5 Big Networking Hacks That Will Transform Your Game

Networking Hacks Feature MEME

It was the summer of 1997. I had just moved to Los Angeles from Nashville to pursue a sales gig in the electronics industry.

Networking Hacks Zeph Logo


A guy named David Jacks had started this company I would be working with called Zephyrtronics. David was like Matt Damon’s character in the movie Good Will Hunting but with heat instead of math. He just understood heat. He had created a “walk on water” type piece of equipment that would let any engineer or technician solder or desolder the same spot on a circuit board with zero damage to the board or the electronic component.



I don’t expect you to give a rip about that, but it’s important to know because we got a LOT of attention at every trade show we demonstrated at. It was amazing.


We would get tons of leads from the trade shows and then my job was to go out and demonstrate the product onsite and close the deals.

Networking Hacks Zeph Demo




In the first couple months, David went with me so I could see how exactly he wanted his product sold.





At one point, we found ourselves in a Los Angeles Hughes Aerospace facility. We were led up to a conference room for the presentation by a receptionist. The door opened and I couldn’t believe it. It’s like we were rock stars or something. There were 40 engineers in attendance that wanted to see this product work and each of them with their own problematic circuit board in hand.

Networking Hacks Hughes Logo



I watched David introduce himself to each of the 40 engineers, shake their hand and thank them for taking the time.


Here’s the rub. When we were done with the presentation, David went around to each of the 40 engineers looked them in the eye, shook their hand, and thanked each one again using their names!


He remembered everyone’s name!


It was one of the most impressive things I had ever seen. Clearly, the engineers felt the same way because they were so blown away that somebody said something about it out loud in the room.


David just smiled and said something demure.


Turns out David was also a genius at networking strategies too. On the ride back to the office he shared some of the hacks he used to pull this off.


Networking Hacks How You Made Them Feel MEME



I think it was Mia Angelo that said, “People won’t remember what you said or even so much how you looked, but they will remember how you made them feel.”


That’s what we’re going to cover today. I’m going to give you 5 different memory hacks that are rather easy to do but hard to remember to execute.






It’s not easy, but when you get into the habit of this 5-step hack, you’ll forget you’re even doing it. Whenever you meet someone for the first time and remember their name, you’ll always make them feel good.


Nothing is sweeter than the sound of your own name.


Networking Charm MEMEThe hardest part will be committing to the discipline of these little tricks but it’s a game changer.


It’s called the CHARM method. I know, appropriate, right?

The “C” in CHARM stands for “Care”.


Networking Hacks Care MEME


People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. There are a million singer/songwriter/artists who are way better than you so if you think someone is going to be blown away by your talent and completely devote their lives to your success, you’re delusional.


There has to be more. They will need to feel like you care about them.




It’s hard to get people to feel like you give a crap about them, their career, their family, their well-being when you don’t care enough to remember their name.


David Jacks blew away 40 engineers and myself because he cared enough to remember all the names. Nobody would’ve faulted him for not remembering 40 names but EVERYONE was impressed when he did.


Get it?


Not remembering and nobody would care one way or the other because that’s a lot of names.


But going through the work of remembering and I’ll bet those 40 engineers will never forget him.


That’s what we want.


The “H” stands for “Hear”.


Networking Hacks HEAR Monkeys

This is the hardest part for me. If you’re talking to yourself, inside your head strategizing a response at the same time you’re supposed to be listening for their name, you’re going to miss the name.




In Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Individuals he’s quoted as saying, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply.”


Networking Hacks Stephen Covey MEME


This is so tricky for me because my mind goes at a million miles per hour, but when I am disciplined and LISTENING for their name, I remember it.


Sheesh, it’s so bloody simple to do but hard to implement because we must be intentional about doing it.




I’ll bet you’ve complained a million times about how you can’t remember this or that and you blame your retention.


But the problem isn’t your retention it’s your attention.


You weren’t listening when it was happening you were “bouncing off the walls” as my dad would say so you never really received the information to begin with.


Just be silent and listen. Is it a coincidence that “silent” and “listen” are an anagram? I think not.



The “A” in CHARM stands for “Ask”.


Networking Hacks ASK


I love asking people about their name. You can ask where the name is from, what does it mean, how do you spell it, who were they named after, etc.





This is one of my favorite gestures because you learn from the person you just met. It gets them talking about themselves, which is always a winner. They get to very briefly tell you why their special because they were named after so and so or they have a unique spelling.


PLUS, you get to hear the name a couple more times. This is always a biggie for me because like I said, inevitably the first time I was talking to myself in my head and didn’t hear it.


The “R” stands for “Repeat”.


Networking Hacks REPEAT MEME



After you hear the name for the first time, repeat it back to them to make sure you heard it correctly. Sometimes you’re in a loud room or there is a lot going on and you want to ensure you have it down. It would suck to have a long conversation with Chad and then say, “Goodbye, Brad”.




Just asking a person if you’re pronouncing it correctly is a warm gesture.


I also will mentally repeat their name 5 times in my head. This helps it to sink in.


So, use this and use it often but don’t use it too often out loud. If you abuse it you’ll sound disingenuous.


Networking Hacks Value Bomb MEME


VALUE BOMB: I intentionally try to pepper in a person’s name in a conversation even if I already have a relationship with them. People love to hear their name. I’ve found myself drifting off in the middle of a conversation and being pulled back in at the sound of my name.


It reminds me I have to pay attention now. This is a super effective strategy.




The “M” stands for “Marker”.


Networking Hacks Marker MEME


This is the main trick David used with those 40 Hughes Aerospace Engineers.




He told me as he shook each of their hands and repeated their names out loud, he did 2 other things.


One was to mentally repeat their names 5 times.


And the other sounds crazy but try it! It’s astounding how well it works.


He imagined their names, with the correct spelling written on their forehead with a marker. I recommend that you imagine that marker in your favorite color.


We remember what we see more than what we hear.


You’ve never forgotten a face and remembered a name.


Many U.S. Presidents have used this method to recall names.


It took me about 6 months of haphazard execution but I got pretty good at it.


Since then, I must admit, I’ve fallen off a bit and I find it personally embarrassing.


It’s fair to say I’m writing this article as much for me as I am for you. I’m kicking my own butt!


Do this.


Be intentional about it. This is a self-discipline tactic that will require a little extra brain power but it will serve you for the rest of your life.


I want you to win.










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 Why You Suck At Networking

Networking Feature MEME

I hear artists say this every day. “I suck at networking”.


It’s true.


You do suck at networking.Networking Muscle MEME


But it’s because of these 2 reasons so it’s totally fixable.


  1. You think you suck at networking
  2. Therefore, you don’t network.


It’s a muscle that you must develop. You’re afraid to develop it because you think you need to be the “life of the party” to make it happen.




What is absolutely required for effective networking is

  1. Effort
  2. Perspective
  3. Humility
  4. Authenticity



Networking Show UP

Show up. If you’re not there you can’t network. You can’t win if you don’t play. Oh, and you must KEEP ON showing up.


Are you needing band members? Show up. Go out to all the clubs as much as you can to see the bands and pick your players. If you’re good they’ll consider it. This is how the best musicians from all the local bands gravitate to one another. If they’re not giving you the time of day, it’s because you’re approaching them in an obnoxious way or you need to work on your artistry more.




Presentation matters. These new band mates and business associates are going to need to see something tangible. They are not going to see your potential so plan to put at least one decent recording together to use as a calling card.


Networking Dog Poo MEMEI just had a reunion of sorts with a guitar player friend of mine who played with me in a solo project I did for a hot second in LA. I met him at a restaurant bar. The bartender was an artist I was doing a little producing for. We talked and I mentioned I was looking for a guitar player. I left him a CD of some tracks. He called me on my way home and was like, “I’m IN!”


Had I not had that recording demonstrating my songs, professionalism, and attitude, he wouldn’t have called, I guarantee it.


One of my favorite hit songwriters is a guy I met out at Loser’s which is a common industry hang out here in Nashville. We became friends and he was regularly emailing me to say hello and stay in touch. I presented him with an artist for a co-write. He began a long-standing relationship with that artist, resulting in multiple cuts, and they’re now on their second single. It’s charting on the Music Row chart.


Networking Steve O'Brien



I see him out all the time. The other evening I wanted him to meet a writer friend of mine that was in town from Miami. I texted him. He came right over. I introduced him to the songwriter and he introduced me to this incredible new artist he’s been writing with and maybe we’ll do some business. Who knows?





But he was there. Get it?




Networking Perspective MEME

Every relationship you make may not have any value but just about all of them won’t have immediate value. That’s where most people fall off.


They lose interest if there is no immediate satisfaction. They also get sour about it sometimes. Like if you meet someone you’re attracted to, immediately ask them for sex, and then decide to hate them because they said “NO”.  (that’s called Cognitive Dissonance…but I digress)


It’s a marathon, not a sprint.


Realize that you’re laying down railroad track as opposed to putting the actual train on the tracks. I have many lifelong relationships that were started in odd ways with no expectations whatsoever.


