Episode #106: Starting Over: A Coaching Session with an Artist Who Once Sold Millions of Records


Imagine selling millions of records only to end up starting from scratch in an entirely new music industry. This is the story of J.R. Richards and our SMA student guest joining C.J. this week. J.R. was the vocalist for the 90s band Dishwalla, which had two Gold and Platinum albums, and also won Billboard Music and ASCAP Awards. 

Now as a solo artist with a mainstream sound, C.J and J.R. tackle how to find his audience through other ways than sub-genre targeting. If your music is more mainstream and you are trying to find your audience, this is the episode for you!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Introduction to J.R. Richards
  • Finding old fans vs. making new fans
  • What is your personal brand?
  • Finding your audience as a mainstream artist
  • Focus through resolve
  • Having an ultimate objective
  • Expanding and targeting key audience demographics
  • Culture-based niche marketing
  • Writing emotionally focused copy
  • The almighty play button
  • Juxtaposition to find new ideas


“It’s one thing to understand everything theoretically, it’s another thing to apply to your own music business, and connect with your fans, and figure out how that monetization needs to work for you.” – @metalmotivation [0:10:10]

“I love the idea of being resolved because resolved means there’s no second-guessing, and I don’t want to see someone second guess themselves when they need to be marketing.” – @metalmotivation [0:18:43]

“I really don’t care what your logo looks like because for all intents and purposes, the only logo that people are seeing is a profile pic and a blue name.” – @metalmotivation [0:46:11]

“I’m actually excited about going back through the program again just because it’s a lot, and you have to kind of mature with it in order to fully appreciate what’s going on. It’s like reading a book twice that you really enjoy. You’re going to get a lot out of it the second time around.” – @JRRICHARDS [0:54:28]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

J. R. Richards Facebook Page — https://www.facebook.com/JRRICHARDSMUSIC/

The Online Musician 3.0 — https://explodeyourfanbase.com

Book a Call With Us — http://www.CallSMA.com

The Inner Circle — https:savvymusicianacademy.com/innercircle

Click For Full Transcript

00:21 CJ: All right. You and I have never spoken before, correct?

00:25 JR: No.

00:25 CJ: Okay.

00:25 JR: This would be the first.

00:27 CJ: I heard some of the music. Wow.

00:30 JR: Awesome.

00:30 CJ: Oh, man. You are one incredible vocalist.

00:37 JR: Thanks. I appreciate that.

00:39 CJ: I see how you barely got in this group. And what are you doing in the UK with that American accent?

00:51 JR: Oh, well my wife is British, and my wife, she’s a film director.

00:57 CJ: Oh, good.

00:58 JR: And we were living in California, that’s where we met for quite a long time, and we have four boys that are either some of them are dual citizens, some are just British, one is just American. It’s kind of weird. It depends on where they were born. And one of them is special needs. Highly special needs.

01:22 CJ: Oh, okay.

01:23 JR: So we were caring for them in the States, and it was okay for a while, but then it just became so expensive. We decided to move here just because healthcare is free.

01:35 CJ: Ah.

01:37 JR: And it’s excellent. Just to give you an example, even with health insurance, we have been at a hospital for a couple of months and we were paying … We figured out we paid about $2,000 a day above what we were paying in insurance. So we were like, “There’s no way that we can maintain this.”

01:56 CJ: Amazing.

01:59 JR: Hence the move.

02:01 CJ: Yeah. Wow.

02:02 JR: Yeah.

02:03 CJ: Well, shoot. Bless you, guys. Man, I know that’s a lot to carry, but hey, if you’re not going to be in the States, UK or Australia I guess would be the place to be.

02:17 JR: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, indeed. So yeah. It’s not a bad place. We live in a little village in Oxfordshire, and the house is … It was the old dairy house for the big manor house that’s on the village property. If you think like Downton Abbey, that kind of thing.

02:34 CJ: Right.

02:35 JR: In fact, that’s our address. There’s no street name and no number. It’s just dairy house.

02:41 CJ: That’s hilarious, man.

02:43 JR: Yeah. It’s crazy.

02:44 CJ: Yeah. So you’re a long way from the US suburbs?

02:48 JR: Yes. Yes, I am. I am. Quite a ways away. So we’re about 45 minutes, 50 minutes from London, but yeah.

02:57 CJ: Well, good. All right. Well, tell me a little bit … Obviously, again you’re an accomplished vocalist and all of that, very experienced in the music business, and as you know, the music industry has changed dramatically. So give me just a little bit of brief history about your particular music career, what’s brought you to this place in terms of working with Leah, and when did she first appear on your radar, et cetera?

03:22 JR: Yes. Absolutely. Yeah. Well, I’ve been singing and writing songs forever, so I was in a band, an American brand, that got signed back, and this is a while now. ’93 to A&M Records, and our first album, we had a number one hit and sold a couple of million albums. We went on to make a second one, it did pretty well, and then got stuck in the big Universal PolyGram merger.

03:53 CJ: Right.

03:53 JR: And we were put on Interscope Records, but they didn’t have any … They just didn’t have the staff to work what we were doing, and we weren’t initially there, so that created problems. So we begged to get out of that deal, and then signed with another independent label in the early 2000s, and put out a record that did pretty well, and did a couple of more albums after that. Then around 2005, a couple of guys in the band had left, and I think I was pretty much done at that point too, and just wanted to be … It’s time to be dad more than being on the road all the time and just had to do the solo thing.

But I have to be quite honest. I left music for a little bit, and then slowly crept back towards it around 2008, 2009, and put out my first solo album in 2009, and I’ve done four solo albums now.

04:50 CJ: Okay.

04:50 JR: So-

04:51 CJ: Since 2009?

04:52 JR: Since 2009. Yeah. So, I’ve been busy musically, but I did take a break there. But back in the day when we were signed to A&M, it was all go, man. You’re either writing an album, you’re recording an album, or you’re on tour, and there really was no break because I was writing all the songs for the band. Anyway, so it was pretty crazy, and then during this time where I’m trying to figure out, “Okay. I’m trying to figure out how to reinvent myself.” I come from a very old school environment in terms of how the music industry operates. It’s completely damaged, I’m catching the tailspin so to speak as it’s about to hit the ground and watched it the ground, and wasn’t part of that, and then watched a lot of friends that were very talented just give up, and I’ve been pushing hard to try to stay doing this. It’s one of the few things I know how to do well, then I started seeing Leah show up around … Gosh, it must’ve been around 2014 maybe.

