John Oszajca is in the house!
Do you know what funnels are? Are you using them to promote your music? What level of success have your achieved with your marketing funnels?
- 01:11 – Four record deals!? – John’s story
- 07:16 – What led to your breakthrough?
- 16:50 – Trying and failing – finding a winning formula
- 20:56 – What type of results do musicians achieve with your method?
- 28:07 – What are the main upsides of using funnels to build an audience?
- 31:50 – Are there any hiccups or downsides to the method?
- 35:20 – What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered as an entrepreneur?
- 38:15 – What’s the biggest victory you’ve experienced as an entrepreneur?
- 43:47 – Are there any books or other resources that have helped you on your journey?
- 47:29 – Is there anything else I should have asked?
David Andrew Wiebe: Today, I’m chatting with the creator of Music Marketing Manifesto and singer/songwriter John Oszajca. How are you today, John?
John Oszajca: I’m great. Thanks for having me on your show.
David Andrew Wiebe: Yeah, thanks so much for coming on. And on that note, I know that in the space of music marketing, we can sometimes become precious about our ideas and methods but always find it such a joy to talk and share with experts like you. I always learn a lot. The more I dig into this niche, the more I find that there’s probably only a few dozen of us or maybe a hundred of us out there doing this kind of thing.
So, I want to thank you for your willingness to come on the show, and also for the important work you’re doing for artists.
John Oszajca: Thanks. Yeah, my pleasure.
David Andrew Wiebe: So, I’ve done a bit of reading about you. One of the things I found interesting is that you had four different record deals, none of which really benefited you in the way you hoped it would.
John Oszajca: I did.
David Andrew Wiebe: So, what happened there?
John Oszajca: Well. Yeah, so I can’t say none of them benefited me financially, you know, particularly the first deal was very successful. That set much of my life in motion. So, I don’t regret any of the experiences but certainly, when you’re a young, aspiring musician, and we all dream of getting record deals, the idea is not just that you’re going to fill your bank account, it’s that you’re going to go on to have a meaningful career and become a household name.
So, cut me off if I go into too much detail, but the sort of short version is that, you know, like a lot of young musicians… I’m from Hawaii. I left my small town and moved to [unclear 02:01]. I went to Seattle first, later to Los Angeles in pursuit of success as an artist. I eventually, after a lot of hard work, a lot of, you know, I really hustled. I was one of those guys that really worked my butt off. I promoted clubs and pursued every opportunity I could to find success. I eventually did land a record deal after many demo deals and a lot of struggles. I signed with Interscope. The trade paper said it was the largest new artists signing in history. It looked very good for a moment.
I had one of those deals where I was on a soundtrack and my song became the single for that soundtrack. It started taking off all over the United States. That song did. And I had no record deal but was getting heavy rotation on the biggest stations in the country. That’s what sort of kicked by this big bidding war. But there was no album and by the time the album actually got finished, and by the time… I had Jimmy Iovine as my A&R rep, you know, the Head of Interscope, which sounded fantastic, but all it actually turned out to mean is that I had the busiest guy at the label as my A&R rep. And so, there was a lot of confusion. Music changed a lot at this time. This is back in like 2000 when there was that shift from alternative to sort of active rock, if you remember that. This is like when the No Doubt, Bex, and Sugar Rays of the world were supplanted by that Metallica, Korn, and Limp Biscuits. And so, by the time my album came out, it didn’t really fit in the alternative world so it got ultimately put out on pop and hot AC. So, my album came out the same week as Madonna and 98 degrees. It was nothing like that music.
I don’t know. I had a few things stacked against me but at the end of the day, you know, I had a fantastic experience. I toured and had song/music on the radio across the country and was on MTV and all that kind of stuff, but I just didn’t sell enough records. With no conversation about it, it was dropped. You just kind of get a letter to your lawyer. When some board makes a decision, or some, you know, not literally a board, but some… what’s their committee that makes a decision. And was sort of back at the drawing board. I had a weird thing that’s sort of a double-edged sword. I had this blessing of this massive publishing deal as well, where we’re talking about a half a million dollars per album. The first one is even a bit more, but I was half a million on the second album but I needed the album to come out on a major label in order to trigger the advance. So, rather than just going back to doing what I did before I got that deal and going back to hustling, I was more of one of these… I don’t know what you’d call it, but you know, I was… Not a studio musician but I was living in this industry bubble just trying to get another deal. So, years passed, frankly, I did eventually. I got a deal with Universal. That triggered half the advance as it got closer to release. Some shifts around there. They decided not to put it out. Then, I got a deal with a Warner Brothers sub called the Record Collection. They put it out as a one off, and that triggered the publishing but they did very little to promote it. And then a third album came out… sorry, a fourth deal, third album came out on an indie and it just sort of seemed to go worse and worse and worse, to be honest. But yeah, I wouldn’t categorize it as a regretful experience. As I say, I still feel quite good about the things, the accomplishments that I had during that time.
