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Do you know what your goals are? Are you aware of what steps you need to take to achieve your goals? What’s your plan? In this episode of The New Music Industry Podcast, I share some ideas on how to create or revamp your music career strategy for 2019.
- 00:34 – The focus of this episode
- 01:12 – The Music Entrepreneur HQ strategy
- 03:24 – Crafting your music career strategy
- 03:59 – Determining what tactics to fit around your strategy
- 04:25 – Tip #1: Keep doing what’s working
- 05:36 – Tip #2: Study everything you can find on relevant topics
- 07:06 – Tip #3: Take a break and let ideas come to you
- 07:59 – Tip #4: Keep it lean and high impact
- 09:24 – Tip #5: Keep the winners, cut the losers
- 10:27 – Make your strategy with full confidence
Originally, when I began working on this podcast episode, I was planning to talk about strategy from a high level.
But then I realized that we could be here all day. There’s so much that could be said about strategy, whether it’s the definition of strategy or the exact tactics to use to get your music or product out there.
And, as I’ve expressed on the podcast before, I don’t think business plans or marketing plans should be sequentially ordered, multi-page documents organized by category.
When and where possible, we should collate and organize a single-page document where every element is interconnected and purposeful.
So, that’s the goal to strive for but getting there can be problematic.
After my conversation with Brent Vaartstra – he was on episode 126 and 127 of the podcast in case you missed it – I had some important realizations around strategy. This had led to the creation of a new strategy for The Music Entrepreneur HQ from the ground up.
The strategy I’m developing isn’t complete by any means. But the foundation of it is clearer than ever.
What I started to see was that there are only three components to my strategy.
The first is content. Whether it’s blog posts, podcast episodes or videos, content is designed to do two things – to drive traffic to the website and to capture email addresses.
Now, some people will come to the website and buy products too. Obviously, that’s a desired outcome but I’m not counting on it. What I’m hoping people will do is take the next step in the relationship and want to follow along over the long haul. That means greater Customer Lifetime Value.
Now, CLV is a little technical, but this is basically what it means. It means the average amount of money you make from every customer.
The second component is email. The importance of an email list simply cannot be denied, and I think most marketers would agree that it’s more important and effective than social media.
My email campaigns are designed to do two things – to nurture those who aren’t ready to buy yet and to make people aware of the products that are available, and by extension, sell those products.
The third and final component is products. That term isn’t used as much in the music industry. Maybe “merch” is a better term.
But the creation and delivery of products is what’s going to make this business viable. No sales equals zero viability. I may as well spend my time doing something else if money is all I care about.
Fortunately, I do have sales and money isn’t all I care about. Fulfillment and impact matter to me far more than money. But because I have certain financial goals, I’m going to be aggressive with the creation and delivery of products. But that’s another aspect of strategy entirely.
First and foremost, the products educate my customers. Second, they offer next steps for my customers, whether that’s buying another book, getting on a coaching call, purchasing a course, joining the community or otherwise.
So, from a high-level view, that’s all there is to my strategy. Simple, right?
Your strategy won’t necessarily be the same as mine unless you have the same business model. But the idea here is to break it all down into the core components so that you’re clear on what the purpose of each of the components are.
Now, what I’ve just shared with you could easily fit on one page. So, we could call it a day.
But a strategy isn’t complete without a couple of other elements, especially tactics.
I like to think philosophy or operation guidelines as being part of the strategy too, but what we’re going to focus on in this episode is tactics.
So, how do you go about filling in the blanks in terms of tactics?
Now, I admit that my strategy is a work in progress.
But based on what I’m about to share with you, the reason for that is probably going to become a lot clearer.
So, here are a few steps I suggest you follow when you’re working on your strategy.
As you work through these steps, keep in mind that you’re fleshing out the specific activities you will be doing under each component of your strategy.
As I’ve already shared with you, mine are content, email and products.
1. Keep Doing What’s Already Working
If you’ve been at this for a while, then you should have a good sense of what and what isn’t working for you. So, even if you’re revamping your strategy, feel free to carry over any tactics that are already working.
If you’re new at this, then just make some educated guesses. Some of the most popular social media sites out there are YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. So, it might be worth figuring out how you’re going to be using these as part of your marketing strategy. You’ve heard me talk about the importance of an email list. So, maybe start identifying how you’re going to build and serve your email list.
It’s not hard to find proven tactics when you go looking for them. The only thing to beware of is the fact that what works for another may not work for you.
So, on a philosophical level, you need to know what matters to you. Identifying your values can help with this process.
But even if you find certain tactics don’t work for you, you’re not stuck with them. I’ll talk more about that a little later.
So, between research, data you’ve collected and best guesses, you should have a good idea of what tactics to include in your strategy. But it’s unlikely that each of your components are fleshed out in full yet. So, let’s move onto the next step, which explains research in more detail.
2. Study Everything You Can Find on Relevant Topics
This is what I’m doing right now, and it’s why my strategy isn’t fleshed out in full yet.
The content component isn’t that hard to figure out because I have a near limitless list of content ideas I haven’t even touched on yet. I’d say the content component is 80% fleshed out because I’m quite adept at that process by now.
Granted, my channels may change down the line. My primary channel right now is the podcast.
Now, because I want to serve my audience better, I’m planning to dedicate more time to surveying my audience and researching keywords.
But as you can probably guess, my biggest pain point isn’t with content because content drives a lot of traffic to my website every single day.
In the last couple of years, I’ve also figured out how to grow my email list, so that isn’t a massive pain point either.
The number one component I’m trying to flesh out is products. This year, I’m planning to launch numerous books. So, I’m spending most of my study time learning about how to market and sell more books.
And, I’m studying virtually everything I can find on the topic.
As I hear about tactics that I think could prove beneficial for me, I add them to my strategy document. At this point, my strategy document isn’t fully organized because I’m basically just taking notes as I go. I will organize it later once I’ve exhausted available resources.
This may sound tiresome, but it’s quite simple. I will just search for something like “how to sell more books” on YouTube and listen to all available videos while playing a game on my 3DS. So, it’s easy to do even while I’m resting.