It was really early on, and I think what caught my ear was her understanding of what the industry was, and how it was changing just because I have so many friends that are still in it, and so many friends that have left, and have been involved in all aspect of it too from the major label side of it to be a complete, total independent artist, and watching distribution and everything change. So, I was really actually quite impressed at this person who’s never been … She was never on a label or big part of some group that is managing to pull this off on her own, and I was like … So, I paid attention to it. I said, “I’ve got to take a look at what she has to say.”

It might have been like Tom. Certainly it was Tom 2.0, and yeah. Then went from that to the leap thing, and what you guys offer there, the deciding thing blows my mind because for somebody like me who’s having to reinvent himself, I’ve sold millions of albums, but it’s not like I can go out and do that now. I don’t have that who environment that created that. It just doesn’t exist anymore. So, I can still sing, and I can still write songs. I’m just trying to figure out how to fit. But I don’t need to sell a million albums to still owe money to a label. I’d be happy to sell 50,000 and actually be comfortable.

07:24 CJ: You’d sell 50,000 and make more than the person who’s in a band selling 5 million albums?

07:30 JR: Oh yeah. Easily. Easily. God, if I had sold 100,000 album, I would be a freaking millionaire. Ridiculous. So much less effort because to go out and support that amount of people buying your albums, and all the things that you have to do in order to keep everybody happy, and all the commitments that are involved with that, it’s a 24 hour, seven day a week job, which I just can’t do anymore. But you don’t have to these days. It’s really interesting to see how things change. It’s going to go further, the direction that Leah has been spearheading. So [crosstalk 00:08:13]. What’s that?

08:14 CJ: Whether everybody likes it or not?

08:16 JR: Yes. I know, and I know a lot of people who don’t like it, and I know a lot of people that ignore it, and a lot of people that just don’t believe it even though it’s happening.

08:26 CJ: Yeah, because the whole industry has shut down. Even down to your local pub. So even if you’re just an acoustic player looking to pick up … You might not even be able to go into the tunnels and the subways-

08:40 JR: Yeah.

08:40 CJ: … and put a hat out these days.

08:44 JR: Yeah. You’re absolutely right. I was supposed to be on tour in the Philippines, and all of Southeast Asia, Australia, US. I had to cancel everything, and that was a pain. So then it was even more if I’m like, “All right. How am I going to get myself financially through this time?” So, I’ve been digging deeper into what the lead course has taught me, which is amazing. You can go so deep with it. So, I have a long ways to go.

09:20 CJ: And I think everybody, your first obviously taken aback by Leah’s story, and of course, in your case with a truckload of kids, it’s good to see someone else with a truckload of kids who is managing that as well, doing it without touring, which was her choice at the time, the choice of everybody now, not even Madonna can tour. So everybody is essentially on lockdown. But then you do get into the deeper parts of the information and people think, “Oh well, the secrets must lie beyond the paywall.” So in this elite program, I’ll figure out the apps, and the tricks, and the techniques of how Leah truly does this, and then I’ve seen dozens of people go through elite, and they’re no different than when they were before Tom 2.0.

10:10 JR: Right.

10:10 CJ: Because it’s one thing to understand everything theoretically, it’s another thing to apply to your own music business, and connect with your fans, and figure out how that monetization needs to work for you and all of that. So, I think that’s where a lot of people get obviously challenged, and so it’s not just, “Hey, if I pay enough money for a course, the more expensive it is, the more I’m guaranteed that I’m going to be successful.” No. I’m not any more than someone who goes to Berkeley is guaranteed anything. You can go to Harvard Medical School. That doesn’t mean you’re going to be a great doctor or get hired as a doctor at all. You could be working at a department store.

There’s a PhD glut, there’s an MD glut out there of people who are not doing what they need to be doing. So, I think that’s what brings people to these types of one on one sessions where we can look at somebody’s stuff and see where the challenges are. Maybe where they want to go, maybe they were in the reinventing process, personal branding. So where are you at right now?

11:12 JR: That’s a good question. Well, I think a lot of it is I’m kind of at a place where I’m trying to … Well, I guess I’m trying to do two things. I’m trying to reconnect with people that had brought albums of mine before in the past, just to let them know that I’m still here, and I’m still making music, if they’re interested. Then there’s this whole idea of actually going out and finding new people, even though I’m not being played on the radio, and those kinds of things don’t happen anymore, and this idea that you can go and find your audience do social media. It’s pretty amazing.

So those are really the two things. I don’t know who much time I should spend trying to find old fans. Should I focus more on trying to find new people, and therefore, find the old people too?

12:09 CJ: Right. Well, what’s your thinking, the logic behind why you’d want to reconnect with old fans? Not that it’s bad. I don’t have an opinion now, but what’s your motive or reason?

12:19 JR: I guess is just because I already have a relationship with them to some degree. I don’t know. Certainly back in the day when you’re selling albums, it was very one way. So nowadays, somebody buys an album and I give them a personal thank you. That’s before that connection ever happens. I guess I was thinking initially, that’s a good way. It’s the low hanging fruit. Those people have already vested themselves into something you’ve done.

12:45 CJ: Right.

12:45 JR: But I don’t know.

12:47 CJ: Yeah. When you say old fans, we’re talking about 1993 kind of old fans?

12:52 JR: Well, if we’re selling them, it’s probably at ’95, but yeah. From ’95 to 2005.

12:58 CJ: Right, right. Yeah. So if we take out the idea of old fans, and we say, “Okay. Well, what’s the desired outcome?” Because old fans are a means to an end, not the end itself.

13:11 JR: Right.

13:12 CJ: You’re not trying to see where they’ve been, and how are things with the kids. You’re trying to get to a warmer market is what you’re after?

13:21 JR: Yeah.

