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Do you find it difficult to make money as a musician? Does it seem like reaching your goals is a major struggle? In this episode of The New Music Industry Podcast, I interview DeCarlos Garrison of Bandbasher, and he explains why it is possible for musicians to achieve their desired level of success, even today.
- 00:14 – Introductions
- 00:24 – What is Bandbasher?
- 01:00 – How does a musician get noticed?
- 01:35 – What makes the music industry so complex?
- 02:32 – What are the unique challenges experienced by musicians today?
- 04:01 – There are great opportunities for today’s independent musician
- 05:01 – Why is it important for musicians to understand the business side of music?
- 05:50 – Is it possible for every musician to achieve their desired level of success?
- 08:02 – Why create a business serving artists?
- 09:51 – How do you sell information in an age when it’s so commoditized?
- 13:22 – What are some of the biggest struggles you’ve encountered as an entrepreneur?
- 15:57 – What are some of the biggest victories you’ve experienced as an entrepreneur?
- 19:31 – Are there any books that have helped you on your journey?
- 20:39 – What tools and apps are you using to run your business?
- 21:37 – Final thoughts
David Andrew Wiebe: Today, I’m chatting with President, CEO, and co-founder of Bandbasher, DeCarlos Garrison. How are you today DeCarlos?
DeCarlos Garrison: I’m great David. Thanks for having me onboard.
David: Yeah, thanks so much for joining me today. So, for those who don’t know, what is Bandbasher and how does it help musicians?
DeCarlos: One, Bandbasher actually teaches the artists and the people in the music business in itself. We always feel that artists are undiscovered not from lack of effort but more sort of lack of knowledge. And so, with that being said, our goal is to educate them on the process to be successful whatever their term of success is in this industry.Artists are undiscovered not from lack of effort but more so from lack of knowledge. Click To Tweet
David: That’s fantastic, and you make a great point, which is that a lot of musicians do work hard to get noticed. But what sort of knowledge are they lacking to get noticed?
DeCarlos: Actually, it come down to most of the lingo part, right, of understanding where the money is and how split sheets work, publishing work, and how you’re seeing licensing, and how you can make money off your music. I think it’s more of they understand that you can make money, but I think it’s more to a point of how to make money is kind of throwing them off and getting comfortable with that lingo.
David: What makes the music industry so complex? Why do so many musicians struggle to find traction?
DeCarlos: With that being said, I think it’s a couple of variables. Like right now it’s so many opportunities to be in the music business. So many ways to get your music out in the outlet. Well, back in the day where it wasn’t… I mean our lessons are on their way to really be heard or be seen or get started with a label. And the label kind of like you know – was like the dam, right? So, they only let a small amount of water to throw the artists through to actually get into the industry. Now, there’s no barrier, no dam. This is open flow. And now it’s just flooded. So now there is a whole lot more to be noticed. Easier to be in the music business, but to be noticed and have a career is harder.It’s easier than ever to be in the music business, but getting noticed and building a career is harder than ever. Click To Tweet
David: What are some variables that make it harder for musicians right now?
DeCarlos: I guess the separation, right? It’s the fact that I think artists don’t understand the value of their data is one. The second part of a barrier I believe is that the fact that there’s no A&R of artists. There’s no development of artists. So therefore, they kind of like develop their selves. They are kind of like seem to just… in my opinion, they seem to just, “Oh, this sound is working so let me do this sound.” Right? I’m not saying that copycat styles haven’t happening a lot regardless. But back in the day this wasn’t tolerated. Now, it seems to be okay to sound like somebody else, because so many people… and so many fans eventually become a fan of the sound, not a fan of the artist.
David: And to your point, like 30 – 40 years ago, you might have heard of development deals in which labels sort of took a chance on artists and gave them an opportunity to grow into what they saw the potential of them becoming. But today, you basically have to have a crafted image, and brand, and talent, experience, skill, knowledge, the whole works if you ever expect to be signed by labels, which isn’t necessarily the best thing to aspire to for artists today. Some may still choose that route, but there are so many great opportunities for independents today as well, don’t you think?
