Tag Archive for: Record Label

Music Marketing Questions Feature

Follow me on this and I’ll steer you to asking the right music marketing questions.Music Marketing Questions Neil Diamond


It was 1976 (I believe), I was 8 years old. Don’t ask me why, but my parents (thank GOD) took me to our local outdoor concert shed called Alpine Valley to see Neil Diamond live. He had JUST cut his hair but was still totally rocking. I was super familiar with the music, especially Hot August Night which was recorded live in 1972 at the Los Angeles Greek Theater.


FYI, if you haven’t heard that record is a must. Neil recorded a ton of records, but in my opinion, none of them compared or sold as well as the live records. They just couldn’t ever capture the magic that happens on stage with that man.


I was more than familiar with every song, every lyric, every note. I couldn’t believe it was him!


Music Marketing Questions Epiphany

I was utterly fascinated.


I decided right there, that music was my gig; that’s what I was going to do.


Looking back, that was a REAL epiphany, you know?


Life changing.


Hey I’m curious, hit me back via email, in the comments below, or social media, what was your epiphany? What artist made you decide to become an artist?

Music Marketing Questions Who Made You

After that show I begged my parents to get me guitar lessons and an acoustic guitar.


I used to daydream about writing songs with Neil and performing with him.


I used to do that in front of a mirror with my guitar on, of course.



I did get some guitar lessons too.


They totally sucked.


I lost interest.


Heartbreaking right?


My teacher was boring and forced me ONLY to learn exercises and chords, you know, rudimentary stuff.


My homework was to learn “3 Blind Mice” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb” from some crappy beginner book (OK, look I was a beginner but sheesh!)


Music Marketing Questions 3 Blind MIce

Not once did he offer to teach me the 3 chords necessary to learn a Neil Diamond song.



For the record, I don’t remember asking either, I was 8, but still.


That might of changed the course of my life a little sooner.


Fast forward to 6th grade; just 4 years later but a lifetime for a kid. We had moved a couple small towns over from Whitewater, WI to Delavan Lake, WI. 20 minutes apart from each other but a GALAXY away to me as I had a new school and was forced to find new friends.


A good move looking back, by the way, as most of my childhood Whitewater friends are in or have been in jail. This is why my parents moved; they understandably didn’t like my friends and that town was too small to avoid them.

Music Marketing Questions Peavy Guitar



One of my new friends was Michael Ancevic. We met on the lake during my first summer there.


He came over to hang at my house one day and brought a huge woodgrain Peavy electric guitar with a cord.


No amp so we plugged into the stereo.


He knew a couple Cheap Trick songs.


My jones was reinvigorated BIG TIME.


I wanted a guitar again; BADLY


Music Marketing Questions Crazy Train


I got one with a small practice amp and began taking lessons from this dude in Delavan named Mark Waelti (who later became a senior roadie for L.A. Guns). Mark would spend our lesson time teaching me the obligatory scales, chords, modes, theory, etc. but would end every lesson teaching me whatever song I wanted to learn that day.


That was our deal.



All of a sudden I instantly knew more than the one note adaptation of “Smoke On the Water”.


I could play “War Pigs”, “Heading Out to The Highway”, and “Crazy Train”.


I had homework I wanted to work on!


Now we were getting somewhere.

Music Marketing Question Marshall Amps



Mike and I had a little silent gear competition going on. We both worked jobs to afford better gear. Every time one of us got a better amp or guitar, the other had to reciprocate; right up to Marshall Stacks.



Next thing you know we had a band. We were horrible but we were the only band in town so the girls LOVED us.


That was enough of a response to keep us going.


Obviously the rest is history.


Sometimes the circumstances that accompany a new adventure are not ideal and these can impact your experience in a negative way.


Like with marketing your music. I mean you’re either asking the wrong music marketing questions or you’re not asking at all.


Great Questions Feature MEME

This can be so detrimental that you lose sight of even the most destined life path.


If you know me, CLEARLY I was definitely fated to tour in a rock & roll band, however, even after a life changing epiphany, the lame-ass guitar teacher sucked all the wind out those sails; albeit for just a few years.


You know what?


Marketing your music is the same way.




Yeah, some of you can truly sit down with an instrument and somehow it just makes sense to you so beautiful music comes out; these people don’t ask questions.



Some of you think you can do that but you should be asking questions because you need music and/or vocal lessons, but I digress.


Some of you took lessons like me because you wanted to improve. You started asking someone with authority some good questions.


