This week we chatted via video with founder of Music Launch Summit, and an artist manager, and Australia-native, Steve Palfreyman. Enjoy us talking about launching artists, online marketing, and of course vegemite!
Interview With Steve Palfreyman
STEVE PALFREYMAN INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT
Steven: Hey it’s awesome to meet you in person. I love the site – I’m super excited about it.
Amanda (M4B): You too. So what time is it over there where you’re at?
S: It is now 1 am.
A: Oh wow!
S: It’s been a long day. My first interview today was at 7:30 am.
A: Wow! Very long day!
S: I’ve decided next year, I’m coming to America and I’m going to do all of this on eastern standard time. (laughs)
A: Well that’ll not be quite as bad. (laughs)
S: Yeah…I think it’s uh…I think it’s the only way. I’ve just got so used to doing things at random times, I’m actually having fun with it now. At the beginning it was like, ‘Oh my god I have to get up at 6 and do an interview at 11’. I’m like…ugh. Now I’m having fun with it.
A: So I guess for us… yesterday your 7 am interview would’ve been last night for who ever you had it right?
S: Yep that’s it.
A: Ok. Wow. So can you start out telling us a little bit about yourself? Like what you’re background is? I think I saw that you’re a musician?
S: Yeah. And in fact I was just talking to my band mate just before this call, and he’s been killing it on Instagram, and I’m so excited. I’ve thrown him into taking over the social media, and he’s just thriving with it. And he’s not someone that usually would thrive at social media, and I think that’s an important lesson for artists. But…yeah so I’ve been playing with this guy since high school, and we just keep going, with how bands break up, and even our band’s not doing all that much, but we’re still plugging away. I’ve been playing guitar since I was 9 years old. It’s the reason I’m here talking to you…it’s literally the sole reason that we’re here.
A: That’s pretty cool. What kind of music is it?
S: Uh like an indie pop indie rock sort of thing. It’s quite interesting, I think. I’m big on Nine inch Nails, and I love atmosphere in music. So that’s what I get excited…I get excited about pedals, and changing my guitar into different sounds. He’s more of a classic singer-songwriter. (He) used to be a big Coldplay fan. I don’t know if you know the band Something For Kate, is probably a big influence on his writing. We kind of like fused these two pieces together a little bit, so kind of like a bit of that intensity comes in from my angle, and he brings out the singer-songwriter thing which is pretty cool.
A: That’s very cool. So how did you start on the business end? How did you get started in the music industry itself?
S: Out of sheer necessity. So both of us, we’re from Hobart down in Tasmania. Tiny little, well it’s not that tiny – 250,000 people in Hobart. And, earlier on at the beginning, when we’re like 17, 18, It was sort of like, we thought we had something pretty good, and we just wanted to get it out in the world. And I was sort of trying to take notice of what was happening… and I just hated the idea of having to give our music away to other people. Or, actually even more than that, just relying on something we couldn’t control to give us the hope and possibility of success. So I started looking out for other things. And Jean Le Jarque(?) was probably like the first person I noticed doing things with online marketing and actually making a living from his music with it. And that fascinated me so I started following what he was doing, and it kind of branched from there. It just kept going, kept exploring, and kept trying to find more places that I could sink my teeth into in the business side of things. And I’m not a business guy like naturally, really. I just find it fascinating, because the more you dive into something like that, it started to feel the same way as when I was learning guitar. Like, it’s a bit uncomfortable, this is a bit weird, but I feel like it’s a good thing so I’m just going to keep going with it. And then I found some, like working on a lot of different projects, it started to feel like, ‘hey this is actually kind of cool’. There’s some really interesting stuff out here.
A: It appears to me that you’re also a bit of an internet marketer. I’m wondering how you got started with that side of it. A little bit later I’m going to ask you a couple of questions… you had a couple of similarities with things that we do online. I thought that was really cool.
