a music marketing book. But it really is all through their…like they were really maybe disgruntled and hated marketing and it changed them to where they enjoyed it and made it part of the creative process.

And so that’s kind of like my philosophy on…I’m not just writing a book. I’m really impacting people’s lives in a meaningful way, ideally.

David: Yeah, and you said something there about breaking down complicated topics. That’s something I’ve been thinking about more and more as of late cause my tendency for a little while was just to write these really long posts and throw in the kitchen sink.

But by that time it’s become harder to consume and unless you kind of have it broken down into step by step and one, two, three, four, five instead of just a few headings, it gets a lot harder for, I think, people to take something from it.

Bob: Yeah, and I often, over the years, have explained it. I compare it to like health and fitness because I, like a lot of people, I sit a lot at the computer, and my weight or whatever, just my general health and nutrition, it can always be in better shape.

And so like a lot of people that pursue marketing or building a business or whatever, you can easily dive into all the books on the topic and there’s South Beach Diet and this and that, and Zumba and there’s a tons of different things.

And the more you read the more confused you get, and then there’s all these conflicting things about, “Do eat that but don’t eat this. But this book just says the opposite.” And then you get so overwhelmed that you end up not knowing what to do or do nothing.

And so I had this realization years ago with health that if I took everything that I’ve ever read about and I know about health and fitness and boil it down to the simplest terms possible, it could be stated in four words. That’s “eat less, move more”. Isn’t that like the most basic and simplest level, and that I can wrap my brain around.

So if you could start with that like skeleton or framework which you get and understand and then as you pursue those things you can get again more nuanced about, “Well, what do I eat less of? And how do I move more?” But without that basic framework to start with, to me, it just makes it a lot easier.

So that’s what I try to do with the information. How can I break this down? Start off with the super simple, like even a dumb guy like me can understand it, and then build upon that. Put the meat on the bones as you dive into the topic.

David: Right. And that could even be a point about curtailing information overwhelm, listening to maybe one or two experts instead of the 30 that you’re subscribed to and getting points from them.

Bob: Yeah, and I have a lot friends in the information publishing world. In fact, I don’t know if you know who Jason Van Orden is.

David: Oh, I’ve been listening to him for a long time.

Bob: Yeah, so the Internet Business Mastery podcast.

David: Yup.

Bob: And Academy. So actually I met Jason. He’s a musician, he and his wife were pursuing a music career like in the late ’90s, early 2000s, and I actually met them at a music conference while I think he still had a day job. And he does credit me with being one of the early information publishers and online marketers that he observes, which is kind of nice.

David: That’s right. That’s right, yeah.

Bob: What was I going to say? Oh, yeah, so he and his partner started this podcast…oh no, he first heard the word podcast in an email that I sent out to my list and he was on it back in like 2004-2005 because that’s when I started podcasting. And he was really intrigued by it. He went on to write a book about it. And that’s their main marketing vehicle is their weekly podcasts. It was called Internet Business Mastery.

But I’ve heard Jason talk over the years about they had a lot of experience creating courses and like membership sites. And the thing they learned early on is like an information publisher thinks, “Oh, my God. I’ve got to deliver value so I’ve got to include everything in this book or in this course.” and if it’s too much people will get overwhelmed or they’ll get behind.

And so they and other people like them, and this has been my experience too, is to actually give people bite-sized chunks that they can devour. And it has some success with it too. Also, give people little steps that they can take because once somebody makes progress, they go, “Oh, wow. I can do this. This is cool. What’s the next step?”

And so yeah, that’s a tough lesson to learn because when you’re new to it you just want to throw everything in, “There’s so much more I could say about this.”

David: Right. I think the thing that they always said was, “We’re not trying to create the internet marketing encyclopedia.”

Bob: Right. Exactly. It’s just the little chunk of it.

David: Yeah, that’s awesome. What about landing pages? You seem to have some really great landing pages on your site. What goes into creating those types of sales or squeeze pages? Do you do a lot of research on that first? And is writing sales copy one of your strengths?

Bob: Well, so there’s a dual answer there. Thank you for the compliments. Actually, one area where I have fallen short, and I readily admit, is the whole tracking and measuring aspect of it. And I do research things but when it comes to doing the intents, where do they click and doing A/B split tests, which is comparing two different sales pages and seeing which one…yeah, it hasn’t been my strength.

However, the other thing you mentioned is a great strength of mine is the copywriting. And I’m telling you, back when I was in my 20s, for some reason I had a natural, and luckily I still do after all these decades, is like this fascination with marketing, with publicity, with sales, and also the psychology behind it. Like, “Why are people attracted to certain artists, certain authors, certain movies more so than others? What are the elements that create that?”

And then this whole thing about the tipping point where there’s early adopters and then early majority and it’s the things reached…Malcolm Gladwell has a book out which I thought was fascinating, The Tipping Point (get it on Amazon), about when things reach a critical mass and then they become uber popular, or whatever.

So it’s the psychology of the artists or the limiting beliefs and the empowering beliefs and how we all battle with those things and then also the psychology of the fan and what they’re attracted to. So, but copywriting was one of those things I was fascinated with and I just have really studied it and written a lot, primarily for my own products.

In fact, I’m getting ready to…it’s a little behind schedule but I’m on the verge of releasing like an online course that’s really on this how to make offers, how to describe what it is that you’re selling, and then how to make the offers that compel people to purchase now and to purchase more. And do it in an ethical way, an authentic way.

But yeah, so…because I do have a lot of knowledge and skill I think that I’ve developed in that area. Not so much the measuring. And it really comes down to one of the big nuggets is speaking directly to the person, using a lot of you-oriented sentences and phrasing.

So what’s in it for the person who’s reading it and not just talking about yourself and how cool you and your product or your music are. What they’re going to experience and how they’re going to benefit is kind of one of the main…but there’s a lot of nuances that go into that.

David: Yeah, and I will also say that conversion optimization is not one of my strengths. One breakthrough that I’ve had recently is just with heatmaps and those can be really good for just kind of getting a sense of where people are clicking and what they’re interested in.

Bob: Yeah, and for people that might not know that term, yeah, a heatmap is basically it shows you which links or what areas of the site get more…or your page get more activity or clicks than others, right?

David: Exactly.

Bob: So you know that’s working effectively and you can do away with something else. And then A/B split tests is where you send people to a certain URL but it takes like half of the traffic and sends it to one page, and half of the traffic and sends it to another.