13:22 CJ: So in other words, if we can create the warm market just as fast, or easier, or cheaper, then reconnecting old fans with a new audience, then hey, who cares who it is.

13:33 JR: Right. Exactly. That makes sense. Yeah.

13:35 CJ: So we can’t put character in the cash register. That’s going to be our starting point.

13:38 JR: Right, right.

13:41 CJ: So what we want is a warmer marketing because we feel like a warmer market is going to be more apt to purchase music, right?

13:50 JR: Sure. Yeah.

13:52 CJ: Okay. Yeah. So in that regard, we can start with any aspect of what Leah teaches and take that approach. I think the easiest approach is to go after whoever is the easiest to go after. I’m not sure how exactly you would track down the old fans so to speak outside if there’s a … Are there Facebook pages or anything from your band that are still around?

14:17 JR: Well, that’s the thing. Well, they used to label it when you would choose your targeting because I was in this band called Dishwalla. You can target people who liked Dishwalla. But I think the last year when Facebook went in and thinned out a lot of those likes, or genres, or names of different things if you’re below a certain threshold, they took you out of the searching engine.

14:44 CJ: Yeah. There may be some hunt there. You can always, for grins and giggles, kick around some promotions and just see if there’s any life out there, but the new audience is ready and waiting, so we can go essentially after them. Where do you feel like you are now with your personal brand? What is J.R. Richards about?

15:10 JR: Yeah. That’s another good question. I’m trying to identify that. I do feel like I’m one of those artists that doesn’t have … Because I’m very pop-rock kind of thing. I’m very down the middle of the road. So, I think because I’m in the middle, it’s harder to know how to target people in more of a niche style because I’m not really a sub-genre of anything as much as I…

15:38 CJ: Right. I’m actually glad you said that because I’ve coached now, in this sort of setting, about 40 plus elite students over the past year and a half. It wasn’t intentional. We just did the branding bootcamp thing, and then we made the offer for people to schedule the one on ones. I didn’t think anybody was going to do it to be honest with you, and they came out of the woodwork.

16:04 JR: That’s true.

16:05 CJ: So, I’ve touched basically every genre that you can think of, and some you can’t think of because people have thought up some really, really wild and crazy stuff when it comes to music. So, I’ve had myself stretched as a branding guy. But one of the great things coming out of it is all of the guys and gals that were, as you described, middle of the road. Mainstream. And I really, really have learned to appreciate that because I think a lot of the artists get stuck because Leah’s music style and things was so genre-specific, the micro-niche makes perfect sense. The science works on paper with her, harder once you move it over to, like you said, a more pop-rock kind of thing where it’s radio-friendly. So you’re touching all kinds of people.

So, I’m into heavy metal, so it’s really easy to target all the cultural interests, and behaviors, and all this kinds of stuff.

17:09 JR: Right, right.

17:10 CJ: Because there’s magazines for that. Well, what’s the magazine for pop? I don’t know. It could be any magazine for all we know.

17:18 JR: Yeah, right. 

17:20 CJ: It could be SpongeBob SquarePants for all we know, right?

17:22 JR: Yes, yes.

17:24 CJ: But the one thing that I appreciate about that is that it’s a good thing because that means we don’t have to think about it. I don’t like us thinking about things that stop us because I’ve seen so many get stuck, because they can’t figure out that micro-niche. So, I literally saw a few people over this past year post how they were stuck for months, man. For months on that. So because they’re stuck, they’re questioning themselves. So if you’re questioning yourself, you’re not resolved. And if you’re not resolved, you’re not abandoned into what you should be doing, completely devoted with no holding back. You know what it’s like to be completely abandoned to writing or something, recording. You’re just abandoned.

There’s no, “I wonder if recording is going to feel good today.” No. You just know what you got to do, you’re ready to do it, you know what I mean? Whatever many takes it takes. If it doesn’t work on the 14th take, do you get all upset, and broken hearted, and go have your wife wipe your sweaty brow, and comfort you? No. You understand that the failure was, “I need three more takes. We’re going to get this.” So there’s no questioning. You’re completely abandoned. That’s why I love the idea of being resolved because resolved means there’s no second guessing, and I don’t want to see someone second guess themselves when they need to be marketing, which is a new thing for people to have to do.

18:58 JR: Right, right. Yeah.

19:00 CJ: You’re an artist. You don’t want to be perceived as sales-y and all of these other things, but you can be that way if you’re completely resolved. And when someone is in a genre that’s middle of the road, radio-friendly, then we’re not going to be thinking too much about genre. We’re going to be thinking about something else. So that’s when we step back and we ask the question, “Okay. J.R., what’s the great outcome that you want as an artist?” Because obviously people have to listen to you. You’re not making art for art sake. It’s commercial. It’s to be enjoyed by people in a particular medium whether it’s Spotify, CD, vinyl, whatever.

So you want people to experience the music. So what’s the ultimate outcome? What is it that you want people to get from what you make?

19:57 JR: Well, yeah. I wanted to have to enjoy it. To be an escape, because that’s what it is for me. I enjoyed it, it’s an escape for me, and it’s what music is to me whether I’m listening to it or somebody else is, or doing it.

20:12 CJ: So when you say escape, obviously you’re not writing ambient music. So we’re not talking about people literally in Pink Floyd, acid trip, going off to another place. So these are like mini-escapes?

20:31 JR: Yeah, yeah. I guess it would be, yeah. Actually, it’s funny. I think a lot of the music that I write is rather melancholy, even though I’m not a melancholic person.

20:37 CJ: Right.

20:38 JR: But yeah. Literally such.

20:42 CJ: Well, do me a favor, because that’s very interesting. Develop that for me. Why do you write so much melancholic music?

20:51 JR: That’s a good question. Obviously, it has to do with how I’m a sensitive person, and I think about things a lot. It’s interesting. I think I connect with a lot of … Reside primarily in a male audience, which I think would be the other way around when you make … Have sensitive lyrics, and I get a lot of rock dudes that are like, “Oh, man. Father’s passed away, bro.” And that was amazing.

21:14 CJ: Wow.

