This is the Unstarving Musician podcast. I’m your host Robonzo. The podcast features conversations with me, indie music artists and industry professionals. And it’s all intended to help other indie music artists be better at marketing business, the creative process and all the other things that empower us to do more of what we love. Make music.
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How are you? We’re having great weather here at the beach. I hope the same is true for you. Got the vaccine yesterday as I record this, the AstraZeneca vaccine. One of two injections. Felt a little crappy yesterday afternoon, but doing good today. Feeling relieved. Fortunate. Grateful.
My latest single New Gods Part 2, which was co written by Peter Rand is releasing into the digital wild on May 29 2021, which is coming right up. You can stream it now however on TrackdMusic.com or the Trackd to app for iPhone, and or Bandcamp at Robonzo dot bandcamp.com. Links in the show notes. New Gods Part 2 is my personal homage to Zeppelin, Genesis and prog rock with a little social commentary. I hope you’ll check it out. And most of all, I hope you’ll like it.
Create, cultivate and connect are words that carry special meaning for Joy Ike my guest for this episode. These words are the basis for a music coaching and mentoring program she calls cultivators. She brings a unique perspective to emerging artists that work with her having worked in PR and marketing herself. And she also happens to be a freelance writer, which includes articles and blog posts for bandzoogle. You’ve heard me talk about them before. We recorded this conversation in late December of last year 2020, at which time I was on the cusp of releasing my first single on top of the world. So It was a perfect time to ask what she sees and artists who are better at getting their work out into the world. Her response to the line of questioning wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. But it was enlightening. I was lucky to be able to ask her that. She is also a very talented singer, musician herself. I love her voice in fact. Also in this conversation, I attempt to understand what got her from publishing, to PR to music, or to being a music artist, and to being an artist consultant. We also discuss her strict childhood, her work as an artist consultant, house concerts, zoom concerts, her single, which was new at the time, a single called Wearing Love. Great song. And her percussive musicality, and more. Check out her work at JoyIke.com. Here is me and Joy Ike.
Are you from Pennsylvania?
Joy Ike 3:24
I am well I grew up in Pittsburgh. And so I’m really I’ve been based in Philadelphia, so it’s only about five minutes or five hours. So I wish were five minutes from where I grew up. But I was born and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana. [Oh, wow.] I was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Okay, and well, what was so did you are your formative years in Pittsburgh?
Joy Ike 3:47
Yeah, Mm hmm.
What was it like growing up there?
Joy Ike 3:52
Ah, I feel like I can’t I can’t give the staple answer. I think I had an I think I had a different childhood the most people. It felt very insular and incubated. Yeah, I grew up in the Nigerian household. So I think if I think it wasn’t the traditional American, like, you know, childhood, but you know, we had our moments with going to the parks and, you know, just playing with kids on the street like everyone does. And so, but I don’t remember those the things that you do, like, you know, going to amusement parks, or everyone taking those like national parks trips or things like that, which, in some ways I kind of wish I hadn’t done.
I did not do any of those things as a kid either. Really, I think we probably later in life with my mother and oldest brother, we started just out of the blue going to Lake Tahoe to ski at that time. We lived in Texas. So anyway, I can relate.
Joy Ike 4:50
Yeah, yeah. So very cool.
So were your parents strict or something or very conservative? What was why was it so different?
Joy Ike 4:57
Yeah, I grew up in a very strict household. So I think my parents, they had a very tight leash on us, you know, for better for worse because they were new to the state. So they were still trying to get their bearings, and really just wanted to keep us safe. Yeah. But I had really good friends. My best friends lived on the same street as us. And so we are always down at their house. So that’s, that’s probably my fondest memory from my childhood.