3. Let Ideas Come to You
This is another reason my strategy isn’t fully fleshed out. I’m allowing ideas come to me as I reflect on everything I’ve been reading, listening to or watching.
As tempting as it is to document your strategy in one sitting, I think that’s a mistake.
You can easily miss out on important considerations that will help you execute at a high level.
It’s important to spend time just thinking and reflecting. As you continue to go about your day to day work, new ideas will come to you and you’ll want to add them to your strategy.
Again, I know this might seem tedious. But I’ve heard other entrepreneurs like Tim Francis recommend this process, and I think he’s spot on. I’ve found tremendous value in this while I’ve been working on my strategy.
Don’t be in a big rush to complete your strategy document. Consume relevant information voraciously and give your mind time to connect the dots between everything you’ve been learning.
4. Keep it Lean & High Impact
This is an optional step. It’s an important one for The Music Entrepreneur HQ because it’s another philosophical underpinning of the business.
I started the podcast series a while back on growth hacking for musicians. And, that’s something I will continue to elaborate on in future episodes.
But something I’ve realized about growth hacking is that if you want to take an aggressive approach to anything, you need to keep your activities lean and high impact.
If you want to do many things at once, you’re going to end up sacrificing in another area.
For instance, if you plan to share your blog posts to 20 social networks, it’s probably going to take away from the time you have available to write blog posts. That means you can’t write as many blog posts.
That’s a crude example, but I think you get the idea.
I used to obsess about how many channels I could use to promote my content and business. And, the activities required a lot of my time. I don’t do that anymore.
I need to set aside as much time as possible to write, so I’m trying to whittle down my tactics to those that yield results.
If you can execute many of your tactics using the same tools or platforms, that can certainly speed things up. For instance, using a social scheduling app like Hootsuite, you can schedule posts for several social networks simultaneously.
So, if your tactics are interconnected, it makes it easier for you to be high impact while being lean.
It’s becoming an important aspect of what I do at The Music Entrepreneur HQ, but you don’t need to adopt this for yourself.
5. Keep the Winners, Cut the Losers
Most likely, this is something you’re going to be doing after you’ve spent several months or even a year executing against your strategy.
But even as you’re adding to your strategy document, you may end up identifying things that aren’t in alignment with your values or don’t connect in a meaningful way to your other tactics. Feel free to delete these from your document.
And, as you continue to execute your strategy, keep an eye on what works and what doesn’t. The 80/20 rule states that you get 80% of your results from 20% of your activity.
So, even a lean strategy is sure to have some holes in it. You don’t need to hold onto something just because other marketers are endlessly raving about it.
For instance, I love checking out new social networks, but I’m not one to jump on the bandwagon every time someone goes off about Snapchat, Periscope or otherwise. I guess you could say that’s another philosophical underpinning of The Music Entrepreneur HQ strategy.
But the point is this. Do more of what’s working. Eliminate what isn’t working. If you’ve got the data to prove it, you should do this with full confidence.
As I mentioned at the beginning, there’s so much that could be said about strategy.
Even I’m still learning, and I’ve been building websites since I was 14!
But I hope what I’ve shared with you today is enough to bestow you with the Confidence you need to make your strategy hum.
Also know that if you take the time to craft a strategy and document it, you’re way ahead of many companies and businesses out there that haven’t done the same. So, please set aside some time to make one, even if you’re just letting ideas come to you while you’re taking a walk or playing video games.
That’s all for this episode. Talk to you again soon.
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Do you feel stuck in your music career? Does it seem like no matter what you try you end up in the same place? Don’t worry – there is a way out.
In this episode of The New Music Industry Podcast, I talk to drummer and career coach Matt Starr about how he rose through the ranks to establish himself in the music industry.
- 00:34 – Matt Starr is in the house!
- 00:46 – The struggle of becoming a professional musician
- 13:47 – Your life is not your fault, but it is your responsibility
- 15:22 – How did you get to the point of working with many known rock stars?
- 18:55 – Why is networking important?
- 24:56 – Action
- 27:12 – The importance of business as it applies to music
- 31:59 – Knowing your own value
- 35:52 – How important is coaching?
- 40:32 – What is The Workbook?
- 44:13 – What books have helped you on your journey?
- 48:56 – Closing thoughts
David Andrew Wiebe: Today I’m chatting with drummer, singer, producer, career coach and public speaker, Matt Starr. How are you today, Matt?
Matt Starr: I’m doing great. How are you?
David Andrew Wiebe: I’m fine. Thank you for asking. And thank you for joining me today. You know, there’s so much we can talk about, but I think one of the first things we should get into is your story. I’m sure you’ve talked about this lots so not to belabor the point but I would love for you to talk about the struggle of becoming a professional musician.
Matt Starr: Yeah, no, I’m happy to talk about it because I think we… I know from when I was a kid, you know, you see somebody who has achieved a certain level of success, and then you assume that, well, they were just born like that, or you only see what they do. You don’t see all the times they tried and either ‘failed” or all the takes that we do that don’t sound so great that don’t make it onto the record. And you just assume that oh, well, you know, some people are just born to do this, and maybe I’m not.
And so, I saw my first Kiss album at age seven. Scott Cabala lived up the street from me. He was a few years older, and he had some records and Cheap Trick live at Budokan was one, one of my favorite records to this day, Shaun Cassidy Da Doo Run Run, which you know, I like that record too. I have to admit. It’s not quite, you know, as edgy as I like, but just some cool stuff. But when I saw Kiss Alive II picture of jeans and blood, and you open up the inside, and there’s flames and sparks. It just blew my mind. I wasn’t thinking about career or even about being a musician. I just was mesmerized by that world that they created. And I knew that world, whatever that is, whatever these guys are doing, I just want to be in there.
That feeling never went away. So, looking back, as I’ve gotten older, I realized that was really a divine moment and such a blessing because I knew tons of people in high school. I said, “What are you going to do when you get out of high school? Like, “Well, I don’t know. I’m going to go to college.” And like, “Oh, what? I don’t know. I got to figure it out.” I’m thinking, well, you’re going to spend all your parent’s money, go away for four years and invest into something that you’re not… you don’t even know what you’re passionate about. And so, that was a gift that I knew that at age seven, even if I didn’t know exactly what it was, but I knew like the feeling that I got, and nothing else ever gave me that same feeling.