And you know, the albums did come out and I toured to support them and you know, had a blast. But yeah, it didn’t… The people that promised they were going to do a lot of things on my behalf, in the end didn’t do a lot of those things. I kept being, you know. At one point I was more or less put myself on a hiatus as I turned to try to figure out ways to make money without having to get a traditional job. I don’t want to keep riffing and rambling on into the story. But that was chapter one. That was basically the sum total of those initial record deal experiences.
David Andrew Wiebe: Yeah. And I’m sure there will be some benefit to any record deal, even if it’s just a lesson that you learn along the way, which it sounds like you did. I’m just wondering, like, obviously, your music did not belong with new metal but was there any advantage to being placed with pop?
John Oszajca: No, not for me. I don’t think so. No. I don’t think I really ever stood much of a chance in that genre. We really needed to come out when I had that initial radio success before the album was done. It was right for that moment and we missed the moment, I think. But I don’t even know that that was necessarily it. I think anyone at the label at the time would tell you there was just a lot of confusion surrounding the album. Nobody was really shepherding the project, and I think that was probably my biggest downfall on that first album.
David Andrew Wiebe: Seems like a common story with many of my favorite artists. I know that They Might Be Giants went through a similar thing where the label they were working with knew what they were about and how to market them. And then suddenly they were working with people that didn’t know. They went independent from there. So, I can definitely understand where you’re coming from.
And I’m really interested in hearing about, you know, this is what led to the creation of Music Marketing Manifesto. I’m kind of fast forwarding but I’m wondering what sort of researching and digging you were doing at the time that ultimately led to that breakthrough.
John Oszajca: Well, so where it actually started, and I always sort of neglect to mention this when talking about it is in the album number three that came out on indie, which basically meant I did everything to try to market it. And I knew nothing about marketing at this time. I want to say and actually I have to check the back of the album. I want to say this is 2005-ish, 2006 maybe. I don’t know. But if you remember… I don’t know how old you are but in the days of Myspace…
David Andrew Wiebe: I remember MySpace.
John Oszajca: Yeah. We all jumped on Myspace and bought these bots and spam the hell out of everyone saying, you know, “Click on this link.” and send them to iTunes or CD Baby or wherever and hope that they’d buy our music because it was all we knew how to do. I did it too and the bots would always break because Myspace would change the way their sites work so the bots couldn’t do what they did. And we’d all jump in or many of us anyway would jump in the support forums and start asking questions. I’d see all these other people in the forums that were using these bots to do other things to clearly make money online. It had nothing to do with music. And that was what first kind of made me go, “What’s this? What’s this make money online thing all about?” I did not jump into buying Myspace bots and spamming the world to try to make money but I started reading.
John Oszajca: Actually, one day some flashy red headline was selling some internet marketing course promising to teach me how to make millions of dollars in my underwear while I slept or whatever. It jumped out at me. I finally bought it. I spent 200 bucks, which was a lot for a course back in 2006 or whatever it was. It was an advertising-based strategy, so a Google Ad strategy with affiliate products. I sat up all night. I spent $10 on advertising. I set everything up, went to sleep, woke up and had sold a $20 eBook. I went, holy crap, this isn’t a “scam”. It actually works. I got the bug, you know, where there was one sale, I knew there were more.
Unfortunately, I still had some of that record deal advanced money in the bank so I had time to figure it out. I didn’t have the pressures of a job or anything breathing down my neck and I became obsessed. I tend to be an obsessive guy when I’m into something and I went and probably bought the… I went through probably about… I don’t know somewhere between 500 and 1000 books and lectures and courses and things on marketing. I just went out to learn everything I possibly could. I experimented a lot, you know, like a lot of new internet marketers, I probably had 100 domain names, each one representing some failed experiment. And when I say failed, many of them would generate a little bit of money but nothing that was going to set me for life.