21:19 JR: Because it is funny how we see ourselves. It’s not typically how people see us, and there can be quite a variety of the way people see us too especially with ours, because I’ve been exploring that since working with The Savvy Academy. I figure out myself and my music. So, I never had to think about it before. There was always somebody at the department.

21:38 CJ: Sure. Yeah, the mark-

21:44 JR: It’s weird for me.

21:44 CJ: The marketing department.

21:44 JR: Oh, yeah.

21:47 CJ: You’re it now. Okay. So again, I’m not through with this melancholy thing because it’s very, very interesting to me. So you describe yourself as sensitive. Now by that, we’re not talking about weakness or anything like that. No.

22:03 JR: No. Not at all.

22:03 CJ: So you like to think about things. So why is being sensitive and/or thinking about things good? Tell me why you do that. What’s important about that? Should someone else do that?

22:16 JR: Absolutely. I think it’s important to think about emotions and those kinds of things that make us feel sad and feel happy, what makes us a better person to understand themselves better. So, I think a lot of my lyrics, subject matter is about those kinds of conversation I have with myself that obviously … I’m not doing anything, I’m not thinking anything special or different or unique. It’s the same kinds of things that everybody thinks about.

22:44 CJ: Right. Okay. So if every day you woke up, and countless people, because of what you were producing, and I want to say producing in a general sense, not just music, but everything related to J.R. Whatever he says, whatever picture he shows, whatever live video he does, whatever event he does, whatever he records. If you woke up every day, and more and more people were becoming more thoughtful about their lives, being more self-aware, growing, et cetera, would you be happy with that?

23:31 JR: Absolutely.

23:32 CJ: So that would be a close-ended objective?

23:36 JR: Yes. Yes, it would.

23:38 CJ: Right?

23:38 JR: Yeah.

23:39 CJ: Okay. So would you then say that if that is a close-ended thing, then we have an end to reach?

23:50 JR: Yeah. Absolutely. There’s a goal in mind. Definitely.

23:52 CJ: Right. Okay. So that is not recorded music at that stage. Once a life is changed, a connection is made with J.R., and a follower, a fan, a super fan, and that person is becoming these things, with the aid of the music, but becoming those things, then the music is a means to an end, and not the end itself.

24:21 JR: Yes. You’re right.

24:22 CJ: Right. Okay.

24:23 JR: Yeah.

24:24 CJ: This is good because what this does is it takes a lot of pressure off the music.

24:28 JR: Right.

24:29 CJ: Okay. So-

24:29 JR: All right. So two at this point.

24:33 CJ: Yeah. Right. So that means if you posted a meme, or you posted a video of whatever, or you and your wife, or the kids, or a personal story, or a song, any one of those things works together for J.R.’s ultimate objective, which is this … And we’ll have to come up with some way to describe it, but this enhancement of people. I’m going to use for a working title, we’re going to call this … Your mission is musical life enhancement. So that’s your job in life is musical life enhancement.

25:15 JR: That’s awesome. I have a title now.

25:18 CJ: So that’s something you can wrap your head around, right?

25:22 JR: Yeah.

25:22 CJ: It’s not genre specific, right?

25:25 JR: Yeah.

25:26 CJ: It’s not micro-niche, so we don’t have to bring in any of that stuff. Is it something people are more interested in than just specific genres as it relates to mainstream music? Yeah, I think-

25:38 JR: Absolutely. Yeah. Sure.

25:40 CJ: Yeah. I think people will take from whether it’s Snoop Dog or Simon & Garfunkel, as long as they’re both making them feel good, they probably have both on their iPod. And hopefully, some Iron Maiden, but the singing sucks. But again, that net effect. So the point is, and the reason why all of this is important, J.R., is because we’re at a particular stage right now where we’ve been around the internet for a while, the internet has been around a long time, it appeared around the same time when we saw the first cracks in the music industry with Napster at the end of the 20th century, right?

26:23 JR: Yeah.

26:24 CJ: And things have grown, and then what was once this illegal distribution of MP3s through these torrent bots, eventually it got cataloged and distributed now through iTunes, and the introduction of the iPhone, and that eventually would give way to streaming where it used to be, “Wow. You can buy a whole album and download it directly to your iPod.” That is ancient now.

26:54 JR: I know. That’s true.

26:56 CJ: But with all of those tremendous advancements, with all of those tremendous advancement, still, the artist is in the same place.

27:04 JR: Yeah.

27:05 CJ: Right? Because there is no iTunes, there is no Napster, there is no Spotify, there is no record industry without the artists. None of them can exist. So the people that are making the most off the artists are people who can’t write a damn lick. Can’t write a riff, can’t write a lyric, can’t sing their way out of a box. So we know that years removed, the music industry is unjust. Okay. So then we have to play differently. So we are going to play differently because we now have a factor on our side that we haven’t had before, and that is social media. So that’s the big game-changer because, as you noted earlier, you can now go to market. You can go and find people.

Yeah. Even if you wanted to, try and find fans of your old band and that sort of thing. So that’s an advantage. But it’s a limited one if we’re only thinking of genre. So, as I like to say, people don’t put up any defenses for self interest. I have yet to find the person I couldn’t hand a $100 dollar bill to.

28:19 JR: Right.

28:20 CJ: Very hard to find. So there’s no defense for self-interest. So let’s get as close as we can to handing people $100 dollar bills, and one thing that they love is why do they love the $100 dollar bill? It makes them feel better. Why do they love music? It makes them feel better. Why do they love a positive message? It makes them feel better.

28:42 JR: Yeah. You’re right.

28:44 CJ: So even though you’re into musical life enhancement, we know that because your stuff is mainstream, everybody likes music. So it’s not hard to target mainstream people. So we’re going to look also at, “Okay. Well, let’s look at the life enhancement stuff.” So if you find or thinking like comparable artists, you might put some of those in. I wouldn’t go into heavy billboard magazine or stuff like that. We don’t want people that are following chart type stuff. I saw you had done a great cover of the … What’s the George Michael song? A few years back you did it.

29:26 JR: Oh, yeah. Shit.

29:30 CJ: Well, I don’t feel bad for not remembering.

29:32 JR: Oh my god. I just did a whole album of covers.