And so, I started playing in six-grade. I had a band in junior high. We played the local talent shows. We actually won a battle of the bands by playing a Judas Priest cover, so go figure. But we had a lot of fun. We just wanted to be great. And we would go… I was born in 1970 so we were going to concerts by Kiss, Twisted Sister, AC DC, Iron Maiden. So, we were going to see them at the local arena, Harvard Civic Center in our town, watching these guys and we would watch Alive perform. We would watch how they paced the set, how they came out, if they did encores, where they placed the guitar solos, you know all this stuff. Enjoying it as fans but really like being objective about it too.
I always had an eye on… I’m always a fan and I still am but I was also looking at the behind the scenes and kind of trying to understand how did they make this thing work. So, did that. I actually moved to LA for one year in my early 20s. I didn’t like it. I didn’t understand it. I didn’t know how to get along with people. I was used to being in a big fish in a small pond back in Connecticut where I grew up. So consequently, I went back home. And then I got into the scenario that a lot of guys have gotten into, which is I was making a living playing music but I was not living my dreams. I was playing covers. I was playing in bars and we were having fun, making music, making girls, drinking and all that stuff but that really wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. That wasn’t where my heart laid.
That went on for three years and then I moved back out to Los Angeles in 2002. I played drums for a little bit with some artists. I played with Kevin Dubrow from Quiet Riot, started a band called Hookers and Blow with Izzy from Guns and Roses, and Alex Grossi who’s now with Quiet Riot. Play with a band called Beautiful Creatures.
So, I did some stuff of note but I had the bug to go back to singing which I had done previously. And so, then I started a band again. We almost had a record deal, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, but it didn’t happen. And I came up I was about 38. I was at the time singing for a band that was playing Vegas. I was playing one show a week and paying all my bills so that again was, it was great, but it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing.
And so, it was kind of a kind of mess on my mind because I said, okay, I’m making money. I don’t have to work a day job. I’m playing music. I’m having fun, but it’s not fulfilling. I look back and that was kind of the scenario for a good part of my life where I hadn’t gotten real with myself. I just figured it would happen. It would just happen just because I wanted it and I was working hard. Right? And that I was talented. And so, I figured I got all the pieces but it didn’t work.
And so, I talked to a lot of guys and they say… I wanted to do coaching with you because I asked people that were more successful than me for advice and they said, just keep doing it. Just get out there and play, do a good job, and work hard and things will happen. Well, that’s what I was doing but that was not happening. So, I had to get clinical on it and figure out what was I doing wrong? What was I not doing much right? You know what I mean? I had a high standard for my performance. So that was good but the rest of the stuff was not. So, I made up my mind what I wanted to do. I wrote out what I wanted my life to look like. I wrote out what quality of life I wanted to have, and then reverse engineered it. My wife and I did this together and said, “Okay, we want to have all these things in our lives. How much does this cost?” And we were kind of astonished to find the number that we would have to be making every year to live like this. But I said, “Well, that’s what I want.” You know, that’s what I want. But we got real. We didn’t just… It wasn’t, you know. What I teach is a combination of dreaming and thinking big, and then also doing the realistic work. Right? So, you got your head in your clouds, but you got your feet on the ground.
And so, we got real about that number and started asking, what does that look like and how do we make this a physical reality? So, what I started doing was I quit the Vegas gig, which I would not recommend. If you have a situation where you are not feeling fulfilled or something else. But if that situation is paying all your bills, unless you were being abused in some way, do not quit. But I wanted to take action and so I thought, “Okay. Well, the first action I’ll do is get all this stuff out of my life that I don’t want.” Well, I did want to pay my bills, though. But I let this go. And then I’m like, “Oh, my God.” I freaked out. Right?
So that’s a lot of times what we do, you know, we think we’re going to take an action towards a dream, but actually, we’re cutting something out. At times it can be helpful but we need to recognize what’s working just for the time being. And so, I did that. It soon turned into a panic. And then I was just out every single night in Los Angeles. So had lots of opportunities to connect with all of the people that are further along than I was. I would reach out to them, connect with them in any way I could. And some of these relationships have taken years to get a lunch, you know, to get a coffee, to sit down and talk to somebody. Others happened a little more quickly. A lot of these people have become friends, genuine friends. The rest of them are acquaintances, and “Hey, man, how are you?” “Good. How’s it going?” “Oh, great.” “Good to see you, brother.” “Oh, you too, man.” “Okay.” Like that kind of thing. A couple of people didn’t get back to me but eventually everybody did. Or I would reach out to somebody for like a year and then I’d see them and they go, “Oh, man, you’ve been emailing me, bro. I’m so sorry. I didn’t get back to you.” But what we do in our heads is, “Oh, this guy hates me.” even though they don’t know you. This guy doesn’t want to be bothered. I’m annoying him. I’m inconveniencing him with my existence, you know, all that stuff. And so, those are the things that I realized I had to walk through with my mindset, my own discomfort.
I found myself in a lot of situations where I was not comfortable. It was a good thing, where in the past, if something was uncomfortable, I try and get away from it. And so, I found myself standing in a circle with Chad Smith (drummer for the chili peppers), Steven Perkins (drummer for Jane’s Addiction), Kenny Aronoff (drummer for kind of everybody). And one other guy, it was Matt Sorum. I was standing there. And this was pretty kind of early on. I’m in the circle and I’m going, “I’m in the circle with these guys. I don’t know what to do with my hands. Where do I put my hands?” Okay, Kenny’s talking. So he’s moving his hands. Chad’s arms are crossed. Okay, that’s one option. Perkins are like in his pocket. You know, the point being, I just am like standing there going, “Well, how did I get here? I’m uncomfortable right now.” I realized I always want to be the least successful, least talented, least knowledgeable guy in the room because that’s how I’m going to learn. And for a long time, up to that I was always the most successful, most knowledgeable, most motivated guy in the room. I was comfortable with that, but it wasn’t serving me.