That’s cool. So I think one of the Okay, so let me back up to how I found out about you. I mentioned that I was talking to Dave cool at bandzoogle. And your name came up, because I asked him about his thoughts on keeping live streams alive, which was something that you’d written about. And I guess I mentioned reference that I’d seen something about it on your blog. So he immediately wanted to talk about you. He says he adores you as an artist, and clearly likes your writing as well. Are you still doing that? What What was the experience like for you to be a writer with them?
Joy Ike 5:54
Yeah, I actually just picked it back up. Three months ago, writing for bandzoogle. I, for about eight years, I ran a blog called grass rootsy. And the sub line was grassroots marketing for independent artists. And, and I had, when I started the blog, I had just come out of a three year job at a book publishing company working as a publicist. And so I was spending all my my time this is like, shortly out of college, spending time writing, you know, press releases for authors setting up their book tours, and their radio and television interviews, and really just kind of helping them get their, their, their work off the ground. But what I what I realized, especially because I had started making music at that point, and then more seriously after the fact was that all the things that I was doing, at the publishing company directly translated over to what I was doing for myself making music, just the process of not not just creating the piece of work, but trying to get it out there and let other people know about it. And so that led to grassroots he was, you know, all these trials and errors of promoting my own music then led to these, you know, posts show coffeehouse conversations with other artists that I’ve been sharing the bill with talking about things that had worked and things that didn’t work, and really just hearing their experiences. Excuse me. And so that led to Ron starting the blog, which then led to other other bloggers and other websites, sharing posts that I’d written and asking me to write for their posts for their blogs. And so that’s kind of how I met. That’s kind of how I met Dave. And he’s been really great to work with really easy to work with to grassroots, he went on the back burner, probably five years ago now. But you know, there’s always been that itch to talk to artists about making their work their art sustainable. And, and so those conversations, they continue on, I’m always talking to artists about things. And this year, I officially started coaching younger artists on really kind of vision casting. But all that to say, because of how 2020 went, my schedule started to open up again. So I have the time to not only coach artists, but to start writing and freelancing again.
You mentioned that, um, you had these skills that lend themselves from the the publicist role in the publishing world to being an artist. And you very wisely culminated to being an artist consultant. And I was thinking before you got to that point that while these skills clearly carried you to a point where you’re you’ve sort of added that into the mix of what you do. I was a little curious, I actually just want to know about a little more about the artist consulting, and if there was any, like one thing or a couple of things that really feel like they carried you or led you to the point of wanting to do that with people.
Joy Ike 8:56
Yeah, I think, one, one of the biggest things I noticed, or the differences between the success of a project and a, you know, project, just kind of flailing and falling to the ground is how passionate the artist is about getting the project out. And not just getting a project out of them. Because I think we all make art for that reason, we have to get it out of us. But the passion or maybe even the purpose, and even if I could use a bigger word calling, like the calling of what like what your art is supposed to do in the world, like what void it’s supposed to fill in the world. And I think I noticed the artists that are just like, wow, this is this is like this project is meant for this reason, or, you know, this season of life or for these types of people like maybe they’re trying to find their niche audience or, you know, all those people who kind of attach that meaning into what they’re doing are so much more committed to the success of a project. As opposed to just getting it out of them, or as opposed to just, you know, being in the limelight or being in the spotlight. And I think we all make work for different reasons, some of us do make it because we just need to get it out. And you know, and that’s totally cool. But I think there’s a difference between wanting to get the art out of you and wanting to get the art out into the world. And so that has really been the drive behind everything from grassroots II to writing articles, to now cultivators, which is my coaching side of what I do musically. I really love seeing artists who are passionate about what they do. And I’m always encountering this question, how do I monetize? You know, artists ask what am I how do I monetize what I do to make a living, you know, they’re not trying to get rich, because there are way easier ways to get rich off what we do, what what you can do for a living, but you know, when someone’s really passionate about what they do, they want to be able to spend more time doing it. And if they want to spend more time doing it, then they have to be bringing in some kind of income with it. And so I started cultivators, because I wanted artists to kind of just connect the dots between the creative process and the connecting. And so there’s like three parts of cultivators create, cultivate and connect. And there’s basically you know, it’s basically starts with the idea of we’re creating by default, we’re creators. And so we’re going to make things. But then between the creating and the connecting, which is really finding your audience and growing your audience, there’s cultivating which is really the growth of what you do, whether it’s the growth of one specific project or the growth of your career. It’s just kind of how things culminate over time. And so, I love artists love helping artists understand what it looks like to have to help a one specific project, grow from the inception to the release, and also make, like building blocks or create actionable steps to help them grow throughout the course of their career.