29:36 CJ: Oh, did you?

29:38 JR: Yeah, I did.

29:39 CJ: Oh, that’s great.

29:40 JR: Yeah, it was cool. I just pulled stuff from growing up, and-

29:46 CJ: That’s really cool.

29:48 JR: Yeah. Well, it’s interesting too because … Not to sidestep here, but I just had taken one of the songs because I did a cover of them, Unchained Melody.

29:57 CJ: Oh, wow.

30:01 JR: But my idea was to do it more like Pearl Jam might do it or something.

30:06 CJ: Oh, wow.

30:07 JR: So, I just kept it very organic and stuff, but hitting all the high notes and everything. And as I was doing my targeting thing, and I left it rather broad, Facebook just found this niche of people who were 70 and above.

30:26 CJ: Great.

30:26 JR: So the next thing I know, I’m just selling a ridiculous amount of albums to all of these, and I’m getting all these women, one of them named Betty, and these old classic names. They’re trying to figure out how to download, they thought they brought the CD, but realized they brought the same whole download, and they can’t figure it out. It’s hilarious. It’s not who I would have targeted to initially. I just left the age thing pretty open. Anyways, I just did this last month, and I probably already sold almost 500 copies of the album, CDs.

30:59 CJ: Okay. Hold on here. Hold on here. All right. Look at what J.R. is doing here by accident.

31:06 JR: This typically not happens with me.

31:12 CJ: Well, as a marketer, this is great, great, great data. Leah would be having a fit right now because this is what she begged for. What this tells us is, “Okay. If he’s doing this by accident, what happens when we get intentional?” And I think that’s interesting because … How old are you now, if you don’t mind me asking?

31:35 JR: Oh, no. That’s fine. I’m an old guy. I’m 53.

31:35 CJ: 53? Okay. Yeah, me too. I’m actually 54, and I know … Neither of us look it, J.R.

31:43 JR: No, no. I thought I was the old guy.

31:47 CJ: Yeah. So what’s great about it is you’ve kept in shape, you’re a handsome guy, you’re a good communicator. Again, phenomenal vocalist, and I really want … I’m going to make in a podcast of this, so I really want people who are listening to this to go check out your music because this is a great example of the kind of talent you can have, and still be wondering what to do. In other words, that it just doesn’t all come down to talent, and so we have to get this marketing thing going. But what’s great about that is we think of when you and I were in our … Shoot. Oh, when you were young, the drinking age was 18.

32:34 JR: Yeah.

32:35 CJ: You remember those days. So we would be at parties, and there would be somebody who would be hanging out with us, and who would be like, 29 or 30 years old, and we thought, “What are they doing here?”

32:50 JR: Right. Ancient.

32:51 CJ: “They are ancient.” So to think 40, 45? Forget it. We’re old folks home, right?

33:00 JR: Yeah.

33:01 CJ: Well, here we now stand as mutual members of the 50 club.

33:07 JR: Yes.

33:09 CJ: And we’re sitting here thinking, “Mm-hmm (negative). No. It is not that at all.” So age isn’t the factor here, but what’s interesting about it is because of how I just described you, you can reach into two different worlds. You can reach to those younger than you easily, and you can reach to those older than you apparently easily.

33:32 JR: Yeah. Apparently.

33:32 CJ: And I thought, “I haven’t even thought of that as of yet.” I’m just thinking of who’s the ideal Superfan for you.

33:39 JR: Right.

33:40 CJ: Heck. I would have never said 70 plus.

33:44 JR: Well, I think-

33:45 CJ: 65 plus.

33:46 JR: Yeah. I think only because up until between a covers album, and having to choose songs that I grew up listening to. They were songs that were hits when these people were younger obviously. So they’re big, huge, important connectors. So that’s how I showed up on the radar.

34:03 CJ: Well, and one of the things that I think that they’re going to appreciate, and maybe they even written this to you because they’re going to see you as a young man, right?

34:12 JR: Yeah. Obviously yes.

34:15 CJ: How great it is to see a young man treating these songs with such respect, and doing such a wonderful job, and bringing in new life to them, and that sort of thing? So what we’ve got here, J.R., is a storefront. In other words, you can have multiple storefronts.

34:34 JR: Right.

34:35 CJ: Right? So we have a market that we can push this cover album to, but that doesn’t mean that very same album can’t go to a whole lot of other people.

34:49 JR: You’re absolutely right. Yeah.

34:50 CJ: So we want to get people to know you. So in that regard, I don’t need anything complex to brand you because it’s social media. So, I’m only interested in personal branding.

35:04 JR: Right.

35:05 CJ: So what’s the most personal way we can brand J.R. Richards? And is that the artist name you’re using?

35:12 JR: Yeah. Yeah, it’s J.R. Yeah.

35:13 CJ: Okay. So the most personal way that I could brand J.R. Richards is, now this is going to be deep, but the most personal way that I can brand J.R. Richards is by simply using the name J.R. Richards. So simple. That’s as plain as it gets. J.R. Richards. That’s it. That’s all we want to brand. So, I think people think, “There’s got to be …” Yeah, we can have a tagline. Sure. You might have a cute little tagline, whatever. I use Tony Robbins meets Metallica, Daily Screams For Living Aggressively. It’s just little. But people, they know CJ. That’s what they know, and at some point, the decision anymore that I’m Metal Motivator because I’m not playing music.

There’s nothing. If you listen to my videos or any of my stuff, close your eyes. It sounds like anybody else who’s doing something similar, so I’m not unique in that regard. So that’s how I would look at you as a brand. So, I’m like, “Okay.” But you’re like, “Okay. Well, I’ve already got that in place, bro. I’m already J.R. Richards. I got a page named J.R. Richards. People know me as J.R. Richards. My albums have J.R. Richards.” I know. But now you can sleep at night. That’s the first thing because I want you to be resolved.

36:40 JR: Right. Thank God for that. I guess I can get some sleep.