When my band initially signed with a huge regional booking agency out of Minneapolis, the first thing I needed to know was what the competition looked like.


Who was the best?


I reached out to the receptionist and asked. She told me it was a band called “Mannekin” and they would be in Milwaukee on tour in 2 weeks. I said I wanted to go, but I was only 19 years old. Michelle told me that she would set it all up with their manager Mark O’Toole.


Networking mannekin

That evening I got my ass KICKED artistically.


That band was freaking amazing. I couldn’t believe I saw them in a club. The bar had just moved up and I needed to know more so I simply asked Mark if I could take him out to eat after the show. He happily agreed. I bought breakfast at 3 am and started asking as many questions as I could get away with.



Here’s the deal. That was the start of a lifelong friendship, literally. We lost Mark a couple years ago, but he always had my back. When we needed a photo shoot for our poster, he offered to “piggyback” us on his photo shoot for Mannekin with Prince’s photographer, Al Beaulieu. That cost us $600 including hair and makeup.  He constantly helped me with negotiating strategies with club owners when we were touring. All because he was a good friend.

Networking Idols



My point is I couldn’t have predicted all that, I just wanted to learn and he was willing to teach. I expected nothing more than that first meal, but he liked me. He saw something. I was so lucky.





I think that artists tend to subconsciously avoid networking because they don’t see an immediate return on the time investment of creating the relationship. That’s a mistake because you never know what could happen.


Networking Cards MEME

Every semester I am blessed to have a bunch of interns. One of the value-adds I offer the interns is access to certain industry functions (when possible) and the ability to hang with me at certain showcases and artist shows. I’ll introduce them to everyone I speak with. I tell the interns, they’re not required to attend when they get the text invite, but they’re encouraged to attend. The relationships they will make probably won’t amount to much if anything at all, but imagine them interviewing with a record label for job a couple years in the future and sitting across from someone they already met. “Hey Ms. So-And-So, you probably don’t remember me, but we hung out one night with Johnny D from Daredevil Production watching this artist at this club.”  Already, subconsciously, the intern has moved their application to a different mental pile because they’ve already met.


Does that make sense?




Networking Humility MEME

Without humility, you’re not going to create many relationships.


Especially in the music business.


When I met Mark, I was young and very green and he knew it. I wasn’t trying to pretend I was some big shot and he appreciated that. I was a sponge.


I paid for that dinner at Denny’s because I had so many questions, you know?  He loved that. I was asking the right questions about the business as opposed to “How can you help me get famous?”




Every week I get hit up on email, Twitter, and Instagram with artists who shoot me messages like, “Yo, let’s do business. How do we get started?”.



Networking Messages BLACKED


What’s your name? What’s your story? Have we ever met? This is not only a complete turn-off, but it’s a dead giveaway to a rookie with poor communication skills.



Something humbler like, “Hey Johnny, this is so-and-so from this band and I like what you’re doing, can we possibly set up a time to talk about working together?” would be a better way to spin that approach.


Always be humble and kind.


Music industry people are generally really good people and like to help other people as long as they believe that person isn’t a schmuck.  You’d be amazed at what a little humility and an honest, “I need some help” will get you.


Networking Humble and Kind MEME


I remember when I first came to Nashville in 1995. My friend John Prestia told me that he was good friends with a hit songwriter named Kim Tribble. He told me to go and meet with Kim.


I did.





Kim was the kindest and most gracious soul. We spoke for about an hour in his office. The whole time I was worried I was taking up too much of his time. Kim could sense that. After an hour, I couldn’t help myself, I told Kim, “Hey I know you’re super busy and I’m so thankful for this time, Kim! I’ll see myself out.”


I didn’t want to impose.


To which Kim replied, “It’s cool, man. I like you. I have to run some errands and you’re welcome to join me if you want. Do you have time to hang?”


See how humility worked there?


I had NOTHING else to do. I spent the whole day with Kim. He listened to all my songs and that led me to 2 other writer/producer relationships that I still currently have.



And finally, Authenticity.


This is a biggie. I think most artists feel terribly uncomfortable networking because they feel like they have to be something they’re not. I think they feel like they have to be this huge gregarious personality that everybody loves in order to an effective networker, but that just isn’t the case.

Networking Do You


Just be yourself.


Just be real.





THAT is what makes you amazing, and THAT is what people will respond to. When you meet people be your authentic self and they’ll respond authentically.


Personally, I can tell you that I’m not for everybody. I do have a big personality and it’s a turn-off sometimes. That’s ok. When I feel someone responding in a negative manner towards my personality I realize that we’re probably not going to do business together or I’m needing to provide more value in this relationship to make it “worth it” for the other person.


I also realize it’s probably time to shut up, but I digress…


Networking Authenticity Faceless Mask


Don’t worry if everyone doesn’t like you or love you. You can’t be all things to all people. You’re going to get this. Don’t take it personally.


The ones who DO respond to your authentic-self are going to create deep relationships with you because they know who you really are.


That kind of relationship is one of the best gifts you’ll ever receive.


Have confidence in yourself in that regard. Just go meet people and get to know them. Ask them about themselves. The more you get them talking (and people LOVE to talk about themselves) the more you’ll learn.


FYI, I can’t tell you how many times I met someone, got them talking, and through listening realized that this is NOT someone I want to do business with. All without opening my mouth after saying hello.

Networking Them MEME




The truth is unless you’re a hermit with zero friends, you’re a great networker. You’re just thinking about it the wrong way. You know how to make friends and influence people, but when you put in the context of being intentional about it, it seems daunting. It’s also scary with strangers.


I get it.


But Networking is a mission critical part of your career, my friend. It’s a muscle you MUST develop.


So, what are you waiting for?











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Are You Confusing Activity With Achievement?

I see people confusing activity with achievement all the time.Activity Shrug MEME excuses or Results

I’ve seen it my whole life in all the industries I’ve been a part of, but it’s rampant with the millennials and musicians.





They confuse activity or “trying” with achievement. Your artist career won’t blossom without achievement. No matter how much time you spend trying or how much you want it, you’ll go nowhere without results.


You must adapt. IT’S ALL ABOUT ADAPTING.

How do you adapt? You take what you have and you work with it. Adapting has nothing to do with complaining about what you don’t have, that’s the very definition of NON-productive.


Improvising, adapting, and overcoming is what defines achievement.


You can have excuses or you can have results but you can’t have both.


It’s NOT ok to complain about where you are in your career if you’re creating excuses as to why you can’t get what you want.


Humans, by nature, are THEE most adaptable species on the planet. We can think, reason, and imagine.


Activity Caveman

Visualize a cave-man and what their life was like every day. Survival meant working within your surroundings to achieve what was necessary for shelter, food, water, protection, etc.


This may sound silly but follow me on this. When a lion is born it instinctively knows how to hunt. Same with fish. Same with all animals, they are born wired up to know how to survive.


But not humans.




When we’re born we instinctively know how to suck, but…



We LEARN how to speak.Activity Learning Puzzle

We LEARN how to hunt.

We LEARN how to gather.

We LEARN how to tie our shoes.

We LEARN how to play an instrument.

We LEARN how to be an artist.

We LEARN how to market.



Don’t fool yourself, you may hate the sound of the word “marketing” but you do it every day. Whenever you try to convince anybody of anything. From selling a piece of musical equipment to convincing a friend about who the best singer is on the planet, you’re marketing. Convincing new members to join the band or a buddy to give you an extra hour in the studio, that’s marketing.


Activity Mother MEMEWe must also LEARN to be self-aware about our art. Your mother will love it no matter what, so you’re foolish if you run with only that opinion. I think of the horrific zero-talent wannabes at the beginning of every American Idol season. Wow, it’s like so many people lied to them or something.



Yes, art is subjective but it’s also objective. There is a level of competitiveness that must be met. There is no market for the finger-paintings of 3-year-old children but they’re adorable nonetheless. You can hate on artists like Poison and Brittany Spears but you can’t deny that they’re well done and they sell way more than you do.

Activity Britney Spears



All art that has been put forth into the world was a result of an artist adapting to their surroundings and learning to create something.


Many if not most artists have overcome incredible challenges, pitfalls, setbacks, extreme poverty, racism, naysayers, haters, physical abuse, sexual abuse, mental abuse, etc. to get their art out to the world enough so that we’re aware of it.


This is humanity. This is the definition of being human; ADAPTING.


So, it pisses me off when I hear artists complain about why they can’t do this or that.Activity Poison Record




Saying you can’t do it is saying you won’t do it. Either you don’t want it bad enough or you don’t have the constitution to stay in the game. This is what the artists you hate had; constitution.


Growing for any human means you’re going to be uncomfortable.


If your goal is to be comfortable, that’s fine, but stop telling yourself that you’re going to make a dent in the universe and be comfortable at the same time.


Comfortable is easy. That’s a vapid 9-5 working to realize someone else’s dream.


Activity School Lockers


Achievement and growth are by definition, uncomfortable. Think about it, you’re constantly elevating to uncharted waters. Remember how you felt the first day of high school? Those lockers were so big, weren’t they? That was a far different feeling from the last day of high school.