And I know the theory, and I’ve read a lot about it, I just haven’t done it. But you’re supposed to…like whatever the current pages is called the control or whatever. So you know that one out of every three people that go there or sign up for your list or something. So you’re supposed to change one element, you’re not supposed to make a whole lot of radical changes. But maybe you’ll change the headline or even just the color of the headline or the photo that you use. You take one element and that’s your B. And then you compare it, and whichever one gets a better conversion rate that becomes the new control, is what they call it, and then you change another element.

And when people that do that, I guess, you can continue tweaking until you just get higher and higher results but I just have never been disciplined enough to do all that.

David: And if you start really getting into it it’s so in-depth that you could spend a lot of time on that without actually doing some more meaningful things in your business.

Bob: Like writing books or creating new courses.

David: Exactly.

Bob: Or writing music or doing art or something.

David: It seems to me that content is kind of the number one thing, so. Yeah.

Bob: Exactly. In the author world, which I rotate, I hang out in the music world and the author world and different creative worlds.

But in the fiction writing in particular, so many successful fiction writers, when you’re asking, “What’s the number one marketing thing that you can do?” They always say, “Write your next book.”

Although there are other things you should and could be doing in addition to that, I think marketing can play, it should be a balanced role between the creation and the promotion of it, the sharing of it. Especially these days in the digital world that we live in, the clue for the creator is, whether they’re a musician or a writer or whatever, should take an active role and get on friendlier terms with the marketing and the sharing of it and not curse it.

Take an active role and get on friendlier terms with the marketing and the sharing of it and not curse it. Share on X

Think of it as a necessary evil. However, don’t market it on social media so much that you lose sight of the quality of what you’re creating and putting out too. Because that needs to be there as they both are important and finding that balance is the trick.

David: Yeah, that’s so important. What are a few quick do’s and dont’s of sales pages?

Bob: Sales pages. Ah, yes. So I already kind of touched on the main one is speaking directly to…and this comes naturally to me for a couple of reasons.

One, I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and so the written word or the language, it’s just something I developed a skill at. Also, I’ve been very hypersensitive of marketing copy and writing. So writing copy in a sense is the words that you use to sell something, but it’s also the words that you use to describe it.

And so in a lot of people, their natural…so human beings are naturally tended to focus on themselves. Which is why, as an artist and as a self-promoter…I mean, what’s the first word in self-promotion? It’s self. And so you think, “Well, I have a new book out. So I’m going to promote me and my book or my new album.

And so your sort of nature instinct is to say, “I’m so excited about this new album. I worked so hard on it. I can’t wait to get it out there.” So those are all I-statements. And they’re genuine, and people will feed off that enthusiasm.

But what if you turn that around and said something like…I’m trying to remember something off the top of my head here. But something like, “How would you like a spontaneous dance party to break out in your apartment or your home or whatever? You’ll get hours of pleasure or 45 minutes of luscious grooves that you can dance to and impress your friends?”

I’m just kind of making stuff up here. But just change that around and make it about what they’re going to experience. And then you could follow that up with that you’re the artist. People like to connect with the artist so they do want to know about you.

But on a sales page, you wouldn’t lead with…you would lead with what’s in it for them and ideally have a headline that maybe speaks to them.

And also, another tip is, an important one is you can hit both pain and pleasure, like stress points. You can stress one or the other. This is something I learned from…on a recording by Anthony Robbins, Tony Robbins, the motivational guy. Years ago, he talked about there’s really people who are primarily motivated. And he got it from, I’m sure, psychologists or whatever decades back.

But people are usually motivated by two primary things. Either they’re seeking pleasure or they’re trying to avoid or reduce pain. So again, this is really getting into that psychology of sales. And so you can hit both points. So maybe it’s not so much in, “Oh, we could do it.”

People are usually motivated by two primary things. Either they're seeking pleasure or they're trying to avoid or reduce pain. Share on X

So let me give you an example, like when I’m promoting…there’s this thing I used to sell for years. It’s kind of out, it’s not available anymore but it’s called Killer Music Press Kits and it’s about how to develop a press kit. And so one aspirational way is to, “Wouldn’t you like to get tons of media exposure? Imagine if 30 blogs this week covered your…reviewed your new album.”

So that’s like hitting on the pleasure aspect of it. That’s what you potentially could get if you really mastered online press kits or whatever.

The pain aspect, I end up using a headline that was very effective for many years which said something like, “Are your press kits going into the trash can?” or something along those lines. And I had an image of an old-school trash can. But these days it could be in the email, the digital computer-based trash can, or a physical one.

But I decided to push the pain in the headline of the thing, because, between the two, the seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, the pain one is actually a stronger motivator. Research has bared that out. So that doesn’t mean you always want to push pain, but initially, you can do both.

It’s a little trickier with music. However, maybe you can remind people of all the garbage that’s on the radio. Sick of all the formulaic pop music that…even though most people don’t listen to radio these days. But sometimes it’s hard to find whatever.

So you can find ways of working that into a music sales page. But those are probably a couple of big ones there. Make it you-oriented and then think about focusing some of your description on the pleasure that they’re going to experience and then the pain that they’re going to either avoid or relieve themselves of if they’re currently experiencing it. How’s that sound?

David: Yeah, those are some great examples and tips. I like that, and I do remember reading that in Tony Robbins’ book so that definitely gives me a frame of reference for that also.

Bob: Cool.

David: You talked a little bit about this already, but how do you create a worthwhile experience for the people consuming your products?

Bob: Hmm, how do you do that? So this is something I’ve always…yeah, so the other thing. I guess, now that I’m 20 plus years into being an author and a teacher and all that, I do believe that we are all simultaneously teachers and students. And so I’m a lifelong student in addition to being I guess an established teacher, or mentor, or resource, or whatever you want to call it. And so I’m always learning.

Yeah, just like with the sales page stuff. You can really delve as deep as you want to go. There’s a lot of information out there. So as far as…basically, so what I already talked about is taking the concept and breaking it down, figuring out the scope that you’re going to cover.

But let’s say it’s a course that does cover…so it’s this continuation of…so you figure out what the overall course or book is going to cover. And then you’ve got to break that down into chapters or sections or lessons. So what is this lesson and what’s the right order for them all?

And again, I start with the basic premise and then kind of build on it from there. So first you have to create…it really helps before you write a book or create a course to have a solid outline. And so the thing is that outline can and it will evolve as you start to create it. You realize, “Oh, this thing that I thought was one lesson is really two. So I need to break that down further.” And another one that you thought was important, you realize that it’s not important enough for its lesson. I’ll incorporate that into another one.