36:47 CJ: I started Metal Motivation 10 years ago, and when I say Tony Robbins meets with Metallica, Daily Screams For Living Aggressively, Metal Motivator, I don’t lose a wink of sleep thinking, “Did I name it right? Am I sure about this? Do I still really believe in … Is that still how I want to describe myself?” Absolutely, so I can be abandoned to the tasks, to all the necessary evils every day of marketing, and that’s what I want is J.R. Richards to be abandoned to saying, “Hey, I got one mission in life, and that is to connect with as many people as I can because my mission is musical life enhancement. And if I’m not out there doing it, people’s lives enhanced, and that’s not a good thing.”

37:35 JR: Definitely not. Definitely.

37:38 CJ: So just looking at it, obviously there’s a lot more you can get into, and we can do that. But you may have had a list of things you wanted to sort of cover in this, but that’s where I like to start is in who you are, and what you’re about.

37:57 JR: Well, yeah. That’s the fundamental part of it because I have a clue, but I don’t have a clue. And a lot of it is, like you said, it’s having something that’s a little more defined that you can say, “That’s exactly where it is.” I have a very specific target in mind.

38:12 CJ: Right.

38:13 JR: And if I’m sitting here going, “I’m not really sure if I’m this or if I’m that.” Then you’re right, how can you communicate yourself to anyone? Communicate to anyone an idea. You’re ambiguous in your own right.

38:23 CJ: Right. I think you can start, obviously when it comes to audience targeting with things that are more general in the sense of more mainstream artists, and you might want to, and again I’m just speaking off the top of my head initially, you just whipped out 500 copies to 70-plus-year-old people, so you can throw a wrench in anything that I’m saying. I realize that, but I wouldn’t shy away from who that ideal demographic is for you whether it is just-

38:57 JR: You’re absolutely right. I had a number one hit in 1996, ’97. I’m a classic artist now. It’s crazy to think, but it is true. So you’re right.

39:12 CJ: Yeah. So that’s the dynamic we have at play. These are the demographics that are at play. These are the psychographics that are at play. So that’s a lot of helpful information. As I say in battle, you have the high ground. You get to shoot down on your enemies, not have to climb up wondering what your genre, and micro-niche, and all this other stuff is.

39:36 JR: Right.

39:37 CJ: So if we know the demographic, the kind of people, then okay that helps us to sort of put different artists or bands in the ad manager to target our ads. Then we say, “Okay. Well let’s try to think outside of that a little bit, and okay, what are some other things that you might know about your fans that are things that we can target?” Again, I mention the inspirational type stuff. It’s always good to finish off your targeting with inspirational things. You want people who-

40:21 JR: Yeah.

40:21 CJ: … like inspiration. They’re happy people, and-

40:27 JR: Right. The cup is half full.

40:29 CJ: Yeah. Exactly. And you want those kind of people. So maybe who read the four agreements or what is it? Live, laugh, love, I don’t even know all the names of things. But you don’t want necessarily Tony Robbins type people. We’re not looking for real estate salespeople. They’re just happy people. They want to enjoy life, and that’s the older people, like the old bar owner that I used to work with, he was so concerned about getting young people in the bar. He didn’t want to be called a bar for older people. I said, “That’s who’s spending the money.”

I said, “These young people are doing exactly what I did at their age. Getting a case of extremely cheap beer, slamming it in the parking lot, and then going in and buying one drink or no drinks.”

41:23 JR: Right.

41:24 CJ: All right. So they don’t have money, dude. Especially nowadays. They’re all at home, failure to launch.

41:30 JR: That’s right.

41:32 CJ: So you want the people who have disposable income who can do these things, and so they have the discretionary income to be able to buy albums and things like that, and they’ll even get the tee shirts and whatnot. So then, that makes me think, “Okay.” And you’ve heard Leah talk about culture before. In other words, the things that surround the lifestyle that surround the music. Again, in her case, very easy. Castles, Game of Thrones, all that kind of stuff. That’s easy. But what about for you? What are the things that are going to be … Well, it’s probably going to be more mainstream stuff, so whereas Leah might be able to sell Leah hoodies, you might be able to sell canvas wall prints.

42:25 JR: Yeah. I see what you’re saying.

42:26 CJ: You know what I mean? Because you’re probably going to appeal to people who you might have an inspirational saying from one of your lyrics. You probably have tons of tee shirts and cool stuff just from your lyrics.

42:39 JR: Exactly. Yeah, yeah.

42:42 CJ: So, I would sell that because people are probably going to be more … Here’s one of my shirts. It says motivated by metal. So none of my shirts have my name on it, nothing to do with me because who cares? Now, of course, you’re an artist. Sure, they’re going to want probably something at some point, but initially, I want them to wear something that says something about them. So one of my tag lines for my gear is to say, “Wear your attitude.” Right? [crosstalk 00:43:12] Because that’s what I want them to do.

43:13 JR: That’s right. Yeah.

43:14 CJ: So if you’ve got some cool lyrics and stuff, then inspiration is part of your culture, right?

43:24 JR: Yeah.

43:24 CJ: Inspiration is part of your culture. The values that surround people in our age group is part of that culture. So what might they watch? Who knows? Maybe it’s Friends. So maybe they like Jennifer Aniston. Maybe they like Matt LeBlanc. Maybe they like Jerry Seinfeld. You know what I mean? Not Curb Your Enthusiasm necessarily, but maybe Seinfeld, because what is Seinfeld, Friends, and The Office all share in common? What would you call them? Not just TV, they would be nostalgic.

44:11 JR: Yes. Nostalgia is very powerful.

44:13 CJ: Right. So why does the 70 plus people buy the cover album?

44:17 JR: It’s all nostalgic?

44:18 CJ: All nostalgia.

44:19 JR: Yeah. You’re absolutely right.

44:19 CJ: So nostalgia is a huge selling point. Inspiration is a huge selling point. See, we’re starting to think not just genre. We’re trying to think psychographics. The psychology of people because we know people are going to like stuff. They’re going to like popular music.

44:37 JR: Yeah.

44:39 CJ: And I’ve heard, again, some of your stuff and I’m like, “It doesn’t matter that I’m a metalhead. This dude can sing.” So, I know that’s going to happen for other people. So now I want to think, “Okay. Well then how am I going to get these people on board? Okay. I’ve got all this in the targeting, I’ve got all this in the ad manager. Well, J.R., how am I going to get them to stop and press play?” By saying, “Hey, I’m middle of the road. Listen to my video.”

