David Scott Norton is joined by Mark S. A. Smith, Musician, Business Growth Strategist, and Author, to talk about the business of being a musician and how to interact with your true fans.
David Scott Norton: Hey everybody, this is David Scott Norton on The Local Music Podcast. Today, I have with me Mark S. A. Smith from from Las Vegas. Mark is a business growth strategist with the BJ company. He is also the host of the Selling Disruption Show. He hosts the Executive Strategy and Leadership Skills Summit and he is an avid musician. Welcome Mark
Mark S. A. Smith: Why thank you David still like to be on the show with you today, or do you would you prefer me to call you? Scott?
David: Scott is good. Yeah. So for those of you who are who don't know - half of you know me as Scott have you know me as David. Some as David Scott and some as some other select names but...
Mark: Well it’s also good to have a stage name. And as you can tell I've got a radio voice I did years in radio. So I was Mark Stevens when I was on the radio because nobody wants to be a Mark Smith on the radio.
David: Oh, yeah, you know, it's hard. It's sometimes hard to find you find you online Mark Smith. There’s plenty of Mark Smiths. Same thing the Scott Norton or David Norton there's a ton of them, but David Scott Norton is only one of those.
Mark: That's exactly right. We have to create that uniqueness and I think that's actually an important component is if people can't search you and find you then you've got to change up how you call yourself. And so I think you know even as a local musician if you want people to find you, you have to be searchable and you got to be the top of the list when they type in what they're asking for,
David: Right right. I guess let's jump in let's talk about some stuff like that for local musicians. You know, how do I get? How do I get on top? How do I how do I make sure somebody can find me when I'm playing my gigs or putting out my CD? How do I know that what I'm speaking out into the ether there of social media is actually being heard by anybody?
Mark: Well, you know, you don't ever know that. It's really hard because you'll absolutely bust your ass recording a great tune or learning a great riff and you'll put it up on YouTube and you get seven views. It's just heartbreaking and the thing you have to keep in mind is that in the world of music, marketing is as important as your musician skill. Your ability to promote yourself. We all know extraordinary musicians that if it was all about talent the world should know about them, but they don't. So part of it is how do you package yourself? How do you create a tribe? How do you let people know where you are and there's a few things that we're probably going to cover that you've covered in prior shows and you'll cover in the future shows. Yet they always bear worth. It's worth repeating. First of all, if you haven't, Google “Kevin Kelly 1,000 True Fans” Kevin Kelly was one of the original editors of Wired magazines. And in 2008 he wrote a monograph on this concept that you can make a living if you can find one thousand true fans. A true fan is somebody who buys everything that you create. They'll drive two hours to your show. They'll buy the super master annotated release. They'll buy your t-shirts. They'll spend a couple hundred bucks to come hang out at your house with a barbecue to hear you play. Those are the true fans. And if you find a thousand of those true fans, you can make a decent living. One of the things that Kevin points out is that your goal if you're going to do a true fan type of situation is to create sufficient products and services and to allow that true fan to spend one day’s income per year with you. That's a fan. That is a fan and if you think about it, if you can find a thousand of those people and you round them up and you love them up and you take care of them. It's entirely possible for you to do that. So that's the first thing I want you to do is go Google Kevin Kelly thousand true fans. And the idea is to put together a strategy - put together a plan to how do we feed and water these thousand true fans. So David my friend, you're one of my true fans you spend money with me. You come hang out with me. We learn together. We play together. We laugh together. We drank together. We swear together. Well, not very much. And it's the idea here is that I could generate enough value for you that you're willing to hang out with me and I'm not cheap to hang out with. But on the other side of it, I like hanging out with you, but that's also it makes a true fan of true fan is the people that become true fans of others. They like hanging out with their fans. It's not a big deal.
David: Right. They get comfortable.
Mark: Indeed they do and this actually reminds me of a story that I heard. Kenny Chesney when he was getting started back in the music business was at I think it's called Briar Rose in Denver. It's a country music venue in the Denver area and he played with his band and he hung out until two o'clock in the morning signing autographs and signing CDs and things like that. And somebody came up said, “Why are you doing this man you’re a star? Why are you signing all these autographs?” And he says, “every autograph that I sign sells the next album.”
David: Right. Yeah.
Mark: And he understood that you have to create that connection with a fandom to make it all work.
David: Right. Wow, that's I mean that's the people who are seem they're down to earth. Right?
Mark: Well, that's what we call them as Down to Earth. But the reality is that they allow us to connect with them the way that our music connects with them. Now the reality is that musicians are about generating emotional connections. We do it with our music and we do it because it connects with our soul. I'm a musician because of how it makes me feel when I play. Not only with myself but also when I play with my friends. When you and I were sitting around playing and singing the last time we got together, that was so much fun.
David: It was yeah
Mark: And since then I've started to learn some of the songs that you were playing because you inspired me to try a different angle. And so I thank you for that. Here's another tip for you friends: keep taking lessons. I have a guitar teacher. I've been playing seriously for about 15 years and not seriously for about 30. Yet over the past decade I've taken lessons and YouTube just isn't enough. And I found a teacher that plays the way that I want to play. And I found him in a bar in Vancouver, Canada. It was after a speaking engagement that I had up there and sat down and had a beer and this guy was playing away and just just tearing up the guitar in a way that I go “when I grow up, I want to play like this guy.” At a break we started to talk and I said, “do you give lessons?” He says, “yeah, I do.” I said “what do you charge?” and he said “well 25 bucks a half hour.” I whipped out a hundred dollar bill and I and I pushed it across the table and said “I'm buying two hours of your time.” He says “well, you know, the problem is I live in Victoria.” I said, “Skype dude Skype.” So we have Skype lessons every other week for an hour and I PayPal him a hundred dollars every month and he has made me so much better because I believe we need to find teachers whose history is our future and when I grow up and be a big bad boy, I want to play like this guy. So he's been teaching me specific licks and also how to compose and we've written some songs together and he teaches me the songs that he has written and I had those to my repertoire because they're really great songs and they're interesting and if you want to play some things people haven't heard before as well as things that they have heard.
