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3 Ways To Growth Hack Music Success With Jon Nastor

Jon Nastor

Jon Nastor

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.”

Listen, download and share via this player:

Sponsor For This Podcast Piece:

Bandzoogle: Bandzoogle gives you all the resources you need to do everything necessary for success with your music online. You can sell your tracks, merch, and bonuses, build your email list, and more all from your own domain (instead of what bandcamp and similar sites have). PLUS, use the promo code “DIYpod” to get 15% off anything on the site.

Sometimes When You Need Just A Little Encouragement

Image by Megan Lynette

Image by Megan Lynette

It’s the start of a new year. Most of us are busy setting to work on getting things really going so that we can achieve our New Year’s Resolutions, or more practically that goals we set to build on last year’s victories.

Are you with me on this?

Here’s something that keeps popping up here and there in just the 4 short days of 2016, and I want to focus a little time on it now with you so we can move forward to achieve our shared and individual goals AND enjoy the process.

Sometimes we need just a little encouragement.

I’m going to be tempted to get bogged down in details with finding the right THIS or the best THAT to use in employing strategic elements to reach my goals this year. And there’s a pretty good chance that I’ll see someone advertising on Facebook or soliciting on Google that they were able to build, grow and reach millions of new people with tons of new business, all in just 3 weeks (or something ridiculous like that), and I might feel like I missed the mark.

I’m still working on reaching the big goals I set 3 years ago as far as reach and I haven’t made it yet. But I will.

However, I’ll admit to you that I do get a little discouraged at the pace of growth sometimes. You might get discouraged too, right? Do you feel a little bit thrown off like you missed the boat when you see an ad or a pitch for an online course, Ebook, or webinar where someone claims to have done something that you’ve spent months or years working on, and they achieved it in days or weeks? Most of these claims aren’t entirely accurate (experience showed me this unfortunately, but that’s a conversation we can have later) yet the feeling is real.

Sometimes we need just a little encouragement to see that when we keep working, stay focused on our goals, and put to use the insights and ideas that even outside events show us, good things can hapen. We’ll see our dreams come to life, and we’ll celebrate the victories that accomplishing goals brings us.

With the notion that disappointment might try to sneak in and throw off my groove, I’ve been on the lookout for some small pieces of encouragement, and have successfully found a few. I want to share them with you, so that you can grab them when the little antagonizing voice of disappointment or failure comes sneaking up on you and tries to throw off your groove. Then you can punch it in the mouth with this great stuff.

Here we go.

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 10.08.43 PM

First, I’m a football fan and being from Houston I celebrate the Texans. Sorry Cowboy fans, it’s been a tough year for you guys. Hopefully something good can happen in the offseason.

The Texans made it to the Playoffs this year for the first time since 2012, beating the Jaguars yesterday 30-6. It was a tremendous game that saw the defense do things that would make for a full season highlight reel. The encouragement I found from this was more than just a victory, and more than just a trip to the playoffs. These guys had been written off as losers and a lost season just 8 weeks ago.

Think about that.

Most teams who start 2-5 don’t end up with winning seasons, and they also don’t make the playoffs. The coaching staff (led by Bill O’Brien) changed the way the team practiced, putting the decisions of game-time flow in the hands of the players instead of telling them what to do during the week. That changed everything. They went on to win 6 of their next 8 games, take the team to the post season and do what the sports world had said wouldn’t happen. That to me is encouraging. It means that when things aren’t working out, I can change something small, or something off the radar and get better results.

Switching from sports to politics might be a little off-kilter but that’s ok too. I don’t want to weigh in on the political race of 2016, because it is a bit of a divisive mess right now. However, it’s interesting to look at some recent news posted on the campaign of Bernie Sanders, the independent Senator from Vermont (who is running for the Democratic nomination). Like him or not and regardless of your political views, he should be someone that entrepreneurs, small businesses and especially musicians pay attention to because of his grassroots growth.