You were forced to achieve in school or face being held back.



Now, nobody’s forcing you. Are you feeling a bit too comfortable?


I remember when the people directly around the Allman Brother Band brought my band down from Wisconsin to Florida to develop us.


Activity ABB AlbumStep one was the band had to move to Florida. We walked toward the light with nothing but each other and promise from this dude to help us get to the next level. There were no promises of an outcome and zero promises of cash. We were on our own.


How would we survive? I didn’t know when we left, but we all took a chance and found our way.



By the way, is moving ever comfortable? Then you add the fact that we were flying by the seat of our pants and it takes uncomfortable to whole new level.


Of course, we were young and I had it all figured out, man, just ask me. We needed to get a killer record, get on MTV, and go on tour to make it. EZPZ.


Activity Warren HaynesThen I saw Warren Haynes play guitar in the studio during the first of what would be hundreds of hours of access to the band. At that moment, a nuclear bomb was dropped on my ego and my sense of accomplishment.


I left the studio so demoralized because I had just witnessed “great” first hand and compared to that, we sucked. That was catastrophic.


That moment lead me to a crossroads of sorts. It was decision time. Do I choose to make excuses as to why we’ll never be like Warren Haynes and The ABB so I can continue to live my comfortable yet delusional artistic existence? Or do I become uncomfortable and accept the reality that we had a LOT more work to do. [KGB Pic]



If you really want to be an artist, you live here. Nobody cares about a comfortable artist because they’re boring.


Artistically you’re compelling or you’re not. I think you all believe that you are compelling but the fact is most of you are not.


Not yet, anyway.


What is unknown (and controllable to the artist) is how many artists have the guts to push so hard they’re constantly uncomfortable. Who will continue to adapt and eat all the challenges of the everyday indie artist life for breakfast?


Activity UncomfortableBecause every artist has boatloads of challenges.


A real artist is constantly adapting, learning, and growing, therefore they live in a perpetual state of restlessness.




Of course, once you’re on the right track with your art you must LEARN how to get it out there. The good news is you no longer need anyone’s permission to do this. The bad news is YOU have to do it.


Unlike a lion who is born instinctively knowing how to hunt and survive, you, the artist, has to LEARN how to market. It’s not going to come to you in your sleep.

Activity Lion

If you can’t afford to hire someone to do it for you, then you’ll have to pay to learn how. That means recording less music and spending that part of the budget on marketing education.




Oh, and hundreds of hours getting your learning curve up.


Activity Crazy MEME Learn to market

To do anything differently is idiotic. It means you’re choosing to live in a state of delusion telling yourself lies about why your career is stagnant.


But learning about marketing makes me feel uncomfortable and I don’t like feeling uncomfortable.”




But marketing makes me feel like a used-car salesman. I don’t want to come off looking or sounding like that.


Believe me, nobody wants to buy from anybody like that either. You must change the story you’re telling yourself in your head and learn how to market effectively to AVOID being sales-y.


Thousands of artists and businesses effectively market to you every day. Did you feel like Budweiser was being “sales-y” during the Super Bowl commercial with the puppy and the Clydesdale horses?


activity Clydesdales Bud


Again, that’s not going to come to you in your sleep. So, every day you’re not learning is another day your career is stagnant.


Artists must rethink, reimagine everything because the market has changed.




Artist first then the music. Sorry, that’s the truth. Get over it and start constructing strategies to address this reality. I promise you’ll see immediate results in your fan base.


STOP asking yourself these questions:

How can I get a record deal?

Activity Artist First MEME

How can I get on the radio?


START asking yourself these questions:

Where is the traffic coming from?


How can I connect with them?


Just focus on building your audience and everything will fall into place after that.


Activity Traffic MEME








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Are You Sure You Really Want That Record Deal?

Record Deal Feature MEME

Getting a record deal can be a blessing or a curse


This statement has been true since the first record label was created. I would hope that by this time, most of you would be aware that during the glory days of the record business, 90% of the signed artists lost money.

Record Deal Blessing Curse MEME


90% of them failed to make a living doing what they loved to do.


Which means the 10% of the artists made SO MUCH money they covered all the losses from the other 90%.


How was that possible?


How did any business not only survive, but thrive when 90% of the products they paid to develop, manufacture, and distribute were money-losers?


Can you imagine if 9 out of 10 McDonald’s hamburgers were returned?


Record Deal iPhone Broken

Can you imagine 9 out of 10 brand new iPhones were broken?




How does a business making these incredibly uneven statistics work and become profitable?


Why was this horrific ratio the reality back then?


The answer to all these questions is radio and distribution.


Radio was such a powerful promotional tool that it literally influenced enough consumer minds to purchase 600 million units from the Beatles, 300 million records from Madonna, 230 million from Rhianna, 100 million from Jay-Z, etc.


Record Deal Radio Artist collageOf course, that was when people were listening to the radio.


But even in the best days, radio was restrictive.


There are roughly 12 spins per hour resulting in 2016 spins per week.


A song in heavy rotation accounts for around 70 spins per week (10 spins per day or roughly 1 spin every 2 hours). Medium rotation was 40 (ish), and light rotation about 15-25 per week.

This leaves about 3-4 spins per week to “test out” a new song the stations would consider adding to a rotation.


Now let’s say that the label loves the song and puts the promo money behind it. Let’s also say that radio loves it and a station wants to add it to their rotation.


There is something in the law of physics that MUST happen before any new song can be added to a rotation.


Somebody else’s song must be dropped from rotation to make room for the new one.


See how that works?


That’s what I mean by restrictive; it’s mathematically limiting.Record Deal Titanic MEME

Radio was powerful but there wasn’t enough time in the day to spin all the songs from all the artists on all the labels, thus, only 10% were able to grow their audience and thrive.


Today, the stations are failing. They’re losing money and the future of radio is seriously in jeopardy.



But we don’t need radio.


We don’t need radio and for all intents and purposes, radio isn’t going to be around to help you so drop that part of your dream right now.


It just isn’t a reality. Especially when you consider the fact that 2 of the 3 big corporations that own all the major market stations are either out of the radio business or about to be.


We don’t need to ask anyone’s permission to make our art, connect with and create future fans, or distribute our music.


Record Deal couch MEMEWe can do all that from a laptop on our couch.


Wow. How crazy is that?


Yet, so many of you have a dream of getting a record deal.


Why? Why do you have that dream now?


When everything was working, your dream had a 90% failure rate.


Do you have any idea how many KILLER artists I know that paid good money to get out of their deal?


Record Deal Artists need a deal MEME

Most artists aspire to be signed because it symbolizes a formerly necessary step to making a living in music. A record deal implied success even though the opposite was true for 90% on the label’s roster. Also, most artists don’t know how to do it without a record label so they feel the label is the only answer.





For the record, I’m not saying a record deal is a bad idea. I’m saying for most artists it is. It’s only a good idea for the savvy artists who know how to position themselves in today’s music business.


There was certainly less expected of an artist back then because the label did just about everything. This also meant the artist had little control over their careers.


The label and radio decided to make you or break you.


Today, there is more expected of you, but you can “stack the deck” in your favor.  You can come into a contractual negotiation with power as opposed to nibbling on whatever crumbs they decide to throw you.


Yuck.Record Deal Mr. Yuck



If you follow my articles you’ve read the story about indie country artist Granger Smith. He created a 1.8 million-dollar empire from his laptop. All the labels wanted to sign him but the artist and his team said “NO” for years until they said yes to Broken Bow Records.



They were given their own imprint called Wheelhouse Records (That means their own label under the Broken Bow umbrella with far better splits than a normal deal and the ability to profit off other artists on the imprint). I’m quite sure that Granger negotiated some stipulations that would ensure he had all the money and infrastructure necessary to accomplish his next goal; a #1 single.


Record Deal wheelhouse-records-logoHe had the power to do that because they wanted his business so badly. He made himself sexy to the labels and it was about his business, not the art.




Don’t let that upset you. It was about the business for them. It was about the art for him.


But too many of you fail to understand it’s always been about the business for them. Not your potential, your business.


My question to you is this: What happened to all the artists with a ton of talent but no audience, that were on Broken Bow, the second that Granger Smith signed his deal?


Did you ever think about that?Record Deal About The Business MEME


When Smith was signed his record deal, he ensured that he got all the capital resources, the human resources, etc. The artists that weren’t making money for Broken Bow at that time, waited. They were put on a shelf for the time being. Or worse, forever.


Is that what you want?


Record Deal Skeleton MEME

Is that a risk you’re willing to take just so you can brag to your friends about having a record deal?





Having a record deal today is incredibly different than 20 years ago when your heroes got signed.


Needing a record deal to reach your audience has also completely changed in today’s music business.


I promise there are going to be a truckload of artists in the very near future who are just as savvy as Granger Smith. Which is going to make it increasingly difficult for the talented artists with no audience on any given label.


Which artist do you want to be?


Record Deal Man Or Mouse CollageDo you want to be the artist like Granger who comes in with all the power to craft your deal into a blessing?

