Every now and then the “recommended” notification on Twitter will suggest someone to you who is actually a good fit. A few months back, the recommendation was for Jon Nastor. After looking at his profile and seeing that he’s a drummer, and entrepreneur, and an author, I had to see what this guy was about.
That led to an exploration of his site, diving into his podcast and realizing that he and I share a lot in common. We both love punk rock, both play drums (him far more successfully than I). We both have working in the music and entrepreneurial space for a while. We have also had excellent conversations with some of the same people on our podcasts like Tom Giles, Kevin Kelly (episode coming soon), and Seth Godin. I knew I had to talk to this dude.
Jon is a great conversationalist, and a truly comfortable person to engage with. He was gracious in extending the conversational love to me in letting me join him on Hack The Entrepreneur Podcast shortly after we talked. Listen to our chat on his podcast here.
His insights into what success actually means, how to combine our passion and our freedom to do what we want, and what growth actually is are spot on.
I highly recommend his book Hack The Entrepreneur, the book and the podcast. It’s insights into what real growth professionals like the individuals mentioned earlier and several others give to show the way forward.
Episode 26 with Jon Nastor Show Notes
Jon gives a Cliff Notes definition of “Growth Hacking” for musicians in first 10 minutes of conversation.
You don’t have to have a ton of experience before starting out. If you want to do something do it. It’s how Jon created his podcast and wrote his book. The backstory and his insights are perfect for helping you get started.
We talk about how annoying auto-DM messages and auto-responders are when first making new contacts with people on social media. This is particularly insightful for musicians who do this on Twitter. What Jon says about this is how most professionals in media and with an influential audience feels if you auto-DM them right out of the gate.
We cheer for the underdog in the story but we tell other people we’re the giant. Why that is and how that hurts us about 3/4 into the podcast.
Jon Nastor Podcast Quotes
“Do work that matters. What matters to me might not matter to you. But it’s worth talking about.”
“I like my businesses like I like my music: fast and independent.”
“If you have an idea and you put it onto paper, and then in a digital format, and put it out to the world, that is entrepreneurship.”
“We all go against Goliath in real time, and cheer for David, but then we try to pretend to be Goliath in what we do. Then we lose that personal connection. Everything I write and everything I say is for 1 person. If I treat them well enough there will be that connection personally.”
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Sometimes the best way to see problems with yourself is to watch someone else act exactly like you do. The behaviors of other people doing just what you do should cause you to pause, reflect, and go “Don’t I do the exact same thing? Oh, that’s gotta change!”
I say this because I’m guilty of doing some of the things that bother me the most about other people. Taking yourself too seriously is certainly one of my flaws, one that I’ve spent the better part of the past 2 years trying to correct. I used to be really bad. Now it’s a less-frequent problem.
Here’s how I know I’m taking myself too seriously, and the problems it’s caused me in connecting with new people
I’ve been working in radio for a long time. I’ve been making a radio show in the same town for over a decade. That can lead you to assume that just about everyone knows about what I do. Not true, yet I used to think that if someone didn’t know what I did they must have been on another planet.
This is the “Angry Rooster Face” dubbed by Mrs. Smith
I used to get offended if someone who claimed to listen to the radio station I worked for hadn’t heard of The Appetizer Radio Show. Or, even worse, if someone asked about the food that I talked about on the show. I make this face when I’m confused (see left) that my wife calls my “angry rooster face.” That’s the face I used to make if someone made a comment about my radio show and said something about me talking about food. “I thought you said you listened to my show? I’ve never done anything about food specifically. What are you talking about???” would be the thoughts going in my head, but I would not say such things. Yet you wouldn’t have to struggle to see those thoughts on my face. This face and this look don’t hide too much.
Either way, my attitude was that of an asshole. I took myself way too seriously and potentially offended good-hearted people who might have otherwise actually given the show a listen. I assumed that since I was so passionate about my work, everyone who asked me about it must be too. I assumed that if someone showed the slightest bit of interest in my work, then they should know all about it and not need me to explain to them why it is important.
You know what they say about what happens when you assume? Except I’m just the one who was the ass.
Seeing the other side of the serious-taking-issue has revealed a lot of the negative side effects that this attitude can have. It’s also the exact opposite of grace and humility. There is a good chance that you haven’t read my About page, or looked up the articles I’ve written for Sonicbids, CMuse, or other sites, or heard all the episodes on the DIY Artist Route Podcast. That’s ok. Do I want you to experience these things? Yes, of course. Is it a prerequisite for us to connect? Absolutely not.
I’m saying all of this because it’s important for us to put our contributions and our stories into perspective. This is especially true as we’re trying to reach new people we don’t know with our work. I’m not the only music curator discovering excellent talent. I’m not the only radio host who has been showcasing indie and unsigned music for years and years. Several great music radio icons preceded the work I do. The same is true for artists and businesses.
