January, 2016


Just because you’re moving, doesn’t mean you’re progressing.

Often we do things because we feel like it’s a [artist, rapper, entrepreneur, tech] thing to do – but sometimes, we’re moving without really going anywhere.

I was having coffee with an artist friend of mine – when he was trying to convey how long it’s been since he’s released something. In trying to prove his point he said, “Man, it’s been 2-3 months since I’ve even dropped  a music video!”

*record scratch noise*

But that.. that’s not a long time, right? In fact, during my major label days we only dropped a music video if the record slowed in growth and needed a boost to get us back on track.

But this wasn’t the mindset of just one friend – this is a really common idea in indie music circles. It’s almost as if once you leave the studio – you’re investing a few grand in shooting a video. No field test, no seeing if people like the record – just shooting the visual.

But if a major label – with millions is hesitant about investing in a music video – why are artists with thousands so quick to invest in one? And so many?

Now let’s be clear – this isn’t about music videos, this is about the thought process behind that desire.

Why is the thought process to drop a video without field testing? Without a roll-out plan? Without a proper budget? And the answer is simple: Because it’s an artist thing to do. There’s no logic – folks are just doing it because everyone else does.

Monkey see, monkey do.

Again,  this isn’t just with artists and music videos – it’s also found in the startup that pays 10K to sit on a panel when the timing isn’t right, or the app company that buys the intrusive ad software because it’s the norm, or the musician who waits for the record label – instead of hustling their work. We do this because our culture says this is common.

But just because it’s common, doesn’t mean it’s right. This article is about mindsets, traps and how to avoid them.

“Are you doing something because it will genuinely help propel you forward – or are you doing it because you feel like you are “supposed” to be doing it?”

A Few Common Traps & Why You Should Proceed with Caution:

Look, I cannot definitively say that a situation is a trap for you. All of our budgets, goals and errors of margin are different. 

However, these are traps that I’ve found myself – or others – caught in. Ones that simply didn’t lead us anywhere. I’m not writing these here to complain, or tell you to blindly avoid them. I’m saying these  to get you to think: What’s essential? And what has me running in circles?

  • Paying For “Exposure”. 

This is not the same as paying for a publicist. I’m a publicist! I’ve worked with artists, labels, app start-ups, renewable energy companies – the necessity of a good publicist is key!

However, there’s some “exposure” opportunities that are simply hard to pin down, especially when it comes to their usefulness and return on investment.

For instance – paying to get placed on a blog. This isn’t PR, it’s not a feature that covers an artists story, or reviews their album – it’s usually just a copy/paste of a link and bio, with no social media or SEO optimization.

Is this exposure going to lead to your goal? Is it going to increase sales? Will you make back the money you invested? Likely not.

The same can be said for paying to perform shows – while there is some chance you may be able to finesse some merchandise sales, usually your “exposure” is on the same bill as a few other artists and it’s not always the best environment for having a spotlight.

This is especially hitting for artists – who are usually bank rolling their whole program on their own.

While better funded than the indie artist, the small business should also be cautious about paying to sit on the panel or to showcase a product. While you might have the expenses – ask yourself if those funds can be used to better boost your long-term marketing goals.

Any “exposure” whether it’s a shady blog post, or well-proposed advertorial should be met with an understanding how you will see a return on your investment, whether it’s quick or long term ROI.


  • Investing In That Shiny Marketing Toy.

This is the same category as the aforementioned music video. Are you getting a marketing tool just because it’s shiny and someone else is doing it?

The music video is a good example – as it’s not always a necessity. Sometimes a quick visual – like a 30 second promo clip, or a live stream is just as fun and dynamic for your fans.

Other examples may not be a product at all – but maybe excessive partnerships. I know artists that have a manager, a product manager, and a brand director – but they’ve yet to release their first major record! Before you need a manager, you need something to manage.

This isn’t just for my artist audience either.

I’ve known various businesses who have hired way too many moving parts that it just became ridiculous.

A start-up I worked with was looking to outsource their social media: They hired a firm to manage their Facebook ads, another to manage Facebook content creation, then another to manage their Facebook content scheduling and then – they had a customer service team to manage Facebook comments. Talk about overkill!

