The text below is a transcript of my interview with Tommy Darker.
I wanted to publish the transcripts for two reasons:
- The info is valuable, and I wanted it available for you in two formats (audio and text).
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization) ;)
If you want to get more momentum with your music then I highly recommend this article!
Greg: How was Midem?
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: Yeah Midem was nice. It’s always cool to see a lot of people on the same place. A lot of people from the music industry, there were a few, I think it’s 6000 people this year, and it was quite nice to see them all in the same place.
The talks were interesting; they changed it in terms of dates. Before it was in January now it was June. It was quite weird because of it was hot and people were going to the beach to swim, and we were there, and I don’t know, but it was very nice in general.
The direction is changing to where it’s having more start-ups, more music start-ups instead of having big labels. In the past it was big labels showcasing the music, now it’s countries showcasing their music as a product. So this year was Armenia and Taiwan and yeah, I think that’s it. Last year it was Brazil and Korea, so that’s very interesting because now countries realize that music is a product to export. And also there were a lot of start-ups. So every year we see more and more start-ups. SoundCloud came out of medium I think in 2009, and or earlier or later 2009.
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: But there were quite a lot of start-ups. And I was invited as a speaker at Midem Academy. I think my talk is going to be up in a month from now probably in July. So yeah, in general it was very nice, good people, good feedback, and I’m looking forward to the next one, hopefully I’ll be there.
Greg: I’m sure you will, very cool.
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: Have you been to Midem?
Greg: No, I have not. Not yet. Are you able to talk about any other things that you talked about or would you like to save that for . . . ?
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: No, I can talk about it, yeah, sure. My whole mission is about sharing as much as possible.
Greg: Very cool.
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: And I talked about entrepreneurship and new music business models. So as you probably know I’ve been doing research on different business models from artists, what has worked for them, how they’ve made a living, or how they are working their business side out. And I took some of the case studies, I created some archetypes which I’ve published online as well partially. And I talked about that, I discussed these things, I talked about the quest, what the future is going to be, what my mission is. I mentioned some case studies of artists that are making it full time that way, and that was it. There was some interesting questions mainly from young people, basically that was the cool thing.
There was a lot of young people in the audience. It was almost full, that was quite nice. And there were some nice questions about entrepreneurship, they want to create platforms, they want to think about how to create a better ecosystem and I was very surprised. There were almost no questions from a 40 plus year old, and I think there were not many 40 plus year olds anyway. It was between 20 and 30 and the people in the audience, that was very encouraging.
Greg: Why does that so encouraging to you?
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: Because it’s, now we are in a transition where the old people in the music industry start giving place to younger brains that are more willing to try things, and to see what’s possible out there, in the digital world. We still don’t know how the digital world works. There are still so many things that we could talk about.
Greg: That’s true.
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: So we are still, it’s still in the infancy and we are discovering this new context, this new medium because it’s a medium. It’s a medium, but basically incorporates all the other mediums of the past, you know? You can have interactivity, video, photos, texts that used to be mediums of the past, now they are buttoned, attached on this thing called the internet. It’s quite interesting to see what these brains will come up with.
Greg: What was your favorite question from there, what did you enjoy answering the most?
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: I don’t remember, it was quite a lot of questions actually. It was a one hour talk, I talked for over 25 minutes and then the rest was questions so I don’t remember to be honest. You can watch the video, I guess.
Greg: Right I will, I’ll have to wait for that to see if there was anything you remember that stood out. Oh, really quick, obviously you are a “British gentleman”… Have you ever been to Abbey Road Studios?
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: Yes, yes I have.
Greg: Oh, man that would be so cool.
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: But not as an artist to record that would be a cool thing to do in the future. I’m actually planning to, but yeah it’s cool, a cool facility.
Greg: That would be, I would love to go.
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: Well, if you go to see Abbey Road Studios we can have a coffee.
Greg: Absolutely. What inspires you to do what you do as far as . . . was there any particular instance that you remember or an event that stood out in your mind as far as you beginning this journey?
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: Well basically what stands out, and I’m always impressed about it although I’ve done it too many times, I think it’s how responsive people are when you expose them to new ideas. It’s not that difficult as people might think to approach influences and to talk about new ideas, and to get responses from them. If you know the right way to do it. If you are respectful, if you know that they are busy people and you know that their time is valuable, and also if you think about them first, you can bring them value with what you do.