David: Yeah, and I think that that is important and I had the same exact experience when I lived in Philadelphia. I went to an open mic and I played and I was just learning how to play guitar and I get up and I started playing an old Hank Williams tune and these bunch of people get up behind me started playing and one of them was my friend Paul and he just whipped out his guitar was playing exactly what I wanted to hear. You know, my kind of music. And then you know, I got to talking to him and then I took lessons from him in Philadelphia. It's the most I ever learned in my life because it was somebody that I connected with and he was like, you know, right up my alley and I've tried to take other lessons since you know who people who are really good but I just don't connect with them. And I've tried online like the Fender - I think it's called Fender Play or something like that and I don't have the discipline. That’s one thing - the discipline about about taking the lessons. If you're dealing with somebody personally, I found that you're accountable to them. Right?
Mark: Well, there's that part. There is the accountability part. Yet, I also think it's the customization part. My fingers are different than your fingers and I have fat stubby fingers. So I chord differently than a lot of people do. I do a lot of thumb chording where my thumb wraps around and frets up to two strings quite accurately. But I got these short stubby fingers that don't flex like a lot of people's and I don't play A of the way a lot of people play it because my finger doesn't bend the way that that works. And so I think that what happens is with my guitar teacher he works with me and my physiology to be able to put together chord structures and chord changes that actually work for me and we don't get that with YouTube and a lot of times in the YouTube videos, they fly over the stuff where I really need the help to understand it. Whereas working with my guitar teacher, he has infinite patience. And you know, we we may take five minutes structuring my fingers into a chord structure that works for me and then getting it under my fingers working a couple of changes back and forth until it works, but that's what allows me to break through and my frustration is not his frustration. And I think that's an important component of that when you're looking for a teacher. What's their level of willingness to work with you until you can figure it out?
David: Right. So you do that once every week or once every two weeks, you said?
Mark: Every other week.
David: And does he give you like lessons or exercises? You have to learn something before you come back or?
Mark: Well it's not that brutal. He assumes that I'm a professional enough to be warmed up and tuned up when we start our lesson. Right? You know, we're not kids anymore. We're musicians. And then we start off by just playing around he says, “well what you've been playing around with?” and I'll play a couple of riffs and I say, “what are you playing around with?” and he plays something I go, “[gasp] That's what I want to learn. That's what I want to work on today.” So we’ll go through that. And then he'll whip out a chart. Whip out a tab for me and break down what we learned that day. And then he'll oftentimes just whip out a real backing track. So he'll just sit down push the play button. Whip out a little mp3 and email it to me so that I can hear what it's supposed to sound like along with the tab that we've worked on and then how to connect all those things together. I find that really works terrific for me. I tell you it's just inspirational. Just new strategies, new ways to play, new ways to play chords, new embellishments, new strategies. It's just it just really fattens everything up that I can do.
David: Nice. So you're a busy guy, right? So you think, once every two weeks that's that's not a lot of time right?
Mark: It's not. It's an hour once every two weeks. Yeah.
David: So what do you say to people like myself who who get stuck in the rut of “I don't have the time to do it.” I don't have the time to practice. I don't have the time to him to schedule these lessons. I found myself a lot of times getting in there in that rut of I don't have the time and then I go months without practicing or without playing even though it just seems to disrupt everything going on in my life if I don't go and play music. What do you use to keep yourself, I guess motivated or keep your time aligned so you can do that. All right, this is really easy
Mark: Alright, this is a really easy answer. It's a matter of priorities. What's important to you? Is music important? Then there's plenty of time for music. If music is not important, if something else is more important, then you won't make time for music. And the challenge for a lot of people is that music is hard. What people forget is that learning how to play music is an awful lot like learning how to walk and a lot of learning how to talk. and when we were kids we were so focused on learning how to walk. [phone rings] Did I lose you? Hang on. Hang on just a second dear friends. Oh, I'm sorry for the technical challenges here. Alright, I'm back. All right. Sorry about that. Yep. Yep. Yep. It's it's just one of those things that happens when you forget to to put your phone on do not disturb. There we go that so there's something to remind yourself to do is put your phone on do not disturb.
David: Gotcha. I’m doing that right now.
Mark: So it becomes a matter of priorities. What's important to you? Music is tough because it's a lot like learning how to walk and talk and it takes a lot of time and there's a lot of pain you fall down and you really suck at it for a really long time and every time that you're expanding your musical vocabulary you suck. And as musicians, we really like to focus on this perfection. We want to sound just like our favorite artists and we want to get that lick exactly right. But realize that that's not our job. While I can read charts, I can't read staves. Not because I don't want to it's because I've never decided that it was a priority for me. I'm not in the business of reproducing other people's music. I'm in the business of reproducing the music that's in my head and getting that out and to be willing to do that to be willing to suck until you get good at it is an important thing. So, I think that first of all decide if music is a priority for you and if it is then schedule it just like anything else that's a priority for you.
David: Right, right. Actually had that experience today, scheduling this this podcast. It seems like whenever I schedule anything to do with music, if I want to play a gig on a Friday night, I've got a customer whose payroll has blown up at you know at six o'clock at night. They call me “we have an emergency.” If I schedule a record this podcast today. It’s like 10 o'clock in the morning, like I have plenty of time to get things ready. 10:15 I get the one phone call. “Can you get on a conference call at 11?” You know at 10:30 I get another call. “I need this project plan right now.” I can't. It's like it seems like every time I try to do something for myself for music. I can't tell if it's that somebody's always asking me for something and I don't notice at other times or that when I'm getting ready to do music all hell breaks loose.
