Let’s see - how can I tell you this easily?
Well - I hate to break the news to you.
Are you sitting down? Because, as far as career choices, I know you really tried to avoid being, for example, a telemarketer or that greeter at your favorite clothing store who comes up and asks, “Hi, may I help you with anything?”
But the truth is, as a songwriter and/or artist ... you - really are that person. Let me explain.
At the end of the day...that’s right - drum roll please and dramatic hamster music - You, YES YOU - ARE IN SALES!
But no need to shed a tear...as we all probably got into music to make sure we weren’t wearing a corporate color coordinated uniform and subject to the normal 9 to 5 slog.
But let me reiterate.
We’re all in S A L E S...even though you might not realize it.
Think of it this way - any interaction you do with another person, be it a live music performance, a meeting, a coffee hang with a co-writer, your co-writing sessions, a new music release, a new music video, and of course - a cold email or cold phone call or elevator pitch - is all S A L E S !
At that point, you’re not really in the songwriting business…
You’re in the SALES business, baby! - And your results are going to be a direct result of how well you sell yourself. And actually - that’s assuming you are making any effort to do any selling - one of the biggest mistakes I see creative people making.
To clarify - we’re not talking about “selling out” here. We’re simply talking about you as an artist / songwriter creating a product and convincing the other person that you … are indeed The Shit!™. And that potential new fans and exclaim - “Yes, give me some of that!” “Take my money please!”
Please note - this also applies when you’re in the room co-writing with someone. That’s right: in your cowrite sessions, it’s your job to “sell” to your co-writer your ideas!
With all that being said, sales is not just “buy my stuff.” Hardly! It’s also selling your ideas on a big picture. For example, are you convincing, can you persuade someone to see your vision, is your song “perfect” for that synchronization opportunity, for that Spotify or Apple playlist or the opening slot for that tour, etc.
Sales is also getting the deal you want…and yes, this also even includes your personal life - including (gasp) dating! Yes, you’re either going to sell that person on the idea - that you’re the most amazing person for them - or not.
And before we go further - let me preempt this entire post with the following personal story:
It’s likely - that no one living on this planet, who is active as a music publisher, has had more rejection, none more “No’s” or non-responses than moi. Yes, me. In doing this for nearly 30 years - I can’t tell you how many songs, cowrites, pitch ideas I’ve sent that got shot down, rejected or tossed aside, dismissed etc. You can’t take it personal...because, look, not everyone can be as brilliant as your own self with that vision. (LOL). Plus, it’s also often a numbers game.
But back to the crux of this post… everything we do… It’s all about S A L E S. And stay tuned on how you can become the best sales person for yourself.
But for now - let me guess. SALES is likely your kryptonite. Something you want to avoid, and hand off to someone, right? But just work with me here and let’s change our mindset for a moment about the concept of sales. Because “sales” is actually really incredible. The power of persuasion is incredible.
If you can get good at sales…then SALES can buy you a house… SALES can put you on tour… SALES can get you that coveted playlist!
Think of it this way: an artist with a good song, who can sell better than you can, is likely going to get that playlist position slot on Spotify way before your amazing song, if you have no “sales” or push behind it.
After all, if you end up hiring a publicist or a digital marketer taking on some of these “sales” responsibilities, you are still going to have to SELL YOURSELF to that firm, on the premise that a) you’re a great potential client and b) you can deliver and c) that you can afford their services in the first place!
So, let’s take this “sales” concept seriously. Let’s flip the script on what you’re doing as an artist and songwriter in the concept of sales - and reframe this - that sales is COOL! Yes, it’s cool to buy a Million Dollar (or multi million dollar - hey, let’s not upper limit ourselves) dream house. Even more so - it’s cool to not have to worry about money ever again.
Enter Ryan Tedder. (Ryan, I hope you don’t mind me praising you, here).
I’m not sure what Ryan will think if he reads this, but I want to preface that the following is written via my own personal experience with Ryan - and the below is an extreme compliment to him.