S: Yeah. I’m so excited to learn more about what you’re doing. And work together. That’s one of the tings I’m so pumped about with the summit, really. It’s just like bringing…there’s so many of us doing similar things and I think that’s amazing. In the beginning I thought that might be a competition, in the same way I think an artist often thinks that can be a competition, but it’s not. We’re all far better if we work together, but, yeah, I digress. The reason I got into it was, uh after I started, I was managing bands for a while, and I kind of like, I have a bit of an analytical brain, so I find it quite easy to once I dive into something it’s…I enjoy it and then I can go ok cool this works, so I’m going to show you guys how to do this. And I was just doing that with the bands I was managing, and finding a lot more traction from doing online marketing stuff with the bands I was managing, than all the other admin work I was doing on the back end. Like the hours and hours that was going in to basically trying, and they’re all like baby bands, great bands, but…you know, all the work that went in was 90 percent admin and the small little results that were coming out were their online marketing stuff that I was just playing with, and I just wanted to keep going with that. Solely out of trying to find a way to make the internet work for the bands I was managing and my band, then I started to get fascinated well, maybe, I…just kept pursuing it and finding other things that would be similarly fascinating for my own career as well I guess.
A: Ok. So I noticed on your site, you use the phrase, “Connecting the Dots”. We actually have a tutorial on connecting the dots, ourselves. It’s like a thirty minute long tutorial for our artists. But I was just curious what that phrase mean to you?
S: I think that’s so cool, like the similarity is awesome. For me, it was actually it was interesting because, I was…and I’ve got to say, I wonder if there’s something in the back of my – you know your subconscious picks up on things, and then sometimes it comes out again, so…I’ll get back to that in a sec, but- the thing that really connected with me as I was piece – cause I’ve been doing launch strategies for artists for ages, and I was really seeing how there’s like, there’s this place we want to get to and there’s a place we’re at, and there’s just those few little stepping stones that really get there. And the smaller you make that kind of little pathway, the easier it is to figure out that, ‘well, hey we’re just going from here to here’, and that’s all we need to do. We don’t need to do like a billion things, to be able to go from A to B. I want to explore, you know, connecting the dots, between where you’re going and where you’re at. It wasn’t actually that long after I put that up on my personal site, which I know is still there, because I still feel that. We’re always connecting the dots aren’t we? Not long after that, I noticed Andew Epinogue’s ‘dotted music’ thing, and I loved his stuff for like ages before that. And I saw that and I’m like, Oh my god did I accidentally kind of connect the dots between his connecting the dots? (laughs) And I’m like I’ve got too much going on, I can’t change that, and it’s still there. But I –
A: I think it’s a great phrase. I mean it’s very effective to illustrate what you need to do.
S: Totally. And, you’re obviously finding it as well, I guess. It makes so much sense, doesn’t it? When we simplify things, and we just go between these couple little places and find a little pathway there, that’s really what it’s all about?
A: Absolutely. I’ve been checking out the music launch hub, and it seems like it ‘s very supportive, and everybody there is expressing who they are, where they’re at, and getting a lot of support from the rest of the group. And I feel like that’s not necessarily the way it is in the music industry. It’s kind of very competitive, a little bit stressful. How did you manage to craft such a supportive welcoming environment?
