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
Hello my musically inclined or otherwise, music loving salamanders. Have you listened to enough episodes to hear me welcome you as my salamanders? Want to know where I got that? Well, non disclosure of one’s sources is the root of originality, no? Sometimes, other times it’s just blatant lack of attribution or respect, or whatever. Anyway, the reference comes from a Paul McCartney and Wings song called Getting Closer from his Back to the Egg album, which I really liked. But I believe the critics mark it as the twilight of his decline. It was actually a neat album, not only because of the songs, but it features a track with John Bonham on drums, which is amazing. Anyway, check out the video if you have time, I’ll put a link in the show notes. Paul is sporting a super early Beatles esque hairstyle. And if for no other reason, you should watch it for that. But I digress already.
In this episode, I speak with David Franz, founder of and producer at the record label Underground Sun. We talk about career advice for musicians at large, productivity, shame, how to best market yourself as a musician, and staying creative in these crazy times, among other things. We also mentioned his business partner, Justin Paul, who’s going to be in an upcoming episodes soon. David is also an instructor and Content Manager for LinkedIn music education, formerly Linda.com. Or he was at the time we spoke anyway, I think he probably still is unless maybe he’s moved on. I don’t know, it’s these things are getting recorded and then published many weeks later, but I’m sure he still is, whatever he’s doing I’m sure it’s great. He is also author of a couple of books, including one on Pro Tools and another on producing and recording in home studios. I should check that one out. He is not only a producer, but a videographer and musician about to release his first album. At the time we spoke which was February 2021. This year. Final tracks had been sent in for mixing. He hadn’t yet named the album but it looks like it’s coming out in the fall of this year 2021. He was or is to be a very important case study for Underground Sun, because it’s his first ever solo album. It was really fun to talk about this because I had just released my first single and was working my way up to the follow up which is called New Gods Part 2, which you can find on all the popular music platforms. You can also get direct links to some of those services at my artist website Robonzo.com. I hope you’ll check that out. And if you do, I hope you like it. But yeah, it was great talking to him about this. We were virtually in similar shoes with some minor differences, but you know, embarking on this journey of doing publishing music of our own for the first time. And our speaking time went really fast. He’s a fun guy to talk to. Very nice. I hope we’ll be back in touch soon. Here’s me and David Franz.
Alright, man. So are you live in Southern California?
David Franz 3:39
I live in Ojai, California. Yeah, it’s just a little north of LA by about an hour, hour and a half.
Okay, thanks for that, because I was gonna ask you where, what, wow do you say Ohai. And where is it?
David Franz 3:50
O J A I. Yeah, it’s a little town. It’s a magical little town. You know, it’s kind of an escape for LA, folks. Very artistic community that, you know, has this really awesome mountain range that at about 15 minutes before sunset, the sun just plasters it with color. And they call it the pink moment. And it’s just this magical stone face beautiful scenery. So it’s a cool spot and it’s a great spot to get out of LA and kind of experience nature.
Sounds like a place I need to take my wife. She loves that kind of stuff. Loves it. She’ll take pictures of everyone she sees. You’re, so I don’t know if you knew this, but I spent like 17 years in San Jose, California with my wife up until about 2016. So but I in all that time I did not go to the LA area, but I had been prior to that so long time ago. But anyway.
David Franz 4:48
Yeah, well that’s I mean, San Jose is amazing. There’s so many cool towns little nooks and crannies up there too and being close to the ocean and everything. [Yeah], Lots of music up there too, so yeah.
I noticed you’re from Minnesota, or did you spend much time there as a kid or
David Franz 5:05
Until ten, so you know, I saw all the snow. And done with that.
Okay, well, I don’t need to ask you what it was like. So what’s your working relationship with Justin Paul?
David Franz 5:19
JP, we met on a music video shoot a long time ago, I hired him to be the DJ on the music video shoot. And since then we’ve become really good friends. We started a little imprint record label called Underground Soul, which is sort of an offshoot of my kind of bigger record label Underground Sun.
Okay, clever name, by the way, for the second one.
David Franz 5:41
Clever name for the second one.
David Franz 5:44
Oh, thank you. Yeah, no, it will twist getting a you know, using language to as our to our advantage.
And yeah. Cool. Well, I’m supposed to talk to JP, I don’t know if it’s this month or next month, but I’ll be talking to him too. But it had been a while. I know that. Madison and Anika PR had had, she kind of briefed me on you guys. But there’s so much going on. So here’s what I’m gonna do. I have a lot of stuff I can ask you about large partly, I should say because Anika gave me just like a list of things. So and now as I was looking, I’m like, I wonder if some of these are things that maybe you would deflect to JP? So if that’s the case, when I get to them feel free? But if not, I’d love to hear about them. And then I just found a several other things to ask you about as well. So what are your thoughts on staying creative in the industry, especially during these weird times?