I signed Ryan Tedder at Kobalt Music Publishing around 2007. Back then, Ryan was just literally getting started. He had his band OneRepublic - he had “Apologize” that existed as a demo (unreleased) and was just getting his first “holds” (i.e. interest on songs) and “cuts” (aka recordings) as a songwriter/producer.
There’s a ton I’ll say about Ryan - obviously he’s a quadruple + threat, a ridiculously amazing artist, vocalist, songwriter, producer, performer, multi-instrumentalist and more.
What everyone overlooks, however - is that Ryan is one of the best sales people in the music business. Period.
And whether or not Ryan realizes this - in my experience working with him over 10 years - I noticed a number of complimentary things, which may be applied to yourself.
In sales - or if you are an entrepreneur (which you are) - you have to BELIEVE in your product through and through. 1000%. If you’re just lukewarm or “so-so” on something - or don’t believe in the product yourself, you won’t be able to convince others. This is versus the supreme excitement you have for that new song or beat or EP, which you have no doubts is INCREDIBLE and maybe the best thing anyone’s heard. This all shows up in your energy level, micro-expressions and body language. Can you confidently and truly say: “I have the best song you’ll hear this year,” or “This is the best song I’ve ever written!” - and for it to TRULY resonate - at least to yourself? For those executives who have ever been presented a song from Ryan - you might reminisce with a smile on how Ryan presents his songs.
Even when Willard Ahdritz, the Chairman and Founder of Kobalt, and I met with Ryan Tedder for the first time, it was apparent that Ryan had a belief system that was UNSTOPPABLE. Yes, even when he was just starting out in the early days…what Ryan broadcast to the world was a belief and mindset that “I’m going to be one of the biggest songwriters in the world.” And you know what? He was right.
** HINT: Keep reading towards the end of the post for some keys and techniques to get you on the path to having the right mindset and belief system. This is perhaps even more important than being the most talented person in the room. And of course, having both makes you invincible and unstoppable in achieving your goals.
OK, let me preface that word “relentless”- (and hey, no one wants restraining orders issued, LOL) - but taking a note from Hal Elrod’s book “The Miracle Equation”, I would encourage you to write down the following “success” equation: “Unwavering Faith + Extraordinary Efforts = Miracles.” The additional part of this is also vitally important. And that footnote is, “to be emotionally unattached to your results.” Let me explain.
Hal Elrod is a self published author and discovered this “Miracle Equation” while promoting and marketing his book “The Miracle Morning.” Hal is well known to have spent more than 2 years relentlessly and persistently getting every podcast, interview, etc. he could to promote his first book. He was persistent and unwavering. Even when Hal would see his sales go down months at a time after putting in daily massive efforts, he kept his nose to the grindstone and stayed “emotionally unattached” to those lackluster results.
You see there’s lots happening under the surface (like a tsunami) that we can’t see, feel or measure. It’s daily energy being broadcasted into the field - and it takes time to build up one fan, one reader, one listener at a time. The result is today - Hal sells over a million copies of “Miracle Morning” each year… self published! Here’s a snapshot of Hal Elrod’s relentless pursuit in marketing his book and the results. It takes time!
In Ryan Tedder’s case - or should we say inclusively as OneRepublic, Ryan’s amazing band - a lot of people just have no idea about the behind the scenes efforts the band put in the early days. This is literally back in the days of MySpace and, as I recall, OneRepublic holds the award in my opinion (if there ever was one) of direct marketing by a band. (NOTE: Chainsmokers are up there too, who did a similar push as remixers, with building their relationships during the height of the Hype Machine). But back to Ryan Tedder… this is the story. From what I remember and in my memory, OneRepublic used MySpace to directly interface, one by one, manually adding / requesting new fans and followers, responding to every message through the platform and personalizing it. I seem to remember (?) they all took turns in the band doing this but it was a diligent practice and effort - like a 9 to 5 in its own right. I’m sure it was a massive effort - and they ultimately got massive results using the tools that were available to them.