I finally had one product and it was a great product. This is good. I don’t talk about this too often but it was electronic cigarettes of all things early like in 2007, I think. Yeah, somewhere around there. They were unheard of, you know, no one had ever heard of them. And again, I was just trying anything at this time. I thought, “Anytime I could find a cool product that I could set up a website for I was keen.” So, somebody brought it to me. I set up a website, and lo and behold, it sold. It sold almost by itself. I was really into search engine optimization at the time. I ended up striking a deal with the company. I became basically an independent online distributor and started selling the crap out of these e-cigs. I sold a couple million dollars worth of electronic cigarettes within a couple of years.
Once you kind of have a success online it all kind of falls into focus. You suddenly understand what it is you’re doing. And you get much better at it very quickly and things scaled up really fast. Once my finances were kind of in order and I wasn’t so much worrying about paying the bills anymore and I had this newfound skill, I thought, “What if I started using some of the stuff on my music?” I initially used myself as a guinea pig. I’m always in a precarious situation because record labels and publishing companies own all of my material. But I can go and quietly do a few things here and there so I’d go and build a list, send out my link to buy it to my list. Wake up and have $300 worth of album sales.
This was shocking to me. Like, my entire career I needed a manager, I needed lawyers, I needed a record label, I needed musicians to tour, I needed a budget for all of it, I needed producers. I need all of these people to run a career. And that was what most of my early career was, was just amassing a team hoping that they would do the work. This was something that I could do really easily, you know, in my own home with very little overhead. And was just amazing.
Shortly thereafter, friend of mine, Billy Burke is his name. He was going to put out an album and he had a pretty big Twitter following, but, you know, having a big following does not necessarily translate into generating a lot of money if you don’t do it the right way. He told me what he was planning. I thought I could do better. I said, “Hey, why don’t you let me handle the marketing for this? We’ll put it out to be our little case study.” And put it out and I think we’ve been $400 on marketing total, and we ended up just setting the all time single day sales record at CD Baby, he landed on the heat seeker, you know, Billboard Heatseekers Chart, recoup the first week and you know, and then some, of course, and we thought it was a tremendous success. So, at that time looking for something else to do, I was not particularly passionate about electronic cigarettes. And I’ve since sold that business.
At one point, I was thinking maybe I’d start educating people about marketing, but this opportunity to teach what I had done with Billy arose and I turned that into a course and that was Music Marketing Manifesto. Technically, I had actually, in one of my early failed “experiences” I put out a little eBook called Music Marketing Manifesto. It was in late 2009 that I beef that up and turned it into a sort of video course. Again, my own knowledge really grown since that time. I put it out and it’s sold really well with the initial launch and I had really enjoyed communicating with the music community and being sort of back in the industry, so to speak. I felt that I was really good at it. So anyway, that kick started basically what’s been my journey for the last 10 years. That’s how I make my living primarily is through Music Marketing Manifesto and teaching independent artists how to use basically online marketing strategies, more specifically direct response marketing strategies, to build their audience and to monetize the relationship with that audience at the time.
So, this is you know, I teach people how to basically build funnels. At the time, there was really nobody. This concept was new. If there was someone out there, I don’t know who they were and I’m pretty sure I knew everyone. So, I was very early in the space in terms of teaching people how to do this. It’s not a magic bullet. It still takes a lot of hard work. You have to have something remarkable about you as a person and as an artist, but it really can work and it has worked for thousands. There’s nothing more rewarding than getting emails from people who have sold their first album to some fan who had never heard of them until a couple of days ago when they clicked on a link. And yeah, the rest is history.
David Andrew Wiebe: I have a few comments there. And one of the things is I can kind of relate to you in the sense that the whole thing about music entrepreneurship, when I was first starting to look around, they were definitely people talking about the connection between business and music. I’m not certain anybody had quite made the leap to music entrepreneurship yet. And that’s actually becoming more of a common term these days on podcasts and blogs and so forth. I’m not taking credit for creating it necessarily, but it’s cool how it’s spread.
I definitely remember those days with the landing pages and the big read headlines. I was looking at a lot of them and I was just sitting there going, “Oh, man. If I had the money, I would try to buy that thing.” But at the time, I wasn’t quite that independent. But on that whole topic of being independent or working independently, I mean, just like you, maybe you had a couple of Joe jobs here and there, but I couldn’t stand them. I think I’ve worked in traditional employment for almost six months because you never get paid on performance. It was always, you know. No matter how little or how much I did, it was a flat rate that I got. That wasn’t sitting well with me.