S: Because of amazing people…really. First and foremost, it could not be that way without people in there. I am honestly stoked everyday I wake up and see, even if I just see one person posting something – I’m excited; I’m so pumped, I wish I’d started it sooner. To anybody watching this who has an idea about starting something, start it sooner. I had the idea well before I started it, and didn’t have the guts to do it. So just do it, because you never know what’s going to happen. So, the reason – I went in with the intention, a really strong intention of wanting to… I knew what I wanted to make. And if three people came in, that was going to be enough for me. I wanted…if it was just going to be me and you, and a couple of other people there having a chat about bringing the industry together, I would still be there doing it. And I committed to that, and I knew what I wanted to make. And that’s…that’s really it. Everything else has sort of come in, it’s beautiful that there’s a lot of people that also want the same thing. Diving a little bit deeper than that though, I did have a very clear idea about what I wanted people to do before I went in there. Which is totally from Seth Godin’s idea about tribes, setting up a tribe; make a place for people and give them something to do. Give them something to work towards. I was actively out there. I was thinking about what Bernie Sanders was doing at the time. I’ve been really looking at how people start movements, and how like the similarities between us as humans. There’s so many…we’re all so similar. And I just kind of wanted to try and go, well how can I instill some of the things that are within me, and then put them out there, and create a place where…these are some things that are happening, and we’ll evolve it over time, and if you wan to come in, lets go with this framework, and we’ll evolve it together. And I just got started. I just wish I got started sooner.
A: That’s definitely something that the industry could’ve used a few years ago (laughs) – a little sooner. It’s awesome that you started it when you did. So now you’re moving in to starting a summit from having the group. Tell us a little bit about what is the summit?
S: Totally. So the summit idea was actually before the group. And it was basically around …I mean I’d heard of the concept of an online summit, and I thought it would be fantastic to have something like that in the music industry. I’ve been to so many physical conferences, and had such an amazing time, and spent far too much money getting there and getting back and you’re like, ok how do I get to the next one cause I’ve just spent all my money? And you have this thing like…it’s amazing when you’re there, I just wish, every time I get back I wish I could have the same thing again the next day, and the next day after. I wish I could have that support community. So that was a big piece. I also wished I could ask the questions that I wanted to ask as an indie artist. And I know, being there with my friends and stuff, and I’d see them – we’d walk out of sessions together, and they’d go – well we didn’t really get the answers that we’d wanted; that we’re expecting – and I don’ t know if I’ve got all the answers with this summit, but I really hope that they’re answers that indie artists want, cause I’m an indie artist. So the idea was literally around that. And that’s why I thought it’d be good for any like, regardless of where you are in the world, to be able to just walk up, get the inspiration, that might fuel that next idea. And have a support community on the side. That’s the aim mostly, and the reason why it’s free and there’s a VIP thing, is being an artist as well, each session are only up for a few days because I want people to be like, well I’ve got to do this now. I’ve got to go now. And I’ve got to action this. And I honestly think, for anybody’s watching and wanting to come along, watch ten minutes of something at the least, and action it. That’s going to be better than watching 40 hours – don’t try and get to everything. Come and watch some things, and action it, and come into the group and talk about what you’re doing –‘cause that’s where its at. And for the people that are more serious and they can work with me after in the VIP thing, for sure, but either way there’s something for everybody. That’s kind of an extension of I guess where it came from. But that’s why it’s there. That’s why it’s here. It’s here for artists. It’s here for artists to get inspiration. And that’s really it.
A: That’s pretty amazing. So what inspired you to do it online? I mean other than the costs, I guess, and bringing people together from all over the world. I haven’t seen any other online music conferences. I don’t know if I’ve been in the dark, but this is a really cool thing. I would be on them all the time if there were more of them.