So they do change. But having that roadmap to begin with is really helpful. And then as you’re working on each chapter or lesson you get into the minutiae of that. So it’s this constant big picture and then breaking it down further and further until…

And then as you’re writing you don’t need to think about…or creating, you don’t need to think about the entirety of the whole thing. Just focus on that little sliver that you’re working on currently.

With online courses, though, in particular, since we have the ability to create multimedia things, and also I apply this to my live workshops too just realize the different people learn in different ways.

So if you can give people an array of experiences. So some people enjoy just reading. But other people, that bores them to tears. So give them something to do. Give them an activity. Like I try to have worksheets that people actually print and write on physically. And some people hate that but they’ll….

So if you give people a variety of ways to consume it, some people will prefer to watch it on a video, listen to it in audio. In a live setting, there are people that prefer to sit by themselves and just journal or make notes but other people learn more when they’re social.

So I have exercises where people team up or into partners. And they do exercises. And so I get them physically involved in it. It’s a little tougher to do it online or a book setting. But how many different angles can you hit people from with the information?

And that’s a whole art about how to decide what type of exercises and when, how do you use them and all that. But then it also makes it a creative challenge too. How do I compile all this stuff into a package that works?

David: Yeah, no, that makes sense. And a couple of my eBooks actually do come packaged with audio versions. So I guess that’s maybe one way I’m hitting on what you just talked about in providing different media.

Bob: Yeah, and you can take the same lesson. For instance, I’ll record an audio and I’ll record them with the intention of having PowerPoint slides or whatever that…but I’ll take the exact same audio that’s used in the video course and just make that available as an audio-only download.

But then I combine it with images for the visual people, and then you could either…you’re reading a text that you already have written, and so then you have the text version or you have it transcribed if you’re just spontaneously speaking.

And so yeah, you can take the same piece of content and repurpose it into the multiple formats. It’s not like you necessarily create a separate one, take time out to create a separate thing for each modality or whatever.

David: Yeah, I guess that would just be about like planning in advance, making sure that you know how you want to repurpose the content you’ve already created.

Bob: Exactly, yeah. I’m all about why reinvent the wheel.

David: Yeah.

Bob: Yeah, there’s all sorts of ways. There are some books that I’ve published that are basically compilations of blog posts. And also, the book that I’m probably best known for is called The Guerilla Music Marketing Handbook (get it on Amazon).

David: Right.

Bob: And the first primitive version of that that I self-published in a three-ring binder came out like 20 years ago, like in 1996 was the first early version. And what that was, I think I mentioned early on, that I used to publish a local music newspaper and there was a period when I was writing monthly columns, and at one point I took like the 15 best columns, and then I went through them all and beefed them up and updated them and added a little more meat to them.

And then just printed them on a copier and three-hole punched them and put them in a three-ring binder. That was the early version, the first edition. And it was one of the early books too on marketing for independent musicians back in those days. Everybody wanted a record deal. Most of the panels and the books out at the time were how to get the attention of A&R and agents and managers and all that stuff.

And I was preaching this message of independence and here’s how to do it yourself. And so, of course, it evolved over the years. I forgot how we got…I forgot what led me to start speaking about this.

Oh yeah, so again, that was a perfect example of early on, I was repurposing content I’d already created instead of starting from scratch. And I’d been doing that a long time.

David: Yeah, well, I guess even Darren Rowse from ProBlogger‘s done really well with that kind of stuff too. Yeah, I think it’s 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, or something like that came out of that.

Bob: Yeah, I’ve been following that for a number of years. Yeah, he’s done a really good job with that. That is a good example. And he freely admits these are available as free blog posts. However, I package them with exercises and make it convenient. And I think he’s sold a lot of those.

David: He has. So I guess there’s both merits and demerits to doing that, but I think it’s a great way to leverage what you’ve already created.

Bob: Yeah. One of the other books on the Guerilla Music Marketing series, at that point I hadn’t been blogging for a while. And I remembered the first time I took blog post…because the least, the things I did back in the ’90s were not all available online.

And so, but when I was taking things that had already been published online as blog posts, I did the same thing. I beefed them up, I updated them, and that was the primary content in one of these books. It’s called The Encore A Edition, which I really need to update or repackage or whatever

But I remember I was paranoid about, “Oh, my God. People are going to know that most of these articles are available for free in their original form.” And I was like preparing myself to get some heat for it.

And I can’t remember one person going, “I already read these online.” Even if they had read it and they either forgot, or you think that everyone consumes everything that you put out there, and it’s just not the case.

David: That’s right.

Bob: And so I never heard a peep about it. So that reaffirmed for me that, yeah, it’s not something that anybody should really worry about. You’re doing them a favor by packaging it all in one convenient source.

And they most likely never came across it. And even if they knew, it’s not like you’re hiding it from them or doing anything underhanded. I don’t know. So yeah, don’t get too worried about that would be my advice.

David: Got you. Well, that’s definitely something I could be doing more of.

You started The Creative Entrepreneur podcast a few years ago. You talked a little bit about this in one of your first episodes of your podcast. But what inspired you to move in that direction?

Bob: Yeah, well thanks for asking. So as I mentioned, music has been a long-term passion of mine. The written word has. Luckily I’ve combined them into a livelihood, primarily publishing books on music marketing over the years.

However in addition to that, I have all these other…I have a pretty wide range of creative interests. And not just interests but things I’ve actually engaged in pretty heavily over the years.

So that involves…you know, I’ve played in bands. I’ve acted in plays, performed and teaught improv comedy, I do visual art, I used to do standup comedy. It’s like over the years I had this crazy…and I have no idea where this came from. I really don’t have anyone in my life who was like this proactive in pursuing their passions or whatever. It was something that was internally driven.

But when something looked like it would be fun and it was creative in particular, I would say, “I want to do that. I want to do it sooner rather than later.” So I would sort of act even before I was typically ready. But I would just jump in and say, “Let’s see how this goes.” And a lot of them worked out, or I just had a blast doing it.

And so I feel like I’ve got a I guess a sensitivity to a lot of different areas of creativity. Now one thing that I realized back then, so this was in my 20s or 30s when I was doing all this variety. There was a time when I was playing in bands, I was publishing a newspaper, I was acting in plays, doing standup. It was like all over the map. And what happened was I was spreading myself a little too thin, so I wasn’t giving enough energy to any one thing. In particular, it wasn’t generating revenue.

And so I did have to decide I need to focus on something, especially because I really determined to support myself and make a living. And I want to do it doing something I’m really truly interested in, in a way it’s also going to create value and serve people not just myself.