So let’s digest that. One of the biggest artists and writers / producers in the world is not just one of the most talented in the world - he’s also, not coincidentally one of the best sales people in the world of music business. And that’s a cool thing! He sells his ideas, his artistry, his vision, and more.
The difference between Ryan and say, an average or even great songwriter who ignores this crucial “sales” part, is tremendous. In fact, one will have a superstar career - the other will really have no career.
I’ve first hand seen the differences between Ryan and say, other extremely talented writers, who, when it came to sales - pounding the pavement, staying in touch with A&Rs and taking meetings, attending key industry events, selling their ideas - would just say to me, “Well, Benjamin, that’s just not my thing. Sorry, I don’t do that.”
And unfortunately, many of the people who have that mindset … literally, 10 years later, they just - well, they aren’t even in the music business anymore.
And yes, to a certain extent, the sales part - sure, it’s the publisher’s job, the manager’s job, etc. But you need to be part of that grand design as well.
Is this starting to make sense? Yes, it’s about your talent. But CAN YOU SELL? AND WILL YOU SELL WITH THE SAME LEVEL OF PASSION THAT YOU’VE PUT INTO MAKING YOUR ART?
There is a huge difference between Creative Person “A” and Creative Person “B.”
And I take that to heart. While I’m proud of my own #1 released book “How Do I Get A Record Deal? Sign Yourself!” - which you can get for free here or on Amazon, or my Teachable courses, and this blog post you are reading - it’s a personal struggle for me to get excited about sales and marketing. Word.
Yah - that’s right! Personally, I don’t want to spend the time to market and sell these items. I feel icky about it. It’s a drag; it’s not fun; it’s not my unique ability. I don’t want to come up with a sales funnel, digital marketing plan, ad spend, ad copy, banner ads, email marketing, yadda, yadda, yadda. Uggggh!!
Yet - I have to switch my beliefs and mindset to “This is exciting!” And also sell myself and find others who can help me take on those tasks. And how can I make this exciting?! What kind of creative twist can I do to make my marketing original, unique and commentable?!
At the end of the day - it’s my responsibility! I have to have a Jocko Willnik “Extreme Ownership” over my results.
For instance, I have to reframe this “sales” process as being E X C I T I N G !!! You know - that this is how I’m going to earn my goal of $10,000 / month of passive income. Sales is going to buy me a house! Sales is going to get important information and tools in the hands of other creative people and empower their worlds! Sales is going to empower and build my brand! Sales is going to recycle and transpire this energy into everything I do!
Said another way: if I can make $x amount of passive revenue a month, this will allow me to have more capital for signings, take on a bigger and better creative space / office, which attracts new and exciting clients, employees, creating more revenue and opportunities for my company, my employees, my clients and myself!
It’s an upward spiral!
Or, you know, I could just say, “Meh - sales isn’t for me.”
Yes… SALES. Get into it. Be excited about it. Pump yourself up about SALES!!!
And yes, look, I also acknowledge at a certain point - it’s a cooler look to be elusive and mysterious. Like, I’m sure Thom Yorke or Drake are not personally emailing curators for playlist support, right?! But hey, you’re not Thom or Drake yet.
As mentioned, there are some takeaways and exercises here at the end of the post, as well as a COUPON CODE, BENJAMIN20 which you can use right now for 20% off my Teachable Hit Songwriting and DIY Label Release Plan courses.
But let me share another story / epiphany with you. Do you know Robert Kiyosaki? He’s the guy behind the incredible book, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” which has been and forever will be the #1 perennial best seller in the finance category.. Amazing book.
I totally credit Robert for impressing upon me the importance of S A L E S.
In the book, Robert tells an insightful story. He was doing an interview with someone who was also an aspiring author, but how should we say - more of the “high brow” sort. This interviewer was a little “bent out of shape” (and jealous) that Robert had, at the time, the #1 Best Selling book on the New York Times Best Sellers list. After the interview, the interviewer selfishly expressed their frustration to Robert - “Hey, you know, this really isn’t a great ‘written’ book.” They further said something to the regards of: “It’s not fair you have the #1 best selling book.” And Robert replied “You know - you’re 100% right. I’m not a great writer. It’s not called the New York Times “Best Writers” list. It’s called the New York Times “Best Selling” list. I’m an OK writer - but I’m incredible in sales.