45:05 JR: Right. Yeah.

45:06 CJ: No. What did you tell me you were? You were about melancholy, sensitive, think about things deeply, et cetera. Okay. So you talked about how one guy might write in and say he talked about how he lost his father.

45:22 JR: Yeah. I get a lot of that.

45:24 CJ: Okay. So you might have a song and you say, “If you’ve ever lost someone, and it stopped you in your tracks, I wrote this for you. Dot, dot, dot.”

45:35 JR: Right. That’s-

45:37 CJ: And that’s all you’re saying.

45:39 JR: Yeah.

45:40 CJ: That’s all you’re saying. You’re not saying, “Hey, I’m an artist,” and, “Hey, blah, blah, blah.” The reason being is because social media, which means your post, J.R., is appearing right before a post from their mom or right after a post from their best friend.

45:52 JR: Yeah, you’re right. Talk about connecting with where they’re at emotionally.

45:58 CJ: Exactly. So, I’ve got a close up picture of you as a profile picture, I’ve got the blue letters of Facebook writing out your name J.R. Richards is appearing on the newsfeed. So, I like to tell people, when they ask me about their logo, I said, “I really don’t care what your logo looks like because for all intents and purposes, the only logo that people are seeing is a profile pic and a blue name.”

46:20 JR: Yeah, you’re right. They’re pretty small too.

46:22 CJ: They’re not seeing your website, they’re not seeing all your branding and all that stuff. That’s your brand. Your brand is whatever that profile picture is, which is why I don’t want you distant in the shot, I want you close up, use the face God gave you, bro.

46:35 JR: Right.

46:36 CJ: Then J.R. Richards because in other words, you look just like everybody else now.

46:40 JR: I do, right?

46:43 CJ: Right. You’re a personal brand. Then I’m just simply going to say, “If you’ve ever lost someone, and it stopped you dead in your tracks, I wrote this for you. Dot, dot, dot.” Then what do they see right below that? Well they see a video panel, right?

47:00 JR: Yeah.

47:00 CJ: A thumbnail, and then what’s that that overlays? What’s that circle thing with the arrow in it? It’s called a play button.

47:11 JR: Oh, right. Yes, of course.

47:13 CJ: Probably the highest converting tool on the internet.

47:17 JR: Yes, it is.

47:18 CJ: A play button. The only other one would be an X button, which means close it. Or expand, the two arrows in the corner. Expand it. So the play button. So the play button is great because the play button introduces a conflict. Well, excuse me, no. The play button gives you the ability to resolve conflict because if you’re interested in something, “Oh, wow. Look what these protestors just did.” Okay. How do I resolve that?

47:49 JR: Press play.

47:51 CJ: I got to press play. Okay. So my copy is about, as Leah likes to say, which I think is true, all we’re selling is the click. See, we think, “Oh my god, I got to get people on board so I can do this, so I can sell them an album, so I can …” We’re thinking of a whole funnel. No. What you’re doing right now is selling a click because we can get them past that first base, because I’m fully confident that J.R. Richards will have no problem overwhelming people as soon as you start singing. That’s the easy part. The hard part? Knowing who to target, how to get them to press play.

48:26 JR: Right.

48:27 CJ: So if we give them too much to read, we’re watering down the possibility of getting conflict. We want to get it quick.

48:34 JR: Right.

48:35 CJ: So that’s just something unresolved.

48:37 JR: Right, right. No, you’re absolutely right, and it’s funny that you mention that because for this particular ad on Facebook, I had put a video on it. So it’s just real quick like go back in time with J.R. Richards singing your favorites or whatever it is, and there’s a picture of me in front of a microphone with your click arrow on there. So boom, you can watch me sing. Granted, it’s a whole covers album, but I just happen to have chosen Unchained Melody.

49:06 CJ: Right.

49:09 JR: So you’d watch me sing 30 seconds of it or whatever, and that seems to obviously then react.

49:16 CJ: Yeah. You could have a freaking field day, dude, with headlines because you could say something like, “Let me take you back to one of the greatest songs of the 1960s…”

49:31 JR: Right. Yeah.

49:34 CJ: “Let me take you on a journey.” But very personal. Not speaking, “Hey, guys.”

49:40 JR: Right.

49:40 CJ: Because you say, “Guys,” and I’m sitting here going, “Who is he talking to?”

49:45 JR: I’m just here in the room by myself.

49:47 CJ: Yeah. The room by yourself. So all we want to do is get one person. That’s your goal. To get one single person. So I used to tell people, “This way is imagine that you saw somebody, imagine you had a song that would …” Again. You say you saw a friend of yours on Facebook, who was grieving at a post about the loss of their dad, and you know you’re not going to write a novel to them, so you’re going to message them, inbox them, and say whatever to get them to listen to the song. That’s how you need to be thinking.

50:22 JR: Right. I see what you’re saying.

50:24 CJ: For all of your songs whether it’s happy, melancholy, it doesn’t matter. That’s how you need to be thinking. If you will think like that and be as personal as that, you will bring them in by the droves. Then how you show up every day once they’re following you and all of that, it’s the same thing. Then you’re showing up and saying, “Hey, guys. I hope you’re doing well today, man. I had a thought this morning. I was taking a walk, and I remembered when I went through blankity blank.” Not necessarily music or anything like that, but you can talk about getting life enhancement.

You say, “I’ve been on this planet a long time, guys. If there’s anything, I want to live happy. I know the world is crazy, but I want to live happy, and I want you to live happy. So to hell with whatever is going on today. Let’s just be happy.”

51:19 JR: Nice. Bobby McFerrin, man.

51:23 CJ: That’s right. But everything that we’ve been talking about is about making this thing work organically for you, and man, I think you’ve got some great, great … I love the fact, I love how you started by telling me, “My music is really melancholy, but I’m a positive person.” So that to me, again, the juxtapositions are great.

51:51 JR: Yeah, you’re right.

51:53 CJ: Because they create unique positions in the marketplace.