Mark: Alright, let’s talk about that for a moment. There's a philosophical aspect to this. There's also a business aspect to this. The philosophical aspect is that I believe that the Universe tries us when we make choices and so we will have conflicts that will show up to find out if we truly truly believe that this is important to us or not. And so if music is a priority that priority will be tested. And it'll be tested not by your priorities, but by other people's priorities. And you have to decide whether your priorities take priority or their priorities take priority. And what I've noticed with musicians that are truly extraordinary as they only allow their priorities to have priority and everybody else can just wait. I see that and I think it's an important component when we're trying to be creative. The interesting thing about being creative and music without a doubt is part of a creative skill is that it takes time to move into that creative role. Hey, it's one of the reasons why musicians like to drink and smoke is it allows you to move to that creative role and block everything else out very quickly. I'm not saying it's a bad thing. But I think we also need to be able to move into a creative role without those chemical adjustments. It takes time to move into that. And so you have to give yourself some runway and you know. And when I have my lessons I give myself some pre-lesson time so that I can move into the creative role and be receptive to what Victor is offering to me in terms of musical ideas and new skills and abilities. From a philosophical standpoint, every time that you get challenged is a time to decide is this a priority or not? From a business standpoint. My suggestion is instead of saying “I can't” say “I have a prior commitment.” I believe that prior commitments are important because when I make a commitment to my clients, I keep my commitment. So in this particular case, I don’t allow them to intrude on my other commitments. So you don't have to tell them that your commitment is playing a gig. Unfortunately some musicians feel guilty about playing music.
David: Exactly. Yeah, sometimes I do.
Mark: Right. You know, why am I sitting here playing music enjoy myself when I should be vacuuming the rug? I should be washing the car. I should be I should be I should be. Well all those shoulds are would prevent us from being great musicians. I should be connected with my soul playing my music being authentically me. The best thing I can do as a musician is to show up and share my passion with the world because we live in a world that's passionless. And we are the muses that encourage others to live a better life to see things in a different way. We exist on this planet to make the world a better place. And if you're called to do that then make that your God given priority.
David: That is a great perspective, I like that and I like what you said about getting yourself in the right frame of mind for music. Like you can't just switch from you know, doing one task and all of a sudden - alright at four o'clock I'm supposed to be practicing my lesson although at 3:59 I was juggling chainsaws. I think it you talked about that in our sessions a few weeks ago about strategic versus tactical times. And not only just scheduling that I'm going to do my practice at four o'clock come hell or high water, but scheduling other things that lead up to that get yourself in the right frame of mind. What kind of things do you do to get you with yourself on the frame of mind to get to switch over to the music art?
Mark: It's actually really simple. You pick up the guitar or you sit down at the keyboard you pick up the bass or whatever instrument that you're playing you pick it up and you sit back and you close your eyes and you say “This is my time. This is me and my instrument I'm going to connect with my inner self and I am going to pour it out through this instrument.” And my intention is to sit here and be connected to me so that I can express to the world the joy that I feel so they can feel joy too. So I start off with an intention. It's the intention of what I want to get out of this and it could be my intention is to learn how to play this chord sequence with more fluidity than ever before. It could be I want to find a new lick that I've never played before that brings me joy and it gives me goosebumps. That might take me a half hour to get there but I always get there. So I think that we have to sit down with intention. The problem is that most of us who took lessons as children hated practice, you know our parents said, “you sit down and you practice,” and the beginning of the lesson was with anger. “I don't want to practice.” Man, that is no state of mind play music unless you really want to play some Punk. But in that particular case my job is to make the audience angry too. I no longer choose to play that strategy. If that is that's the thing you get to do. So set the objective, right? And that's what strategy is about. What's the objective? And then what's the sequence? How are we going to approach this? I like warming up with music that I love to play because it's easy for me to play and it gets me in that state and I feel good and then we move into whatever direction that I want to move into whether it's working on practicing chord changes or new chord forms that I need to get under my hands. Those are the things. So I find that helps a lot to make that transition from my regimented business state to my creative joyful music state.
David: Okay, so, you know, actually you sit down and do some meditation or affirmations of you just mentally just get yourself in the right frame of mind just block everything out.
Mark: Sure. Yeah. Sure. I think that practice is really important no matter what tasks that you face. And when you sit down and say here is my objective. Here's the outcome here is how I know. I'm going to be a success in the task that I'm facing right now. And it doesn't take much time, just close your eyes and decide what you're going to accomplish and things tend to go whole lot better. It's better if you have a journey with a destination in mind. Sometimes you want to do a wander about but you tend not to get a lot accomplished when you do that. So just set that destination. I do the same thing when I exercise. My intention for this exercise is to burn calories, to free my mind, to make my body strong, to release any toxins that are in my body through sweat, and in all of a sudden the the exercise becomes joyful versus this is going to suck. If you start off by saying ”this is going to suck” it sucks.
David: Exactly. That reminds me, I have put myself in that frame of mind in sports before and now going to the gym. I can easily get into the frame of mind of screw everything else. This is my hour. I'm gonna work out and I'm gonna focus on this. And I guess I used to do the same thing with sports, you know for practice for a game. You get yourself wrapped up in the frame of mind. And so I guess you know, I guess the lesson is art - music is the same same thing.
Mark: Anything worthwhile requires discipline. Unfortunately, we've been moved into a society where discipline is frowned upon and where - “oh, that's hard.” Yeah, anything worthwhile requires effort and anything we haven't done before until we make it part of our body is hard. But hard’s not the point. The point is the journey and the destination. The point is that I've played long enough and you've played long enough the two of us can sit down and we can play music together and we can sing and we can harmonize and we can create joy for not only each other but also those listening in. And that state, man, that’s bliss.
David: It is.
Mark: That's why we play.
David: Exactly yeah just that time. It was like you said sitting on the couch and just playing for the evening was great.
Mark: Yep. We were drinking and making up new words and making mistakes and laughing and you'd play some great stuff and then I do my crazy stuff and we passed the guitar around and [laughs]
David: It was fun, and that's what it's supposed to be. It’s supposed to be fun. So, how did you get into music in the first place?