I realized that in the music industry it’s about who you know, is not about how great you are. Because talent, it’s an industry with so much talent. You can not really say that you are the most talented person. You will stand out if people believe you stand out. So the know people you know, and the more influences you know, and the better connections you have, and the closer you are with your audience the more you would be perceived as a person that stands out.
I’m pretty sure we know what I do, what you do, what we do is not something that is exclusive that we’ve just come up with that, and we are the only people. I’m pretty sure right now at this very moment, 1000 brains at least are thinking about the same thing, not to say hundreds of thousands of brains. So it’s quite an irony to say that, “Hey I stood out with my ideas.” No, you stood out because the right people knew about your ideas. That’s it and I got so many responses from influencers and that’s very encouraging.
For example, three days ago I was in London, I live in Manchester now, but I was in London to basically attend a workshop from a New York Times best selling author that I had mentioned in one of my essays. And I sent him an email, a very short email to the point and I said, “This is my essay, you know, it’s going to be published here and there and I’ve mentioned you there. Your work here and this is brilliant.” He got back to me and that was great. We started talking and he told me, “Hey, you know I’m coming to London actually for a workshop.” He gifted me a ticket for the workshop that usually cost between £80 and £200, which is like $300 plus.
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: So he gave me a ticket to attend and we had a chat and that was great, and we are planning to actually publish something together in a magazine.
Greg: That’s very cool.
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: So that’s the cool thing that I stayed in London having nothing else to do for a few more days, living with friends and being uncomfortable just so I can meet this person in real life. I think having good connections it’s easier than you think it might be, and I think most musicians would neglect this, and music professionals.
Greg: Right, it’s funny that you mentioned that, because I think in the last Darker Music Talk which I was there in the beginning, but unfortunately technical issues, we talked about . . .
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: Darker Hangouts.
Greg: Yeah, Darker Hangouts that’s right, the digital version of the physical. You were talking about staying productive and we mentioned, kind of, procrastination as almost a form of fear of putting yourself out there. Do you think that we are afraid of jumping out there and talking to these people and putting ourselves out there, or what do you think causes that?
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: Well I think first of all I think it’s a natural thing, and I think is a state of mind that is the default one. We tend not to do things, so if you want to beat procrastination, you have to fight it.
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: And you have to fight it constantly. So that was first of all that’s what I think about it. When I’m procrastinating I do it, I still do it, but I’m trying to keep it as a choice. Now that’s a moment where I just fuck around on YouTube watching cat videos. But I want to make sure that I’ve decided it, if I haven’t decided it then that’s a mistake for me, you know?
And how we control our time that’s totally up to us, it is the attitude, and it’s how we’ve been trained, how disciplined we are. Without discipline you can not go any further from where you are right now.
So, I do think that people yes, they are afraid obviously, having making new steps, and exploring new paths it can be quite daunting, because it’s just an intangible thing that doesn’t exist, and we just need to make things up with our imagination. But if you do have imagination, if you do have the discipline, and you are determined to make things happen eventually you beat procrastination, and you realize that it’s unneeded, or you choose life by design, you choose when you want to procrastinate.
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: Because you’ll want to relax at some point. Thinking all the time about the same issue, or talking about it with your friends, and with your girlfriend, and with this and that is not the best thing to do. Sometimes you just want to watch a cat video.
Greg: Yeah, I mean, you got to relax sometimes, right? You can’t go 100% all the time. Will power is a limited resource that we don’t have an abundant amount of.
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: I think if you go 100% all the time you can be very unproductive.
Greg: That’s true. Do you think that a lot of people don’t realize that they have a choice in that, or they don’t realize that procrastination is a habit and they are just not aware of what’s going on, so they might make up an excuse?
Or somebody outside of their circle of influence is causing this on them, and they can’t do what they think they can do. Perhaps they do not know what they have control of. Do you think that’s a factor?
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: Well it’s more often than not. We don’t realize that we procrastinate. Usually we just go living life by default. We just let things happen, delegating choices to as many different areas as possible. We let our job determine our choices, who we are going to meet, how we are going to live our lives, the time schedule. It’s quite difficult I would say, in the beginning especially to design your own life. So I think most people yes, they get influenced, they let themselves get influenced by others.