I’m very interested in one of the things you said and that was the thing that really attracts you to artists, their passion for what they’re doing. And that you find that this really helps them make the final connection that they have more success. And I find it interesting because I was like, Ah, well, so I’m publishing my first single ever I’m just a quick history. I’m a longtime drummer, like club gigging musician for, you know, decades, and I’ve always wanted to write music, but I, you know, and maybe the last decade or so I thought I would do really just maybe released some music that I was featured on over the years, but then, you know, I’m like, I can write some music, I just need to, you know, I need to do some things that I haven’t been doing so. So I’ve written my first it’s going to publish January 8. But this idea of the calling or the purpose for putting it out, it’s not something that’s been in the in, you know, in the back of my mind, or the front of my mind, maybe as it should be. It’s been a creative endeavor. And you have that moment where it’s done and you have just a second of celebration, then you’re like, Oh, shit, I gotta get this out to the world, but…
Joy Ike 13:21
I have that I have that experience every project.
Right? You think somehow I knew coming into it. That was that was gonna happen. But still, you have this moment where you laugh? Because the real work begins at that at that point in time. But yeah, how, what have been? How do you identify those people? And maybe also the ones who who have that, that passion and slash purpose in what they’re doing artistically? And, yeah, how do you identify them? And what are maybe some of the more interesting angles of that, that you’ve seen in other artists in recent years?
Joy Ike 13:55
That’s such a really, that’s a great question. I just had a conversation with someone about leadership lately. You know, the difference between the difference between a good leader and a bad leader and a good leader is not necessarily looking for minions, you know, they’re not looking for people to be in control of, but because they know who they are people find them and want to follow them. And so I I really liked that idea of I’m not necessarily saying that that’s who I am. That’s who I want to be. But, um, but I guess all that to say it’s like, I feel I feel like when I feel like you can spend a lot of energy looking for the people that you want to, you know, teach or coach or mentor, you know, whatever word you want to insert there, but for me, I’ve, I spend more energy and kind of just sharing what it is that I’m doing and then and if there are people that catch on to that idea, then I know that they’re already like they’re like they already get it, you know, and then they want to kind of, they want to kind of explore that that same type of path. So even with cultivators, I haven’t put a lot of energy into being like, Hey guys, I’m a consultant. Now, I’m a coach, let me help you find your dream or your passions or whatever. And because of that, cultivators has had a very, very slow build this year. But there are other things on my plate. And so I’ve been really comfortable with that. But I have had to make that decision because I realized that if I’m looking for clients, actively looking for clients, it kind of starts to feel a little salesy and a little gimmicky. And so I ended up just kind of even on my social media, I don’t care that much about cultivators on a weekly basis, really on a monthly basis, I share more about what I’m doing. And then every month, there are a couple posts about Hey, guys, I also coach artists, and you know, I have it on my website, too. And there are artists that follow me, you know, in addition to just just fans, so I know that fans who are following me and seeing what I’m doing and checking out my posts, for those that are kind of in that, that, that headspace of trying to navigate their own art. If they catch on to the vision, then they’ll reach out. And so that’s happened. It’s happened very organically for me this year. And I really, I really kind of like that, that idea. And so I hope that that definition of leadership kind of translates into how cultivators evolved over the years.