John Oszajca: I’m with you.
David Andrew Wiebe: Yeah. The other thing was just trying and failing. I think that’s the part that a lot of people don’t see. This online space looks sexy and attractive and awesome. You feel like it’s a promise that you’re going to succeed if you just put enough work and effort into it, which is one of the messages going on out there. But that’s not always the case. You kind of have to keep digging until you find that loading formula.
John Oszajca: Sure. Sure. Yeah, I think… I think, you know. Okay. I don’t know if I should say this or not, but like, when you do what we do, there’s a lot of people… Or anytime you’re selling any kind of marketing advice, there’s a lot of people that are quick to kind of call it scammy, or a scam or something like that. I see it every day, frankly, in my comments. I also see, “You changed my career.” every day in my comments. But a lot of that I think comes from the fact that people have been burned many times over buying different kinds of marketing courses. But for the most part, I can tell you as someone who spent probably… I don’t know if I’m in the 10s of thousands or not. I’ve spent a lot. I’ve spent many thousands of dollars on marketing training and almost all of it has been really valuable.
I’ll give you an example. I bought a $2,000 on internet marketing course early in my days. It was one by Frank Kern. It was 2000 bucks. That seems so crazy to me. I didn’t do it until after I was making a lot of money. I did his little freebie thing that he offers to kind of whet your appetite before you even start the course. I applied it to my e-cig business at the time. I made like $24,000 in five days or something or four days. The point of this is that, all of it can work. It’s not actually that hard. Where people fail is that they are trying to cut corners trying to sell crappy products, not following through, not sticking with it. I mean, you can’t go and take… you know the old saying you can’t Polish a turd. You can’t go and take a crappy product or a not very unique solution or in the case of music, not very good music from a boring and uninteresting person, and just run traffic and turn that into something. You really need to provide genuine value. If it’s a traditional product, you need to genuinely help people and offer real solutions. If it’s music, you need to inspire and entertain and excite people. But if you can do that, then you can take just about any of our courses, apply the steps, stick with it, and you’ll find success. It really just comes down to whose style you like and whose approach resonates with you the most.
Business is not that difficult. It’s just going, finding, and having a great product or service, and then creating a compelling offer. And then, getting more and more people exposed to that offer. Anyway, I’m kind of rambling but what you described is fairly common. There are a lot of people who get burned because they don’t stick with it. Like I said, I had probably 100 failed domain or websites before I finally had one that succeeded. And my process wasn’t very different with any of them. Just one of them just took off. And it turned out that I needed a great product. And when I finally had one, my marketing skills took over and propelled me to a success.
David Andrew Wiebe: No, I really like how you address that. I’m glad you brought it up. I was, you know, at one point, having 12 or so niche blogs that I tried to update all the time. It certainly did not last forever. When one of them kind of stuck out, I decided to go and run with it which happened to be in my passion area of the music industry, hardly surprising that it’s something that I care about. What type of results do you see musicians achieving with your method? I’m sure it varies a lot because everyone’s music is at a different level and their skills as a marketer and copywriter could vary. But is there such a thing as a typical result, you’ve noticed with the artists who’ve taken advantage of your material?
John Oszajca: Well, there is such a thing as kind of normal or optimal metrics or average metrics. But results are really, really, really going to vary based on you know, how much work someone puts in and how much someone is spending on advertising and all these kinds of things. I mean, of course, naturally, I’ve had people who’ve had no results. They’ve taken the course and they’ve done nothing. I have one artist who’s, I think on target to generate half a million dollars this year. So, it’s all over the place.
I surveyed my customers at one point and I asked all the people who had bought the course, or I asked all the people that had implemented the course, if they saw a positive impact on their career. I think I got… it was about 70% said yes. I say that knowing that some people might not for some reason think that that’s a good result. But to me, those numbers are fairly astonishing. It’s hard to do this stuff. I’m teaching people with no experience with marketing, how to get out and generate something and to have 70% of those people ultimately get results that they’re looking for, see a positive impact on the career, to me feels pretty astonishing. I couldn’t be happier with it.