Or do you want to be the artist with these amazing musical gifts whose record deal quickly became a curse?


The difference between the two is the size of your audience.


Record Deal Size Of Your Audience MEMEThe size of your audience will determine your future and how the big-wigs are going to play with you.




The super cool part is that you get to choose which artist you want to be. You have control.


By not marketing, not learning to market, or by not entertaining different ways of approaching marketing, you’re choosing the former. You’re choosing to roll the dice and hope all the planets align in your favor.


Record Deal Whoever Finds Your Audience MEMEChoosing to suffer through learning the crap you don’t want to learn about marketing right now means you’ll be more educated tomorrow. It means you won’t be naïve. It means you’ll be driving. It means you’ll be sexy for the right reasons. Oh, and it also means nobody gets to tell you how to make your art.  So, there’s that.


I want you to win.


Choose wisely grasshopper.









Are You Working Really Hard But Feeling Completely Frustrated?

Frustrated Feature MEME

For one to be rich, someone else must be poor.

Frustrated Crumbs 1% MEME



Money is the root of all evil.



Wealth is like a pie. Because the top 1% have 90% of the pie the rest of us must survive on the crumbs.





These implicit beliefs have us thinking that if we make a profit, we are making someone else poor because there is only so much to go around.


These implicit beliefs have us thinking that we can’t get what we want without getting it from the 1%.


Frustrated Implicit Definition



FYI, the word “implicit” means this is a belief that hasn’t been quantified or proven in any way.





But the truth is quite the opposite. Wealth and power are abundant. Quite abundant.


Just because you haven’t experienced them doesn’t mean there scarce in any way, shape, or form. Rather it means that you haven’t figured it out yet.


In fact, the 99% hasn’t figured it out. The 99% choose to believe these cockamamie urban legends. All of the 99% are held down by these beliefs, not the “man” or their situation.  Some are held back and will stay stagnant simply because they don’t honestly believe they have a chance. They don’t imagine they can do anything great because deep down inside, they believe that they deserve to be poor. Some are just lazy and use these tall tales to justify their lack of motivation and execution as well as their unhappy outcome.


Frustrated 99%It’s always easier to blame someone else than it is to have faith in yourself.


It’s easy to say you can’t do it because you have no money.




Yes, a lack of capital provides some stout challenges along anyone’s journey to be sure.


But, there are PLENTY of iconic artists, influential business people and Presidents like Bill Clinton who have come from utter poverty to reach their full potential.


Frustrated Bill Clinton


Therefore, these monetary challenges are just that; challenges.  These speed bumps don’t define your success or lack thereof unless you allow them to.


It’s easy to say that you can’t do it because of racism.


Yes, there are plenty of idiots in the world, sadly this is a fact. There have been throngs of different races that have been oppressed, enslaved, and exterminated over just the last 100 years. This is also a fact.




But despite all the very real racial issues in the United States, for instance, we just had a 2-term black President. We have many highly-paid and influential minority actors, artists, business executives, community leaders, and good, honest people who make successful livings and raise their families.


Many of these amazing people had to overcome racism and poverty!


Therefore, racism is as big of a blockade as you choose to make it.


Frustrated BlockadeIt’s all about how you think about it, not about the reality.


After all, this is how the United States got started in the first place. Our forefathers were extremely unhappy and chose to believe there was a better life out there. All they had to do was go and get it.


Their reality was oppressive enough to risk their lives and the lives of their children to change it.


But they decided to change it because they believed they could do better. The other option would have been to blame the monarchy for their lot in life and do nothing.


Get it?


We are all held down only for as long as we believe these crappy stories. There are hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of success stories from the poorest, most oppressed people in history. These success stories ALL START WITH the epiphany that the oppressed have an opportunity and a truckload of hurdles to overcome… just like everyone else. The epiphany in these cases marks the end of the blame game. They choose to take responsibility for their own lives and craft a reality with whatever wealth and power suit them.


Frustrated Blame MEME

They choose to believe it’s out there for them and they can get it by focusing on what they have instead of what they don’t have.


Isn’t that interesting?





The second that you begin to compare the real challenges along your journey to the perceived ease of someone else’s journey, you’ve lost.


This is clear proof that Sun Tzu was right, “Every battle is either won or lost before it is fought.”


Frustrated What Do You Have MEMEDid you think about how so many of the wealthy and powerful people came from nothing or do you just focus on their wealth and power which you don’t have yet?


Did you ever wonder how those souls somehow managed to climb out of the most impoverished circumstances growing up to run multi-million dollar businesses and even countries?


Why them and not you?


The reality is they’re living breathing proof that the poor can become rich.


Frustrated Sun Tzu Quote

Don’t they prove every day that the 99% can rise to enter the 1% if they want to?


Doesn’t every poor person, minorities and majorities included, who creates real wealth bust the myth that the 1% is a “closed club”?



So, it’s a choice everyone makes. Either they move forward and succeed by taking responsibility for all their life’s potholes or they choose to give up and blame “the man”.


Here’s a factual reality. This is a list of every country’s GDP growth (or lack thereof) last year. In the United States, our Gross Domestic Product grew 1.6%. This is your proof that the “pie” got BIGGER. There’s plenty of room for you too. When you think in terms of trillions of GDP imagedollars, 1.6% is an ASTOUNDING amount of room. If the reality was that money was finite there would be no growth in the GDP of any country. The rich would get richer and the poor would get poorer with the exact same amount of total money.


There are certain groups of people who believe that being rich and powerful is bad. They believe that somehow wealth and power means you’re horrible, bad, evil, and therefore oppressing others.




Frustrated Belief created by the have nots



This belief was created by the have-nots as an excuse for their lot in life. Can you see that?





The reality is quite the opposite. The wealthy have many businesses which employ many people so instead of oppressing them, they’re employing them. Giving them a job and a way of life. A way to put food on the table and put their kids through college.


How is that bad?


Isn’t it funny how these beliefs can cloud our perspective?


Frustration Mother Teresa


Mother Teresa was sainted by the Catholic Church shortly after her death. She was called “The saint of the gutters”, she gave hundreds of thousands of hugs to the poorest people in India, and even won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.


But that’s all she had to give, bless her heart.


Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and famous multi-billionaire literally wiped out a handful of diseases and saved millions of lives in Africa with one check.




Frustrated Bill Gates Wealth



One check from an evil rich guy changed millions of lives. I’m not taking anything away from Mother Teresa because she gave her heart and soul to providing comfort to the sick and downtrodden. But she didn’t cure any diseases. She didn’t have anything to give these people to save their lives. I’m sure she would’ve if she had it, but she didn’t have it to give.


How do you think about this issue?





Some of you despise the rich and powerful so much you believe that they should spread their wealth around giving “back” to the poor as if they stole from them to get rich in the first place. You want them to pay the masses in the form of a donation, tax, or government redistribution of wealth.


They all do but you don’t hear about it on TV because that news doesn’t sell ads.


Can you clearly see how this line of thinking is subconsciously fostering the idea that there is only so much to go around? If there is a finite amount of wealth, the only way the poor people are going to get theirs is if the wealthy share it.


But if wealth is abundant, the poor can get theirs on their own.


To be clear, there are plenty of wealthy and poor alike who share their money and their far more valuable time. I’m not making an argument as to whether anyone should or shouldn’t share or “give back”.

Frustrated Wealth Money MEME


I am challenging the way you think about these concepts and where wealth must come from.




You give because you have a big heart. You want to see others succeed and move up in society. But we’ve all given too much at times to someone who simply isn’t interested in moving up, only taking.


Therefore, how we think about opportunity, wealth, power, and success is the determining factor to a life’s transformation. It’s not about the opportunities. If it was just about getting opportunities and/or money, your taking friend would’ve transformed. But he or she didn’t step up and just remember how heartbreaking that was for you.


Frustrated Taking Friend

We are humans and as such we are a product of the information we receive. This is exactly why battered wives and abused children think they’re worthless.


It’s because that’s what they’ve been told. It is a psychological fact that if you’re told something enough, it becomes a reality, a truth in your mind. A lie told 7 times by the liar becomes truth in the liar’s mind.


Sadly, there are some countries where accessing the information necessary to transform a life for the better is practically impossible. These are the real victims of the world. They’re being oppressed by their government and the only way to change it is to literally risk their lives and the lives of their families.


Frustrated How To Think MEMEBut if you’re reading this article, you have choices. You have access to information. You have the ability to seek out knowledge and learn how to think. That was what University was supposed to be about in the first place, teaching us how to think.




We all can change the narrative in our minds. We can all become “successful” whatever you deem that word to mean.


True happiness and personal success start with learning how to think, people.


Happiness, wealth, and power are quite abundant in our world. Achievable by all who figure out that the only one standing in our way is us.


P.S. When we do figure that out, it’s a constant battle because we’re always in our own way. The self-awareness helps us to put our energy towards the real problem, but it never goes away.










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Growing Your Audience Is Not About The Music Anymore

Music Second Feature MEME 2

I’m about to piss you off.