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So tell me are there? Do you have artists that an artist or artists that come to mind when you think about the passion and purpose that they’ve identified? Or are there very many that are so unique? Is it sort of like you could probably pick a half a dozen or a dozen that are super common themes, and you’ve yet to see anything different in one person versus the other other than it’s just their personality on top of one of those half a dozen things?
Joy Ike 18:05
Yeah… I mean, artists, I mean, that’s, that’s an easy question to ask, because it’s like, Are you an artist as an artist, because they are unique, you know, in theory, I guess, hopefully. But I if I could, if I could, like pick out one artist. She’s a veteran, and she is someone who I followed so closely over my whole career, and she’s probably been doing this for 20 years longer than I have. And her name is Sara groves. She’s based out of Minneapolis, singer, songwriter, thinker, and just she’s just somebody who knows how to shape her words. And so I always paid Yeah, I paid really close attention to what she did. And I think, you know, they say, what is it? What’s that expression? That that pious form of flattery is? You know, when you go and you kind of look at it,
When someone emulates you, maybe are they
Joy Ike 19:08
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So I’ve always watched her from a distance because of that. And I don’t ever think that she was looking for her audience. I think she’s just being completely herself, you know, and, and her audience found her and yeah, she, for me, you know, I am, I think I started to follow her closely when I realized that perfection was trying to eat me from the inside out. And I really, you know, I wanted to be such the perfect musician, but it just was not happening, you know, and I didn’t have the music theory background, I didn’t have all of the things that make an artist and artists and, and like the more and more I tried to drill it in my brain so, so funny. So I know I was learning some Christmas music this week. And I was like, I just hate this. This is so hard. I’m just gonna stick with playing my own stuff. Cuz it’s always a challenge to just, like, get things in me. And so all going back to Sarah gross, I remember listening to her music was right out of college and just falling in love with the simplicity of what she was doing. And then, you know, doing looking into her and just seeing how, how much she brought it down to the simplest form of what she was doing. And really just making it about people, you know, the message that she wants to deliver to people and so and so I found too, not just in my own music making, but in artists that really excite me, those are the those artists that excite me, and I’m like, What are they? Well, they want to share with the world. And how are they doing it differently than everyone else? And there’s this quote, I don’t know who said it heard a few years ago, you know, there’s always going to be someone better than you. And there’s always going to be someone who’s worse than you. Which is true. But you know, what you want, what you want to do is be different, because there’s, there’s just no one, there’s no one that’s going to be just like you. Yeah, so
You made me think of that expression. Nobody does you better than you, right?
Joy Ike 21:08
Yeah, that’s it.
I apologize for the chat there. The passion. You know, I’ve gotten in this new thing where I’m going to just do an occasional note here in the chat, but I’m not going to send it but every time. My guest is like what what do you want me to be more passionate?
Joy Ike 21:22
I know, I was like, should I say the word passion now.
I’m gonna start warning my guests. This might happen. So anyway, thanks for you did really well. Yeah. I didn’t mean distractions. So we haven’t really talked about your music. I I was laughing because you mentioned you know, your perceived shortcomings. And you have a beautiful voice. And I would have never guessed you’re not like a highly trained in theory just to kind of listen to you. I do love. Someone wrote about it. And I have a bit of music that I’ve listened to. I didn’t really think about it a lot. Which is ironic, because I’m a drummer. But you’ve been noted as being a very progressive artist, a very progressive musician on the piano. Where does that come from? The Do you clearly embrace it? But where does it come from?