In terms of metrics, what I kind of like to look for… I don’t know if this is getting too down the rabbit hole because people don’t necessarily know what it is that I teach, but I teach people how to build these online funnels for their music. On average, I like to see people’s landing pages converting at around 25% or more so the range is like 25 to 40%. That means 25 to 40% of the people that land on your squeeze page are handing over their email address and signing up to get some free music, and then getting added to your email follow up series that does the job of trying to build that relationship and get them to read posts, watch videos, become more acquainted with you. It’s not an intense selling environment. It’s much more of a relationship building environment with little links here and there if they do want to listen or buy. Eventually, we run some more aggressive promotions where we try to get people off the fence and say it’s, you know, now or never because of some advantageous terms like a discount or a bundle or something like that.
When it comes to sales, I’m typically seeing probably between four and 6% of those people to sign up. So, if 100 people signed up, you might see 6% of those, let’s call it 5% of those people will actually buy again. That can range anywhere from zero to… the highest I’ve seen is about 30%. That’s exceptional and rare. Ten percent is exceptional but happens a fair amount. And then, we also would typically or at least I’ll suggest that people offer an upsell. So, they’ve ordered, now let’s give them maybe a box set or some slightly higher priced product at a really great deal and even better deal than the retail price they just paid for your initial product. What we’re doing though, what is important to realise or remember is that what we’re doing is we’re basically buying a fan base, and we’re using the initial offer to try and cover our advertising costs. Many profits right there. Some lose a little bit of money, but what we’re doing is that we’re buying an audience so that we can monetize our relationship with that audience for years to come. We don’t just run them through our funnel, make a sale and stop. I mean, I suppose you could. And like I say many do profit there. So, if you were fine making a fairly small profit margin and just letting that grow, you could. However, the idea is that now you’ve got the attention of an audience, let’s keep them engaged over the course of the year and then some and run maybe a few months after they sign up, you’re running a Patreon campaign or a membership site. Maybe a few months after that you’re doing a house concert tour. Maybe a few months after that you’re running a holiday promotion or whatever works for you. But that’s kind of the bird’s eye view of the strategy is basically create a funnel to cover our advertising costs. And then, once we’ve got this machine that builds our audience for us, we can we can monetize our relationship with that audience forever. You can scale that up based on whatever your budget is, and your stomach for risk. But that’s kind of how this works. So, instead of going out and spending millions on “exposure” and waiting for those people to come to us, we’re spending a relatively small amount of money going out grabbing the attention of these people and pulling them into our… by comparison to the mainstream models, our tribe, and we’re making a vastly greater amount of money from each fan with a small… Sorry, let me rephrase that. We’re making a vastly greater amount of money from a very small audience as compared to the more mainstream model, which is to make a very tiny amount of money from a huge amount of people.
I think the reason that the mainstream industry does it the way they do is because they need to systematise their process to a certain extent. In that sense, they do find some talent, throw a bunch of money at the wall and see what’s sticks. Rinse and repeat. But as independent artists who can’t, you know. We are our only business. We are our only client. If we fail, our career is over. It ends. And so, we can’t afford to throw a bunch of money at the wall and see what sticks. We need to go out and employ these smart strategies that allow us to really measure our ROI. And, again, make a large amount of money from a very small number of people. When I said the major labels need to do what they do because they need to systematise it, you know, every artist is different. It would be challenging, I believe, for a label, for example, to go and manage these very personal campaigns for 100 different artists, each one of them be different, as opposed to an artist who can craft their own marketing campaign around who they are and manage it themselves because they are the product, if that makes sense.
David Andrew Wiebe: Oh, yeah. I think those are some impressive results. For sure. That’s great. And it makes sense that if you put more effort into it, you get more out of it. So, what are the main upsides of using a funnel to build an audience?
John Oszajca: The main upsides? Well, I think I kind of touched on it with that answer but, you know, the biggest beauty of this approach is that you can measure your ROI. You can change your stimuli to affect the ROI. Again, when I was on the labels, you know, it was just throwing a bunch of money at the wall and see what sticks. Pay a bunch of money for radio promotions. If they got phones, if people liked it, then you know, it would spread. And if nobody else was putting out an album that week that competed with you, things might look good. And then, you’d have this album life cycle and people would move on and the album will be over and you need to go and do it again.