Within about a year, I got the gig with Ace Failure, which was my first drum gig in a very, very long time. And then, that turned into a lot of other things. Playing with Mr. Big, playing with Jolin Turner from Rainbow, toward the world making records and doing what I love, and really being fulfilled. And so, what happened is I had a lot of guys that I had reached out to initially who had been on this for a while, and they started reaching out to me saying, what are you doing because you came out of nowhere and now you’ve got these gigs and you’re doing all this stuff. And I realized that I had figured it out because I I had to be methodical about it and I had to be conscious of what I was doing and I was paying attention to what was working, what wasn’t working, and doing all the work. So, I really fast track the whole thing. It worked. And then, that’s how my coaching business came to be because I would have drum lessons with people asking me about career almost more than they were asking about drumming. But they were asking stuff like, “How did you get this gig?” And I’m like, “I could tell you the story. And that might be of interest to you might to you.” They go, “Oh, that’s cool. All right. No, it’s inspiring.” But if you really want to know how do you get gigs like this, I can tell you, I can give you the overview. I can give you a template, I can give you a plan. And that’s, what the coaching is.
So, it all kind of came out of that but you know, even with the coaching, a lot of this is putting my ego aside and just doing what I’m going to do, and I realized that I’m able to do this coaching work, but it didn’t feel cool. I don’t think John Bonham doing coaching work, you know what I mean? You think of him playing drums and drinking and you know, tearing up at the world. So, for me, I had to recognize, “Look, I have a gift, I have an ability, I have some insight, and I need to be able to share this with people. I can’t be doing what I think is cool, or how I want things to look from the outside. I have to do the work that I’m able to do.” And so, that’s opening up a whole other aspect which has led to public speaking and all kinds of other things that I would have never have seen for myself but when I stopped trying to be cool and just be myself, that’s when things really opened up.
David Andrew Wiebe: There’s so much there that I can relate to and comment on. I guess just one thing that I’ll say is, you know, up until I was 25, I just believe that life was whatever happened to you out of victim mentality. I had these assumptions that life is just the way it was. And then I discovered personal development blogger, Steve Pavlina. He pointed out the idea that you can make conscious decisions for your life. That was the first sort of gateway into a whole new way of thinking and doing life.
Matt Starr: Yeah, it’s a mind blower. And I think what I say in my work is your life is not your fault, but it is your responsibility. So whatever life many of us is living, it is a combination of decisions and beliefs and actions that we’ve made over the last… in most cases several decades. But certainly, we’re responsible for it.
A lot of people when they hear that, they use that to beat themselves up. When that’s the angle they’re coming from, that’s a really self-defeating thing. But when I realized that, I thought, “Oh, wait, so I made a mess out of this. Oh, wait, I could make it better.” Right? I have to be willing to take responsibility for my life in the first place. And if people aren’t willing to take responsibility for their lives, then they’re not going to be able to move forward. But once you realize that this situation is my responsibility, I created this for better or worse. That means I can create something new.
David Andrew Wiebe: That’s a great little mindset tweak for sure. I love that. You already mentioned some of these but you’ve played with the likes now with Ace Frehley, Mr. Big, Dee Snider, Whitesnake, Bon Jovi, and many others. We’re talking about some of my heroes here. So, how did you get to that point and what is it like hobnobbing with so many rock stars?
Matt Starr: The way I got to that point; I think the first thing was to really claim that that’s what I wanted to do. I’m coaching a client and they’re like, “I just want better gigs.” I go, “Okay, so if I pay you $10 an hour or more, that’s enough? That’s what you want? It’s like, “Oh, I mean I wanted it…” And it’s like, “Okay, well, what do you really…?” “Okay, if I could do anything?” “Yeah, anything.” Okay, I want to play with Queen.” “Okay, great.” Let’s say that out loud. Say it again. “I want to play with Queen.” Okay, how’s that feel? Probably kind of weird. Probably like you think I’m going to say, “Are you serious? Give me a break.” Like, I don’t know if you’re going to play with Queen but I know that until you acknowledge the truth that’s in your heart, nothing is going to come to fruition.
So, the first thing was just really getting clear on what I wanted to do and what things matter to me. You know what I mean? What aspects of it mattered to me? And getting around these guys that were far more successful than me and noticing how they conducted themselves, how they talked about business, how they thought about business, how they dressed, how that they acted when they played, how did they play, how did they approach…? You know, I’d see them at concerts where they had a rehearsal and I’d see them at open jams where they didn’t have a rehearsal. How did they do that? How did they make it happen?
Everybody does things a little bit differently but what’s this consistent thing is the quality and the end result? Right? So, some guys have a struggled frustrated process. And I go, “Okay, I don’t want that.” But look at the end result. I do you want the end result. Is there anything I can take from this person? And then, other guys have a joyful, “Oh, man. I’m grateful for every single note I get to play.” It’s like, okay, I like that approach more but there’s something that I can learn from everybody. And so, just going through the steps that I go through every day and talk about my coaching work, that’s how I make that transformation. It starts with my mind.
Usually musicians that they need to get better. And what my goal in 2019, is to close the gap between their abilities and their success because we all have few guys… every once in a while, you see somebody go, “Man, that guy’s got some great gigs and he’s not that great.” Like he’s right where he needs to be, you know what I mean? For the most part, there’s so many players out there that are really good but yet the level of success that they have is far below their abilities, but they think they need to get better. What I’m saying, you know, you need to get better, you probably need to play less is probably, you know, and stop trying to impress people and just listen to the music and just play for the song to get specific, but this goes for any line of work, you know, and getting along with people is the number one skill that’s needed in this business and just in general, in life, in any career because it is about the relationships and how people feel when they’re around you. Again, assuming you can deliver, but the majority of people that I talked to are capable of delivering the goods. So then why are you not getting the opportunities to do that?