But really you can’t really make money unless you’re serving others anyway. So, anyway, I made the decision back then that the books had the greatest potential to allow me to support myself and do good and do something that I’m…so I did sort of put everything.

I continue to do things but I purposely put them in the background or part-time, and decided to focus on the books and the online exposure and all that. And it panned out because over 12 years ago I quit the last day job that I ever planned on working.

And so, yeah, I decided to focus on music marketing initially, and then I widened and I included book promotions because I had success as an author.

But I realized over the years, yeah, that I actually would like to speak to even a wider range of creative people. And years ago I had published a book called Unleash the Artist Within (get it on Amazon) that also had a similar mission. It was kind of a sleeper title because it wasn’t very specific but I was determined to…so I came back and created the Creative Entrepreneur where, as a podcast initially, I was interviewing creative people of all types.

So they’d be authors, there’s some musicians, painters, actors. If it was in a creative field loosely and they were doing well, and people were like thriving and doing well or had something to offer, I interviewed them and just picked their brains about kind of like you’re doing with me. How did you do that? What do you consider your top three characteristics that allowed you to succeed? It’s more about them, not them teaching a workshop, but about me just finding out what makes them tick.

And I’ve interviewed people like Derek Sivers, who’s an old friend, who founded CD Baby; Jack Conte from Pomplamoose, and a lot of cool people. Laura Hall from Whose Line Is It Anyway? Yeah, a lot of people like that.

Then the last year I published a book called The Empowered Artist (get it on Amazon which is sort of really the culmination of…it’s a very different book in that again it’s geared to creative people of all types. And it’s not so much about marketing or about tactics.

This book is more about mindset and work ethic and the best practices, what successful creative people bring to the table. And I wrote it in a way that I think even 10 years from now it’s not going to be outdated. I didn’t really talk hardly at all about Facebook or social media. It’s more about that internal thing that successful creative people seem to have.

And so that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Yeah, but I’m referring to it as the Artist Empowerment Movement because it’s more than a book. The podcast is related to it. I have like a Mastermind group, it’s like an online thing. I created a music video around the topic.

So it’s a whole bunch of moving parts, and really a mission that I’m on is sort of wake up creative people around the world to the power of the gifts and the value that they bring to the world.

Because haven’t you noticed that creative people, probably even yourself, or the musicians that you hang out with, tend to downplay their value or play small because they don’t think they have the power to do whatever it is that they…pursue their dreams or whatever.

So that’s kind of where I’m at with that. And it’s not about being unrealistic or saying you can make a living. It’s like you get to define your own definition of success. I want to be kind of clear about that. I’m not saying just pursue what your passion and everything is going to be great. There are no guarantees, so nothing that I say in the book, just because you want to do something doesn’t mean that the world owes you a living.

However, you owe it to yourself to pursue that creative thing and do it on whatever level is right for you. You may have to keep a day job for the rest of your life or whatever. But you could still pursue your craft to where it satisfies you, that inner desire that you have to create.

And also to share it with however many people you end up sharing it with. And it may be a dozen, it may be thousands. So whatever level it is it’s not about comparing yourself to somebody in the bestseller list. It’s about doing what’s right for you, but just giving yourself the permission to do that.

David: Exactly. Yeah, I love that. And you’ve actually interviewed a lot of people that I either have been following or have been curious about for a while. So I can definitely recommend that listeners take a listen to that show as well.

Bob: Cool, yeah. And that was one is at the…and there was a book I wrote early on called the DIY Career Manifesto (get it on Amazon), which is almost kind of part memoir about my life and the path that I’ve taken to self-employment in the arts.

And so that’s why the URL for that is diycareermanifesto.com, that’s where the Creative Entrepreneur podcast is housed if people actually want to take a deeper dive. In more recent episodes or seasons, I still interview people but I mix it up with some…sometimes it’s just me either reading part of the book or just ranting about something.

So I bounce back and forth between me just expounding on something and then interviewing cool people that I find in my travels.

David: Awesome. Yeah, and I related a lot to that story because I currently find myself in a position of freelancing in a lot of different disciplines, and kind of taking a look at what would it mean to kind of 80/20 my life and just kind of work on the things that I really want to work on.

What would allow me to work mostly from home, which I already am but I still drive and go outside of home to work here and there. And I have other blogs besides the main one I’ve got at davidandrewwiebe.com. So, yeah, I kind of find myself in that place and wanting to cut down, streamline a bit.

Bob: Yeah, and it’s always good to focus and pare away the things that aren’t serving you. It’s a delicate balance because, yeah, on one hand…especially if you’re early and don’t know where you are in your career, whatever, early on in your career, I think it’s good to really focus.

But then I’ve also seen people that claim that diversity or versatility or whatever helps them get more work. But I think it’s kind of a delicate dance.

I always think of it as like branding, like you should have a leading public image, “I’m the guy that does this particular thing.” And then once people are kind of in your tents or they’re in your world you can make them aware of the other cool things that you do. But if you start off with your public identity as being, “I’m all things to all people,” it can be a little watered down.

David: Exactly.

Bob: So finding that identity and the thing that can be that overlap between what you’re really seriously interested in and good at, and then the overlap there being a need or a want in the marketplace that people are willing to pay for, that’s the trick.

But it can be found. A lot of people have found it. That’s why I seek those people out and always want to know how they got to that point.

David: Yeah, exactly. That’s awesome. You’ve talked to a lot of notable online entrepreneurs. Is there anything that really sticks out about that? Any insights that have really stuck with you?

Bob: Yeah, I think it’s this recurring thing. I definitely address it in The Empowered Artist book and it comes up a lot, but it’s this whole…the topic of fear and uncertainty. This is something that people struggle with in all areas of life. If you’re a human being you’ve wrestled with these demons of fear and uncertainty.

I think one of the biggest takeaways from all these interviews and plus comparing it to my own experience is successful people do not have an absence of fear. They haven’t like banished the fear monster, “I am fearless.” Well, no.

So everyone still hears that little inner critic and that voice in their heads. They just learned to get on friendly terms with it, or they’ve learned to ignore it, or they’ve learned to maybe…

There’s actually some value to that fear. If you just ask it, “Okay, I hear you. I want to give you a chance here. What are you actually trying to tell me?” Sometimes there’s a lesson, there’s actually a good message that you can get from finding out why the fear is raising its…but once you get that you go, “Okay, I got it. Awesome. Now you can go and sit in the corner and be quiet because I got stuff to do.”