But it didn’t function like a normal business. There was no spend X amount of dollars and measure the results. Any every business works that way. You spend your money and you measure the results. You change the stimuli, meaning the advertising, the packaging, all those variables, until the results are favorable. But the music industry didn’t really work that way. No one really ever talked. I never heard any kind of talk of ROI or things like that. There certainly would have been, you know. People in marketing would have been conscious of ROI, but it was kind of a… Again, throw it at the wall and see what sticks. It was all or nothing sort of approach to ROI. Whereas, as an individual artist, we go out and we spend, let’s say, X amount of dollars on our clicks and we measure our conversion rate. So, how many people are signing up? Did we spend $1 or $4 to get a subscriber? Well, if it’s $4, that’s going to be too expensive for us to stand any chance of profiting so what can we do to bring that price down? Well, we can try different images in our ads. We can try different copy. We can try different targeting. We can change up the colours of our landing page or the copy on our landing page.
And most likely, try changing all of those things. But each thing is going to have a measurable result. If you let the math lead you and just keep making changes, you can continue tweaking and pushing until you get within the optimal range. And we can do that with every aspect of the experience. If people are signing up but they’re not buying, let’s take a look at the email open rates. Let’s take a look at you know, maybe it’s the content that people aren’t engaging with. So, let’s change the nature of that blog post. Let’s change the songs we’re giving away for free. Again, every variable becomes something that will impact the final results and that gives you control, as opposed to just hoping and praying that the world thinks you’re amazing.
There’s so many very talented artists that just didn’t connect in the right way with the millions of people that they needed to connect with in order to be successful, according to the major labels with that model, but just because maybe your stuff doesn’t have what it takes to appeal to the masses doesn’t mean that you can’t find 1- 5-10-50,000 people out there in the world that think you’re amazing. By going and using the funnel approach and relying on metrics and math to point you, to steer you towards those fans, virtually anyone with good music can find a path to success.
David Andrew Wiebe: Have you noticed any hiccups or downsides with the method?
John Oszajca: Not really. I mean, it takes great music. It takes a lot of refining. Well, it usually takes a lot of refining. If there are any hiccups, it’s more with the temperament of maybe individuals and employee. Not every musician is, you know, it’s not in the DNA of every musician to care about marketing, to care about metrics, to pay attention to this stuff, to want to do this stuff. There are a lot of musicians, frankly, who really just think that their music is amazing and everyone else should see it. And if they’re not successful, it’s everybody else’s fault. That’s a thing.
There are also many musicians who are willing to work their asses off and do what it takes to make a life in music. I mean, the things that I’m teaching, the method, I mean, it’s not even new. I mean, while the internet’s new and some of the catalysts are new, direct response marketing as it’s known has been around since the old days of the giant catalogues since 1800s. You know, where we’d send out catalogues. It was the same thing. They’d write, copy it, send it out to X amount of people and they’d see what kind of results they got. And then, they either change with the next pressing of the catalogue or they’d continue on based on the results they got. Those ads we used to see in the back of our comic books when we were kids, that was direct response marketing. We can do it much more effectively and much more inexpensively with the internet. It offers musicians in particular, opportunities that traditional direct response marketing didn’t. But when I say not really, I don’t mean to be, I don’t know Cavalier or silly or arrogant. There’s no question that this approach works. But it’s not always easy and some people can struggle to really ever get into that optimal range. But more often than not, that’s because of a lack of follow up. I mean, there are… Again, this is just the reality of it.
A lot of musicians who their life’s work is one album and ask them to communicate, ask them to continue to produce, ask them to tour and they don’t have that follow up. The people that are succeeding are incredibly vibrant. They’re out there connecting with people, making a lot of art. And if you’re not going to do all of that, and a lot of people don’t want to, a lot of people would prefer to be that JD Salinger in music where they live in their little bubble and release an album once a year and pretend not to care about any of it. You’re going to have a much harder time because the world has changed and many, many millions of people are out there willing to do all of that stuff. So, I’m not trying to say there’s no problems and that everyone is happy. The majority are, as I said in those stats, the majority of the people to apply it feel that it’s benefiting them. But we all have different work ethics and some of us come to it more naturally than others.
David Andrew Wiebe: Totally fair. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered as an entrepreneur?
John Oszajca: As an entrepreneur? Are we talking about me and Music Marketing Manifesto or are we talking about as a musician? Are we talking about my clients? Like, what are we talking about?
David Andrew Wiebe: Whatever comes to mind.