Music Marketing Questions Salesman


Many of you hate marketing because you didn’t get into music to be a salesman, right?


You hate that feeling.


Consequently, you don’t ask any music marketing questions.


Many of you embrace marketing but y’all sound like salesman because you suck at it, which is a horrible feeling for us.


And completely nonproductive for you.


Again, because you think you’re good, you don’t ask any music marketing questions.


Music Marketing Questions In The Palm Of Your Hand


When you excel at marketing the feeling you get is not any different from how you feel when you write a song and during a performance you really move someone emotionally.



How about when you overcome the challenge of a stubborn audience and still manage to walk off stage with them in the palm of your hand?


How does that feel?


Music when it’s well done reaches people in a profound manner. It’s life changing for us, isn’t it?

Music Marketing Questions Connecting MEME

Music, when it’s well done is super effective communication.


Marketing when it’s well done is effective communication too.


In order for you to succeed at music, SOMEONE has to succeed at marketing your music. Period.


That has always been true since we started recording and selling music.


Music Marketing Questions Lessons

What if you could learn how to market like I initially learned guitar from Mark Waelti, in a more engaging manner?


What if you were asking great music marketing questions and actually getting answers?


If you viewed your music career like you view marketing, you wouldn’t be chasing that dream anymore.


Remember when I said my band sucked?


Your marketing sucks right now, you just need to approach the challenge a bit differently; like all my guitar teachers following that first hack. Once I knew what to look for I never had to play “3 Blind Mice” again!


I got results after EVERY lesson; measurable results.

Music Marketing Questions Twitter Book


Most of you reading this have downloaded my free Twitter book.


How many have read it?


This book is still a bestseller and answers many of your music marketing questions.


How many of you have implemented it?


FYI, everyone that implements the strategies in that book hits me back with INSTANT results, like how I felt when I would learn a new song at the end of each guitar lesson.


If you allowed yourself to be overwhelmed by the desired end result of making a living in music, you’d of quit eons ago.


Why do you allow yourself to be overwhelmed with marketing?


Music Marketing Questions Excuses MEME

Whatever answer just popped into your head just now is a REALLY GOOD EXCUSE.


Start with one platform.


Start with Twitter.


You have the book. If you don’t, get it free right now at GiftFromJohnny.com. Just click the button and tell me where to send it.

Music Marketing Questions Reach Out and Touch Your Fans


Master the strategy for targeting your audience and reaching out to them. They’ll follow back, I promise.


That’s easy and immediate. A quick win which is necessary for building your confidence.


You’re not done though.


Then dig into applying that amazing creative brain of yours to craft awesome, compelling content.


Music Marketing Questions Stand MEME

What is awesome, compelling content you ask?



You’ll hate this answer but it’s literally different for every one of my clients.


The content has to be consonant with your brand, your personality, what you stand for, but it also has to be valuable for THEM.


Oh, and your music is valuable to no one until they know you better so if you think that is the answer you sound like a salesman and you’re probably a little arrogant.


Once you crack that code, you’ll start deepening relationships and the last step is easy, just ask for the money.


If they like you enough, they’ll buy. Every time.

Music Marketing Questions Asking


How do you create content that is consonant with your brand and valuable to them, exactly?


Ahh, NOW you’re asking the right questions.


Keep asking those questions and your subconscious will reward you, I promise.


It may seem vague but it’s exactly how I built this company, client by client.








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Self Awareness Steel Ball Reflection FEATURE

Self-awareness, you either have it or you don’t.


That’s a true statement.

Self Awareness Hiding


That doesn’t mean you can’t get it if you don’t have it.


In fact, we are all born with a certain lack of self-awareness. If you’ve ever seen a toddler who believes that by covering her eyes she becomes invisible because she can’t see you. This is a definite lack of self-awareness we all have, then some of us grow out of it, some of us don’t. To a degree anyway.


Simply becoming aware that you have no self-awareness is a huge step in the right direction; kind of like addiction, admitting you have a problem is 50% of the solution (or something like that).


Self Awareness


A while back I wrote an article on awareness with regards to you, the artist, and how you’re handling the music business.


This one is different.


Today we’re going to dig into whether you’re aware of how you handle yourself, how the world sees you, how you come off; essentially how you make other people feel.


sef Awareness Kidd Gypsy


When I was younger I was SERIOUSLY lacking self-awareness. Many of you know I was an artist. I toured with a hair band for about 7 years of my life.