Music Second Angry Emoji


But keep reading because it’s important.


Growing your audience is NOT about the music anymore.


It used to be that way because the process dictated it.


The quality of your music today has nothing do with getting fans/customers when you’re marketing online.





It’s ok because the music is still super important, but the process of getting your art In front of new eyeballs has changed.


Radio and TV were the old way to expand a new artist’s audience. Back in the day, the music was what was being played on the radio or a TV show so the music came first because the music came first in the marketing process.


Think about that. We heard the music first (and enough times) before we asked about who the artist was. The discovery process started with the music.


Now the opposite is true because, for the moment, it has to be that way.


Music Second Robe


Maybe you work a job remotely from home. You can do that job in your underwear and a robe because your appearance isn’t mission critical to your success every day. If you have to go into an office, you’d better play the part, right? I’m not saying that any attire is more important to you than the robe, but I am saying the outcome depends on the situation and the situation depends on the platform.



You will hear music business veterans tell you, “It’s incredible what a really good hit song can accomplish” and they would be right…in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and 2000’s, but not today. Not exactly because it’s changed.


When the music came first a hit song could break an artist but now the music comes second so who will hear it?


Music Second Monkees MEME

I’m generalizing, of course, but is this how you want to construct your business plan? Do you want to place all your hopes and dreams on a blueprint that requires you to be an exception to the rule? Is your success strategy based on winning the lottery?




Do you really want to be the artist in 2017 or 2018 with a record deal, boatloads of talent, but no audience?


Be careful what you ask God for because I know a ton of these artists and they’re sitting on a shelf at a label waiting. They’re on the back burner.  Their label deal and $2.51 will get them a venti drip at Starbucks.


Music Second Unanswered Prayers MEME



Today the artist, a fan’s relationship with the artist, and good marketing come first. The music comes second because you won’t find an audience anymore on the radio.




Let me articulate that point more clearly. You won’t find an audience anymore on the radio.

This is because people used to be forced to listen to new songs, now they have choicesPeople are choosing NOT to listen to the radio.


Here are a couple facts to support this argument. The big three companies that own the majority of the P1 (major market) radio stations are CBS, Clear Channel (aka IHeartRadio/iHeartMedia), and Cumulus.


CBS has spun off (aka sold) all of their stations. In plain English, CBS is out of the radio business.


Why?music Second CBS Radio


They’re losing money.


Why are they losing money?



Because radio makes their money on advertising revenue. The size of any given platforms audience directly determines the amount of money they can charge for advertising. Think about the Super Bowl.  The cost of a 30-second ad is so outrageous because 1 billion people are going to watch it all at the same time.


Music Second Burning Money DODO MEME


But nobody is listening to the radio so the revenue checks kept getting smaller and smaller coinciding with their declining listenership. But the overhead (outgoing checks) are the same. The cost of maintaining the equipment, taxes, admin staff, talent payroll, and performance license expenses is the same if they’re not increasing.




Why do you think they created the “Jack FM” or “Bob FM” formats?  The marketing precept that they’re “playing what we want” is designed to divert your attention from the fact that these platforms have no DJ’s. No DJ’s means fewer expenses.


Get it?Music Second Jack FM Logo


When a business or industry is on the way up the bell curve, the visionaries are at the helm taking risks and changing the world by serving the customer better. When that industry is on the way down, the bean counters come in to manage the decline. That’s a fact no matter what industry you’re in.





Clear Channel (IHeartRadio) just released their 2017 first quarter report and it looks like they’re going to declare bankruptcy for the second time. They’re done. The government will break them up and sell off the pieces. Look at Clear Channel’s stock price it’s essentially flat-lined at its lowest level ever for the last year.


I PROMISE Cumulus is right behind CBS and Clear Channel.




Because the market has changed.


There’s your proof that radio isn’t working anymore. For radio to work, you need to have millions of people listening and hardly anyone is listening anymore because we got smartphones and a million easy ways to play our jam.


Our “Jam” is what we all want to hear. We don’t want to listen to anything new.


Because you’re not listening to the radio means you don’t have to “suffer” through listening to new songs from new artists. You can satisfy that pleasure point in your brain immediately by playing a song you know rather than taking a risk on one you don’t.


So, the market has changed and is continuing to morph, is it not?


The marketing strategies must adjust to the changing market.


Music Second Adapt MEME



We have to adapt and switch to online marketing. Masses of people are not going to listen to anyone’s new song online like they did in radio. It just doesn’t work that way. I wish it did, but it doesn’t.




You MUST understand that social media and the internet are mediums but those mediums are consumed differently than radio. If you don’t understand this fact, you’re sure to fail.


Here’s an example. When I started in the mortgage industry I was an exceptional cold caller. I worked for a multi-billion-dollar company (initially) and they taught you to make 200 calls a day to get 3-5 applications. One day a guy picked up the phone and after my greeting, he sighed. He told me, “Johnny, you’re the 70th person that I don’t know to call me today about doing my mortgage.




I thought there has to be a better way.


Music Second Risk



I drastically changed my approach from the norm and took a risk. A big risk. The recording studio in my house allowed me to create and record a radio show. My buddy agreed to partner up so if it failed I only was responsible for 50% of the downside.





We picked a station and made a deal. They sold us time on Saturdays in 30-minute slots. It cost $450 per 30-minute slot and we had to commit to 6 months which turned this marketing idea and contract into a $12,000 bill.




Music Second 12,000



Jason and I recorded and broadcast our first show. We put some time into creating a format that had a beginning, middle, and end. The show was loaded with informative content that mortgage consumers would find value in.





Zero phone calls.


The next week we recorded and broadcast our second show.


Zero phone calls.


The third-week same format on the show that was broadcast.


Same result too, ZERO phone calls.


Right about then, as you can imagine, I WAS FREAKING OUT!!!!


I called the station manager for guidance. She asked me, “Johnny, are you feeling enough pain to listen to every word I’m going to tell you and do EXACTLY as I say?”

Music Second Bozo


I replied, “I will freaking wear a Bozo outfit with the big shoes and the horn if you tell me to.”




She informed me that the way we were formatting the show was incorrect. We had a 30-minute slot with 25 minutes of content to create (the other 5 was for commercials). Our problem was that we had structured our show like a television program. As if the listeners consumed radio the same way as they consume television. Which is a completely different medium. She told us that on Saturdays the listeners were out running around taking care of errands and catching bits and pieces of any radio show. Do you see how different that is to sitting down and giving their complete attention to the program like they do on a TV sitcom?


She said, “Instead of doing one 25-minute show, break it up into five 5-minute shows. Change the metaphors so you don’t bore the few people who are listening all the way through and mention your phone number every 2 minutes. I’m not kidding, put a timer by your mic and EVERY 2 MINUTES give your phone number. I promise the phone will ring.


Music Second Break Up 5 5 minutes

 We did just that. We adapted to the different medium that was consumed differently than what we were used to and BOOM.





We got 5 calls on that 4th show with 2 of them turning into loans. The revenue from those 2 loans paid for that $12,000 commitment and we were off and running. Within 5 months we were on 5 different stations in 3 different markets. We were receiving around 70-100 phone calls per weekend. That resulted in a steady monthly gross income of around $180,000-$300,000. That’s a business.


Here’s the takeaway. Social media and online marketing are consumed differently than television which is consumed differently than radio.


Music Second Phone CallsYou better know the difference.


The music doesn’t come first online. The artist does.


The music is important just like a product is important because great music and great products will get you repeat customers.


But you can’t get repeat customers without customers and getting customers online has nothing to do with the music or the product.


I’ll repeat that last part.


Getting new customers has nothing to do with the music or the product when you’re marketing online.










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 When Creators Directly Connect with End Users, The World Changes

Connect Feature MEME

Connect Fundamental FlawThe biggest fundamental flaw of the OLD AND NEW music business is that the creators and/or owners of the creations have no freaking idea who their customers are.


(Pssst, you’re the creator).



Yes, they have demographics, but they don’t have their contact information so they don’t REALLY know who they are exactly. It also means they can only reach out via mass media like TV and Terrestrial Radio.


Which costs millions.

But nobody is listening to the radio and certainly, nobody is watching music videos on TV anymore. Not like they used to.


Connect Mass Media MEME



Therefore, record sales suck.


Therefore, few new superstars are being created.





Half the artists who were in the top 10 grossing tours of 2016 were over 55-years-old because the market is largely unaware of the new talent. This is because nobody is listening to radio and watching videos on TV.


It’s also because the new artists aren’t trying to connect with their fans. They want to be rockstars like their heroes.


The world would be VASTLY different for indies, signed artists, and labels if they would stop “doing what they’ve always done” and expecting different results.


Connect Crazy MEME 2



Ahem, that’s the very definition of crazy.





Let me tell you a crazy story.


QUESTION: For decades and decades the richest people in Texas were in what industry exactly?


If you guessed the oil business, you’d be correct! The richest oil families in Texas are multi-billionaires and have been for quite some time.