John Oszajca: I don’t know. Like, I mean, it’s always taken a lot of work. I feel like I’m going to sound arrogant. Like, my life has always worked in this way. Universe has never given me anything for free but if I work really hard, the universe is kind of knock on wood always rewarded that. So, I don’t feel that the world is full of obstacles. There are little things, you know for MMM, there’s a whole lot of competition now that I probably wish wasn’t there but it really hasn’t impacted the bottom line.
I suppose one challenge that I’m conscious of is 10 years ago. This was such uncharted territory that it felt very easy to stay on top of. There is just new stuff coming so rapidly right now that even for someone who works in the space, I feel it can be a little intimidating. Like, “Oh, man. Am I going to suddenly be irrelevant at some point?” I don’t know. There’s a lot of new technology and it can be challenging to stay on top of it. However, again, I think one of my skills more than any of the other stuff is just I have a solid grasp of copywriting and I think that hasn’t, you know, that’s at the core of all the strategies I teach. I don’t think that changes too much but I suppose that is an obstacle. Just the rapidly changing landscape and the struggle to constantly stay on top of every little new opportunity so you’re always the expert, increasing competition.
On a more practical level, as a musician, you know, the one real challenge is always just to get those initial conversion costs high enough or the subscriber acquisition cost low enough to get you in range so you can comfortably spend and spend and spend and grow that fan base. I suppose on the other side of that coin, another obstacle is scaling. It can be relatively easy to pull in a small audience and get them to engage and convert, but to go from $10 a day to $100 a day and then on to $1,000 a day, that’s not easy. That’s a very real challenge.
David Andrew Wiebe: Actually, I really love that perspective. And it just sounds like if you stick with it and you’re committed to it, and you find the right method, it’s going to work. What’s the biggest victory you’ve experienced as an entrepreneur?
John Oszajca: Well, I don’t know if you’d call this as an entrepreneur, but you know, I’m still going to go back to that initial record deal that I had with Interscope. My dream in life as a young person, as a teenager, was to be a rock star to go out and get a major label deal. I remember very consciously feeling as a teenager that stardom is never guaranteed, but I wanted that major label record on the mantle, so to speak. I wanted to be part of the annals of rock and roll history. To me that meant releasing an album on a real record label.
I’m quoting something that somebody else told me so I’m not sure how far off I am. Something from Dirt, The Mötley Crüe Book. It was explained to me and I’ve quoted this so many times, I don’t even know if he actually says this in the book, but there’s somebody, I think Nikki Sixx or somebody was talking about success as being this big machine full of spinning cogs. And a lot of people jump and they make it onto the first cog, and it’s spinning. It’s hard. You got to hold your balance and stay on top of that cog so you don’t fall. And then at some point, you try to make it leap to the next cog and you go higher and higher. Very few people make it to the very top cog. Most people fall somewhere lower. Fall off of the machine somewhere lower in the hierarchy. A few people do. But everyone falls at some point. Some fall all the way. Some fall a little bit. But that is the kind of reality of the music industry. So, whether I became the next Bob Dylan or had the success that I did, I still feel very good about it. I was part of the major league, so to speak. I’ve talked about it elsewhere so I’ll just drop. And it was very publicised, but you know, with the publishing deals and everything it generated like $2.1 million or something like that.
For a 25-year-old kid to get this bidding war where you’re… I went from so broke I remember having holes in my shoes and I tried to stay in when it rained because my boots had holes in them and my feet would get soaking wet. I had a tooth cracked because I didn’t have money for the dentist. I had no car. You know, busing around Los Angeles is fun. I had nothing. I lived in a $400 a month apartment on a very gang infested street. It was hard but exciting because as young and you’re up for it when you’re young. When I got that first deal, or it was just… I shoot around New York.
I remember this is a very funny anecdote. Do you remember Crocodile Dundee? You remember that scene where he gets out of New York City and the guy puts his hand out for a tip and he shakes it and says, you know, “Good day, mate!” or whatever. You know the scene I’m talking about? I remember getting flown to New York as part of the bidding war. Picked up in a limousine. Taken to the hotel. And the… whatever he was, whatever you… What do you call those guys that stand the bellhop or whatever? Put out his hand and I shook it. He was looking for a tip but I just shook his hand. “Hey, man, nice to meet you.” And he’s like, “No sir, your bag.” And I remember feeling like so Crocodile Dundee at that moment because I was a very unsophisticated, never had a cent kind of guy and my world changed. I remember literally kind of dropping to my knees in the privacy of my own home just kind of thank you to God or the universe or whatever for what happened. So, that will always be a tremendous career victory for me.