It’s different to be like, “Yeah, I’m open to hear what you have to say and I’ll try to incorporate all the cool things, you know, or what you’re telling me.” And it’s different to say that, “You know what?” To actually not say anything, to actually let things happen and let your subconscious be influenced by people. I think we have a choice to let our subconscious be influenced, because it’s our subconscious that let’s us do things by default. And if we let others influence our subconscious, if we let information go through our conscious mind and go and influence our subconscious mind then our default is going to be what information will have come in. So we need to be aware of things and to protect ourselves, basically.
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: There is a saying, “Tell me who your friend is, and I’ll tell you who you are.” It’s actually true. The people you hang out with, they reinforce what you already believe in and how you think subconsciously.
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: So if you actually think that people don’t help you with your journey of life then I think you have the choice to kick them out of your life.
Greg: Give yourself permission to feel okay about it based on what you want, and knowing that this person is either, if you keep them in your life, you are allowing them to keep you where you are, by default. Do you think that that’s true?
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: Yeah, somebody said, I don’t know who said that, but it was very cool and I liked it…
“Spend 30% of your time with people that are below you, 30% of your time with people that are the same level like you, and 30% of the time with people that are way ahead of you.”
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: With people that are below you in terms of work and then what you’ve accomplished in your business.
Greg: That’s a good quote.
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: It let’s you realize that . . . get some ideas from people that are upcoming. With people that are on the same stage with you, you can share the same problems that you have, you can form a mastermind group. And with visionaries and people that are way ahead of you, you can get inspired and see the future, and see that things are possible.
Greg: Do you think that musicians don’t think it’s as important as it really is to change lifestyles and patterns? Do they think they fit into the mold of an artist, and they are “supposed” to act a certain way because they are creative individuals, and there is nothing that they can do about it? Do they just accept that they are unorganized, and eccentric, and . . . Do you think that that’s kind of a mindset that they have to understand that, any successful person is creative, and they have to learn that these things are important if they want to get where they want to get? Do you think that’s a barrier that a lot of artists have to get over?
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: Absolutely, yeah. Most artists they don’t realize that they have choices to make and they can design how they want to live. And there is
work to be done if you actually want to become somebody, to be remembered, if you want to make a living all these things that don’t happen out of nowhere.In the past, you had a very simple mission, get in the radar of a label, get signed. Now things are more complex, they are more liberated. You can actually do that without a label but you have to be your own business and your own C.E.O. You actually control things. And I think that this is very scary, controlling things is very scary.
Greg: Freedom is scary, yeah?
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: Freedom is scary because you have to manage your life. People are like, “Oh my gosh, I would do anything to escape the nine to five lifestyle.” Once they do, guess what? It sucks because you have to take care of this and that. Imagine living with your parents, everything is taken care of, your mum cooks, you have a bed to stay, you don’t pay the rent, and then you move out and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, I wanted to get away from my parents, now I have to make sure I cook, I pay the bills, I get the money… oh my gosh!” And then you have a family and then you are like, “Okay, I had to do this for myself now I have to do this for my children, and my wife, and everybody else.” You know what? These are the things that are daunting, but they are worth it. If you believe that this is the life you want to have then it’s totally worth it. If you believe that it’s not worth it, then maybe you’re making the wrong choices, and maybe you don’t want to be a musician, maybe you don’t want to be artist, maybe you don’t want to be a creative person, go and conform.
Greg: Right, because anybody can play music, anybody can be a musician, but to do it full time instead of a job, most people don’t make the sacrifice.
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: I think a good kind of criteria to have is, what have you sacrificed to be a musician? Personal experience, personal example, I quit the army. I was getting paid, I don’t mind disclosing that, I was getting paid around $4000 per month to actually be the head of security in the Headquarters of NATO in Belgium. I was working half the month, 12 hours a day, half days of the month.