You have a passion for your songwriting and the mission behind your music. However, there are other very passionate, talented, and inspirational songwriters who are changing the world.
Keep that in perspective. It’s great that you’re not alone. What is it about your work specifically that is remarkable? What completely unique and uncommon thing makes you stand out from others who are doing similar work? These are the pieces of your communication that need to come out with new people who are being introduced to your work.
Where I see Too-Serious play out the most
Music submissions are the prime place where I experience my old behaviors play out, and it’s mostly in a digital format. Not every artist who submits music gets accepted. This is true on every platform. When an artist sends an email to me that is full of links to videos or songs, I don’t always follow all of the links. I honestly don’t always spend 15-30 minutes diving into a band’s music, especially not when the sender is a person I’ve never interacted with before. Remember strangers and gold?
I may not read all of the sender’s bio either. And when I reply and ask specific questions to get the artist to tell me more about what makes them unique (or essentially sell me on why their music is attention-worthy), some musicians take that as an affront to their music. That’s not the case.
The reality is that I don’t know the artist (yet), and the first impression they’ve left is that they take themselves so seriously that someone who wants them to tell their story makes them upset. It’s an artist giving me their own angry rooster face, and expecting the interest to be natural and inherent. I hope this isn’t the response that other music curators are receiving when they interact and don’t instantly jump into the musician’s work. It may produce worse results.
Here’s the Takeaway to save face and the connection potential
Most new people won’t know your backstory, and they may not give you the attention time you seek at first. Instead of taking yourself too seriously and getting offended at what a stranger doesn’t give you right away, nurture the first spark of that interest. Build a dialogue. Approach the potential connection with grace and kindness. So many good things come out of a change in perspective and a better attitude.
That’s the win that comes out of this reflection. When we see ourselves in other people’s behaviors we want to see happiness and joy, and not something that leads to looking like the backside of a donkey. Donkeys don’t win beauty pageants, even social ones.
Grace and respect in meeting new people, and learning how to approach strangers in a way that builds their interest while also getting you what you seek is the subject of my debut book The DIY Musician’s Radio Handbook. Officially it’s out on May 3rd but you can grab the first 4 chapters for free now. Click Here.
“A lot of artists, if they don’t know how to do something, they find some sort of ideological reason not to do it, and that holds them up. You do need to take that leap. Learn about it instead of complain about it.” -James Moore, Independent Music Promotions
James Moore; Image credit: Ryan Donnelly
PR is a buzzword in some business circles. In some music circles it’s a curse word. Author and PR pro James Moore is working diligently to correct the misinformation about not only the the business of PR for musicians, but also the pieces that make it up.
One of the ways he’s done this is from his fantastic book, Your Band Is A Virus. Websites, branding, social media and guerilla marketing are all subjects covered in the book. I’ve read it, and encourage musicians to pick it up to educate yourself on the pieces of the entrepreneurial puzzle that is the music business for DIY artists.
I wanted James to join me on the podcast because we have similar mantras about growth, fan building and the essential need that every artist, startup and creative entrepreneur in this space has for using basic business principles to win. His quote above is something we discuss in the podcast, and address solutions for.
“Getting rid of the mental obstructions that are holding you back is the same for businesses as it is for musicians or any endeavor really.”
It’s easy to complain about all the pieces of the puzzle that is entrepreneurial business. There is a LOT to be confused about. There are even more pathways available to learn something new, and grow your ability to connect the dots. James’ work with musicians with his company, Independent Music Promotions, does a blend of education with hands-on networking.
One key piece of this puzzle is the reality of how networking and relationship building actually works in the digital space. I’m thankful that social platforms like Facebook and Linked In have given us the ability to connect with fellow community members across the country and around the globe. However, there is a misnomer that clicking a Follow button is the same as networking. It’s not. Networking is relationship building. This requires time, conversation and shared interests. We build our networks and our relationships over chats, talks, and reciprocal connections.
I’m thankful to James Moore for sharing his insights into how growth works from a PR standpoint, educating both musicians and entrepreneurs on the role of media coverage in the development process, and the myriad of great quotes provided in this conversation.
What stands out the most to you from what James shared? Is there one thing in particular you’ve been trying to figure out about PR and still don’t understand? Reach out and we’ll figure it out together.
In this chat we also talked about my upcoming book, The DIY Musicians’ Radio Handbook: How To Growth Hack Your Fan Base Using Radio Airplay. The book will be out in early May. Make sure you’re on my book list to get first dibs and special bonuses.