I would be inside my own head at all times.



I would be thinking about God knows what, assessing the situation unfolding in front of me (and there were a lot of situations of every variety on the road with a hair band), thinking about my positioning, brooding about what Self Awareness Empty Pocketsjust happened, reacting to what just happened, contemplating my next move, thinking about a joke I just heard…you get the picture.


There was a lot going on inside my head at all times. There still is.


But one thing is different.

I now have some self-awareness.


What the heck am I talking about?


A lack of self-awareness manifests itself in many different ways, pretty much all bad.


For me, I had all that stuff going on in my head while I was engaging with other people, including my band Self Awareness Inside My Headmates, fans, girls, bookers, producers, managers, fellow artists, record execs, club owners, promoters, etc.


I was so wrapped up in my own world, I wasn’t paying attention to what the hell was going on, and would just go with the flow.


It made me look aloof.


It made other people feel like I felt I was above them in some way.


Which I didn’t.


Self Awareness Condescension

But that’s the way it looked.


That’s the way it felt to them.



Get it?


Mind you, I wasn’t a horrible person at all.


My character hasn’t changed, but my approach has.


Self Awareness Sad

You might’ve felt like this after dealing me when I was younger.


Some people had strong personalities and they wouldn’t give me permission to make them feel bad. These kinds of personalities usually became friends because they could endure the shit-show of getting to know me and get inside the circle of trust.


Sadly, some people are maybe not so strong and felt like crap after meeting me or dealing with me. I did not get to know them well. My loss on a lot of those, I’m sure.


Not too proud of that one. Ugh.


And that’s at least one big key to self-awareness. After meeting you for the first time, people won’t necessarily remember what you said as much as they’ll remember how you made them feel.


I had to be checked into the glass, so-to-speak.


Self Awareness Confrontation

My manager and I



One of those people with a strong personality who became a very close friend was our manager. I distinctly remember the moment she called me out.



We were at the Rock-It Club in Tampa, Florida. She came back to the dressing room after the show and kicked all our asses. She told us we better get our butts out there and work the room. Those people paid to come see us which means they’ll pay again if they feel welcome and special.


Here comes the part where I got schooled.


Self Awareness Rock It Club TampaAfter a little while, she’d had enough. Not just for that night but enough of my stupidity in general. She told me, “Johnny, I know you. I know you’re a good guy. You’re a funny guy. I know you have a big heart. I’m going to tell you something that you’re not going to like very much, but I’m your friend and you need to hear it. So here it goes.


“You come off like an arrogant asshole to these people.”


I’m like, “What? I’m NOT an arrogant asshole!”


Self Awareness Embarrassed

She agreed and said, “I know this, but you need to realize that you come off that way. You’re not listening to them. You’re off in your own little world so you’re not ‘in attendance’ with them when they’re talking with you. This makes them feel like you don’t give a crap. Whether you know it or not, whether you like it or not, you come off looking and feeling dismissive.”


I was pissed to say the least.


Nobody likes it when someone holds up a mirror to your face. You have to deal with all the flaws.

Self Awareness Arrogant

It was however, one of the most pivotal moments in my life.


She was right.


I was pissed because I was mortified. Embarrassed.


It was true.


I suspect there’s remnants of that unwanted trait in my constitution and I suppose it rears its ugly head from time to time, but generally speaking, I worked really hard to correct that.Self Awareness Cracked Glass


I certainly never felt like I was above all these people in any way, but my lack of social skills was painting a different picture and I just became self-aware.




I’m not going to lie, it took a lot of work to untie that knot but it would’ve never happened had I not been checked.


I’ll bet you know somebody like this, yes?


Self Awareness Cracked Mirror

Maybe it’s you.


I’m paying it forward now.


I want you to win.



Self-awareness is mission critical to your business dealings, your team building, and your relationship with your fans in person and on social media.


I was always a little coveting or maybe even jealous of people who just had a natural affinity for making people feel good and special. Somehow they seemed to have this self-awareness thing licked and I was CLUELESS!!!

Self Awareness Covet


They always came off warm and fuzzy and I came off like a jerk, when I wasn’t a jerk at all. This was so frustrating.


I’m telling you this because I learned, so you can learn too.


How do you come off?


How do people perceive you?


What are people’s first impressions of you?


Self Awareness Scared MEME


If you ask honestly, with an open heart, and you make sure to communicate to the person you’re asking that you won’t be mad at them if they deliver the cold, hard, truth…you’ll find out.