Remember that little temptation I mentioned earlier that most of us fall prey to, the one that tells us we’re failing if we don’t grow exponentially in our platform audiences in a short amount of time? Bernie has done something in his campaign that most crowdfunders dream of, let alone small business startups and DIY musicians. He’s raised millions of dollars appealing to people on a personal and real way.

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 9.42.34 PM

I took this little pic off of Facebook because it’s the easiest to illustrate. Again, I reference these stats and Bernie’s growth not because of his politics but because of how he’s connecting with real people. On a whole, I’ve talked a lot about the difference between building empires and building communities. I believe community building beats empires over time. It would appear that this is true based on these stats too, regardless of whether he wins the nomination for the Democratic party or not.

The encouragement I get from seeing this little blurb is that when you are real with people, appeal to individuals on a common level and not segregate others out or kick people out because of some jaded belief system, you can build strong and powerful bonds with people of different walks of life, different cultures, different beliefs, but shared values. Isn’t that what makes strong communities vibrant and thriving?

A more little note of encouragement on this piece-note that the average gift to his campaign is less than $30. That’s less than the average contribution to a nonprofit fundraising campaign, a public radio pledge drive, or a crowdfunding campaign for a tech startup. Again, it’s not about the size of the gift but the way that individuals are impacted. I can be encouraged by that. How about you?

Me with Iron & Wine in 2010, presenting him a Golden Fork Award trophy (the first ever made)

Me with Iron & Wine in 2010, presenting him a Golden Fork Award trophy (the first ever made)

One final piece of encouragement to start the year off, this time I’ll dive into a different realm in music. I confess to spending absolutely zero time looking at anything involving pop music. I admit to following the latest news with Adele and Taylor Swift only because of the impact of the music licensing royalties with Soundexchange and the new lawsuit against Spotify because it pertains to my work (both in radio and in working with musicians). Their shared impact on music streaming platforms is intriguing as well.

Plus, in an age when music streaming is the standard method of listening for most people, their success highlights the fact that people continue to buy albums. Musicians, make note of this.

I heard a little bit of both Adele and Swift’s albums from 2015. My conclusion? Not really impressed, and it’s not because they’re pop stars. I don’t get the heart, soul and powerful presence from them that I do from the albums by Iron & Wine and Ben Bridwell (Sing Into My Mouth), Trevor Hall (who had 2 releases in 2015 and both were stellar) or Brandi Carlile (The Firewatcher’s Daughter). Only Carlile among them got national recognition (via a Grammy nom). Yet despite the lack of national attention, these artists continue to grow their audiences by making great albums, convicted to the notion that real music is found in a full album experience that they deliver time and time again. By the way, they’re all nominated for a big award I do every year and you can hear 2 cuts from their 2015 releases HERE.

In a music world (and industry) that seems to be dictated by flashy imagery and millions of social media imprints, here are 4 musicians who don’t fit the pop culture’s mold of success and yet they continue to write, perform and thrive. That my friend, is inspiring. Here’s the thing though, these are just a very small group of the many MANY musicians out there who are thriving and winning in this constantly changing marketplace for music, one where the industry is panicked. When you connect with real people by giving them a powerful experience, you will win. That’s the way it works.

What experience are you giving?

That’s the question I’m asking myself every week when I sit down to produce The Appetizer Radio Show. What experience am I providing? What experience do I want my audience to have? I think that every musician and every business owner should let that question pass through their brains at some point during every week, at least a few times. In the end, it’s the experience that brings people back to us, that we build community together with, and who help us reach the goals we set out for ourselves.

Did you need a little encouragement to start your week? Good. Now let’s move forward together!

How To Overcome The #1 Challenge You Face Today

The Biggest Challenge Every Musician & Entrepreneur Faces revolves around the same thing. Most of us who go from working for someone else to working for ourselves, or starting our own projects struggle with the early building process because we don’t identify 2 foundation elements to our projects. These 2 elements determine how we keep the machine on and moving. I don’t refer to your work, business, or operation as a machine callously.

