Josh Ryan

Here I go again….  It’s Part 6 in my 1,000 True Fans series.

For this installment I asked my new friends at Sorted Noise in Nashville to introduce me to some of their artists who are doing it right.  I am happy that they introduced me to Josh Ryan. Josh fronts the group Secrets in Stereo and in just two years has made some impressive inroads by using social media (blogs) to bond with a tight knit community of fans who support him. What is interesting about Josh is the fact that he makes a lion’s share of his money from TV/Film placements and not from live shows.

Ariel Hyatt: Do you believe that 1,000 true fans is a theory that can work?

Josh Ryan: (quoting directly from the article) “Someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can’t wait till you issue your next work.”

Then, geez…absolutely.  Obviously, this means that it’s the artist’s responsibility to continue to crank out content, and give them something to buy.  And I think (as you are finding out with previous “In Defense” interviews) the number is much lower than 1,000 for a solo artist because of the low overhead.  Although I write, record, and promote under a band name, I’m actually a one man show.  So, this applies to my situation.

AH:  Are you currently making a full-time living as a musician from your music? And How many years did it take you from day job to part time job to F/T Musician?

JR: Yes.  My head is above water at the moment. When I moved to Nashville 3 years ago, I forced myself to only work part time.  I live by this thought process… Whatever you spend the most hours in the day doing, then that’s what you are.  If you work in a warehouse for 40 hours a week, and write songs and play shows on the weekends, then you aren’t a songwriter.  You’re a warehouse worker.  Writing songs and playing shows is just your hobby.  Like watching football.

I know that thought process may rub some people the wrong way, but it worked for me.  I didn’t move to Nashville to be a waiter or a warehouse worker.  And, if that meant trading in financial “security” for time in the day to spend on my real job, then that’s what I had to do.

But, to answer your question more directly… I’ve been fully supporting myself financially with music for two years.

AH:  If possible I know you may not want to share this information), can you share the amount of money you have grossed in the last 12 months?

JR: I’ll give you a larger sample if that’s ok.  Let’s look at the two years I’ve been self sustaining.  Also, I’ll break it down into Direct (money made directly from Secrets in Stereo music) and Indirect (money made from outside opportunities created by Secrets in Stereo music).  I will get into the details of each in the next question.

Direct Gross = approximately $80,000

Indirect Gross = approximately $17,000

Total Gross over the last 2 years = $97,000

AH:. Can you give us a breakdown percentage wise of the following:

JR:

DIRECT

A. Licensing for TV/Film/Advertising 59%

I made a decision early on to make this my focus for Secrets in Stereo.  Obviously, it is.  And, that will be reflected in the following numbers as well.

B. Live shows 0%

Yep… that number is right.  For a few reasons.  One, I live in Nashville.  You don’t make money playing in Nashville.  You lose money.  And, two, my overhead is very high to take what I do (and do it right) on the road.  Partly, because I use hired guns and those hired guns are good and expect a certain amount of pro level pay (Again, remember, I live in Nashville).  And partly because I have a fairly elaborate show.  Lots of players, lots of tracks, lots going on.

I intentionally listed “Live Shows” second, because I want to illustrate a point… There are more ways to make money in this business than those on  the traditional route.  Hitting the road makes A LOT of sense for A LOT of bands.  It just didn’t and doesn’t for me.  When I play shows, they have to count.  They have to have a purpose.  And that purpose (for me) isn’t necessarily to make money.

C. Digital Sales 14%

This is securely connected with licensing.  Placements equal digital sales. And the best part about these sales, is you don’t have to do anything (outside of the placement, of course) to get them.  You make money while you sleep.

D. Fan Funding 5%

This is an on going campaign (as of Feb’10) for my next album.

E. Merchandise 5%

F. Physical CD Sales 2%

My focus is on digital.

INDIRECT

A. Licensing other artist’s music 9%

B. Consulting 5%

C. Session Singing? 1%

AH: How many die hard fans, fans that will buy everything and anything from you, would you imagine that you have?

JR: About 100.

AH: How long did it take you to build up this many fans?