David Franz 6:42
Oh, my gosh, I’ve, with my situation, I’ve just been so super creative. It’s, that’s my happy place. So when I have time to myself, which I’ve had a lot more time to myself. That’s where my mind goes. And, you know, I actually I read about you and listened to your podcast. And it sounds like you put out some music recently. So maybe you had the same kind of experience, you’re like, well, we have this time. I did the same thing. I’m a music producer. And usually I’m the guy behind the artists tohelp them and co-write with them. But right before the pandemic hit, I went into a studio here in Ojai with a bunch of friends and recorded 14 tracks, my first solo record. And so that happened, like right before everything shut down. So I’ve been working on that the entire year. And I just turned in yesterday, my final like session to the mix engineer.
Very nice. Congratulations.
David Franz 7:44
Thank you. Thank you.
When do you think it’ll be released?
David Franz 7:47
We’re shooting for June.
Okay, this podcast episode might come out around that time. So you won’t be sad if I tell you that it could be that long.
David Franz 7:55
All right. All right.
I’m just, you know, this year coming into January, I wasn’t going to talk about this while we were recording. But I thought if he asks me when this is going to come out, or Madison asked me, I’m going to tell you that I feel a little bad. But it’s going to be like June, July, but this will work out in your case.
David Franz 8:13
Great. That’s great.
Yeah, I’ve been a couple things. I’ve just been really blessed with a lot of people coming at me. And having just sought out a lot of people myself I have between, you know, maybe having a guest back on or then refer somebody to me. I’ve got people like Madison coming at me so I’ve just actually said, Okay, I’m gonna take put the brakes on it for now. I got so many in the can, so anyway, but I’m glad that we got you on, so. Tell me about the style of music that you did for this record.
David Franz 8:43
This I call it desert soul. It’s it’s rock, but it’s it’s based in?
Yes. [Yeah] Love it.
David Franz 8:51
Yeah. Well, I know. Yeah. You’re a big rock fan. And it is it’s like that’s sort of my roots, but it’s more blues blues based but you wouldn’t really think call it blues. I like like, Tame Impala, Black Keys, James. Kind of that. Like there’s psych rock to it. It’s um, I wrote a lot of the songs in the desert in Joshua Tree area. [Sweet.] So I tried to embody that spirit. There was a breakup that happened that I kind of tapped into. And so there’s a lot there were a lot of emotions to tap into and to kind of release for this so cool.
Well, I mean, it’s nice that you’re able to use that. I hope it wasn’t all super hard leading up to that point. But yeah, I said cool. But maybe it wasn’t.
David Franz 9:41
No, no, it’s all it’s all it’s it’s for the best and it was things are really good. So
Very good. What’s What’s the title of the release going to be?
David Franz 9:52
Great question. In fact, we haven’t even decided. We I say I’m collectively pulling from my my people. What the name of the artist is going to be. So it may be my name, but I’m kind of wanting to separate it and take on a pseudonym for it. So yeah, future me in this episode, we’ll have decided by them.
I look forward to it. If there’s any chance of hearing any sneak previews, please ping me on that. I’d love to hear what you’re up to be great.
David Franz 10:20
Oh, cool. Yeah, I will do that. Thank you.
Yeah, yeah, for sure. Okay, how about this one? I know, everybody’s got a lot of opinions on this. I think yours are pretty valid. You’ve been in the industry, from what I can tell for quite a while. But what do you think right now is the best way to market yourself as an independent musician?
David Franz 10:40
Yeah, I was, I was wondering if you’re gonna ask me that.
See I gave you the option to deflect to JP if you want?
David Franz 10:48
Well, no, I mean, because this is so near and dear to my heart. I work with my artists on the label every day. And obviously, I’m coming to it for my own project. Now starting from scratch. So I’m really looking forward to kind of like come back, like, we should have another conversation in six months, that will come out in December, that we’ll talk about starting from scratch and from zero, so I’m lucky. I mean, I have some team members on board. So I have some PR, that’s helping me with the label, I have a branding company that’s helping me with the label, all of that’s going to help out. And then with some social stuff that will help me with that, too. So it does help to have a team and that’s what a label can do for you, whether it’s a small one, a one man show, one woman show, or a, you know, a team. So that to me is sort of my safety net. And my thing that I’m hoping will help, like because everybody’s on board, like getting maybe that’s maybe that’s my biggest advice is like getting team members getting supporters getting whether it’s, you know, fans that will spread the word and share it because that’s I think the most important thing is social proof. If you have people that really like it, and want to share it, then you know, it’s good. And that will be so I think you need to get like those true fans. So super fans on board, get a few of those on board at first. And then they can make more. So it’s not as much like Oh, you got to just plaster Instagram or you got to the songs have to be great, first and foremost. And then you got to get some believers. So that’s, I think, my strategy.