S: Interestingly, a couple of speakers have their own summits as well. Suze and Rodney, definitely worth checking out. Their sessions alone are awesome. And they’ve got some…it’s a thing that you see, it has happened, I just haven’t felt…I guess it’s um…I guess I’ve only found about these ones more recently as well. So, I haven’t seen many either. I think there should be more. I think anybody can make something like this, if they have a reason to make it, and theirs is focused on different ones; this is focused on launching music. There’s this streak in me, which is always want to do something bigger than what I’m probably even capable of at first. I’ve had to bring people in to make this happen, even after it started rolling along, ‘cause it’s – this is bigger than even I had imagined it to be really. I do want it to be a physical event as well. I don’t know if I have the guts to talk about what I want it to turn into –
A: That’s actually what our next question is going to be is what your vision is for the future. (laughs)
S: I can’t – (laughs)… maybe I can. Ok, this is super exclusive then. I actually haven’t told anyone apart from like a couple people close to me about what I think this might turn into but…I love the idea of physical conferences like South By, and Mix down here in Australia – like bring people from around the world to one place. I really want to celebrate what’s going on in a community. That’s why I want to start this online, and create a community online globally, and always have that as a central hub. And I really, really love the idea of – honestly if there was two of me, or three of me, there would be shows happening at the same time here in Melbourne. There would be panels happening with the Melbourne speakers, and there’s a bunch of amazing speakers from Melbourne and Australia on here and they would be speaking. I would love to do a TED style event alongside this, and have some independently organized events, so each year while there’s something happening in Melbourne, celebrating Melbourne artists and Melbourne industry people in Melbourne, there’s the online thing there – doing it’s thing, and there’s folks in New York, and maybe folks in Greece. I don’t know – wherever – celebrating their own music communities together. I think it’s a very separated world at the moment but we don’t have to be. We can be very, very community focused, and still have that global kind of thing. So, we’ll see. Now I’ve just let the cat out of the bag, so if anybody steals that idea I will find you (laughs).
A: Well, I think you’re ahead of them already. So you already started, so they’ll be a couple laps behind you (laughs).
S: Or we can work together on it. If someone wants to do it, great I’m in. I can’t do it by myself (laughs).
A: So this is the last question. And we always ask this one. It’s kind of a little bit off-topic, but it’s along the topic of the blog. So, a lot of times we do like little cooking shows with artists, and we combine music and breakfast. So, to keep it consistent, we usually want to know what do you eat for breakfast, and what are you listening to while you’re eating breakfast?
S: So good. And we’ve got some similarities here as well, ‘cause on the summit I’m asking one question at the end with each guest, and I think that’s an awesome way to dive back, and that’s so good. So for me, I’m going to bring out some Ozzy here, but with a twist. Have you had Vegemite?
A: I have not. I’ve read lots about it. I’m curious about it.
S: Yeah, so you feed it to a non-Australian and they usually freak out. There is a good way, like there is an easy way in. So, for me, one of my favorite things; vegemite on toast for me is, yeah I’m classic. But, there’s a really nice twist that I’ve been enjoying for the last few months. You put some avocado on, a little bit of feta cheese, after like a nice piece of sourdough, a lot of butter, vegemite, some avocado, little bit of feta, and then some cracked pepper over the top and you’ve got a good time. You’re set for the day. And I know to anybody watching who has had vegemite, it is far less scary with these other things in there. It is actually quite phenomenal. They’re like…the vegemite, it’s quite salty, so it offsets the avocado. It’s pretty good.
A: We might have to bring you back and do like a little online cooking show of that. That’s quite unique.
S: We could do that. Totally. (laughs) I’m in – I should have had it ready!
A: Yeah we’ll have to get back together with you after the conference.
S: Yeah let’s do it! Let’s do vegemite- how about – you’ll have to get some vegemite and sample it at the same time. We’ll make it together at the same time, and see if you don’t hate it (laughs).
A: I’m definitely curious to try it. I’ve thought about ordering it online a couple of times. But I read it was very salty. I like salty things though. I like odd flavors, so…
S: The trouble with vegemite, it’s just like… it looks terrifying. And if you put any amount on like you would any other spread, you’re done. It’s all over. It’s too much.
A: So it’s just a little bit.
S: Just a tiny bit. A tiny bit is the way to go. Coupled with some Nine Inch Nails and you’re off to a good day.
A: Awesome. Very cool! Well thank you very much for chatting with us, and I’m looking forward to the conference. I will be on.
S: Thank you so much! This has been an absolute pleasure. And I can’t wait to hang out with you there and hang out for the next cooking show.
A: Absolutely! Talk to you soon! Have a nice…night, I guess you’re probably going to bed (laughs)
S: Yeah…now, yeah…end of the day! (laughs)