DeCarlos: Oh yeah, definitely. And Bandbasher is definitely…. We’re not anti-major or pro-indie. We just want you to make the best decision for yourself. So therefore, at Bandbasher if you decide to – “I want to stay independent”, then we have tools in place that will support your effort in how to give you some of the tools that major labels are using right now with their artists. But if you choose that you want to actually be signed to a label, then that’s okay too. We want to make sure we prepare you for that process as well. So, in hindsight, we do have elements on our site that will teach you A&R, how to develop your sound and how to actually figure out where you’re going and how many shows it takes to be successful and things like that.
David: That’s great. Thanks for clarifying that. Why is it important for musicians to understand the business side of music?
DeCarlos: Oh man, because that’s really how you feed your family, right? Like you know we spend so much time on our art, developing our art. Why wouldn’t you spend just as much or not more time on the business side, so you can benefit from your art? Because everybody else wants to benefit from your art. Why shouldn’t you?Everybody else wants to benefit from your art. Why shouldn’t you? Click To Tweet
David: So true, because you could blindly create and keep making more and keep making more without any regards to the art and how it’s being monetized. Pretty soon you could be in a position where you’re exploited, perhaps by a third-party company or potentially a label or manager or something like that. So, it’s really good to be in control, I think, of your music and what you do with it. Is it possible for every musician to achieve their desired level of success given the right circumstances?
DeCarlos: To me, I feel yes. Everybody is not going to be Madonna, Beyoncé, or any of these huge celebrity stars right now, right. It’s only a certain few that’s going to have that kind of breakout success, right, where they can do all those things. But if you can make, and you can, you can make six figures as just a touring musician or a touring artist you know. You can make enough to feed your family, pay your bills, have some nice vacations, and get paid to do what you love to do. So yes, I definitely believe that because I think success is based on a person, not what others think you know.
David: I think a lot of artists would be surprised to hear that you could go on the road and make six figures. That sounds like some pie in the sky dream, but you and I know that it isn’t, and there are artists out there that have proven themselves and shown that it is possible to do that very thing. And using some of the tools that you have would certainly assist in that process.
DeCarlos: Yes, definitely. Definitely. And this is what we designed it for. The funny part is that when we started to design it, we didn’t design it for the megastar. We designed it for that everyday working artist that had the dream that is still working a nine to five but every evening or every weekend they find somewhere to gig and just to play. You know what I’m saying? We can find a way to increase static, increase the way they go about doing it and how can they “Okay, fine. I got this show right now but how can I double it?” “Well, I got two shows like this a week” and keep doubling from that point on to expand your area. So, some days we try selling. Like don’t look at it as, “Oh, it’s a huge task.” Let’s take it one bite at a time and gradually increase that.
David: That’s right. One step at a time. I love it. I want to switch gears and ask some business-related questions. Of any industry, music might be one of the toughest to succeed in today, why create a business serving artists?
DeCarlos: Well, to be honest it was never set out to be a “business”. It was set at first just to help people. In the process, we realized that, okay, we may need to turn this to a business so that we can keep helping people. I spend hours on the phone with artists I work with. Either those that I manage or those I just knew that was artists and just giving them advice on what they should do and how they should do it. It’s just that people need this information, so we have to keep the lights on. We’re like, “Well, to do this, we have to charge some kind of a fee, so we can provide the best information.” So, it wasn’t originally thought as to be a business. We just kind of like figured out “Okay. We got to make some money doing it.” And I just met some creative people that was good with what they’re doing so we brainstormed. And okay fine, how can we make this a very viable tool, right? We know we can make money, but let’s make sure that they are viable too for the people we are creating it for. That’s what we feel we did.
David: That could be a viable teaching point for entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs that are listening, because many times we go in with the idea of creating a business, something that makes money for ourselves. But if we start with the idea of serving others and adding value to them, then in a sense money just chases you down. So, the opposite approach doesn’t always work when we’re always thinking about ourselves and how much money we can make. But when we think about others and how we can add value to them then we have something that people might find a lot more value in.When you prioritize adding value to others, money chases you down. Click To Tweet
DeCarlos: Yes. Yes.
David: Now, we’re in the information age and knowledge is becoming commoditized. How do you build interest in your business when one of the main things you offer is educational content?