That’s good advice. I heard something on not from a music guy actually, who loves music. And I think he has tinkered a bit. He’s actually a developer, but he was talking about catching social proof and kind of an easy way that and it’s funny, because I had been thinking, you know, I get these comments in the inbox, you know, occasionally, and just the nicest comments, either about the, you know, the podcast, I’ve got some of these about the song. And he was like, use those, save them, save them, save them, save them, and they’re built automatically for you. And you can even use those to go back to the source and craft the message with them if you think it would be good to do that. And I thought it was such a wonderful reminder. It also reminds me that you may have an a well, you do have a nice advantage. But one one that you have, you seem to have built. I would assume you built some notoriety for yourself in the business because you’ve been in music so long. You’ve been really passionate about being in the industry for so long. You attended Berklee College of Music. You’ve done a lot of music instruction online. So these things have to be great, people know who you are. I heard, let’s see, I heard you on a podcast. I didn’t get to listen to the whole episode. But it was. I want to say the name. I don’t know how to say his his last name, but his first name is Lennon
David Franz 14:09
Seahawk. It’s that darn ‘C’ in there. Yeah. But I was listening to that. And he was a student at Full Sail. [Yeah.] And he like when you guys got online, he kind of recognized and he knew that there was a likelihood, I suppose. But so I think that that helps. And it was a reminder as I was about to share the, you know, the insight that my developer friend gave that, man, if you have that, remember that you have it and kind of look back in the archives of your, you know, people who appreciate what you do.
David Franz 14:40
Well, you think about it. I mean, what’s like, you get reviews from magazines, that used to be a big thing, right? So you get print, and you use that press as the thing that sort of leads off your EPK or, or whatever. And it kind of gives you the social proof from a magazine but who’s to say I mean, that’s just one person’s opinion. So you get other opinions from the internet, and who cares where they come from if you get a bunch of them, and they’re people that love music, their opinion’s just as valid. [Yeah] so like, why not? You know, just use that to your advantage? For sure. You know?
Yeah. Especially if people are descriptive, right? Because if they say things, you know, like, Oh, this reminds me of this art, you know, this artist that we all know quite well, or, you know, I love the way that guitar sounds on that, it reminds me of this. It helps others who might see that social proof that you’re sharing. Yeah, go Oh, I might like that to check it out. Yeah, good stuff.
David Franz 15:38
And I mean, speaking to your point about, like, you know, there’s, there’s being in the business and being a producer and having a label, it’s like, Well, to me, I have a lot of expectations. It has to be really good.
David Franz 15:53
Yeah, there’s that too.
You’re the new you’re the new latest and most talked about case study for the company. Right?
David Franz 15:58
Right. Exactly. Okay, am I ready?
You know, I, I feel that way, just being a podcaster. And having talked about what I was up to, and but I can’t imagine, you know, the self inflicted pressure that you probably have doing what you’re doing. And I mean, just in the first few minutes talking about what you do for your clients. That’s got to be kind of crazy.
David Franz 16:21
Well, it’s, I mean, you doing the podcast and like, I you’ve done so many episodes now you’re probably like comfortable with it now. And but getting started I’m sure it was was tricky. We did some live streams over this past year. I have a little studio in an Airstream and so we did some podcasts from or live live streaming from there. And I’ll tell you like the feelings that I had before. And then after I was beating myself up so bad about it, it’s, this is not easy to kind of do this. And so you got to get into a flow, you got to quiet that inner critic and, you know, really just like be in the flow. And so I admire you. Good, good job.
Thank you. I suppose the thing that we have to do whether it’s podcasting, starting and running a label or you know, making an album is we have to believe in what we’re doing and have confidence and take, take the take the good things that come. You know, whether it’s little praise, or whatever, and that keeps you going.
David Franz 17:23
For sure. For sure.