The machine is the passionate work you do that you believe in with all of your heart and want to share with the world. It’s your art, your business, your creation. To you, it’s not a machine but a calling. The calling has to have life coming into it for life to come out of it. That income, is where the machine part of the analogy comes into play. Machines are made of pieces that keep the passion/calling going and growing. If the pieces stop moving, life runs out, frustration takes over and you end up quitting (in whole or in part) on your calling. Keep those pieces moving.

Those pieces include
1. Audience/Client base creation and growth
2. Business model & plan
3. Execution of plan and adaptation to changes

None of this is easy, and none of it allows us to be flippant or passive with how we go about achieving our goals, creating success, and repeating that success for growth.

How to overcome the challenge of establishing the base, model, and execution of your plan

There are lots of people with good ideas on how to overcome this challenge. Use those ideas. Even better is finding people who have USED the ideas they talk about in a real capacity instead of “I have clients who took my platform and made a million dollars in just 3 weeks.” I’ve bought into a few of these platforms and none of them work as advertised.

Is there a one-size fits all approach to keep the pieces moving for all 3 of these areas that works 100% of the time, that you can automate to work without having to pay attention and that will ensure that you can make money and have success without having to think about it?

(This is the part where some marketers will tell you YES THERE IS!!!!!)

I’m not that kind of marketer, though I do some marketing. There’s a difference. In any case, I don’t know how to achieve all three of these elements with my eyes closed, hands tied behind my back, and feet propped propped up on the desk while millions of dollars flow in. No one truly does, though lots of people will claim that this is what they do every day and that they can show you how to do it too.

FunCouponsHave you seen Wolf Of Wall Street? The title character is Jordan Belfort, a trained stockbroker who takes his NY skills to penny stocks and transforms how investment trades work. He was a great salesman, and a great marketer. He was also an incredibly greedy, self-centered douche-bag of a dude. There are multiple times in the film where he would lie to prospective clients about how investing in his “expertise” would lead to 3 or 4 times ROI. Did he believe he could do that? He didn’t care, it was all about the money.

Addressing false claims made by sales people is where most of us in the coaching or marketing space have to fight harder and harder. There are many negative stereotypes of being untrustworthy if you’re a marketer or have a product/service to sell because there are people so bent on leading you down a path which makes big promises while costing big money but doesn’t deliver as advertised. Overcoming this stereotype is a challenge in and of itself. We judge others by the experiences we have that are (often) negative and misleading.

What actually works in audience growth, business modelling and execution

The true key to  audience growth, business model/plan and execution is testing, testing, testing. What works you repeat and improve upon. What doesn’t work you fix, edit, amend, or throw out. This is a long game of strategy and fluidity. All business is. The great companies and products are those that not only stand the test of time but also adapt to changes in markets, people’s needs, AND stay true to the core audience of those who most benefit from the product or service.

Success isn’t where you start but how you adapt to the steps on your path to take you there

Success is a milestone that leads to greater and higher milestones, and greater levels of success. Which leads us back to the beginning and identifying who that core group of people are that want and need what you have. Identifying this group of people and building your business model/plan around them is probably the big secret that you’re looking for. It’s the #1 most important part of the whole recipe because you can have a great product/service, outstanding marketing, and deliver 300 times the cost of the service to your client but unless you can identify WHO that target client/core audience is and know the WHY they need you, you’ll spin your wheels.

StormTrooperAimThere are big companies who spend millions of dollars marketing products that try to appeal to everyone out there and bomb. Why? Everyone is too non-specific and far too difficult to position anything for. It’s like shooting an arrow into the sky and hoping you hit something. What were you aiming at? Everything! And so you got some air and hit nothing. Such is the case with being non-specific on what your target is. Plus, who wants to have the accuracy of a Storm Trooper, or any villain in a ’80s action film. Those guys can’t hit air, apparently.

Once you know the WHO and the WHY you can adapt a plan and a strategy around it, execute that strategy and reform it again and again. This is the essence of Growth Hacking, as defined by Ryan Holiday in the game changing book Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising. It doesn’t matter what you build or create as much as it does who you are building and creating it for, AND are solid on the reasons why this group of Who’s are interested in you. Get that nailed down before you spend a second’s time investing in anything else. Then your profits and  your income will flow more surely than anything else. That’s not a big promise, it’s a truth as executed by self-employed, small business, DIY bands and anyone else who has done this.