JR: From the day I launched my Myspace (wow… that sounds so stupid now) until today.  2 1/2 years.  It’s definitely a snowball effect.  It was pretty hard at first.  The key for me was not only having small tipping points but being able to attack and capitalize on them.

My first being my first placement 2 years ago… a 2:30 feature on an MTV show called Engaged and Underage.  The second that episode went off, I was all over blogs and message boards making sure everyone knew who sang that song.  Some of those fans I made then are what I would consider “die hard” fans today.

AH: What Do you mean you were “All Over Blogs? This seems like a very interesting tactic! Can you elaborate – what type of blogs did you hit?, how did you find them?  what did you say when you got on them?  how did you make “fans” out of that?

JR: There are really 3 levels to this tactic…

1. First things first.  I needed to be found when someone went to Google or Yahoo to search for me after they’ve heard the song.  I call it “Proactive Searchability” Although MTV has gotten better at this, at the time, it was hard for viewers to find who sings a song they heard on a show.  So, when I found out my song was going to air, I went to Yahoo Answers and Google Answers, created a profile, and asked the questions that I thought a viewer would ask.  Something like, “Who sang the song in Episode 7 of Engaged and Underage with the lyrics ‘I don’t wanna live a day with out you, I just wanna make you happy’?”  And this would all be before the airdate.  Then, I logged in with my Secrets in Stereo account, and answered the question (with links of course).  Voila!  Proactive searchability.

2. The next thing site I targeted was MTV itself.  They have a cool blog for everyone one of their shows called MTV Remote Control.  Engaged and Underage has been off the air for a while, and they had a blog post yesterday.  So, it’s pretty active.  For this site, I just went through the comments and looked for people asking who sang the song.  Then, I just answered them.  Simple as that.  Also, an answer is always better than just posting a comment announcing who you are.  If no one’s asking who you are, then your music didn’t connect.

Also, on MTV, they air all episodes online.  This is a great opportunity to become a part of the conversation as it happens.   The Hills gets over 1,000,000 plays online alone.  So, when I had a song or two in that show, I would stake out the live forum, waiting for someone to ask who sang that song.

3.  The third level of this tactic, is all the 3rd party blogs, forums, etc about the show.  All I did was Google “Engaged and Underage,” and a slew of sites popped up.  Obviously, Facebook groups were a great place to start.  But, there were also a handful of independent blogs that were ecstatic about hearing from an artist that was on their favorite show.

AH: Do you have a strategy with long-term and short-term goals in place to get to 1,000 true fans or for any future looking aspects of your music career? If so, can you share these goals?

JR: I have long-term, short-term, mid-term, weekly, daily, hourly, minute-ly goals (OK, maybe not “mintute-ly.”  That’s not even a word.)  But, all of those goals point towards my overall objective… Grab a potential fan’s attention, collect their info, convert them to a die-hard.

Tactically, that might play out like this…

1. A potential fan hears one of my songs on Grey’s Anatomy

2. I’ve written a blog on my site about the placement entitled “My song Not Today featured in the November 17th episode of Grey’s Anatomy.”  So, when that potential fan Googles “who sang the song with the lyrics, ‘not today, not tomorrow’ in the November 17th episode of Grey’s Anatomy,” guess who they find?

3. On my site, I give away a lot of music in exchange for emails.

4. 3 months down the road, my new fan knows all my songs by heart.  I send her email asking her to join the subscription portion of my site (A big goal for me in 2010).  She does.  And, now she’s a die hard.

AH: Have you ever made money from social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, or Ustream? Can you please tell us exactly how and correlate them?

JR: I don’t really see them as money makers.  Although, I’m sure the sites have effected sales.  If you’re smart and use them tastefully and creatively like Amanda Palmer’s auction, then it works.  But, even with that example, she didn’t look at Twitter as an ecommerce solution.  She looked at is a communication and community building solution.  It just so happens money was involved.  The moment we start looking at Twitter and Facebook as money makers, they will become Myspace.

AH: Has your connection to the podcasting and online world, and your popularity with podcasters helped you to earn more money?

JR: I made a big push with PMN [Podsafe Music Network] a while back, and got great coverage.  I need to revisit that.