Joy Ike 22:09
Yeah, I always say I’m a drummer stuck in a piano players body. And I so wish that drums were my primary instrument. And my sister’s actually a drummer. And so we talk a lot together, play a lot together. And she’s been with me since the start. So that has a lot to do with it. But I we were Nigerian. And so percussion is like in our bones, in our bones and in our blood. And so my earliest memories of listening to music, you know, growing up, they were like Nigerian, so I would like them to like Nigerian gospel music, lots and lots and lots of rhythm. And so rhythm was everywhere, all the time at home. And in like different gatherings commute, like community type gatherings with other Nigerian families. So all I remember is like, everybody would clap, but they would all be clapping different rhythms. But as long as they stayed in the time, it all worked out. And so yeah, so percussion is huge. And even when I was recording my last album, I looked for a producer who was the drummer, instead of looking for a producer who played another instrument, because I needed someone who understood that drums we’re not, we’re not there just to keep things in time. But were there because they were essentially like the primary instrument in the project.
I should have been a drummer, I should have been Nigerian. I’m another laughter moment in my head was my my parents were Mexican. And like, wow, that, you know, if I’d have taken the same approach, I’d have accordion laced. Yes, that’s lovely. That’s lovely. I had so many things I thought we might talk about and we’re gonna run out of time here. But I love your Instagram, by the way. It’s really nice.
Joy Ike 24:00
And let’s see here. Oh, house concerts. I really love your house concerts page and mentioned looks like you did a lot of zoom concerts this year. I did my very first house concert right before the pandemic fell. And I don’t know if you know this, but I live in Panama currently. And so I I hadn’t written much of anything in February. But I’ve been thinking for almost a year, I want to bring one of these people I’ve met through the Unstarving Musician, which is essentially how I learned the most about house concerts. I thought I want to bring somebody down here to do a short string of shows. So I did that. And they were here in February and it was a really wonderful experience and these great aspirations to do more, but I haven’t for for the reasons I don’t play guitar much I do, which enabled me to write you know, my first song but you know, I’m not at a point where I’m going to do some live streams. Yet I could maybe do some drum stuff, but I’m not going to be singing and put, you know, playing drums.
Joy Ike 25:03
I’m guessing you done a lot of house concerts prior to the pandemic, and then you transition to doing them on Livestream. It sounds like correct me if I’m wrong that you’ve take, you’re taking a little bit of a break from that, which may be nothing more than the holidays. I don’t know. But can you talk a little bit about what what the transition has been like? And what you anticipate moving forward?
Joy Ike 25:24
Yeah, yeah, I really miss house concerts, if I could, if there’s anything that I missed the most with the with being, you know, on lockdown, you know, give or take for the most of this year, it’s being able to be in people’s homes. I did, I did start doing a lot more zoom house concerts, you know, people reached out to me, you know, those that were either wanting to do things for friends and family, I had a few people were like, well, I want to celebrate my birthday can’t be with people, but I’d still like to do something special. And then they were like, small concert series, like full concert series that weren’t, you know, in session this year. And so they those translated over. I think why those worked? I don’t know if this wasn’t necessarily the question, but I think why those work that actually did translate over to zoom pretty well is because house concerts already have that intimate feel, you know, and you and you can’t necessarily do, you know, a club concert on zoom just doesn’t, it doesn’t have the same effect. And, and also, one of the things that one of the hosts did, they did the breakout rooms, so that there was already the opportunity to get to talk to other people who were, who are tuned in, which is really the beauty of house concerts, it’s like, you’re not just going to the show and leaving with the one or two people that you came with, you’re connecting with people that you know, someone else knows, it’s like a mutual friend, or maybe the host knows them. But because there’s that mutual connection, because you’re already in a house, it’s like a less sterile and organized environment, and already has that homeliness, you’re naturally talking to people in a way that you wouldn’t at a club or, you know, some other type of venue. So those were really, really beautiful and really rewarding. And I had suggested to a few of the hosts, that there could be a q&a, either at the end, or in between every few songs, so that it could be more interactive, and give people a way to engage and really connect with the songs and really, you know, selfishly, for me to feel like I was connecting with them. And that really, really made those experiences so much better made those zoom calls so much better. So I’m really glad that that trans translated over in a year were not, you know, playing playing out is very, the opportunity isn’t really there that much. I do think moving forward. I think that I really think it’s going to be in favor of independent artists, I think like, you know, big, big gatherings are probably won’t happen. And even if they are happening, most people won’t be too comfortable with that, right. So I keep telling you keep telling artists that you know, how things are playing out are really in our favor, as far as you know, if we’re comparing ourselves to more mainstream artists, and so I think artists have the Indies have a leg up right now and an opportunity to capitalize on that, you know, when the weather gets better when we start to get into some new groove in the world. So that’s, that’s my forecast for the future of house concerts.