Connect Oil TREATEDBack in the early to mid 90’s a now famous Texan decided to build a widget. He spent the money to hire the team to design the widget. He spent more money prototyping that widget to work out the kinks and get it functioning properly. He spent more money leasing the manufacturing space, hiring the manufacturing experts, purchasing the manufacturing equipment, and the necessary components to put that widget into mass production. Then he spent a literal fortune promoting that creation to ensure he was systematically penetrating the minds of consumers.




He created the product then he created the demand for the product.

Connect Texan






But this future-shaping, trend-setting Texan did one super important thing different.



You see, for centuries all the widget makers, that is to say all the creators, sold their creations through distribution. Typically, a creator would sell their product for half price to the distributor. Then, the distributor marks up the price to the full market value so they can make their profit. But these distributors don’t actually create anything. That was how it always worked if you wanted to sell anything. Clothing makers sold Connect Distributor Collagethrough huge distributors like Macy’s and Nordstrom’s.  Toys were sold through distributors like K-Mart, Target, and Toys-R-Us. Automakers sold through local privately-owned dealerships. Electronic parts makers sold their parts to original equipment manufacturers via huge multi-hundred-million-dollar publicly traded distribution companies. Airline and Cruise companies needed local travel agents to distribute their services. Farms and food companies sold their products to brick and mortar local grocery distribution companies like Kroger.


But our famous Texan was asking the right questions.



Why was it worth selling your product to a distributor for half the market value anymore?


What exactly did a distributor bring to the table thatConnect Distributor Valuable MEME 2 made it worth letting them stick their hands that far down the creator’s pocket?


Answer: A relationship with the customer. For some it was a relationship with millions of customers which made for some very powerful and profitable distributors.


They knew the end-users!


Back in the day, if your creation wasn’t in distribution you didn’t sell anything, period. So, it was mission critical. It was the way our fathers did it, and their fathers did it, and their fathers and so on.


That’s a super tough nut to crack, you know. All that history.


But our Texan didn’t want to sell his $1,000 widget to a distributor for $500. He felt that if he was the one smart enough to create the widget and courageous enough to take the risk of designing, prototyping, manufacturing, and marketing the product he should get 100% of the money for it!


Seems fair.

Connect 100 Percent of the Money MEMEPlus, distributors show exactly zero brand love. Macy’s is just as happy to sell a customer Wrangler jeans over Levi’s. They don’t care what you buy, they just want you to buy!





But there was another way.


A way to bypass the distributor now because we had this new thing called the internet. (I feel like you should say that line in Dr. Evil’s voice using your fingers as air quotes; In-ter-net).


Connect Dr Evil



The internet would allow a creator who formerly had to pay big money to advertise via mass media (like darts in the dark if you ask me considering today’s alternatives) to connect and create a relationship with their customer.





Think about that.


That creator could have complete control over their customer’s experience.


That creator could become profitable faster because they’d have to sell half as many products to make the same amount of money that they would collect via distribution.


CONNECT Dell Computer Logo


You’ve probably figured out that our mystery genius is Michael Dell of Austin, TX. He became the first computer manufacturer to utilize the internet as a tool to create a direct relationship with the end-user/customer that he worked so hard and paid so much to reach.





His plan worked because within 7 years, Dell became the richest man in Texas.


That was in the late 90’s and early 2,000’s.


As of last year, according to Forbes Magazine, Michael Dell is worth 19.1 billion dollars. The nearest oil family is worth a paltry 8.9 billion. Poor babies.


Connect Michael Dell Forbes

That tells me the plan REALLY worked.


But the story doesn’t end there because Dell changed the world.





For decades if you were an electronic component manufacturer and your components were in an Apple product, you HAD to go through distribution because they had a relationship with your end-user that you couldn’t have. So, you sold your $1 diode for .50 cents and made money in the massive amounts of volume.


But after Dell Computer, you built a website and the engineers at Apple could contact you directly about questions, feedback, new products, ideas, etc. Little by little over the following 15 years the parts companies refused to renegotiate their distribution contracts because they didn’t need them anymore. They now possessed the one thing they used to pay the distributor for; a relationship with Apple (aka their end user). As a result, those multi-hundred-million-dollar-publicly-traded distribution companies imploded over time.


Connect Intel Logo

All gone.


All the local travel agencies vanished seemingly overnight.


Now consumers could access cruise lines and airline companies directly to purchase tickets without paying a commission because they didn’t need the travel agent anymore.



Did you notice how quickly the brand name outlet malls popped up around America? Companies like Levis, Coach, Hilfiger, Reebok, etc. couldn’t sell direct on their own but they damn sure could if they clustered with the other brand names and gave consumers a beehive of multiple brand names which sold their products discounted prices from the distributors.


Connect Outlet MallsCompanies that didn’t adapt like K-Mart and Sears fell into crippling debt.


How about the auto industry? GM purchased back tons of once privately owned dealerships because the consumers were only coming on the car lot to test drive the vehicle they wanted to purchase. The consumers didn’t need the salesmen for knowledge. Shockingly, consumers were literally more educated on the product than the salesman when it came to options on the vehicles. Why? Because the end user could research the product directly on the manufacturer’s website.




Mind Blown.


It all happened because one really smart guy was able to adapt in a changing environment.


One clever person was asking the right questions even though he didn’t have all the answers yet.

Connect Adapt MEME


QUESTION: What does Spotify, Pandora, and iTunes have that the labels, signed artists, and indie artists don’t have?


ANSWER: A relationship with their customers.




Which is a relationship with the label’s customers.


Also a relationship with your customers.


The labels aren’t adapting because distribution is always how they’ve done it. Just like all those other computer companies back in the late 90’s.


Make sense, right?


Which means these distributors have tons of information on these customers that would help artists and labels make more money.


But they won’t share that information with labels and artists.


Connect They Wont Share


Why won’t they share that information with you, the signed artists, and the labels?


Because the second they do, they would become irrelevant, just like travel agents.




I wonder how the world will change after artists, labels, managers, and publishers open their eyes like Michael Dell and take total control of our precious creations?











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You Need New Fans, But Where Is The Traffic Coming From?

Traffic Feature MEME

Where is your traffic coming from?

Traffic Record Deal MEME


Have you ever asked yourself that?


My guess is no, because it’s clear to me that most artists and industry execs don’t ask, don’t know, and don’t care. They just want to continue doing what used to work and bitching about why it doesn’t.

Your power, money, influence, and legacy lie in the size of your audience.


Do you want a record deal?


Great, get an audience. One that’s big enough to make you sexy to the labels.


How about management?


They’ll come crawling out of woodwork like a horror movie infestation scene if you have a sizable audience.


Maybe you’re just looking for killer gigs.


Yes, you guessed it, build an audience and you’ll magically have booking agents who’ll lie down in traffic for you. You’ll also develop great relationships with the club owners. It’s an amazing feeling when the bar owner tells you that the band’s bar tab was $450 that night and then rips it up in front of your face because you packed the house!


Now you’re probably thinking, “But Johnny, how can I get an audience without management, booking agents, or a label deal?


To that I say, “Precisely!


Now you’re asking the right questions!!


The answers will be different for each of you.

Whether you know it or not, believe it or not, and accept it or not, the truth is that you will NOT get a label, management, or bookings just because you have talent.


Unless you’re independently wealthy, managers and booking agents get paid on commission. This means that if you aren’t already making money there is nothing for them to make.



Simple math.


You might be thinking, they should just believe in me because I’m awesome, talented, and full of potential. Well, would you do that? Could you afford to believe In someone for free, for as long as it’s going to take to get you to a point of cash flowing?


What if the artist you believe in wakes up one day and decides to get married, have kids, settle down, and get a 9-5 job? You’d be screwed. Bottom line they need to get paid and until you find your audience, it’ll be slim pickin’s on viable booking agents and managers.


You’d be amazed a how many investors will be willing to put skin in the game if you have an audience as well.


Traffic Labels Don't Care abt Talent MEMELabels don’t care about your talent initially. Yes, they want you to be talented but talent and no audience means no label deal. Moderate talent and a sizable audience means you’ll get attention because labels are buying small businesses these days.


So where do you find your audience?


Since the first musical note was every played there has only been one way to build an audience; place talent in front of new sets of eyeballs and let the talent do their thing. To do that you need eyeballs to put the talent in front of which means you need traffic.


In the old days, traffic came from a few different places like MTV, CMT, GAC, BET, Radio, Television, magazines, certain music clubs, and the draw from an already established headlining act. When an artist or label wanted to expand the artist’s audience, they created content to plug into some or all of these outlets and Voila! You immediately create attention which turns into traffic.


Traffic Audience Formula MEMEThe principles of growing an artist’s audience are the same today in that we have to expose the artist to new eyeballs. But the old outlets don’t work anymore because most of them don’t have enough, if any eyeballs.



The problem now is the methods for executing this simple mission critical task have changed and the new paths to create traffic seem to be confusing industry and artists alike.




Rule #1: Ask yourself “Where is the traffic coming from?”Traffic Where is the Traffic Coming From MEME



Here’s what I mean.