Subsequently, I did something I very rarely do. I bought a brand new book from the book store and paid cover price. You can call me cheap, and you’re right. I buy a lot of books (hard copy and paperback, not digital/Kindle) and my preferred sources are Half-Price Books and Goodwill. Amazon on occasion will do for hard to find stuff. It’s important that you know this little facet about me because I don’t buy new books hardly ever. I made an exception in this case and it was one of the best decisions made this year.
The Art Of Asking is billed as a memoir, and it is. But it’s so much more. Palmer is not your typical artist, both musically or visually. And her openness and honesty with her struggles, self-image, and relationship building pave a subliminal pathway to understanding how asking really works. I’ve struggled my entire life with asking for anything, especially for help and for money. Yes, the two things we as humans, as creatives, and as builders need more than anything are these two things and I have spent decades trying to do so much on my own out of fear of asking.
Asking is a fear shared by you and I and (really) everyone else
It turns out that I’m not alone in having this fear. There’s a strong chance you fear or are at least hesitant in asking for something, though it might not be what I am hesitant in asking for. I can say it’s because of how I was raised or grew up or something or other, but at the end of the day, I’m the common denominator for why I don’t have what I want and why I couldn’t ask for it. And I have to take responsibility for that.
The Art Of Asking was like a blueprint for me in shedding off the old skin that told me that asking for help, or asking for money, or asking for anything was a sign of weakness or failure, that it would annoy and bother people, that I would be perceived as a taker and not a giver, and that the answer would always be NO. Having written and now looking at that last sentence I see how frail my thinking and ideals had been for so long, which is why I’m so thankful for this book.
It turns out that Amanda struggled with asking too, though her reasons were different, and despite being able to ask her fans for nearly everything from promoting a gig to having a place to sleep after a show (couch surfing as she calls it) , there were somethings she struggled with for a long time before she could ask for it. It took nearly losing someone very close to her for that fear to break.
How to build community the Amanda Palmer way
The headline for this article states that The Art Of Asking is a community building manifesto and it certainly is that. From the perspective of audience growth, there are only a few other artists who have done anything close to building the kind of high powered, passionate, loyal and worldwide audience that Amanda Palmer has. She details what her fan growth process was and it mostly involves being WITH people, giving her fans access to her outside of the music stage, having personal and deep conversations with people who are strangers at first and then become something more.
This is how communities are built. Communication, openness and trust are the pillars of what build the communities we are a part of, be those artistic, business, or the locations we live in. Closing ourselves off from people and only giving them a portion of ourselves, or only showing them our gifts but not our faults limits the power of the community and the people who build it. This is not to say that there aren’t methods of safeguarding yourself against people who don’t have your best interests at heart. Amanda does give a few good examples of where openness went too far, and how she dealt with it. But being afraid of everyone in your community being a potential fiend is not how you treat the people who are building with you.
The Art Of Asking could have also been titled The Art Of Vulnerability or The Art Of Loving Completely. There are some very profound and powerful quotes that are still moving around in my brain, like seedlings just starting to grow roots that will sprout into amazing new things. I want to share some of those quotes with you here in the hopes that it will have a similar effect on you at the very least, and even more, lead you to read this book.
“It isn’t what you say to people, it’s more important what you do with them. It’s less important what you do with them that the way you’re with them.”
“If you love them they will give you everything.”
“It’s about finding your people, your listeners, your readers, and making art for and with them. Not for the masses, not for the critics, but for your ever-widening circles of friends. It doesn’t mean you’re protected from criticism. But if your art touches a single heart, strikes a single nerve, you’ll see people quietly heading your way and knocking on your door. Let them in. Them them to bring their friends up. If possible, provide wine.”
Amanda does talk a lot about naysayers, and breaking free from the ideals or criticism of people who consider asking to be the same as “shameless self-promotion.” This is especially hard for artists (or for anyone) who aren’t naturally social. This is what leads many artists to try and find a promoter or label to do the asking for them. At times that’s a good fit, but too often it’s not because the art of connection is the art of communication, and even people who think they lack a social strength still need to engage directly with people in some capacity.
Overcoming the fear of asking for help
All artists and creators face a similar fear: the fear of rejection or the fear of criticism. That’s honestly what kept me plugging away in near isolation building my work for many years. Thankfully I’ve been blessed to have some incredible friends, colleagues, and family who are givers despite my unwillingness to ask. Chances are you have connections with people like this too. What is keeping you from asking? Let me know, I’d love to hear your story and build community with you.
If you want more inspiration, enjoy her Ted Talk that would eventually lead to the writing of her memoir.
*Yes there are affiliate links to Amazon.com in this post for you to buy Amanda’s book should you be so moved by my experience with it and want to have a similar experience yourself. I appreciate you reading and choosing to buy through this page. You can click on this image here to see more details on buying the book on Amazon (which is cheaper than any other bookseller, and free shipping if you’re a Prime member).