And so I guess it’s that people let the fear, “Oh, I don’t know how to…” That’s one thing I love about doing improv is that you don’t…it’s like it’s completely trusting not knowing where a scene is or game is going to go. And just trusting that you’ll figure your way through it, and make it interesting.

And so, yeah, that’d be a big piece of it. Just take an improv class wherever you are. If you’re in St. Louis, take mine.

But just become comfortable with uncertainty and do it anyway. And just realize that the fear is just sort of…it’s not the real you. It’s this little voice that’s probably from your childhood, that you’re probably actually taking advice from like an eight-year-old or something.

Yeah, the best way to silence it is just to take action. Do it anyway. And so that’s the biggest thing is they’ve just learned, people have, they don’t banish fear. They still feel the uncertainty but they just continue to forge ahead nonetheless and take it and move on.

David: Yeah. What are some common beliefs do you think that are holding artists back?

Bob: Yeah, “Who am I to think I’m a writer?” Or people looking for permission or like acceptance, like they need validation from some outside source, as opposed to just giving themselves permission to pursue this path.

Other things related to marketing and money, these are huge issues and I have sections in The Empowered Artist again where I kind of delve into these kind of psychological barriers that we have.

Thinking again, I kind of mentioned it briefly earlier, but if you think that marketing is a necessary evil, and if that’s the message you’re sending yourself and other people, you’re never going to be comfortable promoting your stuff if you think you’re being manipulative or evil or…what do you call it? I don’t know, inauthentic or whatever.

There’s a way to be honest and authentic and if you think of marketing as a strategic form of sharing what you have to offer and again make it…and Derek Sivers has talked a lot about this where marketing should be an extension of the creative process, not something that’s separate from it.

Marketing should be an extension of the creative process, not something that's separate from it. Share on X

David: Totally agree.

Bob: And then there’s whole issues around money. That’s just a huge, huge topic and people are all over the map from it. With people who think that asking for the sale is…and I struggled with this myself. I’ve been doing this for years too, asking for the sale, putting a price on what they offer, their art or their service.

And a lot of that comes from your self-value. That’s why you should really do a lot of this internal psychological work on yourself and root out those things that are making you think that you’re less than.

Not that you have to think you’re better than or you’re superior to people, but realize, “There’s no other one in the planet like me, and I was the only one who can create this piece, this song, this book, this painting. And it has value. And when someone loves it they’ll be willing to pay for it. And so I’m not going to give it away or be the Walmart of…”

You can give stuff away for free. I’m not saying…there’s a place for that in the marketing world. But also don’t devalue your art to the point where, again, where’s it’s tied to your self-worth.

So yeah, but these are things that humans struggle with in all walks of life but because artists are so sensitive, I think they seem to be more prevalent with these creative types, and I’m one of them so I can relate. So a lot of this is me working out my own demons while I’m helping other people root out theirs.

David: Right. But that kind of gives you a place from which to speak, right? Because you can speak from personal experience.

Bob: Yeah. Luckily I’m in a much better place than I used to be, so some of this is in the past. But some of it…those voices never go away. And so I’m more aware of them. I guess awareness is the first step.

A lot of people just sort of sleepwalk through life and think that their cloud’s just going to happen to them. But you actually can grab them by the reins and choose how you think about things which then affects how you feel about them which then affects your behavior and then your results in the world.

And so again, yeah, that’s probably my biggest advice is to not only learn about marketing in your area of creativity but also read self-help books or things on psychology and how your mind works and plays tricks on you. And it’s just all about becoming a better person which helps you become a better artist. You didn’t know we’re going to get so deep today, did you, David?

David: I didn’t. I’m glad we are though because there’s a lot of meaty information, and I actually do have an entire chapter in my book about personal development too because I think it’s hugely important for artists to be exploring that side of things.

Bob: Cool.

David: And I have my own thoughts on this obviously because the term “information age” is in the subtitle of my book, so what do you think it means to be a musician and the age we’re in. Is it any different from what it was in the past?

Bob: Oh, definitely. And some of them are quite obvious. So the access, your ability to communicate directly with your fans. And that was a message that I was preaching before direct to fan was even a term.

But yeah, in the old-school model in the music business, there was like a separation for the most part between the artists and the fan. And so then you needed gatekeepers to be able to deem you worthy to have a record deal or a book deal and reach a wider audience.

But these days everyone has access to those tools. And so I guess in the information age, well, certainly for a non-fiction author we’re dealing with information. But for a musician they might be confused by that term, “I don’t want information. I got music, or I have art.” However, you can use the digital technologies to communicate.

So we were talking about the different learning modes earlier. And basically, when I give…I have this thing called Social Media Music Marketing Made Easy in particular, but it applies to all social media. You basically, online or digitally, have four ways to communicate with people. Here’s again with me and the numbers and breaking it down.

But old-school, the first way that I had when I went online in the mid-90s was text. So you had the written word, and that includes like blog posts, tweets, Facebook updates, email, the text, the written word.

Next, you have audio, so for a musician obviously that’s music but it could be a podcast, it could be spoken word but you get people through their ears.

The next one is like images, so with Instagram and Pinterest and all that, photographs, artwork, all the memes that go around, with the picture with a quote in it, whatever. So it’s a visual image.

And actually, visual images are probably the most immediately impactful because you see something and you can get it instantly as opposed to you have to take time to read something or listen to something before you can determine whether you like it or not.

But an image is really powerful, so everybody should be using images in their communication.

An image is really powerful, so everybody should be using images in their communication. Share on X

And then the fourth one is video, of course, which can combine all of them in different ways. And so, yeah, you have all these. So the thing is you don’t have to do them all like I have tried over the years.

David: It’s a lot of work.

Bob: It is. So of those four modes–written word, audio, video and visual, like still images type things–which do you resonate with? Which are you good at? Which could you do on a regular basis and not get bored with it, and make that like your primary mode?

But just realize that you have all of these ways of communicating with people. So that’s the biggest thing because in years, decades past, yeah, we didn’t have that ability to reach other fans directly in that manner.

Of course, the challenge is that everyone has got access to these tools, and so it’s a crowded marketplace out there. So you’ve got to work. It takes diligence to cut through and find your peeps.

And that’s where marketing comes in in identifying who your ideal fans are and then figuring out what types of messages, what types of content you can digitally place out there that would be most likely to attract them.

That’s the whole key, I guess, is just figuring out who you are as an artist, what you offer, who the ideal fan is that would be attracted to it, and then what kind of messages could you put out there that would reach them and have people like them share it with their friends and slowly discover you.