Mic Drop. Boom.
And sales - it’s a lifelong pursuit. And sadly, sales is not really taught anywhere! I went to Berklee College of Music, and no matter which college or school or program you went to, there was likely not a “sales course” on how you can sell… that is, unless you were a Sales or Marketing major, right? But, there’s always time to learn - and you should always be learning.
Remember, “great things never came from comfort zones.” So let’s be comfortably uncomfortable - always. If you’re not uncomfortable - you’re not growing. And “if you ain’t learning, you ain’t earnin’!”
So, jumping back to Robert Kiyosaki on being a “best selling” writer and not a great “writers writer” … does this translate to real life? To the music business? HELL, YES!
As mentioned, here are some takeaways to empower your sales! Let’s get it…!
1) If you have a publishing deal, a record deal, have a manager, etc. - I would not recommend for you to rely solely on “your person” to handle sales for you! The execs behind the desk can only do so much for you without actually being you! On that note - I’d like for you to please ask yourself… How can I personally amplify my results? Part of this is you really need to be part of the sales team and ENGAGED. What do I mean by that?
Thus - here is a homework assignment for yourself:
2) Every week you should identify a minimum of 5 relationships, where you want to start a connection. Internally at my publishing company, Brill Building, we call this our “farm club”).
For yourself, this could be co-writers, producers, A&R people, music supervisors, and artists you want to link up with.
Now, you might not be DMing Taylor Swift directly, but hmm… maybe you will? But if you’re a songwriter - writing for other artists, we could look at an artist you want to connect with who has, say, 500,000 or 5 million monthly Spotify listeners. Perhaps you think their trajectory is such that they’ll be the next Taylor Swift in a few years (yes, part of your job is also identifying these new artists!!).
Or maybe you’re looking to co-write with a writer or producer who’s above your profile? Can you identify and reach out to 5 of those people per week? Maybe you’re a hip-hop producer and have great beats, and you want to reach out to established and/or new rappers to write on your tracks?
Maybe you want to research Apple and Spotify editorial curators and start a relationship and share your latest single? There’s no excuse to not be in their mix.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “that just isn’t cool”; “i don’t feel cool doing that”; “they probably get a bunch of beats from other people already”; “they already are working with x, y, z producer”; “my profile isn’t big enough” - hmm, hey pally pal - how many excuses are you going to come up with here?!
And yes, here we go again - negative self talk and limiting beliefs. Now, it might be possible that 20 of your DMs or outreach efforts will never get a response. However, it only takes 1 “yes” for your life to change.
What if you took on this practice the whole year - that’s approximately 250 potential new relationships. If your songs or beats are really great - won’t someone reply?! At the very least you’ll start getting your “rejection calluses” growing. Yes, you’ll get used to rejection - it’s no big deal (trust me).
Start selling and start selling now. And do your sales with context. OK, what is “context?”
3) Context is King and Queen. What do I mean by that? Whenever I cold email someone - and I do this every other day - I provide some context so they know - within the very first 2 sentences who I am, some social proof, credits, etc. Then, I tell them why I’m getting in touch.
I also make sure my subject line is appealing, interesting, provides potential value for them - and maybe even something a little left of center. HINT: There’s a reason why click bait works. Your subject line is the equivalent of Clickbait - make sure it feels like it’s undeniable to open that email!
For instance, you don’t want to DM someone and say “Hey ____, check out these beats I made - they’re hot. Let me know!”
Brrrrzzzzzzz (Gong Buzzer).
Keep in mind that most people are also very suspicious of links and phishes. Make sure if you’re dropping a link that it’s a “naked” link (i.e. not hyperlinked) and a link that is familiar i.e. Spotify, Apple, Soundcloud, SongSpace, Box, Disco, etc.