Let’s take any TV talent show like American Idol, Nashville Star, or The Voice. Did they build an audience for their respective TV shows by presenting incredibly talented unknown artists singing their original songs?


No. Trust me there is a reason for that so why would you try to attempt to do it on your little platforms when the TV shows won’t do it on their big platforms?


They present incredible raw talent singing cover songs.


By the way, shows like these that introduced new and raw talent via cover songs gave us artists like Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert, Chris Young, Kelly Clarkson, and Melanie Martinez.


Traffic TV Show Logo Collage



Oh, and before TV shows like these, artists like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin cleverly worked their way into the minds of consumers using cover songs as a crow bar.





Once these kinds of TV shows created an audience where did the traffic come from?


Answer: The TV show.


Why is this important?

Because the traffic source affects the kinds of song choices an up and coming artist will need to use to be successful.


The TV show provides the traffic when an artist like Carrie Underwood appears on American Idol.  So, a certain song choice will make or break the artist’s outcome in the competition (making a good song choice for the artist is important for THAT reason). But the traffic is the same either way because the traffic comes for the show, not the artist or the songs. Thus, old familiar songs that the artist covers in a compelling manner are a solid choice, provided the artist can deliver a great performance.


But this strategy is NOT a good choice on YouTube if the artist is doing covers.

Traffic Independence Day




Rule #1: Where’s the traffic coming from?


Carrie Underwood performed Martina McBride’s “Independence Day”after she made it to the Top 10 on A.I.


Killer song. I love that song. It TOTALLY worked for her on TV because the audience was there for the show but it wouldn’t work on YouTube because nobody is searching for it.


There’s no traffic for “Independence Day” so nobody will see the cover version.


Therefore, when it comes to YouTube covers, the traffic comes from new releases that JUST DROPPED. The sooner you cover the song, i.e., the closer your cover is posted to YouTube with relation to the release date of the original, the more traffic you’ll get for two reasons:

1. The original artist’s audience will be feverishly searching for that new song.

2. There will be less competition because most wannabe artists are lazy and will take a few days to post their cover.


Traffic The CLIMB Logo


A good success example is a guy named Jonathan Cochran. Jonathan is a regular listener to my podcast called The C.L.I.M.B. and decided to test out this strategy (my co-host, hit songwriter Brent Baxter and I have discussed it multiple times). Jonathan posted his interpretation of a new song from Miley Cyrus called “Malibu” either the day of, or the day after it originally dropped.  The results were astounding, but somewhat predictable. In 24 hours, he tripled his subscribers and garnered 6,500 views.





That’s 6,500 people who just discovered Jonathan Cochran. Now he’s up to over 10,000 views.


The traffic came because people were searching for Miley’s new song. Do you see how the song choice determines traffic on YouTube?


How about live shows?

If you’re asking where is the traffic coming from, the answer will influence your approach to marketing every show. But be aware each show might require a different approach.


Traffic Hammerjacks Ent Group Logo


The club scene was pretty happening back in the late 80’s and early 90’s when I toured. A certain amount of traffic was coming to club every weekend regardless of the talent and it was our job to SLAY it and keep the crowd. We would deliver and the audience would grow because enough of them would spread the word.




Conversely, when I moved to L.A., the clubs operated on a “Pay-To-Play” basis. Once you secured a gig, it was up to you to sell tickets (to earn your investment back because you had to pay for Effing tickets to your own show) to bring people in.


Traffic Pay To PlayAn artist must adapt in this environment.


It’s weird but each artist’s audiences would show up for a 30-minute set and then leave. I hated that. You could be hanging in the Viper Room on Sunset and one minute it would be wall to wall people, then the next, desolation boulevard.


My solution was to get together with a promoter friend of mine and package up deals with artists that had audiences and encourage those artists to urge their fans to hang out. We fostered this approach with timed drink deals to keep people incentivized to hang.





In this scenario, the traffic was coming from each of the artist’s draws so THAT was what we had to work with.


This resulted in a string of killer shows where all the artists were exposed to new eyeballs over the course of the evening AND it deepened the relationships between the bands…as long as they weren’t douchebags. But I digress because, of course, we had our share of those.


Traffic Digital Distributors Logos

When you’re deciding on a digital distributor like CD Baby, Tunecore, or Distrokid, most of y’all are misguided in thinking that one choice over the other will affect traffic.


Where does the traffic come from in digital distribution?


Answer: YOU.


Once you understand that, you’ll focus on the distribution and make choices that are based on business. But the traffic comes as a result of your marketing, not people “stumbling” across you on a digital distributor like Spotify or something similar.


When you consider spending money on a music video for an original release, ask yourself, “Where will the traffic come from?”


Traffic Music Channels Logos


If you have a massive audience the traffic will come from there. If you don’t, you’re making a video that nobody will see. This is sad but true. It’s also vastly different from the 80’s and 90’s when you made a video to put it up on MTV, CMT, BET, or GAC. Back then, these channels had massive audiences watching music videos so it made sense. Make a video and that video would get the artist in front of millions of new eyeballs.





But who’s watching now? Most of these channels focus way more on scripted and reality programming than music video programming. See why it’s different?


If you make a music video and you KNOW you’re not going to get it on MTV, CMT, GAC, BET, etc, then you’re just putting it up on YouTube.


Where’s the traffic coming from on YouTube?


Answer: Nowhere.


Is there another way you could spend your precious time and money in this market to ensure that your work is being exposed to new people every day?


It’s all about traffic.


Before you spend a dime or a minute of your time on a marketing plan, ask yourself, “Where is the traffic coming from?”


When you honestly research and answer that question, your marketing decisions will become exponentially more effective and it will be immediate.










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STOP Thinking A CD Will Make You Famous

CD Ticket Feature

As one of Daredevil Production’s newest members, allow me to introduce myself.  My name is Cody Upchurch, and I started working for the CD Music has always been Essentialcompany a little over two weeks ago.  In that short amount of time, I have obtained an abundance of knowledge that only hands-on experience can provide.  After just 2 weeks, many of my preconceived notions about the music industry still hold true but some of my opinions have drastically changed. This epiphany happened after receiving a deeper understanding of how the business ACTUALLY works.


Like many of you, I have always thought that in order for an artist to be an artist, they first must have a CD or EP but I now know that this approach is categorically false. Sounds crazy, I know, but let me explain.


When I first arrived in Nashville, it became immediately apparent that the city is flooded with talented musicians.  They’re playing at every bar, and they’re damn good at what they do.  If you were to pluck any of these acts off the stage and ask them what they need for a “big break,” I can almost guarantee their first answer would be a CD, EP, or album.  Sure, it would be nice to have an album under your belt, but that’s not the ticket for success. It’s definitely not the first step to artistic success anymore. This is a common misconception that, unfortunately, too many musicians have.


Honestly, I would have given a similar answer before arriving in Nashville, but after working with actual musicians and helping them work towards realizing their dreams, it has become quite clear that nothing equates to the importance of marketing before the CD.


CD Marketing is a vital PillarStructurally speaking, I always knew that marketing was one of the most vital pillars in establishing an artist’s career, but I never realized the extent to which record labels shape their budgets according to this philosophy.  In the label mind, marketing outranks your recording by a landslide.  They care less about what the artist is putting out, and more about how many people will listen to it (because it’s good!).  Labels will do whatever they can to ensure they recoup their investment or at least get as close as possible.  This is done by spending the majority of their monetary resources on marketing.  If the marketing is effective in its intent, enough intrigue can be generated to ensure a substantial amount of people purchase the product.


What would be the point of releasing an album or CD if no one knows it exists?

But this is what EVERY indie artist does, isn’t it? They release the CD first. Then think about marketing to an audience of zero but their artist soul, hopes, and dreams crumble when they discover nobody cares. But they do care. The problem is they just don’t know about the artist and in today’s market, the music is going to change that.


CD Everybody wants to release a CD butThis is a fact that, for some reason, many musicians choose to ignore.  Everybody wants to release an album, but nobody wants to think about marketing.  While you have the power to allocate your money as you see fit, don’t expect that album to be your saving grace if you haven’t marketed YOURSELF properly before releasing it.  And posting on Facebook a week before your album release is NOT marketing.  In a world before the internet, radio did the marketing for us (which meant the music came first), but not today.  Now our phones are the radio, and every individual is the DJ of their own show.  Thus, it is inherent that YOU put YOURSELF onto people’s stations.  This isn’t done by releasing a song and expecting people to slide it into their rotation.


You must make an effort to connect with people on a personal level before you present them with a product to purchase or they just won’t care.

Once these connections are made, it is essential that you maintain the relationships and retain everyone’s information as best you can.  Most artists, labels included place fans into specified demographics.  Whether it be gender, race, age, etc., the analytics only give you a general idea of who your fans are.  While this is extremely helpful in deciding how you should market your material, the most beneficial move an artist can make for his or her own career is to get specific information on each fan.  This allows for surgical precision when it comes time to market the product you are trying to sell.

Another bit of online etiquette that my time in Nashville has taught me, is the importance of being personal with as many people as possible.