It may not be pretty.


They uglier it is, the more people you’re going to need to ask as nobody will want to share their true feelings about you.


Self-awareness leads to all kinds of awareness.


This awareness leads to success in all aspects of your life.


Listen, there is something else you need to know.


Something real.Self Awareness Perception


I just described my transformation of sorts. You got the tip of the iceberg with regards to experiences that drove that transformation.


Many were painful.


All were humiliating looking back, now. That’s NOT the person I wanted to be.


So here goes another free value bomb:


Self Awareness Annoyed


People who have found self-awareness are largely intolerant of people who haven’t.



They’re prejudiced of the non-aware because it’s a painful, awkward moment in their life that they don’t ever want to be reminded of again.


It’s behind them and they like it like that.


They earned it.Self Awareness Love is Knowing


The takeaway is this:  If you’re lacking self-awareness, you’re not going to get a lot of love even from the most compassionate, self-aware people.


They’re going to be annoyed with you.


If you’re getting that in the business, go find that mirror, take a deep breath, and start your new journey.


It’s time.

Self Awareness Yoga





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Label YES

So Kelly and I are at a private party with Anthony Orio & friends and we end up in a conversation over beers and cigars about artist development and the damage that happens when artists and/or songwriters get their lucky break too early.  What if you get the opportunity of a lifetime to take a big step towards your dream and you’re not developed enough, ill prepared, or  worse, searching only for fame?  In short, what if the label says YES?!?!

That’s right, I said it.  What if the record label or publishing company says “yes”?  Are you ready?

Do you know where you’re going artistically?

Are you prepared to fight for your vision or will you be lost in the crowd with your hat in your hand?

Do you understand the hustle of the business and how to operate intelligently within it so you can capitalize on the coming momentum?

The NFL has classes that all rookies are required to take to deal with this instantaneous rise in the players brand awareness and cash flow, but they certainly DON’T offer this in the music business.  In fact, they would prefer you don’t know; more money for the powers that be.

You can’t just stick your toes in the water; you have to be ALL IN.  To make a living, you have to be a student of the game.  If you don’t know your business, you’re being lazy.  Trust me, THEY WILL know your business because they’re professionals and you will suffer for your lack of knowledge one way or the other.

What if the Publishing Company Says YES?

Label Neon YES imageOne of conversations we had was centered on the 3 discussions or so we have every week with beginning songwriters.  Often beginners are understandably apprehensive about spending too much on their dream (which they are inevitably conflicted about) so, in lieu of a proper/professionally acceptable demo recording, they go “shopping” for the best deal A.K.A. the cheapest demo price.  I hear it all the time, “I just want to stick my toes in the water to see if anyone cares.  I want to see if anyone is interested before I spend more money.”  Just like any other industry there are people here in Nashville that cater to that market; and just like any other industry, you get what you pay for.  Now, many songwriters are just doing it for posterity to get their music recorded which means the only person they need to impress is themselves so this is a pragmatic approach; this makes sense.  However, the songwriters with serious professional aspirations have to impress the professionals, so they are screwing themselves with a crappy demo recording.  Paying for a $350/song demo in Nashville (which $100 of, will go to the pro singer) will get a guy that is going to play all the instruments on that recording and he’s going to cut it in his basement, and MIX it in his basement: it’s the only way he can afford to charge that low price.  Next, that songwriter will shop the song to song pluggers.  These song pluggers are true professionals so don’t fool yourself, they will instantly be aware that the writer cut corners on this demo (because of the sonic nature of the recording) which immediately makes the writer look unprofessional; 99.999% will not pay attention to the song and pass because that’s a red flag that they’re not ready yet.  If hit songwriters and publishing companies could avoid using live bands on all their demo tapes to save money, believe me they would!  But let’s say that for some reason the song plugger really listens to an amazing song and says YES.  What do you think will happen next?  They will tell the songwriter, “I LOVE this song, man, but I can’t sell this recording of it; so go back and re-record it.”  You see, this “dip your toes in the water” approach has only 2 outcomes for an aspiring professional songwriter:

  1. Most likely they hear a “NO” and alienate the very people they need to bring their product to market because they look unprofessional; you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
  2. They hear a “YES” and by the grace of God, the plugger is willing to overlook their naiveté, but the songwriter added $350 of needless extra cost to their first product in a start up business (which could be put towards another song demo to build the catalog).