The rest like 15 days, 12 hours a day, the rest was free. I was traveling, I was recording, I created my own label, shooting videos, playing live performances, that was amazing. But I thought, “You know what? I will quit the art thing.” Just having a plan to do something around music and marketing because I was experimenting a lot, and that’s it. I believe that what I’m doing will succeed big time, because I quit something very safe and very lucrative, while I could have been doing the same thing, I had a lot of spare time, but I quit. Making sure that I showed to myself first of all, that I’m determined about what I’m doing, that I don’t f*** around. But that I’m going to destroy every obstacle that shows up. So what have you sacrificed to be where you are right now? I think this is a good way to think about what you want to do really, have you sacrificed anything, or are you playing safe?
Greg: And that’s just not true for musicians. I know a lot of entrepreneurs and business owners who say, “No matter what, I’m getting this, I’m burning the boats.” “If the opportunity to retreat is there I will, and I know this is too important to me so I’m going to not allow myself to do that by cutting out the opportunity to do it.”
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: Exactly, no retreat, you’re there, you fight, you either die, which means you quit or whatever, or you fail miserably, or you just win. It’s like the perfectionist mindset, “Hey, we are going to the war, why don’t we win as well?”
Greg: Yeah, that’s the analogy the Vikings would burn their boats, while plundering, and they would say, “We’re burning the boats men, we either win or we die, there is no going home, so why not just win? You can’t leave.” Same thing, right?
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: That’s it.
Greg: Cool. You know what’s an interesting quote that I heard from Steve Jobs? Steve considered himself an artist. And when they were building Apple Computers, initially back in the day, they considered the computers they were building to be works of art. They were very creative in the designs and all that. And there was a ship date that they were trying to meet for a supplier or something like that, and all of the programmers and the engineers wanted to delay the ship date because they “weren’t ready”, it “wasn’t perfect” yet. Basically, they didn’t feel prepared. And Steve Jobs says, “No. Real artists, ship.” So, they worked several days straight. Two, three hours a day and shipped on time. And from my experience I think that a lot of artists consider themselves, like you were saying, perfectionists and say “it’s not ready yet”. And going pro is just putting stuff out there.
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: I think this word is the most useless one ever especially for artists. Like, what the heck is art? Art is creating questions, is about making stories and creating questions. How can this be perfect? It’s all in the brain, being a perfectionist is just another excuse, procrastination. “Oh, I’m not ready for this.” But you will never be ready, I’m never ready for anything at all. I just do it, do it. I just go and take my chances and guess what? I’m not dying at all. Being a perfectionist I think is an excuse, a very good excuse, widely acceptable, but it doesn’t make any sense at all. Since I started making music yes, I saw myself as a perfectionist, my first song took me three months to record. And then I realized that, what the heck am I doing? Now I can simply write things on a
Dictaphone, compose a music with my mouth while I’m walking and then that’s it, I start combining things. They will never be perfect.
Greg: Right even too, I think that you we’re saying something about involving fans with the writing process? Showing them early versions, and allowing them to collaborate and write with you, and bounce ideas. So it’s almost like your fans become a part of the music and they write it with you. That’s very like a lean startup concept that I think is very interesting.
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: Actually, part of my next essay is about how you get feedback. I think getting feedback is very important. We’ve passed the time where we knew everything about it. That this is the product you want, this is exactly the price, and this is what you are going to pay for. No, now people have different opinions, they can pay for anything, they can . . . if they don’t get what you give them, what you have to give them or something cool they will go and get it for free online, if they can find it. So you better create a cool experience and you would not be able to do that unless you make more well informed decisions. And if you do that by having a mastermind, by having a mentor, by getting feedback, basically you will see what the essay is about, but I’m describing
different ways, a lot of different ways I think there is 10 different ways of getting feedback, with a different goal in mind with each way. And that’s very important, you make more well informed decisions. I talked about this in my book “The Indecisive Musicpreneur” where basically it’s a book about how you make decisions as a creative and a musician. And is about making well informed decisions. A decision will never be wrong or right, a decision is a decision, and then results is favorable or non-favorable. Still, if you don’t make a decision there is no result. So it’s about the decision, and if you make a decision you can not rewind and pick a different choice. You just build upon the already made decision.
Greg: And the more decisions you make the better ones you’ll make in the future, because you’ve learned from the ones that you made that were wrong.