Thank you for that. It’s encouraging and you know, I was thinking about asking you what’s on the horizon? That’s beautiful. And you saw me looking distracted. I was trying I was like, I didn’t write down the name of your your song, your latest one I believe is your latest single wearing love. Is that your latest?
Joy Ike 29:04
Yeah, that’s it
a beautiful song. I’ve only had a chance to watch a little bit of the video but pretty cool that that is you dancing. Right.
Joy Ike 29:12
Thank you. Yeah, that’s me.
Very, very nice. Tell me when you released
Joy Ike 29:18
Yeah, wearing love came out? About a month ago? Yeah, almost a month ago, actually. Exactly a month ago. And yeah, that one was quite the endeavor. And yeah, I it’s the song itself has been around for about a year, but over the last three months now, I’ve just been doing the work of figuring out how I wanted to like put it out in the world. And, and I knew it was for this time in the world. You know, I was just about at the heart of it. It’s the you know, the song was like, Okay, well, you know, we can we can continue to stay on our political sides and you know, think that things are going to be resolved. Once November passes, but guess what? We’re going to be here in four years again. So we need a new plan.
Well, I really love it. It sounds like maybe getting it out there in this particular time was the answer to this question, which I’ll make my last But was there anything outside of that? That proved to be like the biggest challenge of getting that? That particular song out? Normally, I would just ask, what was your biggest challenge with releasing that song?
Joy Ike 30:29
Yeah. Oh, man. Outside of that, I mean, getting the song out that that was the challenge, you know, um, and, and so it’s like, over time, I have the I started to kind of get clarity on how I wanted to put it out. But actually getting out in the world has been a challenge. You know, just, you know, if we want to sneak into marketing a little bit, Facebook has changed so much with its algorithms this year, it was how things are promoted, where everything is super, like, add an Yeah, promoting dependent. And so yeah, I found so I’m putting a native link on Facebook. And then I did another version on YouTube. And I just pushed everyone towards Facebook, because I knew, you know, if people see it on Facebook, they’re going to share it, and it’s going to travel exponentially. So the it’s traveled very well on Facebook, but not nearly as it as easily as the last few videos I’ve done that process with. And it’s just been like, it’s just been so hard to make the video travel. And, and then of course, because I’ve been pushing everyone towards Facebook, the YouTube hasn’t got any intention. So it looks like the video hasn’t hasn’t, you know, got hasn’t reached anyone. And so it’s just kind of it’s just kind of frustrating right now, because it feels like the odds are stacked against you if you don’t have a huge following. But I think for me, I’ve realized that I’m not necessarily invested in having a huge YouTube presence. Now I’m more concerned about getting my work seen by as many people as possible. And because Facebook and the share nature of how things happen on on social media is, is a little more effective in that way. I’m just pushing everyone towards that and Instagram.
Cool. Well, that was very insightful. Thanks for sharing that yet. It’s all working in our favor, right as indies.
Joy Ike 32:35
Right? somehow. We have to keep your fingers crossed, I guess. Yeah, take the good days when they come and then the bad days, you can just throw them away when they’re done.
Thank you so much for joining me for chat today. It was really lovely to meet you. I love your music. I hope stay in touch. I will definitely be in touch to let you know when the episodes done if you want to give it a listen or share it. And best of luck in the new year.
Joy Ike 33:05
Thank you. Thanks for having me, Rob.
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