Everybody has a dream.  Tons of you have dreams of “making it” as a songwriter or a recording artist; but if you’re not somewhat prepared, a “yes” could be the beginning of the end, or at the very least extremely expensive and emotionally exhausting.  To me, “making it” is defined as making a living doing what you LOVE to do.  There are different levels of “making it” based on volume and revenue generated; but if it’s based on making a living doing what you love to do, it’s a solid foundation.  Fame is annoying.  I get why people seek it because I did initially, they shove it down our throats and we consume it like crazy.  I can tell you that fame is a herculean pain-in-the-ass, even in the context of my small-time regional fame; it’s creepy.  Everybody is in your business or is talking about your business like they know you when they don’t have business with you and they don’t know you.  You only get to find this out when you get a little taste.  Eleanor Roosevelt said “Big minds talk about ideas, medium minds talk about events, and small minds talk about people”.  So the search or need to only be famous is an exercise for small brains.  Those who only seek fame come off to me as green (green like inexperienced and green with envy) and therefore somewhat delusional.  You have to do the work, man, or you’re Paris Hilton; a cocktail party joke with a crappy sex tape.

If you want to be iconic, you have to put in the work.

If you want your songs to be timeless, you have to put in the work.

Fame as a byproduct of supreme artistry is a result of great minds, vision, and hard work; it’s no freaking accident.  We all have an image of some super famous entertainer that we feel doesn’t have enough talent and we’re baffled by their fame; they’re famous because they were prepared, they take it more seriously, and work harder than you do.

Real success in the music industry is about tons of preparation and experience over years of time.  Real success rarely happens overnight and when It does, especially in the new music business, it’s “here today, gone LATER today” and usually disastrous to the artist.  So the slow growth will last longer and be worth more in the end…unless you just want to be famous.  Expecting or dreaming about a big break without the work is like expecting to walk into a Major League sporting team for a tryout and getting awarded the top spot on the team; you need your 10,000 hours first.

So, What if the Record Label Says YES?


Label Record exec Pig imageIf you get a major label to say “YES” these days it’s because you have generated some kind of attention, a brand, and a following on a reality show, or vocal talent show (where the label feels they have a guaranteed market of sorts) OR you have created real momentum on your own through touring, twitter, Facebook, trackable record sales, sold out concerts, etc., and maybe you’ve managed to fund a Kickstarter campaign with at least 1,000 backers or $100,000 in funds.  Let’s dissect the latter first.

In this scenario you will have turned down several label offers already and the conversation starts with you saying something like this, “What are you guys going to do that I haven’t already done for myself that warrants me giving you MASSIVE percentages of my revenue from record sales, merchandise, publishing, ticket sales, etc?”  This is called leverage at the negotiating table.  Believe me when you are seasoned with momentum you come to the table with a “heavy hammer” and YOU WILL BE PROTECTIVE OF YOUR SMALL PROFITABLE BUSINESS!!  You’re eyes will be open to the many ways a label can screw up your future and in this case all the hard work from your past that put you in the seat at that very negotiating table.

Now let’s dissect the artist who gets a deal after skyrocketing to fame on a TV show or from some other crazy, massively publicized anomaly.  This artist doesn’t really have a heavy hammer at all.  If you win next year’s American Idol, who cares; it’s the 13th season and there are more winners residing in obscurity than there are current, relevant artists.  This is what every up and comer seems to dream about because it looks easy; it’s typically a mess.  Yeah, yeah you get to feel like a Rockstar for a hot second and you hang with all the big names and feel like you’re somebody but then what?  I’ll bet you couldn’t name 5 of the 12 American Idol winners if I put a gun to your head and you’re reading this because YOU’RE IN THE BUSINESS!  They are literally here and gone to the mass public eye.  It’s easy to spot the artists on American Idol that have a true understanding of who they are and the ones that don’t; aka the developed artists as opposed to the undeveloped artists.  For an artist who is green and thrust into the public eye that fast it’s equivalent to starting at McDonald’s on the fry line and getting instantly promoted to a corporate Sr. VP level; you’re instantly promoted to the point of incompetence.

The more hard work you do on your own, the more traction you get as an artist on your own, the less likely you are to sign a major record deal because it just won’t make sense; you’re already making money!  However, if you do choose to sign, your deal will be far more advantageous to you, the artist, than anyone getting a deal off of American Idol.

Your music is everything, man, right?  DON’T CUT CORNERS!Label Cutting Corners image

You need to pay your dues.

You need to be mentored.

You need to be developed.

The Universe is always as it should be.


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