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: It’s like a muscle. The more decisions you make the easier it is for the future to make more decisions. And guess what? I think that’s the second reason why things that I’m doing are growing really fast. Number one is the network, the people that I’m meeting. And number two is I’m just making decisions. I’m not afraid to actually put something out, I’m just making a decision. I’m not waiting for things to be perfect.
Greg: You’re not getting ready to get ready, so to speak.
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: No, and a good analogy I’ve mentioned that in an arts school, an arts university in London. They taught us in the army. While we are on the range to shoot, we have the target. Usually what you do, they say, “Aim, ready, fire.” No, actually what they tell us is, “Fire, ready, aim.” So why this is happening, because sometimes the gun might actually be faulty, so you might aim in the center of the aim, and you start shooting, but because of the gun everything might start getting concentrated let’s say upright. Okay, just because the gun doesn’t shoot right. So everything gets concentrated, you still focusing on the center but everything goes up right corner, right? So that’s why they tell us, “Shoot,” no “Fire,” right? So you start firing and then they tell you all right now check out where all the rounds are concentrated, right, okay, yeah. They are all right up. So things go in the center. So first you fire, then you’re ready and then you aim.
Greg: So you’ll never be ready. Just do it and then you become more comfortable with doing it?
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: You’ll have practical insights. You will make well informed decisions, not random decisions.
Greg: Interesting. Again, thank you very much by the way. I appreciate this.
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: Yeah, you’re welcome. It’s a very interesting discussion.
Greg: I was working with a local band and I noticed that the biggest struggle they had was, wanting to do this, yet the things that they needed to do to move the ball forward were the only things they would avoid. So I suppose that the question would be… having a vision in your head of what you want to do is usually, as an artist, very vague. They want to influence, they want to change the world and inspire people, but as far as . . . what does that look like? What are some of your experiences that you’ve learned talking to musicians? What is the value of getting a clear picture in your head of what you want to accomplish as a musician so that you can begin where you’re at to move towards that vision and making it a reality?
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: Well, it’s the most important thing. I go by the saying, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” It’s very simple, if you don’t have a specific vision in mind, if you cannot picture what you want to accomplish, then you’ll actually never do it. Because you will find good excuses to label any result you get as, “Oh this is what I wanted to do in the first place.” It’s all about meeting that now dispelled this didn’t work out as well, as well as expected, this didn’t contribute to my overall vision, or to say that, “You know what? This works really well I will do it again and I will do it more efficiently.” It’s not about admitting that you are wrong or you are right, it’s about having a specific vision in mind.
Even whether it’s in terms of an artistic product, or a monetary goal, or whatever this might be. When people say, “I want to grow my mailing list.” That is the worst thing you are going to tell yourself, no. “I want to get 200 more subscribers during the next four months.”
Greg: Right, so specific, measurable results?
Tommy Darker Musicpreneur: Specific, yeah, exactly at least you will know this way what success looks like and what failure looks like. It’s you will not kick yourself, you will not choke yourself by telling yourself lies that, “Yeah, actually it was not very important.” No, set the goals put numbers on them, and make sure you remind yourself every day that these are the goals. If you have tangible goals, like very tangible, well defined goals then you will realize that, okay, these things are realistic, or, “Gosh I’ve put like 15 goals, I’m going to do that ’till, you know ’till November? I don’t think so.” Put specific numbers.
You might say I want to read six books in, no 12 books in three months that is four books a month. That is one book a week. Like you start breaking down the map making marketing plans for other artists, and some of them they are like, “Okay, we are going to put the goal as like, we are going to reach 500 people, fans on Facebook, real fans on Facebook for the next six months.” Then we lay down the whole marketing plan, and all the other goals and then they get excited. And they are like, “Gosh, you know, like if we do all these things, actually we are not going to reach 500, we are going to reach 1500, let’s up the goal a little bit.” And then tell them, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, you know, slow down.” Actually these things, you have to do them, and if you do them why raise the goal anyway? You have to do these things, that is the purpose of the goal, to remind you that you have to do these specific things. Now do them and if you reach 1500 that’s perfect. But imagine if you have 500, you reach 1500 that’s perfect. If you have 1500 and you reach less than that you are going to be disappointed. Is like you knowing that I can definitely get $500 in a Kickstarter campaign, but going for $1500 anyway, why do that?
Greg: Yeah, why put yourself in a position to be disappointed?