DeCarlos: Well, the part about that is a little tricky. What we do we kind of like sell the curriculum up for the beginning. As like right now it is in our platform. It’s still free for right now, but generally first we move to a paid platform. But what we do now is just we kind of like set you in a course path of where you’re at. If you’re like brand new, so we begin with beginner lessons first. And then, later on, we drop those that have a little more experience and we do that by asking questions about where you are at in the process, where do you need help with and things like that. So, we kind of examine things like where do we suggest certain course for you to take. Now, you do have people like lynda.com that do the same, that teach as well, but we’re more music focused, and we just simply focus on the business side of it. And then we then tie it to the analytics to show what you learn for social media wise, how to apply that to your social media. And then, once you start seeing the uptake in that, and then we show you how. Okay. Now let’s see how you can grow your fan base. And we show you how to grow your fan base. So, we kind of like teach you the process as well. The education part is just a part to get you familiar with the lingo of what’s going on in the music business. But the most important thing that we teach is process.
David: I would imagine one of your value propositions there is just the fact that you’re offering something that has been curated and carefully crafted. You could spend years/decades doing all your research, and finding books, and going to the library, and Googling, and finding Wikipedia articles and all kinds of blog post out there. It’s really what I think something like your platform offers as well as my book is the fact that all this knowledge has been curated and thought about and researched and combed over so that other people like artists don’t have to do go through that entire process of spending the next decade or two building their music career and learning the ups and downs along the way, or learning everything by trial and error. So, I would imagine that’s one of the things that helps artists as well.
DeCarlos: Yeah, I totally agree with you. Like you said before, let’s go into the process of finding information, put it in one location. You write in your book. You can go through all the experience you went through. All we’re doing is offering our life experience and the things that we have experienced in this industry. And just save off some time, right?
DeCarlos: We just saved off some time for you. Like now you don’t have to spend all these years just researching. Now you can start learning and use that time we saved you and put it towards the process. Because there’s still the process. You still… Because you read your book or take our courses, that doesn’t mean “Oh, now I can go start already making hundred thousand dollars a year.” No. That’s not what we’re saying. You still have to go through the process to get to that, right? You’ve got to perform in front of three people first before you perform in front of 30 people. So, that’s the process that we like to instill in people. If there is something that you truly love and truly want to do, and this is what you want to do with your life, just like any other career, you don’t start at the top, you still start at the entry level position. You still got to work yourself up.
David: What are some of the biggest struggles you’ve encountered as an entrepreneur?
DeCarlos: It’s two parts. First is just letting people know that the idea that we have is a viable idea, right? And for people to stop looking at artist and music business they don’t make money, and I’m like that part is not true but okay. Right? So that one, we’re starting to get over. The other part was just, you know, fundraising. It’s another issue that you face as an entrepreneur. Above all of that, it’s just people. Just hiring the right team. Like that is the most difficult part. We did get lucky. We hired a couple of key people right off the top that was passionate. We have very passionate conversations in our office because we’re all passionate about music, and we all are passionate about putting out the best product. So, we’ll have a conversation for hours about color schemes. Or debates back and forth like here’s the right color scheme. Our UX person, you know going back and forth for our creative director in the beginning, and now that they didn’t work out their flow like the flow is easier now, right? So, its personnel and being… it’s just the time so that everybody gel together in having that patience.
David: I have an article on the website called 21 Ways I’ve Made Money in the Music Industry, so to your point, I think there are many ways, whether you’re an artist or an engineer, or you’re in the music industry in some other capacity, there are so many ways to make money in the industry that people tend to overlook. And to your point about making a team, I mean I could see that being a real challenge and a struggle, especially when you are somebody that has a hand in creating the business, and you have a vision for it and you want to see it move to a certain level, and you need people around you that support that vision and get behind it. Nobody will be invested as you are ever, but you want people that are just as passionate. I can see how that could be a big challenge.Nobody will ever be as invested as you are in your business. Click To Tweet
DeCarlos: Yeah. You are exactly right. Nobody would be more invested than you are.
David: That’s right.
DeCarlos: Because you stay up at night worried about is this the right thing? Yeah, I totally agree with that.
David: Yeah. I’ve been there for sure. On the flipside, what are some of the biggest victories you’ve experienced as an entrepreneur?
DeCarlos: My team. At the end of the day, like anything else kind of like falls in place as long as your team believes in the vision that you are trying to take. Because as an entrepreneur in any company, the main thing that you run into is funding, right? That’s always going to be an issue, trying to… Especially when the days of where we are right now when you have to have this free part first of the platform to get people used to it. Now you go through that part trying to figure everything out. And once you figure those things out, you might miss a couple of things or may fall behind on certain bills or whatever the case may be, but your team, your team will constantly work through those obstacles for you because they believe in you. So, definitely my team is the best team because you’re going to have up and downs as a company. As long as your core team is there to go through these times with you and encourage you, they know the work that you’re doing is viable work, then you’ll be okay.