Mark: Oh I think my journey through music is not very different than anybody else's. When I listened to certain music it gave me goosebumps. And you know that physical impact on me when I would hear a specific song was so powerful that I wanted to generate that. I wanted to be able to be a part of that. I got hooked on that feeling of “oh, yeah, I love that.” Those moments of bliss and extraordinary that they're so rare and we search those moments of epiphany out that breakthrough where you have - the world's just a completely different place and it's a joy to be living in this and the pain disappears and the pleasure is intense. That of course was when I was young - I mean, I'm kind of an old guy - listening to it on top 40 radio. I'd love that so much that I built a hand-built amplifiers and hand-built speakers so that I could get what I wanted out of the sound and my parents made me take piano lessons when I was a kid and they sucked. The piano teachers took a rote approach and it was never about the joy of music, it was about the technique in music and I have a solid ear. So I ended up not learning how to read. After years of music lessons, I didn't know how to read music, but I could play it. So I learned how to play it by ear and by rote and I would ignore the music and my teacher essentially taught me how to play by ear and I could memorize things and I could play. So that made it really easy later in my life to pick up an instrument to play it because if I can hear it in my head I can play it. Which is a classic in music if you can hear a song. People say, “I can't play music,” the question is “Well, do you ever get a song stuck in your head?” Yes? Well, then you can play music. Because if you can sing it, if you can hum it you can play it. It's just a matter of connecting what you hearing in your head with your fingers or your or your toes or whatever else. So along the way...yeah, this is kind of fun. I moved to Amsterdam lived in Amsterdam for three years working for Hewlett Packard. And there was really not much to do even though I was in Amsterdam, you don't you can't go out every night and there's not much on TV. So I ended up going and buying this piano that's in the background - this Yamaha piano - and I sat and I taught myself how to play music from that piano. I sat down every night and learned how to play songs and just revitalized myself. Then when I came back to the United States, I bought a guitar - bought a Strat - started working on playing guitar. And then I joined a band and they needed a bass player. So I bought a bass and an amp and they needed somebody who was willing to sit out there and sing and I've got the same vocal range is as Jim Morrison so I could try to do all right. So along the way, you know choir when I was in college and high school and played percussion in band. Just you know along the way music is always been an important part of my drive. And I think the idea is you we put a lot of things together. So I play guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, and sing and each one contributes to my capacity as a musician. And I think that this this idea of being multi-instrumental - I suck at most of them, but I can play well enough to play with others. And the idea to pick be able to pick up any instrument that know somebody else doesn't want to is really a cool idea for me.
David: And I think the whole thing with the piano and I've discovered that is no matter what instrument you're playing, get a piano get a keyboard because that's the basics of music and once you understand that you can understand a lot more and I know I have since I've played around with piano.
Mark: Oh, yeah without a doubt. Music theory - and my bet is that half the listeners here have had some music theory training and the other half haven't - understand that theory isn't theoretical. Theory is a language. And so studying music theory is really helped me an awful lot because I know how songs are composed. I know how our brains like to process music and theory allows me to very rapidly pick up new songs because I understand the language and how they fit together and keyboards is the best possible way to teach yourself theory. It's hard to teach yourself theory on a guitar. A guitar is a transposition instrument. Once you understand how to play certain chord forms. You can play it in any key. It's really pretty simple. That's not the case with a piano as much although there are patterns, but with a black and white keys, you have slightly different forms, but the number of notes between each each note each in each chord remain the same but you can learn the theory very easily on a piano and I find myself visualizing theory on the piano then transferring that to the guitar.
Mark: And I think that that's one of the reasons why it really helps to to have multiple instruments. Of course playing drums gives me the understanding of how rhythm fits together playing the bass helps me understand how how to put together melodies and chord forms. Of course playing guitar is something I can grab and have a good time with anybody. What I find though is that there’s a thousand good guitar players in any city and there’s about ten great bass players in any city. So being able to sing and also play multiple instruments means that I can go make music anytime that I want to.
David: Right and you don't have to be the best in every in every instrument.
Mark: Nope, but I do have to play well with others
David: Right. You mentioned about building your own amp. Your own bass amp. I rememeber, I saw something online - one of your old YouTube videos - Kendrick Amplifiers? Do you remember that?
Mark: Oh, absolutely. Gerald Weber is the longest continuous boutique amplifier builder in the world. He has been hand-building amplifiers for coming up on 40 years. And Gerald runs a Amp Camp where you can come in and bring your amplifier and they'll hot rod it for you or you can come in and you can hand build one of their amplifiers and you walk out with a one of the best amps on the planet in your hands. And I've built three amps with Gerald through the years. I'll probably build another one next year and I can't wait because it's always a fantastic experience you hang out with other tone crazy tone monsters and you go to Gerald’s recording studio in Austin and it's just it's just an extraordinary experience. Along the way I've built some unique amplifiers unlike anything else in the world that please my ear as a tone chaser.
David: Nice. So yeah, that was that was a really nice video. If you're out there on YouTube. I'll put the link up on the podcast.
Mark: Oh yeah that is kind of cool. I put together a video of the first amp that I built with Gerald. I built - he calls it his “New Joisey” but it's actually a climax Train Wreck a Train Wreck climax amp. It's the same exact circuit because Gerald co-designed that with Train Wreck and it's an astounding amplifier just absolutely astounding. And the interesting thing about it was it was built specifically to make Teles sound more like Teles. Out Fender a Fender.
David: That is awesome. So that's in Austin and I'll post a link.
Mark: It's actually in Kempner which is a long way. It's about an hour outside of Austin, but it's just an awesome experience. And if you know if all you have to do is be able to handle a soldering iron. Everything else Gerald teaches you and Johnny Po his master technician is right alongside you and it's an extraordinary experience and you know, it's nothing like it.
David: Awesome. And I really just enjoyed the production of the video did you produce that video?
Mark: I did it was done by Animoto. So, you know, I had some help from the artificial intelligence that pulled all that together. Animoto is a tool that allows you to take videos and audios - and there's a lot of companies out there that do it - that just happened to be the company that I used to do it at the time and they make it look great and I used one of Gerald's band's song. His band’s called Red, White, and Blues and he did a cover of the old Booker T. and the MGs “Hip Hugger” and it's a great cover. It's a killer cover. Gerald's playing the organ on it. It's just great.
David: I found it really engaging and I wondered is that something you know, as a local musician people always say I want to do a video on do a music video, but when he said music video you're thinking of you VH1, you know, honey produced videos. How what is your take on I guess using videos to promote your band.