David Andrew Wiebe: It makes so much sense you know, and I’ve been on some Twitter chats and some other things like that. People call me out and go, “You’re talking so much about networking. I don’t like networking. I’m not going to do that. I feel shy. I feel intimidated. I feel awkward.” I agree with you. Maybe networking is the wrong way of framing it. Maybe just saying like making friends or finding people with common interests or getting in touch with the right people that can help you in your career. What would you say to somebody that has that kind of mental block around it?
Matt Starr: I would say tough shit. I would just get over it. I mean, bluntly, get over it, but I will follow that up with this: It felt really weird to me to go out for the purpose of connecting with other people in order that I can get a better job. That felt weird. That felt creepy. It felt insincere. It felt like I’m a door to door salesman. So yeah, if you want to call it making friends, yeah, call it that. All I would say is so you know, this fictitious person that you’re talking about, it’s like, okay, so you are not comfortable with that? Okay, so keep doing what you’re doing. The discomfort is the precipice of greatness, right? So the other side of that thing that you’re scared to walk through. Whatever it is. Whether it’s going up to somebody cold and just going, “Hey, how you doing, man? I’m Matt. It’s nice to meet you. I saw you play earlier, you sounded great. Are you playing with anybody? What’s going on? Are you living around here? What do you do?” You know, strike up a conversation. Or maybe when someone says, “I want to hire you to record drums on a song, how much do you charge?” Rather than saying, “Well, I don’t know. What do you want to pay me?” I say, “I make this much. I quote a rate.” And then, I don’t say anything else after that. I don’t say, “Well, I get this much. But you know, if you can’t do that, let me know. And I mean, I’m totally willing to work with you.” It’s like, no, no, no. This is what I get. Now you can talk. Right? So, it’s whatever is that thing that I’m afraid to do. So, if I had a to-do list and there’s a thing at the top that’s just like, oh, that’s the last thing I want to do. That’s the first thing I do.
Now, for some people, because… As long as your list doesn’t say, number one, cut off your arm with a rusty saw. You know what I mean? It’s like, as long as your list is… You know what I mean? Make this call to this guy who said to call him back. He said, “I’m busy now. Call me in two weeks.” And it’s like, you put it in your calendar. It’s been two weeks, call this dude. He said to call you. Call him.
What’s helpful for me in those areas too is to make to-do lists. I get in phases where I’m relaxed, usually at the end of my day, and I’ll get a bunch of… just intuition as far as like, do this tomorrow, do this, call this person, reach out to this person, set this up, look into this. And I’ll make the list. Then the next day. I get up. I do my thing. I get my coffee. I sit down and I look at the list. Thing number one, call this guy. Okay, call him. And I’ll put in the thing, “Call so and so about this thing. Ask him…” Even though if I saw the name I know what it pertained to. I just write it out exactly what I need to do so I can just read it and go, “Okay, I’m going to do that.” Call Brian School of Rock in Calgary. Confirmed February 25 for workshop. Okay, now all you need to do is put Brian School of Rock. I know what that is but I write it all out. “Brian, it’s Matt. How’s it going? Cool. Just calling to confirm. Okay, we’re good. Okay, great. Thanks.” Click next thing. Do that.
Whatever the most kind of frightening thing is I start with that because then it’s all cake from there. You know? But it’s really about walking through the discomfort. Learn to recognize that discomfort is something good. I’ll just give you a brief story. I told you one of my first records is Cheap Trick live at Budokan. I just knew I had to play Budokan. That’s one of the places I’ve always wanted to play. So, the first Mr. Big Tour I got all the dates. I looked through the dates. I’m like, “Oh, you know this place that place. Oh, Japan. Cool. Yeah, Tokyo. Tokyo this there. Okay, awesome.” I go, “Wait, Tokyo. Let me go back to Tokyo Budokan. Whoa! I’m going to play Buddha con. Awesome.”
So, the night of the show, they tell me during the day, “Oh, by the way, we’re shooting a DVD so there’s going to be like 20 cameras on stage.” Okay, great. So, I’m laying in bed, gorgeous hotel room in Tokyo, looking out my window on the harbor thinking, wow, this is a really good day but I can’t sleep. And I’m trying to make myself sleep and I got to get sleep. Now, if I wake up tomorrow and I didn’t get enough sleep, my brain is not going to function. I said, “Dude, this is normal. You’re going to play Budokan. You’re going to realize a lifelong dream that you’ve had for like 40 years. It’s okay.” So, to recognize that this is normal. Because again, usually when we feel uncomfortable, we think it means something bad is about to happen. But if I said, “Oh, hey, by the way, Paul McCartney’s in your neighborhood, he’s going to come over your house in about two minutes. You’d get uncomfortable. You’d be excited but you could be like, “Oh my God, what am I wearing? Do I need to shave? Should I go make some food?” Like, you’d be uncomfortable.
David Andrew Wiebe: Totally.
Matt Starr: It doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. It’s just that you’re about to meet a Beatle. So, to just understand that that discomfort is totally normal and to stay focused on what the goal is and not what the feeling is as I walk through that. And so, regarding networking, or making new friends, or whatever anyone would want to call it, if someone who’s more successful than you is telling you this is what you should to do and they’re giving you this advice, and you’re saying no, that gets into humility. And that’s a whole other big piece of this, but just say yes. Just say yes and learn how to walk through that.
David Andrew Wiebe: Awesome. One of the big things I realized about discomfort in 2018 is that oftentimes we have our actions wrapped up in how we feel about it. But I realized that an action is an action regardless of the intent. I can pick up a cup and set it down with no emotion. I can pick it up and set it down with anger. I can pick it up and set it down, kind of sheepishly or carefully. And in the end, the action makes no difference. I still picked up the cup and send it back down. And so, we actually get lost in our head when it comes to taking those types of actions thinking that everything, we’ve built up in our head is real and true when it’s not. It’s completely imagined. And the only thing that lives out here in the real world is you taking the action.
Matt Starr: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And, you know, I tell people, “Look, we’re making all this stuff. So, let’s just make up some good stuff.”
David Andrew Wiebe: That’s right.