David: I’ve heard some entrepreneurs say the most gratifying thing is when an employee goes and innovates on their own and comes up with a solution that is just perfect for the business. Maybe something that you wouldn’t have come up with yourself. So, I could see how having a great team in place would make a tremendous difference.
DeCarlos: Yeah. I totally agree with you on that. Because to that point, when we initially start to look for a team to help us build Bandbasher, we interviewed a couple UX people with coders and backend guys. One guy suggests us that we should be the Google of the music industry. And I’m like that’s not what we do. You know what I mean? We already have Google. So, you know to become Google of the music industry isn’t really going to make sense. It wasn’t until we actually met our UX designer Alex, our director, and was talking about the music business, I was telling him about some of the problems, and he’s just like we should do that. We should teach them. I’m like teach them the music business? He’s like let’s make courses, let’s make videos, and teach them the music business. I was like, that’s different. I can see that. That was sort of what I was thinking about. As a core thing, I was more like somebody to ask questions. I’m someone to answer questions for them. Answer them and point them in the right direction. I just want to connect with them. He’s like, “No. We should teach them.” And that was like a lightbulb moment for us. “Well, okay, perfect. Let’s teach them.” So, henceforth everything else. We tied up analytics and things like that, so yeah. Totally agree to that point. It’s great when your team comes up with something you weren’t thinking about.
David: It’s awesome. And because like so many opportunities tend to come your way when you’re getting started, and you might not even know exactly what direction to head in, but over time, maybe you begin to see certain things gain traction. Or, like you said, somebody comes to you with an idea that makes a lot of sense based on your experience and knowledge. So, that is one of the challenges of being an entrepreneur, but also one of the fun things.
DeCarlos: Yes. I totally agree with you on that.
David: Are there any books that have inspired and helped you on your journey? And if not, are there any blogs and podcasts that have?
DeCarlos: Blogs, I do read GrowthHackers a lot. I’m really all about the GrowthHacker’s blog. I do like the Kevin Lau’s Internal President. Making It Happen. I like that book. It’s like Daymond John’s book [Rise and Grind: Outperform, Outwork, and Outhustle Your Way to a More Successful and Rewarding Life]. Daymond is the guy who started Fubu. The Power of No is a great book. But most of the times it’s just really the GrowthHackers. I’m on there a lot. Podcasts, I listen to different podcasts. There is no one in particular that I listen to. Like okay, I get information from… I’m more of a reader more than anything. So yeah, I like the GrowthHackers. There’s a lot of great case studies from what I’m in trying to do. Like okay. Like the story of Slack and things like that was amazing.
David: That’s great. A Couple of resources for people to check out. We like to geek out a bit on the show. So, what tools and apps are you using to run your business?
DeCarlos: Oh, hands down Intercom. Intercom is amazing. It is the best tool that we have right now. Of course, we use Slack in the office, just for interacting and doing things that keep people up to date, but Intercom we use just for customer engagement. We’re starting to dabble with Heap a little bit as well for reading analytics. Yeah, these couple of things. I’m sure when you talk to my design team, we probably have a thousand more that we use. But for me that was the ones I’m using. Definitely Slack and Intercom. I love Intercom.
David: Yeah, communication being a critical part of your business, and of course your team members. It makes sense that those are your couple of picks that you would select.
David: Well, it’s been a great conversation. Is there anything else I should have asked?
DeCarlos: No. But you can follow us on our social media – Instagram, Facebook is all Bandbasher. And yeah, if you have any artists, or people that manage artists, or moms or fathers listening to the show and their kids want to be in the music industry, please log on to bandbasher.com and start familiarizing yourself with just what this industry is about. Because if your kids love it and you support them, or you’re backing them, or if you are a friend and you have a friend that you feel is a great musician or great artist, then you need to learn this, so you can help them out.
David: Fantastic! Well, thank you so much for joining me today. Thank you for your time and for your generosity, DeCarlos.
DeCarlos: Yeah, David. Thank you so much man for having us onboard. Thank you.
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