Mark: Oh hell yeah. Oh, yeah, totally, you know, the idea is you're going to create a thousand true fans, you have to feed and water them on a regular basis. You know, here's how to produce your first video: Round up 10 of your favorite fans your all-time favorite fans and say, “Alright folks, we’re going to make a video and all I need for you to do is bring along you iPhone and your Android phone and we’re going to shoot a video together.” So you sit there and play music. Make sure you have your drummer do a countdown because that’s how you’re going to sync the audio tracks. Then just have these 10 people just go nuts filming you from every angle. And it’s okay if each other gets in the film. That’s okay, but you have a 10 camera shoot. And then they email you that and you just edit this thing together and you'll have so many interesting angles. You may need to give a little direction such as move the camera slow because when you move the camera fast, it looks like shit. And give your fans credit for videoing you. Of course, they’re going to share it with their friends. “Look what I did!” So look, you know, if you did something like that once a week for 12 weeks, you would probably add a hundred and fifty to two hundred fans to your list. Of course it keep in mind the most important thing you can do as a musician is to build your list. Your email list that lets people know where you are and what's coming and what you need. Participation is the biggest aspect of this.
David: So email lists they're still a good thing?
Mark: You have to reach to your fans. Email’s the best possible way. Part of the reason why is because you know, you need to Facebook. You want to everything you want to do all of it. But email is still the most important because even if you post something on Facebook only 15 or 20 percent of the people will see it because the way that Facebook want you to see want you to pay to put your message in front of other people. And ultimately we will want to pay but at the beginning we would rather put our money other places like food.
David: Right. It doesn't seem that it's a good investment of money. Like when you're starting out. When you're not big enough to invest in a marketing campaign on Facebook to promote your your music or your shows.
Mark: You know, if you want to fill your venue next time that you've got to show, it's really very simple call up your 10 best fans and say, “Hey, now we're playing at The Hobbit tonight. Would you call some of your friends and invite them to come down?”
David: Word of mouth.
Mark: It's actually - word of mouth is a word of reputation. And and then when they show up schmooze them. Go hang out with them. If you really want to create a lot of buzz and some people are going to resist this concept but boy, I tell you what it really works. There's a band out of Minneapolis called the Front Fenders they’re a cover band and they're a bunch of old white guys the man they can play holy cow. Now the interesting thing about old white guys is they can afford really cool equipment. A third of their show is pulling people out of the audience to play along. They let me sit in and drum on two of their songs, which was a hell of a lot of fun. You know. Hey who wants to come up here and play the drums with us come on up? Who here wants to sing with us? And the lead singer would then prompt the person who is up there. He would essentially do verbal karaoke. He would be standing off to the side and telling them the next words to sing. They really developed as fantastic act of using their audience members and they are busy as much as they want to work. They get put on airplanes to fly in and do parties because they have so much fun. They create an event. It's not just about listening to musicians. It's about involving all of the audience into a fun experience. Not for everybody. But you know, it's something that you might want to play with.
David: I think I lost you.
Mark: I'm still here. All is well. It's the the technological aspects. But hey, you know here we are two thousand miles apart hanging out.
David: I know it's awesome. I like I like the idea of the of the video. What other content? I guess that's the thing is someone was on the other day and we're talking about social media and he was saying that everybody's using their social media to promote their gig. “I'm playing here. I'm playing I'm playing here in playing there.” It needs to be more content based.
Mark: Yeah, you know, just letting people know where you're playing is a part of it, but what's more important is that your true fans can't wait to know where you're playing. So let them in on how you're making your music. “Hey friends working on a new song today with the boys and let me let me tell you what we got going on so far,” and now sing a line sing a riff and I can't wait to see how this turns out. And now if you like and share this will give you an advance sneak peek at what we end up with.
David: Right. So all your posts shouldn't be about you know, trying to sell your CD or trying to get people to your gig.
Mark: No. Let them in on your life. True fans want to be like you. They want to be with you. They can't wait to to feed on the joy. You bring a planet through your soul in through your music,
David: But on this true fans. I think he said Kevin Kelly, right? And yeah. He said one day's income per year. That is that their income or your income?
Mark: Their income
David: So find really good friends.
Mark: Well let's just say for example, you know, it depends on where you are of course, but let's just say that the the average person that you're you're playing with make $65,000 a year which and I must make them this make the math easy $50,000 per year, which means they make $25 per hour which means that a day is $400, right? So can you create sufficient products and joy for them to spend $400 with you a year? Shouldn't be too hard between CDs and concerts and t-shirts and listening parties and special engagements. And you know, think about it this way, if you can do some special concerts where you charge $50 and you only have to do you know one a quarter, that's half of half the revenue. And then also let people know that you do corporate gigs or you do private gigs or you do weddings or you do bar mitzvahs or you do funerals or whatever. Let them know that you're available. And do house concerts and all the different ways that they can find the sliss and the joy that you have because you're playing with them and you take them to the state that they're looking for. So is that a helpful insight?
David: It is. Yeah. Also it's the same theme I’ve been hearing from everybody else is “do everything”.
Mark: You know, you don't have to do it all at once though Scott. It doesn't have to happen right now. Pick something and do it. And the next month pick something else and do it. And pick something else next month and do it. You know, one of the ways you can get true fans to help you is “Hey, we're looking for executive producers of our next video.” So an executive producer puts up $500 and gets called the executive producer. Because that's what executive producers do they fund the film. Right? And so then they can tell their friends that you know, they were the executive producer of this video. Hey, there's so many different ways to play this game. Don't get limited. Another way of thinking about this is let's say that that your goal is to get $400 a year. Let's keep in mind they willingly pay to receive what you give to them. But $400 a year, what’s that about $35 a month? Not that big of a deal right? So another way that you can do this too is create a fan club.
David. Right, right, right. I guess you release exclusive tracks and videos for your fan club.
Mark: Sure, your fan club gets first access to everything that you do by a factor of probably 30 days. And of course you want to do that, anyway. You don't want to roll out a song without having a lot of people there to demand airplay.
David: Right exactly.