Benji Rogers, The DIY Artist Route & You

BenjiRogersBenji Rogers is one of the biggest movers and shakers in indie music today. The founder of Pledge Music, he’s a profound and outspoken advocate for Super Fans. You’ve heard me talk at length, including multiple webinars and past blog posts on the power of utilizing your super fan group of audience. Now, Benji will give you even more reason to key in and make your super fans the focus of your growth strategy.

Aside from the talk about super fans, which does dominate much of our conversation, Benji Rogers also shares a lot about how to do crowdfunding the right way using Pledge Music. Pledge Music was launched on the same day as Kickstarter, and there is a lot of good things Benji says about the crowdfunding platform. But the key difference is the way that Pledge Music engages with campaign creators (musicians and artists) and the support members who fund the campaigns. This key difference ties in perfectly with why your focus on your super fans should be first, and let everyone else follow suit on their own.

Takeaways just for you

Benji is a quote machine. Nearly the entire call was spent trying to keep up with the gold that was pouring from his mouth, which are applicable to both musicians and creative entrepreneurs who can see how to take these principles and apply them to their work.

Great quotes from our conversation include:
“Ultimately all music is free. But what isn’t free is the making-of. If you lift that lid just a bit, you get the magic.”

“Artists tend to forget that what they do is fascinating to people who can’t do it.”

“You allow fans access to that deeper level while it happens. What if you could get a VH1 Behind the Music while it’s happening? Artists can choose to give as much or as little away as possible. It’s really about a personal connection.”

“Each Super fan is your digital gold, they are the ones that value your business moving forward. That’s your tribe, that’s your community. They’re your weird ones and that’s what’s fun.”

“What I want Pledge to become is the largest Super fan community in the world, owned by the artists that bring their fans to the table, because ultimately we don’t own those fans. The artist does.”

“The #1 place artists fail is email lists. Pushing your fans to third party platforms for engagement is a mistake.”

“17% of all music fans categorize themselves as Super-Fans, but they also make up for over 60% of all the revenue in the music industry.”

It was great to connect with Benji and his statements are in perfect agreement with many of the things I’ve been talking about here on this blog for the past year and a half, especially concerning what real growth looks like and how to really boost your music and artistic endeavors by having the right focus. I also learned a lot from Benji in this conversation, and look forward to further engagements/interactions with him in the future.

If the player up top doesn’t work, give this a shot.

Episode 8: Benji Rogers by D Grant Smith on Mixcloud

Expand Your Success By Making It Your Focus


I did a Youtube search for success and motivation. This is what I found. It was incredibly motivational. This same account has a great series of curated success motivation from various movies. I encourage you to look them up.

Success is what anyone with a dream has on their mind 99% of the time.

For me to say that you only need to focus on success in order to achieve sounds pretty silly then, doesn’t it?

Here’s the thing: most of us think about being successful a lot, and we want to be successful, but what are we doing about it?

I’m speaking from a little bit of experience because fluctuations in different degrees of success have been achieved over the years, but not to the extent of my deepest inner dreams. And I have to hold myself accountable for that, not anyone else.

Image by  Dimitris Kalogeropoylos

Image by Dimitris Kalogeropoylos

Do you know what the core difference is between high achievers, be it in business, music or entertainment, and everyone else? They all share very similar traits. They all want to be the best, they all dream of being great. And they focus on doing what it takes to make that happen. This last part is the difference maker because focusing on doing what it takes to succeed leads to taking action. Actions lead to results.

How often do you achieve a level of success and then sit back and take a break? I’ve made this mistake far too many times and tasted the bitter results. One success is a big win. Celebrate it. Then move forward to achieve another one and another one and another one.

For artists and musicians this can be getting a feature piece in a prominent blog or magazine that gives your work new exposure to a greater audience. Awesome! Celebrate it. Then use that momentum and go after another media feature to keep building. Share your successes with your audience so they can celebrate your win too.