Let’s see. Wow, okay, this is a good blanket one I think people would appreciate but you see so many artists and here you are doing this case study for your own company now. What? You can give it to me, the question is going to be on music, career advice. So here I am, I’m I’m rolling up, I’ve actually recorded well over 200 episodes, but I’m rolling up on I’ll be at 200 for this podcast, pretty soon published. And I’ve been a lifelong, self taught little bit of formal education drummer, and hack singer all my life and then started getting more and more serious. And I’m lucky to play with a lot of great people, ton of time and cover bands, but also got to play with some original artists on some nice stages and some beautiful places, as you can imagine being in California. Yeah, like I was. But so here I am releasing my first single and I, boy, I’ve been asking musicians about, you know, everything I could think of leading up to it, you know, what they did for their release strategy? And, and, you know, and then they would just throw stuff at me. And now that it’s here, it’s truly, it’s classically overwhelming. So, you know, I guess what is the what’s the career advice for somebody who’s in in my shoes, shoes?
David Franz 18:47
Well, I think I’m in your shoes. So I, you know, I was kind of digging into this process for myself recently. And I went online and found five or 10 articles that are fantastic. A lot of people put a ton of work into them. And I kind of took each one of them and took notes. And now I’m kind of compiling everything that they all suggested. And some of them were like 57,000 things to do. And some of them were like, here’s a more core thing. But I’m really trying to pick out the things that are the most interesting to me. And I’m trying to take a coming like what’s coming from the heart, which is like, what are the things that kind of align with me and what are more altruistic kind of things about this? Because if I figure if I put that energy out there, then you can’t really go wrong. Like you can just feel like I put my heart into this. And not that you wouldn’t anyway, but it’s like if you just come from that space. [Sure.] Whatever is in alignment with you like you put it out there and you know, you’re gonna feel good about it. So it’s hard to like second Guess you can’t be like, Oh, I didn’t do this. I didn’t do that. I mean, you can, you could beat yourself up, because there’s not enough time to do everything that you think you could do. Yeah. But you know, it’s, it’s the stuff that resonates with you, I think is what is will keep you going. And then you know, there might be some easy wins too, which might give you a little bit of confidence. So that might help in your processes to keep you motivated to kind of keep you rolling with like your own self promotion, which self promotion, Oh, my gosh, I mean, for artists, it’s, some people are really great at and other people like myself, I’m, that’s my worst thing. Like, I like it, I’m like, when I was a kid, I would go into the sandbox, and I would make a sandcastle, right, or like something elaborate, I would get into the design and be awesome, and pull out my Matchbox cars and start to play with it. I’m like, I’m kind of bored. You guys, you kids, you can go play with this castle, I’m going to go build another one. And that is like, an analogy to what I feel like I do now a little bit as I’ll make a piece of music with an artist then send that artist on their way. And then I help them a little bit. But that’s not good enough. It’s not good enough, because you got to keep going. You got to help with that marketing, I keep pushing. And so that’s what I’ve really been focusing on these past few years of helping artists build their career, as opposed to just putting out an album. So case study for you. For me right now, you know, yeah, should come back in six months and see where we’re at.
I like it. So a couple things. One, I would love to see those articles and share them with with my community if that’s something you’d be interested in willing to do. And then the other thing I was gonna say, I don’t know, let’s move on, because it’s already gone. But But yeah, I know what you’re talking about, like with the self promotion thing. I like the easy wins concept. I have, I guess I have experienced some of those moments. And then lately, I’m just like, you know, it’s funny, I got one of the emails I got recently with the guitarist from the UK, who ended up doing an interview for the podcast. That’ll be out in July. Sorry, June, but he was congratulating me on the release of my single and was talking about doing some, you know, hoping that we could do some things together in the future because we’re both subscribed to this platform called Kompoz where there’s a lot of online collaboration. And, and then he says, although I don’t know, you know, you do so many great podcasts, I don’t know, where you find the time to do music. And I just took my hands off the keyboard for a minute and sat back and I’m like, you know, he’s right. So I need I need to make some space. So that’s, I guess that’s one of the things you know, we have to realize, I went through this today, too. I had really lofty goals and knew I had limited more limited time this afternoon than usual. And we kind of just have to figure out what we can tackle one bite at a time, don’t we?
David Franz 23:04
Yes. And there is a thing. I heard a name for it before. It’s like productivity shame. [Yeah.] Yeah, where you want to do you put a like a to do list of like 62 things on a day, and you get through seven of them. And you’re like, ah, I feel bad about myself. But we got to like, give ourselves a break.
It’s true. I actually had that moment. I guess in the late morning, or maybe around lunchtime. I’m telling myself admitting, I’m not going to get it all done today. Just pick one and get that get that done and be good with it. But you know, my productivity, shame comes in the form of at the end of the day, or the next morning is like I never I didn’t do enough the day before, which terrible, right? It’s terrible.
David Franz 23:48
I’m lazy, I’m lazy. No, no no.
So, yeah, so when did you start Underground Sun?