Matt Starr: You know what I mean? Like, these guys don’t want to hear from me. They’re going to hate me. They’re going to fire me. They’re never going to let me in. Blah, blah, blah. At least make up some good stuff. They’re going to love me. It’s not arrogance. It’s recognizing I have something to give. And so, how can I get an opportunity to be put into situations where they really need me? Right? So, I have a certain skill set. And there’s a band right now that I would love to play with who’s saying, “Man, we got these dates coming up, and our guy can’t do it.” And they’re not excited about that. They’re like, no one wants to audition. No one wants it. I wish we knew a guy who had this kind of feel and a certain look, and if he sang, that would be great. And, you know, guys in the zeppelin, and man, I wish we knew a guy. That’s me. They’re describing me. And there’s a gig for everybody. And so, it’s a matter of the universe connecting us with that opportunity. And so, that’s just a little mindset tweak to look at it that way because if I come to you saying, “Hey, do you have any work for me?” That may not go to saying, “Hey, I’m open in March. If you need drummer for sessions or for live, please let me know, I’d be happy to help out.” That has a different feel to it. Right? So, like, what’s going on for you? How can I help you?
David Andrew Wiebe: Love that. That’s great. I think another common objection when musicians hear the words music and business in the same sentence, many turn and start running the other way. But I think both you and I agree that you’re probably not going to reach your full potential as a musician if you don’t understand the business side. So, talk about the importance of business as it applies to being a musician.
Matt Starr: At one point, I realized all my heroes are really wealthy. They’re not my heroes because they’re wealthy. Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Pete Townsend, Jimmy Page, these legendary guys that have just created this incredible body of work. They’re all really successful. There was a time when I looked at guys like Brian Jones or Johnny Thunders or Sid Vicious and thought, “Oh, those are the real rock and rollers.” No, those are the dead ones. Those are the guys that couldn’t hang. Brian Jones, like one of the coolest cats ever but he couldn’t keep up. He couldn’t keep up. And so as I say, be careful who you pick for your heroes because I was always liking the guy who should have made it. The man who could have been the modern lovers, or the New York Dolls, or all these you know, the MC five even who get more notoriety and was popping “I was champion of all these bands that should have been bigger.” Well, the ones that are bigger are pretty good too, though. Like the Stones are pretty great. Beatles are pretty awesome, Zeppelin, Queen, they’re all pretty good. It’s really about who am I drawn to and why? And what does that say about me. Not to get too analytical about it but my heroes did change. And it is the music business.
I remember Joe Perry saying, “If I just wanted to be a musician, I’d be playing at some coffee house in Cambridge, which is in Massachusetts outside of Boston.” And it’s like, exactly. Yeah, this is a music business. If you don’t care about the business side of things, that’s okay than just playing music but don’t expect to have a career because a career implies that you’re working. So even a hippie idealist like Grateful Dead or Neil Young. I mean, these guys are, they don’t play for free. They get paid.
I think the other part of it is that if you’re getting paid, or if you’re talking about money, or if you’re thinking about money, then you’re not really in it for the music. All that that actually means is you’re not getting paid and you’re broke. That’s what that means. Integrity and money are linked. If you’re into money, then you’re not into music. That’s just, I don’t know. I think that people that propagate that are the ones that do not want to pay you for your music.
David Andrew Wiebe: That’s right.
Matt Starr: That would be in their interest to promote that.
David Andrew Wiebe: So true.
Matt Starr: And there is a thing, I mean, look, when a band is starting out and they’re hungry, there’s an energy and there’s a truth in that. And then, the trick is like, how do you become a millionaire and still use it? That’s that edge. I mean it’s not always easy to do. Some bands after they make it, then they don’t know what to do because they’ve not even made it. So, when you look at a band like U2 or… U2 is kind of most like, you know, current example but U2, or The Stones, or these bands that had a run. You can see stones like 63 or whatever he was to 86 or 87 where they’re like putting out some relevant music, that’s a hell of a run. And not letting the lifestyle and the money get in the way. There’s always been plenty of artists who how they grew up was downplayed. There’s plenty of rich kids that grew up to rock stars but we don’t hear about that in their bio because it makes them seem non legit. We’re like rock stars that have ripped jeans and be drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon or whatever.
It’s a bit of a fantasy thing. But ultimately, if you want to have a career doing this, you have to get comfortable with the money side. And really what it’s about is self worth. That if you’re asking me to devote my time to something, what is my time worth? What is my talent worth? What is the value that I could place on it? That’s a much deeper question.
David Andrew Wiebe: That’s perfect. You described it very well. I used to have a lot of mindset blocks around money. Even this past year. There was a few situations where I knew I had to say no and it was very tough saying no. I think I’ve come to the point now where I’m a little more ready to just kind of turn down those things that I know aren’t going to serve me, especially in situations where they’re not going to honor me, and therefore, if they help me I can help them but if they’re not going to help me, then how am I supposed to help them? I have bills to pay like anybody else. So, that’s just not gonna happen. There was one, I think, music competition that the people wanted me to judge. I thought, “Well, that’s something I might be interested in doing, but does it pay?” And they said no, so I said, “No, I’m not doing that.”
Matt Starr: Yeah, and I think as you get further down the road, I mean, for me in the beginning, because I could so easily work for free or get taken it’s really important to really be mindful of stuff, whether or not you’re getting paid. And then as it goes down the line, I might look at a situation go, “Well does this have a value or something in it for me?” That is a value, but maybe not monetarily. You might go and play an all-star jam, where everybody playing for free but you’re going to meet some new people, you’re going to connect with some new people. A great aid in this was having kid because, you know, you want me to come out and do your event or hang out in your thing. Okay, I can give my five-year-old son and my three-year-old daughter a bath and put them to bed and read the book, or I can come hang out with you. So, what are we doing with you? Oh, it’s like this and that. Yeah. No. I know that the universe wants me to be here. And so, that would help because if it was just me and my time, then I might end up you know, saying yes to things that maybe weren’t in my best interest. So, having kids was definitely a helpful thing in that area because it brought clarity to a lot of different things.