Let’s go back to instead of tricking people, really just having kickass content. So a killer song, a great video, an awesome book, an amazing piece of art, that’s probably your best marketing tool but you can enhance it with other things that we’ve talked about throughout the talk here.

David: Yeah, absolutely.

Bob: Yeah, the way you title and tag things is another thing, like what are people searching for, and make sure that you label things with very specific wording so that when they’re searching for that thing there’s a better chance that they’ll find it. That’s another huge part of the strategic aspect of sharing this content online.

David: Yeah, absolutely. Titling is so important, especially on YouTube and platforms like that.

You’ve had some fairly high profile mentions on notable publications and media outlets. How do you get press for what you’re doing?

Bob: Yeah, so I’m lucky in a lot of that has actually come to me as a result of me just being out there and having positioned myself as a resource. Again, kind of hammering home especially in the music marketing realm.

So when people Google, when they Google “music marketing expert”, or “music marketing book” or whatever, because of my prolific amount of content over the years I will come up in searches. So a lot of that has come to me.

It was…so I mention again this newspaper that I published in my hometown for 10 years. And even though that was years ago, and it was in the sort of pre-internet era, for the most part, I learned a lot about what it’s like to be on the receiving end of media pitches. And so that really helped me know that most…made me realize that most people go about it the wrong way.

And so when I do seek out publicity, or when I respond to a request for the media, I have a great sensitivity for what they’re looking for. And very similar to the sales copy we were talking about earlier, it’s not about…like the worst thing that you can do, and I see it, and I’ve been seeing it for decades, is, “My band really needs some exposure. What could you do to give us some exposure on your blog?” which is all me-oriented from their perspective.

As opposed to why their story is relevant to my audience, and why…if somebody takes the time to look at my site, and realize that I’m not…I don’t review music and I talk about music marketing, and they come out with a pitch that, “Hey, here’s a creative marketing thing we did. I think your Buzz Factor readers would enjoy it.” And it’s more likely it’s going to get my attention than the generic pitch.

And so, anyway, just being sensitive to that has helped me, and then just having gotten publicity, being savvy about delivering what I think they want. Or not that I think they want, but delivering something that’s an authentic message to myself in a way that they can use.

And I’m being a little vague there but, yes, I’ve been very fortunate to get…I’ve been on NPR twice, like National NPR. What was it, in the book world, Publishers Weekly. Some guy was doing a story on self-publishing like a year ago and reached out to me and a ton of others. Yeah, that got on my about page on my site.

David: Well, that’s great. And it can definitely work that way as you begin to be seen more as an expert and influencer. People will start reaching out to you more.

Bob: Absolutely. If you combine that with reaching out, yeah. I mean, there’s certainly all sorts of techniques and pitching via email or by phone or whatever.

If you have a story that…again, you have to position it in a way that what’s in it for the media outlet, and then follow up. Like we talked before we started recording. You initially reached out to me for this podcast and I was busy. I was interested. We even went back and forth and then we never set on a date because I got sidetracked, and then you followed up. And you didn’t do it in a mean way, or go, “Hey, did I piss you off, Bob?” You just go, “Hey, I never heard back from you.”

So it’s like be pleasantly persistent, and you just only had to send one of those reminders. And then I’m like, “Oh, yeah, I’m sorry, man. I got a little sidetracked.”

So follow up with media exposure, particularly the follow-up is crucial. Even if it’s just once or twice you’ll notice a huge difference in the response. If you just follow up with people and realize that they’re busy and their non-response does not mean that you’ve been rejected. So you have to get a bit of a thick skin in that regard.

David: Right. Yeah, totally. That’s great. What about things like guest-posting? Are you a big proponent of showing up on other popular blogs?

Bob: Yeah, I do think that’s a good move. And again luckily, because I’ve been in position to have been in the music marketing space for a long time, I’ve made friends with and gotten to know peeps.

I can easily get guests posts on like the CD Baby, DIY Musician Blog, and Hypebot. Tom Jackson is a friend of mine, a guy in Nashville who does performance coaching. And sometimes I forget about submitting things to them. I could probably get more out there.

But, yeah, definitely it’s a great way because you have to look out. Even though I think there’s a lot of value in having your own real estate on the internet, yeah, getting exposure on other existing blog posts.

So one of the people I interviewed in the Creative Entrepreneur series was a writer and a blogger named Jeff Goins. And he kind of came out of nowhere where he decided he wanted to create this website that was all for writers in particular, about writing advice and publishing advice, and you were kind of following his journey.

And he like came out of nowhere and he spent his first year he posted like 300, I think, blog posts, real high-quality blog posts on his own site, and then like another hundred things he wrote for guest posts.

And I remember asking him about this. He would basically, instead of going for the very top, he would just reach out to other blogs that were more established than him but still not really high up the food chain, and he would just offer value, “I’ve got this piece.”

And so with each level of success that he got he would then move up the food chain to the next blog and he would befriend people instead of just only pitching. He would maybe compliment them or send them a resource or something that would be helpful in addition to pitching his own.

But he came out of nowhere and within a year or two just built up this huge following and this exposure. And so it is possible but you notice, it was proliferation of content. 300, 400 blog posts in a little over a year. That’s a lot of dedication to that, pursuing that path.

And so he’s a great example of how that did really pay off for him well. I haven’t had that kind of discipline to pursue that. But I did early on, though. I would seek those. I guess at this stage of my career I’m at a little different place, but he did. So it is possible still in this totally noisy era that we live in with all the competition for attention. But he cut through because he was dedicated to it.

David: I think that’s a really great perspective. And you’re absolutely right, I think it would be a lot of work to try to post on your own blog that many posts and be publishing elsewhere. Something I’m trying to do but I can’t necessarily scale it to that level right now.

Bob: Right. Although I’ve seen a list of some reputable websites that you’ve uncovered. So you’ve done your part.

David: Absolutely, yeah.

Bob: Cool.

David: I’m still continually working on getting out there. But I’ve been definitely fortunate to create some good connections that way.

Just a couple more questions, and then we’ll try to wrap this up. Hard to summarize everything we’ve covered here today because it’s been pretty meaty. But I think this one is really huge.

You have a video on YouTube called My Best Music Career Advice EVER!. And in it, you actually talk about the importance of a mission or a purpose above your goals, and how that had a huge impact on you in you book business. So talk about that.

Bob: Yeah, so again in my quest to break things down into a list of three and four things, and I hope people won’t get tired of this, and I think in The Empowered Artist book I refer to it as the three levels of achievement. I can’t remember the way that I phrased it.