Mark: So, you know you put together a thousand true fans and you have a thousand true fans hitting the radio station. Hey play the latest from David Scott Norton, would you please? That's where you create that demand and you know, they share it with 10 of their friends and before you know, you have 10,000 people out there that want you.
David: That is nice. That would be good. How do you how do you manage that? Do you have experience or any advice on managing a fan club or those email lists or how do you keep it manageable?
Mark: Alright. So first of all, don't get overwhelmed, you know come up with your dream list pick the one that's going to get you the most traction and then get that done and then work on the next one. For an email list, probably the easiest thing to do is get MailChimp. Mailchimp.com, they'll manage 2000 email addresses for you for free. First 2000 are free. Once you start get beyond 2000 they start to charge you but by then if you have 2,000 fans that are throwing money your way, you'll be able to afford it. So there's a lot of leverage that you can do there. Of course Facebook is free too but - it's consistency. You have to have a consistent cadence of reach out. Now, you might be thinking “But, Mark, I've got a full-time job.” Well, you set some time aside just like we were talking set some time aside to practice, you know, you have to do the other P and that's Promote. So it could be that you choose to promote two hours a week. Great. It's way more than anybody else is and as you have revenue flowing in then you invite other fans to help you with the promotion. You know, you need a president of your fan club and that present is going to love you so much that they'll be glad to do it as a volunteer. And so take some of the energy and love that you get from people and accept their gifts. Now, you have to manage that and understand that there's some challenges with it. But that said there's a lot of people who will give you help if you just ask. So as a musician you ever had anybody come up after the gig and say “Hey, can I help you pack up?” All the time. Of course the first thing we say is no. Don't touch my stuff. Do not touch my stuff and what needs to happen is recognize that that's a true fan.
David: Right. Somebody just wants to be involved.
Mark: They just want to be a part of it. And so you look at them you smile and say no, but you want to help in other ways? What do you have in mind? I need somebody to help me with my fan club, you know, can we have a call later on and talk about that? Oh, yeah, that'd be great. Awesome. Well, give me a call or give me a number and give me an email address and we'll set something up later. So those offers for help need to be converted into true fans to give them an opportunity to get engaged.
David: Right, so always keep your mind open and keep open for the opportunities to do things like that. Right?
Mark: Yeah, when somebody wants in say yes.
David: That is one thing that you know, so I'm developing my you know, my company in my app. I found on the local scene a lot of times when somebody wants in, the answer's “No”. It's a very protective scene. When somebody wants to get closer to you playing music. There's like a - something you have to go through or you know people are always saying no. And I think that is a great advice. Say yes. Somebody comes up and wants to be part of it. Let him be part of it. They're not going to take something from you.
Mark: Right or even something as simple as this. Somebody's you know, “hey, that was a great show. Thanks so much. Can I help pack up?” No, but I tell you what. No, we got the system for the packing it but I tell you what, why don’t you grab that clipboard and run around the room and see who needs to get on our mailing list?
David: Exactly. See I hate doing that. I hate, you know playing at a gig and saying come sign my list or walking around, you know, trying to collect email addresses.
Mark: Why don't you let what are you raving fans do that for you? They're glad to do it and they're glad to connect with other fans.
David: So speaking of local music, you travel a lot right? So I guess two things I have on that is like what do you do to stay in practice when you're traveling? I know a lot of times I carry my own Martin guitar with me. Airlines hate it.
Mark: So I carry around my traveller guitar. You know, you can go to any Guitar Center and they’ve got one of these things. And the traveler guitar is small enough to fit in the overhead bin. It has the tuners in the body. So it doesn't get knocked out of tune and of course we pulled this out and played it when I saw you last and plugged it into a little portable speaker. And so that that is how I stay connected to my instrument. I actually end up getting more practice when I travel than I do at home. Because I've got 15 minutes before the flight takes off and so I pull out my guitar and play. I mean I've given lessons in the airport and it always strike up a conversation with people and so I have a portable instrument.
David: Full-size neck right?
Mark: Full-size neck. Yeah. It has a little humbucker on it. A Traveler Guitar. You can go to travellerguitar.com. They have B-stock blowouts on a regular basis for a couple hundred bucks. And I think B-stock is just fine. And the reason why is because you don't want a guitar that's perfect anyway. You might as well buy it from the factory with the first ding in it. Because this one yeah, it's got its got a patina on it, you know, and that's what you want is you want a guitar that's got scratches and dents and buckle rash and stuff like that. A guitar that's not played is pristine. I like instruments that have the paint faded off of it and finger marks all over the fret board to me is cool.
David: So when you're home, how do you how do you get out and play? I have a problem because I do travel so much of being able to schedule a gig and being able just to walk out and go play someplace. I also am in a more rural area. You're in Vegas, so you get you have more opportunities to step out and find some place to play. What do you do? How do you stay connected to your local scene?
Mark: Well right now I'm not doing a good job with that. Part of the reason why is because I'm traveling so much that I can't commit to a band. Now that's going to change over time things will slow down and then I’ll find my my old white guy band and we'll play funk music and relive our glory days as teenagers and really entertain folks along the way. So right now I'm really not doing a good job doing that. But that's okay. I have friends that we can come over and we can play music together. I've got other friends that will just get together and we work on a set list and we play. So it's more right now peer-to-peer than it is going out entertaining a group. Now, what I suspect will happen in the future is I'll do more open mic nights. And there's a few of them in town and there's also a couple of performers here in Vegas that invite folks up on the platform to play along their casino gigs. And as long as you can play well with others, they'll invite you to sit in on a set and do a few tunes and do your thing and sit back down and that's a pleasure because they're so good as musicians.
David: I guess that's the other thing that people think about is like you're in a big city in Vegas, you know, if you're going to go play music, you know, not everybody has their sights on the stars on being, you know packing the house and selling out shows. There's a big local music scene in every city.
Mark: Yeah. Well, my job is not to be a star. I'm a celebrity in my niche that I work in and I don't need to be a star when it comes to music. I play music because of the joy, it brings me. And so for me, it's that joy of playing with others connecting with others in a new way. And if other people want to join along, that's great. Now, you know the thousand true fans for me in my business is a different club. That doesn't mean that you know five years from now ten years from now, I won't go after my thousand true fans for my music. But it'll be it'll definitely be a later in life thing but that's okay. There's plenty of of room for that.