And I had a conversation with Eurocom, where they called me and they want to have me play for something and they were really complimentary and everything, but then they said, “We don’t have any money.” I said, “Okay.” Well, they want me to say, let’s get together and jam. I don’t know what that means. So, I said, “Well, look, if you want to do a rehearsal or something for something, I can do that but, you know, this is my [unclear]. And they said, “Well, don’t you ever just play for fun?” And its kind of threw me for a second. Because I was like, “Huh?” And then I realized, yeah, I do play for fun, like when I’m playing shocked me with Ace Frehley and there’s smoke billowing out of his Les Paul. That’s fun. That’s a lot of fun. And I’m getting paid. That person was asking me if I played for fun. They’re asking me if I play for free. They kind of put fun instead of the word free. And the reality is when I work, I’ve been blessed to have gigs with people who I love playing with. So yeah, it is a lot of fun. But that guy was asking me if I play for fun. He was asking me do I play for free? He just kind of got the words mixed up. That did throw me for a second. I’m like, “Jesus, am I just in this for the money? Has it come to that?” And it’s like, “No, dude, you’re singing the love gun and Ace Frehley is playing guitar in front of a few thousand people. That’s pretty fun. It’s cool. You know, it’s cool. But again, people will try and take advantage or just get things for free. That’s fine but those aren’t my people. I mean, those aren’t my clients.
David Andrew Wiebe: And that’s a good point, definitely, to look at everything holistically, considering whether it is the right kind of gig or the right kind of opportunity. Something I would love for you to talk about is the importance of coaching. Should people have a coach in their lives? What benefit does a coach offer?
Matt Starr: Well, I think if you are getting the results you want, then you’re probably doing okay.
David Andrew Wiebe: Right.
Matt Starr: But I look back on my life and everything that I did well and was successful, I had a coach. So, starting with learning how to tie my shoes, right? I don’t know how to tie my shoes. My mom knows how to tie her shoes. My dad, they’re experts. They’ve been tying their shoes for decades. Right? They’re at the top of their game in shoe tying. So, they showed me. They coached me. “Do this. Then, you make the knot and then you hold your finger here and you make the loops.” And they walked me through it. They walked me through it until I got it on my own and they’re, “Okay, cool. Keep on running. Good job.” Right. But how long would I have waited to not tie my shoe? I’m walking around the town in the age 14 and my shoes are untied and everyone else has tied shoes, right. Or learn how to drive a car, learn how to brush my teeth. All those things, you don’t just do it. You have somebody show you and you have somebody show you who’s good at it. And then you learn and then you’re able to do it yourself. So, certain things come naturally to people, and other things don’t. And so, I think, if something comes naturally to you, you know. But [unclear] comfortable acknowledging that as well and there’s nothing wrong with getting help. I mean we have coaches for working out, coaches for nutrition. You have a doctor who’s your overall health coach. We have all these different areas of our lives where we have coaches, but again, I think with musicians and business, they just can feel uncomfortable. It’s like, you know what, man? Just think about what you want and are you achieving what you want. If you’re not, how can you get it through to the quickest route to get you there? Coaching is not for people who need it. It’s for people who want it.
David Andrew Wiebe: That’s awesome.
Matt Starr: Again, I’ve talked to guys, and I’m talking to them and they’re asking me questions. I’m like, they’re asking questions but they’re not asking the right questions. They’re looking at it from a skewed angle. And I see what’s going on. I said, “Listen, I understand what we’re talking about. If you want to get there and you know, do some coding.” “Yeah, yeah, maybe I’ll do that. Yeah, yeah.” I had a guy. He as a guitar tech. He techs for every artist. Like maybe he’d go, “Oh, yeah, I know that.” He’s a big guitar legend type but he wants to establish himself as a guitar player. So, he thought, “I need to stop doing this guitar tech work because they’re seeing me as a guitar tech and not as a guitarist.” Then the next [unclear] he told me that, “Well, the one gig I am doing, that guy asked me to learn all these songs because the other guitarist wasn’t going to be able to do a tour.” So I said, “So, you’re going to get a gig?” He said, “Well, yeah, but it worked out that he could do it.” I’m like, “So they are seeing you as a guitar player.” “Yeah, but I just want to be a guitarist.” And I’m going, “But this is working.” But he didn’t want to be seen as a guitar tech. And I said, “The person that seeing you as a guitar tech is you.”
David Andrew Wiebe: Right.
Matt Starr: You’re the one that’s seeing yourself as a guitar tech. They’re seeing you as a guitarist, who happens to be the guitar tech, and that’s how you know them. So you have this entry way to get around these world class guitar players. And they get to know you, they get to trust you, they get to hang with you, you’re on the road with them. As slot opens up, man, you’re first in line. But he wasn’t seeing it that way. Even though again, he had that opportunity that came up, but it was his own.
There are all kinds of scenarios like that where we’re just doing things in our own best interest. Again, it’s for people that want it. I think once you once you hear something that is the truth in whatever area, you know it. You can’t unknow it. Like when someone lay something on, you go, “Oh man.” He’s trying to forget it, you know, “God damn.” That kind of blew my mind. I have to accept the fact that I can’t forget what I just heard. So, I think someone knows it, they know it.
David Andrew Wiebe: That’s awesome. That’s a great explanation of the importance of coaching. Now, I’ve been poking around your website a bit. So tell me about the workbook. I’m interested in the concept. I read a little bit about it on your website and curious to know what shape it’s going to take.
Matt Starr: The workbook is something that I’m really excited about. I started working on it. I’m kind of living with a concept for the last year or so. I played on the Kiss Cruise with Ace Frehley in November of last year, and so you’re out at sea, there’s no internet. So, it was like perfect. So spent a bunch of days just writing and pouring out through the holidays. And so, what it is, is an eight-week self-study course. It takes you through the exact process that I went through over the first year of my career when I actually kind of really kicked into gear about 10 years ago. And so, if you’re like me, I need to be told exactly what to do because otherwise I would just fill my head up with other things and get sidetracked. So, every single day, you get an assignment. The time commitment is anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour. It tells you exactly what to do and it walks you through all of the different processes that I went through and helps you to learn and understand the different tools that I utilize. These are all the same steps that I go through in my daily work. As I’m going through it and I’m proofreading it and I’m just like, “Man!” Honestly, I’m just really excited about it. I’m really very proud of it. The guarantee is this: If you do the workbook, you will not see things the same. You will not have the same life. You will not have the same perspective. You will have change. And if you don’t feel that that’s happened, we’ll give your money back. But if someone does this every day, there’s no way that’s not going to happen. There’s no way. The feedback’s been amazing. I have a few of my coaching clients that I’ve given it to them, work with it, they’re a couple months into it, and just having a lot of success. We address mindset. We address intuition. We address marketing. We address networking. We address, just understanding the importance of why we need to do what we’re here to do, why that’s so important, and why that’s really… I feel a responsibility. We all have a responsibility to do what we’re here to do and to figure out what that is.