CD Shake hands and Make PlansThe most fireproof way to ensure someone supports your future endeavors is to communicate with them, by having REAL conversations.



Social media gives us the power to chat with the people we admire, all without ever leaving our house.  The more interactive the conversation is, the stronger the loyalty between fan and artist becomes.  Back in the day, an artist’s interaction with fans occurred only through live performances, interviews, and the occasional public spotting.  They didn’t have to worry about communicating with them on a regular basis because that technology didn’t exist.  Today, however, it is expected that artists not only have a presence on social media but actively use it to converse with fans.


CD Real Conversation is important

Retweets and Likes are a necessary mission-critical first step but a genuine back-and-forth is the most effective in developing a relationship.




Imagine social media as a sidewalk.  As you’re walking down the street, you see one of your favorite musicians hanging out on the corner.  You immediately begin to wave and express your praise, hoping that he or she not only waves back but speaks to you on a personal level.  Social media presents this scenario on a daily basis and makes it easier than ever for artists to connect with fans on a deeper level.  I see a Like as a slight head nod or wave, a Retweet as a spoken “Hello,” and an actual conversation as just that, a conversation.  Imagine someone that you’re a fan of acknowledging you to the point where they ask follow up questions and keep the conversation moving forward.  Not only would that make your day, but the chances of you supporting them financially (i.e. purchasing their music) increase exponentially.


CD Social media SidewalkOnce you remove yourself from the perspective of the artist and start looking through the eyes of a fan, real interaction begins to make more sense.




Now, you may be thinking what’s the point of marketing if we don’t have something to sell, but did you notice all these tactics I wrote about have exactly nothing to do with a CD or EP? You can start on the “building a relationship” piece of the puzzle right now without one song ever being recorded. It is important to understand this because the public won’t care about your music until after they care about you. If you truly understand this fact, why would you dare wait to begin your marketing strategy? Build up a rabid YouTube and social media fan base and THEN record a single.


I promise you’ll be amazed at the results.


I look forward to diving deeper into this topic, as well as countless others during my time with Daredevil Production this summer.  Just remember, the tools are in your hand, why not utilize them?

Why Do You Keep Making The Same Stupid Mistakes?

Mistakes Feature MEME

No one will care about your music without marketing.


Mistakes ZERO new people MEMEExactly zero new people will hear your music to care about it without marketing yet so many indie artists continue to make these mistakes.


Nobody needs new music so they don’t care about your music because it’s new.


Great art does NOT find its own audience and it never has. There has ALWAYS been a clever, hard-working marketer ensuring that new people are exposed to the artist’s work. PERIOD.


Why do you think record labels have marketing and promo divisions?


Mistakes Record Label Budgets MEME


Whether you want to believe it or not, whether you know it or not, a record label will give you 10% of the budget to make your record. They will use 90% of the budget for marketing.


How does that jive with your budget percentages?



My guess is most of you give zero dollars for marketing or the recipe is severely flip-flopped with maybe 10% going to marketing. It’s these mistakes that will crush you!


Too many artists have a false believe that they “need” to make a 10-12 song CD to succeed.


Mistakes CD You Don't Need a CD MEMEFALSE.


Other artists believe that they need to make a 5-6 song EP to succeed.




You are telling yourself stories if you believe this. This is your ego talking.


I get it, this is and has always been your dream but this is a sure-fire way to FAIL.


Has your dream always been to make a CD or was more like you thought that CD would lead to a career?


Wait, if your intention is to make a CD just for you and yours then you won’t fail. They’re surely going to listen to it. But if your intention or real dream is to be a professional artist, then this is a horrible decision.


When you aren’t clear on your intention, the “dream” can skew your vision causing you to make crippling, sometimes career-ending money decisions.


I remember speaking to a really nice artist on the phone who was hell bent on making a CD. He had a ridiculously small budget of $2,500.

His thinking was that he NEEDED a 10 song CD (because that was his dream) and so he went looking for someone who would record these 10 songs for $2,500.


Mistakes CD Do You Want a Career MEME



Guess what?


He found him.


I PROMISE if you’re hell bent on anything, you’ll find what you’re looking for.  Of course, there were ZERO dollars allotted for marketing from that $2,500 budget.





Which sadly, is probably a good thing, if I’m being honest, because the quality of those recordings at $250 a song (keep in mind the artist was NOT an engineer, did NOT own any recording software, nor a studio of any kind) are going to be atrocious.


Artists need to take a breath and decide, RIGHT NOW, what exactly they are trying to accomplish.


If you’re just recording the songs for yourself, for friends and family, or your significant other, then awesome. There is no wrong answer.


If your intention is to get your music out to the world and you create a crappy sounding product, you will have crappy results. GUARANTEED. Your songs and the recordings have to compete with what’s on the radio right now.

Mistakes Hiding MEME




If you execute zero marketing on that crappy sounding production or on the most beautiful recordings ever, you will have crappy results too. GUARANTEED.





If you manage the budget for your project like it was for friends and family but then grow angry and bitter when the world doesn’t freak out about your art, you’re completely missing the boat. Why would they care if they’ve never heard about it?


I have news for you, your first CD or EP isn’t going to sell. You’re not going to make your money back.


Mistakes Angry Not OK MEME



This is NOT news.





MOST major label artists end up in debt after the first record. The label spends a couple million dollars on marketing a $200,000 record and maybe they sell 50,000 units.  Nowhere near enough to recoup the initial investment.


But the artist’s brand name is now a reality in the minds of a few consumer/fans.


Mistakes In Debt Record Deal MEME



Then the second effort comes out, and things are looking better. The artist has a little rabid fan base that is eager to hear the next release. The second record usually sells far better than the first. Hopefully enough to break even on the recording and promotion costs. You’re hopefully BUILDING the whole time.


Then on the 3rd record, the artist blows up, the records start selling, and everybody starts making money.


It’s a long game.


Marketing your music is NOT like opening a lemonade stand where you make a profit on every transaction or pull up the stakes.


Mistakes Lemonade Stand MEME


Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Tom Petty and Def Leppard all had breakthrough records and record sales on the 3rd release.


Think about that. You need to know this.




Your first record isn’t going to sell because you don’t have an audience to sell it to.


Your first record isn’t going to sell because your future audience doesn’t care about your music right now.


The way Springsteen, Bon Jovi, and Def Leppard accumulated their audience is DIFFERENT than the method you’re going to acquire yours.


Mistakes UnderwearThe old record business was about the music first. I’m not speaking about the quality of music (although it must be AMAZING), and I’m not speaking about the importance of music. I’m articulating THE MARKETING PROCESS.


When you put your clothes on in the morning you start with your underwear. There is a process to execute this task or you’ll look like an idiot.



In the old record business, the PROCESS was to release the music and launch the artist brand on radio where each market had massive reach and repetition. Consumers were essentially forced to hear that debut single multiple times while waiting to hear their “jam” because they didn’t have choices.


I am CONSTANTLY approached by indie artists who want me to “market their CD”.


It doesn’t work that way anymore. If they’re only focused on marketing the CD rather than creating a brand, they’ll be disappointed.


The beginning of your artist journey is NOT about marketing music and merch (although these can be a byproduct), rather it’s about creating a brand.


Mistakes Audience First MEME

Do you want to succeed as an artist?





If you do, you’re going to need an audience. Unlike the old days, your music is NOT going to generate that audience for you.




The artist comes first now.


Mistakes Build An Audience MEME

Guess what? You don’t need ANY tracks, exactly ZERO recordings to begin marketing your brand.


You can start building an audience, aka a fan base by intelligently using YouTube, and all social media platforms.


Build up an audience first and then release one single and GIVE IT AWAY.


You’re not trying to make money at this point, this is what I mean by “long-game”.


You ARE trying to create and deepen relationships.


Then repeat the process on a second single.


Continue to build relationships.


Mistakes Time MEME

If you suck at creating relationships on social media you’ll need to get better because it’s the only way you’re going to be successful.


Your education on this matter will require a little bit of money and TON of time. Find the time or face the facts.




No time means no career. Period. (but this is true of any career, isn’t it?)


If you refuse to spend the massive amounts of time it takes to create relationships on social media, then go get a day job. Your future in the music business will be one of frustration, aggravation, and bewilderment.


Nobody will care about you because nobody will be aware that you exist because you refuse to reach out to them in an intelligent manner.


The new music business industry wants you to be talented, trust me, but they don’t care about your talent. They care about your audience.


If you’re waiting till you finish the project to begin marketing you don’t get it and you’re going to fail.


Mistakes New Music Biz MEMEThis is true for record labels too. They’re still trying to do it the old way spending obscene amounts of money on P1 (major market) radio only to find that nobody is aware of the artist because new artists DON’T BREAK ON RADIO ANYMORE.


It’s all about YOU first.


I’ll say it again, IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU FIRST.


You have to create the relationships first before they’ll care about listening to your music.


The process has changed. Pretending like it hasn’t isn’t going to do a damn thing to help your career.


Underwear first, then your pants or dress.


Find your audience first, then release your single.


Get it?











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