David: Right. So in your marketing career, I guess you've written what 11 12 books?
David: And all mostly about marketing, right?
Mark: Business. Yep, business marketing technology.
David: So connecting a lot of that to people who are more on the path of music connecting their music with business is - it's a must do. You have to do it, right?
Mark: Well, there's two ways of looking at music, you know. One is do you want to make a living playing music? In which case you have to take a different approach to it versus do you want to play music because you find a lot of joy in it? And if it's just about joy, by golly you to pull together your band and play anytime anyplace anywhere and just play and whether you play in front of other people or just play with each other doesn't matter just play that's the joyful part of it. That doesn't require any marketing other than just finding people that like to play music and are willing to get together for a while. And if you can find musicians that have some versatility it really works. Well, that's what happened when I in lived in Colorado Springs and I had a performance space and everything was all set up with drums, keyboards, PA, lots of guitars and basses on the wall, and I just invite people over on Saturday night and we play until we got tired. And so we had enough instruments. We have enough players that we have a really great time and that was an absolute blast. We didn't really care if the singer was off-key. All we really cared about is just playing well with others. It was an excuse to drink beer and have a lot of laughs. So that's one aspect. The other is that if you want to make a living playing music you can do that. That requires marketing. That requires a business plan and you probably read Making Money, Making Music which is a great book for people that want to make a living and fundamentally it is: you have to have five bands if you're going to make a living. Five different bands, five different identities, five different marketing strategies, five different uniforms. And the reason why is it's hard to make a living playing one genre of music in a city. So the recommendation of the author is you put together a country band, you put together a cover band, you put together a wedding, band, you put together a cocktail music band. You put together whatever band that you want to play that you like to play. Metal band, whatever. It doesn't matter. But you have this group of people that are chameleons and they will play the music for a variety of people. You can't play country seven nights a week. There just isn't a market for it. But you can play country two nights a week and you play covers a night a week and you can do you can do a wedding every weekend.
David: I like that. It didn't really occur to me the last book I read about this about making a living playing music kind of had the same idea that you can't play in the same city seven nights a week. But the guy said you have to put yourself in a position where you can travel in enough geographic range that you don't overlap your cities, you know, so you're not playing in the same city every month or every two or three weeks. But that idea that you need a different band? That's a great idea.
Mark: Well, it’s the same band. Five different names. Five different websites. Five different promo packages. So what ends up happening is that as professionals you're playing, you know five nights a week. Well that's you make a living doing that.
David: Absolutely. Yeah, and some of those fans may overlap.
Mark: Probably not.
David: No? I think a few may but the venues may overlap too though because venues don't want to have same music every night.
Mark: That's right, the venue may overlap. And isn’t it whole lot easier to sell three or four gigs to the same venue? You know because frequently, you know a venue doesn't doesn't want the same act every weekend. They went different acts. Now, they might want the same act on some month. Well, there's no way you can make a living doing that. There's an exception to the rule. When I was a young man. There was a band that didn't want to tour so they opened their own club. And they were the house band. And they played Thursday Friday Saturday night. It was that bad, but they were also really really good at staying up to date on the covers. And they did all their advertising on the top 40 station in town. So people that were listening to covers would come out and dance to covers and they had a killer happy hour. So they really would pack that - the place would be packed at you know by six o'clock at night - and they made a living doing that. So that's another strategy.
David: Another way to do it. Yeah. Yeah, and I actually have had that idea before of you know, having a venue in you know. I mean I want to tour but I want to bring in bands where I can get up and play with them for a little while and then it's their show.
Mark: That's right. That's exactly right. Now for me, my ultimate plan will be to open a beach bar in Belize. I can play every night for the tourists and it doesn't matter.
David: And you have a rotating crowd, right?
Mark: I have a rotating crowd. Yeah. It's I have a moving crowd and so in that particular environment it’s a little different strategy.
David: It really depends on where you're at because - in Nashville. I know bands in Nashville that are playing every night. But yeah, their crowd’s a different crowd every night.
Mark: It’s the NashVegas crowd. And in that particular case, I mean Ronnie Milsap did that in the 70s in Nashville. He would play at Roger Miller's King of the Road Hotel. And he'd be there, you know every night but it was a moving parade.
David: Right some cities have that yet. Orlando. Nashville. New York City.
Mark: Yeah exactly. And if you then make the connection with the clu's that want to have that and then you just get so freaking good that all of their friends tell everybody else. Hey, I went and saw this man. They were really awesome. You gotta go see him play. So you could become a local celebrity within that environment. That requires marketing getting back to your question about marketing.
David: I think well, we're running up on our time here. What else? So you have a pretty substantial family. Five kids, right? Any of those, your kids, play?
Mark: Yeah, actually one of my kids play actually a number of them play but one plays relatively seriously. My son Harrison was in the Harvard band. He went to Harvard now don't be impressed. It's just a really really expensive social club. So he played bari sax when he was in fifth grade on the way all the way up through Harvard band and the really great thing about the Harvard band is once you graduate you have carte blanche access to the band so he can come and sit in the band anytime he wants. They call them crusties. He's a crusty so he goes and plays with the Harvard band when he feels like it. He just shows up, no instrument. And one of the band members will just hand him an instrument and he'll sit in. You know, he can read charts. I mean, he's a he's a pro. Yeah, he's got thousands and thousands of hours with that instrument handy. So it's fun to hear him play and he's good. And now there's a really good example of music and keeping music going.
David: We talked earlier about you having your parents force you to practice? How did you do that with your kids?