AH: What are your next steps to continue to help yourself move forward in your own career?

JR: My ongoing goal, is to continue to get TV/Film/Advertising placements, and build buzz and a fan base from the exposure of those.

A big 2010 goal is build a well put together subscription portion of my site.  When you look at artist like Matt Ebel, it’s refreshing and exciting to see how that can be such a profitable platform.  If you do it right.

Beyond that, who knows where the industry goes.  Let me say this… I’m not one of those major label haters.  I think they aren’t really a logical solution for 99.9% of artists right now.  But, they aren’t going away either.  And they shouldn’t.  At some point, they are going to have to see working with an artist as a “joint venture” or “partnership” where the artist is bringing just as much value to the table as they are.  And when that day comes, they might make more sense to me as an artist.

I’m looking forward to the day when an artist (hopefully me) comes to a major label and says… “Ok, I don’t need help with all this other stuff you offer.  But, I’ll partner with to you release and promote my record, and you get X number of points per sale.”

AH:  If you could give a band or artist any type of advice on how to start in social media, what would you advise them to do?

JR: The strategy of a few years ago was “be everywhere.”  And I think that’s true to a certain extent when referring to being “Googleable.”  But, I would say, go to where the people are.  Not more musicians.  Don’t waste your time building profiles on social media sites that won’t be around in a year.  Do your research, and stay up to date with new sites and trends.  I recommend hypebot.com, mashable.com, and musicthinktank.com (of course).

AH: If you had $500 to spend on marketing and promotion, how would you spend that money?

JR: If it was just money that was given to me, I would experiment on a thing or two that I’ve been wanting to try.  Google Ad Words.  Facebook Ads.  Things like that.

AH: Is there anything else you would like to say about 1,000 true fans?

JR: As I read through my answers (and think about them from a reader’s perspective), I need to make one point.  Obviously, I can’t make a living solely based on the finances of 100 True Fans.  And I don’t, as you can see from my percentage breakdown.  That doesn’t mean that the theory is bogus.

If I had 500 True Fans (and hopefully I will sooner rather than later), then I could never get a TV/Film placement again and be fine financially.

But, that’s the beauty (and reality) of it.  You don’t have to depend solely on those True Fans.  They are the foundation of what you do.  They give you security.  But, then you’ve got all these other peripheral revenue streams to compliment and build that foundation.

AH:  How do you use analytics to your advantage? What are your measurable online results, and how do your measures help you with your music career?

JR: I’m a big data geek, but I realize most people aren’t.  If someone just wants basic info that might open their eyes and answer some questions, the “Insights” section of your Facebook Fan Page is a great place to start.  It’s fairly basic, but it’s got some great info that can help an artist begin to shape their target audience profile.

AH: On a scale of 1 to 10, would you say you share a lot (a 10) or are you guarded in what you exposure on social media sites about yourself and your personal life?

JR: I share things that I would want to hear from an artist.  As long as you’re personal at some level, you’re using Twitter correctly.  A fan doesn’t know what you’re leaving out.

AH: What would you say to a fellow musician, that thinks that Twitter is just sharing “eating a tuna sandwich”  and is stupid?

JR: Not much.  I got tired of trying to help artists that don’t want to help themselves a while back.  The reality is, if they don’t see the value in it, then they aren’t going to use it usefully.  Therefore, for them, it would be stupid.

Come hang with Secrets In Stereo
Twitter – @SecretsInStereo
Facebook Page – http://www.facebook.com/secretsinstereo

So many artists ask me how to get their music placed in Film & Tv and Josh is blogging in deep detail about his experiences and hopefully he will give us all some pointers for how to generate placements. Josh is writing a series of detailed blogs on www.sortednoise.com based on his experiences up to this point, as well as about his experiences over the next 4 months as he writes, records, promotes, and releases his next new album.  He says about  the blog posts: “I’m basically talking more in detail on what I’m referring to here in these answers. It’s going to be focused on TV/Film placement.”

Here are the links to the first two…

Looking for more advice on crowdfunding and monetization for your music? Check out Part 9 of Cyber PR’s free course, Social Media House! Click the picture below to get started.

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