A better way to make this pitch +1000% more effective is to add a few sentences of context. I’ve written a few short and sweet templates below. For example:
A Songwriter/Producer (aka “You”) to Artist Pitch Instagram DM
Hey _____, I love your last single “xyz.” I just finished Berklee College of Music, moved to L.A. and Benjamin Groff at Brill Building just signed me. I know you obviously work with some of the best - but I would love to connect and made these 2 beats for you. If you have a sec to check them out - it would be amazing. www.soundcloud.com/newproducer/amazing-beats. Tx!
Or maybe, you’re trying to sell yourself to a music supervisor:
Music Supervisor Pitch
Hi _______, I loved your work on the show __________. Every song choice is perfect. I know you get tons of new music, but my artist project, _______ just got a Fresh Finds Indie on Spotify, and we recently crossed a million monthly listeners. I’d love it if you have a second to check out our latest single “Song Title” on your radar for ______________ or a new show you’re working on. Here are also our next unreleased singles on deck __________________________ (link).
Boom. (And of course you want to make sure that the context you’re providing is indeed true).
In both examples - you’re actually providing some value. How? Do you think that this music supervisor or that artist above, is not going to want to check and see if they’ve hit the lottery - discovering you?! That’s their job! There’s no way that I would not click on that link myself! If you can make our job easier for us - that’s incredible.
Now, that all being said, a big part of this is having the right ammunition, i.e. a great song, some great initial context to make that kind of a pitch.
4) It’s Your Relationship! Here’s another key point and takeaway. If I or one of my employees or your manager, makes an introduction to you to say, a collaborator, a Spotify curator, or an A&R person, and you have rapport with this person… well, this is your relationship now. Use it! These people, assuming you are providing massive value, want to get songs directly from the artists and songwriters. In other words - foster those relationships once you have them (and make sure you have the songs that count when you do use that relationship)... and on that note, and maybe the most important item in this list is…
5) Bring Value! Don’t Take Value! If you are always that creative person that’s bringing value, opportunity, amazement, connection, etc. to someone - be it a film supervisor, another executive, an artist etc. - then your email / text / phone call will usually always be the first to be answered and focused with attention. There’s a huge chasm between being a “giver” and a “taker.” If you’re “giving” excitement and amazing music to your contact vs. “taking” their time and a distraction - you’ll be a valuable asset. In other words, make sure you have “the shiz” when you are reaching out.
6) Study Sales! The #1 thing here is to improve and work on your own beliefs and mindset. At the bottom of this post I’m going to provide some references. These are books I’ve read or programs I’ve studied, which I’m always re-reviewing. Some of these are not sales books at all! Remember what we said in the beginning of this post: a key part of sales is your own belief system and values.
Question: Can you work on your beliefs, limited beliefs, false stories you tell yourself, mindset, self talk, and more - as much as you’re working on perfecting the perfect cold email or the new demo you just made?
You bet. In fact - I would move this (working on mindset and beliefs) to the front of the list.
For example, I’m admittedly a classic (or maybe even an extreme) introvert. I’m the person who opted out in 4th and 5th grade for mandatory school performances and the like. I’ve had to work on this - a lot. So your excuse is really no excuse.
7) Was Prince his Own Manager? If you feel super weird about it, it wouldn’t be the first
I've heard of an artist or a writer creating their own manager persona with a separate website, email, domain, the whole thing - who was “representing” themselves - but appeared as a legit manager. There are no rules here. And by the way - it’s rumored that Prince, even in his heyday, was doing the same thing. An executive would be emailing with some new manager Prince had - and behind the computer was Prince himself.
8) “Strange and amazing things happen when you open your mouth” - Neil Strauss. Fortunately, I’m in the circle of some amazing people at the top of their game. One of them is New York Times 10x Best Selling Author, Neil Straus. This is something Neil instilled in me directly. And it’s true. But as artists and songwriters and creative people, it’s likely that we’re all potential candidates for “Introvert of the Year” awards. We all have negative self-talk whispering in our ear, i.e. “Do you think they really want to hear from you?” “They’re too busy.” “Why would they take your call or reply to your email?