The other victories were less profound and more spread out over time. The fact that I can live anywhere I want in the world and do what I do, make a living, change lives, have a community that trusts and follows me, and still make music and get to talk about it with people that care. I still perform and record and all of that. That’s a tremendous victory. I work from home so I get to have breakfast with my children every day and lunch if they’re not at school and dinner. Not that I felt like my dad was missing from my life. I didn’t but when I think back on it, I do realise like, “Wow, I never saw him in the morning because he was gone before I woke up and he came home for dinner and my life was just dinners and weekends.” Whereas, you know, I’ve been lucky enough to not have that relationship with my kids because I’m always around. So, all of that is victory as well. It’s just a less, you know, there is no chequered flag thrown at the end of it. It’s just a slow and wonderful victory. But, you know, I love a world where you can work hard and get rewarded. I feel pretty successful or feel pretty fortunate or blessed or whatever that we do live in that world. Knock on wood, my perspective has led me to believe that it does work, or my experiences have led me to believe that it does work like that.
David Andrew Wiebe: Are there any books or other resources that have helped you on your journey?
John Oszajca: Lots of books have helped me. A lot of where I’ve really gotten stuff is internet marketing stuff, you know, a lot of it’s expensive. As I said, that Frank Kearns first course was a big one for me. It’s the Copywriters Debt. So again, there are people that are just fantastic with algorithms and you know, they’re either SEO guys or they’re CPA guys. I’m better with understanding just the fundamentals of selling and copywriting and human psychology. Those people are the copywriters. They’re the people behind the funnels. They’re the people that understand what it takes to take a person who’s never heard from you or heard of you and make them care about what it is you have to say by the end of it and that’s more where I find my home or whatever, that’s my wheelhouse.
Frank Kern was one. He’s a bit intense, perhaps for my liking these days but you know, he is good at what he does and it helped me in my early days. But copywriters like Dan Kennedy. Kind of anything by him is great. A lot of it doesn’t apply to music, but none of it really applies to music, but the lessons learned can be applied to anything. It’s really just about understanding human psychology but on a totally different tip. People like Gary Vaynerchuk just kind of helped keep the ethics grounded. And he’s so about just treating people well. He’s inspired me from the get go and that’s, you know, customer support is where I put all of my focus. You can’t please all the people all the time, but we hear wonderful things about our support just about every day. I feel pretty good about the value exchange between me and my tribe. Tim Ferriss was such a big one. His Four-Hour Work Week was pretty instrumental to me when it came out in terms of just representing a mindset shift.
Who else? I’m trying to think. There’s so much good stuff out there but those are at least real business. You know, books people can easily find that are out there. Chris Rempel is a marketer. He’s become a friend. We’ve done a few things together that also I got a lot out of. I don’t think he’s doing it anymore. He’s moved on to other… He’s wildly successful as far as I know but he’s moved on to other things in the marketing space. He’s not teaching it anymore as well. Who else? Inevitably there’s a bunch that I’m probably forgetting. I like Ryan Deiss stuff in general. But I don’t have any one book or course that really stands out. He’s just someone who I generally find valuable. That’s what’s coming to mind.
David Andrew Wiebe: Awesome. It’s so funny because Dan Kennedy is one of those that I’ve been hooked on recently in the last couple of months. I’ve been getting a lot of value out of that. Like you say, it’s not music industry material. I can see some areas that could be applied but yeah, it’s just general business copywriting advice that could benefit anybody on a general level.
John Oszajca: Indeed.
David Andrew Wiebe: So, thank you so much for your time and generosity, John. Is there anything else I should have asked?
John Oszajca: No, I think we covered it. I’m sure I’ll think of it as soon as we wrap up. But no, I think we’re good. And yeah, it’s been a pleasure to chat. Hopefully, it turned on a light bulb for somebody.
David Andrew Wiebe: Yeah. And people can find you at MusicMarketingManifesto.com as well as JohnOszajca.com. Is that right?
John Oszajca: That’s right.
David Andrew Wiebe: Awesome. All right. Thanks again.
John Oszajca: Thank you. Cheers.
David Andrew Wiebe: Cheers.
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