But yeah, I articulated this in that too in a written form. But basically, so to get things done, to make progress, to move toward your goals or your dreams or whatever, there’s kind of three levels of activity that take place.

And on the bottom level are what I would call tasks. These are like the daily…it’s like the things on your daily to-do list. These are the things that you do, the busy work, the phone calls you make, the things you design, the blog posts or whatever. So those are tasks.

Now above that, in the middle level, is our goals. And so if you’ve paid any attention to goal-setting advice you probably know what SMART goals are, they ideally should be particularly specific and measurable.

And these things work together. And so a lot of times people will just get busy doing stuff but then they feel after a while like they’re spinning their wheels and they’re not making much progress. And so they’ll curse, “I’m doing all this stuff.” But the things that they’re doing are not attached to goals.

So what are your goals with your career? Or how many albums would you like to sell? Or how many subscribers would you like to get to your newsletter or your YouTube channel, or your Facebook likes, or whatever? So just put what are the things that are going to help me make progress, and figure out what those specific measurable metrics are.

Again, I know we talked about how we were bad at measuring, but you can do a little bit of this. And you have to determine what numbers are important to you. Is it the number of subscribers? Is it the number of followers, fans, sales? So you’re going to have to set a few of these specific and measurable goals.

So when your activities are tied to goals, you’re much more focused and you’re doing better than probably 90% of the population if you were just kind of randomly doing things or not even giving them any thought. So that’s a huge step if you can just do those two levels. Have goals, then make sure every day what’s the next action step I can take to reach that goal, and that goal?

However, I think there’s an even more important layer on the top which is your mission or your purpose. This is your overall reason, your big why that’s driving you.

And for me, years ago I realized I kind of maybe changed the wording but my mission is to inspire and empower musicians and authors and creative people to take their talents and their know-how, and to either make a difference with them or to make a living, whatever.

Again, you don’t have to be full-time but to reach whatever your level of success is. And so that’s a pretty big empowering vision. And so to me I think it’s really more of a top-down strategy.

If you really have a handle on what your mission is and your big overreaching purpose, and especially if that thing is to serve others, certainly there’s an aspect of it where I feel fulfilled when I’m serving myself by living out that mission but it’s focused on how I’m going to make a difference on other people’s lives.

From that mission I then determine, or I encourage everyone to then, once you know what that mission is that then guides what goals you set. What are the goals, the specific and measurable things that I can reach that will help me live out that mission?

And then once you have those goals in place then those determine the daily actions and the tasks that you engage in. And I think when you do it in that order, it’s the most powerful thing that you can do. And so that’s what that piece of advice is all about.

David: Awesome. And I really like that. Are there any books you’ve read recently or in the past that have really impacted your thinking approach to your career?

Bob: Oh, boy. Man, oh, man. Yeah, I’ve read a lot of great books over the years. Let me think. Oh, actually a recent one. It’s funny that it came out the same year…so early last year…again, I don’t want to…I’m not hammering on with this title, but I guess I keep on referring to it is The Empowered Artist book came out back in the spring, early summer of 2015.

And then later, I’m a big fan of Elizabeth Gilbert. She’s probably best known for writing the book Eat, Pray, Love (get it on Amazon US or Amazon Canada). And then she had a couple of TED Talks that were hugely popular on the kind of…it goes more about creativity.

And I guess because of the success of those TED Talks, she put out a book in September of 2015 called Big Magic (get it on Amazon US or Amazon Canada). And it covers a lot of similar ground that The Empowered Artist does. It’s all about that living a creative life.

And she has an interesting take on it. Some of it is a little different than my approach but it’s really made me think. So that was actually a recent book that I read that I think would really be great.

After you’ve read The Empowered Artist, check out Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic because it puts a lot of things in perspective about living a creative life. And again, giving yourself permission to create and deal with fear and all that good stuff.

David: Nice. And is there anything else I should’ve asked?

Bob: No, I think you’ve done a great job. Yeah, we’ve covered a lot of stuff here, David.

David: We really did.

Bob: Yeah, I really enjoyed this conversation and look forward to sharing this with your peeps and mine. And if people want to know, here’s a variety of things that I do, if you don’t mind me getting out a portal to all of my stuff.

David: Yeah, please do.

Bob: A website. So the main, like a portal to all my stuff is Bob-Baker.com. So it’s a hyphen or dash, whatever you want to call that, but Bob-Baker, B – A – K – E – R dot com. And there are lists on of that page, it has links to all the music marketing sites, there’s a book site. There’s stuff on improv, my artwork, my original music. And then a list of all the books and all that good stuff.

And so that’s sort of a good place to start. And then you can go to whichever link calls to you and dig deeper into whatever topic that would be helpful for you. So yeah, I appreciate it. That’s awesome.

David: That’s great. All right. Well, thank you so much for your generosity, Bob.

Bob: It’s been my pleasure.

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000 – An Introduction to The New Music Industry Podcast

Thank you so much for your interest in my new podcast. In episode 0, I’d like to share with you what I hope to accomplish with The New Music Industry Podcast.

Podcast Highlights:

  • 00:14 – This is episode 0 of The New Music Industry Podcast
  • 00:38 – I released my first book in June 2015
  • 01:18 – I’m still active as a musician
  • 01:23 – My eyes have opened to the power of personal development and business
  • 01:48 – Three types of episodes
  • 02:51 – The goal is to create engaging content
  • 03:03 – Interact with me

Transcription:

Hello, and welcome. This is episode 0 of The New Music Industry Podcast.

You might be wondering what an episode 0 is – it’s basically an opportunity for me to share about myself and what you can expect to hear in upcoming episodes of the show.

I may come back to this episode and update it from time to time, as I know a lot of people tend to start at the very beginning with a podcast, but we’ll see.

As you may already know, I released my first book, The New Music Industry: Adapting, Growing, and Thriving in The Information Age in June 2015, and that’s one of the reasons I decided to launch this podcast.

But in reality, I’ve been podcasting since 2009. I took a little bit of a break in the middle, because I felt that I needed to be a lot clearer about what I was trying to achieve, and figure out how to reach a broader audience. I feel I am on the right track with this podcast, and believe that podcasting is one of the most powerful mediums for reaching out to, and connecting with busy people like musicians and music industry professionals.

In case you’re wondering, I’m still very much active as a musician, especially as a session player these days. But in the last eight years or so, my eyes have really opened to the power of personal development, business, and marketing when applied to a music career.

This is why I continue to create content like this. I enjoy sharing my journey, and believe the things that I’ve learned and continue to learn will be of value to you also.