Removing this negative self-talk is a lifelong pursuit. It may or may not be possible to get rid of entirely. We all have it! In fact, I just spoke to a CEO of a global company, who confided in me that she has “imposter syndrome”, i.e. that she doesn’t feel she is actually talented enough to do the job at hand - even though she’s an absolute ace, deserves that title, and was in the Billboard Power 100 Executives earlier in the year.
But can you flip this self talk? We can practice! Catch yourself in a negative self-talk pattern and reframe it... like all the time. Instead of negative self-talk like, “This person is going to think i’m a nobody for introducing myself to them” - instead reframe this to: “This is going to be their lucky day! I’m a perfect match for their roster!” “I have the perfect song for this artist.” “They’re going to hear my song and it’s going to change their world! - It’s perfect for the playlist they curate!”
Remember that #1 rule, which is you have to believe it yourself.
Rule #2 is to have the “goods” in the first place.
9) Start Now. Lastly, what’s something you can do today as an action point? We have to
start somewhere. They say “the perfect time to plant a tree is 25 years ago and the other perfect time is “right now.” So get started!
What’s something you can do right now to get started on your sales journey? It might be starting with getting inspired or learning about sales, persuasion, rewriting your belief systems and mindset, or really - just doing it!
Lastly, I mentioned some resources, which I’d highly recommend in the sales category. I couldn't recommend these more highly:
“The Miracle Equation” by Hal Elrod
“Personal Power II” by Tony Robbins - this is a 30 day course… you can find the cassettes, yes cassettes on eBay for about $50… or you can take a Tony Robbins in person event at $500-$5,000 a pop. But either way, it’s worth it’s weight in gold. Oh, and if you’re really lucky, the Personal Power 30 day challenge is still on YouTube here.
“Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself” by Joe Dispenza. Hands down this is one of my Top 3 life changing books of all time. HINT: I’ll see you in the quantum realm!
“7 Minute Mindset” by Nick Cownie. Nick is one of my personal coaches, a global leader in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) and you can get this book for free right now! www.7minutemindset.com
“Influence: The Power of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini. In this book you’ll learn the power of persuasion from body language to secret embedded commands in language to the underlying language of human interaction and how people get what they want. Please use it in a moral context!
Sales Courses by Jordan Belfort - yes, him - you know, Jordan Belfort, the actual Wolf of Wall Street. These are awesome and I highly recommend them!
Lastly, anything you can do to learn NLP (neuro linguistic programming) I would highly suggest.
I earned my own NLP Practitioner Certificate - and I can tell you there’s powerful stuff here - not just in dialoguing and selling and persuading others, but in self-development - and even “selling yourself’ on new beliefs, mindset and programs to serve yourself better! Consequently, this also can involve discarding old beliefs no longer serving you. For more on this I would check out the resources above from Nick Cownie and Tony Robbins.
Tony Robbins - People Buy Feelings and States - Not Things
So yes, repeat it again with me - S A L E S! S A L E S! S A L E S! Encourage yourself to become not just the best artist and best writer, etc you can be - but to be amazing at S A L E S!
Sell your ideas, sell how great you are, sell YOU and your amazing energy.
When you make a sale, you win someone over. When you win someone over, they’ll likely share that energy with others. And…
Sales is exponential. These exponential returns will come back to you directly, encouraging and empowering you to create even more creative and audacious pieces of work and aspirational goals.
So the next time you go shopping for a new pair of jeans (or whatever), and that sales person comes over and asks, “May I Help You?” - just remember you both are in the same profession. SALES! The difference is one is selling jeans and toasters, the other (you) is selling music, dreams, changes of state, emotion, love, energy and magic!
There’s something to be learned there!
Embrace Sales - Love Sales. And if you do it right…
Sales will love you back x 1,000,000.