David Franz 23:55
David Franz 23:58
Yeah. 2001 2002, somewhere around in there.
Are you kind of going? You mentioned a short while ago that in the last few years, you’re trying to really follow the artists on a longer path? Is that a, Is that a particularly big transformation that you’re going through? Or is it just one of many that you’ve had along this path? It’s been several years now.
David Franz 24:23
It’s definitely one of many. Boston when I was in Boston, that was when I started Underground Sun and that was more of a production house. And I would just kind of help people make albums and I wouldn’t do anything beyond that. Once I moved to Los Angeles and Venice in 2009, I kind of turned it into an artist development company. And that’s when I started adding on helping making music videos, helping with crowdfunding, helping with music licensing, and had some some good success with an artist named Iyeoka. Then we got some really good placements, which ended and did some great music videos, which took off. One of them went super viral has 100 million 150 million views or something like that, Simply Falling the song, which led to touring the world. And then that sort of just snowballed for a little bit. And that was able to teach me a lot about what was working, what wasn’t working. And so I started applying more and more to that. Finally, when I got up to Ojai several years ago, I kind of said, well, it’s we’ve grown beyond an artist development company. Now, it’s like an independent record label where we’re even more involved in certain things. And we’re able to do other kinds of deals to where, initially, with the artist development company, I would start, you know, day one, co writing with all the artists, so which I love, that’s my favorite thing to do in the world, [Wow.} Producing the songs and starting from the very ground up. Once it became the independent record label, it could take on artists that already had finished records. So I wasn’t involved with that. And that’s the only way that I could scale because I can’t keep writing and producing and doing all this stuff with every artist. The time just goes away too fast. And I get too deep into the project. So to be able to scale the record label up, I have to be able to bring in projects that are already done, and then try to help elevate everything.
Cool. There’s a lot of stuff that we’re not going to get to but I want to ask you one question about the book that you wrote on Pro Tools. How long ago was that published? I didn’t look that up before we got on our call.
David Franz 26:40
Well, the crazy thing is, so I wrote that while I was going to Berklee College of Music. [Okay.] My senior year, my last year there. And it actually came out on September 11 2001.
David Franz 26:56
What a bummer.
David Franz 26:57
Yeah. And that whole day, like, I mean, obviously, that day is horrible. And I actually was supposed to be I almost was on the flight, the first flight by just one click of purchasing a button or purchasing [Oh my gosh.], one click away. So like, that’s a whole nother story for all different podcasts. But who I still? Like?
David Franz 27:23
Still gets me. I every I, all I’m saying is from that day on, bonus time for me. So I’m super grateful. But yes, the book came out on that day. So it was very poor timing. And then we did ended up you know, it did it did well, ultimately, it was the first book about Pro Tools. So kind of first to market. And that was, that was pretty, pretty lucky timing.
Okay. Well, I I’ve asked, I was kind of curious. Are you do? Have you done book since? Have you kept this one up with new editions? Do you have plans to do any other books?
David Franz 27:59
I did three editions of that. And then it just, yeah, I was kind of on to video training. To be honest with you. I did another book, actually, that pulled out the non Pro Tools, specific stuff of that. Recording and producing and home studio, which is still in print, I believe. [Yeah. Okay.] Um, and so during that time, that’s when they Berklee College of Music had just started their online school. And so they asked me, I created one of the first two online courses for them based around that book. [Cool.] And that led me into the whole elearning situation. I was teaching with them for a while. And then Lynda.com reached out and said, We want you to do a Pro Tools book, nor a Pro Tools course. So I got involved with them. And then they brought me on as the content manager to do the whole segment of audio and music.
Very nice. And that has sort of gone over into LinkedIn. I take it.
David Franz 28:54
Yep. Yeah. [That’s cool.] Yeah, LinkedIn Learning. And now I’ve I’ve actually music because LinkedIn is not as much focused on the arts at this moment. We’ve sort of consolidated some of the artistic pieces, audio and music became a smaller focus, and I moved over to video, motion graphics and animation. So I kind of do that stuff. But which is great, because I wanted to get more involved in video production anyway. So it all kind of helps.
Yeah, cool. Well, listen, I wish you the best of luck with the forthcoming album yet to be titled and I hope I get to hear some of it soon. And if not, I can I will wait until it comes out. But and I do I think it’d be a great idea to get back together again in a few months and and see how you’re doing and see what see what I can learn from you. And hopefully I have something good to tell you that like amazing.
David Franz 29:47
Absolutely. Yeah, let’s share as much knowledge as we can.
Yeah, man, for sure.
All right. Take care. We’ll talk again soon.
David Franz 29:54
Pleasure chatting with you.
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