Mark: I didn't. I did not force my kids to practice music we encouraged music. So a strategy that we used was - well it was this way: you either take an art, you know dance, music, something of that nature of personal performance art and you did leadership activities. So you had to head up some club or you had to do something like that and you had to make a certain baseline of grades - B average of grades. And if you did that you didn't have to get a job. But if you didn't do those three things you had to go get a job. You don't have to take arts. You don't have to take musics, but you got to go get a job. So it was it was actually really easy for our kids to - they all did some kind of performance arts, dance and music and they all did leadership activities and they all did great in school. So they're all successful human beings that are well-balanced. I think the thing that's really important about performance arts, especially group performance such as dance teams, dance troupes, playing in bands is it keeps you from being a jerk. It keeps you from being an asshole because what happens is you get narcissistic if you're the sole focus, you're the only person in the spotlight and that reminds me of an interesting story. Hewlett-Packard about 15 years ago did a survey to find out what was the common element amongst their very best engineers. And it wasn't the school they went to. It wasn't the classes that they took. It was the fact that they were actively working musicians. They actively played music in a band type of environment and when they dug in what they realized is that a solid musician has discipline, works well with others, knows when to step forward and solo, knows when to step back and support, knows how to be in the moment, and also knows how to be heading to a destination. And so all of those elements that make us great musicians also make them very powerful team members to create a new outcome.
David: That is awesome. They had to have a study to do that.
Mark: And it was a surprise. But I tell you it's true my favorite people to work with in a team environment or musicians because they have that left brain right brain integration. They have that sense of timing they have that sense of knowing when to hey I have an idea and hey, let me support that idea.
David: Right, to step out without being competitive.
Mark: That’s exactly right. When I used to have my performance jam space, I'd invite anybody. Anybody who wanted to come and play come on in, but there are also people that didn't get invited back. And those are the people that couldn't stop playing. You know what I'm talking about? I mean they just had to keep playing they couldn't step back and give their other players breathing room to step in and play too.
David: Wow, that's a really good story. I like it and it makes me - yeah, it makes you on a business side when you think about you know, comparing people who you want to hire for a job, you know, look look a little deeper into you know into what they're doing into what they have done with have been, you know, are they that they All State quarterback or they all are they All State trumpet player?
Mark: Or worst case the trombone player, right?
David: I don't know. I used to sit by the trombone players. I play trumpet and I switched over to baritone horn so I could be closer to the cool trombone players. They can be a rough crowd.
Mark: Who was the great composer that says never look at the trombone players because it just encourages them. It was some some great jazz composer that said that. The poor trombone players. They just just don't get any respect.
David: I'm sure there is some sort of personality chart that maps to the different sections of every every orchestra.
Mark: No doubt. The narcissist is the lead guitarist and yeah. Love it, man. It’s so much fun.
David: Well, thank you Mark. You have anything else you want to share with us? You have you have a new book out?
Mark: Yeah. Well, you know, I tell you what if you want to learn more about me check me out on LinkedIn marksonlinkedin.com that'll take you directly to my profile. That that keeps up on the things that I'm doing from a business standpoint. Marks on Facebook or my actually marksonFB. Facebook doesn't like you using their names in a vanity link like that. So marksonFB.com will take you to my Facebook. That's kind of what I'm doing personally. I generally post a video mostly daily with some ideas on how to better run your business. So if you're a business person and you want in on those business tips, they're usually some either some strategy or some tactics to better run your business. I do that on a regular basis. You might want to do that on a regular basis to as a musician. What if you posted every day a little riff for a little song a fresh song once a day do you think you might be able to attract some people? So that's and if you're in business actually, hey, you know, I want to I want to share this because this is kind of fun hang on. Give me give me two seconds.
Mark: I hope that you as a musician are always writing music. So this will be kind of fun. In fact, what I'll do is I'll send one your way Scott that you can post along with this. So I wrote some lyrics for just a twelve bar blues. Let's make this dead simple. And what I'm going to do is use one of these video services such as BombBomb where you say, “Hey, you know, I recorded a video for” - you've probably gotten these things in email where you get this little video link and says, “hey I recorded a video for you” click on you play the video. So what I'm going to do is today, I'm going to reach out to some of my contacts and I want them to call me back and have a conversation. So I'm going to get on BombBomb and I'm going to record for each of them a song. I’m going to start off with, “Hey, I wrote the song for you.” And so it's going to be you know, it's a hey Scott. Hey Scott. I got a question for you. Got to sell more. I can't leave the store work too many hours too if you said yes to any of these you got the Entrepreneurial Blues. Hey, Scott. Hey Scott. I got good news for you. Talk to me and you will see if you've got nothing to lose just reach out without a doubt. I'll get you through these Blues guaranteed. It's great. Now that sucked. That really sucked but you got the picture, right? So why not turn your music into a way to reach out through your business? Let's make money making music and this particular case I'm going to take that song that I wrote last night and I'm going to record it for each person that I want to reach out to it's going to take me two minutes. And what do you think's going to be response rate? I don't know probably 50-60%.
David: It's going to be great. Yeah because you have you have the attention.
Mark: Yeah. And I was able to land a couple of ideas. Sure. Yeah. So there you go friends. That's what that is kind of a that's a way to make money making music.
David: That's a great idea and you're always full of great ideas. And every time I speak to you I learned since I first saw you talk, I don't know two or three years ago. So I do I keep up on on your Facebook. You do a lot of live streaming. Just short little videos. Yep, here it come in handy. And so if you're out there folks MarksonFB.com also subscribe to him on Facebook and Linkedin and I'll have all the links in this in the below when the podcast but it's been really great talking to you Mark. I appreciate you coming on.
Mark: Likewise. I always like hanging out with you, my friend. Can't wait till the next time we play music together.
David: Let's let's do it. Let's do it soon.
Mark: Yep, I think so. Yeah. I'm working on - what's the what's that song? Tell...I love her.
David: Tell Laura I Love Her?
Mark: That’s it. Oh no, Give My Love To Rose
David: Oh, Give My Love To Rose. That one, okay.
Mark: Yeah, I’m working on Give My Love To Rose because I thought you did an awesome job singing it and I want to sing that one with you next time. Just so you know I’ve been inspired and here we are.
David: Okay, well I will come to Vegas and we’ll sit on the Vegas Strip and sing that for tourists.
Mark: We’ll put our busker jar out. I love it.
David: Thank you, Mark. We’ll talk to you later.