Entrepreneurs and business owners, this could be landing a sale after months of long weeks and countless hours. You’ve put in overtime and then some and  you’ve finally landed the client or account you’ve been working so hard on. That’s fantastic. Celebrate it with your team, staff, and crew. Take yourself out for a night on the town and get a good night’s rest. Then get back at building on the momentum.

What happens when we only celebrate the win but not doing anything to build on it is the momentum fizzles out. The success of the achievement loses its wind and it feels like starting all over again from scratch, like trying to roll a giant stone out of the way with no one to help push. The debilitating feeling of starting all over again keeps us working harder than we should, sacrificing more than we need to for that next win.

Would you like consecutive wins and more success? Would you like to be able to build on your victories over and over again? Good. Let’s talk about what practical steps you can take today to make that happen again and again this week. Let me know what’s obstacle is standing in the way of you winning.

How I Learned The Next Step To Take

Photo Credit: MoDOT Photos

Photo Credit: MoDOT Photos

Honestly one thing I’ve struggled with for a long time is admitting my mistakes. The fear is that if I show chinks in my armor, I’ll be less appealing and less trusted by the people I want to help. But the truth is, without revealing my errors and mistakes I let you down and don’t allow for real connection to take place.

Since I’ve not done this much in the past, or in our previous interactions, I apologize. I want to serve you in the best way I can, so that you can have the success with your music and projects that you dream of.

One thing that has kept me from moving forward with some of the work I’ve done over the last year is not knowing which direction to go, what steps to take, or if I made a decision about one thing and it didn’t work, I would have wasted time, energy, emotion and money on a dead end.

Do you ever feel that way?

That fear kept me stuck for several months. Two years I left one job I’d been at for over a decade and started doing something completely different. A year later that new job transitioned into something different, and I couldn’t stay on as I had originally planned. I found myself in an unknown space, with the future not looking so certain as I had planned.

Continuing to work on The Appetizer Radio Show and doing a some projects with a few emerging musicians kept me connected to music and media instead of leaving all of that past life behind. But I was honestly without direction on what to do with my experience and passion, where to go, and what to do.

I read a lot on a variety of subjects, especially small business growth, marketing, entrepreneurship, and leadership. One subject that became a constant thread in my reading was teachers and mentors. Several outlets stated that one of the best ways to weed through the noise, overcome obstacles and find pathways to reach your goals is to find a mentor or coach. So I started looking for one.

The difficulty in this search is that there are plenty of teachers and coaches for small businesses. There aren’t many coaches for people whose experience is in radio, media or indie music. I did find a few well-meaning individuals who weren’t really interested in taking on new people, and one who was willing to talk with me for 30 minutes about what I was looking for. But he wanted $120 for me to just talk with him for half an hour.

I couldn’t do that financially, so I moved on.

It took a while to find a coach who spoke my language, I connected with right away, and who shared a similar path and journey. After much searching, I did find that coach and mentor. We’ve been working together for about 10 months now and it has been more than worth the investment. Actually, working with my coach has paid for itself a few times over. Here’s why:

I know that I’d still be spinning my wheels, questioning my decision making and living with more frustration in the lack of results for my efforts if I hadn’t taken that next step and sought help from a coach and mentor.

color close upYes, I am a coach for musicians and entrepreneurs. But I don’t have all the pieces figured out in my own path, which is why I have a coach whom I trust, respect, and value. Working with him has helped me find the next steps in my journey. All of the great leaders and coaches in any field have others who are helping to guide them to their next win.

Your next step could be the result of a conversation with a potential mentor and coach.

You and I are both on journeys of finding growth and success with the work we do. You are passionate about your project, career and what you create. That passion carries forth in everything you do. It’s a part of your story.

If you’re like me and want to know how you can take the next step in your journey, then we should talk. Don’t worry, I don’t charge people anything to find out where you are and what you’re wanting to do. Let’s have an initial chat to see if I can be of service to you, or if there is someone else who can be a good match for you in my network. Contact me below for details or email me at dgrantsmith@gmail.com.

I look forward to connecting with and helping you grow.