I have a guy who’s going from being a structural engineer to… he’s going now going into the tech world. He’s making that transition. And so, he’s been doing the workbook and that’s been very helpful for him. I have lots of clients that are musicians, and that works for them. It’s really anyone who is self employed, and there’s so many of us in all kinds of different careers.
David Andrew Wiebe: Super cool. Yeah, I’m going to keep an eye on its launch. It’s not officially available yet, is it?
Matt Starr: No, we have pre-order. I had it for another couple of weeks. And then it’s going to be officially launched. Probably about the middle of February.
David Andrew Wiebe: Excellent. Great. And on this subject of books, I’m wondering if there’s any that have helped you on your journey? And if so, what were they?
Matt Starr: Yeah, yeah. There’s been a lot. Think & Grow Rich is probably the biggest one. I read that at least once a year. That was written by Napoleon Hill. It’s probably about 80 years old now.
David Andrew Wiebe: At least.
Matt Starr: Yeah. That’s a mind blower. Working with the Law by Raymond Holliwell. That’s great. He goes through universal laws and explains it so beautifully. And actually, the audiobook version of that, when it goes by like I’ll listen to like a minute I’m like, “Well, I got to pause.” That was just so many sentences that were just so chock full of information. My brain just got to explode so I have to like rewind a lot. That’s a really great book. There’s another book called Overcoming Under Earning. It’s funny, I was just sitting in a coffee shop and these women were talking. I don’t know what kind of work they do but they’re talking about setting their rates and quoting stuff with clients and being uncomfortable raising their rates and all these things. And then, one of them said, “You got to get this book, Overcoming Under Earning. It’s really awesome.” And so, that was written by an author named Gerald Mundus. And and yeah, those are kind of the ones, but I just heard about one, Never Eat Alone.
David Andrew Wiebe: Yes.
Matt Starr: Yeah. Is it eat or dine?
David Andrew Wiebe: I think it’s eat.
Matt Starr: There you go. One of my coaching clients recommended that. That one sounds like a classic, but for some reason, never heard of it before.
David Andrew Wiebe: Yeah, I think it might be a slightly newer book compared to some of the others you’ve referenced. But I’ve definitely heard it. Yeah.
Matt Starr: How about for you?
David Andrew Wiebe: Oh, for me? Wow! I think I recently picked out my top six books. Number one was Content Ink by Joe Pulizzi. That one is important to me because I’m building an online business. He describes in great detail how to go about that process of what type of content to create to attract your audience and how that can ultimately translate into a profitable action. Another one is Double Double by Cameron Harold. Even just his like little thoughts in the back that he’s talking about little reflections he’s had that he’s jotted down or journaled about. That one is totally worth the money even just for those little insights at the back. There’s Work Less Make More by James Schramko. He was my coach for a while and I certainly like to learn more from him in terms of online business, but he has got a great book that talks about how to gain more freedom through your business and not be constantly obsessed with the hustle, but actually be able to live a life as well. And then, Four Hour Work Week, everybody knows that one. Very inspiring. Getting Things Done by David Allen. It’s a good productivity book. And Book Yourself Solid by Michael Porter. Those are some of my favorites.
Matt Starr: Awesome. You’re doing more reading than I am, which is excellent.
David Andrew Wiebe: I’m doing a ton of reading. Yeah.
Matt Starr: That’s inspiring. Do you have kids or no?
David Andrew Wiebe: I do not. So that probably plays a bit of a part. Yeah.
Matt Starr: A little bit. It’s funny but every time I read up on somebody who’s inspiring to me, they talk about how much they read, especially older people. Older people that have been around they said, we just read a ton. And you got to get that new information, even if it’s just the… like I have, you know, money magazines and drum magazine stuff too. But just around the house, you got a mini sit down, read, even read one article or one page, you know, just to get some new thoughts into our heads just to get the idea is turning and looking at things in a potentially different way. It’s a really good activity.
David Andrew Wiebe: Oh, yeah, I think so too. For a while there’s reading 52 books a year. So, one book for every week.
Matt Starr: Awesome.
David Andrew Wiebe: Last couple of years haven’t kept that pace, but I’m back into a regular reading routine so I’m excited for that.
Matt Starr: Excellent. Do you read in the beginning of the day or end of the day or when is your time?
David Andrew Wiebe: Yeah, beginning and end are generally good times. Sometimes in between because I’m self-employed and I might have a moment where I can just go and read instead of maybe staring at my computer for another hour.
Matt Starr: Nice.
David Andrew Wiebe: Well, I’m sure we could talk for hours but I want to thank you for your time and your generosity. Is there anything else I should have asked?
Matt Starr: I think we pretty much covered it all. I mean these topics are so fascinating and inspiring to me. It’s great to have my career be surrounded by something immersed in something that I’m so passionate about and help so many people. It’s really such a cool thing. Playing music is such an inspiring thing from so many people and then to do the coaching work, that just is really directly impacting people’s lives. It’s always fun to talk about it, but yeah, no, I think that’s kind of the gist of everything. If anyone wants to get in touch with me, they can email me just directly at MattStarrCoaching@gmail.com. Matt has two Ts and star has two Rs.
So MattStarrCoaching@gmail.com or they could go to my site which is MattStarrCoaching.com. And yeah, I’m just happy to help any way I can. So just feel free to reach out.
David Andrew Wiebe: Perfect. Thanks so much for joining me, Matt.
Matt Starr: Thank you. I appreciate it. All right.
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