But that’s enough about me. Let’s talk about what you can expect to from this podcast.

There will basically be three types of episodes:

  1. The first type is a solo episode, like the one you’re listening to you right now. Typically, I’ll be sharing about the topics I’ve covered in my book and exploring them in more depth. I’ve spent over a decade in the music industry at this point, so there is a lot I have to share with you. I might do the occasional review or news update as well.
  2. The second type is an interview. With most podcasts, you’ll hear interviews in which the interviewer is asking interviewees what they think the audience wants to hear. I did that for a long time, and actually got tired of it. So a lot of these interviews will be very candid conversations with music industry people, creative people, and even business and marketing people. You’ll hear me asking all kinds of questions that apply to my current situation.
  3. The third type of episode is where I’m interviewed by another person. Though this type of episode might be on the rare side, I think having episodes like these should mix things up and help keep things fresh. It should give you a better opportunity to learn about me and my perspective as well.

Ultimately, the goal is to create engaging content that inspires you to take action in your music career. You can have all the information in the world at your disposal, and if you don’t do anything with it, nothing will change.

So I would love for you to leave comments and interact with me, letting me know where you’re at in you’re career, and what you’re working on right now.

Listen – we’re all in this together, and none of us have anything to gain by holding back. It’s the sharing of great ideas that leads to progress, and in my mind there’s little doubt that the music industry needs to be – and can be – changed for the better. So let’s be the catalyst for positive change.

The music industry needs to be – and can be – changed for the better. Share on X

You can reach me at any time at david@davidandrewwiebe.com. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, send them over, and I look forward to connecting with you.

The True Cost of a Single & Return on Investment

Summary: is recorded music an asset? Can you break even on a single, and even see some money back on all of the effort you put in to it? How much does it actually cost to produce a single, and what’s the return on investment?

The recent release of “Fragments” started me thinking about the true costs of a single release and the potential return on investment.

Many of us independent musicians have decried the lack of income from streaming sites, declining digital sales, and the competitive me-too market we now find ourselves in.

Exploitation is a real thing, and I would never minimize the impact it has had – and continues to have – on artists.

But I also like to consider the potential upsides of releasing music, so in this post, I’m going to explore whether or not creating music can truly be looked at as an investment.

What Does It Cost to Record & Release a Single?

The cost of recording varies from artist to artist, and is a huge variable.

If you have a home studio and the ability to mix and master your own recording, you can keep expenses to a minimum.

But if you want to work with an experienced producer, record at a top-notch studio, and send your mix off to a separate mastering engineer, you can expect your bill to be considerably more.

First, I’m going to take a look at what it cost me to release my single, and then we’ll consider a hypothetical scenario where the costs are a bit higher.

Case Study: “Fragments”

Writing, composing and arranging: about three hours at $60 per hour = $180 (I’m simply assigning a value to my own time, which could be more or less)

Recording: about two hours at $60 per hour = $120

Mixing and mastering: about one hour at $60 per hour

Distribution: $9.95 USD for standard distribution on CD Baby (we’ll say $14 CAD to maintain legibility of the numbers)

Total cost: $374 (this would also be the break-even point in terms of sales with a digital-only release)

The total cost does not include the resources spent on marketing. The costs would continue to mount with each hour spent on promoting the new music.

Hypothetical Scenario

Writing, composing and arranging: about three hours at $60 per hour = $180 (again, you might assign more or less value to your own time)

Recording (with engineer): about four hours at $120 per hour = $480 (I’m going to assume you have more parts and more band members to record)

Mixing: one hour at $120 per hour

Mastering: $100 per track (some engineers would likely charge more)

Producer: $200 per track

Distribution: $9.95 USD for standard distribution on CD Baby

Total cost: $1,094 (assuming you own your music outright this would be the break-even point with a digital-only release)

Again, this breakdown does not include the cost of marketing.

What’s the Difference?

I’m able to record from home on my own dime. This means cost savings.

I’m also able to self-produce, mix, and master my own tracks. The industry doesn’t necessarily like this, so I’m definitely not bragging. But again, as result, I’m able to keep expenses low.

Regardless, the $720 difference between the two scenarios could be a bigger spread. And there’s no denying that you will likely get a better quality recording if you work with professionals.

What is the Return on Investment?

Spending more money on your recording could prolong your journey towards the break-even point (though I’m definitely not saying you should spend less on producing your singles).

The disparity in quality between the two recordings might be noticeable, but if I were to put the quality of my recording at “pretty good”, and the costlier professional example at “excellent”, we’re really in the same ballpark.

If the singles are equal in every other regard, then it mostly comes down to marketing, which we haven’t accounted for here.

But you can see how the costs of marketing could quickly add up (even if it’s just sweat equity you’re putting in), making it even more difficult to recoup your original costs.

Taking a Long-Term Perspective

Assuming the true cost of my single was indeed $374, that means I would need to make $374 to break even, and above and beyond that to make a profit.

I don’t necessarily have a huge buying audience, but assuming I’m able to grow a fan base over time and continue to drive sales, even modest projections show that I’ll more than make my money back on the release.

Here’s a very simple hypothetical example:

(40 sales per year x $0.90 profit per single) x 30 years = $1,080 revenue

$1,080 – $374 = $706 profit

Now this example might seem a tad depressing, but keep in mind it doesn’t account for any income from streaming, royalties, and other sources.

In other words, this is starting to look like a pretty solid investment over the long term, especially when you consider that it isn’t impossible or unrealistic for most artists to release a single every single month.

Unfortunately, with the other scenario I laid out, if you saw the same number of sales, you would never break even let alone make your money back.

But please keep in mind this is not a post about reducing the cost of recording. It’s about determining whether or not music is an investment with a definite return.

If you spent $1,094 on your single, it’s just a matter of selling more than the guy that made 40 sales per year, and that’s not exactly a high bar (keeping in mind that your marketing costs could also be more).

Final Thoughts

From a logical standpoint, I think a single can totally become an asset over the long haul, and it doesn’t necessarily have to take 30 years to pay off.

Unfortunately, the purchase of music is largely emotional. Buying anything, in general, isn’t a logical process like we tend to think it is, but it appears to be even less so when it comes to music.

You can’t necessarily predict that you’ll have 40 sales this year, and that you’ll be able to continue to drive 40 sales per year for 30 years.

You’ll likely see some obvious sales spikes around the actual release of the single, during seasonal promotions, if and when it gets featured in a popular TV show or video game, and so on.

But this is how I tend to think, so I thought I would share my crazy thoughts with you.