51:57 JR: Right.

51:57 CJ: Right? Because people think, “Well, how does melancholy and optimism go together?” Well, how did metal and motivation go together? People don’t normally think about it until you think, “Well, yeah.” You don’t somebody who’s just hyper positive thinking with a complete rejection of reality itself that they don’t recognize anything. Super positive people are not helpful to reaching and talking to people who are broken.

52:27 JR: Right.

52:29 CJ: Right? The broken are masters at mending, right?

52:32 JR: Right.

52:33 CJ: You have to have lived through some things. So no, by being this melancholy optimist, which is something you might want to use as a hashtag, you might use that, dude. Melancholy optimist.

52:51 JR: That is pretty badass.

52:55 CJ: Which means I’ve been through life. “So, I’ve been through life, so I know better how to enjoy it.” Write that down. “I’ve been through life, so I know better how to enjoy it.” And you can obviously reword that or define it, learn how to enjoy it, but that’s the thought.

53:13 JR: Well, I think that from a lyrical perspective, I’ve seen a lot of things that might be heartbreaking from one part, you have difficult things that we go through in life with this, but I always try to put a positive spin on it. I hate to leave a song with like, “You’re screwed, and you’re screwed.” End of song. You know what I mean? It’s like trying to put some ray of light in there, but that’s typically how I try to deal with anything that I’m dealing with is try to figure out what that upside could be. That’s how you get through.

So this is all brilliant, and I’ve got a page of pretty awesome scribble on it right now.

53:56 CJ: Yeah. I think what’s going to happen for you is as this begins to weave itself into the fiber of your being, obviously, we went over a lot of information. And as you begin to filter it through and it becomes more you, everything that I’m telling you is principal based. But I think what’s going to happen is as you work this through, and get this part that works before the scaling, and then go back through and review some of the modules and elite, they’re going to look so much different to you now.

54:26 JR: Oh, no doubt. No doubt. I’m actually excited about going back through the program again just because it’s a lot, and you have to kind of mature with it in order to fully appreciate what’s going on. It’s like reading a book twice that you really enjoy. You’re going to get a lot out of it the second time around.

54:42 CJ: You might skip the micro-niche and branding board stuff. Dude, that stuff is not that big a deal.

54:52 JR: Yeah. It’s really more mechanical stuff. You’re right. Yes. Absolutely confident.

54:54 CJ: Yeah. When you get into the page likes, and the running video view ads, and retargeting, and building your email list, and the nurture campaigns, and creating products in your store, that’s going to be more where … It’s intimidating that it’s a lot to do, but you’re going to look at it so much different because you’re like, “Oh.” What’s going to be great is that you will not personalize it anymore. It’s going to be as mechanical as making a new record. It’s going to be like, “All right. Whatever.” It’s a lot of work, but I’ve done hard work before. I won’t be personalizing the failures, or the intimidating, or the whatever, because it’s when you struggle with that, when you start haven’t resolved with who you are, and what you’re about that it makes it … That’s why people stop, or they quit, or whatever.

But if you know who you are and you’re chomping at the bit because you’re like, “Damn, man. I jived with everything CJ said. I want to be that. I want to see how that works. I want to with some of those short headlines and see if people click play.

56:00 JR: Yeah.

56:01 CJ: You’re going to be ready to attack those things. That’s what’s going to be helpful. It’s going to be like, “This is just mechanic stuff.” And failure is a mechanical term. People make it personal.

56:10 JR: Right.

56:10 CJ: But it’s just a mechanical term.

56:14 JR: Yeah, yeah. I know. It’s all good.

56:16 CJ: Yeah.

56:17 JR: No. Having a better sense of what’s going on, plus having more familiarity with knowing how to use it and these kinds of things. I’ll be so much more effective when I go through it again just because things won’t be as ambiguous they were the first time around.

56:34 CJ: Yeah. I think you’ll be interested to learn more about you, man. We got a lot of listeners out there, so-

56:40 JR: Yeah, yeah. I’ve been looking around the edges on the forums groups, but I’ll probably be getting more into it now that I feel like I’m coming of age.

56:47 CJ: Yeah. I’d love to hear from you more, and again, if you struggle with anything or whatever, don’t hesitate to reach out. We should probably connect on Facebook and that way you can just DM me. I’m chained to my desk, I’m around most of the time, and if there’s anything that you need, just hit me up.

57:11 JR: CJ, I really appreciate that. Definitely.

57:13 CJ: Yeah. You bet, dude. No. Thanks for doing this.

57:16 JR: Yeah. I’m happy that you’re available too like this too, man. You’re the chief resource.

57:24 CJ: All right, my friend. Anything else?

57:26 JR: No, no. That’s massively helpful.

57:29 CJ: Good.

57:31 JR: Yeah. If I happen to have something quick, I’ll run it by you, but certainly, come by and say too.

57:36 CJ: Sounds great, man.

57:37 JR: I’ll let you know how I think you’re going.

57:39 CJ: All right, pal. Have a great week, man.

57:40 JR: Yeah, you too. You too.

57:41 CJ: All right. See you in a week. Take care.

57:43 JR: All right, man. Thanks so much again.

57:44 CJ: The entire music industry just changed overnight. Suddenly, every band and musician has had their live gigs canceled indefinitely. No one knows when live events are coming back. And when they do, the competition will surely be fierce. Artists are realizing they have to pivot quickly if they want to earn an income with their music. Musicians are now scrambling to figure out how to sell their music online. They need answers and they need them now. If this is you, then discover our new Savvy Musician Inner Circle Membership. It’s a private subscription-based coaching group to help you launch and market your online music business fast.

For one, low, monthly subscription, you’ll get live weekly marketing instruction, plus tips, tools, news, updates, and your questions answered. It all takes place in a private Facebook group that I, CJ Ortiz, will be hosting, and I’d love to help you build your online music business. To learn more, go right now to SavvyMusicianAcademy.com/InnerCircle.

Leah McHenry

Leah McHenry

It's become my absolute obsession to find out what will make musicians successful today. In the face of many obstacles, and in the vast sea of the internet, we have an opportunity that has NEVER been available to us in the history of the music business.