While you think you may have created a great marketing system – you may have just made life more difficult and/or more costly.


  • Putting Lipstick on a Pig.

Briefly before starting my own company – I was marketing director for a major restaurant company. It was a 70 year old chain – and they brought me on to bring their marketing to the current era.

However – it wasn’t necessarily the marketing that needed help, it was the product. Their largest and most popular time was lunch – but  they mainly served very heavy food. Things such as fried porkchops and roast beef – this is great, but not necessarily something the nurse on his lunchbreak needs before heading back to work. Or the lawyer needs before she goes into her briefing.

It was also cafeteria style – so there were a lot of complaints about food being cold, or fears that it was sitting out too long. The menu changed daily, so marketing a single product was also an issue.

The easiest solution here is to update the menu, right? But no suprise that a 70 year old company is very set in it’s ways. They kept insisting our issue was a marketing one, and not product related.

Instead of fixing the recipes or set-up, they wanted to throw more marketing dollars at it. Which was great for me! Our social numbers went up, our PR was doing great – however slow sales and negative reviews still remained consistent.

In the ultimate act of putting lipstick on a pig – the CEO came in my office swearing that he has “found the answer”!.

“So, Tyler, I think I got it!”

Thinking that he either has a new marketing idea – or maybe a new product idea, I become excited!

“We need to play blues music! Yes, that’s it! If we’re in Memphis we play Elvis, New Orleans – we play brass bands! Mississippi – the blues! This is what we need!”

He was serious. He was very serious. I spent the next 3 weeks – despite my music background and pleading – calling up publishers trying to score licensing deals on.. Elvis tracks. Which I already knew would be madly expensive.

I also knew that Elvis would not make the food taste any better. 

How often are we like that though? No matter what your line of work – putting glitter on it, isn’t going to make it a princess. You can have a beautiful website or a huge budget to buy onto shows – but if your sound sucks, what’s it matter?

You can pay an email specialist and pay for a email automation program to sell your merch – but if your t-shirts are ugly – what’s it matter?

The first focus for your investments – should always be on your product. Invest in the studio and the tools – before you head to the Grammy’s.




how to ensure you’re moving with purpose:


  • Always Question ROI.


Some things are hard to pin-point an ROI. For instance, if you pay for a good publicist and have some good media pick-ups – it may be some time before you see some results from that. But eventually (and hopefully)- due to the quality press coverage and the reputation it’s helped you garner, you’ll land a paid gig, or attract an investor.


Not everything will have a clear-cut ROI, but some things are riskier than others. For instance, paying for product development (like a good producer or designer) may be a better investment than the paid showcase or paid panel spot.

Or – you might have some great merchandise – so maybe you should invest in Twitter ads, or a new email marketing tool – before putting money into your next merch line, or some unrelated project.

Sure – take a leap – but let’s ensure the ground is covered for our basic income streams first.


  • Know The Next Step. 


No matter the industry – this is a leverage game. We often feel as if success is going to look like ABC. It won’t. Sometimes we’ll be on A, then G, then F for a little bit, then back to A and then M for some reason.

This is okay – but understand that each small milestone should be used for leverage. So – if you hire a publicist – you should be thinking:

“Okay, the publicst will get me press interviews, which I can put in my press kit, to further my live performance gigs.”

Or – “The publicist will get me on the Entrepreneur Today podcast – because I know there’s a large investor audience.”

Of course, press is one example. This should also go for your product – okay once it’s ready for public consumption what’s the next step?

  • Ask “What are the vital few tasks”?


There’s a great book called Essentialism by Gregg McKeown in which he discusses how complex we often make our daily work tasks. The mantra throughout the book is, “Identifying the vital few, from the trivial many”.

Often we are writing our Grammy speech – before we even leave the studio. We’re on Step 10 when we haven’t even gotten off of Step 1. Or we’re doing busy work – handing out CDs or putting up flyers – when maybe we should be emailing press or doing something better with our time.

While planning is necessary – we must be careful to fully focus on the task at hand. This may mean ensuring proper stream/sales on a product, before taking it on the road – or adding new features.

This could mean perfecting the product before releasing it at all.

We must realize the vital steps – rather than the ones that we think we “have” to do.





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